God’s Spirit has been at work in new and creative ways in the Presbytery of New Castle. Two of these expressions are a new worshiping community in the city of Wilmington, Delaware, and an effort to reimagine the Presbyterian presence in the fastest-growing town in the state, Middletown.
Led by Rev. Edwin Estevez, Riverfront Church meets for its Weekly Wednesday Prayer Dinner at Veritas, a craft beer and wine shop in Wilmington. Eclectic folks gather with wildly different stories; musicians lead us, we pray, read Scripture, converse, and share in the Lord’s Supper, which leads into dinner. We partner in local service projects, to witness to Christ’s love rather than simply doing it our way. We don’t have members, but we cultivate a community of belonging. We’ve partnered with two international organizations for service in Guatemala and beyond, and we continue to partner with local churches to help form a cooperative parish. What’s next? Launching a Creperie Café that employs and empowers under-served people, especially youth, sources its ingredients locally and is eco-friendly, and provides a communal space of hospitality for rest, reflection and redirection.
Although there has always been a Presbyterian presence in Middletown, the church on Main Street in the historical district had been dwindling. In an agreement between the congregation and the presbytery, Rev. Fernando Rodríguez was called to lead a new worshiping community out of the old Main Street church. The vision for the church is to gather people from different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds to openly explore faith, celebrate and worship God, and partner with people and organizations to live into the radical hospitality of Jesus Christ.
Donna L. Scully, Office Manager, New Castle PresbyteryLet us join in prayer for:
Rev. James L. Moseley, Executive Presbyter
Rev. Dr. Jacqueline E. Taylor, Associate Executive Presbyter
Bob Schminkey, Stated Clerk
Donna Scully, Office Manager
Bruce Gillette, Moderator
Winnie Wagner, Vice Moderator
Julius Jackson, Chair of Council
Rev. Tom Davis, Interfaith Peacemaker
Pam Ruarke, Disaster Recovery Coordinator
Terry Dykstra, Mission Advocate
Rev. Nona Holy, Campus Ministry Pastor
Rev. Laurie Hiller, Parliamentarian
Rev. Doug Gerdts, Treasurer
Emma Blair, Bookkeeper
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
O Holy God, always present and leading, you are gracious to show us the path of friendship and the way of fellowship which opens us to the heart of Jesus. In his name we celebrate your gifts to us of work, worship and play for the sake of the Gospel. Amen.Daily Lectionary
An incredible 40 percent of food in the United States is wasted, but the Mission Ministry of First Presbyterian Church, Vancouver, Washington, lowers that figure for its community.
In 2013, members of the congregation partnered with a local grocer, picking up donated produce, baked goods and deli items nearing their “sell by” date to fill food boxes weekly for five families referred by a neighborhood school. The program grew quickly and was named H.E.L.P., which stood for Healthy Equitable Living Project. It acquired three more donor grocers and some individual sponsors, and now four schools refer food-insecure families.
What began as handing out a few food boxes in the church parking lot has morphed into a pantry resembling a little food mart inside the building. Almost 30 families “shop” each week—more than 1,000 families, totaling 5,000 individuals each year. Clients also volunteer, some to set things up and others to make coffee, put out fresh produce and serve juice and cookies to the children.
The project is multicultural in food offered and in clientele, many of whom speak Russian or Spanish. They now eat well, no longer having to choose between feeding the family and paying the rent. They also take cooking and nutrition classes offered through a partnership with Washington State University. Another partner, Hunger for Success, helps them get connected and educated. The H.E.L.P. project truly gives them hope for their family’s future in their adopted country.
Nancy Gaston, Ordained Ruling Elder, Deacon, Trainer, Consultant, Retreat LeaderLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
God of generosity and abundance, help us to be better stewards of the bounty of the earth. Give us the imagination to see how we can share that bounty, the courage to speak up and reach out, and the faith to persist in the face of obstacles. Amen.Daily Lectionary
As a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Young Adult Volunteer in Mombasa, Kenya, Anni Reinking worked in a home for girls and among street boys. Upon her return she preached a sermon titled “God Loves Garbage People” at First Federated Church in Peoria, Illinois. As she related the stories of the boys who live on the streets, something stirred within the heart of the congregation’s Mission Committee moderator. She told the committee that before they had known about the plight of the boys half a world away, that plight could be ignored. But now that the congregation knew of the plight, she said, they had to respond in the spirit of Christ.
Over the next three years Senior Minister Forrest “Frosty” Krummel and the committee researched the viability of planting a home for the “street boys.” Finally Drs. Fred Hoy and John Nixon accompanied Dr. Krummel on a three-nation “due diligence” visit. Cornerstone Development of East Africa agreed to be a supervising partner. The result was Wana Wa Mola, a Swahili phrase that means “Child of God.” Those who were once known as “garbage children” are now acknowledged as “children of God.”
