Share Your Compassion in Action

Children in Saha Susksa Christian School in Northwest Thailand. Week of Compassion supports the Global Mission Intern Program of Global Ministries. Photo Credit: Nicole Betteridge, Global Mission Intern

Children in Saha Susksa Christian School in Northwest Thailand. Week of Compassion supports the Global Mission Intern Program of Global Ministries. Photo Credit: Nicole Betteridge, Global Mission Intern

In 2015 we would love to see how you, your congregation, your community are putting your Compassion into Action! Are there mission opportunities where you have put your compassion in action? How do you partner with Week of Compassion?

There are so many ways that we as the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) put our Compassion into Action…EVERY SINGLE DAY….all around the WORLD!

Vy Nguyen and Dawn Barnes,  Week of Compassion staff, put their Compassion into Action working with partners and congregations. Photo Credit: Michelle Craig

Vy Nguyen and Dawn Barnes,  Week of Compassion staff, put their Compassion into Action working with partners and congregations. Photo Credit: Michelle Craig

And this year we want to SEE your Compassion in Action! We are asking you to post a picture with the Week of Compassion logo and a caption of you, your congregation, your community, your COMPASSION in action on our Facebook Page, tag us at “Week of Compassion” or email it to us and if you twitter use the hashtag #compassioninaction so that everyone can see how many ways that we make a difference around the world, every single day! You can download the logo from our website or we can send you one from the office, just drop us an email.

Invite at least 3 of your friends to do the same, make it your Facebook profile or cover picture, tag others to post their pictures of Compassion in Action. Let’s see how many people and how many ways our compassion reaches from our doorsteps to the ends of the year!

This Week's Responses:
Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Central African Republic, IDP Assistance

Development and Long-Term Recovery and Rehabilitation
North America, Ecumenical Poverty Initiative
Honduras, Food Security 
Democratic Republic of Congo, Food Security

 

CWS Immigration Legal Services

This week’s update is from our partners at CWS written by Phillip Rincon and Carol Fouke-Mpoyo.

Whether applying for a work permit or petitioning to bring a family member to the United States, refugees and immigrants to this country face detailed legal paperwork and processes. Every year, thousands of them receive help from Church World Service.  Week of Compassion supports CWS’s network of a dozen immigration legal services offices across the United States. 

The network’s staff of 18 accredited representatives and seven attorneys assist clients with humanitarian-based immigration petitions that reunite families and keep them together, and foster clients’ self-sufficiency and participation in U.S. civic life.

Among clients is Yunior*.  He is counted among the nearly 8,500 refugees and immigrants served by CWS Legal Department in Miami, Florida, in Fiscal Year 2014. 

Yunior and his wife Raysa at home in Miami, Florida. CWS Photo by Phillip Rincon.

Yunior and his wife Raysa at home in Miami, Florida. CWS Photo by Phillip Rincon.

Yunior came to the United States in November 2013 through a family petition filed by his father, who had immigrated earlier that year. Yunior, age 37, suffers from Muscular Dystrophy, a condition that has greatly affected his physical movements and ability to perform certain tasks. In Cuba, Yunior was never able to receive the dedicated care he needed for his condition. 

In Cuba, he worked as an information technology specialist and his wife Raysa worked as a nurse at the local hospital.  Each earned a salary of only $17 a week, which was barely enough to live on. Their life journey has not been easy, but they have fought to stay content and economically self-sufficient.  

Yunior first came to the CWS Legal Department in Miami seeking assistance to apply for a work permit to be able to earn an income in the United States. With the help of CWS legal staff, Yunior was subsequently referred to a local nonprofit agency that helped him receive the medical assistance that his condition required. CWS “provided me the guidance that I truly needed,” Yunior said. “They treated me as a friend and they showed me that they cared. We’re really thankful to CWS for their personal dedication to our family and our case.” Yunior and his wife are currently working with CWS to apply for U.S. permanent residence.

From the CWS Corporate Center in New York, Associate Director for Legal Services, Lucy Baez, conducts training and support for regional legal services offices and helps them with complicated legal casework and immigration procedures. Within the local community, the New York legal services team served 600 clients in Fiscal Year 2014, both one-on-one and through immigration legal clinics at local churches and group processing events in partnership with other community based organizations. Recently, CWS partnered with the Brooklyn Public Library to provide a naturalization group workshop which saw large numbers of lawful permanent residents applying for citizenship.

* Yunior and Raysa’s last names are withheld to protect their privacy.

This Week's Responses:

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Sri Lanka, Flood Relief


Typhoon Hagupit Update

              Photo Credit: ACT/HEKS

              Photo Credit: ACT/HEKS

Approximately 13 months after typhoon Haiyan devastated and destroyed towns and villages in the Philippines, residents have had to face another major typhoon this past weekend.  Super typhoon Hagupit, locally known as Ruby, traveled through the country killing at least 27 people and destroyed many homes. 
 
Hagupit has now weakened to a tropical storm and is closing in on the capital of Manila following its deadly grip on the eastern island of Samar. Most of those affected were in the area of Borongan, Eastern Samar. Some 2,500 houses were either partially or totally destroyed in Borongan. The storm, which hit many of the same areas as last year's typhoon Haiyan, did not cause the same extent of damage as last year's destruction. 

According to humanitarian agencies responding to the storm the damage was considerable and necessitated the evacuation of between 500,000 and 1 million people. Communication remains a challenge and the full extent of damage in northeastern areas of Northern Samar province and southern Masbate province is unclear. Of particular concern is damage to the region's rice and corn crops, as well as banana and coconut trees.

