Online Edition: December 2006     Vol. XIX, No. 4

sponsored by Peace Life Center, Public invited

  • MODESTO PEACE LIFE CENTER VIGILS: Vigils are held once a month; Friday evenings; call the Center for info: 529-5750.

  • PEACE LIFE CENTER WILL BE OPEN TUESDAYS, Noon to 3 pm. Come by for coffee or tea and just to chat or look at our book and magazine collection. Bring your own bag lunch; there may be films some days. 720 13th St. Call us 529-5750, we'll get back to you with info on vigils and other activities.

  • Click here for other Peace Actions around the Valley and Mother Lode

The 2007 Peace Essay Contest is starting--download the Flyer and read or print by clicking here

Saturday, December 9
Holiday gathering for Peace People, all welcome
Onorato home, 1532 Vernon, Modesto
see article


San Joaquin Connections--Our Sister Publication to the North--November Issue (pdf)

Peace & Justice

Around the Center: 


Living Lightly

Consuming Appetites:  Global Patterns in Consumption of the Earth’s Bounty: Food, Energy and Materials  From the New Community Project

Recipes from Connections

A Gathering of Voices--Linda Prather

Out and About


Masthead and Back Issues

Opinion and Letters to Connections

John McCutcheon returns Jan. 24, releases new book


Folk musician John McCutcheon returns for his 6th annual benefit concert for the Modesto Peace Life Center on Wednesday, January 24, 2007 at 7 p.m. at the Modesto Church of the Brethren. John is a five-time Grammy award nominated folk singer and a committed peace activist. His singing, masterful playing of many instruments and storytelling have left local audiences feeling inspired and connected to the larger peace community.

This autumn also brings the long-awaited release of the children's-picture-book version of John's Christmas in the Trenches. With grand oil painting by award-winning illustrator Henri Sorensen, this powerful book includes a CD of John reading the book, singing the song and singing "Silent Night" in both English and German. Christmas in the Trenches has been called the greatest anti-war song ever written.

Here are some thoughts from John’s last newsletter:

“The border wall along the Texas/New Mexico/Arizona line will be a challenge to complete. Where will they hire the cheap labor needed to build it?”

“The all-volunteer army is stretched, reservists and National Guard units are performing extended tours of duty and the President has said he’ll “leave it to his successor” to decide what to do with Iraq. Over two more years of the same? Some Decider. Exactly one member of Congress had a child in the active duty military when the vote was taken back in 2003 to authorize the war in Iraq. It’s exactly this kind of disconnect from the realities of the war that stifles decisive action. What is clear is that increasingly the poor are fighting the rich man’s war.”

“I’ll be in your neighborhood soon. ‘Til then, keep in touch, do good work and eat enough homegrown tomatoes that you’ll remember them all winter long.”

Concert tickets are $17 in advance, $20 at the door and $5 for young people 17 years old and younger. Tickets are available at the Modesto Church of the Brethren, 2301 Woodland Ave., Modesto, 523-1438, or at Anderson Custom Framing and Gallery, 1323 J St., Modesto, 579-9913.

John McCutcheon’s web site:

Next time, something to vote for


National Organizer for the Network of Spiritual Progressives

Many of us are feeling pretty good, on this day after the election, about the results, and rightfully so. The sweeping defeats of Republican candidates around the country constitutes a resounding indictment of an immoral war, of corruption in our government and our corporations, and of economic policies that target those among us who have the least. In the wake of the “moral values” sweep of the 2004 election, spiritual progressives have worked hard to shift what counts as a moral value, so that preemptive war, corporate misconduct, and rampant poverty also count as moral issues. If this election was about voting against something, our task now is to construct a vision of this country that gives Americans something to vote for.

