One Great Hour of Sharing gifts help people experience a new life
June 21, 2017
While violence and fear pervade war-torn Syria, Presbyterians across the United States are helping those displaced by the conflict rebuild their lives.
Since the war began in 2011, at least 13.5 million people have had to leave their homes and seek safety in Lebanon, Europe and the United States. More than 250,000 others have been killed.
Thanks to gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) has been able to respond quickly to the refugee crisis. Working with churches in the region, PDA helps Syrian refugee children in Lebanon continue their education and provides refugee families food, shelter and heating oil. In the United States, PDA assists congregations’ efforts to resettle refugees and to follow the biblical imperative to extend hospitality to strangers and foreigners.
But the One Great Hour of Sharing offering, which is traditionally taken on Palm Sunday or Easter, does more than help refugees build new lives in a new country. It also enables PDA to assist displaced refugees seeking to return to the country they love.
Though the war rages on and threats from the Islamic State — also known as ISIS or ISIL — persist, a number of Syrians are returning home. Some of them live in Homs, Syria’s third largest city, where a partnership between Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon has helped rebuild more than 40 houses and apartments.
In Holyoke, Massachusetts, One Great Hour of Sharing gifts are helping another group in need of a new beginning in life: ex-offenders.
After spending time in prison on a drug-related charge and beating drug addiction, Olga Pedraza completed training to be a counselor and looked forward to helping others overcome chemical dependency. She was offered a job she really wanted, but the job required a driver’s license, which Pedraza didn’t have. Her driving privileges had been revoked upon her conviction, and Pedraza would have to pay thousands to get them restored, money she had no realistic hope of getting.
“More than 7,000 lives are being transformed, thanks partly to a grant from the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People,” said Lena Entin, an organizer with Neighbor to Neighbor. “This victory means that stories like Olga’s will be repeated over and over again.”
In Peru, One Great Hour of Sharing gifts are tackling environmental degradation. The abuse of God’s creation has left Peruvian communities vulnerable to malnutrition and poverty.
Long-term environmental issues must be addressed alongside hunger and poverty concerns, says Jed Koball, a Presbyterian mission co-worker serving in Peru. This became clear to him while visiting alpaca farmers in Huancavelica, Peru, whose families’ livelihoods were threatened by the parched pastureland surrounding this mountain town. Koball thought an irrigation system funded by a U.S. congregation could restore the land to health.
The farmers accepted the offer but suggested that the system alone would not solve the problem. They pointed out that mountaintop icecaps that feed springs and lakes to the north were receding due to climate change; corporate farms on the desert coasts were piping lake water down the mountains; and mining activity was contaminating the groundwater. This encounter helped Koball recognize the link between environmental threats and social concerns.
Koball was appointed by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to work with Joining Hands Peru, a ministry of the Presbyterian Hunger Program. Joining Hands links churches and organizations in Peru with U.S. congregations and presbyteries to work on hunger, poverty and environmental degradation.
In Homs, Holyoke, Huancavelica and other communities across the United States and around the world, Presbyterians and their partners are making a lasting impact by addressing the root causes of injustice. This long-term and holistic approach to ministry is possible because of gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing.
Pat Cole, Communications Specialist, and Bryce Wiebe, Director of Special Offerings, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Today’s Focus: One Great Hour of Sharing
Let us join in prayer for:
Staff of Second Presbyterian Church, St. Louis
Rev. Dr. Susan Andrews, interim pastor
Jean Chouquette, secretary
Andrea Cochran, church school
Rev. Don Cochran, pastoral care
Mary Donald, children’s music
Sue Kennedy, child care
Patty McClerking, custdian/parking
Nicole McRae, accountant
Andrew Peters, minister of music
Dennis Umfleet, maintenance
Claudia Wall, treasurer
Martine Wiley, child care
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
God of grace and giver of life, today may we be ever mindful of all the ways in which you bring deliverance to us, and may we learn to live in ways that honor the dignity of all of your people. Amen.