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Wednesday - April 16, 2014 - by: Justice & Witness News Briefs
Journey to Chile

by Sarah Myntti (from her sermon at Athol Congregational Church)

At the beginning of last summer , I told my mom I wanted to go on an adventure; I wanted to do something exciting and experience something new. A few days later my mom jokingly mentioned that our pastor, Reverend Beverly, was going to Chile and I should tag along with her as my adventure. My mom didn’t think I would take that suggestion seriously …but I did. It sounded perfect. I approached Reverend Beverly about it and she along her friend and coworker Elena Huegel, Global Ministries missionary to Chile, worked so hard at figuring out my travel arrangements, my schedule, and where I would be staying for the next week. So I owe so much thanks to them both. I set out to visit our sister church, which is part of a program of the Massachusetts Conference. We are partnering for three years with a church in Chile that lost its church building in the earthquake of 2010. We will pray with each other, communicate, and our church will raise money to help them rebuild.

On our second day Beverly, Elena, and I traveled to a city called Talca. I was shown around the city by a girl named Daniella. I speak very little Spanish and she spoke very little English so it was a bit of a challenge to communicate. As I was walking down the street with her, it kind of hit me all at once how far I truly was from home...as if the 13 hour plane ride didn’t give me enough of a clue. Daniella and I were doing some shopping and I began to have a little bit of an uneasy feeling as I realized a few things. I had no idea what the girl on the phone in front of me was saying because I couldn’t understand the Spanish. I had no idea what the street signs said or what the store names were, or I didn’t even know what was around the next corner. Everything was so foreign to me. Daniella had to order for me at the restaurant because I couldn’t read the menu or communicate with the waitress.

It was such a strange, uncomfortable, and confusing feeling to be somewhere that was so different to me and having to give all control over to someone else, and to depend on someone else wholly to guide me. I didn’t like feeling that way, but it’s something I never want to forget because I would never want someone else to feel lost like that either. I definitely have more compassion now than I ever did for people just coming into our country because even as I tried to learn more Spanish, picking up a new language is not easy by any means and neither is figuring your own way around foreign land. These thoughts and feelings were really eye opening to me and nothing I ever considered would happen to me on that trip. I knew I was going to have an amazing adventure wherever I ended up, but I didn’t anticipate a feeling of helplessness along the way.


On Thursday evening I was going to part ways with Reverend Beverly and stay with Pastor of our sister church and his family for the next four days in a town called Vichuquen. I admitted to Beverly - it finally hit me I was getting a little nervous to go to their house because of the communication issue. As we were talking and she was giving me some advice, I glanced down at the floor and right by feet I saw a penny. During worship, a choir member, Jason has talked several times about finding a penny when he was lonely or afraid, and he said it meant a guardian angel was watching over me. I couldn’t have found it at a more perfect time. As I showed Reverend Beverly I got a huge smile on my face and there was part of me that felt a little better on the inside. I put it in my pocket for the rest of the trip. But I quickly realized, I really had nothing to be nervous about. The language barrier was challenging but Pastor Luis and his wife, Pastora Mari, and their two children Fernanda and Luis Jr were so patient with me and so kind. They welcomed me with a huge cake Pastora Mari’s friend made for me. We sat in the living room that night eating cake and drinking tea while Pastor Luis played the accordion, Luis Jr played the guitar, and Fernanda sang and played the mandolin. They made me feel so comfortable. After that Luis Jr took my hand and showed me the bed I was going to sleep in. I slept in his bed, while he slept on the couch. Already I could tell how truly kind this family was and I felt extremely humbled to be there.

Over the next few days the family showed me all around their town, we went sight-seeing, to the local wood crafter’s shop, I made pottery with Fernanda, we went to the beach, out to eat, and I visited Fernanda and Luis’s school. They also took me to the site where their church got destroyed by the earthquake. It was so sad to see. Everything was completely gone and so far in the three years since the earthquake all they’ve had the money for to rebuild was the frame of the church. So until it gets done they travel to another Pentecostal Church about an hour away and use that building for their services. It’s a small building with no windows and little decoration, but filled with some of the most high spirited people I have ever met. Seventeen people make up their congregation and each of them greeted me with nothing but smiles and blessings. Everyone was so friendly and warm. As Pastor Luis was preaching two of the men had tears in their eyes and the congregation repeatedly shouted AMEN. Without even speaking the language, you could tell how much they praised God. It was beautiful to witness.

At the next service the following day, the English teacher from the school, also named Daniella, agreed to come to church with us so she could translate for me. And I also got to address their congregation too, telling a little bit about myself, my family, and our church. I received a blessing from Pastor Luis that night, and tears filled my eyes. It was absolutely great to be able to communicate with them with Daniella there. I truly feel like I have a new family with their church, which means we all do. They are all so humble and look to God with all aspects of their lives and have complete trust in Him. They don’t have nearly as much as we do here but they are so grateful for what they do have. Pastor Luis says he prays every night that their new church will come together soon. And these people really deserve it.

