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Celebrating the victories of Joining Hands and its alliances

‘We’re doing exactly what Matthew 25 is calling the whole church to do’

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

Joining host Darla Carter, top left, on Thursday’s Join the Movement telecast were, top right, Valéry Nodem and the Rev. Ellie Stock. (Screenshot)

LOUISVILLE — Two longtime members of Joining Hands, an international ministry of the Presbyterian Hunger Program, shared memories and reflections during a Thursday afternoon broadcast. Watch a clip taken from the broadcast here.

Valéry Nodem, who coordinates Joining Hands for PHP, and the Rev. Ellie Stock from the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy were featured guests on “Join the Movement,” a digital series highlighting Compassion, Peace & Justice ministries and how to connect with them.

Joining Hands is a ministry that challenges systems that perpetuate hunger, poverty and injustice around the world by working closely with partners in places like Peru, Haiti, India and Cameroon to overcome the vestiges of colonization and other issues, such as damage to the environment.

“The really good thing about the work of Joining Hands is … working through alliances” and realizing that in order to make the world a better place, “we need other people,” said Nodem, Associate for International Hunger Concerns for PHP.

The ministry aligns with the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s Matthew 25 vision and invitation. “The primary goal of Joining Hands is to fight not only poverty but systemic poverty, really looking at root causes, looking at systems and structures that perpetuate hunger and poverty around the world,” Nodem said. “So, in that sense, I will say we’re doing exactly what Matthew 25 is calling the whole church to do: Go beyond gifts, go beyond fixing things for other people and really try to look at how are all these things affecting all of us together?”

For example, when there’s climate change in “Latin America or Africa or Asia, we’re feeling it here in the U.S.,” Nodem said. “When there’s corruption in a country where we’re working, it has global ramifications, so I think the church is really crucial in that work because the church is doing it with people and not for people.”

Decades of toxic emissions from a nearby smelter in La Oroya, Peru, have caused acid rain that has burned the hillsides. (Photo by Jed Koball)

Stock, whose passion is Peru, talked about strides made in addressing a number of issues in that South American country, from environmental contamination in La Oroya to the need for greater economic opportunities for residents. By helping to create a fair-trade corridor from Peru to St. Louis, “we were able to work with the artisans, not only just making their products but also creating a livelihood for themselves that helped them economically and spiritually and socially and every other way,” said Stock, who is part of Joining Hands Peru in her presbytery and co-coordinator of the Earth Care Team at Second Presbyterian Church in St. Louis.

Nodem spoke about Joining Hands winning a victory in the Democratic Republic of Congo that has opened the door to mining revenues being shared with communities after several years of advocacy by the Platform of Civil Society Organizations Working in the Mining Sector (POM). That’s the value of being “really focused … and just working together,” Nodem said.

(Read more about Joining Hands work in the March issue of the CPJ Focus newsletter.)

A highlight of Thursday’s broadcast was a video pegged to Joining Hands’ 20th anniversary, about two years ago. The video provided an overview of the ministry, examples of various projects and scenes of activism by partners around the world.

Many of the countries that are involved in Joining Hands, including Nodem’s home country of Cameroon, are rich in natural resources. But residents sometimes are hampered by power structures and corporations whose operations often take more than they give. Joining Hands has proven to be a catalyst for change through local people, organizations and communities.

“When you finally realize the power that your country has — the potential that is within communities — you just want to do something,” Nodem said. “You want to make it right.”

The Presbyterian Hunger Program is one of the Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. Its work is made possible through your gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing.

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