Following the Disaster: Disciples Volunteering on Tornado Response

Josh Baird, Director of Disciples Volunteering, has been hard at work connecting with regions affected by last week’s tornados.  He is currently in conversations with those regions and has dispatched long-term volunteers to connect with organizations that will provide opportunities for hands-on response in affected areas.  He offers the following update and reflection on responding to disasters:

As we read in the scriptures, Elijah’s mountaintop encounter with God came not in the destruction of storm, quake, and fire, but in the grace-filled silence that followed.

Likewise, survivors of disasters often meet God not in the disaster itself but in the time that follows. Shelter is offered, food is served, loved ones reconnected, help extended, and, through it all, hope and grace are shared. The difference, however, is that those who live through a disaster rarely experience the silence we read about in the story of Elijah.  Instead, the chaos continues long after the actual storm.

For those struggling in the chaotic aftermath of disaster, an outpouring of good will can be a blessing.  Yet not all help is equal; some well intended help actually creates more problems than it alleviates. Most communities hit by last week’s tornadoes are still under a curfew. Those hardest hit are cordoned off: roadblocks have been established, and people heading to these areas are being turned away. Several communities also are under a water boil advisory. Food supplies are limited. Where electricity remains out, gas stations are unable to operate their pumps. Available sleeping accommodations are needed for those whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged and for trained first responders whose presence is critical.

Regional and local church leaders from Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia are helping gather information and communicate needs as they emerge. Long Term Volunteers are making appropriate connections with response agencies in Illinois and Indiana so that Disciples Volunteering is in a position to channel willing servants when the time is right. Initial work trips will be limited, however, to those who are within a few hours’ drive. To truly be helpful, folks must be able to drive in, serve a half a day or so, and then drive home that night. Initial work groups must also be completely self-contained, carrying everything they might possibly need (food, water, ice, gas, tools, first-aid kits, bug spray, work gloves, etc.).

There will be a time for providing hands-on assistance, a time when help is needed with clean-up and debris removal. That time will come soon enough; but it is not yet. It is important that we understand what people are going through right now, and that we give these communities a chance to bring a little order to the chaos they have experienced. They will pause, soon enough, and find some brief moments of silence. They will rest, momentarily, and begin to identify needs that others can help them meet. Then it will be appropriate for others to join them, to offer hope, healing, and a helping hand.

The outpouring of support after a disaster means a great deal to those who are struggling in the midst of on-going chaos. Until these communities are ready to receive outside servants, please know that your prayers and your gifts to Week of Compassion make a critical difference. Until the time is right, answering the call to PRAY, PAY, and STAY makes the biggest difference. Through actions such as these, God is experienced as surely as Elijah experienced God on that mountain; God is present before our presence is appropriate. Thank you for your continued compassionate response.

Around the World, Around the Year: Syria, Congo-Brazzaville, and the DRC

Crisis in Syria

As Week of Compassion accompanies communities across the United States in their recovery efforts after last week’s treacherous tornadoes and weather, WoC is also responding to needs in the rest of the world.  Most notably, the ongoing political crisis in Syria has caused tens of thousands to be caught in the crossfire between government and opposition forces.  As a result, thousands of Syrians have fled their homes, choosing to escape the violence.  Many have migrated to neighboring countries, and many are arriving to more stable areas of Syria.  Rough estimates indicate that large numbers of internally displaced persons are arriving into the capital of Damascus from high-conflict areas throughout the country. Specific numbers of the displaced are not available, but entire neighborhoods and villages have reportedly been deserted.

The deteriorating economic conditions led by the 11-month conflict and sanctions imposed on Syria have created high levels of unemployment and inflation. Since March 2011, the Syrian pound has depreciated against the U.S. dollar by nearly 70 percent, significantly affecting ordinary Syrians who now find it difficult to pay for food, rent and fuel. The rise in prices is driving lower-income Syrians more deeply into poverty.  In short, the losses in both income and in the value of currency; the rise of unemployment; staggering inflation; and the lack of security have created a pressing humanitarian situation among Syrians. The danger posed to Syrian children by the current unrest is compromising their well-being and rights to protection and development. The emergency is also undermining primary healthcare and jeopardizing child nutrition and health. 

Through Church World Service and International Orthodox Christian Charities which has a long track record in responding to humanitarian emergencies in the Middle East, particularly to the needs of the displaced, WoC is responding to the tragic humanitarian crisis in Syria.  CWS material goods such as blankets and health kits have already been sent and baby kits and more hygiene kits are on the way. 

Additionally, CWS is supporting immediate needs of displaced Syrians including rent assistance; fuel; livelihoods; and proper food; as well as non-food items such as bedding and other household items, clothing and psycho-social assistance.   Our CWS-supported response will be based throughout the Middle East region in countries where the displaced are now living.

Congo-Brazzaville 

More than 200 people have been killed and thousands injured in a series of explosions in Congo-Brazzaville last week. Congolese officials say the explosions were caused by a fire in an arms depot on Sunday March 4th.  Small detonations continued to shake the capital of the Republic of Congo for a second day on Monday.  The series of explosions were so violent that they flattened houses, businesses and churches, killing hundreds and trapping countless others under the falling debris.  The blast blew out windows in neighboring Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The number of dead and injured is expected to increase as rescuers clear the debris around churches and other places where large number of people were gathered. 

A member from our partner church, the Church of the Disciples of Christ in Congo, reports that many homes haves been destroyed and several members are now homeless.   He writes,” Around 9:00 am (Sunday morning, March 4th), a serious catastrophe occurred.  I live approximately 75 meters from army Camp Blende.  At this very moment, I am outside because the house has been completed flattened.  All of the surrounding houses have been flattened.  More than 200 have died and not less than 1000 have been injured and this is only the preliminary report.  Please ask our friends there to pray with us.”

Additional information can be found here.

Through Global Ministries, Week of Compassion immediately responded to this tragedy.  We hold our Disciples sisters and brothers in the Republic of the Congo in our hearts and prayers.   

Democratic Republic of the Congo

A grave malaria epidemic has broken out in the Disciples area of Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Our sisters and brothers in the Congolese Disciples community have run out of medicines. Our dear colleague, the Rev. Bonanga has requested financial assistance.  The village of Monieka, which is one the Disciples centers, has had 1,200 cases of malaria.  406 people have died with two thirds of them being children under the age of 5.  Malaria is also present in the Disciples areas of Mbandaka, Bolenge, and Ikengo.  Week of Compassion and the Africa Area Office of Global Ministries have already responded to the needs of our family there and will continue to do so as long as needs emerge—to be certain that they are getting the medicines and care they need. 

We are incredibly grateful for your continued support, partnership, and courageous compassion which enable us to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world. 

WoC Already Responding to Tornadoes and Severe Storms

Following the swath of tornados that struck Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois last week, more tornados and severe storms have struck communities across the Midwest and Southeastern United States, with areas in southern Indiana and northern and eastern Kentucky sustaining incredible damage.  Though no Disciples congregations sustained damage and the most severe damage occurred in areas with little, if any Disciples presence, we are still reaching out to impacted communities.

