Christ’s call to go out into the world to serve is for every congregation, but not all are able to coordinate the details of mission trips. A group from several of the Presbytery of Carlisle’s 51 congregations has responded by founding Lend A Hand. Since its founding in 1989 as a local disaster- response and assistance program, Lend A Hand has carried out its mission to coordinate all the details for frequent presbytery-wide mission trips to help people suffering extraordinary hardship as the result of natural disasters.
The all-volunteer organization works only on privately owned residences and concentrates on helping people who are elderly or who live with handicaps or on small incomes. In addition to work in the region, over the last few years teams have traveled to the South, the Midwest, and many other places to repair damage from floods, tornados, hurricanes, fires, and blizzards. Work these last two years has been focused on the New Jersey coast and continued cleanup from Superstorm Sandy. Lend A Hand has stayed around long after the nation has forgotten residents who are still recovering.
While Lend A Hand works to repair damaged homes, one of the most valuable things its volunteers do is listen. Victims of disaster need to tell their stories of loss, hardship, and recovery to a sympathetic listener. Because Lend A Hand makes relationship building so central to its mission, volunteers of all skill levels are able to participate. The organization has achieved national recognition for its work and received two local awards in 2013.
—Rev. Kimberley Wadlington, chair, mission and advocacy committee, Presbytery of CarlisleLet us join in prayer for:
Rev. Mark Englund-Krieger, executive presbyter
Jim Speedy, stated clerk
Suzanne Souder, associate for communication and office management
Fran Heid, bookkeeper
Beckie Drover, regional associate
Edd Carlson, regional associate
Candace Veon-Nyiri, regional associate
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Holy God, you honor us by calling us to be your people and sending us into the world to be your servants. May all those who suffer hardship due to natural disaster know the comfort of your Spirit. Prosper the work of the hands that reach out to help rebuild homes and lives. Amen.Revised Common Lectionary for Maundy Thursday
Exod. 12:1–4 (5–10) 11–14
Ps. 116:1–2, 12–19; 1 Cor. 11:23–26
John 13:1–17, 31b–35
W hen friends in his small, semirural community in Butler County told Jason Bell that their wells were no longer producing usable water, he heard God’s call. He began to work on two fronts: seeking immediate help and working for a long-term solution to the problem. A message to churches in the area brought supplies of bottled water and money to purchase more. Neighbors offered shower and laundry facilities. White Oaks Springs Presbyterian Church and its pastor, Rev. Lee Dreyer, volunteered to coordinate the “water bank,” from which 35 families each get weekly deliveries of 20–25 gallons. Through newspaper articles, letters to editors of local papers, and appeals to local, county, and state government agencies, Jason and the homeowners are working for a permanent solution to the problem. After two years, there is no end in sight. Support continues, not only from presbytery congregations but also from people as far away as Philadelphia and Buffalo. “I was thirsty . . .”
Steffin Hill Presbyterian Church (Rev. Judy Angleberger, pastor) in Beaver County is a congregation with a compassionate heart, says Fran Hupp, mission committee chair. Talking with Fran about mission is to be caught up in a whirlwind of people and programs. Her deep concern that children learn the joy of serving and sharing inspires many projects. Above all, Fran is committed to enabling others to find their calls to mission. Bring an idea and she will encourage you to work out the details, help you with promotion, walk with you through its implementation, and celebrate with you at its completion. Warm winter coats for children in the area, medical help for women in Africa, worship services and Communion at three nearby nursing homes, scores of people stopping at the prayer tent on the street corner, and many church members serving as their prayer partners—these are samples of mission at Steffin Hill. What motivates Fran Hupp? A conviction she has held since childhood—God calls us to help each other.
Beaver-Butler Presbytery has 8,397 disciples in 74 congregations.
—Agnes Peebles, member, peacemaking committee, Presbytery of Beaver-ButlerLet us join in prayer for:
Rev. Alan Adams, executive presbyter
Rev. David Byers, stated clerk
Rev. Dennis Burnett, assistant stated clerk
James Gray, treasurer
Rev. Allison Bauer, presbytery moderator
James Ihlenfeld, presbytery vice-moderator
Rev. Randall Clow, coordinating team chairperson
Sidney Fisher, resource center director
Lauren Cesnales, accountant
Barbara Paff, secretary to the executive presbyter
Mary Clow, secretary to the units and committees
Diana Mermon, youth outreach coordinator
Dan Brady, technology assistant
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
God, your compassion for all your children is reflected in the lives of so many people in your church. We thank you for their quiet faithfulness as they minister, each in his and her own way, to those around them. Amen.Daily Lectionary
The people of northeastern Pennsylvania will not soon forget the storms that ravaged the area in the late summer of 2011. Along the Susquehanna River, far west and south of Scranton, anxious locals waited to see if (and where) the mighty river would burst its banks.