Week of Compassion is responding to this situation through our partners at ACT Alliance and the United Church of Christ in the Philippines and will continue to monitor and assess the devastation as recovery work is developed. Please pray for our sisters and brothers in this time of recovery. 

This Week's Responses:

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance

Syria, IDP Relief
Philippines, Typhoon Relief

Global Mission Interns put Compassion into Action around the World

Week of Compassion supports the Global Mission Intern program through our partner Global Ministries. This program provides opportunities for young adult members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ to participate in mission with partner churches around the world. Global Mission Interns serve for one to three years and are involved with a myriad of ministries of the global church. See how these interns are putting Compassion into Action.

"Pursuing Health in Amazonia" by Lauren Kabat. She serves with the Association Promoting Education and Conservation in Amazonia (APECA), located in El Fundo, Peru. 

"Chasing Our Dreams" by Bethany Waggoner. She serves with the Ecumenical Foundation for Integral Development Training and Education (FEDICE) in Ecuador.

"The Possibility of Growth and Transformation" by Beth Guy. She serves with the Reformed Church of France as the Pastoral Assistant for Diaconal Ministries in Guadeloupe and Martinique.

To learn more about the Global Mission Intern program, please visit the Global Mission Intern webpageThank you for supporting this program where young adult's lives are changed and impacted by the global church.

This Week's Responses:

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Syria, Humanitarian Aid
Syria, Refugee Relief

Development and Long-Term Recovery and Rehabilitation
Chaco Region, Sustainable Development Projects
Zimbabwe, Access to Water
Dominican Republic, Literacy Education
Bangladesh, Community Development (2)
Democratic Republic of Congo, Community Development
Botswana, Community Training 
China, Access to Water

THANKFULNESS

As many of you celebrate Thanksgiving this week, Week of Compassion gives thanks to God for you and for your continued support. The many ways in which you partner with us help to create a feast of compassion, hope, and justice at a table where all of God's children have a seat. We are grateful for the ways you continue to help change lives and offer hope to the most vulnerable people within your communities and around the world. Your partnership throughout the year not only enables families and children to have food on the table, but to be able to dream and build a better world.  

Thank you. 

May your holiday season be filled with peace.

Week of Compassion
Vy, Dawn, and Mary

This Week's Responses:

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Syria, IDP Support
Mexico, Fire Relief

Disciples Join NVOAD and a CWS COAD Webinar

Rev. Josh Baird, Director of Disciples Volunteering, brings us this good news.

Beginning in the fall of 2005, Disciples began developing a system and structure for supporting long-term disaster recovery directed by local leadership within communities affected by disaster. In collaboration with Week of Compassion, Disciples Volunteering has engaged Regional/Area partners and local congregations as well as a growing list of faith-based and community service organizations and government agencies. These partnerships have enabled more than 14,500 volunteers to serve through 25 congregationally based mission stations, contributing $11 million in labor to devastated communities and performing the work equivalent to the rebuilding of 200 homes.

Recovery from a major disaster takes many partners, each contributing of their experience and resources, to help communities restore themselves to a "new normal" - an overall sense of safety and stability that were fundamentally shaken by the disaster. For more than forty years, organizations that respond nationally have coordinated and collaborated through National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (National VOAD). Two weeks ago, National VOAD accepted the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) along with the International Orthodox Christian Charities as its newest members. With more than 100 member organizations, National VOAD builds resiliency in communities by serving "as the forum where organizations share knowledge and resources throughout the disaster cycle - preparation, response, recovery and mitigation - to help disaster survivors and their communities." As members, Disciples are now positioned to better respond to large natural disasters and to contribute to the national conversation about the purpose and role of non-profits following disaster. This is great - and it is only a first step. Much of the ground work for disaster recovery - and even more so for disaster preparedness - happens at the level of state VOADs or even county/community based VOADs. Disciples Volunteering is now calling on Regions/Areas to join their state VOADs and congregations to become active within their local VOAD networks.

Extending our participation to state and local VOAD networks will enable Disciples to respond to smaller scale disasters - the kind where neighbors are typically able to help each other complete a recovery on their own. This will also position Disciples to be pro-active, engaging in the work of disaster preparedness and mitigation. This can sound daunting, but it's really as simple as building relationships with your neighbors and with other service organizations within your own community. If you, your congregation, or Region/Area is already involved in state or local efforts, or if you are interested in learning more, please let us know. In partnership with Week of CompassionDisciples Volunteering continues to coordinate long-term recovery efforts to major disasters; instead of waiting for the next "big one" to strike, let's work together to build networks of support and resiliency with our neighbors today. Together, Disciples will offer hope, healing, and a helping hand.

 What is a COAD and Why Does Your Community Need One?

The next Church World Service U.S. emergency response webinar - "What is a COAD and why does your community need one?" -  will be held on November 18, 2014, from 2:00 to 3:30  p.m. Eastern time.  The webinar will be presented by CWS Emergency Response Specialist Susanne Gilmore. * Hint: "COAD" stands for Community Organizations Active in Disaster. COADs put in place the partnerships and relationships needed so that you and your community can respond effectively when disaster strikes.

Click here to register.

This Week's Responses:

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Missouri, Fire Relief

Crisis in Nigeria

The world has followed the tragic abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls (#Bringbackourgirls) from Chibok, Nigeria. Yet that tragedy is just one incident in an increasingly bloody attempt by Boko Haram Islamist insurgents to make northeast Nigeria into an Islamic state.

