North Carolina church transforming the lives of resettled families

Education is the focus of 20-year initiative

By Rick Jones
Compassion, Peace and Justice Communications

Editor’s note: Since this story was published, Rev. John Odom accepted a call to serve as the Presbyter for Community Life for Mid-Kentucky Presbytery

children with pastor

The Rev. John Odom, pastor of Starmount Presbyterian Church baptizes Marceline Kilassa and Benjamin Kibfoulwa, with teaching elder Kathryn Campbell, associate pastor (left). Both children received help through Black Child Development Institute.

For two decades the Starmount Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, N.C., has been actively ministering to families resettling in the community, with a special emphasis on children and youth.  Part of that commitment has been partnering with families from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Bosnia, Syria and Chad to name a few.

“There is not a great financial need among our own members, but for the refugees and their children, there are needs that we can help to meet and that includes helping children be prepared for school,” said the Rev. John Odom, Starmount pastor. “We help fund school supplies for refugees and use 40 percent of our Pentecost offering to support the Black Child Development Institute, because it provides for the needs of all children in our community, ensuring they are prepared for educational success.”

The Black Child Development Institute of Greensboro, Inc. was founded in 1978 and is one of 33 affiliates in the U.S. Since its inception, its goal has been to “improve and protect the quality of life for children and youth” in the Greater Greensboro community.

“One of the ways the institute prepares children is to ensure they have the practical items such as clothing, school supplies, backpacks and calculators,” said Odom. “The calculators are essential and cost about $100 each. Through this program, students get the supplies they need including the calculators.”

In 2014, the 221st General Assembly adopted the “Educate a Child, Transform the World” initiative with a goal of “providing quality education to one million children in the United States and around the world by the year 2020.” According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 16 million children live in poverty and nearly half must survive on an annual income below the poverty line.

“We have a pre-school that is more than 50 years old and education has been a hallmark of ministry at Starmount,” added Odom. “This was a logical extension of that and hopefully, we are helping to further the educational opportunities for children outside of our direct ministry.”

Church officials believe the Educate a Child initiative, deeply rooted in the Presbyterian Church’s focus on education, can be a catalyst that will give children an opportunity to reach educational goals and a better future.

“In engaging in ministries of direct service, we, the church, learn more about some of the challenging issues that our young people and their families face in reference to educational preparedness and accessibility,” said Alonzo Johnson, mission associate with the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program and convener of the national Educate a Child initiative. “It is critically important for the church to interface with and address many of these issues which serve as stumbling blocks that prevent young people from living a life of self-determination.”

More information about the national component of the education initiative is available online. For more information on the international campaign, please click here.

Individuals or churches interested in giving directly to the national initiative can do so through the ECO E052178 or online by clicking here. Donations to the international component can be made through ECO E052143 or by clicking here.

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