It did. And once the surge had passed, one community left with water-filled basements and extensive devastation was the town of West Pittston.
Members of First United Presbyterian Church gathered to deal with major damage to their building. A grant from the Synod of the Trinity was sent to the Presbytery of Lackawanna to help out. Leadership soon realized the need to issue a call to the larger Presbyterian family. PDA was contacted, local leadership designated, and two camps, one near West Pittston and another in Towanda, were created to facilitate cleanup and recovery in affected areas. Volunteers came from across the region and beyond to live Christ by walking with area residents. Bone-weary locals found energy, friendship, and faith-fed hope while working alongside these eager, God-sent colaborers.
One volunteer writes: “To be invited into the home of the displaced was emotional. To walk among memories—magnetic letters swept under the fridge, a forgotten birthday card, is a twofold life lesson: to have been spared is the luck of the draw, but to be privileged enough to serve in the effort to restore order to life is the grace of God.” For more, see “Spectacles of Faith 1” on YouTube.
The Synod of the Trinity serves 16 presbyteries and 1,167 congregations.Let us join in prayer for:
Teaching Elder Susan Faye Wonderland, synod transitional executive
Teaching Elder Dr. Wayne A. Yost, synod stated clerk
Chantal Atnip, synod treasurer
Gwenn Egresitz, administrative assistant for office services and bookkeeper
Ruling Elder Catherine L. Gray, administrative assistant for staff support
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Gracious God, you have taught us to celebrate with those who are celebrating and to cry with those who are crying. May our eyes be open to see and distinguish between the two. Keep us mindful of all those who need your Spirit shining through us as much as they may need our monies and our labors. Amen.Daily Lectionary
Our mission team traveled to Colombia in December 2013—part of a decade-long partnership between our West Texas presbytery and the Presbyterian Church of Colombia (IPC).
In Barranquilla we renewed old friendships and were briefed on the significant progress toward peace and reconciliation in Colombia. Our brothers and sisters in the IPC have been crucial to this progress, but much work remains to ensure that they achieve peace with justice.
We headed next to Medellín to take part in a pastor’s retreat. While the city offered a central meeting spot for our Colombian friends, some of our team found it a bit scary at first—but we discovered a beautiful, progressive city that has moved beyond its violent past. We shared worship, prayer, song, Bible study, and fellowship with our friends. Discussions focused on three critical issues in global mission and how our churches are working to address them. The time together strengthened our commitment to partnership, and members of the IPC are planning to visit our presbytery in El Paso to learn more about the border issues and our ongoing mission efforts there.
We pray with our brothers and sisters in Colombia for numerous concerns: repatriation for the displaced in Colombia; an end to violence on both sides of the US-Mexico border; the rights of the indigenous peoples of Colombia; a just US immigration policy; an end to violence against women; a clean, safe environment where all children can learn and prosper; and a future filled with hope for all of our young people.
The Presbytery of Tres Rios serves 27 congregations.
—Elder Rebecca Nicholson, member, presbytery mission outreach teamLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Almighty God, give us the courage to be partners with our Colombian brothers and sisters to promote peace and justice. We pray for peace in Colombia, in our country, and among all nations. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.Daily Lectionary
The PC(USA) Office of Public Witness (OPW) in Washington, DC, is responsible for advocating social justice policies approved by the General Assembly that have implications for the federal government.
Presbyterian work in justice advocacy began with John Calvin, who was ahead of his time in advocating for public education in 16th-century Geneva, Switzerland. Calvin underscored Jesus’ resolve to address and even confront earthly powers during his ministry. Similarly, Presbyterians today are called to remind elected officials that their role as public servants is a calling to prophesy, not to profiteer.
Since revamping our internship and summer fellowship programs in 2011, the OPW is witnessing an upsurge in young adult interest in serving in public witness ministries. At the same time, we are hosting PC(USA) middle school, high school, and college groups visiting DC for issue briefings, congressional visits, and exposure to justice-advocacy work. Large numbers of eager youth and young adults are responding to God’s call to overturn the tables of injustice in the United States and across the globe.
On this Palm Sunday, we commemorate a parade for Jesus, who is being celebrated as a healer and prophet. Jesus’ commitment is to overturn the wrongs of society to bring liberty and justice for all. Jesus said at the beginning of his ministry: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free” (Luke 4:18 NIV). These words are not an aside to the gospel. Compassionate and prophetic discipleship, motivated by love, shows itself in this willingness to challenge the principalities and powers to do justice.
On April 17–20, more than 300 Presbyterians will gather in Washington, DC, for Compassion, Peace, and Justice Training Day and Ecumenical Advocacy Days. Consider attending or sponsoring a Presbyterian young adult. Visit pcusa.org/washington for more information.
