Christmas Joy Gifts Help Puerto Rican Pastors and Church Workers Receover from Hurricane Maria
After Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico last year, Presbyterian pastor Manuel D. Silva bore the dual burden of caring for his family and his congregation. The property damage wrought by the storm was in the billions, and many on the island were without electricity for months.
When the storm hit, Manuel’s wife, Sylvette, was pregnant with their second child, and like thousands of others in Puerto Rico, the Silva family’s home was unsafe for habitation. The couple and their firstborn son Caleb moved into a tiny apartment Manuel’s father owns in a neighboring town.
The Assistance Program of the Board of Pensions, which receives significant funding from the Christmas Joy Offering, helped active and retired pastors as well as other church workers in Puerto Rico get back on their feet. Your gifts helped Manuel’s young family — and many other pastors and their families — recover and serve their congregation’s surrounding community.
Concerned about the well-being of overburdened pastors, Board of Pensions representative members met with Puerto Rican pastors four months after the hurricane with a delegation of different church agencies. There were conversations about resiliency, and the Board of Pensions representatives spoke about board benefits, including counseling services.
“We told them that they were not by themselves, that we are going to be there for them, and that we are going to help them as much as we can,” says Jose Irizarry, the Board of Pension’s vice president for education. “They were rushing out caring for people, but they also needed to be cared for, and that wasn’t being done.”
Manuel’s church building was without electricity for two months. Nevertheless, the congregation continued to gather in the building each Sunday to worship, pray, and encourage one another. In February, the Silva family welcomed a healthy baby boy, Yanluis. Several weeks after his birth, the family was able to move back into their home. Yet life has still not returned to normal for many Puerto Ricans. Some in Manuel’s community are camped in tents alongside the rubble that remains of their homes.
Manuel is grateful for the assistance he and other church workers received thanks in part to the Christmas Joy Offering. Special Offerings have taken on new significance among his congregation’s members, Manuel says. “They give from experience and from love. It’s part of who we are. We take care of people who really need it.”
Why disasters like Hurricane Maria happen is beyond our understanding. There has been so much destruction and loss of life and livelihood. Yet, as we share in the grief of our sisters and brothers, we can comprehend God’s call to help people in distress, and we can bear witness to God’s love by our giving to the Christmas Joy Offering. In addition to helping pastors and congregations who know they can count on our love in their hour of deepest need, the Christmas Joy Offering also aids future church and society leaders who study in Presbyterian-related schools and colleges equipping communities of color. God’s Love. It is the perfect gift.
Let us pray,
God of hope and restoration, draw near to those who offer compassion in times of immense struggle. Bless all church leaders with your strength and by your grace as we seek to support them through our gifts. Amen.
-from Presbyterian Mission Website
Jesus came to live among us, bringing light into darkness, and reconciliation to God and to one another. A perfect gift from a gracious God. As important as gifts to loved ones are, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) gives throughout the year through the Christmas Joy Offering, drawing us back to the manger and God’s perfect gift to us. We will collect this special offering on Sunday, December 16. For more information visit: http://specialofferings.pcusa.org/christmasjoy.html.
Former Christmas Joy Offering recipient Monika Ruiz talks about the life-changing opportunities she has had as a result of this offering.
Our Mission Committee has arranged for a three day Mission Trip to New Bern December 10, 11, 12. We will work through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and a local agency doing clean up work requiring little skill. Options for people with skills are available too. If you would like to go, please let Lora Crowley, Wendy Duncan or Bill Hoyle know. We are putting this together quickly and hope to have a full week opportunity in the new year.
CPC has been active in the ministry of Family House since it’s inception and is proud of and thankful for the work that they do. Below is a thank you note and a video we recently received from them.
We are most grateful for donors like you who continue to help so many families have a home away from home and hope they can count on your continued support!
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
~Tracy and the SECU Family House
Update from Missionary John McCall
Our mission co-worker has posted an update. Catch up with how God is at work in this part of our world.