The negativity of this campaign season has been unprecedented, and the only way to overcome that is to set forth a positive vision. The Network of Spiritual Progressives will spend the next years building support for our vision of loving community rooted in generosity, kindness, respect, nonviolence, ecological sensitivity, and awe and wonder in the face of both human beings and the world to which we are so intimately tied. Some tenets of that vision:

In lieu of an endless, violent “war on terrorism,” we offer the Global Marshall Plan as a route to a foreign policy of generosity that would dry up the cesspools of desperation and anti-American sentiment from which terrorist cells recruit their members. Under the Global Marshall Plan, the U.S. would lead the other G8 countries in dedicating 5% of the gross domestic product to the elimination of global poverty and the repair of the damage to our planet—working through non-governmental organizations with proven track records, rather than through potentially corrupt government regimes. We believe it is naive to think that we can attend to our own security and well-being without also attending to the well-being of everyone else on the planet.

In the face of sex scandals, we condemn not the human beings who fall prey to such scandals but the widespread commercialization of sexuality that teaches us to view other human beings as objects to be used for one’s own pleasure. In contrast, we offer a view of sexuality as a joyful expression of loving relationship. We believe that sex education should focus not just on the mechanics of intercourse and contraception, but on the attitudes and values that lead to respectful, equal, loving relationships. What we need is relationship education.

In the face of corporate corruption and misconduct, we offer social responsibility legislation that would give corporate leaders an incentive to contribute positively to the community and to operate in ecologically sustainable ways.

To those who are suffering from recent cuts to our social safety net programs and from inadequate healthcare, we say, “You are not alone. You are a part of us, and we will take care of you.” We will work for universal healthcare that attends to the whole person as an embodiment of the sacred, not just to a body, and we will devise the means by which we can support each other in times of financial crisis.

We are at a turning point in our history, and we need your help to shape an America that will lead the world in generosity and compassion and nonviolence and ecological repair. To find out more about our vision, download the Spiritual Covenant with America from If you can’t be actively involved at this time, please consider making a generous donation that will enable someone else to work on these issues in your stead. Thank you for all you are doing in your own life to make a more loving world possible.

Fro information on the local NSP chapter, call 523-8445, or email

Visit a new online discussion forum for the NSP at

Give gifts that keep giving!

From the Nicaragua Network

In Nicaragua as in the rest of the world, rivers are dying from the deforestation of their banks, water- tables are falling from overuse, lakes are being contaminated by chemicals, and forests torn down. The Federation for the Integral Development of Peasant Farmers (FEDICAMP) has developed “Let the Rivers Run,” a comprehensive plan for the intelligent management of water and the re-greening of Nicaragua’s watersheds.

FEDICAMP works in the northern, mountainous region of “Las Segovias,” one of the poorest sections of the country. The principal watersheds of the Segovias are in an advanced process of degradation as a result of deforestation and the resultant landslides provoked by heavy rains. The remaining forests are under heavy population pressure and in some areas residents can no longer even find firewood with which to cook their meals. This legacy of deforestation has resulted in heavy erosion of soils and has impacted watersheds, altered rainfall and microclimatic conditions.

Over one million trees planted!

In 2002-2004, FEDICAMP planted 1.2 million trees in three departments (Nueva Segovia, Madriz, and Esteli). They have also enabled the natural regeneration of forests on more than 1,500 acres of land. Since 2002, they have instructed over 2,000 families in building improved cook stoves, which reduce by 60% the amount of firewood used by traditional stoves. FEDICAMP also provides training in gardening, community empowerment, and environmental awareness.

Cisterns capture scarce rain water!

Now FEDICAMP is beginning to build cistern systems which will allow families to have potable water during four or five months of the dry season. These cisterns will be crucial for future community survival, as more and more large landowners deny families permission to obtain water from their land.

The Nicaragua Network invites you to adopt at least one cistern. Or, adopt a tree (or many trees) in the northwest of Nicaragua. For just US $36 you can have 15 trees planted in Nicaragua. Give trees in Nicaragua as gifts to your relatives and friends who “have everything!” “Let the Rivers Run” will plant mangoes, avocados, oranges and other productive trees on the banks of streams to protect the flow of water and provide food for the people in the villages in the area.