Lord of freedom and promise, guide our feet to find the faith to move beyond passive lives that cry “Lord Jesus” yet fail to speak truth in love to power. Give us courage to be bridge builders of hope for those treated unjustly. Amen.Sunday Lectionary and Hymns
Mark 11:1–11 or John 12:12–16
“Filled with Excitement” /
“Mantos y palmas”
Ps. 118:1–2, 19–29
“All People That on Earth Do Dwell”
GTG 385, HB 24, PH 220, 221
“O God, Our Faithful God”
“Once in Royal David’s City”
GTG 140, HB 462, PH 49
“Go to Dark Gethsemane”
GTG 220, HB 193, PH 97
Mark 15:1–39 (40–47)
“There in God’s Garden”
The Louisiana coast has the fastest-disappearing delta in the world, having lost land equivalent to the size of Delaware. Damaged ecosystems include vast fisheries that extend to the Atlantic Ocean, habitat for migratory birds, and small farming and fishing communities.
The Wetlands Theological Education Project was created two years ago to address this social, ecological, and spiritual crisis through theological discussion, public advocacy, and hands-on projects and other tangible response.
“We lost more of our homes in the last storm,” says Chief Naquin of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe. “We have lost 90 percent of our land mass in my lifetime.” The tribe has been working on relocation to retain their cultural, religious, and family connections as well as their traditional livelihoods.
Faced with many communities needing to relocate and other communities growing to accommodate the displaced, the Presbytery of South Louisiana and its 55 congregations are seeking to be present where God is working. Consultations involving congregations, the presbytery, and partners like the Louisiana Interchurch Conference are addressing issues of pending exile for some communities, vanishing ecosystems, and how communities receiving the dislocated can best provide hospitality.
Please visit Wetlands Theological Education Project on Facebook. Patsy, of Bayou Blue Presbyterian Church writes, “We want you to sit with us on our porch and enjoy this part of God’s world with us.”
—Rev. Kristina J. Peterson, PhD, and Rev. Richard L. Krajeski, Bayou Blue Presbyterian Church and Wetlands Theological Education ProjectLet us join in prayer for:
Young Adult Volunteers
William Alldridge, Colleen Ames, Vincent Grossi, Jennifer Hallberg, John Kupar, Hannah Mills, and Katherine Norwood, New Orleans
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Lord of creation, help us to live in Job’s words: “Ask the animals, and they will teach you; . . . and the fish of the sea will declare to you. . . . In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of every human being” (12:7–8, 10). Amen.Daily Lectionary
Since 1988, MedCamps of Louisiana has partnered with the Presbytery of the Pines to “improve the health and wellness of people living with chronic illnesses and disabilities through unique recreational and educational camping experiences.” In the beginning, MedCamps provided one week of residential camping for 13 campers with severe asthma and allergies. Since then MedCamps has grown to serve almost 400 campers a year. Over its history, MedCamps has served over 3,500 children living with various illnesses and disabilities, including sickle-cell anemia, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, orthopedic conditions, Down syndrome, epilepsy, autism, and numerous hearing, speech, and visual impairments.
By 1990, with the opening of Camp of the Pines in Bismarck, Arkansas, the presbytery was no longer using its Camp Alabama site for residential camping. MedCamps was looking for a long-term solution to its growing camper numbers, so the two negotiated a 25-year lease for Camp Alabama.
In the process of negotiating a new lease in 2014, the presbytery came to a new understanding of camping ministries. We began to see our camp not merely as a site for programs but rather as a place of mission. (Imagine the cartoon image of a bulb lighting up over our heads.) Repurposing Camp Alabama operations from program to mission opened the door to fresh thinking about mission opportunities. We were now thinking not about what we do for our own folks but about what we could do in the name of Jesus for those children ordinarily outside our walls.
The Presbytery of the Pines serves 54 congregations in northern Louisiana and southern Arkansas.
—Joseph W. Hill, general presbyterLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Gracious God, may we be open to your freshness and your recreative work in our midst. Repurpose us to do your work as we live into your kingdom. Amen.Daily Lectionary
“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)
Losing something precious is always difficult. But this passage from John’s Gospel reminds us that something glorious can come from painful loss. For Palo Duro Presbytery, the dissolution of some churches and the dismissal of others has led to new life, as promising new ministries have emerged through a presbytery program called This Little Light of Mine. Congregations applied for grants made possible by the sale of property and monetary gifts from departing churches. The new programs are bearing fruit across Palo Duro’s 50 congregations, helping the presbytery to fulfill its goal “to strengthen congregations for the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ.”