Caught in the middle is Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), the largest Christian denomination in the area of northeast Nigeria where Boko Haram is taking territory. This year EYN has seen many of its churches and congregations destroyed, as thousands of church members have been killed and pastors and their families have been among the hundreds more people abducted since the Chibok schoolgirls were taken. Most of the schoolgirls were from EYN. Estimates are that more than 90,000 EYN church members have been displaced by the fighting this year.

Now the situation of EYN is dire as its headquarters property and Kulp Bible College have been taken by Boko Haram. The attack on the headquarters on October 29, 2014 occurred as Boko Haram fighters were on their way to attack and take the nearby city of Mubi, near the Cameroon border. It is believed most of those at the EYN headquarters escaped alive, but many people in Mubi and surrounding villages were killed and others are now trapped in the control of Boko Haram.

The EYN staff is displaced, and the church leadership is working to regroup. They are faced with the prospect of having to rebuild church offices and relocate staff and their families, at the same time the church continues to aid thousands of members who have been displaced. In addition, hundreds of pastors who were serving churches in the conflict zone are displaced without jobs or means to provide for families. These are crucial issues for the church's survival.

Week of Compassion is responding through our partner, Church of the Brethren, by helping to provide food and supplies to the displaced, and building temporary shelters at "care centers" in safer locations in central Nigeria, among other priorities that now include the relocation of the EYN offices and staff.

Week of Compassion's ecumenical commitment makes a real difference all over the world, every single day. Even when the media's headlines have moved on to other news topics, Week of Compassion is ready to respond to not only the disaster at hand, but remains for the long-term. Thank you for putting your Compassion into Action from our doorsteps to the ends of the earth!

For more information about Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria and the Church of the Brethren mission in Nigeria, click here

This Week's Responses:

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Nigeria, Emergency Relief
Democratic Republic of Congo and Republic of Congo, Ebola Relief

We Will Speak Out

WE WILL SPEAK OUT SUNDAY - NOVEMBER 23, 2014

We Will Speak Out is calling all congregations across faiths and denominations to dedicate SPEAK OUT SUNDAY on November 23, 2014 to dialogue, teaching, prayer and action around sexual and gender based violence and its prevention.

WeWillSpeakOut.US (WWSO) is an outgrowth of the We Will Speak Out (Global) coalition, which was established in March 2011 at Lambeth Palace in London at the launch of Tearfund‘s ‘Silent No More‘ research report. The report highlighted the untapped potential and challenges of the worldwide church to prevent and respond to sexual violence.

Recognizing both the prevalence of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) in the United States, as well as the potential for American organizations and congregations to influence change, WWSO Steering Committee Member and Week of Compassion partner, IMA World Health, launched WeWillSpeakOut.US to unite and amplify existing voices and programs throughout the U.S.

We Will Speak Out Sunday will be November 23 because the United Nations has designated November 25 as the “International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women,” which kicks off the Center for Women’s Global Leadership’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, observed from November 25 through December 10, 2014. SPEAK OUT SUNDAY is the faith community’s way of uniting with and amplifying these global efforts.

For more information on how your congregation can SPEAK OUT, see the website for a range of information and resources. Join us in SPEAKING OUT on November 23, 2014 and put your Compassion in Action!

This Week’s Responses:

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance

Missouri, Fire Relief
Cameroon, Refugee Relief

Ebola Response in DRC and the Central America Refugee Crisis

Emergency Ebola Virus Supplies to Health Facilities in the Democratic Republic of Congo
A case of Ebola was reported in the Boende region of the Democratic Republic of Congo in August of this year and tests were conducted and have recently confirmed that the virus strain found is an indigenous virus and not the variant that has been spreading in West Africa.  Ebola spreads through contact with bodily fluids. The incubation period is between two to twenty-one days.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is the fourth most populous nation in Africa.  Taking preemptive precautions in the country in regards to this new Ebola virus outbreak is essential to saving lives. As most recently learned from the current outbreak in West Africa that has become the deadliest to date, it is imperative that appropriate protection equipment and training be provided to health care workers who are on the ground.

Health care workers are first responders in this epidemic and are severely affected by the epidemic in several ways. Health workers in health facilities - government, mission and private health facilities - are faced with critical challenges such as lack of proper protective equipment and a lack of risk allowance and use of barrier nursing techniques to protect them from contracting the disease during patient care. Already nine health workers are reported to have been infected with Ebola in the Congo, seven of whom have died. The situation is exacerbated by the shortage of medicines and medical supplies to manage Ebola patients.

Given the nature of this rapidly spreading, deadly virus and the need for quick action it is critical to provide health workers with personal protective equipment (PPE) and training for Ebola management. Week of Compassion is responding to this epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo through our partner IMA World Health where training is being provided at 60 health facilities in 5 provinces to efficiently manage health care service delivery for Ebola. If you would like to put your Compassion into Action to assist with Ebola relief efforts please click here to donate or if you would like to learn more about what IMA World Health is doing please click here.

Central America Refugee Crisis
As the headlines have moved away from this crisis, there are many children who remain unaccompanied at the U.S. Border. More than 300 children are reported to be crossing into the United States daily. Increased insecurity and high levels of violence involving young people and children aged 7 to 14 years, has led to high levels of forced migration in younger age groups. Week of Compassion has and will continue to respond alongside these children.

