A letter from mission co-worker Ingrid Reneau Walls:
Even when expected and necessary, change is not easy because inevitably it means loss—and gain(s) too. Unfortunately, the gains are not as readily discerned as the loss because they usually come as we embrace shalom within the loss. Mission reassignment from serving in South Sudan to Akropong, Ghana, has been a languishing change for me because my heart had embraced the unique South Sudanese people and the place of South Sudan. The South Sudanese people are unique because they are the “salt of the earth,” whose needs are dire, even as opportunities for transformation are constant. The merciful, graceful presence of Almighty Jah makes daily living possible, manageable and, yes, joyful, despite the ever-present conflicts and loss of lives that are, also, a constant reality.
It takes time to recover from such life transitions, and for this reason, more than any other, I have been silent in corresponding with many who have continued to uphold me faithfully in prayer and financial support, for which we are grateful. I ask your understanding and forgiveness for this lengthy absence, and as ever I ask unabashedly for your continued prayers and financial support as I wholly adjust to my current home of service.
I’d arrived at the Akrofi-Christaller Institute of Theology, Mission and Culture (ACI), Akropong, Ghana, on February 4. On February 6 I was in the classroom, participating in ACI’s orientation. It was a quick change from the PC(USA)’s orientation for reassigned and new mission workers to ACI’s orientation to academic writing for incoming students. By request I came at the start of ACI’s spring 2014 semester, having suspended my Sending Interpretation Assignment itineration to later in May–July; thus this was a short first semester. Because it was short, I’d immediately begun to learn my way around ACI and Akropong, as well as learn a little about ACI’s inspiring students.
Representing the Central African Republic, Cameroon, Kenya, Tanzania, both northern and southern Ghana, and the United States, this cohort of MA and MTh students are avidly engaged in acquiring the theological tools to assist them in fulfilling their calling in Christ’s ministries in their respective countries. I am touched, especially by the story of my sister Candace (a pseudonym), possibly because she is the only woman currently in course work and one of the few women pursuing theological study at ACI. Candace will be here for course work in African Christianity, Bible translation track, for more than a year before she returns home. This means being away from her 10-year-old daughter until she can afford the return trip, after she’s submitted her MTh proposal. In the meantime, she’s on the phone daily, weekly with her little girl and the aunt with whom she is staying. Then, there is culture shock; yes, Africans from one African country do experience culture shock when visiting and residing in another African country. There are the different foods to eat, and the varying food preparations; there is also the climate to get used to, and the reality that few to no one else speaks your mother tongue–thus a need to learn another language. There are the various cultural manners and behaviors to assimilate. It is never easy for a woman (or man) alone in a foreign land, which is why our Lord sent his disciples out in twos. Clearly there are sacrifice(s), losses and gains, too, in all kinds of ways when one chooses to pursue theological education; for women, the sacrifice(s) may be harder because inevitably children are left behind.
Then there is Peace*, wife of Paul, who is pursuing his M.A. at ACI. Both of them are professional singers, and he is also a gifted instrumentalist. Both are involved in evangelistic ministry. But life has become increasingly difficult for Christians and Muslims in their country as conflicts between these two groups escalate. As Christians active in evangelizing and church planting, Paul and Peace’s lives were threatened during the initial conflicts. According to Paul, he was targeted for death, and indeed Muslims did come to his home to kill them. They’d searched the entire house, more than once, but could not find Paul and Peace, who were hiding in the house! Sheltered by the direct, immediate protection of the Almighty, they were kept safely unseen by the would-be-killers. Afterward Paul and Peace escaped to a refugee camp, where they started a church. Eight months later, when they left for ACI, a thriving Christian congregation of more than 150 worshippers remained in the camp, including peacekeeping soldiers to whom Paul had shared the gospel.
Recently Paul and Peace learned that the rebels have returned to their home and destroyed everything they owned. This latest news devastated them both, but more so Peace—when I saw her upon returning to ACI I hardly recognized the saddened woman as the one I’d known before who always had a sunny disposition. But it’s hard to keep a good woman down: while here Peace undertook a three-month English course in Accra, and her English has improved greatly; now she is studying with me to improve her written English in hopes that come January 2015 she will matriculate at ACI in pursuit of her M.A. in Theology. In the meantime, as their funds are depleted and it has become increasingly difficult to provide for their basic necessities, they have sought to plant food to eat, and Peace has taken up sewing and weaving handbags from plastic cords she buys in the local market. They are unstoppable in living life to the full. They persevere, absorbing the human costs to continue equipping themselves for Christ’s ministry upon their return home.
Along that vein, Paul had inquired about Trauma Healing and Reconciliation training through which they may acquire skills to minister to his communities, especially to the wounded children. Because this is not something ACI currently offers, I’ve researched possibilities and learned that the Bible Society of Ghana can come and offer such seminars at ACI, so we hope to make this happen. Because he accepts the responsibility that this is ministry he and Peace must prepare themselves for, he humbly asks for the help in doing so. Moreover, as a musician understanding music’s role in the trauma-healing process, he knows that musical instruments for the children are a must.