First Presbyterian in Baird sits in the middle of town. By demolishing a decaying and uninhabitable manse, the church increased its visibility and testified to its vitality. Worship attendance has doubled. Union Presbyterian in Brownwood opens its library for four hours on Friday and Saturday to students at Howard Payne University, whose library is closed those days. First Central in Abilene has begun a LOGOS program in order to reach out to Dyess Air Force Base children and the surrounding community. More than 30 children responded. First Plainview, First Lubbock, and Covenant Presbyterian Lubbock are engaging in target advertising. First Lubbock has employed a youth and children’s ministry director. The pastor and five others from Fain Presbyterian in Wichita Falls attended the National Evangelism and Church Growth Conference. New enthusiasm and hope were the result.
—Randy Branson, pastor, First Presbyterian Church, GrahamLet us join in prayer for:
Elder Susan Osoinach, member, PMA Board
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
“You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last” (John 15:16). May it be so! Amen.Daily Lectionary
In response to the call of the 220th General Assembly (2012) to invest in peace in the Middle East, the members of the Presbyterian/Jewish Dialogue Group of Houston determined to do something to show their commitment to peace, mutual respect, and understanding among the two major people groups and three major religious groups in Israel. They are therefore funding a volunteer peacemaking associate to work at Max Rayne Hand in Hand School in Jerusalem.
By design, the school’s student body is 50 percent Arab and 50 percent Jewish, and all classes are team taught in Arabic and Hebrew by an Arab and a Jew. Christians, Jews, and Muslims learn about and observe each other’s holidays and develop an appreciation for the cultural traditions of each group. Together, they learn also to ask questions, discuss, listen, debate, and disagree, all within a framework of mutual respect. Central to the vision for Hand in Hand is the hope that children who grow up together will, as adults, continue to be friends and be able to overcome disputes about religion, land, and politics.
Through the 97 congregations of the Presbytery of New Covenant, the Dialogue Group is providing, in addition to the associate’s living stipend, several scholarships that are awarded to Jews and Arabs in equal numbers.
The current peacemaking associate, who began her journey in July 2014, is the wife of a Presbyterian pastor. At the end of the school year, she will return to the United States to share ideas about how to encourage additional peacemaking investment. And the Presbyterian/Jewish Dialogue Group will continue to work for peace, shalom, salaam.
—Rev. Mike Cole, general presbyterLet us join in prayer for:
Rev. Mike Cole, general presbyter
Mary Marcotte, associate general presbyter
Lynn Hargrove, stated clerk
Sharon Darden, coordinator for COM/CPM
Caressa Murray, coordinator for youth ministry
Forbes Baker, director of finance
Sandra Lopez, assistant for finance and administration
Patricia Brantley, database coordinator / receptionist
Carrie Walker, coordinator of conferences and graphics
Helen Wolf, editor
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Alexander Downs, PMA
Tyler Drost, PMA
Lord of all creation, we pray for an end to hostilities, prejudices, and hatred everywhere, especially in the land we call Holy. Gather all your children in your loving arms, and shield them from the terrors of war and violence. Amen.Daily Lectionary
Among the 146 congregations in Mission Presbytery is Divine Redeemer, a predominantly Hispanic congregation located on the west side of San Antonio. The centerpiece of Divine Redeemer’s mission is its Multi-level Educational Youth Outreach (MEYO), a holistic, integrated ministry serving the at-risk children and teens of the community. MEYO focuses on life skills, character development, academic support, and community service. We have two after-school programs, Peace Pals for elementary school students and House of Teens for middle and high school students. We also award scholarships through the Rivera Scholarship Fund. For more than 10 years, 100 percent of MEYO participants have graduated high school with plans for the future in place.
The Hernandez-Cruz family has been involved with MEYO since its inception in 2000: first Brittany, then Ricky, and now Kimberley. Ricky’s story is perhaps the most remarkable. He was struggling in school when he entered the program. As a sixth grader, he was unable to completely say his ABCs! But he worked hard, using the tutors and tools available to him at MEYO, home, and school. Despite starting so far behind, with determination Ricky was able to pass each grade. It was such a great joy to see his hard work pay off as he graduated in spring 2013. With the support of MEYO, the Rivera Scholarship, and our collaborator, CollegeVISTA, Ricky is now completing prerequisites at a local community college before transferring to a local university to pursue his dream of becoming a veterinarian.
Ricky’s mother, Ignacia, is herself an inspiration. “Santa Nacha,” as pastor Rob Mueller affectionately refers to her, was a leader in the parent support group for MEYO and has organized innumerable chile relleno sales to raise funds for MEYO. This year, however, Ignacia became a member of the staff, working alongside Hope Bradley, another neighborhood mother, as co-coordinator of Peace Pals. Because of the ministry of MEYO, Ignacia and her children decided to make Divine Redeemer their spiritual home.