ACTION: You can help through your holiday giving! Download The Nicaragua Network will send a Nicaraguan art card to the relative or friend of your choice telling them that trees have been planted in their name in Nicaragua, or that a community will have a cistern to capture precious rainwater during the rainy season. Or call Kathy Hoyt at the Nicaragua Network, (202) 544-9355 for information.; Nicaragua Network | 1247 E St. SE | Washington | DC | 20003


Louise Weaver, an abiding inspiration


The generation that founded the Modesto Peace/Life Center is passing on. For those of us in our fifties and sixties, one of the most endearing among those generous mentors was Louise Weaver. Louise died on October 31. At the Memorial Service for her at the Modesto Church of the Brethren on November 4, good friend Thelma Couchman shared a telling anecdote. She commented to Louise one day that Louise was a very modest person. Louise responded, “I have a lot to be modest about.”

Though her response was intended as a joke, there’s a lot of truth in her humor. Louise was a quiet, unassuming person, but she was far from passive. As an active member of the Church of the Brethren all her life, she often sang the refrain, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” For her the hymn was far more than a source of consolation; it was a daily, life-long calling. As Pastor Erin Matteson said at the memorial, “Louise lived that conviction . . . . She felt peace really did begin in each person, and she was determined to do her part: to teach, march for it, sing it, and bring it any way she could to other peoples and countries.”

Hers was “not a simple peace,” Pastor Matteson continued, “but one wedded or integrated deeply with justice and love. Louise surely would have loved the bumper sticker: No Peace . . . No Justice. Know Peace . . . Know Justice.”

Louise and her husband Willie, who died four years ago, were among the early supporters and active participants in Heifer Project, which was started after World War II to send young cows to needy people in war ravaged Europe. As the program grew and included sending other animals to many more countries to foster economic development among the poor, Louise and Willie got directly involved in transporting and delivering the animals to Mexico and Central America. Louise also became a walking advertisement for the organization. She frequently wore her bright pink Heifer Project International sweatshirt, with little cows dancing all over it. On her last birthday on October 17 at English Oaks Convalescent Home, she was wearing this sweatshirt. Her energy was on the wane, but not her cherished commitment.

The Modesto Peace/Life Center was another of Louise and Willie’s main commitments. They supported the Center financially, they served as members of the Board, they helped prepare the mailing of Stanislaus Connections, they attended meetings, and, most significantly for me, they almost always participated in the Center’s peace vigils, marches, and demonstrations. They were not organizers, and they were not inclined to engage in the debates we sometimes have had about issues, but they were consistently there on the streets with us. To me, their presence was significant. They never stopped living their commitment to peace and justice and conscientious stewardship of the earth. They didn’t confine their convictions to church worship and activities. For them, the arena of faith included active protest, not marked by angry signs or shouting but by quiet, determined public witness. I often stood next to them. I found their mere presence reassuring. I felt stronger around them. They embodied faithfulness.

One image of Louise the activist stands out for me. Before the current Iraq war, there was a major peace demonstration in Sacramento, as there was in cities throughout the world. Many of us from Modesto went. We didn’t expect Louise to go because she’d recently had knee surgery. But there she was, pushed in her wheel chair by Sandy Sample who’d driven her. She was wearing her other favorite sweatshirt, a bright yellow one with the message: “War is unhealthy for children and other living things.” Her radiant smile glowed as she held her sign, “Great-grandmother for Peace.”

Louise and Willie were also citizen ambassadors of peace in their travels to other countries. With Heifer Project they went to Latin America; with the Fellowship of Reconciliation they went to Russia and Poland; and as activists involved in our local Stanislaus County Interfaith Committee on Latin America, they went to Nicaragua. Their sojourns abroad were efforts to build bridges of understanding and mutual appreciation between and among peoples. They never stopped widening their circle of compassion and global awareness.

Their travels were also an emblem of what Alice and I remember them most fondly for—their warm hospitality and their eagerness to expand the bonds of friendship to others. Alice and I and our children feel deeply blessed by our many years of close friendship with Louise and Willie, and we cherish the memories of our fishing and camping trips with them to Cherry Lake, and our gatherings with them and Jim and Bonnie Costello and their children at their Donkey Ridge mountain retreat. We recall the many times we ate together, at Peace Center potlucks and on birthday and holiday occasions. Louise always prepared one or more of her favorite dishes—sweetly marinated carrots, cream of mushroom string beans, sugary applesauce, or sweet berry cobbler. Louise loved music and enlivened our Peace Center holiday parties with her piano playing as we all sang. In their own home they hosted visitors from far and wide, and often were among the first to welcome new young people into the Peace Center’s community. Both in their larger commitments and in their personal relations with others, they personified, in Gandhi’s terms, the change they wanted to see.

