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‘Petra’s Pier Picnic’ tackles world hunger

Fishing adventure with dad teaches birthday girl to consider the needs of others

by Tammy Warren | Presbyterian News Service

“Petra’s Pier Picnic,” written by Presbyterian author Phyllis Vos Wezeman of South Bend, Ind., is a new children’s book on the topic of hunger. Oscar Joyo provided the book’s illustrations. (Contributed image)

LOUISVILLE — In her latest book, “Petra’s Pier Picnic,” author Phyllis Vos Wezeman introduces readers to a 9-year-old girl who is excited to go fishing with her father to celebrate her birthday. The crowded pier provides Petra a chance to use her new fishing pole. Her interactions also open her eyes and her heart to the needs of hungry people in the world. The book, for readers ages 10 and under, is illustrated by Chicago artist Oscar Joyo, who is originally from Malawi.

The seed for Petra’s adventure was planted in 2005, when Wezeman and a small group from First Presbyterian Church of South Bend, Ind., organized a short-term mission trip to Malawi. Church staff had been urged to go to the “Warm Heart of Africa” to look and listen, in part because First Presbyterian Church of South Bend has the largest number of members from Malawi of any congregation in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

The first mission trip 14 years ago led to a long-term relationship for Wezeman and others with their Malawian neighbors locally and abroad. Wezeman said she is preparing for her 23rd trip to Malawi in September. In addition, she has served as part of the Malawi Mission Network since 2005 and previously held the role of mission network chairperson. As a lifelong religious educator, her passion is seeing an end to the spread of HIV and AIDS, which is the leading cause of death in Malawi.

Author Phyllis Vos Wezeman, at right, who wrote “Petra’s Pier Picnic,” and Emily Mwale demonstrate the use of textiles to raise the awareness of HIV and AIDS prevention efforts in Malawi. (Contributed photo)

Food insecurity is common in Malawi due to severe flooding and drought during the growing season.

Through June 16 (Father’s Day), ACTA Publications is offering a 10% discount on the purchase of “Petra’s Pier Picnic” and all other ACTA titles. Use the coupon code MALAWI to place orders online at or by calling 800-397-2282. In addition to the discount, the publisher will make a 20% donation to the author’s mission work in Malawi, which is focused on education to prevent HIV and AIDS.

Phyllis Vos Wezeman, author of “Petra’s Pier Picnic,” has written nearly 2,000 articles and books published by more than 80 publishers. She was director of education and nurture at First Presbyterian Church in South Bend, Ind., for 12 years and is nationally recognized in the fields of faith formation and religious education.

Oscar Joyo, illustrator of “Petra’s Pier Picnic,” was introduced to art by his mother in Lilongwe, Malawi. His passion and skill grew through interest in animation, comic books, video games and film. Joyo moved from Malawi to South Bend, Ind., in 2000. After high school he moved to Chicago where he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in life drawing at the American Academy of Art in 2015. His interest in technical drawing led him to pursue professional illustration, graphic design, photography and fine art.

Presbyterian Hunger Program
Fighting hunger is at the heart of our Presbyterian understanding of mission. Jesus fed the hungry and told his disciples to do the same. Yet, we know that hunger is an extremely complex phenomenon with economic, political and social causes. The Presbyterian Hunger Program celebrates the vital work of local congregations through its Hunger Action Congregation program, while complementing such ministry by doing root cause work to help address the underlying questions of why people are hungry. In the U.S. and abroad, PHP works to address food insecurity through partners on the ground as communities wrestle with access to land and healthy food, income inequality, unfair trade and more. PHP currently provides assistance in countries experiencing famine because of violent conflict, flooding and drought.

Become a Matthew 25 church
Matthew 25 is a bold new vision and invitation from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) that calls us to actively engage in the world around us — serving those who are hungry, oppressed, imprisoned and poor. When we practice justice, love and kindness, we become a living translation of Jesus Christ. Your congregation can join us on this journey. Click here to find out how.


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