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Investing in our children

Gifts to the Pentecost Offering make an impact that will continue into the future

Two girls

Growing in faith at the Magic Kingdom: Courtney and Chelsea Anderson, from First Presbyterian Church in Morganton, N.C., were among the 1,600 teenagers who attended this year’s Faith in 3D event supported in part by the Pentecost Offering. Photo by Leep Zelones/Christie’s Photographic Studios.

A young adult finds her calling after life-changing mission experiences in Northern Ireland and at the U.S.-Mexico border. A teenager and her mother are challenged to a deeper level of Christian commitment. Children at risk of dropping out of school discover that learning can be fun in a summer program hosted by a Presbyterian congregation. These stories all have at least one thing in common: they would not have been possible without the donations of Presbyterians to the Pentecost Offering.

Vocational discernment

Marie Kessler was a college student when she first learned about the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) program. She applied and was placed in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where she worked with a Presbyterian church and a community center, under the direction of longtime mission worker Doug Baker.

After serving in Belfast, Kessler decided she wanted to pursue a career working with marginalized and low-income populations. She had completed several internships and was considering graduate school when she remembered that the YAV program had a site in Tucson, Ariz.

“I had experience working with migrant populations,” she says, “and I felt particularly compelled to learn more about the struggles migrants were facing on the U.S.-Mexico border.” So Kessler began serving a second term as a YAV in Tucson, where she learned about these struggles firsthand.

“Issues of globalism, U.S. economic and foreign policy, and border security measures form the backdrop and context for all of our work,” says Brandon Wert, site coordinator for the YAV program in Tucson. “Many of the placements in Tucson engage border/migration issues from a faith-based perspective.”

In Tucson, Kessler volunteered with No More Deaths, a ministry supported by faith institutions, human rights groups and individuals concerned about the increasing numbers of migrants who were dying while crossing the southern Arizona desert. She coordinated volunteers, provided humanitarian aid to people in the desert and helped launch a public awareness campaign in the Tucson community.

After her year as a volunteer ended, Kessler stayed in Tucson and now manages a farmers market. The job allows her to support small farmers and increase access to nutritious food among low-income populations, she says. “I have the joy of connecting with families, farmworkers and fellow community advocates to work toward a more just food system and local economy.”

Kessler is one of many young adults whose opportunities for mission service and learning through the YAV program have led to important vocational discernment, says Shannon Langley, coordinator of the young adult and national volunteer programs of the PC(USA). She notes that the young adults carry their YAV experiences with them into their careers and throughout their lives.

Gifts to the 2012 Pentecost Offering will:

  • Enable 70 young adults aged 19–30 to serve as Young Adult Volunteers for a year, working with mission partners of the PC(USA) in more than 15 sites and focusing on simple living and vocational discernment
  • Help cover travel, living and insurance expenses for YAVs in the United States and overseas
  • Provide funding for a year-end retreat that prepares YAVs to integrate their mission experience into their lives after service (typically, a third of YAVs go on to ordained ministry)
Deeper Discipleship
A woman lighting candles

A mission Journey: Marie Kessler served as a Young Adult Volunteer in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and then spent another year as a volunteer with the YAV program in Tucson, Ariz. Photo courtesy of YAV site coordinator Brandon Wert.

After attending a Pathways youth ministry seminar in Indianapolis last summer, Amari Dryden and her mother, Althea Dryden, members of Central Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Ky., say they felt newly inspired to follow God’s call in their lives.

“I’ve been really thinking about college,” says Amari, a high school sophomore. For most of her life, she had assumed she would go to a big state school. At the Pathways event, she says, “I picked up a guide to Presbyterian colleges and was amazed at what is out there. My eyes were opened to interests that I didn’t even know I had—like church, volunteering and mission.”

The Pathways program is a collaborative effort of the youth ministries and vocation offices of the PC(USA) and Princeton Theological Seminary’s Institute for Youth Ministry. One-day Pathways seminars, offered in locations across the country, help young people deepen their discipleship and articulate their sense of who God is calling them to be. The goal is to cultivate a youthful and energetic presence in the church while equipping teens for leadership, citizenship and personal discipleship.

“It’s all about a sense of belonging,” says Amari’s mother, Althea. “We see people from our church. But you realize at these larger events that you really belong to this church—this whole community whose purpose is to love, to be joyful, caring and creative.”

