We have many things to celebrate this week! Although here in the Midwest the snow is falling and the temperature is dropping, there is plenty to warm our hearts during this Advent season.
The Rev. Rebecca Hale, Week of Compassion Advisory Committee Chair, recently represented WoC at the Blitz Build in Galveston, TX. She sent us this dispatch:
"In 2008, Hurricane Ike devastated many buildings and homes in Galveston, Texas. The substantial stone building of Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) escaped significant damage, and the members of that congregation rapidly mobilized to begin using their building as a central aid station for the area. As the congregation began opening its doors to offer compassion for its neighbors, along with other Texas congregations, Week of Compassion, Disciples Volunteering, the Southwest Region and the Coastal Plains Area of the Christian Church (Disciples) joined with them in efforts to provide relief in the forms of food, companionship, funds, clothing, and volunteer assistance.
In those very early days, members of Central Christian Church realized that their nearest Disciples neighbor, Second Christian Church (just five blocks away!), was having a very different experience. Shortly after the storm, Carl Zerweck, Director of Disciples Volunteering, a ministry of Disciples Home Missions, heard about Second Christian Church and went to take a look.
He described the damage as "devastating." The building was almost completely destroyed and was in the process of being condemned by the city of Galveston.
Carl's visit started a journey that ended with the dedication of the newly rebuilt church building of Second Christian Church on November 22, 2009. Volunteers from Texas and Louisiana congregations worked to gut the majority of the building in the fall of 2008. Volunteers from across the country, working with Disciples Volunteering throughout the summer and fall, rebuilt the worship and fellowship space of this congregation. During the rebuilding, First Christian Church, Texas City, TX, and Central Christian Church, Galveston, opened their doors to house and feed volunteers with the help of congregations from across the Coastal Plains Area. During the dedication, prayers of joy were offered, songs with words like "If you can't make it through the storm/how can you say that God's your captain?" took on an added significance, and tears fell in hope and gratitude.
The new building looks beautiful. Second Christian has a wonderful new space in which to live out its mission and ministry for many years. Many people and organizations made this happen - WoC, Reconciliation Ministry, the Coastal Plains Area, Disciples Volunteering, the Southwest Region, and scores of volunteers from across the life of our church. Maybe the most significant partnership that emerged was the relationship between the neighboring congregations of Second Christian Church and Central. One refrain echoed throughout the week: "we had lost touch with each other as sister congregations and now we have found a relationship that has the potential to sustain us both and expand our ministries."
That was the spirit of the build: great joy at friends found and commitments made to stay in relationship with one another. There was also a deep sense of gratitude for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and what can happen when we come together to care for those who are devastated by events far beyond their control.
On another note, a woman came up to me to thank Week of Compassion. Immediately after the hurricane, she received some WoC funds through her pastor. She said without those funds she did not know what they would have done. Her house was flooded, and while insurance paid for most of the repairs, her husband could not work for four weeks and they would not have had money for food or basic needs during those early days. She said she was already planning on how she would be giving an increased amount to WoC so that others could experience the relief she experienced."
Jazz Carol Fest Rocks in Kansas City
Also to celebrate: Community Christian Church in Kansas City, Missouri, recently held their 14th Jazz Community Carol Fest, a fundraiser for Week of Compassion. Featuring many of the best performers from the Kansas City jazz scene, this year's Jazz Fest brought in more than $7000 for Week of Compassion. Over the years, this event has raised more than $100,000 for Week of Compassion.
And wow - jazz renditions of "Do You Hear What I Hear?" "Go Tell it on the Mountain," and "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch." What a great way to celebrate the season and contribute toward a Courageous Christmas!
Speaking of which, many of you have asked about alternative giving ideas for Christmas. If you are interested in celebrating Christmas by giving to Week of Compassion in the name of someone you care about, please check out our Courageous Christmas Campaign.
And back by popular demand: Advent reflections from The Rev. Bonnie Carenen, former Week of Compassion Intern, currently working with Church World Service in Indonesia. Insightful and inspiring, Bonnie's writing will help you live into this season in new ways.
I hope your Advent is filled with peace, joy, and anticipation.
- Brandon Gilvin