Cards completed by parishioners at Park Avenue Christian Church in Manhattan, NY. Photo: Will Haney

Cards completed by parishioners at Park Avenue Christian Church in Manhattan, NY. Photo: Will Haney

If you, your congregation or community are seeking ways to respond to this crisis you can always donate to Week of Compassion. You can also join children, parents, friends and people of faith across the country in sending cards of care and prayer to the almost 700 undocumented mothers and children (infants through teens) who have been detained at the border through the CWS Angel to Angel project. For more details how to write your letter click here. Refugee and Immigration Ministries, of Disciples Home Missions, also has a wealth resources on their website, from how to collect goods for children at the border to becoming a foster parent. Thank you for being present with children at the border.

This Week's Responses:

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Kentucky, Tornado Relief
Iraq, Displaced People Relief
Somalia, Drought and Food Relief
Democratic Republic of Congo, Ebola Relief
Missouri, Fire Relief

Week of Compassion Calls Rev. Jacobs and Rev. Barnes to Serve New Roles

Mary Jacobs.jpg

Week of Compassion has called the Rev. Mary Jacobs as Interim Resource Development Director. Mary Jacobs comes to Week of Compassion to continue the important work begun by Johnny Wray of building the Circle of Compassion and the Week of Compassion Endowment Program with Disciples congregations. Mary is a third generation Disciples and an ordained clergywoman.  She has served congregations in California and Arizona, including one new church start that she shared with her husband, Bill.  Mary is familiar with many of Week of Compassion's partners and has visited Church World Service's sustainable development program in Africa.  She lived and studied in Bossey, Switzerland with other Christians from around the world at the Graduate Institute program of the World Council of Churches. She has served in various capacities within the General Church and the Regions where she has been pastor, which included being First Vice-Moderator of the General Assembly and Moderator in Arizona.  She recently completed her ministry as the Transitional Interim Regional Minister of the Northern California/Nevada Christian Church and as the President of the International Disciples Women's Ministry. Mary will begin her new role on November 1, 2014.

Week of Compassion has appointed the Rev. Dawn Barnes to a new position as Transitional Program Associate.  Dawn has been with Week of Compassion for nearly two years and understands the working relationship with many of our partners.  In her new role she will focuson strengthening relationships with many of our partners and congregations, as well as the day to day operations for Week of Compassion.  Dawn has served ten years with Global Ministries as a missionary to South Africa and Mozambique, engaged in pastoral and development work with a focus on HIV and AIDS. Prior to working in Africa, she was a clinician in Richmond, Virginia working with the seriously mentally ill. She is ordained with the Disciples of Christ and has standing in the United Church of Christ. She is mom to Khaya and Alyson and, along with her husband Jon, lives in Indianapolis, Indiana.

This Week's Responses:

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Oregon, Food Relief
Kentucky, Tornado Relief

Development and Long-Term Recovery and Rehabilitation
Oklahoma, Long-Term Tornado Recovery

Central America Drought and Equal Exchange: Compassion in Action

Central America Drought Response

A drought associated with the "El Niño" phenomenon has caused severe impacts in Central America, where it has damaged a large part of the corn and bean crops. In El Salvador the government has declared a national state of emergency due to losses of up to 30% of the annual corn harvest and 90% of the annual bean crop. In Honduras, the government has declared a state of emergency in the dry corridor, where 76,712 families are badly affected by the drought. In Nicaragua, Estelí, Madríz, Chinandega, and Nueva Segovia are the most affected districts, nearly 75% of the corn crop has been lost. An estimated 100,000 families are most affected.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network calculates that losses in subsistence agriculture in the affected areas of the region reach up to 70%, causing severe difficulties in access to agriculture inputs and food for subsistence farmers. It is forecasted that the drought will keep the rain patterns at very low levels until the end of the year, thereby affecting the second harvest of basic grains. This aggravates food insecurity for the region.

Week of Compassion, with our partner ACT Alliance, is responding to this drought situation in Central America by ensuring that families affected have access to food and water and are able to recover from the drought.  Specifically, food kits are being provided to 3,450 families who are affected, 960 families are receiving water, and 2,030 families are having access to enhanced food-production.  Week of Compassion will continue to monitor and assess the situation with our partners.

Through your giving we can work together to provide enough for all in these areas of Central America and around the world.

Equal Exchange

Climate change is an issue that weighs on the minds of coffee farmersand coffee drinkers alike. Unpredictable weather patterns, natural disasters and opportunistic plant diseases (like La Roya, or coffee leaf rusthave all done considerable damageto coffee farms in recent years. Substantial crop losses and the resulting drastic drops in income have caused some farmers to consider giving up on coffee farming altogether.

But many farmers are determined to find solutions and work toward resilience and recovery. You can help! Equal Exchange is teaming up with our farmer partners to support innovation and sustainable problem solving. Join us by taking the Red Cherry Challenge, and every pound of coffee you buy this year (June 1, 2014 - May 31, 2015) will contribute 10 cents to the Red Cherry Fund. 

To find out how your congregation can get involved in the buying and selling of Fairtrade coffee, chocolate and other Equal Exchange products so that we can continue to work against food insecurity, climate change and agriculture diseases click here.

This Week’s Responses:

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Virginia, Refugee Assistance
Texas, Storm Damage
Central America, Drought Relief

Development and Long-Term Recovery and Rehabilitation
China, Water Access

Your Compassion in Action: The 2014 Third Quarter Report

Week of Compassion is your Disciples' disaster relief, refugee resettlement, and sustainable development mission fund. We work in partnership with you and with partners to respond to critical needs in North America and around the world.

Each quarter we provide you with a brief report documenting the many places and situations to which you have helped us respond. These reports can only represent in part the extent of the work that we do. Your generosity to Week of Compassion impacts thousands of lives.

We are grateful for you, your partnership, your generosity, and your willingness to share your resources so that families and communities can work towards building a stronger, more peaceful world.  Thank you.