Under the direction of Daniel Okiror and his wife, Mirjam, Wana Wa Mola provides a safe group home for children who previously did not know where their next meal would come from or where they would sleep. In the home the children learn how to live together using the principles, practices and precepts of Jesus.
Since its founding, the churches in Great Rivers Presbytery have joined First Federated Church in the support of this ministry that not only changes the lives of “the least” but also the future of Kenya.
Rev. Forrest Krummel, Pastor, First Federated ChurchLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Lord God, give us the vision that sees each person we meet, especially the least, the last, and the lost, as a precious child, your child.Daily Lectionary
The Latin word for “I breathe” also means “I hope.” Consequently, to inspire means that I breathe in and that I am also filled with hope. As I am inspired by the majesty and grandeur of the mountains of Colorado and the canyons of Utah, I am also inspired by the people of faith called Presbyterians in the Synod of the Rocky Mountains. Encompassing an area of over 460,000 square miles and spanning the distance between the Canadian border and the American Southwest, these people are engaging in some wonderful aspects of ministry.
An outreach ministry to a small town’s skateboarding youth is viewed as an investment in the future of Christ’s church. Those kids may never darken the doors of First Kalispell, but the goal of that local congregation is to fill them with the hope of God’s love. Members of Christ Church have begun engaging in a monthly dinner with their neighbors, most of whom are Hispanic. Calling their celebration “Dinner Church,” they engage in a lively worship service in both English and Spanish. It has been a successful community-building exercise. Members of a small congregation in the foothills have renovated a portion of their building into a dormitory to provide a staging area for visiting groups that come to do mission. Nederland Community Presbyterian helps to arrange service projects and to provide curriculum and even leadership to help the participating young people reflect upon their experiences. Columbine United Church is getting outside its building by equipping its members to be hubs of ministry. Each person can be a hub of ministry anywhere they are: the local community college, the financial district, mountain communities. Yellowstone Presbytery has partnered to create a student internship program for college students to serve in rural, remote and small towns across the vast and varied “Big Sky country.”
All of this is in addition to congregations and presbyteries partnering to start new worshiping communities reaching not only “nones” and Millennials, but also Burmese, Vietnamese and Hispanic populations.
As I survey the grandeur of the Rocky Mountain landscape filled with the farms on the Great Plains of Nebraska and the wonder of Wyoming’s Yellowstone, I am inspired that God’s Holy Spirit is filling the people with hope.
David EzekielLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
As God breathed life into Adam, as Christ breathed upon the disciples, may we, O Lord, be aware that your Holy Spirit is always breathing new life into your church. Inspire us, fill us, for your breath gives life, vitality and hope. Amen.Daily Lectionary
In December 2014 a mother watched as her hopes and dreams for her family and children were ripped apart and her expectations of success and happiness became a fight for survival. Planning to celebrate Christmas with a new baby boy, she instead felt fear when doctors discovered that her baby had been born with no immune system. During the next three months while her child fought for his life in an intensive care unit, her two other children were separated from her and from each other while in the care of relatives.
Unable to leave her baby’s bedside, this mother lost the three most important things for her family’s security: her job, her car and their family home. A referral from a homeless shelter brought the family to the Presbyterian Home for Children’s Secure Dwellings program, a ministry to homeless children and their female caregivers, in Talladega, Alabama.
This family is like so many others who enter the Secure Dwellings program: tired, overwhelmed and scared. Many families are fleeing abuse and arrive with just the little they can carry in their arms. Families are welcomed into a peaceful place to live where once-homeless children can rest, grow and play while their caregiver works on developing the educational, vocational and social skills necessary to become self-sufficient.
The Presbyterian Home for Children was founded in 1868 to meet the needs of orphans in Alabama. For 145 years this dynamic ministry has changed often to meet the needs of children. In addition to providing a program for homeless children and their female caregivers, the Presbyterian Home today includes a transitional program for homeless young women ages 19–24, a therapeutic residential foster care program and an accredited on-campus school that provides personalized education so that children who have fallen behind can live up to their academic potential. The Presbyterian Home for Children is supported by the North Alabama Presbytery, Sheppards and Lapsley Presbytery and the South Alabama Presbytery. For more information, please visit www.phfc.org.
Jacque Cordle, Director of Resource DevelopmentLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
God, we pray for the children who never have new clothes, who never get to play outside, who live in places we would not. We pray for the children who have no security blanket to drag behind them, who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep. We pray for the children who watch their parents fight and whose pictures are not on anyone’s refrigerator. We pray for those whose monsters are real and whose nightmares come in the daytime. We pray for the children whose tears we never laugh at and whose smiles will make us cry. Grant these children your peace and surround them with your love. Amen.