—Andrew Willems, director, MEYO, Divine Redeemer Presbyterian Church, San AntonioLet us join in prayer for:
Ruling Elder Ruben Armendariz, church development consultant
Ruling Elder Lita Simpson, youth and young adult ministries
Rev. Karen Stocks, stated clerk
Pam DuBois, accountant
Cathy Hooker, office manager
Eleanor Wieters, receptionist / administrative clerk
Rev. Kathy Anderson, director, John Knox Ranch
Young Adult Volunteers
Matthew Cowell, Abigail Evans, Victoria Hollingsworth, Rogelio Lopez, Julius Lorenzi, Mallory Tober, and Caroline Tonarely, San Antonio
Emma Randles, Andy Spaulding, Samuel Turpen, and Samuel Wismer, Ayava House at Austin Seminary
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
God of those who struggle, we lift to you all families, especially single-parent families, that battle for survival and long to thrive. Teach us to take risks for our neighbors, whereby we find you—as love made flesh—in our midst. Amen.Daily Lectionary
Trinity Presbyterian Church in Oklahoma City is a small congregation with a large vision. Trinity’s 44 members are working to turn the state’s “sickest” zip code into one of its healthiest.
In 2012 Trinity began a health ministry in conjunction with Redeemer Lutheran Church, a neighboring ELCA congregation. With a modest grant from Indian Nations Presbytery and the support of other community organizations and area businesses, Trinity and Redeemer launched a series of seminars, health fairs, and medical screenings to address health and nutrition needs in the 73111 zip code—which ranked in the bottom tier of aggregate wellness scores in an assessment conducted by the Oklahoma City-County Health Department.
Before the first seminar, health ministry volunteers went door-to-door to distribute flyers and invite neighbors to a free lunch where they could meet health professionals and receive assistance with a variety of health and nutrition issues. Seminar attendance has been encouraging, and their impact felt well beyond the targeted zip code. As the ministry continues to grow, leaders are helping to address chronic health issues such as diabetes mellitus as well as other health and disability concerns. They also are taking on other community issues, such as advance directives for end-of-life care, crime and scam prevention, and emergency preparedness.
The Trinity and Redeemer congregations have long been leaders in addressing needs in Oklahoma City, and both have well-established ties to the neighborhood they serve. As city government works to revitalize East 23rd Street from the state capitol to I-35—providing both a face lift and improved amenities—Trinity and Redeemer are committed to serving the needs of residents in this vibrant, largely African American community.
Indian Nations Presbytery is home to 51 congregations and their 6,984 members.
—Aaron A. Carland, general presbyterLet us join in prayer for:
Elder Patsy Smith, member, PMA Board
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Lord Jesus Christ, open our eyes to opportunities to show your love and compassion. As you healed those who came to you in need, so may we be agents of your healing in our communities. And as your touch brought wholeness and peace, so may our touch bring comfort and peace in your name. Amen.Daily Lectionary
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Tim. 1:7 NLT)
A cup of coffee shared together on a sunny January afternoon in an outdoor cafe is not all that remarkable—unless you happen to be doing it in Damascus with the sound of artillery rounds ringing in your ears. Julie Burgess, from Omaha’s West Hills Church, Rev. Marshall Zieman, trustee of the Outreach Foundation, and I had ventured to Syria at the invitation of PC(USA) partner the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon.
Our journey had begun a week earlier, in Lebanon, just north of Beirut, where we consulted with synod leadership for four days. Seven of the 10 pastors serving in Syria were with us, and their stories were powerful. They spoke of serving in towns temporarily secured by the army but surrounded by hostile insurgencies; of visiting members who have had to flee their city and are now hunkered down in obscure mountain villages.
Our friends and the families there credited us with a great deal of bravery for making the journey. I told them that they made us brave, carrying on, as they do, and honoring the call to the church to be salt and light: loving, seeking reconciliation, and bearing one another’s burdens. We needed to be brave for three days. They are required to live bravely day in and day out. But, then again, God did not give any of us a spirit of fear and timidity, right?
Father, may we, empowered by the Spirit, follow the example of your Son, whose incarnation brought healing, wholeness, and redemption. Be present to your church in difficult places as we witness to the good news until “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.” In Christ’s name. Amen.Sunday Lectionary and Hymns
“God of Compassion,
in Mercy Befriend Us”
GTG 436, HB 122, PH 261
“Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God”
“Have Mercy on Us, Living Lord”
“Come, Thou Almighty King”
GTG 2, HB 244, PH 139
“Beneath the Cross of Jesus”
GTG 216, HB 190, PH 92
Crossroads Presbyterian Church in Blue Ridge wanted to learn the needs of its community and see if it could meet some of them. Looking first at nearby school districts, the congregation soon realized that a large percentage of children in the four-county area were receiving free or reduced lunches.
“We were astounded,” says Crossroads member Flo Vance, “Some school districts provide lunches and breakfast because of the high number of students who are eligible.” Crossroads concluded that parents of eligible students were no doubt struggling to put food on the table.
