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North Carolina church transforms the lives of resettled families

October 24, 2016

Editor’s note: Since this story was originally published, Rev. John Odom has accepted a call to serve as the presbyter for community life for Mid-Kentucky Presbytery. The ministries that are the focus of the story continue.

For two decades Starmount Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, North Carolina, 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.

Rev. John Odom baptizes Marceline Kilassa and Benjamin Kibfoulwa, with Rev. Kathryn Campbell. Both children received help through the Black Child Development Institute.

Rev. John Odom baptizes Marceline Kilassa and Benjamin Kibfoulwa, with Rev. Kathryn Campbell. Both children received help through the Black Child Development Institute.

“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 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 United States. 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 US Census Bureau, more than 16 million children live in poverty and nearly half must survive on an annual household income below the poverty line.

“We have a preschool that is more than 50 years old, and education has been a hallmark of ministry at Starmount,”Odom said. “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.

Rick Jones, Communications Strategist, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Today’s Focus: Salem Presbytery

Let us join in prayer for:

Presbytery Staff

Sam Marshall, Executive Presbyter, West Neighborhood, REACH Ministry Area
Dianna Wright, Associate Presbyter, African American Advocate, Central Neighborhood, EQUIP Ministry Area
Bryan McFarland, Associate Presbyter, Hunger Action Advocate, Communications Coordinator, East Neighborhood, SEND Ministry Area

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff

Debra Hepler, PMA
Gil Herbig, PMA

Let us pray

Living God, we thank you for the opportunity you have given us, the means you have provided for us, and the desire you have created in us to use our God-given skills to provide for and encourage those less fortunate. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Daily Lectionary

Morning Psalms 62; 145
First Reading Jonah 1:17-2:10
Second Reading Revelation 11:1-14
Gospel Reading Luke 11:14-26
Evening Psalms 73; 9

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