November 26, 2023
For more than 52 years the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People (SDOP) has helped communities recover from the legacy of racism and structural inequality infecting every nation around the world. The focus on community comes into focus when our story is shared in Spanish, El Comité Presbiteriano del Autodesarrollo de los Pueblos.
Pueblo communicates the commitment to supporting the development of social capital.
Recently, members of the International Task force for SDOP made a trip to Panama to deepen our connection with groups who have received funding over the past three years.
Our visits included two groups whose members are all women. One in Azuera contributes to economic vitality by teaching women how to make traditional tembleques. These traditional hair adornments made out of fish scales make an important contribution to continuing long-held traditions. The second all-woman group is working to address systemic poverty in Afro-descendent in San Miguelito.
The range of projects span the fields of agriculture, the arts and renewable energy. Each project has in common the outcome of changed lives, changed relationships and new vision for people and pueblitos with processes that are environmentally friendly, nonviolent and sustainable.
SDOP funding is provided by the people in the pews who make gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing. The grants made by SDOP are directed toward projects that are owned and controlled by the groups making requests. Such requests must include goals and objectives that address long-term issues of poverty and oppression.
One woman spoke for many when she said, “I am 50 years old; no one will hire me. But here I have learned how to make and sell these tembleques and now I can bring money home for my family. I have new skills, new friends and new hopes.”
The Matthew 25 call for us to eradicate systemic poverty is one that should be deeply heeded both in the United States and abroad. Systemic poverty can be understood as the exploitation of people through systems such as laws, policies, practices, ideologies and institutions that continue to perpetuate poverty and lack of access to education, transportation, fresh food, financial resources, healthy environments, living wages, health care, benefits, citizenship and affordable housing.
As Presbyterians, we are called to be both movement and missionally minded about addressing these issues of poverty by engaging this significant work together. We can do this by building coalitions, creating networks and forging authentic relationships with communities and anti-poverty organizations. As you engage in this work, the PC(USA) Matthew 25 webpage provides practical and helpful resources designed to assist and equip you in taking action. Visit presbyterianmission.org/ministries/matthew-25/poverty.
Rev. Mark Davis, retired pastor and member of the National Committee of the Presbyterian Committee on the Self Development of People. He is a member of its South Task Force.
Rev. Dr. Alonzo T. Johnson, Coordinator of the Presbyterian Committee on the Self Development of People.
The prayer is by Rev. Jeanette Salguero, pastor at the multicultural The Gathering in Orlando, Florida, vice president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition and director of the Carrion Hispanic Leadership Institute at Southeastern University.
Revised Common Lectionary Readings for Sunday, November 26, 2023, Christ the King (Reign of Christ) Sunday (Year A)
Today’s Focus: Matthew 25: Eradicate Systemic Poverty Sunday
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Rose Schoene, Client Service Specialist, Presbyterian Foundation
Eileen Schuhmann, Associate, Global Engagement & Resources, Presbyterian Hunger Program, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Let us pray
Lord, help us to follow your commandment of loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. Help us to heed your word and stand alongside those facing hunger and satisfy the needs of the oppressed. If the sin of partiality comes knocking at our door — may we stand firm in your word — and reject it. Help us understand that when we give a banquet and invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind — we will be blessed. In Jesus’ name! Amen.
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