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On hope: How faith shapes people’s views

Phil Wright

East Oregonian

Published on December 22, 2017 6:37PM

Last changed on December 22, 2017 6:50PM

Tim Van Cleave is the pastor of the Bethel Assembly of God, a Pentecostal church in Pendleton.

Tim Van Cleave is the pastor of the Bethel Assembly of God, a Pentecostal church in Pendleton.

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Poet and teacher Shaindel Beers is secular with a Jewish cultural background and Baptist religious upbringing.

Poet and teacher Shaindel Beers is secular with a Jewish cultural background and Baptist religious upbringing.

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Joe Engum has been practicing Buddhism for 25 years

Joe Engum has been practicing Buddhism for 25 years

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Bill Young is a Pendleton native and a second generation member of the Bahá’í Faith.

Bill Young is a Pendleton native and a second generation member of the Bahá’í Faith.

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In our community and nation, reasons to hope abound.

The East Oregonian contacted local people from different faiths and backgrounds for their take on how their beliefs shape their views on hope. We interviewed four of them.

Tim Van Cleave is the pastor of the Bethel Assembly of God, a Pentecostal church in Pendleton. Poet and teacher Shaindel Beers is secular with a Jewish cultural background and Baptist religious upbringing. Joe Engum has been practicing Buddhism for 25 years. Bill Young is a Pendleton native and a second generation member of the Bahá’í Faith.

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Van Cleave, a pastor for 28 years, said for him and other evangelical Christians, hope stems from the center of their faith: Jesus Christ.

“That’s the biggest source of hope there is over any other thing,” he said.

Faith, hope and love are three building blocks, he said. While the Bible teaches love is the most important, he doubted we can live without any of them. Van Cleave said as a shepherd to his congregational flock, he has the responsibility of keeping hope alive. His church, like others, runs a “school of restoration,” with the aim of healing past hurts and bringing new hope to people’s lives.

“I’ve seen hope come into situations that seem hopeless,” he said.

Getting there, he stressed, takes effort. The hope Christ offers is life altering, but followers must engage with their faith each day through study of the Bible, prayer and action.

“It’s not one and done,” Van Cleave said.

Van Cleave said connecting people to Christ is his mission, and God can bring hope to anyone, from the follower who opens the Bible and finds the passage that speaks right to her heart, to inmates in prison overcoming terrible lives to experience spiritual awakening. He also said Biblical heroes such as King David remind followers to stay hopeful.

He also sees hope in the actions the church can take to help others. Andi Davis and Alex Bannick recently lost their Pendleton home to a fire. Davis sometimes attends Bethel Assembly, Van Cleave said, and the congregation took up an offering to help the couple and their children.

Those actions can stir up hope, he said, and reaffirm “together, we can do more.”

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Beers said we should have hope, but hope is passive and should not keep us from taking action.

This world is the only one we have, she said, so we have the responsibility to make it as good as possible.

“As someone who doesn’t believe in an afterlife, I think it helps you to understand the importance of being a good person while you’re here,” Beers said.

She said people might hope for something to benefit the homeless, for example, but hope alone doesn’t build a warming shelter. Beers emphasized we must take action and not just hope for the better.

She also said there is plenty to be hopeful for or joyful about in our back yard. Hat Rock State Park near Hermiston or Harris Park near Milton-Freewater are nearby and let us get out into fresh air. And the community offers an exciting arts scene, from symphonies to writers.

And, she said, we live in a place where neighbors care about each other.

Beers also suggested people on a winter break from work or school might take some time to help others; just cleaning out that closest can yield crucial donations for those in need.

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Buddhism does not rely on hope, and practitioner Engum said he doesn’t hold expectations for how most things will turn out.

“It’s not about trying to get something changed in the future,” Engum said. “It’s about being in the present here and now, so I can deal with what’s in front of me.”

Engum still has hopes, he said, and he can look for the best that can happen and try for the best that can happen, but he emphasized he has no special right to prescribe the outcome. Getting wrapped up in that kind of thinking takes away from living in the now and can carry consequences, such as depression, when hoped-for outcomes don’t pan out.

“You take what comes and deal the best you can with it,” he said. “What I hope for everybody, really, whatever they are going through, they are present and able to be there and deal with it instead of being wrapped up in fear and anxiety.”

Even so, he said, he sees so much empathy and caring in the community, and plenty of reasons every day to be hopeful.

“Just about the time you think a situation is really dismal and desperate, that somehow there is an abundance of kindness that arises,” he said. “And it comes from every corner.”

“And that,” he said, “I find hopeful.”

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Bill Young, a 1971 Pendleton High School graduate, has hope.

The Bahá’í Faith he has lived in his whole life believes the world is progressing toward unity.

“So by definition, we’re a pretty hopeful group,” he said.

He said there is evidence that progression is occurring. Worldwide deaths from war and conflict have been trending down since World War II. But like the others, Young said hope alone will not make the world better. That takes individual action.

Young said Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the faith, taught “Deeds, not words.”

Young also said in spite of our nation’s political divide, he finds “signs of hope everywhere for the United States.” We are having national conversations about health care and the price of college tuition, he said. And while those are political, they also are issues of social justice.

The road to a better future has bumps and ruts, he said, and it’s how we navigate those obstacles that determines the future.

Young said he sees lessons in the old Greek myth of Pandora, who opened a clay jar and allowed death, disease and other evils to escape into the world. She closed the lid before the last element could escape — hope.

Young said with all the ills in the world, we have to find a way to deal with them.

“That’s why hope is still there,” he said. “Hope is your tool.”

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Contact Phil Wright at pwright@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0833.







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