Check out the latest update from John
Missionary John McCall Update
Thank you for your support. The gifts of members and friends at CPC through their regular offerings help support John on the Mission field. John was here in the Spring sharing about his ministry.
Check out the latest update from John
Remember the five year capital campaign that got the new building started? A biblical tithe (10%) was allocated for missions. You may have seen fences around a school in Haiti or read about the new heating boiler at Grandfather Home for Children (part of Children’s Hope Alliance) where our gift came just as the boiler collapsed, and other wonderful stories.
Recently we received a letter and photos from Clayton Rascoe, Executive Director of Massanetta Springs Conference Center. The photos show two new sidewalks that make some important buildings more handicapped accessible and were a high priority for the center, but not an easy project for fundraising.
Dear Clemmons PC Folks,
I hope this message finds you doing well. First of all, this is a long overdue "Thank You!" from me personally. Your gift came in quite a while back, but since it was for sidewalks, we had to wait for the weather to be warm and dry enough here to get concrete work done. Between the temperatures and the rain, it took until mid-June for the work to be complete. By that point, we were in the midst of the summer, and time got away from me. My apologies. The sidewalk is phenomenal! Our mission is to be "a place for all people to experience God through renewal, discovery, and hospitality."
Your gift which made the new entry sidewalk possible goes a long way to helping us be, "a place for all people." Now people with mobility challenges can access Richardson and the Historic Hotel on a smooth, level, easy to navigate sidewalk, instead of trying to negotiate the old bumpy asphalt one. It also helps our grounds appear more welcoming to guests. It is really a major upgrade for us. Thank you so much.
I will send a more formal letter to the session soon, but I wanted to be sure this message, along with a couple of pictures reached you all without further delay. As always, if there are things we can do to help you in your ministry, please let me know. Thank you!
CPC & Habitat - Coming May 12
Habitat for Humanity Volunteer day for CPC - May 20. Please mark your calendars now and go on the Habitat Forsyth volunteer website to register to spend a terrific Saturday with your CPC family building or renovating a house for a needy family. Habitat for Humanity is an international organization that helps provide safe and decent housing for families. Our own Bob Geyer was one of the first dozen people that started Habitat in Americus, Georgia in the 1970’s. Now almost 10 million habitat homes have been built, mostly by volunteers, around the world. Habitat Forsyth has built 385 homes since 1985. Families must provide “sweat equity” by working on their own or another Habitat House. Families may then purchase the house with a no interest loan by participating in home ownership classes.
What will we be doing? Painting, hammering, tearing out, caulking, raking, roofing, flooring? Over the years we have done all these things and more. It is surprising how much construction is really simple, or can be really simple. If you are not comfortable on the roof, stay on the ground. If you don't want to saw, there will be stuff to hammer, or move or paint or something. No one is ever asked to do anything they are uncomfortable doing. We really won’t know what we will be doing until the time we arrive because of the work completed by the volunteers the days and weeks before us. Whatever they have not finished doing will be our first tasks. Habitat provides all the tools you need, but has some suggestions on the volunteer website where you have to go to register. If you have questions, please contact Bill Hoyle or Kyle Shoffner. Please register before May 1 so Habitat won’t give our unfilled slots to someone else.
After months of discernment, 27 members (including a few friends) of Clemmons Presbyterian gathered in January for training from World Relief in order to form Good Neighbor Teams to welcome refugee families to Forsyth County. World Relief is the agency in our area which receives funding both from the government and private sources to assist in refugee resettlement. The folks from CPC received training which typically results in being matched with a family within about two weeks, doing everything from setting up a home or apartment to greeting at the airport and then partnering with World Relief and the family for at least 6 months, providing friendship and relationships. Since a team is limited in size to 15 people, we divided into two teams, and were eager to greet a new family. Then on the same weekend as our training, an executive order put a halt to refugee resettlement. Fortunately a family from Pakistan was already in the process of coming, so one team went into immediate action. Soon after that World Relief paired our second team with a family from Eritrea which had arrived in January but had no Good Neighbor Team supporting them. Because of some health concerns it was late March before the team was able actually to meet the family.
