Friday, July 17
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Presbytery of Southeastern Illinois
The Presbytery of Southeastern Illinois was confronted with a true test to our compassionate and prophetic discipleship when the blizzard of January 2014 hit the area with a debilitating blast. Who knew that hospitality in the face of subzero temperatures and blinding snow would not only unleash generous compassion but also renew and redirect good and faithful servants.
Interstate 57 in central Illinois was closed down. Cars and trucks slid into snowbanks and could not move. First Presbyterian Church of Mattoon, in cooperation with the American Red Cross and local and state first responders, opened the church as a refuge for those who needed shelter from the storm. Over the course of three days, the church provided shelter, food, support, and so much else to some 500 people and their pets.
Where did the congregation’s newfound friends sleep? In the pews of the sanctuary (the first time a church encouraged that), in Sunday school rooms, in the church gym, and anywhere else space could be found. First Mattoon members showed the love and compassion of Jesus Christ to those who were adrift. Someone was available to help from the moment people entered the facility until they left. One guest even told the pastor that he had been away from the church for some time and would now go back because of what he saw this church doing.
A family of four traveling from Missouri wound up in a ditch near Raymond, Illinois. The pastor of First United Presbyterian, having anticipated the need for hospitality, alerted the local fire chief that the Presbyterians were ready if the need arose. The travelers limped into town with a tire off its rim. After a warm meal at the home of the fire chief, Presbyterians provided dry clothes, beds to sleep in, and a hearty breakfast. The firemen found a tire dealer that would open and, through donations, replace the damaged wheel and tire with new ones. The car was fixed, and the stranded travelers continued their journey stocked with food for the rest of their trip.
First Presbyterian of Mattoon and First United of Raymond are among the 94 congregations of the Presbytery of Southeastern Illinois.
—Anne Jones, transitional executive presbyter
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray
Thank you, God, for unexpected gifts from wintry weather that lead us regular Christians to new places to serve you. Amen.