Through our committed partners and in collaboration with our Regional Ministry Offices, Week of Compassion has been putting your resources and prayers to work, providing grants for individuals who have lost their homes from Missouri, Indiana, and Kentucky, as well as providing resources for heating oil for families who have lost power in Eastern Kentucky following the tornado.

Our partners at Church World Service are also hard at work.  Their Emergency Response Specialists are in contact with response agencies to respond to immediate needs for material goods such as CWS Cleanup Buckets, Blankets and Hygiene Kits, collecting information about needs from state Volunteer Agencies Active in Disaster (VOADs), from interfaith organizations, and from faith leaders in the affected communities.  We will also be working with CWS Emergency Response Specialists as they liaise with local, state and federal organizations and agencies to train and prepare the communities for their long-term recovery.  Material goods, including cleanup buckets and hygiene kits have already been shipped to Kentucky for response in affected areas.

Disciples Volunteering has begun connecting with local grassroots organizations that are planning clean-up and other hands-on response, and will provide that information as it becomes available.  Most work is still not a good match for unskilled volunteers, so we remind you to PRAY, STAY, AND PAY to make the most impact.

We give thanks to God, the One who provides shelter in the midst of tragedy, strength to those who bring skill and support, hope for those most deeply affected, and for your concern and commitment at this time.

Severe Storms and Tornados Move Across the Midwest, Southeast

Week of Compassion has been actively following reports of storm and tornado damage across Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, and West Virginia, and has been in touch with Regional and Area ministries in affected areas, all of whom are working diligently to collect information about needs that may emerge over the next few days.  Thus far, we have received few reports of damage to our congregations or to the homes of any of our members, but we are still confirming details and assessing needs. Several Churches in the Ozark Lake Area of the Christian Church in Mid-America are organizing efforts to help their communities, and Week of Compassion will be supporting those efforts.  We will continue to be in contact with our Regional and Congregational colleagues to see if there are ways we can help.

Likewise, we have connected with our partners at Church World Service. Through this partnership, CWS Emergency Response Specialists are in contact with response agencies to respond to immediate needs for material goods such as Clean Up Buckets, blankets, and hygiene kits. The specialists are collecting information about needs from state VOADs (Volunteer Agencies Active in Disaster), from interfaith communities, and from faith leaders in the affected communities. As affected communities move from the response phase to the recovery phase of the disaster, CWS Emergency Response Specialists will work with local, state and federal organizations and agencies to train and prepare the communities for their long-term recovery. CWS, its communions and partners will provide training for construction management, volunteer management, emotional and spiritual care, case management and other specialized activities as needed. CWS will also provide grants to long term recovery committees to help them in the early stages of their activities.

We have also been in contact with Disciples Volunteering as we consider ways that we might be able to contribute to long-term recovery in these affected communities.

In the meantime, more severe weather is expected across the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic states.  We will continue to monitor these storms, reach out to our partners, and keep all communities affected by these storms in our prayers.

If you would like to reach out in Courageous Compassion, please consider a gift to support needs that may emerge out of this storm system or future disasters.

Our prayers are with all of you in this time of unpredictable weather!

Sharing Brings Joy.  To Us. To Others. To God.  

Sharing Brings Joy

Jill Michel, pastor of South Joplin Christian Church, shares her story about partnering with Week of Compassion in her community following tornado damage last spring. 

First Christian in Joplin and South Joplin Christian Church both provided impeccable leadership in responding to the needs of their community following the tornado.

Sharing brings joy in so many ways, no matter the devastation or challenges we face.

Thanks be to the God who transforms and asks us to be part of the transformation!

Visiting "Hubs of Compassion"

Of the things that excite me about this time of year, as we celebrate the Week of Compassion, what may excite me the most is the visits I get to make to congregations all over North America and hear their stories. From Valparaiso, IN to Scottsdale, AZ, I’ve spent the last several weeks hearing congregations speak of their own generosity and commitment. It’s been exciting to see congregations on the front lines of ministry in their own communities, and hear from them about how their sharing through Week of Compassion brings joy to their own sense of call.

I’ve gotten to meet a family whose farm has hosted a Foods Resource Bank growing project that has supported food security projects for farm families all over the developing world, as well as meet folks from a suburban congregation that has generously supported that growing project. I’ve spent time on the east coast with a congregation whose youth group has gone on hands-on mission trips hosted by Week of Compassion partners for years, and speak to folks in the heart of the desert considering a first time mission work trip to respond to damage left behind by last spring’s tornadoes.

Over coffee hour or potluck dinners, I find myself privileged to share conversations about ministry, about giving, about sharing resources. I find myself privileged enough to discuss questions that move people deeply: What do you hear now about the recovery in Haiti, the response in Joplin, the famine in East Africa? And, of course the follow up questions that speak to what it means to be part of the church: what more can we do? and how can we help?

So often, the words I hear-filled with hope and compassion, ring as truly sacred as the words we share around the communion table, and I am reminded by the deep commitment and sense of call that I hear in the stories and questions Disciples share that beneath the liturgical language and the casual conversation we share lies the same commitment: We are the body of Christ, united in and despite our brokenness, and as the body, we are called to heal those who are displaced, outcast, and those who go without.

Because of your commitment to those whose communities face recovery, those displaced by violent conflict, and those who are working to develop new ways to feed their families, each of our Churches serves as a hub of Courageous Compassion: a place that not only transforms the lives of others through sharing, but a place that is itself transformed. I am grateful for each of you, and I look forward to seeing the difference your generosity will make

Thanks,
Brandon

Week of Compassion Offerings Change Lives

The Monday after the actual “Week” of Compassion last year, I received an e-mail from our brothers and sisters in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  They had decided to organize a “Day of Compassion” in all of the Disciples congregations in Mbandaka.  As a result of their worshipping together, they received an offering that day of $300, which they sent to Week of Compassion.  An offering of $300, sent by our Congolese Disciples family as a contribution to our annual Week of Compassion special offering.  Out of abject poverty and not far from one of the most horrific humanitarian crises in the world today, comes this gift.  A glimpse of God’s generosity and grace modeled by those many would consider the least likely to model such qualities.  

Once again, Week of Compassion receives good news FROM the poor.

The gifts from last year’s Week of Compassion were at work all year-long, in ways that many of us never expected.  Disasters are the “expected unexpected” and so we never know when our compassionate response may be needed.  In situations of chronic poverty, hunger, displacement, and disease, Week of Compassion gifts turn into wells for clean, accessible water; seeds and tools that lead to a family’s food security; life-saving medicines; a microloan for a woman victim of war with no other means to make a living; shelter for a family fleeing from violence, oppression, or persecution.  We are, truly, around the world, around the year.  As you know, we are present all over the world thanks to our partnerships with our own Disciples ministries and ecumenical agencies.

The long-term, sustainable development work that Week of Compassion makes possible happens through our operational partner organizations, such as Church World Service.  Thanks to your gifts, people are not only relieving their hunger, they are ensuring a sustainable future.  Take a look.

