In late November, 2017, a container holding 285,120 meals was shipped by Rise Against Hunger to its partner, ORPHANetwork an organization that nourishes lives through food assistance and other services in Nicaragua. The 50,112 meals we packaged the previous month were a part of that shipment. This brings the total meals Williamsburg Presbyterian Church has packaged since 2010 to 314,280. On Saturday, October 27, 2018, we will have our ninth opportunity to again contribute to solving the world’s hunger problem.
Rise Against Hunger believes everyone on the planet has the right to the nutrition necessary to live life to his or her full potential. Since its founding in 1998, Rise Against Hunger has grown exponentially — and in ways which not only seek to relieve a crisis, but also to end hunger altogether.
Williamsburg Presbyterian Church has been a partner it Rise Against Hunger’s meal packaging program, but the organization is also involved in implementing sustainable community development projects.
Rise Against Hunger’s long-term projects bolster local agricultural production and incomes through programs promoting improved agricultural methods, business skills, and market access. With training and access to quality seeds and fertilizers, farmers can increase production and harvest a variety of nutritious crops.
By supporting the establishment of fish and livestock production, Rise Against Hunger provides pathways to diversifying diets and improving nutritional outcomes. For those who do not grow their own food, income is a key determinant in being food secure. Through income generating activities Rise Against Hunger help individuals increase their earning potential and thus their consistent access to food.
While its long-term food security projects take root, vulnerable families and individuals still need to meet their basic daily food needs. Rise Against Hunger’s volunteer-packaged meals support children’s attendance at school, incentivize adults to learn a new trade, and bolster recipients’ health.
On Saturday, October 27, Williamsburg Presbyterian Church is again privileged to partner with Rise Against Hunger in its battle against hunger. Click here to learn more.
I stopped into Staples last week to pick up a new printer cartridge and it was a flurry of activity and sales going on. You know this time of year parents are taking their children shopping with a long list from the new teacher: Bic pens, Ticonderoga pencils, three subject notebooks, and Crayola colored markers. There is also the trip to the department store for new jeans, Nike’s, blouses and shirts. It is exciting to get ready for the start of school. College students as well will be buying new sheets for the dorm room, going to Costco to stock up on snack supplies and packing the car for the trip back to college.
After the summer break the best part is always seeing friends you haven’t seen for a few months. It’s great to catch up, hear about summer vacation adventures and finding out what’s new in their lives. You also get to make connections with new students, incoming freshman or a transfer student who may become your new friend. It feels good to get back in the routine of school and study. It is fun to be back with the good friends again.
The same is true for the church. You don’t need to go shopping for school supplies (except for the Sunday School teachers) but it is great to be back to the church in full swing. The best part is always seeing friends who may have been traveling during summer and finding out what is new in their lives. There are always newcomers in the fall who we want to welcome and get to know, including freshman UKirk students.
We are looking forward to a great start of the fall season at WPC with exciting programs, the start of Sunday School, choir, and bells. There will be a new mix for the Dinners for Eight and the church picnic coming up. I’m looking forward to a new Roundtable which will start mid-October. There will be new service opportunities and seminars available as well.
I hope you are as excited to get the fall started as a first-grader with a new backpack. I can’t wait for it all to begin.
Williamsburg Presbyterian Church began its road to Guatemala in the summer of 2011. Christian Outreach and Christian Education ministries searched for a meaningful Presbyterian mission that could lead to a relationship with brothers and sisters in Central America. After some research and much prayer, we decided to work with the Central Presbyterian Church in Guatemala City and the remote Presbyterian church congregation in Chajul. On our first visit to Chajul, in March 2012, we were warmly received by Pastor Miguel and the Chajul elders. Our discussions focused on getting to know the people in the church, possibilities for education in the area, and the building of a church for a growing congregation.
The WPC staff and congregation approved the partnership and the following January, Rich Watkins and Pastor Karen Stanley returned to Guatemala to sign a five-year covenant with the two congregations in Guatemala City and Chajul.
Seven years ago, no Presbyterian church building existed in Chajul. Pastor Miguel had enclosed the space in front of his house for worship. The people had faith and trusted God would provide a larger building. Pastor Miguel had gifted his land on the steep mountainside above his home for a new church, but a “shelf” had to be excavated to provide a level site. With the covenant signed, and with support and encouragement from WPC and Central Church, the people of the Chajul congregation started to work to realize their dream.
