“Whatever difficulties we face, we will be each other’s keepers. We will walk with the Lord together. Jesus loved everyone equally and we therefore need to put that into practice. Love one another. If we can do that we can change the world.” Rev. Vincent Dagadu – Moderator, Upper Northern Presbytery of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Ghana
Written by Marsha MacKinnon, Webmaster for the Presbytery of Lake Erie
In late June 2019, Global Mission took center stage at the First Presbyterian Church of the Covenant in Erie. The Presbytery of Lake Erie (PLE) hosted the 18th Annual PCUSA Ghana Mission Network Meeting from June 27 – June 30. This was a global gathering with more than 50 participants and representatives from across the U.S.A. and around the world. Those who attended this special network meeting came to Erie from 12 states and from Ghana, in western Africa. The participants represented 15 Partnerships, 3 Presbyterian Seminaries, Presbytery World Mission Staff and several new members.
There are many reasons why outreach by the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. and in particular our own Presbytery (PLE) here in northwest Pennsylvania are engaged in Global Mission in Ghana. Rev. Dr. David Oyler, General Presbytery of the Presbytery of Lake Erie, explains it is much more than sharing the Presbyterian faith.“It is my experience that we always expand our understanding of God’s world when we talk with people who have different experiences than our own. Ghana is a culture in which there are many Christians who are first generation believers. Their insights, along with their energy and enthusiasm, help to inform Christians in North America. In fact, the Christian church is growing in Africa like few other places in the world. Their experiences can teach others,” said Rev. Dr. David Oyler.
One of the visitors to Erie in late June, was the Rev. Vincent Dagadu. He is the Moderator of the Upper Northern Presbytery of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Ghana. I had an opportunity to interview him about how important Global Mission is to the faithful in his presbytery. His responses follow in Q & A format:
How important is it that you have an opportunity to visit the U.S.A. and to the Presbytery of Lake Erie who is a mission partner with you in Ghana?
“It is very, very, very important to be here. The PCUSA and the Presbytery of Lake Erie, its members and representatives have demonstrated love. When Jesus prayed to God the Father, he prayed that we would be as one. That all peoples would be as one. This oneness is very important to promoting our friendship, our unity and our partnership together. All of us are Presbyterians, we are moving forward together, forward in unity and that is beautiful. This friendship-partnership began 18 years ago and continues to this day and continues to grow,” said Rev. Vincent Dagadu.
Describe how this partnership has benefited the people in the Upper Northern Presbytery in Ghana?
“A lot. We are united, like brothers and sisters. We speak the same language of Jesus Christ. Beyond our understanding, in Ghana it is very challenging. A pastor goes there with mixed feelings, and faces multiple challenges. Earlier this year, the Ghana Mission was gifted with several motorcycles. The motorcycles are very helpful because the congregations are so far apart. The motorcycles make a huge difference in traveling around the presbytery in Ghana. This is a huge gift! From bicycle to motorcycle they are in heaven. One pastor can now reach more congregations in the region in Ghana where this presbytery is located. Rev. Dagadu is very grateful. There is a lot of ground to cover and 150 congregations to visit in the presbytery in Ghana. We can’t thank them enough,” said Rev. Dagadu. (The Presbytery of Lake Erie funded the purchase of seven new motorbikes for the Upper Northern Presbytery of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, in Ghana.)
What are your biggest challenges?
“After 18 years, this is first time I have been interviewed about our partnership in Ghana with the PCUSA and the Presbytery of Lake Erie. It is very important to get the message out about this mission in Ghana. So the word is spreading and hopefully that will promote more support in the future.”
What do you want people to remember about Global Mission in Ghana and deepening our partnership between Ghana and northwest Pennsylvania?
“We shall continue to be one. Our brothers and sisters in this part of the country have demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt there is no color. There is no difference in the family of Jesus Christ. We are part of the family of God. We are all a part of the family of Jesus Christ. Whatever difficulties we face, we will be each other’s keepers. We will walk with the Lord together. It is my prayer that the church of Jesus Christ will continue to lead in western Ghana. Jesus has left a legacy that we should love each other. We as Christians must demonstrate that to the world. Jesus loved everyone equally and we therefore need to put that into practice. Love one another. Iif we can do that we can change the world,”said Rev. Vincent Dagadu.
Rev. Dr. David Oyler was asked what has it meant to the Presbytery of Lake Erie to have a mission partnership with Ghana? Here are his conclusions…
“The partnership with the Upper Northern Presbytery continually teaches in numerous ways. A few insights include:
- The Ghanains have a spirit of gracious hospitality which is evident in all their conversations;
- As North American Christians we learn continually of the need for clear communication with a gracious spirit. (This is true both in North America and in Africa. It may be even more crucial in a world of instantaneous communication.);
- That relationships are not predicated on building projects, but on our common faith in Jesus Christ;
- That mission partnerships are enhanced as we walk together through shared moments of worship and fellowship, as well as in difficult, more challenging times. Christian faith is enhanced through grace filled perseverance.”