Their lives, as well as Candace’s, and the sacrifices they continue to make to acquire the varied theological training they need to engage their society’s contemporary sociopolitical realities with the gospel in some healing, restoring, reconciling ways, attest to what the Almighty is up to in Ghana, at ACI and through ACI in other parts of the African continent. In many ways their lives of committed faith remind me of our South Sudanese brothers and sisters for whom faith living yields the surpassing peace and providence of Lord Jesus in the midst of unimaginable losses and sacrifices.
Won’t you join me in praying for these dear sisters and brother as they continue their studies, which are even more difficult especially because they are learning in English, which is their third or fourth language. And it’s not easy because long, wrenching separations between mothers, fathers and their children, who are as young as 7 years old, are a premium cost sometimes in attaining theological education in Africa. Won’t you join me also in praying about the ways in which you may be able to support them, both in completing their studies here at ACI, and in supporting them in their respective ministries once they’ve returned to their native countries?
Overall, you may want to prayerfully consider supporting God’s mission in Ghana.
Thank you most kindly for your prayers for these sisters and brother. And abundant thanks also to all those who continue to uplift and support us in prayers and financial giving as Andrew and I continue in discerning and fulfilling the mission of our Lord Jesus.
Yours together in Christ’s mission,
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. (John 14:16–17)Daily Lectionary
The Old Sew n Sews, our quilting group at Hopewell Presbyterian Church, had been in existence just long enough to complete our first baby quilt when a question arose: Did we want to take a hiatus for the summer since vacations would make consistent attendance difficult, or was there another option? We realized that there was indeed another option: we found patterns and pictures online for pillowcase dresses—cute little dresses, easy to sew, with no buttonholes or zippers required. There would even be jobs for those who didn’t sew, such as cutting, ironing and measuring.
Since we were in the middle of celebrating Hopewell’s 230th anniversary, we set the bar high. The goal was to sew 230 little dresses by the end of the year. We began by going through our fabrics at home. Then word got out. Fabric began appearing at the church. We put out a plea for double-wide bias tape, and it too began to appear. What fun! In many churches women don’t have many opportunities to simply converse, but Thursday afternoons became the time for fun, fellowship and creativity. We oohed and ahhed over each little dress completed.
Often our conversations would turn to the little girls who would receive the dresses. How we would love to see their faces as they received a brand new dress! We put the little girls on our prayer list.
But we wondered: Where were the dresses to go? Then someone called the church; a local woman was headed for Haiti. Could she take 40 dresses with her? Of course! Then more than 100 dresses went to Ghana. Another 89 went with Debbie Braaksma of Presbyterian World Mission to northeastern Congo.
Who knows where our next batch will land?
Who knew that God would use what was in our homes to bless little girls all over the world!
Pastor Kathy Hammond, Hopewell Presbyterian Church, Dandridge, TennesseeLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Loving and creating God, bless the children everywhere! Move us to work to bless each one. Amen.Daily Lectionary
It’s all about intentional, simple living and service. Learning about locally grown produce like romanesco (similar to cauliflower) and donut peaches. Learning to mesh your lifestyle with your roommates’ as together you grow spiritually. Learning about joy from service to others. Learning to love a new congregation of Presbyterians in a part of the country you don’t know. Learning to trust God as you think and pray about your career and future.
The Presbytery of Boston’s Young Adult Volunteer program, now in its third year, places its volunteers with one of its churches and a food justice partner in their community. Volunteers work with community gardens, food pantries, meal programs, nutritional programs, community supported agriculture sites and food advocacy agencies. They participate in retreats where the focus may be simple living, supporting local farmers or studying how faith and work intersect.
As the YAVs gain perspective on community issues such as homelessness, hunger and lack of access to good food, they engage their host congregations in local agency work. They lead Bible studies, Moments for Mission, and book and film discussions to highlight the issues. They speak at Presbytery of Boston meetings and fill other important roles through their service.
The YAV program develops young leaders for the church while it strengthens congregations to do the work of God’s kingdom where they are.
Beverly Shank, Board Chair, Boston Food Justice Young Adult Volunteer ProgramLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Gracious Lord and Creator of this wonderful natural world, we pray for the Presbytery of Boston’s YAV program and for the program nationally. May our volunteers from all years continue to be good stewards of your bountiful earth and be models of simple living. May they continue to remind us all of Jesus’ commandment to care for “the least of these.” In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.Daily Lectionary
Intercultural Church Sunday is a time to celebrate God’s diverse, transformed community. In the beginnings of the multicultural church movement, people of different cultures came together and, with excitement and courage, began creating multicultural community. They sought to understand differences in cultures other than their own. Yet, even though other cultures were present, the dominant culture prevailed, and other cultures accommodated to the major culture.
About 20 years ago or so, we moved across cultures. In cross-cultural ministries, we tried to do more than just enjoy each other’s music, cultural clothing, food dishes, or cultural dances. We tried to “cross cultures” and gain more of an understanding of others’ ways of communicating, worshiping and leading. But this still wasn’t as deep an engagement as we felt that God calls us to in the church of Jesus Christ. So we are now engaging in intercultural ministries.
