Sunday, April 12, 2015

Konnections, Konference, and Kermit

By Rodger Dean Duncan

Another busy week, filled with lots of activity that will bear both short- and long-term benefit for the gospel cause in Waco.

Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce
You'll recall from a previous post that we met with Matthew Polk, executive director of Prosper Waco. That's an organization established by Waco's movers and shakers to address the generations-old issue of poverty in the city. Matthew invited me to attend one of the organization's meetings, not just as an observer, but as an active participant. So on Monday I attended a meeting focused on "financial security" issues ranging from jobs to availability of food. The meeting was held at the Greater Waco Chamber Building. About 40 people attended. They were obviously expecting me, because my name was on a name tent with an assigned seat. My table mates included the mayor of the City of Waco and three people who lead various non-profits that focus on serving the poor.

The conversation was focused and lively. When the discussion turned to the issue of generational poverty, I suggested that we "work backwards" and consider root causes rather than just the obvious symptoms. We then talked about the importance of helping young people (perhaps as early as elementary school age) catch the vision of the importance of everything from school success and simple money management to manners, comportment, grooming, and other factors that affect the ability to get and keep a job. I asked if any organizations in town provide a mentoring program for young people. One man at the table said his organization tried to provide mentoring "but ran out of money." I asked what money had to do with it. He said: "Well, we had to pay the mentors." Call me naive, but I was stunned. From my Latter-day Saint perspective, it never occurred to me that anyone who's really serious about lifting people up would need to be "paid." I then learned that virtually every "poverty" program in town relies heavily on paid staff, with only a few volunteers.

I have an idea about establishing a mentoring program that could (1) make a significant long-term difference in Waco's struggle with poverty, and (2) encourage the city's many faith communities to collaborate in ways they've not done before. As the idea is fleshed out, we'll report on this blog.

In any event, I was grateful to be invited to participate with the Prosper Waco organization. In addition to getting acquainted with the mayor, I also met the president of the Chamber of Commerce and the leaders of multiple businesses and non-profits. We expect the connections we're making to be a major factor in our efforts to help the community.

Waco Zone Conference, 10 April 2015
Much of the rest of the week was devoted to missionary meetings: Waco North Zone Council on Tuesday, Waco South Zone Council on Wednesday, an all-day Zone Conference meeting on Friday, and stake conference on Saturday and Sunday.

The Waco Stake Center
At the weekend conference, the Waco Stake presidency was reorganized. Our friend Blake Christensen was released after nearly ten years of service as stake president. Three other fine men were called to serve in the new presidency. Two of them we know quite well. It is wonderful how leadership works in the restored church. Nobody gets paid (at least not in money). Nobody campaigns for office. Nobody chooses where he or she will serve. The Lord is in charge of it all. When Latter-day Saints are "Called to Serve," it's by revelation, not by lobbying for position. It's a simple and beautiful thing to behold.


We were blessed to host Rodney and Kimberlee Ames as
our overnight guests during stake conference. (Rodney is
our mission president.) They are dear friends from our
hometown of Liberty, Missouri. We love being with them.
At our home in Liberty, our grandchildren enjoy the "Kermit game." Someone "hides" Kermit. The rule is that only a small portion of "Kermit green" can be showing. The hiding strategies can get very imaginative. Then when someone finds Kermit, he or she finds another hiding place.

As a treat to our grandchildren (and ourselves), we've invited Kermit to accompany us on our mission. You'll be seeing more of him in the future. This past week, Kermit met many new friends in the army of missionaries. He was a big hit, and has been adopted as official mascot in this part of the Texas Fort Worth Mission.

Kermit with some of his new friends at the Waco South Zone Council meeting.

Kermit waxes strong in confidence.

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