Before I concluded my interview with the Rev. Vincent Dagadu, I asked him if there was anything that he would like to add. Dagadu said “We are blessed to have Donna (Cammarata) with us. We appreciate the love of humanity that she always exhibits.She is a blessing.” Donna Cammarata of Erie is the Coordinator for the PCUSA Ghana Mission Network and the Coordinator for the Lake Erie Presbytery’s Partnership with the Upper Northern Presbytery of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Ghana. (See earlier post featuring an interview with Donna.)
Labor of Love
To commemorate the 50th Anniversary in 2019 of medical missions and service, Chosen is partnering with the Presbytery of Lake Erie and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Ghana in a new endeavor called “Labors of Love.” The goal of “Labors of Love” is to raise $50,000 that will be invested in the three Health Clinics to increase and improve healthcare services to the women, children, and communities that they serve. Each of the Health Clinics has specific needs for getting to the next level of development. These include building construction, renovations, equipment, supplies, infrastructure, potable water, sanitation, staff training and support. Click here for more information.
“You are touching lives in ways you can never imagine.” – Donna Cammarata
Creating Connections & Unity through Global Mission in Ghana
Written by Marsha MacKinnon, Webmaster for the Presbytery of Lake Erie…
Global Mission took center stage at the First Presbyterian Church of the Covenant in Erie from June 27 – June 30, 2019 as the Presbytery of Lake Erie (PLE) hosted the 18th Annual PCUSA Ghana Mission Network Meeting. It was a global gathering with more than 50 participants and representatives from across the U.S.A. and around the world. The visitors came to Erie from 12 states and from Ghana, western Africa. The participants represent 15 Partnerships, 3 Presbyterian Seminaries, Presbytery World Mission Staff and several new members.
This year the theme was: “Being living sacrifices – living in unity – in our Global world.”
Psalm 133, John 17:20-26, Romans 12:1-18.
Donna Cammarata of Erie is the Coordinator for the PCUSA Ghana Mission Network and the Coordinator for the Lake Erie Presbytery’s Partnership with the Upper Northern Presbytery of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Ghana. Below is a conversation with Donna about the Global Mission in Ghana and what it means for the people in Ghana and for us in the Presbytery of Lake Erie.
What is the Ghana Mission network?
“The Ghana Mission Network (GMN) is a community of people who are in some way connected with Ghana and involved in missions within the country and with the people who live there. Many of the connections are through partnerships within the Presbyterian Church USA, together with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Ghana, and the Presbyterian Church of Ghana. Donna believes, “The reason for the GMN is to join together in the common goal of sharing God’s love and the teachings and way of Jesus Christ.”
To see the mission work in Ghana follow these video links:
Lake Erie Ghana Partnership
Please explain why this mission is a good fit for you?
“My introduction to Ghana was as a member of Lake Erie Presbytery’s second delegation visit to Ghana in October 2011, which formally initiated the Partnership. The Christians I met in Ghana welcomed me as family. I was overwhelmed by their hospitality, the depth of their faith and their commitment to Christian ministry and mission in extremely challenging conditions. My heart was captured and they became my family.”
“The following year, I attended the 2012 Ghana Mission Network Meeting and met wonderful people involved in all kinds of creative missions and Partnerships in Ghana. I was asked to be the Communications person for the GMN, which I agreed to. Over the years, that role has grown into organizing and overseeing the GMN membership, connections and yearly GMN Meetings. I find it challenging and rewarding, and am continually surprised by the opportunities I believe God opens up. My passion for living out my faith, love for my family in Ghana and having some good organizational skills make this a good fit for ministry for me.”
“I see myself as a connector piece in this part of God’s mission. Connecting Lake Erie Presbytery congregations to and through the Ghana Partnership. Connecting Lake Erie to Northern Ghana. Through the GMN, connecting to other Partnerships and helping other Partnerships connect.”
Explain the importance of the Ghana Mission?
“The GMN provides a yearly time to gather. There are members all over the United Sates and all over Ghana. At the meetings, presenters share information, partnerships share reports of what they are doing and experiencing, conversations in groups and with individuals offer insights, wisdom, encouragement and challenge. There are times of worship and prayer together; opportunities to grow in understanding and appreciation of one another, of different cultures and perspectives. The aim is to learn together about how cross cultural relationships and ministries happen in meaningful ways and are mutually beneficial. The Ghana Mission Network opens up availability of resources and opportunities for collaboration. The GMN also supports and is supported by two Presbyterian World Mission co-workers in Ghana.”
Why does the Presbytery of Lake Erie support the Ghana mission? What benefits do you see with this partnership?
“The Lake Erie Ghana Partnership has greatly benefited from the connection to the GMN. Early on, Lake Erie drew on the experiences and wisdom gained from others. From that, a good foundation was laid and built on, slow and steady. Now, eight years into our Partnership, Lake Erie offers the Ghana Mission Network a model for a strong, healthy Partnership and a Presbytery wide endeavor. It is able to help shepherd and encourage new and struggling Partnerships.”