The congregation had recently moved down the road to a new church building but still retained the old facility. The session approved using the facility for a food pantry. Inviting other congregations nearby to join in, Crossroads began the Four Corners Outreach Alliance to serve the four-county area.
“We are unique. We want to respect the people who come in. Most food pantries will give prepared bags of food. We give people shopping carts, and the people choose what they need, up to 15 pounds per person.”
Every Monday morning and third Saturday of the month, families come to shop for needed groceries. And it is all possible because a small Presbyterian congregation found a need in its community and chose to meet it directly.
Grace Presbytery is home to the Texas Presbyterian Foundation, Austin College in Sherman, and Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services in several cities. These ministries are supported by 40,000 members in 161 congregations and several new church developments and fellowships.
—Rob Allen, director of communications, Grace PresbyteryLet us join in prayer for:
Rev. Nancy Ramsay, member, PMA Board
Rev. Janet DeVries, general presbyter
Rev. Gerry Tyer, stated clerk
Rev. Michael Thompson, associate general presbyter
Rev. Ronnie Holloman, senior director, ministry and church transitions
Elder Rob Allen, director, communications
Elder Leah Wyckoff, director, resource center
Elder Gary Holloman, director, youth and young adults
Joanna Kim, director, cross-cultural mission and ministry
Vicki Roberts, financial coordinator
Gloria Beard, executive assistant
Lynn Garis, executive assistant
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Loving God, open our eyes to those in need in our community. Give us courage to address their needs and show your love to all—today and every day. Amen.Daily Lectionary
Ten of the 65 congregations in Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery have set out to discern their future story using New Beginnings, an assessment tool that involves group meetings, prayer, and an in-depth look at local demographics.
Exploring the future of their congregations is just one part of the presbytery’s mission. Seventeen percent of Oklahomans struggle with food insecurity, according to a report from Feed America. John Knox Presbyterian Church in Tulsa responds to this need with Extended Table. On the first Sunday of every month, members bring bags of nonperishable food for Neighbors Along the Line (NATL) and Iron Gate Ministry at Trinity Episcopal Church. NATL meets basic needs, such as food, clothing, and medical care; Iron Gate feeds the hungry and homeless in Tulsa every day. Other congregations respond to hunger with backpacks filled with food for the weekend, weekly community meals, gardens, and more.
The word Oklahoma means “red man.” Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery has 11 congregations in the Choctaw Agency and three in Bryan County Parish, which is largely Chickasaw. Native languages are still spoken in some of these congregations. Many of the American Indian languages are oral and not written. The Dena’ina people of Alaska have a word for their oral stories: “that which is written on the people’s tongues,” as Peter Kalifornsky has rendered it.
In her poem “Tradition from the Inside,” Roberta Hill Whiteman (Oneida) writes: “So that’s what we’re doing / pressed close in this dark / reeling, believing the center / holds because we answer only to the potter / whose other brown hand / applies equal pressure / from beyond.”
—Julie Burton, director of congregational resources, Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Bless, O Lord, our witness to your world. May our words and deeds speak to your whole creation, in all of its wonderful diversity. Amen.Daily Lectionary
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 28:19)
The town of Guymon, in the far western panhandle of Oklahoma, is home to feedlots and meat-packing plants that provide opportunity and prosperity for thousands of immigrant workers. One result: 27 different languages are spoken at Guymon High School.
In 2013, Main Street Guymon—a nonprofit promoting local development—held its first Azuma street festival to showcase the various African cultures represented by some of the area’s newest residents. First Presbyterian Church of Guymon was instrumental in planning the event, which has won two state awards from Oklahoma Main Street.
Shortly after Azuma, the South Sudanese Christian Fellowship at First Presbyterian was born. The group, which uses the Dinka-Bor language in worship, fits well into the Presbyterian tradition: because its members are from an area originally evangelized by Catholics and Anglicans, they are used to orderly worship! Rev. Deborah Hollifield, pastor of First Presbyterian, preaches in English on Sunday afternoons while someone translates.
Most of the women in the fellowship are under 30 and have several children. Many attend ESL classes so they can get a driver’s license and provide their families much-needed mobility. The men, aged 25–35, are former “lost boys of Sudan” who were relocated to the United States—and granted automatic citizenship—between 1999 and 2005. On arrival, the youngest went into foster care; the older ones were granted refugee status.
About 60 South Sudanese regularly worship with the fellowship, including some from as far away as Dumas and Amarillo, Texas, and Liberal and Garden City, Kansas.
The PC(USA) office of African Emerging Ministries has helped buy Bibles in Dinka and Bor, and associate Sam Atiemo traveled to Guymon in the fall of 2013 to offer guidance and encouragement. With help from the PC(USA), the fellowship will be connecting with other new-immigrant ministries.
