PC(USA) Minute for Mission ~ Souper Bowl of Caring

The Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study dates back to 1892 and has the longest history of any denominational mission and prayer book in the United States.

Today’s PC(USA) Minute for Mission from the Mission Yearbook…

SBoC LogoSouper Bowl of Caring (SBoC) is a national youth-led movement that works to spread awareness of and fight hunger in the United States with every penny collected by participants. This was the elevator speech I wrote over four years ago at my first SBoC National Youth Advisory Board meeting. Souper Bowl of Caring will send anyone who asks everything necessary to start a donation drive, at a time of year when most food banks are depleted from the holidays. But the best part is that you get to choose where the money goes in your local community. No money gets sent to the organization; all you do is report your total amount raised.

Souper Bowl of Caring is so much more than that, though. It does amazing things for communities around the country, not just through collections but through planned service events too. At Spring Valley Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina, we always participate in the citywide Service Blitz, in which countless groups spend a day at community shelters and food banks. It is a day that everyone looks forward to.

Because SBoC is led by youth, it provides one of the greatest opportunities for young people to grow and mature into caring adults who live the rest of their lives giving back. I am the person I am today because of SBoC. Although my school does not have a SBoC group—I now give my time to Children’s Miracle Network through Auburn University Dance Marathon—I still thank SBoC every day for the opportunities it gave me to lead and give back. The youth who started it over 20 years ago took a God-given opportunity and grew it into something fantastic that has helped countless people. All it took was a prayer: “Lord, as we enjoy the Super Bowl football game, help us be mindful of those without even a bowl of soup to eat.”

—Michael Hobensack, member, Spring Valley Presbyterian Church, Columbia, South Carolina

PC(USA) Minute For Mission ~ Criminal Justice

The Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study dates back to 1892 and has the longest history of any denominational mission and prayer book in the United States.

Today’s PC(USA) Minute for Mission from the Mission Yearbook…

Criminal Justice PhotoBut there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. (Isa. 9:1)

On one of our first dates, my wife and I passed a man in a baseball cap who was hanging out on the corner, smoking. As we got closer, he looked up. I assumed that he was going to ask for money, so I felt around in my pocket for some loose change.

But he surprised me. He didn’t want money; he wanted to thank me for visiting him in jail. The last time I had seen him, he was wearing a red prison jumpsuit. Out of context, he looked so different that I hadn’t recognized him. It was wonderful to see him out of jail. He told us how God was moving in his life. We wished him peace and said goodbye.

“I was in prison and you visited me” (Matt. 25:36b). Jail can be a desperate and hopeless place. But the God of life and love brings hope and light into even the darkest places: “The people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isa. 9:2).

Not all of us are called to go into the jails. Some are called to advocate for more just laws or to care for people reentering the community. There are many ways to serve, but it is the same Spirit who calls us to that service. How is God calling you to serve?

—Rev. Steven Werth, member, PHEWA/Presbyterian Criminal Justice Network leadership team; pastor, Appleby Manor Memorial and Crooked Creek United Presbyterian Churches, Ford City, Pennsylvania

PC(USA) Minute for Mission ~ Race Relations

The Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study dates back to 1892 and has the longest history of any denominational mission and prayer book in the United States.

Today’s PC(USA) Minute for Mission from the Mission Yearbook…

The hands that poured water over baby Robin’s alabastar head while the alto voice declared, “I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” had long, tapering fingers, with nails painted tastefully in seashell pink. The water beaded into tiny droplets on the coffee-colored hands of the one performing the sacrament that typical Sunday morning.

Over the years, Robin saw those same hands break bread and pour the cup; heard the same voice declare, “These are the gifts of God for the people of God.” When Robin became a youth elder, she heard the same voice call her session to order, charging the ruling elders to serve God’s people with, as the Book of Common Worship says, “imagination and love.”

It is with imagination and love—as well as insight, intelligence, faithfulness, creativity, and joy—that women of color serve (or pursue calls to serve) in all areas of ministry and mission. The beauty of Robin’s upbringing, especially as a white person, is that she never knew of a time when she could not experience a woman of color as her pastor.

How wonderful it would be for all God’s children to receive and accept the presence and leadership of women of color so readily! Together, let us build bridges and break down barriers, so that we may joyously echo the words of Psalm 40: “God put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.”

—Nancy Benson-Nicol, associate for gender and racial justice, Presbyterian Mission Agency

PC(USA) Minute For Mission ~ Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary

The Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study dates back to 1892 and has the longest history of any denominational mission and prayer book in the United States.

Today’s PC(USA) Minute for Mission from the Mission Yearbook…

The Lord gives you relief from your suffering and turmoil and from the harsh labor forced on you. (Isa. 14:3 NIV)

Johnson C Smith SeminaryWhen Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary (JCSTS) was founded in 1867, in the wake of the Civil War, its mission was to educate black men who had been enslaved. Over time, the institution, like many historically black colleges and universities, developed curricula that would empower African American men and women while benefiting the country as a whole.