“A global partnership can bring unexpected benefits. It can break down misconceptions and assumptions. It can show how differences and similarities enriches life. It can give a bigger perspective of God and Christianity expressed in another culture, in another part of the world. It can tune one into the needs and gifts in the local neighborhood as well and encourage a more generous outlook and outreach.”
Explain to a Presbyterian church member here in northwest Pennsylvania why this outreach is important and should be supported – especially considering the many needs right here in this region?
“There are needs all around to be responded to as Christ would and as He calls His followers to. The needs nearby don’t have to be overlooked in order to also respond to needs far away. There is a whole other level of need in many places far from our homes. I believe we are to stretch ourselves and share our abundance to address those faraway needs as well. One reason I see for a Global Partnership is that it helps make real those faraway places and the people who live there. My friends in Ghana have said to me, “when you come so far from your home and leave your comforts … when you come to this place so remote, with many challenges, and you don’t complain … when you want us to be your friend … you show you really care, and that show us that God cares about us, and that gives us hope.”
What do you especially want people to know about the Ghana Mission?
“Not everyone can go to Ghana. But when you support the Ghana Mission Partnership you are part of all that goes to Ghana. You are joined in the love of God that gets manifested through improvements to a health clinic, transportation for pastors to minister to their congregations, clean water, education, Bibles in mother tongues, through the presence of those who do go, you are touching lives in ways you can never imagine.”
“I’m excited about this year’s GMN Meeting in Erie because it gives the GMN an opportunity to learn more about Lake Erie Presbytery and members and congregations of Lake Erie Presbytery an opportunity to learn more about the GMN. My GMN family meets my Lake Erie family and some of my Ghana family is here as well!”
If you can help in anyway or volunteer some time, Donna can be reached at 814-873-4860 or email her at [email protected]
Travel Log: Mission Belize
The following are excerpts from the Report to the Presbytery of Lake Erie from Alysabeth Mahood, the Belize Trip Coordinator for 2018-2019. This travel log highlights the work accomplished and what the students and youth leaders observed and experienced on this mission.
Edited by Marsha MacKinnon, Webmaster for the Presbytery of Lake Erie
Dear Rev. Oyler and the other mission minded members of the Presbytery,
Firstly, I want to sincerely apologize that this update has come so late. Please know that words cannot express how thankful we are for the grant. Because of the grant that you so graciously gave us, Fairview Presbyterian was able to serve in Belize even more than we had ever anticipated or imagined. We were able to take so many members of our youth group to Belize giving them a life-changing experience. Because of your grant, we were able to complete even more work projects while in Belize. Furthermore, we were able to solidify our partnership with Kuxlin Ha, a Mayan school on the outskirts of the capital. Additionally, Fairview Presbyterian has partnered with Gannon University. Our goal is to alternate trips every year. Gannon just returned from Belize in March( 2019). Again, thank you so much for everything. Sincerely, Alysabeth Mahood / Belize Trip Coordinator
Fairview Presbyterian Church Belize Mission Trip / July 2018 – by Alysabeth Mahood / Belize Trip Coordinator
- During the first week of July of 2018, sixteen students and leaders of the Fairview Presbyterian Church (FPC) youth group, traveled to Belize to complete repairs and construction work in two communities outside of Belmopan, Belize. One group was focused at St. Michael’s School in the village of Las Flores, where they spent the week hand mixing about 100 pounds of concrete, built a ramp, and started to build the roof of an elementary school.
- Another group worked in the village Maya Mopan at Kuxlin Ha Government School, where they replaced floorboards, replaced an entire railing, and painted the complete interior and exterior of the office building.
- In addition to the actual physical work, we sent 25 suitcases of curriculum and school supplies. More importantly, we were able to solidify our partnership with the ministry, Pathlight International (pathlight.org), and the school, Kuxlin Ha. During this week, we were able to strengthen our relationships with both Pathlight and Kuxlin Ha, enabling us to plan for the future of this ministry.
- Upon returning home, we sponsored Kuxlin Ha graduate, Leslie, who is now a Pathlight student. On top of all of that, the group had the opportunity to visit Mayan ruins and go cave tubing. Both were amazing experiences that pushed some people out of their comfort zone. At night, after dinner, we had time for daily reflections which allowed us to form small groups to discuss God’s love, the purpose of serving and missions, and to grow in community with one another.