Cimarron Presbytery connects 12 churches in northwestern Oklahoma.
—Rev. Scott Foster, communicator, Cimarron PresbyteryLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Holy God, let disciples of all nations hear your voice. Let us baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are listening. Amen.Daily Lectionary
Energy bubbled as participants told stories of encountering others in the streets, restaurants, and businesses of Little Rock. They had come to Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center for the presbytery’s retreat on developing new ministries. Few expected they would spend the better part of a day away from Ferncliff seeking those who live and work in our city’s most urbanized neighborhoods.
“You don’t have to preach; in fact, we don’t want you to,” said retreat coleader Philip Lotspeich, PC(USA)’s coordinator for church growth. “Just go to your area and try to engage those you meet in conversation.” Retreat coleader Shannon Kiser, also from the office of Church Growth, soothed the anxiety these Presbyterians felt about hitting the streets: “Let the conversations come naturally. You don’t have to talk about God, but you might. Ask how those you meet find living in their area; what they like and what they think is most needed.” She then added, “Don’t be creepy.”
One particular question repeatedly surfaced throughout the retreat: “Who is God putting on your heart?” Was it the restaurant worker commuting long-distance for a minimum-wage job? The mother seeking reliable child care? The transgender person with the beautiful coat? Perhaps the budding artist seeking a place to develop his music, or the new immigrants who had just moved into the heart of a reinvigorated neighborhood?
The Presbytery of Arkansas and its 86 congregations will go on naming the people God has placed on our hearts; those for whom our hearts might even break. A people of hope, we go forth with eyes opened to opportunities for sharing the good news—naturally, friend to friend, without being creepy.
—Bill Galbraith, general presbyterLet us join in prayer for:
Bill Galbraith, general presbyter
NiAnn Thompson, resource center director
Kenneth Rich, director of mission support
Michael Vinson, director of vital churches
Britton Varn, director of youth ministries
Cathy Ulrich, stated clerk
David Dyer, assistant stated clerk
Young Adult Volunteers
Daniel Bonhker, Molly DeWitt, and Alex Haney, Little Rock
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
God of wholeness, may the world you intend be the one we seek. May the way you love be the way we love, so that even broken hearts pulse with your grace. Amen.Daily Lectionary
Treasure Hills Presbyterian Church in Harlingen, Texas, is an Anglo congregation in the predominantly Hispanic Rio Grande Valley. Recently, with the help of a grant from the Synod of the Sun, the congregation undertook a cross-cultural journey that included calling David Coello to serve as Hispanic outreach intern.
The journey has been tremendously positive, but not without bumps. The Wednesday Kids’ Club expanded its outreach, and now 90 percent of the children are from Hispanic households in the neighborhood. Sadly, a prominent church family did not agree with the inclusive vision and left the church. The remaining session members and church families have embraced the vision and are excited about including their Hispanic vecinos (neighbors).
“Change without tension probably is not change,” says Charlie Parker, pastor of Treasure Hills. “We realized we were dealing with inward change and an invisible ministry to lessen stereotyping, prejudice, bigotry, and exclusive thinking. The key was knowing and loving David, our Hispanic intern. We are now more inclusive as our journey continues, and we hope to partner with the two Hispanic PC(USA) churches David is now pastoring.”
The Synod of the Sun supports transformational mission with 11 presbyteries and 809 congregations and their 147,962 members.
Ruling Elder Valerie Young, coleader for administration and stated clerk
Teaching Elder Daniel M. Saperstein, coleader for mission and partnership
Ruling Elder Ernie Higginbotham, assistant stated clerk
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
O God, we know we bear your imprint and that the colors of our skin are your design. Where we remain separated by our differences, judging one another as unequal, heal our divisions and make us one people by Christ’s grace. Amen.Daily Lectionary
W hen Virginia and Carl Reed moved in 1957 to Alamogordo, New Mexico, they began married life in a house built to their own design. Over the next 50 years, this house was the center of constant activity but never any children. Carl had his career, and Virginia, a talented artist, soon began to fill their home with all manner of creative endeavor.
After her husband’s death, Virginia lived alone in their lovely home. That’s when she began expressing her heartfelt hope that this same house would be used to help people in need. Thanks to a partnership between First Presbyterian Church of Alamogordo and the Center of Protective Environment (COPE), her dream has become a reality.
Virginia’s Place is a transitional-housing program serving families who have escaped domestic violence by going to the COPE emergency shelter. In place of rent, participating families save a portion of their monthly income. Supportive services such as budget planning, household management, and job placement are offered. By providing safe, rent-free living, Virginia’s Place gives residents space to work on family relations and enhance their job skills while participating in a caring community.
