Wednesday, November 5, 2014

My sermon from November 2nd

Ezra Benson, a former agriculture secretary of the United States and the 13th President of the Church of Latter Day Saints, (I know an odd fella to be quoting) once said" pride is concerned with who is right and humility is concerned with what is right.” Just like my sermon four weeks ago and the rest of the recent weeks' gospel readings, Jesus is calling out the Pharisees for their habitual hypocrisy in their stewardship of God's people.  Their biggest gaffe that these supposed faithful witnesses to God's Holy law, is their false empowerment and pride these men take from their practice of the law. The Pharisees’ were practiced lawyers of the Jewish society, and knew every law by heart. Their superior knowledge of Moses' law gave them a certain pride as they lived their life in perfect fulfilment of the law.  Their pride in this feat lead them to care more about who is following the law perfectly rather seeing the big picture of the law. As Benson would say, the Pharisees were concerned more with who is right then what is right.   
            From this reading, Jesus is clearly telling us that pride is not the correct path we must take as Christians: humility leads to the path of salvation. Jesus cannot be any more blunt about this virtue then when he said, “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humbled themselves will be exalted.”  As Christians, we should care more about what is right rather than who is right.  We should act selflessly, worrying more about others rather than ourselves. We should grateful towards people's selfless acts to ourselves, and love each other as Christ loves us.  Though I am making an assumption about Christ, but I truly feel that this is how he would want his church act.
            But look at the church today, do we really act humbly, or are we a proud institution?  We have churches who care more about the sexual orientation of a person more than their character, we have churches care more about the gender of a person more than their ability to spread the gospel, and we have churches who care more about being the only one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic church than recognizing that there is truth in all denominations and dare I say all religions.  The church still seems to be following the path of the Pharisees, the institution that Jesus seemed to always condemn.  I do not want to be totally pessimistic about the church. We do have examples of churches acting humbly.   Many churches in this country and in my own have been at the forefront of removing barriers of separation and promoting the freedom of all people.  Their example in thinking that maybe God understands things better than I do is an idea that is often said but not really taken to heart. Their selfless commitment to promoting the kingdom of God above their own idea of a perfect world is a message the whole church should take to heart. It is a message of true Christ like humility. As Christians, we must begin to worry more about what is right than who is right.  We must preach a gospel of acceptance rather than exclusion of people, and promoting love at any moment we can.  Only then will we be able to say the whole church is acting humbly.
To quote yet another president of the Church of Latter Day Saints Gordon Hinckley, “Being humble means recognizing that we are not on earth to see how important we can become, but to see how much difference we can make in the lives of others.”  Christ’s church was not called to the most important institution on the earth, but it is called to be the most influential force in changing people’s lives and the world.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Happy Jubilee Diocese fo Eastern Michigan!

Happy Jubilee Diocese of Eastern Michigan! This past weekend, my diocese held its 20th Diocesan Convention, and I sent a video message home.  Thank you so much Katie Forsyth for making this awesome video!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

My First Month!

Hello World! Sorry for my lateness in writing this blog post as well, but Life has been happening down in South Africa.  I have been far more interested in experiencing life here than sitting at a computer screen; I know that scared the American in me too.  My life has been very eventful this past month.  I ate the innards of a chicken, I almost made a Grade R (Kindergarten) cry (Note:  it was my second week in South Africa and no one told me the isiXhosa word for bathroom (Not the proudest moment of my life)), I preached at a Sunday service, I met some absolutely amazing people ranging from the ages of 5 to 75, and the most powerful experience I had in my first month was the Heritage Day celebration at Holy Cross School on September 24th.
I tried for days to write a blog post about Heritage Day, but I could not textualize my experience. The words I used in my last four attempts to write a blog post all failed to meet the energy and emotions of this amazing cultural experience.  
At first, I thought the whole day would be ruined by the heavy rain and the cold wind. We were supposed to be celebrating outside, all the guests sprawled out around the playground of the school watching the acts and cooking on the many bonfires. Instead of that lovely day, we received a cold rainy day. We all had to be inside crammed into a small library; we barely had room to move after we found our places to sit.  What really shocked me was that no else really seemed to care. They just accepted the blessing of rain as fact and did not let it ruin their day.
As the acts started, you could feel this immediate connection with everyone in the room.   We were all connected through the beats of the drum, the shouts of joy, the harmonies of the voices singing, and the excitement and joy we all shared in that small room.  No cared about having no leg room, no cared about sitting on the cold floor, and no cared that the weather was bad.