Thanks to your gifts, Maria is able to make breakfast.

Thanks to your gifts, Week of Compassion has supported partner organization IMA World Health’s health programs across Haiti.  Take a look at how you’ve helped provide shoes to children.

Thanks to your gifts, Week of Compassion offerings turn into breakfast for Marias all over the world; shoes for children across the globe; and access to sustainable food, medical care, water, and education in places where it would otherwise not be found.  And of course, Week of Compassion offerings also turn into solidarity grants for those right here at home, in the U.S. or Canada, when our own Disciples have been affected by disaster and are in need.  Week of Compassion is our ministry.

As we journey throughout the rest of this Week of Compassion as well as into Lent, may we not only recommit ourselves to bringing good news to the poor, in the form of our gifts, tithes and offerings, but also to learn from the poor as we model the generosity and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in so doing, change lives.

Praise be to God for the privilege of giving!

A Week in the Life of Your Week of Compassion

At long last. The last FEMA trailer in New Orleans and surrounding areas has pulled away.  As I intently watched the news the other evening, I could hardly believe my ears and eyes.  Finally, those ubiquitous white and impersonal FEMA trailers that so many of us got used to seeing along the Gulf South are gone.  More than six and a half years later, but the last one has left.  Life does move on.  Somehow. 

And we were there.  Thanks to your offerings from so many previous “Weeks” of Compassion, we were able to respond immediately to the 2005 Hurricanes. People—our sisters and brothers—who were living in those FEMA trailers were assisted in moving into their homes again.  Futures were brought into clearer view.  Churches were transformed.  Lives were changed. 

My mind skips then to the earthquake in Haiti in January of 2010. Who could have ever expected such a disaster?  For what seemed like many, many long days and nights, the world seemed to stand still and all eyes were focused on Port-au-Prince.  So many Disciples’ hearts are there!  WoC responded within hours to the emergency.  But how we were able to do so?  Because you had contributed to prior “Weeks” of Compassion, knowing, entrusting, giving to a shared, common mission that works to respond to human need and suffering an average of every other day. 

The severe storms that raged through the South this spring were totally unanticipated.  WoC was there.  Thanks to you.  In Japan following the tsunami and earthquake and nuclear disaster, WoC was there, thanks to you.  In the Philippines following the recent typhoon, we were there.  Across Africa we are there.  Our Compassion Response Fund is at work, thanks to your gifts, as it witnesses to the love of Christ shown through our Disciples family.  That same Compassion Response Fund responds to those in distant places that we may never meet but also to our very own when disaster strikes at home.  We stand ready to serve anyone in need—even if that might be you one day. 

As we look to the current crises worldwide, and the ways that your gifts, tithes, and offerings will make such a difference this Week of Compassion, I invite you to reflect especially on the food crisis happening in our world today. There are now approximately 925 million people in our world who are hungry.  925 million—yes.  Every day, almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes.  We are facing the worst hunger crisis in 50 years.  We know there is a horrific famine in the Horn of Africa.  And now, across the Sahel region of Africa, a food insecurity and nutrition crisis is threatening the lives of even more hundreds of thousands of our sisters and brothers.  Acute food insecurity in West Africa is plaguing Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, and Chad. 

I am pleased to report that because of your gifts to Week of Compassion supporting the on-going humanitarian response since September 2011 in the Horn of Africa, we have had a positive impact on the emergency with some parts of South Somalia no longer in famine. However, famine is expected to persist in areas hosting displaced persons in other areas of Somalia like Mogadishu and the Afgoye corridor.

Effects of the famine on livelihoods, cereal availability as well as the potentially late and possibly below-average 2012 short rainy season harvest are expected to result in large areas of Southern Somalia remaining in emergency phase until August 2012. Sanitation facilities in targeted camps also remain inadequate. Currently, 4800 households (approximately 28,800 persons) will be served by 350 latrines whose construction is on-going.  Thanks to WoC and our support of the CWS and ACT Alliance Horn of Africa relief efforts, we are making a difference in the lives of those in the camps and fighting for their very lives.  We are there.  

As we reach out to those literally starving to death or on the brink of starvation across Africa, we also reach across the Atlantic to Eastern Europe.  Europe continues to do battle against extreme weather, as plunging temperatures and heavy snowfall sweep through large parts of the continent. The cold snap that has killed almost 500 people to date—about a quarter in eastern Europe, and many of them homeless—shows no signs of stopping, while hundreds of Eastern European villages remain cut off because of cold and snow.  Thanks to your WoC gifts, we are responding through Church World Service to protect the most vulnerable population from near-freezing temperatures.   In Serbia, CWS and its local partners have intensified outreach work to remove street children from the streets and accommodate them in drop-in centers or in day care centers, both operating under emergency circumstances and open 24 hours.  CWS will also provide 200 warm blankets and hot meals to Roma children and their families living in settlements and will accommodate 70 vulnerable people in the Smederevo area of Serbia in a Red Cross-run residence.  And remember all those Blanket Sundays many of you have participated in?  In Moldova, just like in Serbia, we are providing 500 warm blankets to the most affected population. 

In addition, we are monitoring the rapidly deteriorating situation in Syria.  And Libya.  We are supporting a new mission station at South Joplin Christian Church in Joplin, Missouri. We are providing seeds and tools to farmers in Central America and the Caribbean through our Foods Resource Bank agricultural assistance projects.  We are in touch with our sisters and brothers in New Zealand who are still reeling from the effects of the earthquake in Christchurch so many months ago. 

And this is but a mere week in the life of Week of Compassion.  Made possible only by you. 

Praise be to God who continues to give us all we need to ensure that others have what they need. 

Responding to Domestic Disasters: Joplin, Tuscaloosa, and the Gulf Coast

Disciples congregations are generous communities, always ready to answer the call to serve. This year, this has been evident in the enthusiasm churches have shown in registering to volunteer as part of the recovery in Joplin, MO. Week of Compassion celebrates its partnership with Disciples Volunteering, and with all of you. Currently, the number of volunteers wanting to volunteer in Joplin outnumbers the number of spots available through August at the Disciples Volunteering Mission Center at South Joplin Christian Church. Likewise, the Long Term Recovery Committee (LTRC) serving Joplin is still collecting information regarding the number of volunteers for which it will be able to provide work. As committed partners of the LTRC, we do not want to provide more volunteers than there is work. Likewise, as committed partners to our Disciples congregations, we do not want to put work groups from our churches in situations where they travel-sometimes great distances-to Joplin, only to find that there is no organized work for them to contribute. 

Disciples Volunteering is clear about its mission of disaster response: though they may not be the first folks on the scene of a disaster, they are committed to the long-term rebuilding of communities, and are among the last ones to leave a community to which they have made a long term commitment. While the Joplin Mission Station may currently be full, there are still excellent opportunities to respond to significant needs in Tuscaloosa, AL (currently around 20% of its needs are open) and there are many spots available for groups interested in volunteering in Slidell and Lake Charles, LA. We encourage all of our incredible mission groups across the country to consider these areas as places to serve. 

