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SDOP National Committee fine-tunes work to better serve communities in need

Action includes reducing size of committee

By Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

SDOP Coordinator Alonzo Johnson and National Committee Chair Rebecca Reyes lead discussion during the last day of meetings in Miami. (Photo by Rick Jones)

LOUISVILLE – The National Committee of the Self-Development of People wrapped up its first meeting of the year by voting to re-configure some of the processes of completing its work. Reduced giving and the retirements of nearly half the SDOP staff in 2016 have prompted the committee to make changes to better meet the needs of communities seeking assistance.

“Staff cuts have made for a heavier workload and longer hours,” said Johnson. “But in this new configuration, we have been able to be adaptive and find ways to make progress and address things that needed to be addressed. It’s hard in that we can’t do everything, but we’re grateful for what we’ve been able to do.”

Since 1970, SDOP has awarded more than $100 million to communities in 67 countries. An estimated 5,600 projects have received grant support in an effort to build self-sustaining businesses that will ultimately impact extreme poverty in those communities.

Under the adopted recommendations, the number of national committee members will be reduced from 16 to 12 effective in 2018, several committees will merge to streamline the workload and the number of planned yearly meetings has been reduced.

A group of Young Adult Volunteers joins Michelle Muniz-Vega (right) of DOOR Miami, to address the SDOP National Committee. DOOR Miami is a faith-based organization providing service, learning and leadership development within the urban context. (Photo by Rick Jones)

Sara Lisherness, director of Compassion, Peace and Justice, which includes the work of SDOP, spoke to the committee during its last meeting. Referring to the David Bowie song “Changes,” she says the song properly reflects the past year as it relates to ministry in CPJ. But despite reduction in personnel, she had high praise for the committee’s continued commitment to helping those in need.

“I’m very aware that it is a labor of love for you to sit on the national committee and for that, we say thank you,” said Lisherness. “You are the hands and feet of what we do. You are the boots on the ground.”

Committee members were also appreciative of staff for picking up the additional workload in lieu of declining resources and people. Committee Chair Rebecca Reyes says sharing the work with the entire church will be an important task in the months to come.

“We’ve been looking at the big picture with SDOP for two years now and we want to share the good work SDOP is doing,” said Reyes. “We are eager as a committee, and want to be out there having conversations with presbyteries and congregations.”

Committee member Sarah Jane Moore of William Bay, Wisconsin says educating Presbyterians about the work has been an ongoing challenge.

“I’m a lifelong Presbyterian and I had never heard of SDOP until I was working for a non-profit organization in Chicago, incubating start-ups,” she said. “We go to churches and the people know about other programs but they are not familiar with the work of SDOP.”

Moore says once she explains what SDOP does, churches get excited and want to become involved.

Johnson told the committee his schedule is filling up fast as he travels the country speaking with churches, presbyteries and synods about SDOP. He will also be speaking at a number of conferences and events including leading a workshop at the upcoming Compassion, Peace and Justice Training Day in April.

The National Committee has scheduled its spring meeting in May.


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