The intercultural model of community hopes to take us deeper than multicultural or cross-cultural models of community. In intercultural communities, there is mutuality, reciprocity, justice, reaching across boundaries and learning from one another. More than merely providing representation, intercultural communities address power balances, and no culture is deemed superior or inferior to another. Most importantly, no one is left unchanged in the intercultural process. In an intercultural community, some examine their own culture more deeply, some are changed through their interactions with others, and transformation occurs. Then the transformed people lead others toward transformed communities.
As children of God, we realize that moving toward God’s intercultural community and allowing ourselves to be transformed provides the possibility for the transformation of all peoples.
Rhashell Hunter, Director of Racial Ethnic & Women's Ministries, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Loving God, thank you for creating a beautiful diversity of beings in your image. For your intercultural community of faith, we are ever grateful.Revised Common Lectionary Readings
Maryville College, one of 63 PC(USA)-related colleges, in partnership with the Equip Mission Team, Youth Committee and John Knox Center of the Presbytery of East Tennessee, has been awarded a grant that will strengthen the youth ministries in the presbytery. The Maryville Adventures in Studying Theology program aims to cultivate young leaders for the church and the world by helping them discover and embrace the traditions of Christian faith, put their faith into practice and explore—through the lenses of Bible study and theology—important questions of our time.
The grant, part of the Lilly Endowment’s Theology Institutes for High School Youth Initiative, will provide staff and program support for high school ministry in the presbytery, through the presbytery youth council and through education and resources for church youth leaders. The initiative seeks to encourage young people to explore theological traditions, ask questions about the moral dimensions of contemporary issues and examine how their faith calls them to lives of service. Every summer Maryville College hosts a weeklong, on-campus experience called Horizons. During Horizons week, students grow in faith and leadership, study theology with college professors, discuss important and challenging ideas, create and participate in worship, play in the Smoky Mountains, build community and then return to home congregations to lead and serve in their own communities.
Kathleen Farnham, director of church relations for Maryville CollegeLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Holy God, you have called us to be disciples, learners, our whole life long. We ask your blessing on all who teach and all who learn. Help us, at each stage of life, know, love and serve you in the world you love, that all people may see in our lives the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.Daily Lectionary
“I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:19)
Ah, the ever-compelling “new thing”—the focus of a robust grant opportunity in the Synod of the Trinity.
The New Initiative Grant for Presbyteries provides resources for presbytery projects that reach for new and risk-taking ministry dreams that join with God’s “new thing.” Through this partnership, leaders test and refine ministry for the good and learning of all:
The Beacon Church in Philadelphia connects with its community, providing artistic and educational fellowship for young children in a consistent, loving environment.
Pittsburgh Presbytery’s Crestfield Camp and Conference Center is exploring an intentional young adult community where they are challenged to discover gifts, practice missional living and engage in vocational discernment.
West Virginia Presbytery invited pastors to facilitated gatherings for training and discussion around such topics as leadership styles, communication and conflict, and decision-making, in group settings.
Northumberland, Huntington and Carlisle Presbyteries’ Camp Krislund developed traveling summer day camps, reaching beyond the hosting congregations and planting seeds for youth ministry.
Rev. Susan Faye Wonderland, Synod Transitional ExecutiveLet us join in prayer for:
Rev. Susan Faye Wonderland, Transitional Executive
Rev. Dr. Wayne Yost, Stated Clerk
Chantal Atnip, Treasurer
Catherine Gray, Administrative Assistant
Gwenn Egresitz, Administrative Assistant, Bookkeeper
Mike Givler, Communications Coordinator
Presbyterian Mission Agency Board Members and Corresponding Member:
Lindsay Harren-Lewis, Member
Kears Pollock, Member
Frank C. Spencer, Corresponding Member
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Wondrous Creator God, we pray for the whole church as our faith leads us in old and new directions for engaging work in your world! The Synod of the Trinity is grateful to be a part of this ministry. Amen.Daily Lectionary
After First United Presbyterian Church of West Pittston, Pennsylvania, lost its building in Susquehanna River flooding of 2011, pastor Jim Thyren spoke often to his congregation about maintaining hope while wandering in the wilderness.
Even when the cleanup volunteers were gone and the congregation found a temporary home at a nearby Catholic church, the memories and mourning sapped the energy of some of the most hopeful members, and valiant attempts at continuing their familiar ministry were sometimes halfhearted.
Three miles away, Wyoming Presbyterian Church, which sits on higher ground, was spared. The dwindling congregation, which had donated some of its mostly unused space to the flood recovery effort, quietly continued its modest ministry.
Like buds developed by plants during a long winter, the idea of shared ministry grew among the two sets of members, and in 2015 the church without a home entered into a shared space covenant with its neighbor congregation, and was finally able to put down roots.
The congregations have embraced each other while carefully respecting the heritage and history of each church. Two worship services are now offered on Sundays, one by each pastor, but members are encouraged to attend either. Open invitations to all activities are shared, and the two congregations have begun to mingle.
Best of all, the soul-searching done in the wilderness has blossomed into new awareness that the garden of the church is outside of its building, sharing ministry in the community. The mission of First United Presbyterian Church of West Pittston at Wyoming is blooming again.
