Week of Compassion Establishes the Women’s Empowerment Fund

When we help to educate a girl, we help her whole family. 

To improve the life of one woman is to change the life of an entire community. 

This has been proven time and time again. 

We already know that successful sustainable development depends on women. Economic and social development around the world, including in North America, depends directly on how we support and empower women. 

Yet most women in the world still live on less than $1 a day. Girls are often expected to do manual labor and stay home to help take care of their families and are not given the chance to go to school. Women are not given the same opportunities to be educated and to be in charge of their own lives. 

We can change this.

We can make a difference! Together, as Disciples women, we can come together to help change the status and lives of girls and women. We can contribute to their education, training, and empowerment. We can accompany them in a bold way!

Week of Compassion has established the Women’s Empowerment Fund as a way to do just that. 

This fund will educate, train, and empower women all over the world and here in North America. The Women’s Empowerment Fund will honor our sisters in need. It will serve as a powerful vehicle for us as Disciples women to channel our joint resources specifically to improve the lives of women. 

Individually, you may feel powerless. But coming together and rallying around our sisters, leveraging our resources, starting giving clubs, and committing to improving women’s lives means that every single one of us can have an impact. 

The Women’s Empowerment Fund will benefit our partners through Global Ministries, including our efforts to support women in the Congo and the Middle East. It will also benefit our ecumenical partners like Church World Service and Foods Resource Bank, to support girls and women’s programs in the Republic of Georgia, Serbia, and India. Through all of our Disciples and ecumenical partners worldwide, Week of Compassion’s Women’s Empowerment Fund will change the lives of women. 

To donate, click here.

For more information on the status and progress of women and how we can join the efforts of the nations of the world in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, please visit this site

Stay tuned for more information on this powerful vehicle to improve the lives of our sisters. 

Thank you for your courageous compassion and for joining our efforts to empower women.

Weekly Roundup

Haiti: Homeless, With an Uncertain Future

The devastating Haiti earthquake that led to 1.9 million people losing their homes forced most into around 1400 temporary settlements in Port-au-Prince and other areas. Now thousands have been evicted from these sites without any viable alternative.

Learn More

 

Teaching "Human Rights, Peace, and Harmony" in Pakistan and Afghanistan

Church World Service works for peace in a volatile region and helps build the capacity of young people.

Learn More

Scholarships for Young People Available for Travel with Foods Resource Bank

FRB invites its young volunteers to come travel overseas. Thanks to a grant from the John Deere Foundation, FRB is pleased to be able to offer matching scholarships to help cover travel costs for young people interested in agriculture and growing solutions to world hunger.

Those interested in traveling should contact FRB with their request. If their application is accepted, the grantee will receive a scholarship for half the total travel cost. Check out the newsletter for upcoming overseas trips.

This is a great opportunity to visit the overseas program your growing project supports or to learn about life and agriculture outside the US. If you are interested in applying for a scholarship, please contact FRB at (888) 276-4372.

WoC Recommended Reading List

Week of Compassion invites you to expand your horizons! Follow this link for a recommended list of books, both fiction and non-fiction, that address the kinds of issues to which Week of Compassion responds in the world. Links to Amazon.com are provided. Consider starting a WoC book club!

Click here to learn more.

This Week's Responses

Disaster Relief & Emergency Assistance
Honduras, Tropical Storm Agatha
Oklahoma (2), flood relief
U.S., 2010 summer emergencies

Development & Long-Term Recovery
El Salvador, food security
Vietnam, clean water project
U.S., poverty initiative

Click here to read more.

Like (or love) Week of Compassion on Facebook

Did you know Week of Compassion is also on Facebook? In our efforts to update you on the work of Week of Compassion, we post updates online on our website, on Twitter as well as Facebook.

If you're one of the millions of people using Facebook to stay connected, like us here

Sometimes...

Sometimes it's a stove, fridge, and dishwasher. Sometimes it's a loss that is immeasurably more difficult.
 
Over the last few weeks, floods and tornadoes have struck a number of states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming. Some 30 people have died in these recent incidents, and another 20 perished in flooding that affected a campsite in Arkansas, including a family from King's Highway Christian Church in Shreveport, LA.

This weekend, tornadoes struck Billings, MT, and fires burned out of control in Flagstaff, AZ. As is the case with all disasters, we are monitoring these situations with our ecumenical partners, such as Church World Service, as well as through our regional and local ministries. Through Week of Compassion, the ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is able to be present at times of severe need.
 
While we might not be able to precisely predict when a disaster might strike, we can be prepared to respond. By contributing a gift to our designated Response Fund, you can help position us to respond quickly and faithfully when people are at their most vulnerable.
 
To contribute to our designated Response Fund, please visit us online

Sometimes, a simple gift can make all the difference. Your gift might just change someone's life.
 
Kyrgyzstan: WoC Partners Distribute Food Aid
 
Through our invaluable partnership in the ecumenical ACT Alliance, WoC is responding in conflict-torn Kyrgyzstan.

The ACT Alliance’s Central Asia Forum is using its well-established local network to provide food to people in need in the cities of Osh and Jalalabad. Local ACT partners based in the region are buying agricultural products from local farmers to avoid long and dangerous transport routes. In the first response to the crisis since last week, they have been able to facilitate the impartial distribution of 20 metric tons of rice and vegetables in the city of Osh.
 