- This was a life-changing trip for all who participated. For more information on the history of our partnership since 2013 and to hear from those who went on the 2018 trip, check out this video: https://bit.ly/2Hn8HDm
The following are Impact Statements are from the students who participated in the Belize Mission Trip:
- “Going to Belize was such an amazing adventure because I got to experience a new culture and grow in my faith. Because I went to Belize, my life has been forever changed. I have never experienced such an exponential growth in faith before going to Belize. I had the opportunity to see God working around the world which I am so thankful for.” – MacKenzie Hancock, college freshman
- “Going on the mission trip to Belize showed me what it means to be a part of the body of Christ. I learned that my talents and interests can be used to show the beauty and share the love of God. It’s something I will never forget but always cherish!” – Katelyn Whitman, college freshman
- “My 2018 trip to Belize was absolutely incredible and 100% life changing. I spent the week alternating between times of quiet reflection with God and loud, boisterous moments enjoying my group. I learned that it is not as hard as I thought it would be to unplug and truly be in the present moment. I faced my fears and tried new things. I realized that the world is a MUCH bigger place than I thought it was. The culture and traditions are so interesting, and the food is delightful. I am fully confident that I will be returning to Belize on the next trip down, provided that nothing comes up that may prevent me from going. I can’t wait to see what else I learn and how I’ll grow as an individual on the next trip.” – Jasmine Lewis, college freshman
- “When I returned again to Belize in 2018, I expected God to use me once more, but even I didn’t know how much good God can bring. The school was able to get a number of new buildings, including a library, in the last five years that grew from our support of them. Even while we were there, our perseverance through the week led to our eyes being opened to the people around us as well as being an immense help to the schools we served at. The Belize mission trip grew my faith in God exponentially because I was able to see his plans to give this school and our group hope and a future in Him. I loved both of the experiences I had in Belize so far and I cannot wait to go again!” – Emma Evans, college freshman
- “Seeing the poverty in Belize really made me appreciate how much we have back home and how much we don’t even think of our resources. There are many people and families in poverty and in bad places with a lot of crime. It made me very thankful for what I had and happy that I could give some of my time and effort in trying to help in any way I could. I learned that the people there don’t just go to church, they worship and praise and really enjoy it. Back at home people just go to church and most of the time don’t pay attention to anything. I also loved seeing the kids play outside everyday. At home we have our devices and phones that we are glued to, and these kids don’t have that. They make their own fun outside playing with their friends. I am not sure yet if I am going back because it was a very long trip, but I think going back would be really awesome because it was an experience of a lifetime.” –Eric Marn, McDowell senior
The following are Impact Statements are from the leaders who participated in the Belize Mission Trip:
- “Our mission trip to Belize in 2013 is one of the most impactful events of my life. The perspective gained was truly life changing. Very few times in my life have I been able to block out the noise of life and can say that I directly felt the Holy Spirit in an undeniable way, but at Kuxlin Ha Government School in 2013, was certainly one of those times. My subsequent trips in 2015 and 2018 were equally impactful. The amount of growth that I got to observe in the group of teenagers that we led in 2018 was simply remarkable. It was one of the most amazing experiences that I have ever been a part of.” -Jake Tobolewski, Youth Group Director
- “Belize was a great eye opening experience. It definitely made me re-evaluate my daily priorities. It was so nice to take a step back from the day to day busy-ness and obligations and just enjoy nature and getting to help people. It made me so grateful for everything we have. It also made me sick about how much we take for granted. (I still have no sympathy when my kids complain that the wifi isn’t working since this trip! ha) I was so humbled by how happy everyone was that we interacted with and how much compassion we saw in Adrian (our Pathlight leader). I loved talking to Adrian about the pathlight students and to see how he cares so deeply for them. It was an incredibly moving experience how just a few of us could make a big difference in the projects we helped with in that short of time. I learned how to make concrete!!! I learned that I had muscles I never knew I had–because they all hurt from mixing concrete! But I loved that the principal and teachers were there working with us on their own time, to help get the projects done. I would definitely go back, and I really look forward to taking my children there when they get older to experience a whole different way of life.”-Jill Iszkula, Youth Group Leader
- “This mission trip…was also a life changing experience for all involved. Even though I struggle with anxiety, and this trip brought on a lot of anxiety; I had a scorpion next to my bed one night, was terrified of running into a snake at night, and had a broken mattress. I loved every minute that I was in Belize because it taught me that I can overcome my fears, that I am strong, that I can serve God’s people, that I am privileged compared to many, and that there’s so much more of God’s work to be done! I can’t wait to return next June and serve more and show God’s love to Belize!” – Shannon Sanders, Youth Group Leader
Gannon University/Belize Mission Trip/March 2019
In March of 2019, nine students and faculty from Gannon University also traveled to Belize to work with our partner school, Kuxlin Ha. The main project of this trip was to repair broken desks. Most of the desks at Kuxlin Ha are the traditional desks where the workspace is attached to the chair. However, dozens of those desks were in disrepair because the main workspace had rotted and fallen off, leaving just the students just the arm portion of the chair to work on. Gannon’s students took new pieces of wood and attached them to the chairs, giving students space to work. Afterwards, they painted them vibrant colors, creating a safe and exciting environment in which to learn. Furthermore, students went to the different classrooms to ask teachers how they can help serve. Gannon students completed various projects such as fixing tables, creating a projector stand, and hanging up posters. Other students painted a mural on wall of one of Kuxlin Ha’s classrooms.Because school was in session, Gannon students had the unique opportunity to interact with the Kuxlin Ha students. They were able to play games and soccer with Kuxlin Ha children during recess. In addition to all of the physical work, Gannon students were able to visit the Mayan ruins and go snorkeling, thereby creating community and understanding the culture better. In the evenings, participants broke up into small groups allowing them to grow and reflect. They were able to grow emotionally, spiritually, and as leaders.