As Jim Costello said about Louise at her memorial, “We, all of us, here and now, need people to mentor us and guide us in community. . . . Louise and Willie were such guides. We are all privileged to have known them. Their legacy can and must live on in us.”

If we follow their inspiration, perhaps we’ll be able to say with Louise, “I have a lot to be modest about.” And we will see her pleased, smiling, gently and quietly.

Grandma Louise: Our Peacemaker

At our tables during Harvest Suppers, pancake breakfasts, and Peace Camp meals
Our peacemaker in fellowship
At our potlucks with berry cobblers, applesauce, and green beans
Our peacemaker in generosity
At our piano playing favorite holiday melodies, voice raised in song
Our peacemaker in music
At our gathering on the shore of the Tuolumne River for the annual Hiroshima-Nagasaki memorial
Our peacemaker in compassion
At our side in non-violent protest, face beaming and sign held high: “Grandmother for Peace”
Our peacemaker, whose courageous and loving spirit abides in all of us as we work together toward a more peaceful world.

— Satya Onorato

Little things add up


The Holidays are fast approaching. Arriving with them are the all too familiar songs we have heard all our lives. Multiple chances to stock up on eggnog and watch various sections of A Christmas Story over and over again (not that I am an advocate for war toys). And over and over again, you will hear the pleas from various charities to remember those less fortunate than you are, by dropping a little change into red pots or delivering grocery bags of canned food items to a location near you. And every year, over and over again, you will hear — Donations are down again this year.

Whether financially secure or not, every family has a set of goals they struggle to achieve. Some of these goals are fixed, while others are in a constant state of flux. It is the latter that many of us find so difficult to fathom — the difficulties so many families and individuals in our communities encounter every day throughout the year. Some of us have never experienced anything coming close to them. But let us never forget that they are, in fact, very real and are very painful.

Most communities have a food stamp program which allocates a certain amount of money specifically for groceries. While for so many families, this truly is a God-send, most families will have exhausted both their groceries and their food stamp allotment by the third week of every month. This is because most communities do not provide economical assistance of an informative nature. Even a simple brochure detailing precisely how to make appropriate shopping choices such as concentrating more on ingredients and cooking rather than ready-to-eat items. This simple shopping method could ensure that so many families are not going hungry for a full week or more out of every month of the year. All together, this adds up to three months per year. After four years, it would be an entire year. An entire year of hunger.

Too few of the less fortunate individuals within our communities have ever had an opportunity to sit down with someone who could explain the most basic life-skills to them. Skills that so many of us take for granted, that we might often assume that anyone who does not practice them, probably has made an irresponsible choice not to. My hands-on experience has shown me, in no uncertain terms, that this just simply is not true. I can think of no better example to illustrate what the cliché - “Falling through the cracks” really means.

I encourage everyone to give the most they can this and every holiday season, and for those who are unable to give, I understand that it is most certainly by no fault of their own. However, I do believe that, if those of us further along the path of financial stability, would just take the time to reach out to our struggling neighbors and teach them the methods necessary to achieve their goals, provide them with the necessary tools of budgeting, home economics, a little research of programs that may help them find employment, or better employment, perhaps then they would be in a position to give in the next year or maybe, better yet, they would be able to provide these same tools to another family. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, not just for the Holidays, but for all year long and every year after.

Contact the author, president of LocalBlack, “A Civil Rights Organization” at (209) 496-2363;


Tenth of each month. Submit peace, justice and environmentally friendly event notices to P.O. Box 134, Modesto, CA, 95353, or call 522-4967 or 575-4299, or email to Jim Costello. Free listings subject to space, availability and editing.