Using local capacities to identify urgent needs and to facilitate direct supplies from local farmers is working well. At the same time, this approach is supporting local producers. ACT will continue developing this mechanism. A first assessment within the ACT network estimates that local farmers can supply up to at least 5,000 metric tons of potatoes, rice, flour, vegetables and livestock for slaughter from existing stocks. Local partners were able to quickly pre-finance the mobilization of food resources. 
 
Besides empowering local partner capacities in southern Kyrgyzstan, ACT is preparing 7,000 family relief packages in Bishkek which will be sent to Osh in the course of this week. Each package will include around 15 kgs of dry food rations and kitchen utensils for one family. HelpAge is complementing the packages with the provision of hygiene items. On June 23rd, ACT will send a team of experts to Jalalabad and Osh to assess the needs in the field and to identify priorities for further ACT operations. The mission is being coordinated with other international NGOs including Eurasia Foundation, HelpAge, MSF, Oxfam and others.
 
Thank you, friends, for your commitment to people recovering from devastating natural disaster and those grappling with the harrowing results of violence and human conflict. Each time you live into that commitment, you reach out with courageous compassion.

Weekly Roundup

Guatemala Flood

Through our partners at Church World Service and the ACT Alliance, Week Compassion is responding to the floods in Guatemala. Our friends at CIEDEG--Conferencia de Iglesias Evangelicas de Guatemala--are assisting 2,000 families with food supplies, hygiene kits and water filters. The assistance is being targeted for families in 41 communities.

Click here to learn more.

National Clergy Teleconference on Immigration

Friends,

Sojourners has invited clergy from across denominations to participate in an upcoming conference call on Immigration. Please take a look at the details below and consider joining in:

Recent legislation in Arizona and protests around the country have thrust immigrants and border security into the spotlight and our national psyche. But the conversation is often filled with fear-based misinformation. As faith leaders, we have the responsibility to educate our members about this controversial issue - from a theological foundation.

We know it's not an easy job to be both a pastor and a prophet for biblical social justice. Sometimes it can feel like these are conflicting roles! However, there are numerous biblical and contemporary examples of leaders who are doing both on the issue of immigration.

Join Sojourners for a national teleconference on June 24 to hear from local pastors and faith activists who have experience leading congregations and organizations on this controversial topic - the call is free and open to all faith leaders.

"Faithful Perspectives: A Conversation on Immigration and Your Congregation"
National Teleconference for Clergy and Faith Leaders
Thursday, June 24
1 to 2 p.m. EDT

RSVP today to receive the call-in number.

Bread for the World Receives Award

Congratulations to David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World, for winning a World Food Prize! The award is the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for food and agriculture.

Click here to learn more.

WoC Recommended Reading List

Week of Compassion invites you to expand your horizons! Follow this link for a recommended list of books, both fiction and non-fiction, that address the kinds of issues to which Week of Compassion responds in the world. Links to Amazon.com are provided. Consider starting a WoC book club!

Click here to learn more.

This Week's Responses

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance:
El Salvador, floods & mudslides
Guatemala, flood relief
Michigan, local development
Louisiana, flood recovery
Kentucky, flood relief
Tennessee, flood relief

Click here to read more.

Like (or love) Week of Compassion on Facebook

Did you know Week of Compassion is also on Facebook? In our efforts to update you on the work of Week of Compassion, we post updates online on our website, on Twitter as well as Facebook.

If you're one of the millions of people using Facebook to stay connected, like us here

Sympathy for Families

It is always tragic when disaster strikes. When it hits close to home, however, we mourn in a very different way.

Last Thursday night, a family from Kings Highway Christian Church in Shreveport, LA,  lost three of its four members to a flash flood that tore across their Arkansas campground. Anthony and Candice Frazier Smith, son Joey and daughter Cateline were camping when the flood hit. All but Candice were killed. Several family friends with whom they were traveling also died.

Candice's sister, Cherie, parents Kim & Paul Frazier and grandparents Betty & Vernon Webster sre all active in the Great River Region and have ties to Central Christian and Broadmoor Christian, as well as King's Highway.

Week of Compassion grieves with the Smith, Frazier, and Webster families, and the entire Great River Region. We give thanks for the lives of this precious family, and thanks for an extended church family, especially Kings Highway Christian Church and Associate Regional pastor Michael Elmore, as they have provided support in a time of uncertainty and grief.

A fund has been established to help Candice in these difficult circumstances. Those wishing to contribute can find out more information by visiting the Kings Highway website.

Thanks for and to all who reach out in the many ministries of compassion that make up who we are as a movement. We keep you in our prayers daily.

Brandon

International Guests Visit the States

Week of Compassion has invited the participation of three international women, representing several of our partner organizations, to the Quadrennial Assembly (QA) in North Carolina from June 23-27. Nana Doliashvili, from the Republic of Georgia, is the Director of the Tbilisi Youth House Foundation. Josipa Mihaljovic is from Bosnia and Herzegovina, representing the Bosansko Grahovo Women’s Association and our Build a Village integrative development program. In 2008, WoC Director Amy Gopp facilitated the Woman-to-Woman Pilgrimage to Bosnia and Croatia, along with the Office of Disciples Women, where they met Josipa and other program participants. Jovana “Vanja” Savic is from Belgrade, Serbia, where she works in communications for the Church World Service Balkans Office. All three women hail from an area in eastern and south central Europe where war, conflict, and displacement have been commonplace. Through WoC’s close partnership with Church World Service, we have supported all three women’s work. 

