What motivated you to undertake this project?

  • We are pained by the negative emotions and behaviors that dominate our national and international interactions. All sides seem equally guilty of finger-pointing, name-calling and vitriol. We need individuals who are willing to step forward to engage people in civil conversations and shared experiences that can lead to mutual understanding, respect and identifying common ground.
  • Rhetoric built merely on political correctness is not helpful. While it may soften or hide true feelings (by creating a mask of civility and tolerance) the underlying prejudices are still being fueled by ignorance, hurt, self-righteousness and a lack of willingness to create a climate where people of all stripes can flourish.
  • Our project, “The Gardener of Peace: In Pursuit of Reconciliation,” was conceived to create a way for people to talk about, and perhaps to pray, for the hurts and longings that exist in our lives today.  
  • The seeds for this project were planted almost 5 years ago, but it has become more than a good idea. It is now an imperative and a way to tangibly work toward the common good.

You seem to have a sense of urgency around generating dialogue that might bridge differences in politics, worldview, religion, gender issues, etc.  What’s driving that urgency?

  • Every year we see newspapers and magazines feature “The Year in Pictures” We are continually overwhelmed by the images of pain, anger and tragedy that we humans inflict upon one another.  
  • We are exhausted by the caustic rhetoric and lack of civil dialogue surrounding national politics (in the USA and around the world).
  • We are grieved by the senseless loss of lives in our racially divided communities.
  • We mourn the persecution and killing of people all around the world because of their religious convictions, as well as the use of religious beliefs to justify acts of violence.
  • We want to help people reflect, enter into conversation with someone who cares about their story and begin to create a vision that each one of us can be a “gardener of peace.”

What’s the Biblical perspective on reconciliation that you want to communicate?

  • “The Gardener of Peace” prayer is a wonderful expression of the Gospel of Reconciliation as written in 2 Corinthians 5:16-20:
    • So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” (NLT)
  • Paul tells us that God is the great initiator, the prime mover, the actual source of reconciliation, through the life, death and resurrection of his son, Jesus Christ. 
  • As Christ followers, it is our joy and our calling to let others know that through God’s grace, we can be forgiven, healed and reunited with our Father.
  • Being reconciled with God is the essential, first step. Then we can engage in effective conversations, acts of love and service to advance the common good and reconciliation with each another.

 How do you engage in conversations about reconciliation?

  • Through personal connections, public gatherings, community and church events, in cities across the country, we are inviting people to come share some of their life story with us, to engage in dialogue about reconciliation, and to be photographed.
  • As we sit together, “The Gardener of Peace” prayer serves as a “meeting point,” a catalyst to focus the conversation on things that really matter in our lives.
  • We listen empathetically and explore experiences of reconciliation as well as hurts, disappointments, longings and wisdom. 
  • Our photographers further explore these thoughts and experiences in front of the camera, as we seek to break through stereotypes and generalizations about one another and to see one another freshly and with open hearts and minds.

So what’s the “product” you are creating to share what you are experiencing and learning?

  • The photographs and highlights from individual life stories will be presented in high-quality book form, and also via our website: www.reconcile.world
  • Selections for the book are based on how compelling, unique or sometimes universal a person’s story might be, and how well that story lines up with our search for a deeper understanding of what reconciliation looks like.
  • We want to transport the reader/viewer into the conversations we’ve experienced and what we are learning from others.
  • Our desire is to elicit thoughtfulness and a sense of personal determination “to be the reconciliation” in daily life.

How can a book of people’s stories and their portraits make an impact on the vast need for reconciliation?

  • Everyone has a story that encompasses hurt, hope and healing.
  • We want people to feel motivated to “be the reconciliation” themselves.
  • One thing or one project will not reconcile the world, but if everyone wakes up to the need and takes a personal step, wouldn’t it make a difference?

What does The Vessel do?

  • The Vessel, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, helps send individuals on mission.
  • We are about the individual who is willing to engage in God’s great adventure and the life-change that occurs when God reveals his love, grace and power as we serve him.
  • Our “product” is the people who come back changed, for life. People who are so captivated by their encounter with Jesus that they will impact their friends, family, neighbors and workplace for the rest of their lives.

Why is The Vessel providing support for a project about reconciliation?

  • Our primary focus is on changed lives.  Mission is a powerful lever for accomplishing this. However, the content of missions is the Gospel of Reconciliation. We see “The Gardener of Peace” project as a logical and exciting extension of our focus.

What’s the big vision you are trying to bring to life?

  • Imagine if half of the world’s people could sit across from the other half of the population and really listen to each other’s hurts and desires for healing, just for 30 minutes. Don’t you think something amazing would begin to happen?  Well, this is our way to start.