(Adapted from “A Prayer for Children” by Ina Hughes)Daily Lectionary
Change and uncertainty are never easy. In 2015, Grace Presbytery took an unfortunate legal situation and turned it into something positive and uplifting. The previous year, Highland Park Presbyterian Church of Dallas agreed to pay Grace Presbytery $7.8 million in order to obtain both a release of its obligations under the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s trust clause and ecclesiastical dismissal from the denomination.
We chose to look at this event as an unexpected gift, and we felt strongly that the money should be used to strengthen ministry. On October 1, the presbytery voted to designate for mission purposes more than 90 percent of the money received. We felt a responsibility to support the larger church, to strengthen leaders, and to support young adults.
The money will fund a scholarship endowment at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary; provide an endowment at Austin College for the ACtivators, a mobile youth ministry team; support PC(USA) international mission co-worker positions; fund 20 Young Adult Volunteer scholarships; facilitate leadership development events; provide mission study trip opportunities; fund a three-year small church mission specialist; and provide funds for a Hispanic mission probe in East Texas.
We strive to embody the gospel of Jesus Christ by helping people learn more about their faith and connect with their communities. We are using these funds to invest in the future leaders of our church and assist current church leaders with their outreach. There is a lot of life-changing work happening in Grace Presbytery, and we know our funds will impact our churches and mission work for years to come.
Janet M. DeVries, General PresbyterLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Gracious God, thank you for the mission and ministry of the congregations of our presbytery. By your Spirit, guide us so that we may be the church in our communities. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.Daily Lectionary
Pokr Vedi village is home to 3000 souls, Christians nestled in the valley of Noah’s Mount Ararat between Turkey, Russia and Iran. Residents of the Armenian village still remember ancestors brutally exiled and annihilated by the Ottomans 100 years ago—a horror still unrecognized by Turkey, whose closed border lies just a few miles away. Even the young Republic of Armenia is a miracle of survival. Just 25 years ago these villagers lived off the Soviet state and have struggled to provide for their families ever since.
How does one subsist with no resources to cultivate his land or her business? How does one recover faith after genocide and atheism?
“Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more . . . . See, I am making all things new” (Rev. 21:4–5).
For the last several years, the Jinishian Memorial Program has helped these villagers form an agricultural cooperative to share equipment, technology, marketing tools and the vision not merely to survive but to move from communism to community.
Low-interest loans, vital to their small businesses, were previously impossible to obtain. The Jinishian program fosters economic development through micro-lending to hundreds of farmers throughout Armenia. Participants in the Pokr Vedi cooperative faithfully repay their loans, and the co-op has begun to flourish. The Jinishian program continually seeks creative ways to lift Armenians from poverty to hope and self-sufficiency. Last year, the village won a grant competition to repair its kindergarten.
Residents of Pokr Vedi trace their faith to the village’s ancient Khor Virap monastery, where St. Gregory the Illuminator miraculously survived years of imprisonment and near-starvation to share Christ with the pagan king around 300 AD. Today, the Jinishian program helps send thousands of village children to summer camp to encounter Christ for themselves. The program’s ministries are led by local Apostolic, Catholic and Evangelical believers working together to show God’s redeeming love for and through his people.
Cara Taylor, Jinishian Memorial ProgramLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Merciful God, thank you for Armenian people who have clung to you and the hope of the resurrection. Strengthen all souls who trust in you, and deliver the persecuted wherever they may be. We long to see this brutal world made new. Lord Jesus, by your grace, may we love as you have loved us. And may all of creation and all peoples bring you praise!Revised Common Lectionary Readings
Change is hard. Loss is harder. That is what we faced as Lehigh Presbytery decided to close our beloved Camp Brainerd for financial reasons. A task group formed to look into the possibility of finding a way to keep the camp alive. As the months rolled by into the summer of 2014, we prayed for God to show us the way. We hoped for a miracle that would allow Brainerd to stay open, but the discernment process led us onto an unexpected path.
Five miles from our camp was another camp—Kirkwood—owned by Philadelphia Presbytery. A group from Philadelphia Presbytery began meeting with our task group to discuss the possibility of merging the two camping programs. At first, we could only see the loss. As we built relationships, we discovered that our new friends were sympathetic and caring about our situation, having also been through a discerning process that resulted in a decision to reorganize and re-energize their waning program. We began to see God’s caring hand in this gracious opportunity. We wouldn’t have to lose our camping program; it would be alive and well but in a new location—only five miles away!
God wanted us to dig deeper, to understand anew that Christ-centered community is what happens at camp. It’s not about a location; it’s about relationships nurtured in the love of Christ and a faith journey toward our loving God that lasts a lifetime.
Although Brainerd was closed and sold, we have found new joy and mutual grace in working together with our new camping team representing both presbyteries. God is faithful and full of surprises for those seeking God’s path!