Nana, from post-Soviet Georgia, is now itinerating through the state of Georgia! Josipa is being hosted by women in the Tennessee and Michigan regions. Jovana is now traveling through Idaho and Montana, where she is speaking about human trafficking. Jovana has extensive experience in the field of human trafficking, particularly the trafficking of women, and will bless the Quadrennial Assembly with words of wisdom for how Disciples women might address this tragic reality. Jovana is the Rosa Page Welch scholarship recipient to QA, funded by the Council on Christian Unity.

Week of Compassion welcomes our special guests and partners to the United States and to Quadrennial Assembly! 

Southern Sudan Still in Need

As we continue to support the tremendous needs in the Darfur region of Sudan, we cannot forget the South. Southern Sudan faces the consequences of more than two decades of civil war, which is coupled with an influx of returnees, environmental factors and widespread tribal conflicts. The long period of drought and failure of the long rains in Eastern Equatoria state (since 2009) has had a severe adverse affect on the population, whose only harvest this year is expected to be in September. The March 2010 South Sudan Annual Needs and Livelihoods Assessment reports that 30% of households in Eastern Equatoria State are severely food insecure, with an additional 42% of households moderately food insecure.

Week of Compassion continues to contribute to our Action by Churches Together (ACT) response to reduce the impact of the drought on human lives and to support displaced households in Eastern Equatoria and Jonglei States. Our support will help 8,700 households by providing food and will also help 5,342 children in 14 schools in the region. This support will be complemented by peace-building activities.

Drought and Famine in Mali

In 2009, three regions of northern Mali experienced low, sporadic rainfall, half the usual average for these desert areas. Low rainfall has resulted in depletion of underground aquifers, excessive levels of salt in the few remaining wells, and a complete loss of grass and leaves on desert trees. The traditionally nomadic population in these regions usually follows routes defined by access to water and fodder. These traditional sources have largely failed, and by the end of April 2010, the little financial reserves used by the pastoralists to purchase and transport fodder and water for their families and livestock had been exhausted. By April 2010 reports of animal deaths were common, closely followed by malnutrition in children and now increasingly in adults. As most families are pastoralists living hundreds of kilometers from urban centers, these early figures are anticipated to be much higher as the situation develops. Families have been forced to move to non-traditional areas in search of food and water, causing tension between different ethnic groups, where the hosting community has little choice but to try and protect its limited reserves. Hundreds of herders have moved to northern Mali from Burkina Faso and Niger, and on finding limited resources in Mali, are now too weak to return.

At this point, the Malian Government’s Early Warning System estimated that 258,000 people in the main towns of Gao and Kidal were suffering from malnutrition in April. The Government distributed 6,970 metric tons of food to 3,310 families. Families who have moved to look for fodder and water for their animals are not able to access the distribution centers. These families at the edge of the towns are the most vulnerable. Often, women and children are the ones left behind while the men go in search of water and fodder with the remaining animals. In a rapid assessment, ACT Alliance members estimate at least 4,000 nomadic families are now camped on the edge of the town with dying animals. The situation is now critical with a need to distribute food, water and fodder to prevent major human death and a level of animal depletion from which it will take many years for families to recover. 

Through ACT, we are supporting grassroots community emergency committees that have already identified the most vulnerable and are distributing food, water and fodder. Thanks to our partnership with ACT, Week of Compassion is contributing to this rapid response to avert human and animal death in northern Mali. 

Gulf Oil Spill

We have received a number of calls regarding ways that people can help respond to the devastating oil spill along the Gulf Coast. 
 
1.  The actual clean up effort is dangerous. We do not want to expose untrained volunteers to that level of toxicity. Nor do we have the capacity to train a large number of people in those skills.
 
2.  Our primary partner in this sort of disaster is Church World Service. They, like many other organizations, are still figuring out the appropriate way to provide help, and are having conversations with fishers, shrimpers, and aid partners on the coast to see the best way to provide aid.
 
3.  As is our protocol when disasters occur in a region of our church, we have been in touch with the Great River Region about this. They are currently identifying and cataloging needs to which we can respond.
 
4.  We are still monitoring the situation. The nature of the damage done by an oil spill is different from other disasters such as earthquakes, and tornados. How the spill affects personal property and people's livelihoods may require a different type of response or assesment. If there are needs our friends and congregations can identify--specifically--please let us know so we can respond.

News from WoC Partner IMA World Health

After a decade of fruitful collaboration with IMA, the Protestant Church of Congo (ECC) has been selected as one of the principal recipients of a project grant funded by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
 
Learn More

Tropical Storm Agatha Takes Central America

On 29 May 2010, a low pressure system developed into a tropical storm over Central America, spanning the area from Guatemala to Nicaragua. Since then, the storm has killed at least 145 people - 118 in Guatemala, 17 in Honduras, nine in El Salvador and one in Nicaragua. Dozens of people are still missing after landslides and floods destroyed entire communities. El Salvador and Honduras have declared red alerts. In Guatemala, the government has declared a State of Public Calamity.

On 1 June, the Central America Action by Churches Together (ACT) Forum hosted a teleconference of national forum coordinators of affected countries. Results of the preliminary assessment by the forums indicate that each country has been affected differently. Worst affected is Guatemala, because of the eruption of the Pacaya volcano week before, and because of the strength of tropical storm Agatha. In Guatemala, ACT members and WoC partners have already supported clean-up activities at community level, provided shelter and assisted with evacuation of the population.