Leadership, social engagement, and empowerment remain at the heart of the seminary’s culture and mission. In the fall of 2012, JCSTS, with the help of the Community Foundation of Atlanta, launched a Community Engagement Fellows Program designed to foster a culture of Christian service and activism among seminarians. The first class of student fellows mentored neighborhood children, created a community food bank, designed a quilting ministry for elderly women, and studied demographic shifts in underserved sections of the city.

In November 2012 students helped lead JCSTS’s inaugural HIV/AIDS Conference, which provided information and fostered the leadership necessary to conduct effective ministry among individuals and families affected by AIDS. It took its theme, “Creating HIV/AIDS Competent Churches and Leaders,” from a report of the same name adopted by the 219th General Assembly (2010) of the PC(USA). Students also planned the follow-up conference held December 2013.

JCSTS prides itself in providing students a one-of-a-kind laboratory for learning to address contemporary issues as they mature in Christian faith, biblical literacy, caregiving ability, and leadership.

—Paul T. Roberts, president-dean, Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary

PC(USA) Minute For Mission ~ Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico

The Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study dates back to 1892 and has the longest history of any denominational mission and prayer book in the United States.

Today’s PC(USA) Minute for Mission from the Mission Yearbook…

Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico

A theological school in covenant with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

How do people keep the faith in hard times and continue to believe despite widespread hopelessness? The people of Israel exiled in Babylon faced that question. Those were the days of unique spiritual leaders—the prophets, who foresaw the exile but also prophesized that God would restore a remnant of his people to their homeland.

According to Zechariah 8:1–13, God’s promises were the main source of the exiles’ hope for restoration. The prophet represented the spirit of a suffering people who still trusted in God’s goodness. It is not easy to live from promises, especially when they come from changing and fallible human beings. But the promise of restoration came from God and was clear. God would renew the ancient covenant: “They shall be my people and I will be their God, in faithfulness and righteousness” (Zech. 8:8).

To believe, to trust, and to wait is not easy. Practicing the presence of God is not an easy task in our ever-changing world. What we need in this modern time are leaders according to God’s heart, as the ancient prophets were.

The key to leadership lies in God’s calling and the response of those chosen by God. God’s mission for leaders is threefold and clear: to call people to repentance, to lead with a vision of the future, and to minister to people in need.

In times of constant change, preparing men and women to serve God and the church is no easy task. For the past 95 years, the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico has been dedicated to the development of pastoral leaders for the mission of the church in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, Latin America, and the Hispanic communities of the United States.

—staff of the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico

PC(USA) Minute For Mission ~ Christmas Joy Offering

The Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study dates back to 1892 and has the longest history of any denominational mission and prayer book in the United States.

Today’s PC(USA) Minute for Mission from the Mission Yearbook…

Christmas Joy OfferingIn Isaiah 7:14, we find the familiar words, “Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” In Matthew 1:23, we learn that this name means “God is with us.”

The recipients of the Christmas Joy Offering know that God is with them: those who served the church so faithfully in the past receive needed assistance, and new racial ethnic leaders are, with God’s help, formed to serve Christ in the world. Received throughout Advent and Christmas, this churchwide special offering is designed to prepare and care for church leaders in every generation. It provides assistance to active and retired church workers and their families through the Board of Pensions, and it also supports education at Presbyterian-related racial ethnic schools and colleges.

Historically, these racial ethnic schools and colleges have played an important role in preparing leaders for their vocational service in the church and society. And they still do. One of these leaders is Lemuel Garcia-Arroyo, a fourth-generation Presbyterian. When he was growing up in Mexico, his family had limited resources. He received a scholarship through funds from the Christmas Joy Offering to attend Presbyterian Pan American School in Kingsville, Texas, a secondary school related to the PC(USA). He later attended Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary and was ordained as a teaching elder. I met Rev. Garcia when he served as associate presbyter in the Synod of the Sun, and he quickly became a family friend and colleague. Leaders like Lemuel Garcia-Arroyo and countless others embody in their leadership and service the mission of the Christmas Joy Offering. Through Christmas Joy, we recognize that God is indeed with us.

—Rhashell Hunter, director, Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries/Presbyterian Women

PC(USA) Minute For Mission ~ Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary

The Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study dates back to 1892 and has the longest history of any denominational mission and prayer book in the United States.

Today’s PC(USA) Minute for Mission from the Mission Yearbook…

Austin Seminary Minute for MissionTravel and the transformation of landscape are themes that resonate in today’s lectionary reading of Isaiah 35:1–10. These themes, moreover, were clearly in my mind during a winter travel seminar to Guatemala and Mexico. One particular day in the trip brought new meaning to Isaiah’s themes.

One Sunday, arrangements were made for us to visit Iglesia Presbiteriana de Ocuilapa. Our journey to this rural church in the mountains of southern Chiapas Mexico physically and spiritually transported us into the clouds. Pouring rain made the town’s roads difficult to traverse. After walking a short distance through ankle-deep mud, we finally arrived at the church, where we were greeted graciously.