Margaret Zeigler, Stated Clerk/Administrative CoordinatorLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Father, you kept your promises to Noah, and to Moses, that the strife of flood and wilderness would end. May the congregations and communities who are wandering find hope in those promises, and find new life in the example of Jesus, Amen.Daily Lectionary
Urban Ministry Underscores Partnership Between San Fernando Presbytery and Colombian Presbyterians
A letter from Sarah Henken, regional liaison for the Andean region, in Bolivia:
New creation. Transformation. God’s amazing possibilities. This is what I keep coming back to when I think about the first delegation visit from the Presbytery of San Fernando in California to Presbiterio Central in Colombia.
The Presbyterian Church of Colombia stands as a strong, small voice for abundant life in a complicated and conflictive context, and those in the San Fernando group were inspired by the creative, bold, and faithful ways that Presbiterio Central witnesses to Jesus Christ. I accompanied this visit in my role as regional liaison, but I was especially delighted to take part because San Fernando happens to be my home presbytery!
Central and San Fernando are both predominantly urban presbyteries, with much to teach each other as their partnership develops. Seeing firsthand how Central is responding in its context, including worshiping and praying together, has already been a gift. One of Central’s unique challenges is that it is dispersed over four cities. We visited three of them, and in each we met a local church that serves as a fountain of life-giving water in the midst of difficult circumstances.
El Redentor church in Medellín was built in an impoverished neighborhood that grew out of the city dump. Over several decades it has been a source of life and hope for residents who overflow the sanctuary out onto the sidewalk on Sunday mornings. Rev. Jairo has been a surrogate father to some of the troubled youth who attend the church’s school. Offering keen insight and great compassion, he is committed to strengthening the community and to bringing people to new life in Christ. Today two young men from El Redentor are candidates for ordained ministry, serving as pastors in other churches in the presbytery.
One of them, Cristhian Gómez, came to Bogotá last year when he was asked to begin serving Betania church in Bosa, one of the capital’s poorest sectors. In addition to pastoring the church, during the week Cristhian is a leader of the youth development program at the church. The project, called New Life, offers after-school tutoring and computer classes, spiritual support, arts and recreation, as well as classes in handicrafts and skills that can be used to earn money. It serves 90 youth from neighborhoods around the church, and this year was invited to take on 90 additional youth from the neighboring municipality of Soacha. The day we visited, two graduates of the program accompanied us and shared about the transformative impact it has had on their lives. They are so committed that they volunteer most Saturdays with the current participants.
In Ibagué, Belén church meets in a house were drugs were formerly sold. Neighbors are profoundly grateful to now have a positive presence claiming that space, offering life instead of death. The congregation uses its facility not only for its own worship but also for community celebrations. Ibagué is Colombia’s Music City, and the congregation reflects that heritage in vibrant musical ensembles and classes. The Wednesday evening prayer service we attended abounded with music in a variety of styles. The youth led praise music, and the choir shared beloved hymns, mostly sung a cappella. The new pastor at Belén, Rev. Heriberto González, is a great fit in the community because he is a musician too. When we returned to the church the following morning to converse with members of the session and deacons, Heriberto gifted us by sharing one of his own compositions.
“I Want to Be Free” is a song about Christlike freedom and active, transformative discipleship. At one point it says, “I want to be free like you, my Jesus, who loved without end. Seeing human death, you did not stand idly by; you brought your kingdom to us, Lord.” We heard this song while gathered in a space claimed for love and life in Christ’s name. Again and again throughout our visit we would be reminded of the truth of that message, which is not only a truth thousands of years old but also a truth that is renewed day after day. We pray, “Thy kingdom come,” and even as we wait with hope for the day when it will be fully revealed, God’s loving intentions are made real in all sorts of places—we just need to know how to look.
In a troubled neighborhood; to underprivileged youth who need options beyond drugs and poverty; in a building dedicated for a new, life-giving purpose—the kingdom comes to us in all of these places and many others, near and far, through the transformative presence of the One who does not stand idly by. Where do you see the coming kingdom in your surroundings? How is God calling you to help usher it in? I invite you to pray for this budding partnership, for the ministry of these churches, and I would love to hear about how God is at work in your corner of the world. Thank you for journeying with me!
Grace and peace,
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
Earlier this year Burns, Oregon, found itself in the national news due to the occupation of nearby Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The community was invaded by the occupiers, federal agents, militia groups and the media. Residents’ sense of community was shaken. The city of Burns, which is 293 miles from Portland, Oregon, and 226 miles from Boise, Idaho, has a population of just under 3,000. In the midst of this chaos Pioneer Presbyterian Church in Burns, along with other church partners and the local Elks Club, continued with their project: free community dinners. These dinners, begun in 2014, were held throughout the ordeal and continued after everyone else had gone home.
The free community dinners are offered the first through fourth Sunday of each month. The dinners are sponsored and provided by Pioneer Presbyterian Church, the Episcopal/Lutheran congregation, Burns Christian Church and the Elks Club. Pioneer Presbyterian has made its fully equipped kitchen and fellowship hall available, with the community dinners’ coordinating committee responsible for cleanup and maintenance.