To put your compassion into action, join us here.

DISASTER RELIEF AND EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE

Africa
Cameroon, Refugee Relief
Kenya, Conflict Survivors
Liberia, Food Security
Sierra Leone, Ebola Outbreak Response (2)

East Asia and the Pacific
China, Earthquake Relief (2)
Nepal, Landslide Relief
Philippines, Typhoon Assistance 
Philippines, Typhoon Relief 
Philippines, Typhoon Recovery

Latin America and the Caribbean
El Salvador, Coffee Rust Response
Guatemala, Coffee Rust Response
Honduras, Children Resettlement

Middle East and Europe
Gaza and West Bank, Emergency Medical Support
Gaza, Emergency Response
Iraq, Displaced People Assistance (2)
Romania, Flood Relief
Syria, Humanitarian Intervention

North America
Arizona, Flood Relief
California, Drought Relief
California, Earthquake Damage 
California, Fire Relief
Colorado, Flood Recovery (2)
Colorado, Mission Station Assistance
Iowa, Storm Damage
Michigan, Flood Damage (3)
Mississippi, Tornado Damage

Missouri, Storm Damage
Nebraska, Emergency Assistance
North America, U.S. Storm Relief 
North America, Refugee Emergency Assistance (2)
Oklahoma, Long-Term Tornado Recovery
Pennsylvania, Church Water Damage
Tennessee, Hunger/Food Security
Texas, Unaccompanied Children Support
Texas, Flood Relief
U.S. Border, Unaccompanied Children Crisis (2)
Virginia, Food Security
Virginia, Refugee Resettlement (2)
Washington, Mudslide Response
West Virginia, Food Insecurity

Southern Asia
Bangladesh, Flood Relief
India, Flood Relief
Pakistan, Flood Relief

DEVELOPMENT AND LONG-TERM RECOVERY AND REHABILITATION

Africa
Africa, Hunger/Food Security

Latin America and Caribbean
Bolivia, Food Security
Colombia, Ecumenical Capacity Building
Haiti, Food Security

North America
Colorado, Long-Term Flood Recovery
Missouri, Long-Term Tornado Recovery

New Jersey, Hurricane Sandy Recovery

California Fires: Putting Compassion into Action

Rev. Jesse Kearns, pastor, First Christian Church, Chico, California brings us this update about the fires in Weed, California.

The Boles Fire that started on September 15, 2014 spread quickly over 479 acres right outside the town of Weed and destroyed 150 houses and 8 non-residential structures.  Several other residences were damaged as well.  Because the fire was driven by 45 mile-an-hour winds, it quickly burned out of control and residents had very little time to prepare for evacuation.  Many residents lost pets, but fortunately no human lives were lost.  Evacuation shelters were set up in neighboring Mount Shasta City.  Many of the people who lost their homes are still looking for more permanent shelter, but the number of families decreases every day.

Faith communities and businesses from as far away as Southern Oregon and Sacramento responded to the disaster.  With the support of a solidarity grant from Week of Compassion, the Chico Area Interfaith Council and First Christian Church collected money and gift cards to grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies, and other businesses where displaced residents could buy food and supplies.  Two pickup truck loads of blankets, toiletries, and supplies were also taken to Weed. 

The Salvation Army of Weed is handling the bulk of the distribution of goods and services to displaced families.  Many of the displaced families are volunteering at the Salvation Army to help other families.  One woman who lost her home said, "What else can we do?  We need to help each other through this."  Other organizations are providing counseling and medical care.  The SPCA has volunteers trying to find pets that survived the fire. 

Firefighters will continue to mop up and perform overhaul work within the fire perimeter. Damage Assessment Teams have concluded their inspections and are working with the City and County to produce a final damage inspection report. Excess resources are being released and made available for other incidents as necessary. Utility crews are continuing to assess and repair damaged equipment and infrastructure.

It is your generosity that puts Compassion into Action all around the world, from fire relief in California to assisting displaced persons in Iraq. Thank you for your faithful support to Week of Compassion.

This Week's Responses:

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Texas, Flood Relief
Iraq, Displaced People Assistance
Iowa, Storm Damage

When Disaster Strikes: September 23, 2014 Webinar Help Congregations, Organizations Prepare

How prepared is your congregation or organization to respond effectively and with confidence when disaster strikes, whether it's following a devastating tornado like Joplin, Missouri; a school shooting like Newtown, Connecticut; a superstorm like Katrina or Sandy, or an individual member's house fire?

September is National Preparedness Month, and this free, one-hour webinar - Tuesday, September 23, 2014, from 2-3 p.m. (U.S. Eastern) - will help equip you with practical ways your congregation or organization can prepare for disaster - and get ready to help your community recover, too!

Don't miss this special opportunity to learn from the coeditors of the valuable new "how-to" guide "Help and Hope: Disaster Preparedness and Response Tools for Congregations."  (For more information about the book, click here.)

Amy Gopp, Director of Member Relations and Pastoral Care at Church World Service, and Brandon Gilvin, Associate Director of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)'s Week of Compassion, will share lessons from real-life experience to help congregations and other community organizations to expect the unexpected and respond in ways that help and not hinder survivors' relief and recovery.