I’m so happy I went on this trip with Reverend Beverly and the people I met, the connections I made, and the beautiful land and sights I saw are things I will never forget.

Photos by Beverly Prestwood-Taylor: Author and traveler Sarah Myntti; Pastor Luis and Pastora Mari in their church, destroyed in the 2010 earthquake.

Wednesday - April 16, 2014 - by: Justice & Witness News Briefs
MA Faith Voices takes action on minimum wage bill

Twenty members of Massachusetts Faith Voices delivered a letter to State House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray last week, signed by the interfaith group of 344 religious leaders and written in support of a new state minimum wage bill. While both houses have approved a hike in the current $8 minimum wage over the next three years, the group is urging lawmakers to tie the minimum wage increase to the rate of inflation (which is not currently part of the House-proposed bill), and to increase the minimum wage for workers who earn tips to 50 percent of the regular minimum wage.

Ian Holland, pastor of First Church in Swampscott UCC, was among those addressing lawmakers last week.

"It’s a moral issue for us. We believe it’s a right of dignity for all workers and we believe there are members of our congregations who are behind this bill - and a complete bill and a just bill that includes indexing as well as justice for workers who are on tipped wages,” Pastor Holland told the State House News Service.

Read more on the MA Community Action Network website.  Read the State House News article.

 

 

Monday - April 14, 2014 - by: Elena Huegel
Chile in need of our prayers

Dear Friends and Family:

I am sure that by now you have heard of tragedy heaped upon tragedy in Chile. As Bishop Ulises of the Pentecostal Church of Chile prepares to fly to northern Chile to assess the damage from the recent earthquake, a devastating fire in the historic port of Valparai­so has consumed now over 1,000 homes with at least 8,000 people homeless. The weather conditions with hot, dry and shifting winds, along with the coastal mountain terrain has made it very difficult to control the blaze.

Valparai­so is a world heritage site, also known for having been one of the ports mentioned in Moby Dick by Herman Melville. It is the third largest city in Chile, with homes built on the tops of the coastal hills down to where the skirts of these slip into the sea. These coastal hills have been built up in the past years with wooden houses teetering on stilts that cling to the sides of ravines and have spectacular views of the bay. On the opposite side of the hills, away from the coast, the rough terrain is covered with highly flammable pine plantations - where every year there are forest and shrub fires. Sunday night, one of these fires got out of hand and began to burn towards the city.

There are about seven churches of the Pentecostal Church of Chile spread out on the different hills in Valparai­so, but so far, according to the reports that Bishop Ulises has received, none have been affected by the fires. We still do not know if any church members have been affected. For those of you who know the Aguirre family and Pastor Mario Torres and his family, as far as we know they are all ok.

I have been preparing materials on emotional and spiritual first aid from the information we collected after the 2010 earthquake to send to the pastors in northern Chile. This same information will be shared with the pastors in Valparaíso. Sometime later this year, brothers and sisters from the Pentecostal Church of Chile who have been trained by the Shalom Center's "Roots in the ruins: hope in trauma" program will be training pastors and Sunday school teachers to further facilitate trauma healing and resilience development in the churches and communities affected by both the fire and the earthquake.

I thank each of you for your prayers; we certainly need them as the sense of loss this Easter Week will be palpable in the lives of many people. May we bring the hope of Christ's victory over death and destruction to those who suffer in the midst of the ashes and the rubble.

Shalom, Elena

Elena Huegel, Centro Shalom

Wednesday - April 2, 2014 - by: Elena Huegel
News about Chilean Earthquake

A letter from Elena Huegel, Global Ministries' missionary to Chile

April 2, 2014

Dear Friends:

Greetings from Chile in the name of our Creator and Sustainer! I am writing to you this morning to thank all of those who have emailed me and called me asking about the situation in Chile after the earthquake last night in the northern part of the country. Thank you for your concern and your prayers.

I would like to let you know that the earthquake was in the northern part of Chile, in the same area where there have been several severe tremors in the past few weeks, between the cities of Arica and Iquique. We here in the central part of the country, have not felt the effects of these quakes. Even though there were tsunami warnings and massive evacuations, ¡Gloria a Dios! that there wasn`t severe damage and the warnings have been lifted. We can all see that there has been much work to prepare the population for such emergencies - quite different from the 2010 earthquake and tsunami that caught everyone by surprise.

This morning I spoke with Richard, the Bishop's son, to ask him about our brothers and sisters in northern Chile. He has told me that they had been able to communicate with the pastors, and up to this point, there is no report of damage to people's homes or to the churches.

As an additional note, I would like to let you all know that during the past weekend we had an all staff gathering at the Shalom Center along with several members of the new Board. It was a wonderful opportunity for us to affirm our commitment to Shalom! I am sending you a picture of the staff so that you might remember us in your prayers.

Once again, thanks to everyone for your prayers and concern for us here "at the ends of the earth."

 Shalom, Elena

Elena Huegel
Centro Shalom

Tuesday - April 1, 2014 - by: Justice & Witness News Briefs
Bill will provide help to homeless youth

A letter from the MA Coalition for the Homeless.