For more information, please visit Disciples Volunteering here

Children’s Disaster Services 

Since 1980, Children’s Disaster Services, a ministry of Church of the Brethren and partner of Week of Compassion, has met the needs of children by setting up child care centers in shelters and disaster assistance centers across the nation.

Specially trained to respond to traumatized children, CDS volunteers provide a calm, safe, and reassuring presence in the midst of the chaos created by natural or human-caused disasters. More information is available here.

The volunteer workshops offer training in care for children who have experienced disasters. Hosted by local congregations, the workshops also offer participants a taste of living conditions in disaster-affected areas as they sleep overnight in church facilities.

Once participants complete a workshop and undergo a rigorous screening process, they may apply for certification to serve with CDS as a volunteer. Although many volunteers are motivated by faith, CDS training is open to anyone over 18 years old.

Cost is $45 for early registration (three weeks prior to start date). The fee includes meals, curriculum, and one overnight. Cost for registrations mailed less than three weeks in advance is $55. Workshops are limited to 25 participants. A Workshop Registration Form in pdf format is available here

Please check out the list of upcoming trainings to see if one is near you:

 

St. Clairsville, Ohio

March 9-10, 2012

Thoburn United Methodist Church

209 East Main Street

St. Clairsville, OH 43950

Contact - Linda Hudson, 417 740-695-4258

 

Dallas Center, Iowa

March 9-10, 2012

Dallas Center Church of the Brethren

1207 Ash Avenue

Dallas Center, IA 50063

Contact - Carol Hill, 515-677-2389 (h), 515-240-6908 (c)

 

Snellville, Georgia

March 16-17, 2012

Snellville United Methodist Church

2428 East Main Street

Snellville, GA 30278

Contact - Mike Yoder, 404-597-2137 or Carrie Yoder, 770-634-3627

 

South Haven, Minnesota

March 16-17, 2012

Koinoina Retreat Center

7768 Pilger Ave. NW

South Haven, MN 55832

Coordinator - Lorna Jost, 605-692-3390 (w), 605-695-0782 (c), or

Children's Disaster Services - 410 635-8734 or 800 451-4407 option 5

 

New Carlisle, Ohio

March 16-17, 2012

New Carlisle Church of the Brethren

219 N. Main Street

New Carlisle, OH 45344

Contact - Rita Lane, 937-845-2066 (h), 937-657-7325 (c)

 

Cerro Gordo, Illinois

March 23-24 2012

5:00 PM Friday - 7:30 PM Saturday

Cerro Gordo Church of the Brethren

102 E. Durfee Street (PO Box 45)

Cerro Gordo, IL 61818

Contact - Rosie Brandenburg, 217-763-6039

 

La Verne, California

March 24-25, 2012

8:30 a.m. Saturday - 10:30 a.m. Sunday

La Verne Church of the Brethren

2425 E Street

La Verne, CA 91750

Contact - Kathy Benson, 909-593-4868 (h), 909-837-7103 (c)

 

Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania

April 13-14, 2012

5:00 PM Friday - 7:30 PM Saturday

Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren

777 South Mt. Joy Street

Elizabethtown, PA 17022

Contact - Lavonne Grubb, 717 367-7224 (h) or 717 368-3141 (c)

 

Louisville, Ohio

April 27-28, 2012

5:00 PM Friday - 7:30 PM Saturday

Center Church of the Brethren

2811 Ravenna Ave. NE

Louisville, OH 44614

Contact - Sandra Humphrey, 330 603-9073 or leave a message at 330 875-2064

 

Domestic Disaster Ministry Forum Early Bird Registration

Register by March 1 for the March 19-21 CWS Forum on Domestic Disaster Ministry in New Windsor,

Maryland, and enjoy an early-bird discount of $120.

Held every two years, the forum is a unique gathering of leading scholars, theologians and practitioners in the field of disaster response and recovery, and a great opportunity for continuing education, networking, and dialogue. Participants and speakers come from the broad interreligious community.

Speakers will include Ruama Camp, founder and director of GRACE Community Services, the first African-American founded disaster case management and education ministry in the country, David L. Myers, Director of the Department of Homeland Security's Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Amy Oden, Dean and Professor of History of Christianity at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., and many others. 

For more information and registration, go to www.cwserp.org or contact Tim Shenk, tshenk@churchworldservice.org, 212-870-2728.

We thank you for your gifts, offerings, and commitment. Your courageous compassion is making a difference. To God be the Glory!

Trauma Healing and Resilience in Haiti

The impact of the earthquake that devastated Haiti more than two years ago is still enormous. While Week of Compassion has responded faithfully to the plethora of needs that emerged as a result of that overwhelming disaster—including material assistance in the form of food, water, blankets, medical supplies, and hygiene kits—we also support spiritual, pastoral, and psychosocial care for those who have experienced trauma. To that end, Week of Compassion supports the STAR Program (Seminars on Trauma Awareness and Resilience) of Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. STAR was established soon after 9/11 and has been working in the areas of trauma healing, recovery, and resilience ever since. In the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, an ecumenical partnership was created to form and fund STAR-Haiti. Week of Compassion is one of the founding partners and faithful supporters of this life-changing work across Haiti. 

Now staffed and operated by Haitians, they refer to the trauma healing seminars as “Twomatizasyon ak Wozo,” which means “Trauma and Resilience.” “Wozo” is a local tree that bends with the wind but then rights itself and does not break. It is a symbol of resilience and strength, able to survive regardless of the circumstances. Many grassroots women’s movements across the country use this tree as an emblem. There are even songs explaining how resilient the wozo trees are.  

We are delighted to share with you some good news stories of just how the Wozo trainings are changing people’s lives throughout Haiti. 

Amost Saint Louis in Grand-Anse
Amost Saint Louis, one of our former Wozo participants who attended STAR I and STAR II seminars, is actively involved in working to make people in his community resilient. His motivation to reach as many people as he can is incredible.

Photo Credit: STAR-Haiti

Immediately after receiving the first level of Wozo training, he created a Club named The Wozo Club with 15 other people who are pastors, teachers, merchants, professionals and youth leaders. The members of the club meet every Monday from 4:00 to 5:30 PM to study the Creole version of the STAR trauma healing and resilience manual. His goal is to help those people become resilient and to prepare them so that they can create other Wozo clubs in their own communities.

A pastor who attended one of his presentations in October 2011 said to him: “I used to be violent every day by the way I used to talk to the congregation, and I thought it was normal to do so. I decided to change this because I realized that some members of my church left because of my violent language and attitude.”

By his insistence, Amost has already received the agreement of his pastor to integrate a STAR training in his church for a group of leaders who are being trained to become Sunday school teachers. Because of his involvement and his experience, Amost was chosen by the Wozo staff to coordinate the two trainings that will be held in Jeremie during this next year of the program. 

Kestia Dalce in Leogane
After receiving STAR I and STAR II training, Kestia Dalce from Leogane has also decided not to keep the training for herself.