The following are impact statements from Gannon University students who participated in the Belize Mission Trip in March:
- “Belize helped me grow in many ways… Belize was an amazing experience. Not only did we get to help a school, we also visited different spots in Belize and learned about them. I didn’t know anything about the Mayan ruins, but after our tour there, I learned about the markings on them, when they were built, why they were built in those spots, and what happened in the different ruins. I’ve traveled a lot, and this trip was my favorite by far.” -Megan McCartney, Gannon Sophomore
- “I was able to make meaningful relationships. I learned I am capable of making a difference in other people’s lives while they also impacted me on how to think and appreciate the things in my life.” -Nichole Sommers, Gannon freshman
- “The Believe in Belize trip impacted my life in so many ways and allowed me to grow as a leader. I was able to meet so many wonderful people in Belize and learn about their culture. I gained a better understanding of the importance of service and leadership. This experience was meaningful to me because I was able to see the impact we made on others by doing an act of service.“ -Caitlin McKee, Gannon freshman
Into the Future: Working with Pathlight International to achieve our goals, Fairview Presbyterian Church, Gannon University, and Kuxlin Ha are committed to continue this partnership far into the future. Fairview Presbyterian Church and Gannon University would like to alternate going to Belize. Fairview Presbyterian Church already has confirmed dates to return to Belize in June 2020. Gannon University will most likely go back in March of 2021.
Educator of The Year: Rev. Keith Sundberg
The Presbytery of Lake Erie and the APCE is pleased to announce the selection of Rev. Keith D. Sundberg as the 2019 ENRICH Educator of the Year. Keith will be recognized and his ministry celebrated on Friday, February 8, at the Awards Celebration Dinner during the 2019 Annual Event in Galveston, Texas. Also during the Awards Dinner, APCE will present the SUSTAIN, EMPOWER and CONNECT Awards and recognize Educator Certification recipients. The Synod of the Trinity website is featuring an extensive look at Rev. Sundberg and his efforts as Educator of the Year, click on this link http://www.syntrinity.org/featured/apce-honoring-rev-keith-sundberg-with-educator-of-year-award/
No Hate, Only Love
Written by Marsha MacKinnon
Webmaster for the Presbytery of Lake Erie…
When you walk into the West 7th Street entrance of the First Presbyterian Church of the Covenant in downtown Erie, there is a distinctive sign on the door that delivers a clear message. It reads “Hate has no home here.” This poster is also displayed around Erie at various businesses and other places of worship. Erie “One Table” held an event last year and made the posters available in response to an increase in incidents targeting the Jewish and Muslim communities across the country. Then, a gunman entered the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood last October, killing 11 congregants and injuring several others including police officers.
Seph Kumer, Director of Community Engagement at First Covenant, said after the deaths in Pittsburgh, in a house of worship relatively close to Erie, it was time to send a clear message here. “Hate in its various forms and expressions is on the rise. We have many people entering our building every day who speak the languages used on the poster: English, Arabic, Korean, Spanish, even Hebrew! Plus, Preschool families, international university students, local refugees, and local folks attending meetings and events nightly at First Covenant,” said Kumer.
George Boyd is the owner/operator of a hair salon in west Erie. When he was asked to consider placing the “Hate has no home here” sign at his business, he did not hesitate. “In the past few years I’ve noticed a marked increase in anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim rhetoric. During the 2016 Presidential campaign and subsequent election these sentiments seemed to skyrocket. In my business, educated women began to feel open to expressing these concepts. I grew up in a community of people of Conservative Jewish faith. Though a Christian, the idea of anti-Semitism was quite foreign to me. All my preschool neighborhood friends were Jewish.. I try to understand people who did not have the opportunity for the best education and little experience with diversity harboring these views, but was shocked to hear hateful comments of bigotry from the retired school teachers with masters degrees who had been directly responsible for educating young minds. When one of my Jewish friends who is affiliated with “One Table” brought the “Hate has no home here” sign to my salon, I put it on the door immediately. I was hopeful that would end such talk. For the most part it was successful. I regret to report that one of my retired teachers asked me if that sign was meant to hurt her. Although I was disappointed by her comment, it made for a dialog resulting in a respectful understanding for us both. A respectful dialog is our best path forward. We must work toward inclusion and away from division,” said Boyd.