The county’s unemployment rate is the highest in the state of Oregon, and a disproportionate number of families live below the poverty level. In addition, the majority of people attending the free community dinners are over the age of 65. As people age, many find themselves living alone—a situation that can lead to unhealthy eating habits and a lack of social interaction, which can lead to emotional problems. The community dinners give patrons a nourishing meal and an opportunity to visit with other community members, thereby offering nutritional, emotional and social support.
Rev. Linda W. Toth, General PresbyterLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Almighty Lord, you brought order out of chaos at the creation of this world. Bless all who work to show your love and care for those around them. May the light of our Savior shine forth wherever Christians work together in your name. Amen.Daily Lectionary
More than a decade had passed, but church members throughout the presbytery remembered the Pentecost Event. “Remember all those people? We filled the gym at Rhodes College!” “Remember that choir? Magnificent!” “I got to catch up with so many old friends!” “It was the best thing our presbytery has ever done!”
That nostalgia shaped a new event that brought our 42 churches together to celebrate Pentecost. Before a flowing red backdrop, Rodger Nishioka challenged the congregation to do what they could to make a difference in their corners of the world. Nishioka, who recently became director of adult educational ministries at Village Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village, Kansas, after teaching at Columbia Theological Seminary for 15 years, invigorated the gathered, delivering new hope. Attendees also found inspiration in the choir, which was just shy of 100 members strong. Children delivered light, the word, and the bread. Communion served, hymns sung, prayers prayed, the contingent filled over 10,000 meal bags for Stop Hunger Now. Then, another table was laid. As they broke bread together, old friends caught up, and many forged new relationships. Many departing folks called for making the event an annual gathering. Plans for future events started a month after cleanup finished. The new Pentecost Celebration brought new life.
Lucy Cummings, Associate Executive Presbyter for Outdoor Ministries, Presbytery of the Mid-SouthLet us join in prayer for:
C.V. ‘Bo’ Scarborough, Interim Executive Presbyter
Lucy Cummings, Associate Executive Presbyter for Outdoor Ministries
Audrey Toombs, Administrative Associate and Stated Clerk
Carmen Simmons, Resident Manager, Pinecrest Camp and Retreat Center
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
O God, who was, is, and will always be, we thank you for warm memories that wrap themselves around us. Don’t stop us there. Give us power to see visions and to dream dreams of what your kingdom can be. Then give us all we need—voice, breath, hands, hearts—to go out and spread your good news in the strong name of Jesus Christ. Amen.Daily Lectionary
Presbyterian Youth Triennium is only a five-day event, but its impact on young people can span a lifetime. Perryn Rice, pastor of Lake Highlands Presbyterian Church in Dallas, Texas, is one of the people whose life was changed at Triennium. He first sensed a call to ministry as a 16-year-old while attending Triennium. “I tell people it was the Youth Triennium in 1986 that rekindled the fire of my faith,” he says. “I took a workshop about ministerial calls that helped me understand what the Lord was doing in my life.”
Rice will be one of the preachers for the upcoming Triennium, July 19–23 at Purdue University. He will shape his messages to help youth leave Triennium with its lessons and impressions etched in their hearts and minds. “I believe something will happen in worship, service projects or conversations that will awaken them to the possibility they are able to do greater things for the glory of God.”
Thousands of youth have sensed the Spirit move in their lives at Presbyterian Youth Triennium. Today, on Pentecost Sunday, we celebrate the coming of the Spirit. As promised on the Day of Pentecost, God continues to pour out God’s Spirit upon all people, and our sons and our daughters are prophesying. Indeed, our sons and daughters are bearing good news from God, and many of them were moved to share God’s message with us at Presbyterian Youth Triennium. Triennium is one of the ministries with children, youth and young adults supported by the Pentecost Offering. As we receive the offering, let us give thanks to God that the Spirit still calls and that people continue to hear the Spirit’s call.
Pat Cole, Communications Specialist, Presbyterian Mission AgencyLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
God of Pentecost, your Spirit empowers your church to do your work in our world. Grant us ears to hear your call to serve our world, eyes to see the needs of our world, voices to speak your love and truth to our world, and hands to repair the brokenness of our world. Amen.Revised Common Lectionary Readings
Each year thousands migrate north from Mexico in search of greater opportunity. More often than not, these migrants encounter many dangers on their journey to El Norte. Among the dangers migrants face are violence from bandits and smugglers, exposure to extreme weather and the constant threat of being detained by la migra (immigration enforcement). In addition to these risks, many families become separated as one member of the family leaves to look for work while the rest of the family stays at home.
Café Justo, a fair trade coffee cooperative, offers many families in the state of Chiapas, Mexico, an alternative. Café Justo was started in partnership with Frontera de Cristo to provide a network that enables farmers to receive a fair price for their coffee. The Café Justo co-op has over 40 member families in the village of Salvador Urbina, Chiapas. Many of the families have reunited as mothers and fathers return home from the United States to work the fields and harvest coffee at a sustainable wage.