As an immediate response, the ACT Alliance schedules distribution of food, and non-food assistance, such as hygiene kits, kitchen utensils and water filters. Rehabilitation activities will includedistribution of seeds, agricultural inputs and tools and technical assistance for small holders, in particular those with children, women and elderly.

CWS is supporting efforts by fellow ACT Alliance members. Among those responding is the Conference of Evangelical Churches of Guatemala (CIEDEG), a long-time CWS partner.
 
Oil Spill in the Gulf

The damage done by the oil spill in the gulf has been shocking. For those who live in the Gulf, there are ways to get help and to contribute in safe, appropriate ways.

Needs Continue in Haiti

As Amy reflected earlier this week, Haiti continues to face challenges in rebuilding. Two of our partners, Chris Herlinger of Church World service and Rick Santos of IMA World Health, have recently made the media rounds, raising awareness of the need for continued work in Haiti. You can read Chris's story here and Rick's here.
 
Support the International Violence Against Women Act of 2010 so you can help stop violence against women and girls worldwide:

Currently, one in every three women and girls worldwide is physically, sexually or otherwise abused during her lifetime. In some countries it's two in three. If enacted by Congress, the provisions of this act would help millions of girls and women around the world escape violence and related poverty. Learn more here.

Eureka College--A Courageous Campus

Week of Compassion Salutes Eureka College for their work in response to the earthquake in Haiti. Though not a "congregation" in the strictest sense of the word, we celebrate the contributions of the entire campus by recognizing them as a "Courageous Campus" in our "Courageous Congregation" feature.

Haiti: Where to Begin?

What if we could simply wrap our arms around an entire island, and heal all that ails her? 

There are no words sometimes. An embrace seems easier—perhaps even more powerful. 

No words. After my first post-earthquake visit to Haiti last week, I am left searching for language to describe what I saw, heard, felt. 

How to describe a place so desperate, hurting, destroyed—and yet so colorful, vibrant and so downright engaging? 

Port au Prince: Tent City. City of angels. City of mass chaos and destruction. 

City of possibility.

But where do we start? How does one pick up a shovel and begin clearing the debris? I saw the tired and worn hands of Haitians struggling to survive, depending on small shovels, valiantly striving to conquer heaps of rubble so high they rival two and three-story buildings (the ones lucky enough to still stand, thanks to better construction methods). The Presidential Palace is now backstage to one of the largest urban camps in the world. But who is that man—blessed to have a job!—so meticulously mowing its lawn? Green grass against weathered white. The red and blue of the Haitian flag somehow ride the breeze and wave, proud yet pathetic. 

Young boys—and boys will be boys—long for toys in camps where there are none to be found. Plastic bottle tops double as toys, and for some brief moments under a hot and humid Haitian heat, they amuse. I ask the boys if they go to school and they beam. Favorite subject?  Multiplication and division. 

Go figure.  

The latrines, water purification system and tanks, and food we are supplying through Church World Service and the ACT Alliance hardly seem enough. And yet basic needs are met. Even those not affected by the earthquake come to the camps, assured of finding clean water and something to eat, not to mention community. 

Abject poverty or natural disaster? 

A need is a need is a need. 

“If we use the earthquake as the basis for long-term sustainable development in Haiti, it could be very good,” asserts Pastor Guillometre Herode of the Christian Center for Integrated Development, one of our partner organizations. Will we make the same mistakes of previous years? Can we love and—at the same time—get out of our own way? How do we hold Haitian hands as they embrace being the agents of their own development? 

Behind the plot of CONASPEH’s crumbled concrete—now cleared, thank goodness—lies a sanctuary of trees and tents. Children leave their tented classrooms to go home to either another tent or to sleep outside on the street for fear of sleeping inside, should there be another quake. CONASPEH shelters them not only with education but also with compassion. School is in session in this sanctuary of trees and tents; education leads to development. I meet with the committed CONASPEH Committee under the trees, next to the tented classrooms. In a mélange of French, Creole, and English, we pray and process.

Across town—way across town, in the shanty-town of Carrefour—a brand new House of Hope also stands proud and beautiful, almost as if in protest to the overwhelming ugliness of some of the worst destruction in the entire city. Needless to say, homes in the slums were not built to withstand earthquakes. The House of Hope, our long-time partner, is back up and running, thanks to our generous contributions, and seems to have hardly missed a beat. Hundreds of street children, former gang members, and “restavek” kids (children working as domestic servants) meet to enjoy a hot meal, learn about children’s rights and nonviolent conflict resolution, and find creative space to sing and dance in the new building and property. It is a sight to behold! 

Port au Prince: City of Possibility. 

What if we could simply wrap our arms around an entire island, and heal all that ails her? 

Funny, as I begrudgingly left the island, it was Haiti that had embraced me.

I am—yet again—left without words.

I trust that you find yourself in that embrace, too, as we continue to work together to heal and love. 

With immeasurable gratitude for your gifts to our response in Haiti,


Amy

Weekly Roundup

Week of Compassion Executive Director Amy Gopp has been in Haiti this week, and will be sharing her reflections on Haiti and detailing Week of Compassion's response when she returns. In this article, General Minister and President Sharon Watkins reflects on her recent visit.


Disciples Volunteering Staff are currently in Nashville, making plans for a response. The Tennessean features pictures of cleanup in Nashville, including the Opryland Hotel. 