In the fall of 2016, residents in the North Park area of Chicago, wanted a way to peacefully protest the divisiveness that erupted after the presidential election. In response, a third-grader came up with a message that declared, “Hate has no home here.” A local graphics designer created a poster with this message on a blue background, and a stylized American flag inside a heart. The message is written in six languages. As the Chicago Tribune reported on February 2, 2017, this poster was so popular it went viral, around the country and around the world and crashed the North Park neighborhood organization’s website.
The “Hate has no home here” message resonates through the stone walls at First Covenant and throughout the West Bayfront Neighborhood where economic disparity is prevalent. To the east is Gannon University, which has many international students from India, the Middle-East and elsewhere around the world. Erie Insurance is headquartered just to the east of the Gannon campus, and is now the largest employer in the City of Erie, employing IT and cyber security workers and plans to hire more. Back at First Covenant, the church has opened its doors for the last seven winter seasons for “Our Neighbor’s Place Overflow Shelter.” During two-week sessions volunteers organize nightly accommodations, a hot meal and a safe place to stay for those who would otherwise be outside during an Erie winter. About five years ago, First Covenant began providing a weekly hot supper on Sundays for those in the community who are food insecure and who would otherwise not have a meal that day. This is the Sunday Supper program that brings together volunteers from across Erie County to provide a meal on Sundays to those who would go without, if not for this outreach ministry.
By opening wide its doors for new missions and ministries, First Covenant has pledged to be “the caring church in the heart of the city” and by living out what Jesus commanded us to do: “To love thy neighbor.” “ALL ARE WELCOME in our church,” said Kumer. “That LOVE is the guiding principle here, not HATE. That this place is one where we focus on God’s love and grace and mercy… Anything that belittles or marginalizes any nationality or group of people is not acceptable here. The hope is, I suppose, that the more folks see this message, the more they will embrace it. It is what First Covenant tries to live out in the church’s diverse neighborhood and city. It is a witness to God’s love for people that doesn’t know human boundaries.” For the Rev. Chris Weichman, Pastor of First Covenant, the message, like the blue poster on the door, is clear. “At First Presbyterian Church of the Covenant we recognize that we are all God’s children. God’s love does not know our human made boundaries of race, religion, nationality or orientation. We strive to show God’s love to all people.”
First Covenant has plans to further develop its outreach. Kumer said, “In 2019 FPCC will continue to partner with community groups (Martin Luther King Center, Our West Bayfront, Gannon University) and neighbors to promote the health of the people and neighborhood where the church is located. A growing number of congregation members are welcoming international students into their homes and helping them learn English. We will welcome another Syrian (refugee) family engagement party to use our fellowship hall. We will watch for opportunities to have folks from different backgrounds working together…for in doing so, we learn so much about “others” and ourselves—and God’s call to love!”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream for America. Many continue to work to make that dream happen. As a student of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. King adopted Gandhi’s non-violence teachings for the protests he led in America’s civil rights movement. Gandhi became the father of the nation of India – leading a non-violence campaign to secure India’s freedom and defeat the British Empire. Gandhi wrote, “be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
No hate, only love begins at home, inside each one of us. “Hate has no home here.”
Endeavor Church Blessed With Water
Written & Posted by Marsha MacKinnon, Webmaster for the Presbytery of Lake Erie
When it comes to counting your blessings, where do you start? For members of the Endeavor Presbyterian Church they are really counting their blessings now. For the first time in the 120 year history of the church, the building now has running water. That is a blessing.
It was a time consuming project that required many hands to make it happen. But now is it complete and for the first time Endeavor has restroom facilities in the church building.
Commissioned Pastor Roger Snyder is thankful and grateful. “Thanks so much for all the help… God!, The Community of Endeavor, Jim Ziegler, Rev. Sue Montgomery, Rev. David Oyler, Lake Erie Presbytery, Mike Come, Jon Hitchcock, Snavely Excavating, The Barnett family, Swissvale Presbyterian Church, Rev. Mellissa Morris, Ed Mead, Carey Carl, Pleasantville Presbyterian Church, King’s Lumber, Hickory Township, Jr. Hall, Grant’s “Little Store”, The Trading Post, Classic Ink, the EPC church family!!!
If you didn’t grow up in the country, it’s difficult to imagine not having running water and restroom facilities. Yet until very recently the members of the Endeavor church have never had running water. The following is a Q & A conversation with the Commissioned Pastor of the Endeavor Church, Roger Snyder.
Many people can’t even grasp the idea that a public building – like a church- wouldn’t having running water and restrooms. Unless, the church is in the country. Explain so readers can understand what a big deal this project truly is to the members of Endeavor and the community.