Rev. Joan Spangler, Lehigh PresbyteryLet us join in prayer for:
Hungarian Reformed Church in Romania, Cluj and Oradea Districts
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Loving God, provide Spirit-filled leaders for Kirkwood and all Christian camps. Bless your camps and touch all participants with your grace and love. In Christ’s name we pray. AmenDaily Lectionary
First Presbyterian Church (FPC) in Aberdeen, Washington, is a noisy place on Friday evenings. There are newcomers and regulars, elderly and young, the quiet and shy still feeling the place out and most recently lots of babies. More than 20 people gather each week to eat a great meal and to support each other in their sobriety. Friday Night Meals is just one of the many facets of Recovery Grays Harbor, a ministry of FPC for those seeking a community of support in their recovery from addiction.
Recovery Grays Harbor began when Olympia Presbytery awarded FPC a seed grant in the fall of 2014 for congregations seeking new ways to reach their communities with the transforming love of Jesus. The proposal was to hire someone familiar with the recovery community in order to build personal relationships and to help individuals navigate the complexities of sober living. Then, building on those relationships, FPC provided a community of personal support and saturated all that we did with the gospel. Our desire was to model God’s initiation and pursuit of a relationship with us with our pursuit of a relationship with those in the recovery community.
The program expanded to include Friday Night Meals, a variety of classes ranging from Parenting to an Introduction to the Christian Faith, and help in job placement and housing. Working closely with the CMA (Crystal Meth Anonymous) group that uses our building, over the past 14 months we have seen individuals and couples establish spiritual foundations through faith in Jesus, maintain sobriety, find employment, implement healthy ways to deal with stress, secure quality housing, and regain custody of their children. In 2015 every family that has gone through our Parenting program has been reunified with their children. And, by God’s grace, we have had to add several highchairs around the table on Friday nights for dinner.
Rev. Doug Basler, Pastor, First Pres. of AberdeenLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
God of grace, you are the one who binds up the brokenhearted and brings release, freedom and hope to the captives. We pray that your continued mercy would be poured upon those in Grays Harbor wrestling with addiction and upon the congregation of First Presbyterian Church as they seek to serve and bear witness to Jesus. In his name we pray. Amen.Daily Lectionary
“ . . . his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.”
Since 1985 mission teams from Providence Presbytery have traveled to Honduras. The people that we have worked with are among the poorest in one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere. Dr. William C. Oliver, an optometrist in Rock Hill, South Carolina, realized the great need for cataract surgery and arranged for an ophthalmologist to join him on a trip. The joy on the faces of the individuals who received the gift of restored sight was powerful to those who witnessed their smiles and the hugs that they gave the doctors.
Since that clinic, Dr. Oliver has dreamed of setting up a semipermanent, free clinic where visiting ophthalmologists can perform cataract surgery several times a year. Working with Barbara Kurz, presbytery mission consultant; Tim Wheeler, PC(USA) mission co-worker; and Jesus Orlando Jiminez, mayor of the municipality of Trinidad, Dr. Oliver intends to make the clinic a reality. The mayor is enthusiastic and supportive of the project. He is working on local arrangements and with other mission teams to add two rooms to the municipal clinic in Trinidad.
The opportunity to support this project has been extended to churches, businesses and individuals. We have been blessed to receive advice, financial gifts and glasses. Dr. Oliver is working with several ophthalmologists and foundations to acquire the surgical equipment. It is our hope that by the end of 2016, our dream of the New Vision in Honduras eye clinic will help those in need see clearly.
Barbara Kurz, Interim Mission Consultant, Providence PresbyteryLet us join in prayer for:
Rev. T. Mark Verdery, General Presbyter/Stated Clerk
Dorothy J. Killian, Associate Presbyter for Congregational Development and Mission
Ann White, Interim Associate Presbyter for Education and Resourcing
Barbara Kurz, Interim Mission Consultant, Providence Presbytery
Jill Wilson, Communications Coordinator
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Gracious God, open our eyes that we may see the needs of those around us; open our hearts to be agents of change in your name. We ask especially for your blessing on your children in Honduras and on those who seek to walk with them. Amen.Daily Lectionary
Dear Family in Christ,
“I used to work at the bars, but felt ashamed and I didn’t want to be that kind of mom for my little girl . . . .”
“Yes, I've tried to commit suicide before, twice, because I was so stressed and overwhelmed . . . .”
“I used to deal drugs and recruited girls to send to customers."
These are few of the stories from women I meet with at the Well, a Christian foundation for women at risk. These precious “diamonds in the rough” have such painful stories of brokenness and bondage, but they have been introduced to Jesus. The process of life transformation is often discouragingly slow and with frequent relapses. These women need to be loved, believed in, and given multiple chances to begin again. I am sometimes discouraged but, desiring to keep on loving and believing in them, I am reminded that our heavenly Father measures fruitfulness by a different standard. As I minister, I am worshiping Jesus. If all I do is for Jesus, then his affirmation is enough, whether or not I see results. God is the One who brings change, healing and wholeness, not me. He is working in ways that no eye can see or measure. And so, by faith, I learn to simply partner with our wonderful Counselor in his transformative work both in my life and in these women.