Youth with a sense of being part of this larger Christian community, she says, “can be confident talking to God or about God, and about feeling that they are loved.”

Gifts to the 2012 Pentecost Offering will:

  • Help fund a series of one-day Pathways youth ministry seminars in various locations
  • Provide leadership and scholarships for the 2012 Presbyterian Youth Workers conference in St. Pete Beach, Fla., July 29–Aug. 2, offering youth ministry leaders time for prayer, study, networking and spiritual direction
  • Support the 2013 Presbyterian Youth Triennium, bringing together more than 5,000 young people from across the country for six days of lively worship, study, recreation, community building and mission immersion
Freedom to learn
Two young women holding crosses

Marie Kessler worked with No More Deaths, a ministry providing humanitarian aid and seeking to raise awareness about the increasing numbers of migrants dying while crossing the southern Arizona desert. Photo courtesy of YAV site coordinator Brandon Wert

“Why it’s called Freedom School: we get freedom to do stuff that’s fun, to express ourselves and to read aloud.”

“We read stories that a lot of us can relate to.”

“I like when they talked about Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.”

Those are a few of the comments from children who attended a six-week Freedom School last summer hosted by C.N. Jenkins Memorial Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, N.C., and made possible in part by gifts to the Pentecost Offering. Created by the child advocacy organization the Children’s Defense Fund, Freedom Schools are literacy-based summer learning experiences offered at no cost to participants in various sites across the nation. The schools are designed for inner-city children from low-income families who are at risk of dropping out of school.

Freedom Schools help build confidence and a sense of self-worth in the children who attend. The programs integrate conflict resolution and activities promoting social, cultural and historical awareness. Since the first Freedom School was offered in 1995, some 90,000 children have benefited from the program.

“This program reaches our sons and daughters,” says Jerry L. Cannon, pastor of C.N. Jenkins Presbyterian Church, one of the fastest-growing African American churches in the PC(USA). With its strong commitment to community enrichment and outreach, the Charlotte congregation was excited to be able to host a Freedom School for 52 children last summer, Cannon says.

“We witnessed the positive impact on children due to the magic of Freedom Schools,” he says. “This magic should be available for all children who need it.”

Cannon is particularly impressed by research showing that Freedom Schools keep students from forgetting things they learned during the previous school year. “Independent evaluation results from the Center for Adolescent Literacies at UNC–Charlotte found that Freedom School prevents summer learning loss for 90 percent of the children who participate,” he says. “This is phenomenal news for children who typically lose two to three months of learning over the summer months.

“Through Freedom Schools, the vast majority of children increase their reading achievement,” he adds, citing research that indicates that participation in Freedom School raises the reading skills of many children by one or more grade levels.

Freedom School prevents summer learning loss for 90 percent of the children who participate. This is phenomenal news for children who typically lose two to three months of learning over the summer months.

—Jerry L. Cannon

  • Freedom Schools are one of the programs promoted by the PC(USA)’s child advocacy ministry. Other advocacy efforts funded by the Pentecost Offering include:
  • Raising awareness of the trafficking of children for labor and prostitution in the United States and overseas and giving Presbyterians tools to respond effectively
  • Connecting Presbyterians who have a particular interest in children’s ministry and advocacy issues
  • Advocating public policies that ensure children have what they need for healthy growth and development, including access to high-quality public education and health care

Judson Taylor is an associate for mission communications for the General Assembly Mission Council of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Faith in 3D

At a glance

Pentecost Offering

Gifts to the Pentecost Offering make a difference for thousands of children, teenagers and young adults. The 2012 Pentecost Offering is one of four churchwide special offerings (the others are One Great Hour of Sharing, the Peacemaking Offering and the Christmas Joy Offering). This year’s offering will be received on Pentecost Sunday, May 27.

What the offering supports: PC(USA) Young Adult Volunteer program (25 percent), youth ministry (25 percent) and advocacy for children at risk (10 percent). The remaining 40 percent is retained by congregations to be used for ministries with children and youth at risk.

Here are some of the ways congregations have used their 40-percent share:

  • To provide assistance to a teen pregnancy resource center
  • To provide meals for starving or malnourished children and their families
  • To fill backpacks with food for low-income children to eat when school is not in session
  • To purchase Bibles for vacation Bible school students
  • To support a presbytery summer camp

To order free materials for promoting the Pentecost Offering: (800) 524-2612

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