Men and women, using small shovels, carved the shelf. Materials were carefully sorted out as the mountain was cut away. Large rocks went in a designated pile, smaller rocks in another, and dirt was distributed to level the site. Once the site was cleared of rocks and leveled, the foundation was begun. Terri Harris, with the WPC high school mission team, worked on clearing the land and they were in Chajul when the cornerstone was laid!
Some materials were needed to be purchased including steel rebar to support and stabilize the building. A contractor was hired to help erect the reinforced concrete frame, install the roof and do specialized work that required skills the people lacked. Most of the work was done by hand.
Day after day, women carried water in buckets up from the river to the construction site. Cement powder, small stones, and water were mixed and placed by “bucket brigade.” The wall spaces between the frame members were constructed of concrete and rubble (remember those small rocks collected from the excavation). Our mission teams came with paint, paint brushes, rollers, hammers, chisels, and other tools and labored alongside the villagers in finishing the interior. Window frames and doors were constructed from local timber, shaped with machetes and with hand tools brought by our mission teams.
Throughout the project, our mission teams and the Chajul congregation worked together under the leadership of their elders. The architectural design, materials used, and the colors selected for the church evidenced the colorful artistic heritage of the people of Chajul.
The completion of the large church was celebrated in 2014 as an enthusiastic brass band and parade of villagers and our mission team marched up the steep road and entered the open church doors! WPC Pastor Lindsay Santamaria was invited to participate in the service along with Pastors Jenner and Alvero from Central Church and our missionary Philip Beisswenger. This church plan unfolded
because of faith in God’s purpose, and the people’s obedience to God’s call. The partnership grows because the Chajul congregation is highly motivated, the Central Presbyterian Church staff often visit Chajul, and our mission teams willingly work alongside the people of Chajul developing their trust and forming friendships.
Over the years WPC members have contributed funds and worked in the building process. Today a large church and adjacent education building have been completed and work is beginning on a second floor above the education building. These two floors will allow enough space to establish a middle school...but that is another story!
Prayer is a vital practice during the Lenten Season. Often, we take these weeks of Lent to revitalize and focus our discipline of prayer. Prayer is a way we open ourselves to God and respond to God's desire to be in communion with us. Most of the time when we think of prayer we think of having a conversation with God, talking with God about our life, our needs, our concerns and our hopes. I would like to encourage you to expand your practice of prayer during Lent. There are many ways we can open ourselves to God and it doesn't always have to be with words. In our former Directory for Worship in the Book of Order it describes a wonderful variety of prayer:
One may wait upon God in attentive and expectant silence.
One may meditate upon God's gifts, God's actions, God's Word, and God's character.
One may contemplate God, moving beyond words and thoughts to communion of one's spirit with the Spirit of God.
One may draw near to God in solitude.
One may pray in tongues as a personal and private discipline.
One may take on an individual discipline of enacted prayer through dance, physical exercise, music, or other expressive activity as a response to grace.
One may enact prayer as a public witness through keeping a vigil, through deeds of social responsibility or protest, or through symbolic acts of disciplined service.
One may take on the discipline of holding before God the people, transactions, and events of daily life in the world.
One may enter into prayer covenants or engage in the regular discipline of shared prayer.
The Christian is called to a life of constant prayer, of "prayer without ceasing." (Rom. 12:12; 1 Thess. 5:17) There are so many ways we can connect to God. The only wrong way to pray is to not take the time to do it.
May your prayer life richly bless you this Lenten Season.
Away in a manager, no crib for His bed,
The little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head.
The stars in the sky looked down where He lay,
The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.
Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask you to stay,
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.
Bless all the dear children in your tender care,
And fit us for heaven, to live with you there.
Picturing Jesus as a baby boy wrapped in a manger often reminds me often what unconditional love really means. We often think of the unconditional love of a mother or a father when we think of unconditional love from God, but maybe that unconditional love is more like that of an infant. A little sleeping child loves so unconditionally and wholly because thoughts of anger and hatred have never even been processed by a baby’s infant mind. This is the pure, unconditional love of Jesus Christ, the love that never fails, that always comforts, and that we receive through the grace of God.
Loving and merciful God,
Thank you for your unconditional love and forgiveness, brought to us in your son, Jesus Christ. Though we may have days when love seems so hard, you guide us through these dark days to the light which is Christ’s love in our world. Help us to surround your children with the loving light of Christ this advent season.