This church is in a rural area! I’ve heard it said that it’s 5 miles past the edge of civilization! Installing the restroom is a big deal for our area. Although we live in a rural area, we all have the same basic needs. The idea of being able to worship as a church family is an element sorely needed in our area. The idea of not being able to use a restroom for an hour and a half is prohibitive to some sharing in worship. Initially, I was thinking of our aging population… in actuality, it’s a blessing for parents with young children as well! As our church grew from “the faithful five”, we invested in a porta potty. Some laugh but this was actually a step up! One new (previously unchurched family) had a one year old who would say “Take me to the “stink house” grandpa!” We were glad it was there for her! With the indoor restroom, young parents can feel comfortable taking children knowing they have a place to “go”, wash hands, and take care of personal needs. As an older male, I can testify. Picture driving on a long ride when the driver doesn’t like to stop for anything! The urge hits, you grit your teeth, clench every muscle you have and pray you make it to the next stop. It’s painful. This burden of pain has been lifted for those who really need a restroom on demand!!!
Enabling and installing the restroom was quite a logistical challenge. A mere year and a half ago, this church only had enough finances to last a couple more years. The available financial resources with larger community involvement and a growing congregation turned our income into a positive cash flow. This being said… we did feel led and wanted to work without debt moving forward. We prayed and wanted the project to be paid for in addition to our normal cash flow. Since one of our goals was to make this wheelchair/disability friendly, we reached out to the Lake Erie Presbytery. There was some mention of being able to help through Presbytery funds for such events. More importantly, our General Presbyter reached out to several with our need. Right away, Rev. Sue Montgomery, who is an advocate of disabled persons, was notified… and God began His work networking. The very next day, Swissvale church, near Pittsburgh, had just received some money from a long-time member who was adamite about people attending worship. The church felt strongly that a portion of that money should be spent in a way that really made a difference in people’s lives. They contacted Rev. Sue Montgomery with this need for an opportunity. EPC and Swissvale proceeded to engage in a lasting relationship. They ended up sending us a check that covered half of our expenses!!! Ok… our vision was on its way to becoming a reality.
Because we live near a scenic tributary that empties into the Allegheny River, we are very environmentally sensitive. We obtained permits from our township, who supported our mission. Our site was inspected, and our plan was approved.
A skilled member of our congregation agreed to mastermind the interior work that would need to be completed. A neighborhood friend, whose family and EPC went back several generations, agreed to the outside work and plumbing. A holding tank was purchased and installed by a local excavating company. Jim Ziegler proceeded to complete a well, pump and exterior plumbing to and from the building.
We had a community opportunity to buy apparel with the EPC logo as a fundraiser. A dear friend who works for a printing company near Butler, worked with us to develop a logo based on a stain glass window in our church. The shirts were designed with the setup costs waived and sold at production cost enabling us to raise money. Not only did this raise money but soon the sense of mission became a community involvement… a source of conversation at the local stores and the beauty shop. Neighbors who didn’t even know the church was still open, were making positive comments about the new activity and became well dressed around town supporting our new logo!
One member of our congregation was a senior in High School. As part of his activities, wanting to make a positive difference in our community and church, began working on a Community Supper to raise funds. We had hoped for 30 – 50 suppers to be purchased. We were floored when over 200 community members showed up buying over 300 meals. The people preparing the meal had to keep running to the neighboring towns to buy out their supplies of noodles and sauce!!! There were friends of the church, neighbors and a real getting together of community in support helping God help us. I get emotional thinking about it. This ended up raising another major piece of the financing puzzle.
Since the wiring of the church was so old, it was deemed necessary to run entirely new service from the meter to new breaker boxes and subsequent wiring. A local electrical contractor helped us out with all of this. On one trip to the crawlspace, the basement steps broke. Thankfully, there were no injuries. The old and dry rotted steps were immediately replaced. These were two spinoff projects, not originally anticipated, that were completed.
Exterior work was getting done, the interior being remodeled, all the while praying to God the budget would hold! Finally, in mid-October 2018, our project was completed and local history is made. The final environmental inspection was completed. We are the first church in our neighborhood of three churches who actually have running water!!!
Most people take for granted a lot of blessings in their lives. How has Endeavor been blessed?
I see a blessing as God’s favor and God enabling us to help the Kingdom, our neighbors and ourselves. God’s faithfulness in bringing together financing and the necessary help have been a huge visual testimony of God’s love and provisions for Endeavor and the neighboring communities.
Throughout the entire process, aside from now having “a place to go,” what has been the greatest benefit to the Endeavor Church?
Having “a place to go” certainly has its benefits. The process of God working through others has been every bit as valuable. I reflect on a time I was in the dark, damp spider infested crawl space (I have claustrophobia, praying like David in the 23rd Psalm and the “valley of death”), with our two main helpers. Both had family members in our books dating back to the early 1900’s. Neither had been to this church for years. I mentioned that they both had relatives looking down and being satisfied that they were keeping this church family active for another generation. The smile on their faces brought goosebumps. People are genuinely happy and satisfied when we do what God wants us to do.