Friends,

In a collaboration with the MACUCC, and considering the latest MACUCC resolution to end homelessness (read the resolution here), please join with us in working to end unaccompanied youth homelessness by supporting House Bill 135, An Act providing housing and support services to unaccompanied homeless youth.

This bill seeks to reduce youth homelessness and its adverse effects by funding a continuum of housing and support services geared specifically for unaccompanied youth and young adults under the age of 25. The goals of these efforts are to improve housing and residential stability, reduce the risk of harm and improve educational, physical and mental health outcomes for this population.

On August 12th, the Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities reported the bill out favorably, and sent it to the House Ways and Means Committee but the work is far from over. The time to act is NOW!  The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education estimates that nearly 6,000 high school students are experiencing homelessness and out on their own. Thousands more unaccompanied youth and young adults experiencing homelessness are not reflected in these numbers because they have already dropped out of school or are older and have finished school. With only 12 beds available in the metropolitan area of Boston, there is a desperate need for increased shelter and housing options for youth living without their parents.

While many youth are resilient and are able to overcome the ravages of homelessness, homelessness often leads to poor health outcomes including increased risk of death, exposure to violence, susceptibility to exploitation and high risk behaviors, and poor academic performance with increased risk of dropping out of school.

We are calling you out to take action and help us make sure that this bill won’t “die” this June. We need all of your support to make sure that the bill will be sent out to the Senate Ways and Means! You can help by engaging in the following:

  • Write, email or call Representative Brian Dempsey and ask him to support House Bill 135 “An Act Providing Housing and Support Services to Unaccompanied Homeless Youth”, his contact information is as follows:

Rep. Brian Dempsey
Room 243
Boston, MA 02133
Phone:617-722-2990
Fax:617-722-2215
Email: Brian.Dempsey@mahouse.gov

Rep. Stephen Kulik
State House
Room 238
Boston, MA 02133
Phone:617-722-2380
Fax:617-722-2847
Email: Stephen.Kulik@mahouse.gov

  • Email or call your Representative and Senator and tell them about the lack of housing for unaccompanied homeless youth and ask them to talk to the leadership of House and Senate Ways and Means to approve House bill 135. To find out who your Rep. and State Senator are, please visit: www.wheredoivotema.org
  • Take action and sign this electronic alert, fill out the form and send it! It will automatically be sent to your State Rep. and State Senator. Sign the petition
  • Meet face to face with representative and/or Senator at the State House or at their district office to talk with them about the importance of passing House Bill 135. If you need help scheduling an appointment, please let Exa Méndez know and she will do it for you: you can either call her (781) 595 7570 or email her at exa@mahomeless.org
  • Watch this short documentary on youth homelessness or organize a film screening with your church and share information about youth homelessness. For more information or ideas to do a screening, contact Exa (exa@mahomeless.org). To watch the documentary, please visit this website.  

We can’t pass this bill without your support! Help us make sure that teens and young adults in Massachusetts have a safe place to sleep, we only have until June 2014 to make this possible or the bill will “die”. Thank you for your solidarity and support!

Exa Mendez-Guerrero, for the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless 

Endorsed by the Task Team to End Homelessness and the Justice and Witness Council of the Massachusetts Conference, UCC

Thursday - March 27, 2014 - by: Don Remick
Prayer for the Anniversary of the Marathon Bombing

 

Friends,

This Easter season marks the anniversary of the bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. There will be many ways in which people and churches may be marking this anniversary. Ian Lynch, on behalf of The Disaster Resource Team, has crafted this prayer for use in our MACUCC churches. Please feel free to use it and adapt it as needed. Blessings in the Holy Season from the Disaster Resource Team.

Rev. Don Remick 


 

O God, our God, the one who always was, the one who goes the distance, slow down a while and walk with us this day: on the eve of running and persevering, on the eve of pain and remembrance.

We have waited for the day when we might renew our strength and run without growing weary. But the path to this starting line has been longer and harder than we expected. It has led us through suffering, loss, anger and death. Between the shock and pain at the finish line in Copley Square and the hopeful new start tomorrow in Hopkinton, we had to travel through violence and fear in Cambridge and Watertown. The heartbreak we will feel on the hilly marathon path tomorrow will be bigger than than empathy for the runners it defeats. Our hearts will be heavy remembering limbs, hearing and innocence lost. And we most especially grieve for Krystle, Lingzi and young Martin whose races are run, and for Officer Sean whose duty is over.

We have waited for this day when you might give power to the faint and strength to the powerless. But more than that we have waited for you, waited for even a glimpse of you, who never gets tired, who doesn't need to stop to catch your breath. O God, we wait in confidence that like a mother eagle you will feed us and cover us with the shelter of your wing. Remind us that we, too, are eagles, that we have wings with which to fly. Be for us the gentle breeze beneath us as we soar this day, confident of your healing presence, confident of your gracious love. Having been forgiven, may we forgive. Having known defeat, may we savor the victory that is ours in your grace this day, and in every race that is set before us. Amen.