Photo Creit: STAR-Haiti

In Carrefour, an area near Leogane, she has already organized a training session for 40 women in an association named Women of Tomorrow. Satisfied with and excited by her presentation on trauma and resilience, the women are looking forward to having more sessions with her, and to being trained themselves.

Kestia often uses what she learned from the STAR training to offer psychological support to people whose relatives have been victims of accidents. For instance, two families in Leogane have been comforted by her advice and her visit after the death of their two children in a motorcycle accident.

Kestia is not only using the training for helping others, she also uses it in her personal life. “The STAR training is so important to me. It helps me be a better mother. I am more patient and more tolerant with children.

Thanks to you and your gifts to Week of Compassion, we are not only providing material assistance after a disaster, but also on-going, long-term psychosocial support, trauma counseling, and spiritual care to those who will, undoubtedly, continue to experience the effects of trauma for a while to come. We are there, accompanying them, present in their time of need. And they teach us courageous compassion and what it means to be truly resilient—just like a wozo tree. 

This Week's Responses

Disaster Relief
West Virginia, fire damage
South Sudan, emergency response and conflict
Sudan/Darfur, humanitarian response
Thailand, floods
Mauritania, food insecurity
India, cyclones
Haiti, trauma resilience training
Thailand/Burma, refugee support on the border
Philippines, Tropical Storm Sendong

Sustainable Development
Tanzania, health care
Global, poverty relief

Are You Ready for Souper Bowl Sunday?

On Sunday the New York Giants and the New England Patriots will meet on the field for Super Bowl XLVI, but we know that the real story is happening off the field as nearly 300 Disciples of Christ congregations will be tackling hunger across the nation through Souper Bowl of Caring. By participating in the Souper Bowl, youth and their congregations learn about the magnitude of domestic and international hunger, as well as recognize that God can use them to make a positive difference in the lives of others. 

No matter the size of your congregation, you can help provide shelter to the homeless, food to the hungry and compassion to those who need our loving care.

And it’s so easy to do! The Souper Bowl of Caring is as simple as holding soup pots at church doors following worship this Sunday, February 5th and asking worshippers to drop in a dollar (or more!) to help people who are hungry. Each participating group donates 100% of their collection to the charity of their choice, including Week of Compassion. All you have to do is: 

  • REGISTER at www.souperbowl.org  
  • COLLECT donations on Super Bowl Sunday 
  • REPORT your collection at www.souperbowl.org 
  • DONATE your collection to the organization of your choice

Can you imagine what would happen if the over 140 million people who watch the Super Bowl each year placed just $1 in the Souper Bowl of Caring soup pots after church on Feb. 5? Let’s become Souper Heroes by working together. After all, isn’t our goal to serve the Lord? 

I urge you to act on Jesus’ call to care for our neighbors. Go online today and register at www.souperbowl.org

Volunteers Needed in Minot, North Dakota

Mennonite Disaster Service is requesting skilled electricians in Minot, ND. The need is immediate and urgent. Local regulations have been eased to allow volunteer, skilled electricians to help bring the 4,000 homes damaged by floodwaters up to code. Volunteers may serve for one week or more. If you are available to volunteer, please call 1-800-241-8111. 

Did You Know?

In 2011, Week of Compassion responded to at least 56 different countries and at least 27 different states in the U.S.?

That’s thanks to you! By sharing your resources, you have changed lives. And that brings joy to those in need, to you, and to God.

Keeping an Eye on Severe Weather

On Sunday, widespread storms hit the Middle Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee Valleys. Large hail, high straight line winds and tornadoes were reported in Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi and Kentucky. Likewise, power outages struck Kentucky, Arkansas and Tennessee. The storm system is still very significant and could bring on more severe weather in the Mid-Atlantic states in the next few days. Severe storms have hit Oregon and Washington, cutting power to thousands, causing flooding, and forcing people out of their homes. Additionally, communities in the northern U.S. have experienced severe winter weather, creating a need for blankets and hygiene kits when sheltering is required.

Week of Compassion has been monitoring the situation through our partners in regional ministry, who are checking in with congregations in affected areas. As of the writing of this update, no weather-based needs connected to Disciples congregations have been reported or discovered. We remain vigilant as severe weather is predicted in a number of regions

Likewise, Week of Compassion’s partner organization, Church World Service, has Emergency Response Specialists in contact with response organizations in impacted states to determine where CWS material goods are needed (Clean Up Buckets, Blankets, and Hygiene Kits, Baby Kits and School Kits). Response organizations being contacted include FEMA Volunteer Liaisons, State Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters as well as our many faith-based contacts. In the hardest hit communities CWS will determine if training and grants will be needed for Long Term Recovery.

We are always grateful for your partnership as we respond to emergency needs as they emerge. Please consider partnering with Week of Compassion as we respond when storms, tornados, and other quick-moving disasters strike.

Celebrate “My Fair Valentine” with Equal Exchange

Celebrate Valentine's Day with Equal Exchange! 

My Fair Valentine Cards & Candy set includes fairly traded organic dark chocolate minis and colorful cards with illustrated animals and cute messages.

Plus, each set comes with a fun and informative bookmark exploring where fairly traded chocolate comes from!

What a great way to show people you care about them-and that you care about fair trade!

Preparing for Week of Compassion February 19-26, 2012

Have you ever stopped to contemplate that literally all that we are and all that we have is of God? What an awesome concept! Therefore, our response to that Creator God is to give back. There is no greater joy than being in a position to share our gifts and resources with those in need. If we have enough, but others are lacking, we remind ourselves that God already created a world of plenty, and that it is up to us to distribute and share what we have with those who don’t have enough. I vividly recall this remote village in northern India and the looks in the eyes of the children and the woman, pictured above, when they received a goat from Week of Compassion. This goat would change their lives! One goat! How wonderful it felt in that moment to know that what Disciples had given was now improving the lives of an entire community. What joy!

This Week of Compassion special offering season, February 19-26, we continue to discern how “Sharing Brings Joy.” This Week of Compassion we hope you will lift up how that sharing blesses, transforms, and brings joy to others. In a time of uncertainty, fear, and continuing economic hardship in our country and in our world, I can think of no better offering to give back to God than our profound joy in knowing that we do, indeed, have all we need-—and more. For “the point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7) The early Christians are encouraged here to share the joy in giving by letting others witness their generosity so that all may see how God is being glorified and how others’ lives change as a result of our generosity. 

For more than six decades, Disciples of Christ in the United States and Canada have shared material resources with a hurting world through Week of Compassion, bringing glory to God as well as joy to others. God’s people giving of their resources-—prayer, money, time, talent—-remains the propellant behind Week of Compassion. The act of giving back to God is simply a matter of faith. It is the natural reaction to our saying “yes!” to following Christ. Sharing with others invites God more fully into our lives. As we reach out in love, we open the way for God to reach more deeply into us. Sharing will joyfully transform you as you help transform the world.

This year, as you share your tithes and offerings with Week of Compassion, remember all the ways your gifts bring joy to others. Sow bountifully and share abundantly, knowing that you are not only helping change the statistics, you are also helping change lives. May we all give cheerfully and multiply the joy!