One woman named Oh, once trafficked, is now ministering at the Well. Oh came to the Well around nine years ago, when Jim and Judy Larson, founders of the Well, began this ministry. She understands that the road to recovery is a long one. It is beautiful to see God at work in Oh’s life, bringing healing and wholeness, and now she’s giving back. She ministers to the newer students by taking them under her wing. A growing artist, Oh leads the girls through art therapy sessions twice a week. As the women create, they begin sharing and opening up about their past and present struggles. Oh says, “Doing art together helps me see their hurt and needs more readily. I just want to love them in the way I was shown Jesus’ love.”
Oh inspires me. I’ve asked her to come alongside as I meet with the women individually. Seeing God’s wonderful work of grace in Oh’s life gives me hope for what he can do for every woman. Oh says, “It takes a long time to see change, but look at me—look what God has done in my life.”
Thank you for standing with us. Thank you for your faithful prayers, financial support and correspondence. We are grateful to be able to know and be loved by our Lord Jesus and to love and serve the Thai people together with you.
Blessings to you,
Carol for the Fujiis
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
1. For a sincere love for the women at the Well and wisdom from God in knowing how to respond.
2. That God would sustain and give great grace to the Larsons and the team ministering at the Well. (See servantworks.com/the-well/.)
3. That God would break strongholds of addiction to men and to substances, and that the love of Christ would control instead.Daily Lectionary
Imagine worshiping God in a barn, in an orchard or under a beautiful sky. Imagine children in Sunday school taking care of chickens and harvesting eggs to share with the local food pantry. Imagine a congregational mission to provide food resources in the community. Imagine a church that responds to God’s love with an overwhelming desire to do what Jesus did and feed people. This is the kind of Spirit-led imagining that led us to create Farm Church.
Farm Church, a New Worshiping Community in Durham, North Carolina, is an agriculturally based congregation that leverages the resources of a farm to address food insecurity in the community.
We’re finding that Farm Church appeals to people for whom the church had lost meaning and relevance—people who might call themselves “spiritually hungry but institutionally suspicious.” Farm Church offers a connection with community, with the land and with God in a new way, inviting a fresh look at our living response to the gospel.
One woman told us, “I’m telling everyone I know about Farm Church, and I can hardly believe it. I’ve never been like this about church before!” That’s the kind of comment we keep hearing, and it inspires us to move forward—to keep imagining and creating this church that lives out the gospel among chickens, tomatoes and folks eager to sink their hands into the soil.
We welcome your prayers for this new ministry. Along the way, you can learn more about Farm Church by signing up on our website or following us on Facebook.
Ted Churn, Executive Presbyter/Stated Clerk
Terry Lamberson, Associate Executive Finance/NCD
Christine Kelson, Office Manager/Assistant to Executive Presbyter/Stated Clerk
Rene Baker, Administrative Assistant
Julio Ramirez-Eve, Associate for Hispanic Ministries
Gun Ho Lee, Associate for Multicultural Ministries
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
God of abundant harvests, pour out your Spirit on Farm Church. Bless pastors Allen and Ben with wisdom and insight as they strive to create this church that celebrates and shares the gospel with kale, okra and collard greens. Amen.Daily Lectionary
In May of 2015, the congregation of St. Matthew Presbyterian Church in Silver Spring, Maryland, packed over 50,000 meals that were sent around the world to people in need. The church worked in collaboration with the nonprofit organization Stop Hunger Now and partnered with nearby Rockville High School and neighbors in order to reach their goal.
Aware that hunger occurs close to home as well, the church offers a summer food program for children who normally received free or reduced-priced meals during the academic year. Volunteers pack nutritious sandwiches, snacks and desserts into bags to be distributed to those families in need. As members of the church made sandwiches and packed lunches, they wished they could include more fresh produce—which resulted in the creation of a community garden. As a result of the garden, lunches could then include carrot sticks, broccoli and other fresh produce. As the garden grew, the families of those children began to receive bags of cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, peppers and lettuce. Near and far, folks are fed through the efforts of this congregation.
Karen Chamis, Director of Congregational Development and MissionLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Holy One, as we sit down at our own tables, remind us of those who continue to hunger and thirst. Create in us a hunger and thirst for righteousness so that we might work so that all the world would know what it means to be filled with your grace. In your name, we pray. Amen.Daily Lectionary
Small-scale farmers—women and men—feed us all. Their labor keeps us alive. They care for the soil, the seeds, the land and the waters. They make up nearly half of the people on the planet and produce more than 70 percent of the world’s food. Your first image may be of someone tilling the land with hand tools, an ox or a small tractor, but they are also farmworkers, pastoralists, small-scale livestock producers, fishers and indigenous producers in every country.