In connection with Frontera de Cristo, Café Justo coffee is primarily sold through a network of churches in the United States. First Presbyterian Church in Greer, South Carolina, has formed a deep relationship with Café Justo. We serve Café Justo coffee on Sunday mornings and at church functions. We sell hundreds of bags of coffee each month to church members and the community. Also, members of the staff and congregation have visited the farmers in Salvador Urbina. We truly feel that these are our farmers and our friends. Coffee can be grown only near the equator, so we like to think of our amigos in Salvador Urbina as our “local” coffee farm.
Being able to directly support a fair trade organization has had a great impact on our congregation. There is great pride in knowing that our choice to support fair trade is bringing families back together and providing opportunities for meaningful work in Salvador Urbina. Each time we drink Café Justo coffee, we are giving life and hope to the families of that community.
Bob Greene, First Presbyterian Church, Greer, South CarolinaLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Dear Lord, we pray for those who must make difficult choices and journeys in search of a better future. We ask that you bless those in search of opportunity and meaningful work in their home communities. Please give strength and healing to families that have been separated. We ask that you provide them hope for reunion. Amen.Daily Lectionary
Caz Minter, Pastor of Live Oak Church, has been through many assessments with leaders who have started, or are considering starting, such communities. But he’s never experienced what he felt at a recent Discerning Missional Leadership Assessment in Los Angeles.
Having been through an assessment himself, Minter knows how powerful they can be. Doing a new church plant in Austin, Texas, he felt like many leaders who start something new: alone and under great pressure. At first he was resistant to what he’d learned about himself, but gradually came to realize the importance of having outsiders speak hard truth to those starting ministries.
“God used that assessment to save us,” says Minter. “It totally changed our lives and my approach to ministry.”
Minter says he was “a little nervous” about leading the Los Angeles assessment. Eight participants and eight assessors had gathered in the heart of the city, ready to dig deep into one another’s lives, in three languages.
“We’d translated from Spanish to English before,” says Minter, “but this time because of the diversity of participants, we decided to have Spanish-, Korean- and English-speaking assessors.”
As the group began to open up about their lives and families, “a beautiful thing” happened, Minter says. During the time of group conversations with everyone in the room, with three languages being spoken simultaneously, everyone was hearing one another, in their own native language.
“There was a sense of grace present,” he says. “Everyone recognized that while it might not be smooth, or perfect, we not only had cultural diversity—but another layer of language diversity.”
“It was a great picture of what the 1001 movement looks like,” says Minter, “multi-language all over the country, with the same heart and mind—connecting with people, in their own language.”
Since the 1001 initiative was launched by General Assembly action in 2012, over 330 new worshiping communities have sprung up across the denomination, reflecting the rich diversity of language, culture, race and age of this nation.
Vera White, Coordinator for 1001 New Worshiping CommunitiesLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Gracious God, as we approach Pentecost, we celebrate this new Holy Spirit activity we see in our denomination in the form of 1001 New Worshiping Communities. We pray for its leaders, staff and the new disciples who are being formed daily. Amen.Daily Lectionary
Two years ago Glacier Presbytery faced a challenge that may not be unique to that presbytery—how to find effective pastoral leadership for a very small, very rural congregation. The congregation of Community Presbyterian Church in Whitlash, Montana, with its 10 members, provides a vital ministry to that area, being the only church in that ranching community. Their remoteness presented an additional difficulty, as they are located more than 20 miles from the nearest paved road. Over the years they had tried many methods of securing pastoral leadership, sharing with nearby churches from other denominations, making weekly calls seeking a pastor to fill the pulpit, and helping a local person become trained as a commissioned ruling elder. When their pulpit once again became vacant, they reached out to the presbytery, wondering if there was a way to have a teaching elder serve them, even though their funds were very limited.
Glacier Presbytery came up with a creative idea: invite retired pastors to come for just a year or two at a time. Since the workweek is limited to one or two days, they knew that a pastor would have time to explore Montana, write a book, or delve into a spiritual discipline. Even though the congregation did not have many financial resources, the presbytery and congregation joined together to provide an innovative compensation plan that included fly-fishing and archery lessons provided by nearby pastors, a book of the month about Montana, monthly goodie baskets, a small stipend and use of the manse.
They have now had two retired pastors come to serve their congregation, one from Texas and one from Florida. For the first time in decades the congregation had a choice and enjoyed interviewing prospective pastors.
Marsha Anson, General Presbyter/Stated Clerk, Glacier PresbyteryLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Creative, loving, surprising God, we thank you that you continue to amaze us with your abundant love for your people. In deep gratitude we pray. Amen.Daily Lectionary
Mission Co-Worker‘s Theology Course Helps Women Look Beyond Cultural Constraints
Living in Ethiopia can be difficult. Living in Ethiopia as a woman can be even more difficult. The culture here does not always view women, their worth and their capabilities, in the same way that many Western cultures view women.
Women and young girls in the countryside can often be seen carrying heavy loads of firewood or sacks of grain on their backs. This practice, year after year, coupled with malnutrition, can stunt the physical growth of girls and lead to severe medical problems.