The Center of Protective Environment was begun in 1982 largely through the efforts of the Alamogordo congregation, one of 17 making up the Presbytery of Sierra Blanca. A $13,000 award from the Women’s Opportunity Giving Fund of the former United Presbyterian Church gave COPE a solid foundation. Thirty years later, this partnership continues with a grant of $11,000 from Presbyterian Women’s Creative Ministries Offerings Committee.
A couple with a house, a widow with a dream, a church and community with a shared vision, all supported by the generosity of Presbyterian women throughout our denomination—this is how Virginia’s Place has become a reality and a safe haven for mothers and their children!
—Rev. Dr. Robert P. Reno, pastor, First Presbyterian Church of AlamogordoLet us join in prayer for
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Corina Delman, OGA
Trina DeLuca, BOP
Gracious God, send your Spirit to comfort your children, especially those who have been caught in the grip of violence and abuse, and lead us all to your promise of love and safety. In Jesus’ name. Amen.Daily Lectionary
Mukeshimana Olive is a mother of two young children who lives in Rwanda. For years, she struggled to provide food and necessities for her family by making clothes on a small, antique sewing machine (her most valuable possession) and selling them to people in her village.
In early 2013, Mukeshimana became a member of her Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA), which was organized by 20 residents of her community, with assistance from the Presbyterian Church in Rwanda. The VSLA is a microfinance organization to which each member makes a monthly pledge. When funds accumulate, members can apply for small loans, which they then use to develop their small businesses. As members repay their loans with interest, the fund grows and additional loans can be made. Through this process, the VSLA both combats poverty and responds to the needs of the village.
Mukeshimana applied for and received a loan, which she used to open a boutique selling her sewn items and various other goods. The boutique has been a success; she can now feed her children healthy food and has even been able to purchase medical insurance for her family.
The VSLA program was made possible by a grant from Self-Development of People (SDOP), a ministry of One Great Hour of Sharing, made through SDOP partner the Presbyterian Church in Rwanda. SDOP projects must be presented, owned, and controlled by an economically poor community group that will benefit directly from their work together.
God of mercy, remind us of our affluence, and call us to a sacrificial lifestyle. We pray that our brothers and sisters in Rwanda will continue to find ways to overcome poverty. Through our prayers and gifts, may they be blessed! Amen.Sunday Lectionary and Hymns
“If Thou but Trust in God to
GTG 816, HB 344, PH 282
Ps. 107:1–3, 17–22
“For the Beauty of the Earth”
GTG 14, HB 2, PH 473
“Come, Thou Fount of
GTG 475, HB 379, PH 356
“I Want to Walk as a
Child of the Light”
A large city park sits across the street from our church, St. Andrew Presbyterian, in Albuquerque. As the park’s homeless population grew, we started distributing sack lunches on weekdays. Then, one cold Sunday morning four years ago, one of our homeless friends showed up for worship. He was somewhat intoxicated but sat through worship attentively. We greeted him, learned his name, and began hearing his story when he returned the next Sunday. Finding a warm welcome, he started inviting his friends to come (something our pastor begs us all to do). Soon we had a back row of homeless friends at morning worship and missed them when they were absent.
We began preparing hot lunches for our park friends after worship. Some members were discomforted, even frightened, by them, and a few left the church, but others joined in part because of this ministry. Volunteers take turns preparing lunch each week, and we are developing relationships with many of these new friends. “I come as much for the conversation as for the food,” one man said recently.
It’s hard to miss that these are the folks Jesus would be hanging out with. And the blessings are mutual. Rather than remaining a socioeconomic silo, our congregation has become a place where it’s easy to rub elbows with the poor. How easy can God make it? We didn’t go out seeking this ministry—God brought it in through our front door. In this diversity, we find we are not so very different, and there but for fortune could be any of us. The ministry has stretched us to visit our park friends in hospital and prison, and to provide clothing, blankets, bus passes, and other necessities. We pester the city to build public toilets in the park. This is what the good news is all about.
The Presbytery of Santa Fe is home to one new church development and 42 congregations, including St. Andrew Presbyterian Church.
—Dr. William R. Miller, deacon and elder, St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, AlbuquerqueLet us join in prayer for
Rev. Dr. Sallie Watson, missional presbyter / stated clerk
Elder Sharon Yates, associate stated clerk /office manager
Griselda Sandoval, financial assistant
Rev. Guillermo Yela, pastor, Camino de Vida new church development
Elder Lindsay Stansifer, youth events coordinator
Elder Lindsey Gilbert, president, Menaul School
Elder Debra Hepler, executive director, Ghost Ranch
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Lord Jesus, you befriended the most despised and rejected. Nudge us past our fear, so that we may love all of your children. Remind us that when we offer simple, loving acts of kindness to our neighbors, it is an offering to you. Amen.Daily Lectionary