 
Interested in what else Disciples Volunteering is involved in? Check out their website.


Though 2009 proved a difficult year for a world economy still trying to pull itself from a deep recession, sales of Fair Trade products went against the grain and continued a steady climb upwards. To participate in the Disciples' own Fair Trade Coffee Project, visit this site.


Tuesday's update mentioned fistula, a preventable, reversible condition that affects women in many regions of the world, including the Congo. More information about this condition is available at this site.


This Week's Responses:

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance

Tennessee, flood relief
Oklahoma (2), hail/storm damage

What Have You Missed?

Just yesterday, I was speaking to KK Wiseman, a Disciples pastor in Nashville, TN. She had just returned from a meeting with colleagues, who expressed surprise when she described the flood damage from which Nashville is recovering.  

After all, the Tennessee Regional Office was destroyed. Several of our churches experienced flooding, and the homes of many church members were lost. After a well-publicized failure of the national media, coverage of the flood damage made its way into the news cycle. 

And still, people close to the workings of the church in Tennessee missed it—the severity of the flood, and in a couple of cases, the fact that it even happened. As KK reflected, if we can miss something happening in the middle of the United States, what else might we miss around the world?

This past weekend, I attended an excellent symposium on the Congo, sponsored by our friends and denominational partners at Global Ministries. Though many of the issues facing the Congo—such as ongoing violent conflict, the role of mining in fueling the conflict, the use of systematic sexual violence to destabilize entire villages—are well documented, one speaker in particular, Muadi Mukenge, an advocate for women in the region, raised something else we often miss—an issue facing women in the Congo and in other regions facing severe poverty: fistula.

A tearing between a woman's birth passage and one or more of her internal organs, fistula often happens when women receive substandard obstetric care. Women with fistulas experience incontinence of urine and/or feces, which produces severe odor. Their families and communities often abandon or marginalize them.

What’s most amazing is that it only costs about US$450 to repair a fistula, and yet, it is a medical condition that largely goes untreated, mainly because people who can do something about it MISS IT. 

At Week of Compassion, we partner with great organizations like IMA World Health, Church World Service, and Global Ministries, all of which work to support community health issues like fistula across regions facing severe poverty. Through your partnership, we continue to make a difference all over the world. However, none of us can make a difference in the lives of people in North America or around the world if we don’t know what people are facing; part of reaching out in Courageous Compassion is spreading the word about the issues our sisters and brothers face all over the world. And doing so starts by asking a simple question:

What have we missed?

--Brandon

Weekly Update

Volunteering
This spring, Week of Compassion and Disciples Volunteering teamed up to support the Church World Service Ecumenical Build in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Several Disciples Churches joined the volunteer efforts. Josh Baird of Disciples Volunteering recently represented us at the Media Day event. Learn about this project by dropping by the website:

http://www.neighborhoodcedarrapids.org/

The Congo
Global Ministries is sponsoring a symposium on human rights issues in the Congo this weekend. Room is still available, if you can make it to Indianapolis on Friday and Saturday. This will be a great opportunity to learn about some of the important issues facing this conflict-torn, resource-rich region of Africa:

http://globalministries.org/calendar/congo-symposium.html

College Students!
The North American Region of the World Student Christian Federation, the oldest global ecumenical organization for students, is hosting an eco-justice conference in Ottawa, ON in June:

http://www.wscfna.org/ecojustice.html

In the News:
An independent scientist says the Gulf oil spill appears to be even larger than he previously thought. Steve Wereley of Purdue University told a House subcommittee that he estimates the well is gushing nearly 100,000 barrels a day; BP's official estimate is 5,000 barrels.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126975907

Nashville Update
The flooding in Nashville has a human cost, and a cultural cost as well:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126776761

Nashville Update

On the Ground

People from across the Nashville metro area and Middle Tennessee have been greatly impacted by the devastating floods a few weeks ago. Disciples congregations were not spared, as you know. The Christian Church in Tennessee office was ruined, several Disciples churches experienced severe flooding, and every single one of our churches has had members affected.  

This video shows a sample of the great havoc caused by the torrential downpours and flooding that ensued. Rev. Jay Hartley, pastor of Eastwood Christian Church, accompanied me through the most affected neighborhoods of East Nashville.

But while everywhere we turned there was incredible damage, there was also amazing work being done by our Disciples congregations. Disciples-led grassroots feeding programs are ensuring that people who lost their homes can count on a decent meal. Alameda Christian Church, New Covenant Christian Church, Woodmont Christian Church, and Iglesia Cristiana Discipulos de Cristo have reached out to meet the needs of their communities. Eastwood Christian Church kept the doors of its daycare center open longer, and employed additional caregivers, so that parents could join in the immediate relief efforts.

Vine Street Christian Church and the Disciples Divinity House of Vanderbilt University have also been hard at work-- gutting flood-damaged homes and cleaning out the ravaged regional office.

Nashville, TN

In this video filmed at the regional office, Disciples Volunteering Director Carl Zerweck speaks with Rev. Thomas Kleinert of Vine Street Christian Church and Eli Rolon, a seminarian at Vanderbilt and a resident at DDH.  