Many women, even those living in cities, are illiterate and lack job skills. In my Bible study among Orthodox women who live in poverty, none of the women have marketable job skills. Some of the women in the Bible study spend their days scavenging for metal and plastic at the enormous garbage dump adjoining the area where they live. Often they go to the dump with a young child slung on their backs, earning enough during the day to buy a couple of loaves of bread. Two of the older women occasionally resort to begging on the streets because they are physically unable to do anything else. Another woman works in construction; for women, this usually means doing the hardest physical labor: carrying bags of cement mix or removing rocks from the site.
In his regular student “tea times” my husband, Rich, recently met with two young women taking his basic theology course at the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology (EGST). Both are in a new program at EGST concentrating on “Gender and Health” as a specialty within the Master of Arts in Development Studies program.
One student, Wosene, told how she was attracted to “Gender and Health” because of her work as a nurse for two years in the refugee camps in eastern Ethiopia near the Somalia border. She spoke of how husbands treated their wives in the camps, often brutally hitting them when they felt displeased. She also treated many women for physical disabilities because they were required to work long hours carrying heavy loads.
Bontu, another “Gender and Health” student, told about being the oldest of several children. When her single mother died, she was expected to care for all her younger siblings, despite how difficult it was for her. Even though she sacrificed to help them, the younger boys did not respect or appreciate her because she was female. She described how sons in families are often catered to and lavished with love while girls are ignored or treated as servants. Bontu sees many of Ethiopia’s problems stemming from these unhealthy family dynamics and is dedicated to making a better life for daughters like herself.
Seblewengel is an articulate, intelligent Ethiopian who received her PhD from Ghana and is now teaching at the Evangelical Theological College (ETC) as well as occasionally teaching at EGST. Seblewengel grew up on a missionary compound with parents who viewed their sons and daughters as equals. Her education enhanced her self-confidence, and she enrolled at ETC to study theology. To her great surprise, a respected professor there allowed only males to enroll in his class. This was Seble’s first encounter with the idea that, while there is no limitation for men in ministry, some roles are not available to women. Since then she has wrestled with biblical passages about the role and status of women as she has wrestled with her denomination’s position on women in ministry. It has not been easy for Seble, but she maintains a servant’s heart as she serves her church in ministry open to females and looks with optimism toward expanding horizons for women in the church in Ethiopia.
The opportunities for women in Ethiopia are expanding with government support of women’s issues. However, life for women here continues to provide challenges that women in some other countries will never face.
Marilyn HansenLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Mission in Action: From Vegetables to Bicycles
During the Sunday coffee hour at First Presbyterian Church of Livermore, you may be as likely to reach for the cabbage as you are for the coffee, thanks to our Veggie-Table Project—just one example of how we follow Christ’s example of expressing faith through ministry and service.
Dick and Wanda Finn’s six-acre mini-farm is used by the church to grow and sell organic products. In its six years of operation, enough funds have been raised to offset payments for the church building renovation. Excess produce is donated to a food bank. An intergenerational team of volunteers, ranging from church families to scout troops, work together to plant, weed and reap. Other FPCL projects include:
Livermore Homeless Refuge: During the cold winter months, we provide shelter to the homeless. Volunteers, including families with young children, drop off hot dinners and cold breakfast items for our guests. Overnight chaperones work 3 ½-hour shifts for the safety of the sleeping guests. Throughout the year this ministry extends to our local homeless community by collecting clothing, hygiene products, meal cards and other resources.
Neighbor2Neighbor: One Sunday in September, members come to church in their work clothes for our Service to the Community ministry. We gather to repair bikes, feed the homeless, paint park and playground benches, remove trash, write letters, bag beans and rice, assist seniors, harvest vegetables and much more.
Ruling Elder Kate Mullen said, “The connections stick with me. Heaven sticks with me. My faith encourages me to widely broadcast the needs of others, and boldly ask for a response to those needs through action.”
Judy Lussie, Ruling Elder, First Presbyterian Church of LivermoreLet us join in prayer for:
The Rev. Jeff Hutcheson, Presbytery Pastor for Mission and Vision
The Rev. Katherine J. Runyeon, Stated Clerk
Erika Glisson, Office Administrator
Myrdell Dybdal, Bookkeeper/Recording Clerk
The Rev. Bruce Der-McLeod, Accountant
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Gracious God, may we continue to show love and compassion to all your people and take action to help them. Amen.Daily Lectionary
Every year the Presbytery of Western Colorado presents the Al Ruth Award for Evangelism and Church Development. The award is funded through the permanent Alfred E. Ruth Jr. Memorial Fund, and it amounts to the interest earned during the year. In 2015, it was presented to the Good News Club, a ministry of Monument Presbyterian Church. The Good News Club is hosted by Wingate Elementary School in Grand Junction, Colorado, and meets after regular school hours. Wingate Elementary is a public school that welcomed this opportunity for families that desire to have their children learn about the good news through a Bible story, songs, games and a specific Bible verse, which is discussed at “table time” with a “shepherd.” Monument Presbyterian Church provides a snack and time to build relationships and pray together.
The Good News Club is under the umbrella of Child Evangelism Fellowship, which has Good News Clubs in over 165 countries. I would encourage any church that is looking for a community outreach to go to the Child Evangelism Fellowship website and explore how to start your own Good News Club in a public school near you!