Topics to be covered include:

  • "Systems and Supplies: Some Lists and Tasks for Preparing Your Congregation for a Disaster"
  • "Knowing When to Stay and When to Go: A Guide to Volunteering"
  • "The Long-Term Recovery Process and Your Faith Community"
  • "The Importance of Spiritual and Emotional Care"

The webinar will include ample time for questions and answers.  Space is limited, so please register early

PAKISTAN FLOOD RESPONSE AND VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY

Torrential monsoon rains this month have so far killed at least 264 people and injured 484 others in Punjab; Pakistani-administered Kashmir (Azad Jammu and Kashmir); and Gilgit Baltistan provinces.

Low-lying areas have been submerged in water, and electricity and transport systems remain badly affected. The floods have in some way affected 2,459,708 people, according to authorities. Rains and flooding are expected to continue in coming days and could affect as many as 3 million people.

Most families affected lack access to adequate food, shelter and drinking water. These factors increase the risk of waterborne diseases and other health concerns. Food, emergency shelters, immediate healthcare, water and sanitation and non-food items are priority needs in the affected areas, as are access to clean water and adequate healthcare.

Week of Compassion Response:

Week of Compassion partner, CWS,  is assisting 6,400 families: 2,000 families (some 14,800 people) with food for three months; 1,000 families (about 7,400 people) with non-food items; 400 families (some 2,960 people) with shelter kits; and 3,000 families (about 22,200 people) with health assistance. The response focuses on the districts of Bagh, Haveli, and Poonch in Azad Kashmir. 

Last week in Azad Kashmir, CWS health team began assisting affected families in Bagh District. The health assistance across five villages in Bagh District is being provided through a mobile health unit. The mobile health unit is located near a camp settlement making access to health services easy for the individuals who have lost their homes living in the camp and for those in the surrounding area. CWS is distributing food and non-food items and assisting 175 families (1,295 individuals) in Bagh District.

Week of Compassion continues to monitor the situation in additional parts of the country and in other affected regions. If you would like to put your Compassion into Action follow this link.

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED IN COLORADO

Last fall, northern Colorado was beset by record rainfall. More than 20,000 homes and 2,000 businesses were damaged or destroyed. A long winter delayed significant repairs to the state’s infrastructure as well as some debris removal, complicating early response efforts. Despite these challenges, communities have pulled together to plan and prepare for the long haul. Members from Disciples congregations in Weld, Boulder, and Larimer County have been engaged from the beginning.

While the headlines receded along with the floodwaters, the needs remain. All of the pieces necessary for a long-term response have come together and communities across northern Colorado are ready to receive folks from outside the area. Disciples Volunteering is pleased to partner with Week of Compassion, the Central Rocky Mountain Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and First Christian Church, Loveland to establish a Mission Station in Loveland and enable mission teams to serve in the recovery. Work teams will be partnered with local response organizations, assisting people whose needs would otherwise go unmet. More information and registration for your mission team to serve in Colorado is available through Disciples Volunteering

This Week’s Responses:

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
India, Flood Relief
Pakistan, Flood Relief
California, Fire Relief

Compassion in Action

IMA WORLD HEALTH AND PARTNERS FIGHT THE SPREAD OF EBOLA IN LIBERIA

In early August, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf declared a state of emergency as the country grappled with the Ebola outbreak, which has killed more than 1,300 people, primarily in the West African countries of Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria.

Week of Compassion partner IMA World Health has partnered with the Christian Health Association of Liberia (CHAL), a network of Christian health organizations in Liberia, to provide health worker training and essential supplies to help stop the spread of the Ebola virus.

“CHAL reported that an increasing number of health care workers have contracted Ebola in a health facility,” said IMA World Health CEO and President Rick Santos. “This has exacerbated the problem because workers fear they will contract the disease and are not coming to work. These areas of Liberia already are ill equipped to handle the outbreak, and residents deserve the best care possible.”

CHAL is working in close collaboration with the Liberia Ministry of Health to train health care professionals, community health volunteers, and religious and traditional leaders on the key facts about Ebola. CHAL is also engaged in the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers, along with the training on its proper use.

If you would like to respond to the Ebola Outbreak by putting your Compassion into Action, follow this link.

When Disaster Strikes: Sept. 23 Webinar Help Congregations, Organizations Prepare

How prepared is your congregation or organization to respond effectively and with confidence when disaster strikes, whether it’s following a devastating tornado like Joplin, Missouri; a school shooting like Newtown, Connecticut; a superstorm like Katrina or Sandy, or an individual member’s house fire?

September is National Preparedness Month, and this free, one-hour webinar - Tuesday, September 23, 2014, from 2-3 p.m. (U.S. Eastern) - will help equip you with practical ways your congregation or organization can prepare for disaster - and get ready to help your community recover, too!

Don’t miss this special opportunity to learn from the coeditors of the valuable new “how-to” guide "Help and Hope: Disaster Preparedness and Response Tools for Congregations."  (For more information about the book, click here.)

Amy Gopp, Director of Member Relations and Pastoral Care at Church World Service, and Brandon Gilvin, Associate Director of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)'s Week of Compassion, will share lessons from real-life experience to help congregations and other community organizations to expect the unexpected and respond in ways that help and not hinder survivors’ relief and recovery.

Topics to be covered include:

  • “Systems and Supplies: Some Lists and Tasks for Preparing Your Congregation for a Disaster”
  • “Knowing When to Stay and When to Go: A Guide to Volunteering”
  • “The Long-Term Recovery Process and Your Faith Community”
  • “The Importance of Spiritual and Emotional Care”

The webinar will include ample time for questions and answers.  Space is limited, so please register early ! 

This Week’s Responses:

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance

Syria, Relief Support
North America, Refugee Support
Bangladesh, Flood Relief
Arizona, Flood Relief

From Our New Executive Director

It is an honor and a privilege to serve as your new Executive Director of Week of Compassion. 