The Middle Tennessee churches are mounting a response, reaching out to their communities, and are eager to welcome volunteers to help rebuild homes of people who lost everything in the floods. Every church is ready to offer its skills, resources, and connections. Bellevue Christian Church and Eastwood Christian Church have each graciously offered their facilities to become mission stations for flood recovery efforts. We will rebuild Nashville, one neighborhood at a time. What better way to reach out with Courageous Compassion than to contribute to the rebuilding?  

We give thanks for you all -- daily. Thanks for your hope, commitment, and continued work. Let's see what we can do to make a difference in Middle Tennessee and around the world.

Brandon Gilvin

Flood Recovery Continues in Nashville

by Gregory Rumburg, Elder, Vine Street Christian Church

The rain just kept coming down….

It’s a common refrain within Nashville conversation this week. One part recollection. One part revelation of disbelief.

“My daughter got scared,” Dave, a local father, shared. “She’d never seen so much water.”

In water-ravaged neighborhoods Metro Nashville officials are directing people to separate their homes and personal belongings—items now known simply as flood debris—into four piles: 1) white goods and metal (like appliances); 2) construction and demolition debris (including lumber and windows); 3) vegetation (brush, limbs and yard waste) and 4) household trash (including carpet).

A fifth pile seems to be emerging—the one called, “Try to save.” A grandmother’s trunk from Ellis Island. Christmas ornaments chock-full of family memories of holidays past. Photos documenting a once-happy family now separated by distance, death or divorce… and now flood water.

The rain just kept coming down….

To donate to flood relief in Tennessee and Kentucky, please click here.

Floods Devastate Nashville

Nashville is our city. It is a Disciples city. Nestled in a valley, surrounded by the hills of Middle Tennessee, Nashville is a town with which Disciples have deep, strong connections. Disciples churches, large and small, are involved in life-changing ministry in its neighborhoods and suburbs. It is the home of the Disciples of Christ Historical Society and the Disciples Divinity House at Vanderbilt University. Enterprising Disciples pastors, such as Preston Taylor, and Disciples academics, such as H. Jackson Forstman, made important contributions to the church and the wider community while living in Nashville. Countless ministers were educated in Nashville. Talented musicians, teachers, activists, professionals of all stripes grew up in our churches there, and were nurtured by this vibrant city.

As a Church, we say that we are a “Movement for Wholeness in a Fragmented World.”

Well, Let’s MOVE!

As we reported in Monday’s update, Nashville was hit hard by a devastating flood this past weekend. You’ve likely seen media reports about damage to Nashville’s historic downtown, the Opryland Hotel, and other tourist sites. You may have caught a headline or two about people being displaced. 

The fact of the matter is—it’s bad. This is a disaster. The damage is worse than anyone would have anticipated or imagined. Tent cities established by the homeless have been washed away. People have lost their homes—and not living in an area considered at-risk for flooding, most Nashvillians have no insurance coverage. 

In partnership with our Nashville churches, Week of Compassion responded immediately; solidarity grants were rushed to our congregations and the Regional Office. We’re supporting grassroots feeding projects, helping our churches get people to safe places, and getting them clothed, and we’re helping churches provide childcare for parents who want to help their friends start getting cleaned up and salvaging what they can.

We are also in the middle of several conversations - with Disciples Volunteering, Tennessee Middle Area ministers, and Regional Minister Glen Stewart (whose Regional Office sits submerged in 3 feet of water) - about how we can continue to most effectively respond.

Make no mistake. We are organizing. We are on our way. And as with everything we do, we’ll get there quickly, and we’ll be there for the long haul.

A long-term recovery like the one Nashville faces takes resources. We will need your elbow grease very soon. But right now, we need to make sure that we have the resources—the funding—to make sure that we can commit to a long-term recovery process. Please—give as you are able, designated as “flood relief,” either by donating online or by sending a check to Week of Compassion, PO BOX 1986, Indianapolis, IN 46206.

In our estimation, Nashville has earned its reputation as a “Disciples City” by nurturing many creative, strong, smart leaders and vibrant Disciples communities of faith. Let’s return the favor, and make a mark by reaching out to the entire city with Courageous Compassion. Nashville needs us.

This week's responses:

Disaster Relief & Emergency Assistance

India (2), tropical storm in Bihar & W. Bengal
Tennessee (5), flood relief
China, earthquake
Mexico, earthquake recovery
Chile, earthquake recovery
Haiti, earthquake recovery

Development and Long-Term Recovery

Nebraska, food security
Michigan, food security
Georgia, health ministry
India, food security
Burkina Faso, food security

Flooding in TN and KY/Oil Spill in Gulf

We are responding to the severe flooding in Middle Tennessee and Central and Western Kentucky. Many people have been displaced, and damage is widespread. Disciples churches across the Nashville metro area have experienced flooding and damage, but report that emergency responders and volunteers helped pull together a compassionate, effective response. Vine Street Christian Church in Nashville has posted this blog entry about the damage and recovery. Clay Stauffer, senior pastor of Woodmont Christian Church, reports that many of their families have experienced tremendous loss as a result of the massive floods over the weekend. Week of Compassion is responding to these needs and others that emerge over this next week, as folks are better able to assess the overall damage. 

Regional Ministers Glen Stewart and Greg Alexander are currently contacting the churches to assess needs so that we will know the best, most appropriate ways to respond. 

As our denominational and ecumenical partners, such as Church World Service, gather information, we will also be a part of those efforts. If you would like to donate to flood recovery, you may do so online or by check to WoC, PO Box 1986, Indianapolis, IN 46206.

