“We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.” This quote is often attributed to media theorist Marsh McLuhan.
The point is powerful. Tools matter. Tools shape us.
If all a person has is a hammer, everything looks like nails. If all the tools a person has destroys life and community, then that person will become destructive. But if a person has tools that build up community and cultivate life, that person will be a force for good in the world.
There are so many tools that shape our world towards death. So many tools that shape individuals and society toward violence and polarization and fear. Our world is in need of some better tools.
Jesus modeled a new set of tools. In his life, he rejected the violence of the sword and picked up the upside-down way of the cross. Paul understood this when he said, “do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds” (Romans 12:2). Peter encouraged this when he said, “Seek peace and pursuit it” (1 Peter 3:11).
A few years ago we at Toledo Mennonite Church began putting energy behind initiatives to create better tools and follow Jesus in the way of peace. We partnered with RAW Tools Inc. for the first time in October of 2016 to host the first guns-to-gardens demonstration in Toledo. At the event, blacksmiths forged a gun into garden tools through the old-school technology of blacksmithing. The mission of RAW Tools is not only to transform guns, but to transform hearts and minds as well.
This vision caught on. We have since done three more guns-to-gardens demonstrations with diverse partnerships such as the Hindu Temple of Toledo, Creative Peaceful Resistance, The Junction Coalition, and Mom’s Demand Action.
This summer, a board was created to launch a Toledo chapter of RAW Tools. Pastor Joel serves as the chair of that board. This chapter is the first regional chapter that RAW Tool has opened. By establishing a formal relationship with RAW Tools, we tap into their national network while being able to respond to local opportunities.
This summer, we are launching a class for youth and young adults to learn the skill of blacksmithing by learning how to turn guns into garden tools. Along the way, participants will learn basic skills and concepts for non-violence and conflict resolution. The dates for the class are July 14, 21, 28, and August 4 and 11 from 1:00-4:00.
Additionally, this past April we hosted Shalom Ministries for a conflict mediation training. Eleven people from TMC participated, as well as four people from McTigue Elementary School and six people from the community. We have had talks about potentially sponsoring a second training this fall.
Finally, Pastor Joel was recently trained in circle process through the Lucas County Juvenile Court. Circle process is a pro-active community-building process that can be applied to a variety of different settings. It isn’t for responding to specific conflicts, but for building up relationships and helping people thrive together before any conflict erupts. The training Joel received was specifically to help youth develop character and life skills, but can also be applied to many different groups and circumstances.
Our world needs better tools. As disciples of Jesus, and as people faithful to the way of scripture, we envision a world of better tools. Not only that, but we also put words into actions to disarm hearts and forge peace.
Please continue to pray for these initiatives that broadly fall under the vision of a Toledo Peace Center. Pray that these would be ways for us at Toledo Mennonite Church to be salt and light in our city. And if you have any ideas or want to contribute in anyway, let’s keep those conversations going about how we can be peacemakers and toolmakers for the Kingdom.
Pastor Joel Shenk