Preview of the September/October 2015 Issue
Healing a hurting world
How to be a positive force for change without being a hero
by David LaMotte
Growing up in the ’70s, I had brown corduroy pants, a black-and-white TV, feathered hair, and a Trapper Keeper notebook. The widespread cultural turmoil of the civil rights era had largely subsided, and—other than the occasional school bully and a vague concern that nuclear annihilation might come any day—the cultural space I inhabited felt fairly calm and predictable.
I was born three weeks to the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was killed. By the time I entered middle school, it had been a generation since Rosa Parks’s famous arrest in 1955. Her story had aged enough to feel safe for textbooks. Parks was held up as a hero, a seemingly powerless little, old African American lady who had made a spontaneous decision not to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery bus and literally changed the world with her courage. So the story went.
I was inspired by that story, as I still am, but what I didn’t know as a young student is that the version I was being taught omitted much of the truth. What I wasn’t taught changes everything.Continue reading
Why black lives should matter to the church
By Mihee Kim-Kort
It was my first church mission trip since the twins’ arrival four years ago. We hopped over to West Virginia to a little town called St. Albans to rebuild a deck for a mother of four children.
As young and old worked tirelessly to dig postholes, I watched a little black girl with a poof of hair framing her face peek out at us from the window. I watched 11-year-old Makaya burst forth from the house, all sunlight and giggles, charming us all and playing with the kids.
They were silly together as typical preteens, giggling and squealing while throwing tortilla chips and making up games and jokes. She was tall and lanky, all limbs, with short shorts, a tight gray top, and her hair tied down in two spots and poofed out in the back. Three-year-old Evaline came out to watch, and Makaya grabbed her in a big bear hug as she tried to squirm away. Soon they all crammed together, sitting at the back of the van, and I couldn’t help it. I pulled my phone out to take a photo of them.
They were sweet. Precious. My mind raced through the critiques I had internalized about doing mission trips—how these “projects” cast the incomers as heroes. Did these girls inwardly cringe at my lens pointed straight at them? Did they feel safe? I thanked them and had them look at the photo. They convulsed with glee at their funny expressions.Continue reading
Self-Development of People—
45 years of ministry to the oppressed
By Rick Jones
The late 1960s marked the height of the civil rights era in the United States. Activists were stunned by the recent assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and the nation was grappling with change.
As poverty and oppression continued their chokehold on communities of color, several activists, including James Forman, turned to mainline denominations to “step up” and make a difference. The Presbyterian Church took Forman’s message seriously—creating what came to be known as the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People.
“It had to be a new form of ministry, not just charity,” says Cynthia White, SDOP coordinator. “It had to be a ministry of respect. They may need technical and financial assistance that the church can provide, but the community would own and control the projects.”
If people were facing economic challenges, this new ministry was prepared to help.Continue reading
Presbyterian involvement remains strong as the UN marks 70 years.
By Ryan Smith
Seventy years ago the United States dropped atomic bombs, leveling two Japanese cities. Hitler committed suicide. Allied forces liberated Auschwitz. And against that backdrop of international upheaval, voices cried out in fear that weapons like those that had rocked Japan could annihilate the world. Other voices implored that the world codify the concept of human rights. Many clamored for an international organization that could prevent future world wars.
The United Nations was born in October 1945. And there at the forefront of international policymaking were Presbyterians determined to help shape a world that better reflected the peace, unity, and justice of Jesus Christ. Today, such peace might seem as elusive as ever. But in the face of all that threatens the world, Presbyterians still make their voices heard—including at the United Nations.
For nearly three-quarters of a century, the United Nations has provided member states an opportunity to make significant change in the lives of individuals across the world. But before the UN even officially opened its doors, the Presbyterian Church championed its cause. In the mid-1940s, PC(USA) predecessor denominations stressed the importance of an international organization dedicated to peace.
The Presbyterian Church was present at the beginning, when there were only 51 member states as compared with the 193 member states and two permanent observer states now.Continue reading
Climate change and religious rifts
by Angie Andriot
Nearly all scientists—87 percent—say the earth is warming because of human activity, according to a study of the Pew Research Center and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In contrast, only 50 percent of the public believes the same thing. This difference between scientists and the public is well-known.
But did you know that religion shapes our beliefs about climate change?
Although only 6 percent of regular churchgoers say their religious beliefs shape their views on the environment, Christians who hear from their clergy about climate change are more likely to believe that global warming is caused by human activity. Also, beliefs about climate change differ by religion. While 66 percent of Jewish Americans and 57 percent of religiously unaffiliated people believe humans are causing global warming, only 27 percent of evangelical Protestants do. Mainline Protestants reflect the general population, with 50 percent believing that human activity is causing climate change.Continue reading
‘Responding to a critical need’
Tucson Young Adult Volunteers learn more than just home repairs.
By Kathy Melvin
In the dry, suffocating heat of the Arizona desert, acts of grace are happening in the most unexpected places—on rooftops, in crawl spaces, under mobile homes.
Four Young Adult Volunteers serving with Community Home Repair Projects of Arizona are doing ordinary work with extraordinary results. CHRPA helps the elderly and people with low incomes or disabilities with essential home repairs, from restoring water to a kitchen sink to building a wheelchair ramp.
Hanbyeol Nam is one of those volunteers. Hanbyeol is one of four Korean exchange YAVs working in the United States in 2014–15 thanks to Presbyterian World Mission. A 22-year-old born in South Korea, she is a student at Hannam University there and hopes to use her degree in economics to help developing countries. Before entering her junior year, she committed to spend a year as a YAV serving with CHRPA in Tucson. In addition to mastering plumbing and carpentry skills, she also had to learn the language and the culture.Continue reading
Wounded healers, wounded killers
When hurting people hurt others
by Patrick David Heery
We as followers of Christ, Henri Nouwen once wrote, are called to “put our woundedness in the service of others.” It’s a beautiful image, this wounded healer whose pain compels and empowers the mending of others. It’s an image of Christ crucified and risen. But how elusive that ideal can be, for it seems our hurts are just as likely to drive us to hurt others as they are to heal.
Like many kids, I was bullied in school. And I remember how much it made me want to set the world on fire.Continue reading
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