As the festivities came to a close,  I looked outside and saw that the rain had cleared, the sun was out, and there was not a cloud left in the sky.  I pointed this out to Kary (the principal of the school), and she told me something really profound and it fit perfectly for the events of that day.  She told me that the Xhosa people and most people in South Africa see rain as blessing from God. South Africans believe that receiving rain for weddings, funerals, tribal celebrations and any other important holiday or celebration is a very good thing. As I contemplated that culture difference, I could see how we were all blessed that day.  If the weather had been perfect, I doubt all the guests would feel that awesome connection with everyone; we would be too spread out to share our emotions.  The whole day would have had a different feeling to it, and probably would not be nearly as awesome too. I truly hope and pray that all my friends--especially my missionary friends--can experience an event such as this. God truly blessed me with this experience and it literally is one of the best experiences of my life.

Traditional face paint!

Some pumped Kids

The Grade 1's performing their poem to the guests. 

One of the guest speakers for the day, Mrs. Isaac. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Bhuti! Bhuti!

After thirty plus hours traveling to the bottom of the world, I have made it to Grahamstown!  Well actually I have been here for about a week. Sleeping a lot (darn jet lag!) and assimilating into my role at Holy Cross School has taken up most of my time and postponed me from writing this blog post.  My first week has been absolutely amazing though and I have quickly assumed my multipurpose position at the school.  I will be doing everything from being a teachers’ aid, to teaching a computers class, and being the school librarian.  Tuesday was my first day at the school, Brother Daniel, the Prior of the Order of the Holy Cross Monastery in Grahamstown,  gave me a tour around the school, introducing me to the teachers, staff workers, principal, and of course, the students.   It amazes me how quickly the children grew accustomed to me working there, within five minutes of me being at the school on Tuesday,  I heard tons of little voices shouting “Bhuti! Bhuti!” (Bhuti is an IsiXhosa word for brother, but it also is a term of respect for young adult males).  They were calling me to play soccer, to push them on the swings, and to read to them.  It was a great way of spending my first full day in South Africa.
Wednesday was my first full day working at the school, and it was a great day to start.  Fieldtrip!  The grade 3 class went on a fieldtrip to a local sheep farm, and I accompanied them on their trip.  We saw the whole process of how they remove the wool and the process to prepare it for sale.  It was a great experience to see the kids learning first hand on a trip like this.  I saw the excitement and the joy on their faces from their new experiences.  Throughout the week, I witnessed this similar desire for learning amongst all of the students at Holy Cross.  Their desire to learn and the staff’s enthusiasm to fuel this desire has made my transition much easier.  I am excited to wake up and head to the school every morning.  
    I am ending my first week in South Africa with a lively and energetic church service in the Monastery’s Chapel and a Braai that the brothers are throwing for my safe arrival to South Africa as well as Brother Roger’s safe travels to America later this week. I hope everyone has a blessed week!

Bhuti Ryan
 The view from my morning commute to school!

The students watching the sheep shearing.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Hi, I'm Ryan.

My name is Ryan Zavacky, and I am a parishioner at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Alma, Michigan.  I graduated with my Bachelor of Arts from Alma College last April, and this summer I will begin my year as a missionary for the Episcopal Church.  

The National Episcopal Church chose me for one of their Young Adult Service Corps (YASC) missions.  YASC sends about 15 to 20 young Episcopalians to foreign Anglican diocese to do service work each year. I was selected for their South African Mission in Grahamstown, South Africa.

While in Grahamstown, I will live and work at the Order of the Holy Cross Monastery.  The Monastery runs an elementary school for disadvantaged children in the area, and my job will be to help the teachers and to run the after school program.  I will get the opportunity to play soccer with the kids, help them with homework, and plan plenty of other activities with them.  

More importantly,  I am also there to be a presence in their society. I am to immerse myself in their life: learn about life from a different culture.   Ultimately, my goal is to bring that knowledge back to our Church and grow our church’s understanding of new cultures and new perspectives.
Holy Cross Monastery in South Africa

All of this does come with a cost. I must fundraise $10,000 for next year’s mission trips.  Bishop Ousley has graciously helped me by matching each donation with Diocesan funds, so - for example - if I make $5,000 the Diocese will give me another $5,000.  

To reach my goal, I need your help.  Your donations will help make this life changing mission trip possible. And always, whether you are able to donate or not, prayers are always appreciated and needed.