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Connecting and Equipping: 45 years of helping people through SDOP

By Cynthia E. White

Let’s begin this story in 1969. For 10-plus years pressure had been mounting in the nation:  the civil rights movement, the long, hot summers, and the growing rage over Vietnam. Churches across the country were feeling the heat and the pain.

The churches had to get involved. And involved the United Presbyterian Church got; realizing if they were going to reach those crying out in pain they were going to have to do something radically differently. Charity was not the answer nor was going into communities to evangelize.  What then? Listening! People in communities across the nation were screaming, ” Listen to us!  We know what we need; we know what is best for our communities.”

Walking humbly with God, letting justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream the church reached out to these communities which were very different from them. They were communities of color – African American, Native American, Hispanic, Asian — and economically poor. Thus began the ministry of the National Committee on the Self-Development of People, after reunion becoming the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People.  For 45 years SDOP has been a voice of the Church in economically poor, oppressed and disadvantaged communities across the country and around the world.


Alaska Mayor of Barrow

The Inuit people of Alaska fighting for land rights in 1971 received assistance from SDOP.  Winning their case in 1973 they returned the $95,000 to SDOP.  Today the Mayor of Barrow is the daughter of one of the founding members of the Arctic Slope Native Association.  And the Association is one of the largest employees in the North Slope of Alaska.  The Alabama Panola Land Buyers Association received funds to build 10 homes in this economically depressed area of rural Alabama. The Association went on to build 300 home and 126 units for multi-family dwellings.  Family members of the original Association members occupy the homes built in 1971.

SDOP was and continues to be a ministry that brings the bible alive by supporting our neighbors, diminishing barriers, helping people in overcoming oppression and injustices, and by promoting social and economic equality.

Today, working with Damayan, an organization of Filipino domestic workers SDOP has been of assistance to them in their fight against the trafficking of human beings. SDOP partnered with Ex-Prisoners and Prisoners Organizing for Community Advancement in Worcester, MA in their struggle to regain their dignity and ability to make a decent living with the label ex-offenders. In 1997, SDOP was one of the initial funders for the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.  Today, it is an organization of over 3,000 Latino, Haitian, and Mayan immigrant workers. Mostly recently SDOP assisted them in upgrading their community radio station enabling them to reach their members in their specific languages.

Through your support of the One Great Hour of Sharing offering SDOP is changing lives, please give generously.  And join us in celebrating the SDOP ministry on Sunday, March 15, 2015.

Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

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