Asitha Sandanayake, 2019 Congregation Council President

As, the new president of the council, I have been thinking a lot on how best, we can move forward with strategic visioning for Prince of Peace. This was a key area identified in a Congregational Assessment Tool (CAT) Survey done a few years ago. Prince of Peace needs…”Strategic visioning with boundaries!”…to align priorities with mission and focus energies on priorities. The top two priorities identified amongst all age cohorts in the survey, were related to growth. This is not surprising.

So, as I reflected on this, during lent, heard incredible story-telling, started reading two books and met with council members over meals, I asked myself, what does growth mean? Is growth really a strategy, something we can get excited about? Or, is it merely a cry for help, to sustain Prince of Peace for another 60 years? A focus on growth, is important, and it is a charge conferred on us leaders. There are no excuses. However, is it God’s plan for us? Or, is growth an outcome of a mission and vision, for which God is really calling Prince of Peace?

A few weeks ago, I along with my entire family, attended a poverty simulation workshop, conducted by ‘Do Good Roseville’. This, incredible experience really changed my perspective. I was given the role of a 21 year old student, with two 13 year old sisters and one 3 year old brother. My father was put in jail for 45 days. Fortunately, he had paid rent for a month and owned a fully paid for car. I had enough money for a month. I was the lucky one. Yet, in the first week, I did not know what to do. I left the 3 year old all alone at home. I did not buy any food, so, my family went hungry all week. I dropped out of community college. I could not navigate the transportation needs. My sisters had to pick up and drop off the baby at day care. They sacrificed field trips and did grocery shopping for the family. Meanwhile, I tried to navigate every resource agency, get a job, and pay utility bills. I failed every one of them. It was the most stressful thing I have experienced.

Being poor is hard. Is this really happening around us? I don’t know what it means to be poor. I had to reflect on my life. I realized how privileged I am, and always have been. Even, through struggles, I have been blessed. I got all the breaks in life. I am even privileged to have an amazing, humble wife, and great kids. They keep me grounded. As Natasha, would remind me often, the only problems I have, are high class ones. Fortunately, my parents did instill in me a sense of social justice and ethics. That, with great privilege comes great responsibility. Never underestimate the role, luck or divine blessing play in your life. As in the case of ‘Job’, things can change in a heartbeat. God places a burden in our hearts, to focus on those who are marginalized in society, and work against injustice. We can listen, learn and love. We can do more. It is my hope that we do more together in our community. So, what should we really set our eyes on, when it comes to our calling, vision and mission? Hopefully, we can continue this conversation at Prince of Peace.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:35-40)

Asitha Sandanayake, Congregation Council President