They do indeed struggle, and they direly need our prayers and support. We know this from our visits with our partners both in the United States and internationally. If not struggling for survival itself, they are often struggling to continue their “generational occupation”—the job of feeding the world.
From our partners in West Africa, South Asia and Latin America, we learn of the threats and murder of farmers and fisherfolk trying to hold onto their land and fisheries in the face of resource grabs by corporations and foreign states. We pray for their safety and for success in protecting their land and fisheries.
The seeds they have developed over decades, centuries and millennia are also under attack. Giant companies and patenting laws hidden in free trade agreements threaten to strip smallholding farmers of the heirloom and indigenous seeds that allow them to adapt to extreme weather and climate change. Saving seeds also makes farming affordable and can be the difference between prosperity and bankruptcy. We pray for their livelihoods and for the protection of seeds and biodiversity.
More broadly, small-scale producers have been bankrupted and had land bought or taken by industrial operations producing for export into the global marketplace due to three decades of economic, agricultural and international trade policy, which is often written by and favors agrifood corporations. We pray for fair markets and policies that prioritize people over profits.
Andrew Kang Bartlett, associate for national hunger concerns
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Loving God, we pray that you give farmers, fishers and farmworkers everywhere the strength to produce life-giving food and to prevail in their struggles for survival and for lives filled with dignity, justice and abundance. We pray also that you give us the steadfastness to remember the farmers and to stand in solidarity with them in their struggles. Amen.Revised Common Lectionary Readings
In 2013, several youth within our presbytery attended Presbyterian Youth Triennium, where they learned about a national nonprofit called Stop Hunger Now (www.stophungernow.org), which packs shelf-stable meals for those in need throughout the world. The youth shared their experience with such enthusiasm that by 2014, three “packing sites” were established in different regions of the presbytery. Churches from throughout the presbytery came to prepare meals on World Communion Sunday as an intentional act of “feeding Jesus’ lambs” (John 21:15).
We had a great turnout at all three sites! Assembly lines utilized folks of all ages from 3 to 80-plus, packing thousands of meals in two to three hours. And people loved it! We repeated the event in 2015, adding a fourth packing site, increasing the number of churches participating by 15 percent and increasing the funds raised to purchase the food supplies by 66 percent. The teams at these four sites packed 47,000 meals! Plans are under way for 2016 and beyond.
In 2015, fifteen members of First Presbyterian Church of Donalsonville drove two hours to participate at the packing event at First Presbyterian Church of Albany. Brandy Spooner, a young adult from Donalsonville, said, “It was a very humbling experience to join with others to help those in need. It’s awesome to see that the youngest and oldest of hearts can work so well together for such a great cause. I would like to see this event take place in our own community.”
These individuals returned to Donalsonville and shared their enthusiasm. This year, Donalsonville will serve as one of the five host sites for the event!
Marsha Bond, Pam Moye and Dot Nickole
Committee on Mission and Evangelism
Presbytery partnerships overseas with “Presbyterian Women of Guatemala”
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Dear Jesus, you call us from every season of life to feed your lambs. Guide us as we travel to different sites with new people in order to serve your children. We lift up to you all who are hungry, not only for meals, but also for your life-changing word. May our actions offer our brothers and sisters what they need most. Amen.Daily Lectionary
God cares for the hungry and homeless – two major issues in the United States. The Presbytery of West Jersey has been able to assist our congregations and others in creative ways. During a Presbytery meeting we invited everyone to bring in canned goods and then we packaged meals for New Visions in Camden NJ, a homeless day shelter.
The Presbyterian Church at Hammonton sponsors a Food Pantry and a Clothing Ministry where families in need, including the growing Latino population, has both benefited and contributed to these ministries. Many other congregations also either have a food pantry or contribute to one in their area. At the same time congregations have become involved in prepacking food products to go to other areas of the world with groups such as “Feed My Starving Children.”
Still other congregations have taken this further by providing a monthly meal to anyone in the area. Some of our congregations have agreed to participate in New Jersey’s Code Blue and open their doors to the homeless when the temperature plummets to provide food and shelter. Monetary support is also provided to Your Food Shelf in Camden NJ and Friends of Jean Webster a kitchen providing meals in Atlantic City NJ, two of the pockets of poverty in our presbytery. We encourage participation in the Centsability program. Also, in Atlantic City, we are providing services to all the newly unemployed due to the closing of the casinos.
The youth in our Presbytery also hold a presbytery wide 30 hour famine collecting money for World Vision and packing meals for Stop Hunger Now. The mission committee of this Presbytery rejoices in all of these efforts.
