Guest post by Karl Graham, Westwood First Presbyterian Church, Cincinnati, OH
“Start children off on the way they should go and even when they are old, they will not turn from it.” – Proverbs 22:6
This is one of the scriptures that underpins our relationship with one of Westwood First Presbyterian Church’s longest-standing mission partners: Third Presbyterian Church, the recipient of our local share of the Pentecost Offering.
Third Church is located just a few miles away. The East Westwood neighborhood it serves has had its problems with crime and drugs, and a good many people who live there could be generally referred to as the working poor. To quote a newsletter by Knox Presbyterian about Third Church and its neighborhood:
“It’s no longer safe to play outside in the fresh air, and kids are often left alone after school because their parents are busy working to put food on the table. The one thing East Westwood has going for it is Third Presbyterian Church.”
Before describing all the things that Third Church is doing, here is a brief history of the relationship between Westwood First and Third Church. It goes back over 35 years and includes both hands-on help as well as annual financial support. Some of the highlights include:
- In 1983, we began a monthly re-supply of their food pantry
- That same year, we began regular Mission budget support, and later added the annual Pentecost Offering local share
- Sometime in the late 1980s – early 1990s, Westwood First participated in the Cincinnati Presbytery Commission on the fate of Third Presbyterian Church. It was decided that Third Church should continue, with emphasis on neighborhood youth ministry
- Repainting of the building in 1991
- Help over the years with Vacation Bible School
- Westwood First makes its gym available to Third Presbyterian to run its youth basketball program
So, what are the things that Third Presbyterian is doing? The emphasis is on their Youth Program, led by Rodney Christian. Through this program, they offer after-school, evening and weekend programming that keeps kids safe and provides, among other things:
- Reading development and general tutoring
- Computer usage
- Bible study
- Recreational basketball
- Sewing classes
- Youth retreats and inspirational speakers
- Meals and snacks
Along the way, Third Presbyterian has also received major assistance from and partnered with the Cincinnati Presbytery, Knox Presbyterian Church, Ft. Thomas Presbyterian Church and other churches in and around the East Westwood community. In fact, thanks to some significant individual donors, Third Presbyterian is working on constructing a new outdoor basketball court, playground, community garden and parking area.
To help describe the impact of the Third’s efforts over the years, I visited with Rodney. Lining the walls of their recreational area are many, many photos of youth who have been through the program over the years – call it an “Alumni Hall of Fame.” Pictured are young adults in caps and gowns from both high school and college graduations. There are photos of alumni who are or were collegiate football and basketball players, a professional boxer, and several who have made successful military careers.
But pictures only tell part of the story. Rodney and I focused on their basketball program, the Praise God Ballers, which is held in Westwood First’s gym. Not only do participants learn about basketball, but they are taught in a God-centered way. It’s not just teamwork they’re learning, but how Jesus shows them the way to live both on and off the court. We decided to ask for comments from both participants and adult leaders that have been involved with the program, and within a week, we received 15 replies! Here’s an especially poignant one:
“Where my basketball journey began! Becoming a PGB, I gained another sister and a great number of brothers. They never took it easy on me because I am a girl. Because of them – my amazing parents and coaches/mentors – I was able to play ball for a great high school program, awesome AAU select clubs, and last but not least, at the collegiate level. I am forever grateful for my Praise God mentors for supporting me and teaching me the fundamentals of basketball and the importance of praising God for every opportunity. I know my basketball career is over, but I still appreciate everything I was taught. I knew I wouldn’t play ball forever, but I will praise the Lord’s name forever. It’s my duty as a child of God to teach my son what I was taught and with Jesus leading the way I can’t go wrong!”
Because Third Presbyterian Church provides such an effective ministry to the youth of the neighborhood, Westwood First feels that sharing with them our local portion of the Pentecost Offering is a perfect fit. A great ministry like theirs deserves all the support that is available!
Please give generously to the Offering:
- Through your congregation
- Text YOUNG to 20222 to give $25
- Donate online