Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) announces 2020 Women of Faith awardees

 

Recipients work to disrupt systemic poverty

by Gail Strange | Presbyterian News Service
 

 

BALTIMORE —Three women working to disrupt systemic poverty were named recipients of the 2020 Women of Faith Awards Friday by the board of the Presbyterian Mission Agency of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) during its meeting in Baltimore.

Ana (Annie) D. Torres de Jimenez, Joyce Hamilton and Ruth Azar were approved following recommendations from the Women of Faith Selection Committee. Nominations are received from throughout the church, and a committee of representatives from women’s groups from across the PC(USA) select the honorees.

The women will be honored at the Women of Faith Breakfast on Sunday, June 21, during the 224th General Assembly in Baltimore. The theme for the 2020 awards is “Women Who Disrupt Systemic Poverty.”

“We are seeking to join with Presbyterians who have moved away from charity models of mission to disrupting systems of poverty and resourcing communities, so they are economically competitive. Those in poverty often lack access to quality education, employment, health care, dignity and freedom to participate as valued members of society and even the church,” said the Rev. Dr. Rhashell Hunter, director of Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries.

“Many of us know women who have raised the economic level of entire families and communities, providing educational opportunities, listening to dreams and supporting others as they determine how to make their dreams reality,” Hunter said. “We honor these women who give of themselves to serve others through their witness and faith in Jesus Christ.”

The awards honor female members of the PC(USA) whose lives exemplify their Christian commitment through witness, service and leadership.

Ana (Annie) D. Torres de Jimenez (San Juan, Puerto Rico; Presbytery of San Juan; Synod of Borinquen)

De Jimenez, known as “Annie” among her family and friends, and her late daughter co-founded and organized a program that invited children and teens from a nearby public housing project to visit her church, providing transportation and breakfast every Sunday.

This 94-year-old member of the Presbyterian Church in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico, has made it her life’s mission to help children and teens encounter Christ and hopefully become lifelong Christians while instilling in them the values of good citizenship.

Each year, de Jimenez would buy school supplies and uniforms for the program’s participants. Every summer, she would pay for their enrollment at the PC(USA)’s main retreat center in the Puerto Rico countryside. At the end of each semester, she would hold a big party for the program’s participants to celebrate and recognize their achievements.

For more than three decades, de Jimenez has worked to disrupt systemic poverty in her community by serving as a mentor, advocate and counselor to the program’s participants; helping them get their high school diplomas or GEDs; and assisting them in preparing their college applications and covering related costs. Likewise, she has assisted the participants’ families in finding jobs, receiving needed health care and other related services, and helping with government procedures.

By teaching the values of education, hard work and the principles of Christian life, de Jimenez has provided the program’s youth with positive models that can present a way out of poverty and has tended to their spiritual needs.

Joyce Hamilton (Harlingen, Texas; Mission Presbytery; Synod of the Sun)

Hamilton is a ruling elder in her home congregation of Treasure Hills Presbyterian Church in Harlingen, Texas. She is one of the co-founders of the group Angry Tias y Abuelas (Angry Aunties and Grandmothers), based in Brownsville, Texas. These women have single-handedly made a difference for refugees and immigrants at the Texas-Mexico border.

The organization provides basic necessities for health and safety as well as support for human dignity and justice for individuals and families seeking asylum along the U.S. border as they embark on their journeys to designated destinations in this country. Angry Tias y Abuelas also provides financial and labor support to local shelters; transportation to and from bus stations, airports and shelters; and emergency food, water, clothing, toiletries and other necessities for comfort.

Hamilton, an educator, organizer and environmental activist, puts herself on the front line every day, meeting with those most in need to provide for their basic essentials and their dignity. Each day, Hamilton is at the international bridge between Brownsville and Matamoros, Mexico, listening to women or bringing items such as fresh clothing and drinking water.

In her ongoing efforts to disrupt systemic poverty, Hamilton engages individuals on both sides of the border. She unapologetically works to advocate for legal change and educate the public about the situation at the border and those in need. The organization is now building a legal defense fund for refugees.

Ruth Azar (Detroit; Presbytery of Detroit; Synod of the Covenant)

Azar is a member of Grosse Pointe Memorial Church in Detroit as well as the founder and executive director of the Second Mile Center of Detroit, a Christ-centered youth outreach ministry located in one of the most violent ZIP codes in the city. The organization, founded in 2006, crosses cultural and racial boundaries, serving children from various backgrounds and circumstances.

Azar’s strong hands-on leadership and her ability to be highly relational makes it possible for her to work with the organization’s board of directors as well as the community partners to move the ministry forward.

In a community where options may seem few, Azar has offered an alternative through the center. The Second Mile Center works to disrupt systemic poverty by offering an invitation for growth in faith and discipleship as the youth seek to learn the ways of Jesus. Many of the participants of the center are the first in their family to go to college. As the center transforms one child at a time, the entire neighborhood is experiencing positive changes.

The 2020 Women of Faith awardees have impacted the church through their mission and ministry to the church and the world. Tickets for this year’s Women of Faith Awards Breakfast will be available at ga-pcusa.org.


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