Wendy Frisby, West Jersey Presbytery Mission Committee ChairLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Lord, help us to see with your eyes the needs of others so we can assist. Amen.Daily Lectionary
When we read Matthew 25 and think about visiting “the least of these” in prison, it is easy to focus on our own virtue. We forget that in those visits we meet Jesus; and meeting Jesus can be joyous, humbling and life-changing.
Women who live near Bedford Presbyterian Church in Hudson River Presbytery are discovering the joys of these encounters.
In the fall of 2013, the church started a program, Woman 2 Woman, in which women from the church and the neighborhood began to visit their neighbors inside New York state’s only maximum-security prison for women. Women from this affluent section of Westchester County are matched with an inmate, and they commit to visit this inmate at least once a month for at least a year. The church offers training and ongoing support for the visitors. Within two years, the numbers have grown to more than 50.
These visits are life-giving for the inmates, some of whom otherwise have no contact with the outside during their long sentences. Suddenly they feel seen, recognized and respected as human, valued for their resilience in the face of traumas dating back to early childhood. The horrors of their previous lives and of their crimes are heard with understanding and not judgment. As one woman said, the visits “let us know we’re not alone.”
And the relationships are life-changing for the visitors as well. They reach across frightening barriers of race, culture, education and class to discover another human being very much like themselves. The visits are a pleasure, not a duty. One visitor explained, “It's about simple kindness, far-reaching in its healing qualities.”
Nancy Gernert, Coordinator of Woman 2 Woman and Ruling Elder at Bedford Presbyterian ChurchLet us join in prayer for:
Rev. Gavin D. Meek, Interim General Presbyter
Rev. Rhonda Kruse, Connections and Change Presbyter
Rev. Dr. Susan De George, Stated Clerk
Emily Monk, Manager of Finance
Elder Jean Kaiser, Administrative Assistant
Dr. Hans Hallundbaek, Prison Partnership Coordinator
Rev. Noelle Damico, Director of Communications
Rev. Abbie Huff, Missionary, Nyack Project
Lori Hylton, Food Justice Advocate and Office Assistant
Rev. Peter Surgenor, Director, Holmes Camp and Conference Center
Presbytery Partnerships Overseas
Joining Hands Peru / Red Uniendo Manos
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Forgiving God, clear our eyes and open our hearts that we may see ourselves in the “other” and acknowledge the “other” as part of us. Amen.Daily Lectionary
We live close to the Congo River where the rapids start. They are some of the most powerful rapids in the world. As you look out over this section of the Congo River, you see these massive whirlpools form that spiral with tremendous force. In a way, these whirlpools depict the hunger situation in Congo.
Congo has one of the highest hunger indexes in the world. Eleven percent of children under five years of age in Congo are acutely malnourished, and 43 percent are chronically malnourished. Addressing malnutrition early is really important, as after the age of two the effects of under nutrition are largely irreversible. The critical window to prevent malnutrition is 1,000 days—from conception to 24 months.
The causes of malnutrition in Congo are complex and intertwined: cultural feeding habits, lack of nutritional education, lack of family planning, little agricultural research and extension, decreasing soil fertility and increasing population, limited fuel sources for cooking, increasing transportation costs and food costs. Donor aid has typically been oriented toward treating symptoms (through feeding programs) versus preventive activities. And sometimes these inadvertently convey a message to communities that the only solution to malnutrition comes in a package of food provided by the government or an NGO. Like the massive whirlpools that form on the Congo River, pulling everything in and down, all these factors combined have created a critical situation.
One of the components of the Access to Primary Health Care (ASSP) project is nutrition. It is an important component, given that approximately 48 percent to 60 percent of childhood mortality is related to malnutrition. I am working on the nutrition component together with two colleagues, Kabalosh, a nutritionist, and Mbuyi, an agriculturist. Today, through the ASSP project, we have an opportunity to take lessons learned over the past 25 years of working with nutrition and urban gardening in Kinshasa and expand our approach that interfaces nutrition and agriculture. It will be rolled out in 878 health centers and communities in four provinces of Congo over the next two years. Over 8,787 community volunteers will be trained in nutrition, home gardening and case management of families with malnourished children. We hope to reach 165,000 acutely malnourished children and 450,000 chronically malnourished children and their families.
In the process of developing the nutrition component of the ASSP project, we have had the opportunity to work with the staff of PRONANUT, the national nutrition program of the ministry of health. When we initially explained our approach to PRONANUT, we got a cool reception. They were used to NGOs and projects coming in and just doing feeding programs, and that was not our focus. Our focus was nutritional education and helping families have better food security by promoting home gardens. It took several meetings before they caught the vision, but now they are excited about this approach and have adopted several of our strategies. Our approach is taking root at a good time. The Congolese government has recently signed on to the global “Scaling Up Nutrition” (SUN) movement, which recognizes that the causes of malnutrition are varied, that it will take initiatives across multiple sectors to reduce malnutrition, and that reducing malnutrition must become a national priority.