Oil Spill in the Gulf

Our colleague from the United Church of Christ, Florence Coppola, recently updated us on the oil spill in the Gulf Coast. This is an incredibly delicate situation. Any response needs to be supervised closely by experts who understand the enormity of the damage, and can respond in an appropriate, safe way. It is too dangerous to human health for unskilled, spontaneous volunteers to lend their good intentions. Florence notes the best ways to help:
 
The phone numbers below have been issued by the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN). LEAN is well-established in Louisiana, and can help provide everything from personal protection equipment for homeowners to working with scientists to test impacted land. This type of clean-up needs to be carefully supervised by experts - no one should just go out and try to do something, as it is very dangerous to human health. They will provide you with the most up-to-date information on volunteering.

To report oiled or injured wildlife, please call 1-800-557-1401.
To discuss spill related damage claims, please call 1-800-440-0858.
To report oil on land, or for general Community and Volunteer Information, please call 1-866-448-5816.

Click here to read a report from CNN on damage caused by the spill.

As always, thanks for your concern for others--we are grateful for all of you who respond out of courageous compassion. Stay safe, stay dry, and let us know how we can help!

Storms and Remembrance

Week of Compassion has been busy monitoring the damage caused by storms across the south. Our Church World Service partners report that assessments of the damage along an 80-mile corridor of destruction began on Monday following weekend tornados that killed 12 persons in Mississippi and Alabama. While damage is widespread in many towns and cities, our regional ministry colleagues have let us know that no Disciples churches were damaged.  

The American Red Cross has set up four shelters in Yazoo City, MS, where the Salvation Army also has four mobile feeding facilities. Many faith-based and National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters members have responded for debris clean-up, emergency roof tarping and clean up.

Outreach to rural and small towns is just beginning. AidMatrix and Coordinated Assistance Network resources are in place. Volunteer reception centers are in place in Yazoo City, Choctaw and other locations. Persons wishing to volunteer for this early state of rescue and response are asked to register at this site.

Church World Service is currently assessing the situation and developing a response which will likely include material resource requests, requests for training, and disaster recovery project development. We will keep you all informed as this appeal develops.

Neighbors Help Neighbors in Mississippi

Disaster News Network reports, “In some spots in a 17 county area of rural central Mississippi, people say it looks like a bomb went off. In others, it looks like the typical aftermath of a late spring rain. And those places could, literally, be next door to one another."

Read the full story.

Disciples Hurricane Recovery Update

John Longard, pastor of Disciples Christian Church in Hamilton, OH, sent us some reflections on his recent trip to the Gulf Coast on a mission trip to help with the ongoing recovery effort:

“From what I’ve been told, there is still 5 to 10 years of work to go in the Gulf. I know on the street where I worked in April, only 2 of 6 houses were occupied, It looked as if the only thing that could be done on one house was for the property to be cleaned, the house gutted, and new windows installed, Two houses had not been touched (one had weeds 5-6 ft high), and then, there was the house we were working on. Street by street, this scene is replayed over and over.

My hope and prayer is that we do not forget the “saints” of New Orleans. I pray we can find a way to bring the needed resources to the work that remains.”

Our partners in Disciples Volunteering and at the Westside Mission in New Orleans are always in need of volunteers. Interested in making a difference in the Gulf Coast? Check out the work our partners are doing and schedule a work trip:

Saying Goodbye to Two Great Leaders

It is with sadness and joy that we celebrate the lives of Dr. Spencer Austin and Rev. Lloyd Tatlock, two great leaders of the Church and beloved supporters and friends of Week of Compassion.

Rev. Tatlock was a long-term missionary and educator in South America and pastor in Dallas and Jacksboro, TX. Dr. Austin served the United Christian Missionary Society, the Church Finance Council, Christian Theological Seminary, and as Regional Minister for Indiana, as well as congregations in Oklahoma and Massachusetts. 

You can read tributes to these two great voices for hope and justice. To read Dr. Austin's tribute, click here; for Rev. Tatlock, click here.

 

Maricella's Story

“Maricella is an example to everyone,” we are told.

It’s true. An activist with an entrepreneurial streak, Maricella is a farmer, a community organizer who participates in her municipal government and a commission set up by Wendy Widman, the first lady of Guatemala, an advocate for children’s health, and a teacher who passes on her skills in farming and sewing to others. 

Though she understands Spanish, she speaks to us in an indigenous Mayan language as she explains the process by which she farms the small plot, showing us how she prepares her garden for planting, adding compost made out of rabbit waste and processed by worms. It’s an elaborate set-up and quite a project. Especially for something kept secret.

“When I first started going to meetings and getting involved,” Maricella told us, tears in her eyes, “my grandmother forbid me from participating. But now she has gotten older, and I can sneak around.”

The payoff for sneaking around comes in the form of fresh vegetables—food that feeds Maricella’s family and allows them to save the money that they might spend in the marketplace. However, in this region of Guatemala, women typically do not own land. Maricella relies on the generosity of her uncle, who owns the land on which she lives and farms, and she fears that her grandmother could find out and force her to quit.

Maricella is at once quiet and strong, and despite her shyness, her eyes radiate joy as she talks about her work—work made possible through the innovative work of Week of Compassion ecumencial partners, Foods Resource Bank and Church World Service, and the development wing of the Conference of Evangelical Churches of Guatemala (CIEDEG), a local partner.