Without any prior notice, the pastor and a group of leaders invited me to preach the morning sermon. Stunned and terrified, I managed to accept their invitation. Frantically scrambling through the pages of a borrowed Spanish Bible, I was able to create a very rough sermon outline during the beginning hymns and prayers. Before this point, I had moved through the trip keeping my emotions regarding the chronic poverty in the country at bay. With weak hands and feeble knees, I stood behind a pulpit in an unknown church among unfamiliar people. Looking out, I saw the faces of a suffering people who came from near and far to hear a message of hope and healing. Overwhelmed with the weight of the moment, midway through the sermon I was no longer able to control my emotions. With tears in my eyes, my academic exercise was transformed into a genuine and profound encounter with the holy.

—Dr. Gregory Lee Cuéllar, assistant professor of Old Testament, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary

PC(USA) Minute for Mission ~ Auburn Theological Seminary

The Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study dates back to 1892 and has the longest history of any denominational mission and prayer book in the United States.

Today’s PC(USA) Minute for Mission from the Mission Yearbook…

Auburn Theological SeminaryIf you ask pastors about how coaching influenced their ministry, each one will tell a different story, yet one with a common theme: hope. One describes how coaching helped her work with her congregation to discern and embrace a whole new direction of ministry when she had been doubtful that such a transformation was possible. Another tells how coaching helped her to keep from being consumed by a significant conflict in her church and to discover a sense of new direction to move beyond it. A third describes a basic shift in his whole approach to pastoral leadership: “Before coaching, my basic strategy was like a ‘whack-a-mole’ game at a carnival: I felt like I was always just reacting to the last thing that had popped up. Coaching helped me figure out what the church needed me to focus on and how to stay focused to do what I was called to do. The difference is amazing; this is what I’d always hoped ministry would be like.”

Paul tells the Romans that it is through steadfastness and encouragement that we have hope, and at Auburn Seminary we see its truth embodied in our pastoral-coaching program. Auburn’s mission is to “equip bold and resilient leaders,” and our coaches work one-on-one with pastors to build the resilience and encourage the boldness they need to lead their congregations into new vitality and opportunity. Together, they discover anew that the God of steadfastness and encouragement is at work in their midst, giving hope for a vibrant future of ministry and mission.

—Rev. Katharine Henderson, president, Auburn Seminary, and Rev. J. C. Austin, director, Center for Christian Leadership, Auburn Seminary

PC(USA) Minute for Mission ~ World AIDS Day

The Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study dates back to 1892 and has the longest history of any denominational mission and prayer book in the United States.

Today’s PC(USA) Minute for Mission from the Mission Yearbook…

Map of CongoOne of the many ways that God multiplies the loaves is through partnership. PC(USA) partner the Presbyterian Community of Congo (CPC) is addressing the needs of children orphaned by HIV and AIDS in the Democratic Republic of the CongoUNICEF estimates that as of 2009 more than 16 million children under 18 have lost one or both of their parents to AIDS. Ninety-three percent of these orphans live in sub-Saharan Africa. Despite these overwhelming statistics, significant progress is being made.

Trained volunteers from the Action Presbyterienne Contre la SIDA (APCS), the AIDS program of the CPC, work to address the needs of the many orphans in the area. To help carry out this work, the APCS created in many of the local communities charity committees responsible for visitation. The volunteers visit the families who take care of the orphans (sometimes relatives, sometimes not), encourage them, and assess their physical and emotional well-being. The volunteers also work with the local parish to identify ways to assist the orphan(s) and the host family by providing food, clothing, money for school support, etc.

The APCS has found that the most effective way of caring for an orphan is to encourage and support the whole family. When the family is healthy, all the members thrive.

—Joy Raatz, former facilitator, HIV/AIDS Initiative

PC(USA) Minute for Mission ~ Christ the King

The Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study dates back to 1892 and has the longest history of any denominational mission and prayer book in the United States.

Today’s PC(USA) Minute for Mission from the Mission Yearbook…

W hat can you do?” muttered the grief-stricken teenage son of a heart-attack victim during the dark morning hours at a community hospital. Having only been a hospital chaplain for a few weeks, I had no answer for him. Instead, I offered what I could: “I could pray with you or call your spiritual leader?” He shook his head and turned back into the dim room where his mother and siblings were.

I sat down at the nurse’s station, feeling completely helpless. I was only a student chaplain, there to fulfill a requirement for ordination. Yet somehow here I was: the chaplain to a grieving family; helpless.

It is easy to keep those who sit in darkness at arm’s length, whether they are grieving the loss of a loved one, drowning in debt, or dealing with abusive relationships. We can sit next to them and have no idea how dark their shadows are. That night I could no longer keep those sitting in darkness at arm’s length, and I saw with new clarity how that person was me. I and this family sat in death’s shadow that night—the death of a loved one and the death of the self-reliant me.

The reign of Christ is no longer an abstract concept for me. In Luke 1:78–79, we are reminded that even in the midst of the deepest darkness God will bring the dawn and somehow guide our lives and world into the way of peace. Christ’s reign can be embodied in us each time we act on the prayer “Thy will be done.” It is not our helplessness that makes us weak but our unwillingness to be the body of Christ for the world.

I was not helpless that night, but I had made a mistake. My mistake was thinking that what the family needed was me.

—Emily Hope Morgan, author of the blog Fight the Bees!