Week of Compassion: sharing resources, changing lives, spreading joy

If you have any questions about how to promote the Week of Compassion special offering, do not hesitate to contact us, or visit our website.

2011 Final 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. In 2011 the WoC Committee allocated $471,449 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.

Below is a brief report of grants made from the Compassion Response Fund and other designated disaster response accounts through December 31, 2011. Contributions for the Response Fund are needed and welcomed and will be used 100% for emergency response to humanitarian needs in the world.

Africa: [171,255]
$5,000 – Angola, flood relief
$5,000 – Chad, refugee assistance
$10,000 – DR Congo, conflict and displacement
$70,000 – East Africa, drought relief
$10,000 – East Africa, assistance to returnees
$5,000 – Ethiopia, drought relief
$21,000 – Kenya, drought relief
$17,000 – Liberia/Ivory Coast, humanitarian aid
$5,000 – Madagascar, Cyclone Bingiza
$5,000 – Malawi, massive flooding
$5,000 – Somalia, drought relief
$5,000 – South Sudan, emergency preparedness
$6,000 – South Sudan, assistance to returnees
$2,255 – Zimbabwe, water wells

East Asia and the Pacific: [197,563]
$10,000 – Australia, flood relief
$150,063 – Japan, earthquake/tsunami
$22,500 – New Zealand, earthquake
$2,500 – Philippines, fire damage
$10,000 – Philippines, typhoon relief
$2,500 – South Korea, mudslides

Latin America and the Caribbean: [749,089]
$11,000 – Brazil, flood/landslide recovery
$10,000 – Colombia, flood relief
$2,500 – Colombia, emergency assistance
$5,000 – Dominican Republic/Haiti, Hurricane Irene damage
$5,000 – El Salvador, relief for coffee growers
$450,000 – Haiti, earthquake
$50,000 – Haiti, agricultural revitalization
$60,905 – Haiti, children and youth House of Hope
$50,000 – Haiti, medical needs
$52,184 – Haiti, housing
$50,000 – Haiti, trauma program
$2,000 – Mexico, assistance to pastor’s family
$500 – Mexico/U.S., winter freeze

Middle East and Europe: [40,500]
$6,000 – Egypt, emergency assistance
$5,000 – Gaza/West Bank, capacity building
$6,000 – Iraq, Iraqi refugee crisis in Lebanon
$21,000 – Libya, humanitarian aid
$2,500 – Turkey, earthquake relief

Southern Asia: [118,500]
$5,000 – Cambodia, flood response
$10,000 – India, Orissa floods
$5,000 – Indonesia, Mentawai Is./tsunami
$2,500 – Indonesia, assistance to displaced
$55,000 – Pakistan, flood emergency
$15,000 – Pakistan, dengue fever epidemic
$11,000 – Sri Lanka, flood/cyclone relief
$15,000 – Thailand, flood relief

General: [24,000]
$24,000 -- 2011 ACT Alliance Rapid Response Fund
   Cambodia/Thailand, aid to displaced
   Tanzania, bomb explosion
   Malawi, flood relief
   DRC, cholera outbreak
   Nepal, refugee camp fire
   Swaziland, drought relief
   Uganda, landslides and floods
   Armenia, landslides
   Honduras, floods and mudslides
   Nicaragua, floods
   Ghana, floods
   Guatemala, floods and mudslides
   Tanzania, landslides

Domestic: [287,030]
$1,000 – Alabama, storm damage
$11,250 – Alabama, tornado relief
$5,000 – Appalachia, emergency heating assistance
$295 – Arizona, resettled refugee assistance
$500 – Arkansas, flood relief
$750 – Arkansas, tornado relief
$1,000 – Arkansas, fire damage
$1,200 – California, food ministry
$1,750 – Florida, storm damage
$100 – Georgia, storm damage
$647 – Georgia, resettled refugee assistance
$1,000 – Georgia, church fire
$11,350 – Great River Region, pastoral care
$4,225 – Illinois, flood relief
$900 – Illinois, resettled refugee assistance
$750 – Kansas, tornado relief
$3,450 – Kentucky, flood relief
$1,000 – Louisiana, storm damage
$1,500 – Michigan, mission station support
$200 – Mississippi, tornado relief
$1,500 – Missouri, flood relief
$44,125 – Missouri, tornado relief
$2,500 – Montana, flood relief
$750 – Nebraska, flood relief
$1,000 – New Hampshire, resettled refugee assistance
$5,000 – New Jersey, hurricane/flooding relief
$9,500 – North Carolina, tornado relief
$1,000 – North Carolina, church fire
$31,000 – North Carolina, hurricane relief
$2,500 – Oklahoma, fire damage
$7,750 – Oklahoma, tornado relief
$2,000 – Oklahoma, storm damage
$1,000 – Oklahoma, earthquake response
$14,900 – Pennsylvania, flood relief
$400 – Pennsylvania, hurricane response
$1,700 – Tennessee, storm damage
$4,750 – Tennessee, flood relief
$1,050 – Texas, resettled refugee assistance
$16,750 – Texas, wildfires
$11,088 – U.S./Mexico, emergency needs
$36,000 – U.S., 2011 spring storms
$6,000 – U.S., 2011 Missouri River System Floods
$10,000 – U.S., Hurricane Irene
$2,000 – Virginia, fire damage
$8,000 – Virginia, tornado relief
$2,500 – Virginia, earthquake damage
$1,750 – Virginia, hurricane and earthquake
$1,150 – Virginia, storm damage
$5,000 – Washington, fire damage
$500 – Washington, D.C., hurricane damage
$5,000 – Washington, D.C., earthquake damage
$1,000 – West Virginia, storm damage

Making Resolutions: Getting Involved with Week of Compassion

Moumouna Garraban, a fish trader in Kokomanie, Niger, scales carp fish with her children and grandchildren. (ACT/Brot fuer die Welt/Christoph Pueschner)

Happy New Year!

It’s the time when so many of us try to break old habits, start new practices, resolve to learn something new, and maybe - just maybe - try to make the world a tiny bit better.

Our yearly hope at Week of Compassion is that we can partner with churches and individuals all over North America to do exactly that. If you are looking for a way to make a difference in the world this year, here are a few things you can do:

Invest in Women and Girls

According to USAID, “Aid programs that provide women opportunities to better their health, education, and well-being have effects far beyond a single individual. A woman multiplies the impact of an investment made in her future by extending benefits to the world around her, creating a better life for her family and building a strong community.” 

Week of Compassion’s Women’s Empowerment Fund is a mechanism for helping women become educated, develop economic opportunities, and build their communities. A gift to this special fund can transform not only a single life, but also families and entire communities. 

Support Food Security

According to the United Nation’s World Food Program, “approximately 925 million people in the world do not eat enough to be healthy. That means that one in every seven people on Earth goes to bed hungry each night."

Hunger is a very real issue. However, food security is a very real possibility. There are ways to respond. 