During these first months of transition, it has been common for people to ask me how I pronounce my name, Vy Nguyen.  The easiest way I can explain its pronunciation is, "Vee" and "Nwin."  While I am new as a staff person to Week of Compassion, I am very familiar with this life-saving ministry and its many decades long history of offering hope and healing both to individuals and communities.

I am one of the many individuals who received this life-saving gift over three decades ago. 

Week of Compassion's partnerships with Disciples' Refugee and Immigration Ministries and Church World Service made it possible for me, as a child refugee, to come to the United States after the war ended in Vietnam in the 1970s.  Because I received this life-giving gift so long ago, it's an honor and a privilege today to come full circle with Week of Compassion and now be part of this life-saving, world-changing work.

Exciting Changes...

There is much change happening within the life of our church, and it is an exciting time to be church.  This week, Week of Compassion, along with other various general unit ministries in Indianapolis, moved into a new office location about half a mile from the old office space.  We have also had some significant staff changes in the last nine months: Rev. Amy Gopp stepped down as Executive Director of Week of Compassion at the end of last December and is now working with our partner at Church World Service, and Rev. Johnny Wray came back as our full- time Interim Executive Director.  During this transition period, Week of Compassion has continued to respond to many dire situations on the church's behalf.  I am grateful to Rev. Johnny Wray, Rev. Brandon Gilvin and Rev. Dawn Barnes, who worked tirelessly by taking up more responsibilities and ensuring that Week of Compassion could continue its work seamlessly. Because of their leadership and guidance, Week of Compassion continues to respond effectively and quickly to the many situations calling for Disciples to respond.

While change is always happening around us, the one thing that will always remain the same is the mission of Week of Compassion. 

As the relief, refugee, and development mission fund for our church, we have always and will continue to respond to natural and human-caused disasters with our sisters and brothers during their time of greatest need.  Together as a church and with our resources, we are able to provide hope and healing to vulnerable communities whom we might have never met otherwise, and we will continue to walk and journey with them along their struggles.  This is our work as a church: we are the presence of hope and comfort when hope seems lost.  This has always been our mission and will continue to be our guide as we move forward.

Week of Compassion is a leader and strong partner in emergency response and long-term development work.  We are one of the first to reach out to our Regional Ministers when a crisis occurs so we can find creative ways to respond with sensitivity and compassion.  As children fled their homes in Central America to search for safety, we reached out to our partners at Church World Service and Refugee & Immigration Ministries to make sure that the children were protected and safe.  As these situations continue to unfold, we are committed to staying and deepening our work of providing relief and comfort by doing real, sustainable work on the ground.  We will be there for the long-term, even after the media is no longer talking about these situations.

We respond with partnership.  We do the work ecumenically. We represent wholeness when the world seems to fragment. 

We serve a God who is compassionate, a God of Immanuel, a God who is always with us no matter what.  We serve a God who was present with the Israelites when they were walking through the desert and provided comfort and guidance, a God who broke down cultural barriers and walked up to a woman at the well to ask her for a cup of holy water. Our God is a God of life.  This is our compassionate God.  This is who we are called to be as Christ's followers.  Through Week of Compassion, we offer the presence of God in times of need in the same way that God offers God's self to us in our needs. 

We respond.  We give.  We turn our compassion into action.

As I begin serving as your Executive Director of Week of Compassion, I am grateful for your partnership. 

Week of Compassion is able to do its work because of your kindness and your continued sharing of resources.  It is because of your generosity that we are able to more fully embody the reign and rule of God in our community, our nation, and our world. 

I look forward to getting to know you and working with you in the upcoming weeks and months as we continue the important work and mission of Week of Compassion.

Grateful for our partnership,

Vy

This Week's Responses:

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
North America, Refugee Emergency Assistance
China, Earthquake Relief
Philippines, Typhoon Haiyan Response
Kenya, Conflict Survivors
Cameroon, Refugee Relief
Nepal, Landslide Relief
Liberia, Food Security
California, Earthquake Relief

A Celebration, an Invitation, and a Farewell

Celebrating Joplin and Closing the Station

A New Thing. 

Long-Term Volunteer Steve Huston shares a memory of two during the Celebration of "The Station." Photo Credit: Zach Wolgemuth

Long-Term Volunteer Steve Huston shares a memory of two during the Celebration of "The Station." Photo Credit: Zach Wolgemuth

The words of the Prophet Isaiah, and this past weekend, these were also the words of Rev. Kathryn Wilson, Minister of Mission and Outreach at South Joplin Christian Church, Joplin, Missouri.  Two years ago, in the wake of a devastating tornado, South Joplin began a new ministry-in partnership with Week of Compassion, Disciples Volunteering, and the Disaster Ministries of the United Church of Christ.  This last weekend, South   Joplin completed its mission by celebrating its impact in Joplin, sharing stories about the recovery, and remembering all of the steps-  some painful, some beautiful-along  the road to recovery.  It was a true  celebration of collaboration and  community, an effort that we at Week  of Compassion, and all of you who  have contributed to the recovery  effort, are truly blessed to have been a part of.  

Two walls in the Mission Station are covered by photos of work groups. Photo Credit: Zach Wolgemuth

Two walls in the Mission Station are covered by photos of work groups. Photo Credit: Zach Wolgemuth

More than 1,400 volunteers from UCC and Disciples groups have contributed to Joplin's recovery and experienced the hospitality of "The Station." Help us measure the impact of this partnership by completing a brief survey.  The information you share with us will help us sharpen our collaboration in future hands-on responses. 