In this day of electronics and several cars per family, there is a developing need for people spending real time together. This project has enabled, and continues to enable, this particular church to be a vessel in which people come together in common mission helping God! For our sleepy little community, who has gradually withdrawn from neighbors in the context of modern times, this was like ringing a bell… “God is alive, well and active right next to you!!!”
The Synod features this water project on it’s website, click on this link: http://www.syntrinity.org/featured/running-water-was-an-endeavor-that-lake-erie-congregation-was-willing-to-attempt/
Rebuilding on Faith…
Written by Marsha MacKinnon, Webmaster for the Presbytery of Lake Erie
The First Presbyterian Church of Girard sustained a catastrophic loss in the summer of 2018. The church building, built in 1892, was consumed by fire. Despite this devastating loss, there is something very positive growing from the ashes of this historic church in Western Erie County. While strong faith has been evident here for well over a century, The Rev. Nicola Vitiello, Pastor of the Girard church, believes that faith is now stronger, deeper and richer than before. “I would say that from the perspective of the congregation there has been a coming together, a new togetherness,” said Vitiello. “Attendance in worship is up, participation in fellowship is up and involvement in Sunday School(Faith Formation) all are up. Members have become more active.”
Sometime in the early morning hours of July 22, 2018 fire erupted at the First Presbyterian Church of Girard. Thirteen fire companies, from Girard and Lake city and others throughout the western region of Erie County responded to the fire scene and every effort was made to save the structure. It just wasn’t possible. The members of the Girard congregation were shocked that their beloved church building was no longer standing where it had stood for 126 years. While the main church building was a total loss, the volunteer fire firefighters were able to save an adjacent building that houses the community food pantry. The food pantry continues to serve those in need in the Girard community. The exact cause of the fire will not likely be determined due to the intensity of the fire.
Shock, loss and grief, came together during a prayer service that was held on July 24, 2018 in the church parking lot. In attendance, church members, neighbors, local clergy, the Rev. Dr. David Oyler, Head Presbyter of the Presbytery of Lake Erie and the Rev. Dr. Laurie Kraus, director of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is well known for supplying volunteers to support people after natural disasters. This time representatives would help the Girard church through their grief and recovery and look to the future.
Rev. Dr. David Oyler felt deeply about the loss to the Girard church. While the church building is no longer standing, the church is actually the people of the congregation. “As General Presbyter, I had two immediate responses when I heard this most difficult news early on the morning of July 22. My first response, ‘Oh, what a difficult, heart breaking tragedy.’ My second response: ‘The people of the Girard congregation are wonderfully resilient people. And they shall prevail.’ When I first drove by the devastated church building I was overwhelmed by empathy, yet knowing that God alone is Lord of the church,” said Oyler.
Lake City Presbyterian Church is demonstrating faith-in-action, where neighbors are helping neighbors, by opening its doors to the Girard congregation. On Sundays, Lake City has worship at 9 a.m. and Girard has worship at 11:00 a.m. and Sunday School is at 9:30 a.m. Thanks to donations of office supplies, the Girard congregation has a new temporary office located across the street from their former church building on Main and Church streets in Girard.
According to Pastor Vitiello, the Session of the Girard church has hired a contractor to demolish, design and build a new church building at the same location. “The congregation has had one listening session, and more to follow so people can be heard and the Elders will be informed about what the congregation wants,” said Vitiello. About two-thirds of the cost to rebuild the Girard church will be covered by the insurance policy. To raise funding for the remaining third of the cost, the congregation has created a restoration fund so contributions can be made to complete the project. Demolition of the site is expected to be completed before winter, so that construction by the contractor, Building Systems, Inc.(BSI) can begin in April/May 2019.
While the grief process continues and plans continue to develop for the future, Pastor Vitiello is happy and impressed with the amount of progress already made to rebuild a new church. “One of the challenges for me is to try to pastor in a way that I’m used to pastoring, and at the same time try to help in the effort to build of a new church.”
While the grief process continues, the members of Girard Presbyterian are rebuilding on faith. “There are many, many steps to take in this renewing process. Yes, there are physical and logistical items to address – removal of debris, insurance settlements, temporary worship location, office space and a host of other issues. Even more this is a time of spiritual reflection and renewal for a congregation,” said Oyler. “The church has been surrounded by the prayers of countless congregations and individual Christians. There has been an outpouring of supplies and generous financial gifts from churches across Lake Erie Presbytery and beyond. God has a continuing faithful ministry developing in the midst of the Girard Presbyterians. They have a message to share of Jesus Christ, but also one of hope in the face of adversity, resilience, and perseverance in the midst of physical loss. Faith formation continues on…thanks be to God!”
The Girard congregation is offering its thanks and gratitude to all the firefighters who responded to the fire. Church members are providing two dinners for those firefighters to thank them; on November 1 in Girard and November 5 in Lake City. The Girard congregation is rebuilding on faith. To help them complete the rebuilding donations can be made to: First Presbyterian Church of Girard, PO Box 106, Girard, PA 16417.