In their recent book, Half the Sky, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn share story after story of women who, given the opportunity to participate in small-scale development and entrepreneurship, are able to turn their talents and skills into ways to feed and generate income for their families. Women, Kristof and WuDunn argue, are the key to sustainable development—families, communities, and nations need the talent, effort, and full participation of women in order to break cycles of poverty. 

Women like Maricella show us exactly what it means to live out Courageous Compassion. It was an honor to be in her presence and know that our churches have invested in her brilliance, her fearlessness, and her willingness to risk, giving rise to something truly special.

Maricella is what justice work looks like. 

I pray a prayer of gratitude for your willingness to make such an investment. It is humbling to see what our partnerships make happen. Thank you for your Courageous Compassion.

- Brandon Gilvin

Support U.S. Humanitarian and Development Assistance for Haiti

Urge Congress to Provide Needed Funds.

ACTION:  Urge your members of Congress to approve a supplemental spending bill for Haiti that includes robust funding for humanitarian aid and development assistance. 

BACKGROUND: On March 24, President Obama sent his request to Congress for a supplemental spending bill to support relief and reconstruction efforts in Haiti throughout the remainder of 2010. Given the extent of devastation and more than 3 million people affected by the January 12 earthquake, it is vital that Congress votes to support this funding. 

Disaster Aid: With more than 230,000 people killed, 300,000 people injured, and at least 1.7 million forced from their homes by the earthquake, Haiti will require ongoing support throughout 2010 to address emergency needs in health, nutrition, shelter, sanitation and more. The rainy season and hurricane season, anticipated for later this year, will only exacerbate this situation.

Reconstruction Assistance: In addition to immediate needs, the process of rebuilding Haiti requires a commitment to long-term sustainable development. At the March 31 donor’s conference the U.S. pledged $1.15 billion for Haiti’s long-term recovery and reconstruction. Congress must move quickly to appropriate necessary funds to begin to meet that commitment.

FAITH REFLECTION: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more” (Jer. 31:15; Matt. 2:18). Our hearts are broken by the suffering of the Haitian people. Yet our spirits have been uplifted by the witness of Haitian people, by their stories of courage and compassion, in being themselves the greatest first responders to those in need in their midst. The tragedy in Haiti must call forth our own and our country’s most compassionate response and elicit a more mutually respectful and mutually beneficial U.S.-Haiti relationship in the future.

Take action now >>

WoC, Partners Rush Aid to China Earthquake Survivors

A 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Northwest China early on April 14. Amity Foundation, our on-the-ground partner through Global Ministries, Church World Service, and ACT International, reports the quake struck Yushu County at 7:49 a.m. with a depth of about 33 km. The epicenter was only 30 km away from the downtown area of Yushu County of Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. And there have been many aftershocks. A multitude of schools and homes have collapsed. The initial death toll is reported to be 400, with over 10,000 injured. 

The China Earthquake Administration has initiated Grade II emergency response and dispatched rescue teams to the affected area.
 
An Amity emergency assessment team is preparing to travel and will reach the Yushu area tomorrow morning. There, they will be met by Qinghai Science and Technology Association, Amity's local partner in the area, and travel nonstop to the quake-hit area. The group will put up tents and carry out needs-based assessment.
 
Amity has begun preparing a preliminary appeal proposal which will be submitted to the ACT Secretariat within the next few days.
 
A Week of Compassion Response Fund grant has already been wired to Global Ministries for the Amity Foundation. If you would like to make a donation, you may do so online or send a check to WoC, PO Box 1986, Indianapolis, IN 46206. Thank you.

2010 1st Quarter Response Fund Report

The Compassion Response Fund is an allocation the Week of Compassion Advisory Committee makes each year to enable WoC to respond quickly to requests for emergencies, disasters and other urgent and unexpected needs that arise. For 2010 the WoC Committee has allocated $510,000 for the Response Fund; it is the single largest item in the WoC program budget. In addition to what is budgeted for the Response Fund, WoC receives designated gifts for the Fund - and for specific disasters, countries and situations - that further enhance our capacity to respond to emergency needs and appeals. To date WoC has made a disaster response on average of once every 3 days.

Below is a brief report of grants from the Compassion Response Fund and other designated disaster response accounts. Contributions for the Response Fund are needed and welcomed and will be used 100% for emergency response to humanitarian needs in the world.

Africa: [9,465]
$1,500 - Angola, emergency
$1,665 - Kenya, water wells
$6,000 - Uganda, mudslides
$300 -    Zimbabwe, water wells

East Asia and the Pacific: [2,500]
$2,500 – Fiji, cyclone relief

Latin America and the Caribbean: [307,500]
$2,500 – Argentina, tornado relief
$23,500 - Chile, earthquake
$281,500 – Haiti, earthquake

Middle East and Europe: [11,000]
$6,000 – Gaza/West Bank, humanitarian assistance
$5,000 - Iraq, assistance to IDPs & refugees

General: [6,000]
$6,000 - 2010 Rapid Response Fund
           Madagascar, cyclone recovery
           Zambia, flood relief

Domestic: [16,970]
$500 – California, vandalism to church
$2,500 – Florida, long-term disaster recovery
$7,500 - Louisiana, long-term hurricane recovery
$1,000 – New Jersey, flood relief
$4,000 - Texas, hurricane recovery
$720 – Texas, resettled refugee assistance
$500 - U.S., 2010 winter storms
$250 - U.S., northeast states storms appeal