Recently Kabalosh and Mbuyi trained community volunteers from health centers in Orientale Province in nutrition and home gardening. As they talked more and more about gardens, the groups started noting all the benefits that a good home garden could have for their families. By the end of the discussion, they had decided that the type of home garden we were promoting should be called a “solution garden” because it has the potential to resolve many problems Congolese families face. The following remark that a community volunteer made to Kabalosh at the end of one of the trainings gives us hope that the nutritional activities of ASSP can help play a part in helping Congo “get out of the whirlpool.” The volunteer said: “We thought you came to give us something. Now we understand that you came to help us see what we already have and use what we have to find solutions to our problems.”
I have my work cut out for me with the nutritional component of the ASSP project. I will also once again assist the nutrition/garden program of the Presbyterian Community of Kinshasa (CPK). And I hope to help both the CPK and the CPC (Presbyterian Community of Congo) think through how we can “Scale Up Nutrition” across the different activities and ministries of the churches.
If you would like to support nutrition and home gardening efforts in Kinshasa, please consider giving to the CPK garden program. Over the years Mbuyi, Kabalosh, and I have seen how nutritional education and home gardens have changed lives, helping children regain their health and giving families a step up on the economic ladder. Your financial support can be sent to Presbyterian World Mission, P.O. Box 643700, Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700. On the memo line please write: E864826 Kitchen Gardens Kinshasa.
Thank you for your prayers and financial support, which make it possible for Larry and me to work in Congo. Thank you for your interest in what God is doing through our partnership with the CPK and the CPC. We hope you will continue to make this work a part of your ministry through prayer and correspondence, through learning and sharing, and through your financial gifts for our sending and support. Together may we remain in Christ and bear much fruit for his glory.
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5, NIV)Daily Lectionary
Born out of a shared community meal called “Souper Tuesdays” hosted in the home of pastor Libby Tedder Hugus and her husband, Jeremy, a New Worshiping Community, the Table, was formed as a pioneering discernment team asked the question “Is there space for a fresh-church experiment in Casper?” Libby and the team realized there were plenty of people who were hungry for safe space in which to ask critical questions of life, love and religion. So the team aimed to curate that space.
The Table now gathers as a community of disciples and doubters collectively seeking satisfaction of our common human hungers and quenching of our thirsts. We like to say that doubters are askers of good and critical questions. We also like to say that disciples are students and followers of good teachers—and in the case of our community, that means chiefly Jesus. The truth of the matter is, there is a little bit of “doubter and disciple” in each of us. The Table is sent weekly as a community of disciples and doubters, to join God’s mission for the transformation of the world. Our benediction is always, “Go now to love and serve others so that those to whom love is a stranger might find in us generous friends.” Since its public opening in April 2015, over 200 unique individuals have crossed paths with the Table through weekly gatherings, community partnerships and service, as well as participation in the downtown Casper Art Walk. In all of the Table’s common values and practices, the community aims to leave a trail of bread leading the hungry back to God’s shared Table.
Pastor Libby Tedder Hugus, Casper, WyomingLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
O, Jesus, you fed the multitudes. Feed us. Open us up and lead us to where you are calling us to serve. Thank you for seeing in each of us someone who is equipped to serve and be your disciple. Amen.Daily Lectionary
In response to the call to be stewards of the earth, members of First Central Presbyterian Church in Abilene, Texas, are transforming the corner property across from the church from a vacant lot to a meditation and community garden that will nourish both body and soul. When completed, the tract will encompass seven smaller gardens for growing vegetables that will be shared with neighborhood residents. Any surplus will be given to those who visit the Presbyterian Food Pantry.
A walking path designed to accommodate wheelchairs will make meandering through the garden possible for all. Flowering shrubs and trees, herbs and other vegetation well suited for butterflies will be incorporated into the garden, making it a sanctuary for migrating monarchs, which are diminishing in number due to the scarcity of milkweed and other plants required for their survival. At the heart of the garden will be a labyrinth, thanks to a generous gift from Synod of the Sun. Members of First Central look forward to inviting those who live or work downtown to walk the labyrinth during their lunch hour or any other time during the day. In addition to the labyrinth, the garden will offer seating scattered throughout the spacious grounds. Eventually a corner of the lot will be dedicated to a staging area for communal worship, weddings and outdoor programs.
Already the garden ministry is cultivating friendships between church members and inquisitive neighbors, who stop and ask what is under way.Organizers are confident that the garden will be ideal for nurturing healthy relationships within the church family, serving as a hands-on learning opportunity for children and youth as they become stewards of the earth and cultivating friendships with downtown residents.
Rev. Rich Schempp, Executive PresbyterLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
For the sowers of seeds, the abundance of the earth, new friends, butterflies and children—we give thanks, gracious God. May the church of Jesus Christ continue to bloom in all of its forms. Amen.Daily Lectionary