As we explore how to be more missional both near and far, this provides a powerful opportunity to reach young children who may not hear the word or experience the love of Christ in any other setting.
Jan Gammill, Good News Club Leader at Wingate Elementary School, Grand Junction, ColoradoLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Dear Lord of love,
We pray today that the good news may be heard throughout the world. May young children have the opportunity to know of your love, hear the stories from the Bible and treasure each Bible verse that leads them closer to you.
May our hearts be open to taking risks when sharing our love of Christ. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
In a small village in Africa, a middle-aged woman named Linley dreamed of becoming a small-business owner. However, famine and lack of access to capital made it difficult for Linley to achieve her dream.
In January 2014, Linley attended a local program sponsored by a Presbyterian World Mission partner, the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian, and learned about a project funded by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to help rural women save money and obtain loans.
The village’s savings and loan group was established, and Linley was one of its founding members. After three months, the group had accumulated enough money that members were able to start borrowing for their small businesses. Linley received a loan equal to about $76 to start a business selling produce, such as potatoes and vegetables.
Her business grew, and today Linley has installed a solar panel on her house, bought livestock, and secured a four-acre plot where she does irrigation farming. She uses her solar power to generate income by charging people’s mobile phone batteries for a small fee. The irrigation farming has allowed her to have food year-round, and the surplus is sold to help pay for her children’s school fees.
Your gifts to Healthy Women Healthy Families support projects like the one that created the village’s savings and loan group. Without donors’ support, Linley wouldn’t have been able to obtain a loan to start her own small business.
Healthy Women Healthy Families is a year-round support ministry of the Global Poverty program of Presbyterian World Mission in collaboration with Presbyterian Women. For more information, visit pcusa.org/global-poverty.
Stephanie Caudill, Critical Global Initiatives, Presbyterian World MissionLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Creator God, we acknowledge that women in rural villages are seeking ways to alleviate poverty in their homes and communities. We pray for your protection of these women and ask for guidance as to how we can support their endeavors. We also pray for their health and well-being as well as that of their families. Amen.Revised Common Lectionary Readings
“First I thank God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world” (Romans 1:8).
These words of Paul may have been written to the people of Rome, but the people in the Presbytery of the Northern Plains take them personally.
The Presbytery of the Northern Plains covers a wide expanse, including the entire state of North Dakota, northwest Minnesota and a small area in Montana. Because of our large area, we formed five ministry regions in hopes of involving more members than those who attend presbytery meetings. Through the ministry regions we encourage connection, mission and input from our congregations. Activities within each region have been as varied as the people in our presbytery. We have had educational and training sessions, family camping weekends, ice skating outings and many other activities to cover a multitude of interests. Through these ministry regions we have cared for our members, connected them to the larger church and challenged congregations and members to be faithful witnesses to the good news of Jesus Christ.
Our presbytery has been in a partnership with Chogoria Presbyteries in Kenya since 1998. Through this relationship, we have been able to do many positive things for the people in Kenya. In addition, the PC(USA)-affiliated University of Jamestown in North Dakota provides mission groups to be sent to many parts of the globe. Our faith is indeed being reported all over the world.
The Presbytery of the Northern Plains has 59 congregations, one Korean Fellowship, the University of Jamestown and nearly 4,300 members.
Ruling Elder Sylvia Pringle, Moderator of the Presbytery of the Northern PlainsLet us join in prayer for:
Ruling Elder Michael Lochow, Stated Clerk
Walter Knipe, Treasurer
Teaching Elder Darrel Cory, Minister of Pastoral Care
Ruling Elder Laurie Elhard, Administrator of Communication and Finance
Alissa Anderson, Administrator of Connections and Records
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Loving God, we thank you for your son Jesus. As he loved each of your children, may we follow his example by showing great love to all your children. May we look for ways to further your gospel of love, knowing that by loving others we are truly loving you. Amen.Daily Lectionary
In summer of 2013, the session of First United Presbyterian Church of DuBois, Pennsylvania, learned that their renters in the church manse would be moving out of state. Suddenly, the house they had rented for several years would become empty. The session was faced with a decision: Should they just keep renting the house, or would a new use for it be more appropriate?
As pastor Sarah Sedgwick talked to others, one idea gained traction: creating a space where mission teams could stay and work on homes in need of repair in DuBois.
In the summer of 2015, the church hosted four mission teams from churches in four states. Over 50 youth and adults stayed in the former manse, dubbed the Red Mission House, and worked on four homes in the DuBois community. Their work included building a ramp, painting home exteriors, and remodeling a deck for homeowners with disabilities.
Members of First United strive to be good stewards of the physical resources God has given to them. With a big step forward in faith, First United is opening the doors of its buildings to provide hospitality to mission teams near and far, and in return these teams are helping the congregation’s neighbors and community—a partnership success!
Rev. Sarah Sedgwick, First United Presbyterian Church, DuBois, PennsylvaniaLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Almighty God, you have blessed our churches with buildings that are capable of helping others. Help us to discern the creative ways you call us to offer these buildings to spread the good news of Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.Daily Lectionary