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Building a strong foundation for ministry

Pillars of the Church program encourages a sustained, generous community of donors

by Melody K. Smith | Presbyterian News Service

The family of Bruce Reyes-Chow, moderator of the 218th General Assembly, supports the Pillars of the Church program. (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE — Faithful witness can be demonstrated in myriad ways, supporting the mission and ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency in a very foundational fashion. The Pillars of the Church program provides a path for disciples to joyfully engage in God’s mission for the transformation of the world for generations to come.

For Bruce Reyes-Chow, former teaching elder and moderator of the 218th General Assembly (2008), choosing to support ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency through sustained giving was a family decision.

“Our family continues to give to the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations and to Philippines mission co-workers Cobbie and Dessa Palm,” he said, “because we have experienced their ministry firsthand and know that their ongoing effectiveness relies heavily on the support of those who are not equipped to do the same.”

In this world of change and often uncertainty, Jesus taught us to love God and love our neighbor. These are the pillars of our faith. The Reyes-Chow family understands this.

“Through our giving, we not only claim our connection and commitment to the global body of Christ but, practically, we free up some of their fundraising time so they can do the work they have been called to do,” Reyes-Chow said.

Sharon Kutz-Mellem, ruling elder at Crescent Hill Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Ky., financially supports mission co-workers in Guatemala through the Pillars of the Church program. (Contributed photo)

Thinking and planning long-term is at the core of the Pillars program. This is something Sharon Kutz-Mellem, ruling elder and member of Crescent Hill Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, understands. She is recently retired after serving congregations in southern Indiana for more than a decade as a commissioned ruling elder.

Her ongoing support for Brian and Sandi Thompson-Royer in Guatemala led Kutz-Mellem to her new calling. “I had always planned to continue to be the hands and feet of Jesus after I retired, but I never imagined it quite in the way I am doing it now,” she said. “These days I am meeting immigrants legally seeking asylum who are traveling to their sponsors on a Greyhound bus. When they are released from detention at the border, they have only the clothes on their back — no food, no shoelaces, no belt, no baby supplies. Nothing. We meet them with diapers, Ziploc bags filled with snacks, and a bottle of water. As I pass the snacks to each tired traveler, I hear snippets of the Communion liturgy in my head, ‘the body of Christ given for you.’ When I pass the bottled water, I hear ‘Jesus Christ, the cup of salvation.’ I am moved to tears because I feel like I have experienced Communion the way Jesus intended for all of us.”

Motivation to become a Pillar of the Church often comes from unlikely sources. Sheila Louder, ruling elder at New Life Presbyterian Church in College Park, Georgia, came to her decision after her participation in the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in 2013 and 2014.

Sheila Louder, ruling elder at New Life Presbyterian Church in College Park, Georgia, supports advocacy programs in New York City and Washington, D.C. (Contributed photo)

“I was moved to become a Pillar of the Church because of my involvement with the Presbyterian Mission Agency, Ministry at the United Nations in New York City and Ecumenical Advocacy Days in Washington, D.C.,” she said. “Both the United Nations Ministry and Ecumenical Advocacy Days have been the most meaningful and educational experiences of my faith journey in the denomination.”

Giving through the Pillars program builds a constituency of visible and tangible support. It recognizes generosity at every level, because every gift is important.

“Jesus taught us that the greatest commandments were to love God and to love our neighbor as our self. On these two hang all the law and the prophets. These are the ‘pillars’ of our faith,” said Rosemary Mitchell, senior director of Mission Engagement and Support.  “As we live into these words we become Pillars of the Church, the Body of Christ.”

Individuals interested in becoming a Pillar of the Church can designate a monthly, sustaining or multi-year gift to be used where most needed or directly to a particular ministry of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. Gifts can also be made in honor or in memory of a loved one.

Heath Rada was Moderator of the 221st General Assembly. (Photo by Gregg Brekke)

“I continue to participate in the ongoing work of the PC(USA) at both the national as well as the local levels because I believe our denomination seeks to follow Jesus’ teachings in more appropriate ways than many others,” said Heath K. Rada, former president of the Presbyterian School of Christian Education (now part of Union Presbyterian Seminary) and moderator of the 221st General Assembly (2014) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). He currently resides in Montreat, N.C.

“These not only include the gift of salvation but also the commitment to love, and to offer peace, compassion and justice for all of God’s children, and not to be their judges.”

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