The team working with the family from Pakistan was headed by Penny Welty and enjoyed the excitement of setting up a house in a matter of days, furnishing it with furniture and other supplies from both CPC members and World Relief. They then welcomed the family at the airport providing a first meal prepared by a native of Pakistan. In the following weeks team members developed close relationships as they assisted in everything from learning bus routes to securing identification cards, making connections with area services and beginning class studies. Connecting with health care was crucial and while there were many challenges, it was all eased somewhat by the fact that English was spoken and understood. Team members helped set up a garden and learned to enjoy (and cook!) Pakistani food. After several months of working with this family, the opportunity to reconnect with old friends from home, who lived in California, presented itself. This brought the family the assurance of employment as well as a place to live. While a disappointment to our team which had come to love these folks and think of them as family, it was a perfect opportunity for our new friends------so our team saw them off to California!
The team working with the family from Eritrea has had a wonderful year! The Tewelde family consists of three children (now ages 2, 7 and 9), their parents and an adult male cousin. They arrived speaking virtually no English. World Relief requires that their family’s housing be on a bus line, but the bus route was changed the month they moved in so that transportation became an immediate challenge. The family lives in the Easton community of Winston-Salem. A mistake in the way their information was entered by our own border patrol meant that their Social Security cards were long delayed. Once that was straightened out, both men were almost immediately employed in May. They both pay for rides with co-workers. At the end of the year, one of the men who had been working in a temporary relationship in High Point, was made a regular employee with full benefits. The other has enjoyed baking for Salem Baking (Dewey’s) which has been especially enjoyable in the Christmas season.
Team members have provided transportation for the mom two days per week, to and from English classes at Easton elementary where the older boys attend school. She has blossomed as she has been able better to communicate. Team members have also provided transportation and assistance with health care and area services. This has been challenging but a true joy! We are also helping them to find better housing in a better location and anticipate a move in the early summer.
Sarah Hoyle chaired the team until August when Felicia took over. Currently four team members (Mary Jane Jackson, Jane Brookshire and Gloria Harris) are having weekly (if not daily) contact with the family who have become like family to us. Others in the congregation have been “on call” for all sorts of tasks. The financial support from World Relief ended in June. Our congregation included our Good Neighbor team in its Pentecost Offering which helped in providing some summer activities for the children. The Mission committee further included them in our Angel Tree program providing gifts for the children as well as the adults. And then the church also made a gift to the family to cover utilities for a short while. In a true act of God---the family had almost run out of oil for their heat just as the frigid cold of the end of the year/New Year arrived. The bill for oil is almost exactly the amount CPC provided.
Our church family has the continuing opportunity to meet this family, offering your support, encouragement and love, on Wednesday evenings when we bring them to join in our Wednesday meals and programming. The two older boys are being tutored during this time (by Elizabeth Morris and Julie Holmes) while the adults also receive tutoring in English (Barbara Hurdle). We could use assistance with transportation for this time. They are Orthodox Christian and while they have not been able to come to our church very often, they call it “our church.”
Monthly blog updates can be found on the CPC web-site. “Our family” is truly grateful for all that Clemmons Presbyterian has done for and with them and are so happy to be in the United States where they are safe, have enough to eat, are being educated, have work, and are loved!
Thank you for your support. The gifts of members and friends at CPC through their regular offerings help support John on the Mission field and that he will be visiting with us on the spring.
Check out the latest news of John.
Welcome to a new way for the Clemmons Presbyterian Church Mission committee to report and inform our church family (and anyone else who links in) about our mission outreach. This blog has various parts representing our various ministries and begins with what we hope will be regular updates on our refugee families.