by Rev Rachel Nance Woehler, Interim Youth Minister, FCC Madisonville, KY
Trying to find a date for a Youth Sunday is always tricky. Often the school and vacation calendars don't seem to coincide with the stretches of ordinary time in the church calendar, and so, finding a Sunday when the greatest number of youth will be available and present is a challenge.
As we looked at our church's calendar, we determined the best Sunday available would be the second Sunday of Week of Compassion. We immediately thought, "We've never done it that way before." I knew that Week of Compassion's theme this year had to do with the world refugee crisis, but how do you help youth understand such a foreign tragedy occurring so far away?
Organizing this youth Sunday was daunting. Some of our youth are from the community and do not usually attend worship. Many had never spoken in front of a crowd, so they were hesitant to write and recite liturgy and prayers. We quickly typed in weekofcompassion.org to search the special offering Leader's Guide for worship materials. We were excited to find prayers, sermon starters, a dramatic reading, and all of the resources we would need to help the youth prepare to lead such an important Sunday in the life of our congregation. Along the way, the youth and the congregation learned about refugees, Ruth and Naomi, and how we might embody hope and compassion in the midst of tragedy.
We invited the youth to share struggles they've had in their own lives. One ninth grade girl gave her story of the loneliness and fear she felt during her family's divorce, moving to a new school, and while caring for an injured loved one. In our sharing we began to realize that at one time or another, we've all had many of the same struggles as refugees. We did not make it through these tough times alone; we had help from family and friends who became some of the most important people in our lives. We realized that while we cannot physically go and stay with all those fleeing war, we can spiritually go and stay through our support to Week of Compassion. We all know how important it is to receive compassion when we are struggling most. It can make all the difference in the world. It can be the difference between life and death.
That Sunday, the youth recited liturgy and prayers, led a dramatic reading of the scripture, and led the children's message. The ninth grade girl shared her story with the congregation in a sermon interwoven with the story of Ruth-the first time she had ever spoken in front of a large group. She now calls herself a preacher, and the congregation is still talking about that youth Sunday. We give thanks for the breadth and depth of the work of Week of Compassion.
First Quarter's Responses
DISASTER RELIEF AND EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE
DR Congo, Flood Relief
Ethiopia, Drought Relief
Mozambique, Drought Relief
South Sudan, Humanitarian Crisis Support
Tanzania, Refugee Response
East Asia and the Pacific
Fiji, Cyclone Relief (2)
Nepal, Earthquake Recovery
Taiwan, Earthquake Relief
Middle East and Europe
Israel/Palestine, Fire Recovery
Jordan, Syrian Refugee Response
Lebanon, Syrian Refugee Response (3)
Syria, Internally Displaced Response
Indiana, Fire Relief
Michigan, Flint Water Crisis
Mississippi, Flood Relief (2)
Missouri, Flood Relief
Pennsylvania, Spiritual and Emotional Support
South Carolina, Flood Relief (2)
Texas, Tornado Recovery (2)
West Virginia, Flood Relief
DEVELOPMENT, LONG-TERM RECOVERY AND REHABILITATION
Zimbabwe, Water Project
Latin America and the Caribbean
Ecuador, Agricultural Microfinance
Haiti, Women Entrepreneurship Training
Middle East and Europe
Bosnia & Herzegovina, Peace Building
Indiana, Habitat Rebuilding