One of our partners, Foods Resource Bank, aims to end world hunger by globally connecting local communities through agriculture in order to raise funding and awareness. Week of Compassion is always looking for creative, passionate congregations who are interested in starting growing projects to help FRB empower local communities to become more food secure. 

Learn More about Domestic Disaster Ministry

Our partners at Church World Service are hosting an important gathering on domestic disaster response from March 19-21, 2012, in New Windsor, Maryland. If you’re interested in learning more about how the field of disaster response is changing and how you can be involved in your community, this is an excellent way to make some great connections and learn about an important ministry.

This gathering will bring together scholars, researchers, theologians, volunteers and staff who work in disaster programs throughout the broad inter-religious community to:

  • Explore the changing nature of response to natural, technological, and human-caused disasters 
  • Tap the wisdom of the collective, yet diverse experience of participants
  • Identify issues affecting disaster ministry for the future 
  • Suggest forward-thinking, practical resources for the changing needs of disaster ministry

Speaker and registration info is available online. For more information please contact Tim Shenk at tshenk@churchworldservice.org or 212-870-2728.
 
There you have it—three great ways to get involved and help change the world for the better in the coming year. If you have any questions about how to get involved with these projects or anything else, contact Amy, Brandon, or Elaine at Week of Compassion!

This Week's Responses

Disaster Relief
Missouri, tornado recovery
Missouri, flood recovery

As the New Year Approaches

Amy often reminds us all that we are our best offering.

As I think back over 2011, I can’t help but agree.

Each of you, through incredible generosity, has brought relief to someone in what many have called a record breaking year for domestic disasters.  There are mission stations filling up for summer work trips in Joplin, MO, and Tuscaloosa, AL, home repairs happening in North Carolina and Virginia, and people who had their basic needs met—all because of what you offered.

Each of you has contributed to the steps being made in communities in Haiti, as they work to rebuild their country and renew one another’s hopes.

Each of you has been part of a response to an almost unimaginable humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa.

Each of you has responded.  Each of you has offered your resources, your hope, and you have offered you.

You made Week of Compassion an effective, efficient, life-changing ministry in 2011.

Imagine what we will do together in 2012.

In peace,

Brandon 

Christmas Wishes from Week of Compassion

The Birth of Hope.

This is what we celebrate on Christmas day.  A story filled with so many ordinary, familiar things.

Taxes to be paid.  Shepherds putting in more hours than they might like.  And a young family, ready to add one more, but with no reservation for a bed, and little to no money—squeezing into a barn, a cave, some humble lodging barely fit for animals, much less people.

Humble. Poor.  Hunkering down, desperate for a place to stay.  This is the family we remember on this day, one of the most holy in the Christian calendar.

But we remember, too, this story as one of God’s generosity, God’s peace, God’s hope.

We see God in the borning cry, twinkling eyes, and sleepy sounds of a child.  In the midst of uncertainty, God generously brings hope into the world, and God invites us into a life of hope, generosity, and peace-making.

Over the course of 2011, we at Week of Compassion have been so blessed to witness how you have chosen to live lives of generosity and peace-making.  We have seen your gifts support those recovering from disasters across the United States:  Spring storms and flooding, tornados, fires.  We have partnered with you to help with tsunami recovery in Japan and to provide relief to a record-breaking famine across the Horn of Africa.  We have witnessed your generous support of small-scale farmers and entrepreneurs, and we have seen you bring new sources of water and food to the hungry and vulnerable.

We have seen your hope intertwine with God’s hope—and we have seen your generosity reflect that of a God who continues to fill the world with grace.

This Christmas, we give thanks for each of you, your partnership, and the hope that is re-born in our hearts each day.  You are precious gifts, turning the ordinary into the extraordinary.  Thank you.

Updated Joplin Registration Information

For those of you interested in volunteering in Joplin, we are pleased to provide you with updated contact information for the registrar.  We apologize for any confusion or inconvenience:

Registrar: Howard Self, UCC/DOC Disaster Ministries' Registrar (Joplin Response)

     e-mail: hjself@live.com

     phone: c) 618-318-2445

     Registration: https://discipleshomemissions.org/pages/VOL-form-Joplin

Responding in Joplin and Domestic Disaster Forum

March Opening for Joplin Mission Station

Week of Compassion and Disciples Volunteering are thrilled to announce the launch of a Disaster Response Mission Station in Joplin, Missouri.

After a number of lengthy conversations with different partners, arrangements are being made to host volunteers beginning in March 2012. The Joplin Long Term Recovery Committee has made important, local decisions regarding the prioritizing of needs, the distribution of grants, and the process for coordinating out-of-town Mission Groups. The city of Joplin has weighed in on appropriate details for the recovery and for the presence of this Mission Station. Disciples Volunteering, Week of Compassion, the Ozark Lakes Area, the United Church of Christ Volunteer Ministries and Disaster Response Ministries, and First Christian Church, Joplin and South Joplin Christian Church have gathered and conferenced, laughed and cried, planned and prayed and planned some more, and at long last, we have a great plan in place!

Our Disciples response in Joplin is unique from other responses because we have undertaken our work and witness there in partnership with the United Church of Christ. While so much of the work of Week of Compassion and Disciples Volunteering, including partnering with Church World Service and Long Term Recovery Committees, is rooted in deep ecumenical commitment, this is a new undertaking. In working together with the UCC, we will be able to stretch our resources and make better use of the gifts with which you entrust us, including the time volunteers offer to this recovery effort.

Projects will include, but not be limited to, home repair, rebuilding, and new construction, as identified by the Joplin Long Term Recovery Committee. Week-long Mission Trips, with housing provided by South Joplin Christian Church, will begin March 18, 2012. Mission Groups will arrive on Sunday evenings and depart by Saturday morning. Work days are Monday - Friday. The mission station will be equipped for hosting up to 30 persons per week (generally, 15 DOC and 15 UCC each week). Check with registrar Howard Self (contact information below) with questions about availability or register for your top two preferred weeks. Registrations will be honored in the order they are received.

Registration Information:

Registrar: Howard Self, UCC/DOC Disaster Ministries' Registrar (Joplin Response)
     e-mail: hjself@live.com
     phone: c) 618-318-2445

Registration: https://discipleshomemissions.org/pages/VOL-form-Joplin

Minimum Age: 14 years. Those under the age of 18 have specific waivers requiring parent/guardian signature.

Adult to Youth Ratio: There must be at least 1 Adult for every 5 Youth in your Mission Group.

Accommodations: Housing is provided by South Joplin Christian Church. Bunks, bathrooms, showers, kitchen facilities including utensils and cookware, and access to laundry facilities are available at the church.

Cost: $75 per person per week, to cover utilities and on-going use of housing facilities, and to support the operation of the Mission Station.

A NON-REFUNDABLE deposit of $25/person will be due within 3 weeks of your registering, in order to complete the registration process and confirm your trip. The balance of $50/person will be due at least 3 weeks prior to arrival.

Checks should be made payable to "Disciples Home Missions" with the memo "Joplin Disaster Recovery."

