Our Cloud of Witnesses: Liz Tolkamp

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We follow in the steps of many Christian Reformed justice-seekers who have gone before us, faithful Christians who have lived out the radical call of the Gospel, empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Who is in your cloud of witnesses? Who inspires you to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us”? Like the writer of Hebrews, let’s remember our cloud of witnesses and be encouraged for the race ahead of us. Follow along with the series by signing up here.

Danielle: Let me introduce you to my friend Liz. I first met Liz on my first Sunday at Willoughby CRC, when I had nowhere to go after the service and sheepishly tagged along with a new friend to Liz’ house for soup. After meeting her that day, Liz tucked grad-student-me under her wing—I always had a place to go after church if I wanted one…or someone to teach me to can, or someone to berrypick with, or a listening ear.

I know Liz’ heart for justice because I experienced her exuberant hospitality.

She is always encouraging young people who are interested in God’s heart for justice—she lights up in conversations with young people about truth and reconciliation, refugees, stewardship, human trafficking. These days, when she’s not pastoring at Willoughby, working as a Faith Formation Regional Catalyzer, or managing her garden and canning its produce, she’s involved in a local chapter of a Palestinian rights organization.

Liz is part of my cloud of witnesses. (Everybody, find yourself a Liz. Or thank your Liz!)

Here’s what Liz has to say about her justice journey:

Danielle: How did you learn of God’s heart for justice? How did you first get involved?

Liz: I would say that it’s been gradual over the course of the last 20 years or more, beginning with writers and speakers such as Ron Snider (Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger), Nicholas Wolterstorff (Until Justice and Peace Embrace), and, to some degree, Francis Schaeffer, who provided a rich foundation for thinking about justice.

More recently I’ve been learning through millennials – they are not afraid to ask the ‘why’ question.

More recently I’ve been learning through millennials – be that family members and/or friends, church members – they are not afraid to ask the ‘why’ question. I think my generation – and here I’m generalizing of course – is not so inclined to ask ‘why’. When you begin to ask that question, the answers often lead you to another narrative, a narrative different than the one you or I might be most familiar with or were raised to hear or even continue to hear. 

Danielle: How do you love and speak up for your neighbours, whether close-by or far away, these days? 

Liz: I use social media platforms and attend events et cetera that speak about different justice issues – but mostly I’m learning to speak up in conversations with people I meet.

Danielle: Who has encouraged you as you lived out the calling to do justice? Who have been your companions on the journey?

Liz: Family members, friends, and congregational members who have been involved and continue to be involved in advocacy work around various justice concerns and issues. 

The Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue and Office of Social Justice provide encouragement, resources and information that are also helpful on this journey of justice-seeking.

Danielle: Which Bible passages and spiritual practices do you turn to when the work gets hard? How do you stay energized and faithful?

Liz: Micah 6:8 and Amos 5:24 are two Bible verses that quickly come to mind. There are many in the Old Testament prophets that I could turn to, and the gospels as well – particularly those passages which tell about Jesus’ compassion and care for the marginalized, the women, the poor, the sick, et cetera. It’s easy to become discouraged when it comes to issues around justice, but listening (which includes reading about or being with) to others, staying connected to advocacy groups and organizations, and attending events designed to raise awareness on justice issues are ways I stay energized. 

The spiritual disciplines of simplicity (living more simply), service, and hospitality help me to live justly. 

Danielle: What gives you hope?

Liz: Ah...the “what gives you hope” question. You would ask that one. I find hope in the promise of God that he will make all things new. I find hope in the kingdom of God already here – but not yet. I take comfort knowing that Jesus himself reached out to the Samaritan, to children, to women, to the outcast, and to the poor.  

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