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Today in the Mission Yearbook

‘It’s hard work and it’s not always simple work, but it’s important work’


The Rev. Edwin González-Castillo, who directs Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, is the guest on ‘Between 2 Pulpits’

June 6, 2024

The Rev. Edwin González-Castillo, director of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, preaches during closing worship at the Young Adult Advocacy Conference held in Louisville last fall. (Photo by Nell Herring)

Given the opportunity to talk about the well-known and well-respected work of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA), the Rev. Edwin González-Castillo did not hesitate when he took to the Between 2 Pulpits microphone recently.

“Through our work,” PDA’s director told Between 2 Pulpits hosts the Rev. Dr. John Wilkinson and Katie Snyder, “we enable congregations and mission partners of the Presbyterian Church to witness the healing love of Christ through caring for communities that are affected by crisis and catastrophic events.” Listen to their 35-minute conversation here.

PDA is one of three ministries — the Presbyterian Hunger Program and the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People are the others — to receive support from One Great Hour of Sharing, which about 7,000 PC(USA) congregations participate in either on Palm Sunday or Easter Sunday.

PDA seeks out partners who know the community affected by an overseas disaster, whether it’s natural or human caused, according to González-Castillo. Domestically, PDA works closely with churches and mid councils. And “we don’t do that only for Presbyterians and Christians,” he said. “We serve the people who need assistance and care and need the love of the people of the church in moments of crisis.”

Katie Snyder

“It’s hard work and it’s not always simple work, but it’s important work,” said Wilkinson, director of Ministry Engagement and Support.

Snyder, Special Offerings’ project manager for digital fundraising and interpretations, asked González-Castillo to share some of PDA’s 2023 accomplishments.

“The amount of disasters we face seems to be increasing every year,” he noted, which “puts a toll on many organizations that are trying to provide assistance.” Last year, PDA responded in places near and far, including Indonesia, Mozambique, Afghanistan, the Dominican Republic, Ghana, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal — and across the United States, which thankfully had a relatively quiet wildfire season.

The Rev. Dr. John WIlkinson

Among the organizations PDA has worked alongside PHP to strengthen is the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a worker-based human rights organization that supports Florida farmworkers. Over the past several years, storms and floods have wiped out many farmworkers’ modest housing. “One thing we mention a lot is when disasters happen, they become apocalyptic events,” González-Castillo said. “It brings up the notion of the apocalypse in the Bible, but it’s more in the sense of revealing things. Disasters tend to reveal things that are there but are sometimes unseen.”

Farmworkers in Florida “are providing food for our tables, but they’re living in unsanitary, poor conditions. After a disaster, they lose their home and they have to start again,” he said. Through the Immokalee Fair Housing Alliance, “we were able to work on grants to build homes for families to live in a safe home” that can withstand hurricane-force winds. “They are affordable homes with better access to schools and health care. We visited with people in the community and saw how grateful they were for this project.”

Two episodes of the “Between 2 Pulpits” podcast dropped last week.

Similarly, PDA representatives recently returned from Inda, “an overwhelming experience that touched the core of our hearts,” González-Castillo said. The group met with people affected by floods and cyclones, many of them Dalit or members of tribal communities who showed PDA staff the cyclone-resistant homes it had helped to fund. Villagers also reported on a more recent problem: The local rat population had grown so fast that cobras were turning out in alarming numbers to feed on the rats. “Now they have rat traps, and they feel safer from both disasters and the snakes in their backyards,” González-Castillo said.

“It’s not likely many of us will get to India or the parts of Florida where the Immokalee workers are,” Wilkinson said. “But what I like to remember is when we give to One Great Hour of Sharing or other Special Offerings, not only does our money go to those places, but Edwin and his colleagues are our representatives, our partners. We believe in a connectional church, and that’s more than just words.”

Hear other editions of the “Between 2 Pulpits” podcast here.

Mike Ferguson, Editor, Presbyterian News Service

Today’s Focus: Rev. Edwin González-Castillo, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance director, is the guest on ‘Between 2 Pulpits’

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Caralee Jones, Program Associate, Presbyterian Foundation 
Debra Jones, Risk Management Assistant, Administrative Services Group (A Corp)

Let us pray

God, who created the world when all was chaos and void — as we wander, not knowing where we go, and when all seems dark — say again, we pray, “Let there be light.” Amen.