No celebration is complete without cake! Photo Credit: Zach Wolgemuth

No celebration is complete without cake! Photo Credit: Zach Wolgemuth

We give thanks to God for such commitment, partnership, and impact.  This is truly what it means to call ourselves "Disciples." 

Hands-On Volunteers Needed in Colorado

Last fall, northern Colorado was beset by record rainfall. In just one week beginning September 9, 2013 one county received up to 20 inches of rain; this is the same amount it normally receives in an average year. Massive flooding occurred in 17 counties. More than 20,000 homes and 2,000 businesses were damaged or destroyed.   While the headlines receded along with the floodwaters, the needs remain. All of the pieces necessary for a long-term response have come together and communities across northern Colorado are ready to receive folks from outside the area. Disciples Volunteering is pleased to partner with Week of Compassion, the Central Rocky Mountain Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and First Christian Church, Loveland to establish a Mission Station in Loveland and enable mission teams to serve in the recovery. Work teams will be partnered with local response organizations, assisting people whose needs would otherwise go unmet. More information and registration for your mission team to serve in Colorado is available through Disciples Volunteering.

Following a New Call

When I was a kid, I received, as a gift from my Great Aunt, a poster which read "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all." I have been incredibly fortunate over the course of my adult life-I've had amazing opportunities in education and in my career.  I've been able to follow a call filled with excitement and adventure, meet incredible people, and tell stories that get to the heart of how we might change the world.  For the last five years, Week of Compassion has been how I have lived out this call.  I have treasured my time in partnership with each and every one of you.  But now, it is time to discern the next part of this daring adventure we call "life."

I will be completing my service with Week of Compassion on September 30, 2014.  Over the next few weeks, I will complete several projects, including an evaluation of our partnership with Disciples Volunteering and UCC Disaster Ministries in Joplin, Missouri, and will remain on call should our congregations or the communities in which they serve be impacted by disaster.  I look forward to what is coming next, and I am grateful for my time with WoC, and the many gifts it has brought me.

I've treasured the opportunity that I have had to learn from the exceptional leadership of Rev. Amy Gopp and Rev. Johnny Wray.  Their vision, optimism, and commitment has been nothing short of inspiring.  I've been so lucky to learn from them.  The insight and expertise our ecumenical and denominational partners have brought as we have collaborated both domestically and globally have also been an incredible gift.  Above all, the generosity you, your congregations, and your communities have shown has been the greatest gift I have experienced.  To have been a witness to the difference your gifts have made in lives impacted after disasters or in communities looking for sustainable solutions-what an honor. I will miss it.

I give thanks for these five years, for each of you, for what we have done, for what we have witnessed.  My prayers go with you all.  Thanks for so faithfully putting your Compassion into Action.

Best,
Brandon Gilvin 

This Week's Responses:

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
West Virginia, Food Insecurity
Michigan, Flood Damage (3)
North America, Spring Storm Response

UNACCOMPANIED CHILDREN CROSSING THE BORDER: MORE WAYS TO HELP

Unaccompanied children are coming to the U.S. due to rising levels of violence, gang activity, drug cartels and life threatening circumstances. Thus far over 60,000 children fleeing violence have come to the U.S. in 2014. According to the bi-partisan Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, passed in 2008 and signed by President George W. Bush, Health and Human Services are required to screen Central American children for humanitarian protection and asylum claims. Holding facilities have opened all over the country to house this mass influx of children. Many faith communities are responding by collecting goods to donate to the children and offering housing when possible.

In some situations immigration enforcement has dropped off released detainees at local bus stations or store parking lots. Often times these are vulnerable women and children who speak little to no English. They are released with no identification, money or cell phones, and only have a notice to appear document that provides them a court date for their case to be heard. Faith communities have been monitoring this situation and responding.

How Your Congregation Can Respond
Many congregations have provided support to Week of Compassion, and we have put those generous gifts to work.  However, many folks continue to ask how they might help in other ways.

The direct service response for this vulnerable population is imperative to accompany them to safe spaces and to assist in reuniting them with their families. Our partners at CWS have produced a great resource on how to appropriately offer hospitality to those children and families seeking refuge. 

You are also invited to send notes of support to children and families in the Artesia Detention Center, where Week of Compassion is supporting the pastoral needs.  Instructions for doing so are available here in English or Spanish.

For more information about protocols and legal assistance for unaccompanied children, please see this fact sheet.

CAREER OPPORTUNITY ON THE GULF COAST

Our Friends at Back Bay Mission, a community ministry of the United Church of Christ, are seeking an Executive Director. The primary responsibilities of this position include serving as the visible spokesperson of the Mission and overseeing management and financial accountability of the organization and its 13 member staff according to the policies and procedures established by the Board of Directors. Effective representation of the Mission to constituencies on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and in the United Church of Christ is also essential. Resumes and cover letters can be sent to Search Committee Chair David Yochum at yochum.david@gmail.com by Sept. 19, 2014. More information about this position is available here.

JOPLIN MISSION TRIP PARTICIPANTS:  WE NEED YOUR FEEDBACK!

Did you participate in a work trip organized by Disciples Volunteering or the United Church of Christ Disaster Ministries? If so, please complete the attached survey by September 15th. We're evaluating our work there and need your input!

Here's the link to the survey.

We are grateful, as always, for the ways you put your Compassion into Action!

Peace,
Brandon Gilvin
Director of Operations

This Week's Responses:

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Romania, Flood Relief

Development and Long-Term Recovery and Rehabilitation
Missouri, Long-Term Tornado Recovery