Payments may be mailed to Disciples Home Missions, UCC/DOC Joplin Disaster Response, attn: Brenda Tyler, PO Box 1986, Indianapolis, IN 46206

Cancellations: Please keep Howard informed if your group size changes and especially if you need to cancel your trip. Cancellations made at least three weeks prior to arrival will receive a refund of $50 if already paid. Please remember the $25/person deposit is non-refundable.

Questions about payments may be directed to Brenda Tyler - btyler@dhm.disciples.org or 888-346-2631. Please direct all other questions to the UCC/DOC Joplin Registrar, Howard Self.

Church World Service Forum on Domestic Disaster Ministry

Save the Date! Registration starts in January.

March 19-21, 2012, New Windsor, Maryland

Bringing together scholars, researchers, theologians, volunteers and staff who work in disaster programs throughout the broad inter-religious community to:

  • Explore the changing nature of response to natural, technological, and human-caused disasters
  • Tap the wisdom of the collective, yet diverse experience of participants
  • Identify issues affecting disaster ministry for the future
  • Suggest forward-thinking, practical resources for the changing needs of disaster ministry

Speaker and registration info is available online at www.cwserp.org.

For more information please contact Tim Shenk at tshenk@churchworldservice.org or 212-870-2728.

 

Magnifying Joy! Gifts that Change Lives

Teetering between the waiting of Advent and the joy of Christmas, The Song of Mary--the Magnificat-- in Luke’s Gospel is one of those sections of scripture that pulls it all together for me.

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.

I find the words of this early Christian hymn echoing in my mind, and no matter how many times I have read it, heard it read, or heard a version of it sung in worship, I always find myself having a sort of epiphany when I hear it.

Mary’s joy has a prophetic edge to it.

She has received news of an incredible gift--she will have a son. But her gift is not hers alone. Like the prophet Isaiah, for Mary, the birth of Jesus signifies dignity for the poor, food for the hungry, and God’s enduring care. Mary, herself a young, vulnerable woman, sees incredible possibility in the promise of her child: not only for her own sake, but for all of those who long for hope to replace their hopelessness:

For the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
He has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.

Like the words of so many women throughout history and around the world, Mary’s words not only celebrate life and the presence of God, but also call us to live out our deepest joys, heart-held concerns, and boldest commitments in all of the things we do.

That's why Week of Compassion has teamed up with partners old and new to promote unique, life-changing gifts for celebrating Christmas this year. Our gifts can reflect our values, and as we share smiles and presents this holiday season, we can also share in ways that bring joy, create new opportunity, and share skills with our neighbors near and far.

Prosperity Candle, a new partner with whom we’ve teamed up this holiday season, empowers and accompanies refugee women who are making new lives for themselves. Sales of their handcrafted candles allow them to earn a living wage. In addition, Prosperity Candle will donate 10% of your purchase to support the Week of Compassion Women's Empowerment Fund.

Equal Exchange, one of the most-trusted fair trade companies in North America, has a variety of gifts for the coffee lover, tea drinker, and chocoholic in your life. For example, EE’s African Gift Box supports the efforts of women as mothers, daughters, sisters and farmers. Together with the Panzi Foundation in the D.R. Congo (a Week of Compassion partner through IMA World Health!) and BeadforLife® in Uganda, Equal Exchange is helping to build East African economies through income generation and to support women that have been affected by violence. The African Gift Box contains specialty products that inspire hope and encourage change while supporting our sisters in need at the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Purchases through Equal Exchange’s Interfaith Store not only help provide a fair price for small scale farmers worldwide, but also support Week of Compassion’s food security-related sustainable development projects.

You may also choose to support our partners at Church World Service through their Best Gift catalogue. These gifts help support a wide array of Church World Service projects, including food security, access to water, education and micro-finance.

And as always, you can give a gift to Week of Compassion in the name of someone you love and admire, demonstrating that sharing--with those we love and with those we are yet to know--does indeed bring joy.

As our hearts continue to travel on the path from Advent contemplation to Christmas celebration, may our souls, like Mary’s, magnify God’s gracious love for the world; may, too, our gifts reflect our commitment to the dignity of all of God’s people and the care of all creation.

Preparing the Way

A few years ago, I was traveling by bus from Port-au-Prince, Haiti to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. I saw billboard after billboard for a Dominican presidential candidate claiming that he was “El Presidente de los Pobres” (President of the Poor). I didn’t know much about this man, but I wondered if he truly did lift up the interests of those living in poverty as a priority. Then I started to ponder, “Who, really, is the President of the Poor? Who, truly, has shown us a Way out of no way? Who is the Prince of Peace, who came to live and work among us—indeed, to become one of us—so he could demonstrate a new way of living with compassion and working for justice for all?” 

As Dominicans were preparing for their next round of presidential elections that winter,  I recall the flurry of activity and high hopes coupled with consternation that accompanied their preparations. I particularly remember walking down one of the main streets in the beach resort town of Boca Chica, where tourists lounge outside in street cafes, bronzed bodies having just come in from a day at the beach. The smell of fresh seafood wafts through the air. Haitian paintings adorn both sides of the street and there are souvenir shops full of trinkets you don’t really need, but you get sucked into the shops because of the owner’s persistence and charm. There are children playing everywhere, and I especially notice quite a number of little boys with wooden boxes and brushes. After a double take, I realize that the boys weren’t “playing” but shining shoes. Awfully young to be doing that, I thought, and walked on by. 

I walked further down the street searching for the Caminante Center. Caminante is one of our Disciples and ecumenical partner organizations in the Dominican Republic, founded by a Catholic nun with a heart for reaching out to street children and those caught in the sexual exploitation of the resort town of Boca Chica. Entering the building, I was greeted by the Caminante staff and offered an incredible meal of rice and beans and avocado. As I savored every bite of my food, I listened to the staff describe the situations they dealt with on a daily basis—abject poverty, violence, and hopelessness. Just a few minutes later, in came the shoe-shine boys:  8, 9 and 10 year-old boys with their wooden boxes and brushes. Beautiful, innocent, loving, carefree boys. Or so they should have been. The stories of violence and poverty and gangs and child labor…they were talking about those boys I had walked by on the main drag. 

How long had it taken for Sister Denisse, the founding director of Caminante, to prepare the way for this life-saving work among street children to be done? Surely the shoe-shine boys did not know to come to the safe haven that is the educational, spiritual, and recreational center they now call home until someone had prepared, promoted, and prompted them to come. 

Advent is waiting, as I depicted last week, but it is most certainly not a passive waiting. It is an active season of preparation. It is a time set apart from the rest of our liturgical year and spiritual lives where we prepare the way for the Advent—which literally means, the “Coming”—of our Lord. Without the engaged, active, intentional preparations of so many of our partner organizations across the globe, including Caminante, Week of Compassion simply would not have a way to respond to the needs of so many. We make a difference, thanks to your gifts and trust, because of the painstaking preparations of our sisters and brothers in places of poverty and injustice. 

They are those who know, intimately, who the President of the Poor truly is. And it is Him, our Prince of Peace Jesus Christ our Lord, for whom we now prepare the way—together.