The varied work of the Commission on Ministry

The Commission on Ministry (COM) is a key part of the leadership and ministry of our diocese. Fr. Bill Fasel explains what the Commission on Ministry does.

The Rev. Dr. Bill Fasel Six-minute read.   Resources
On Saturday May 11, 2019, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Kansas City hosted the Ordinations to the Sacred Order of Priests of the Rev. William Jeffrey Hurst, the Rev. Dr. Sean Kim, and the Rev. Marco Serrano. Image credit: Mary Ann Teschan

The Commission on Ministry or COM is a key part of the leadership and ministry of our diocese. I suspect that many people have heard the words, but may not know what the Commission on Ministry does. The most visible role of the Commission is to oversee the ordination process and to advise the bishop on all aspects of that process. The Commission consists of 20 people. 18 of those persons are either elected by Diocesan Convention, or appointed by Bishop Marty. Half (nine) are clergy and the other half are lay persons. There are two ex officio members: Dr. Victor Matthews who is chair of the Diocesan Board of Examining Chaplains, and myself, the staff liaison to the Commission on Ministry.

This has been an exciting year for ordinations in our diocese. In May we ordained five transitional deacons to the priesthood, and back in March we ordained our two graduating seminarians as transitional deacons. In the meantime, we have had a rush of younger persons being nominated for ordination. We will have two new seminarians matriculating at the Seminary of the Southwest this fall. We also have one who has just finished his first year at Virginia Theological Seminary, and two younger persons were just nominated for the priesthood in the last few weeks.

About to deliver the dismissal — the Rev. James Yazell (left) and the Rev. Joseph Pierjok at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, March 24, 2019. Image credit: Donna Field

Of our 48 churches, only 14 offer full-time positions, and of those only six offer more than one full-time position.

As exciting as this is, it has some associated issues. We definitely need early vocation clergy who can devote an entire career to the Church. These are the people we expect to be in position for top leadership later in their careers, serving as bishops or cathedral deans. At the same time, we have very few openings for full time clergy in our diocese. Of our 48 congregations, only 14 offer full-time positions, and of those only six offer more than one full-time position. Of our two graduating seniors this year, only one was able to come back to our diocese. The other fortunately found a job, but in the Diocese of Western Louisiana. I’ll talk more about this issue later.

What we do need a lot more of are vocational deacons … and bi-vocational priests.

What we do need a lot more of are vocational deacons (who generally do not get paid, but may well have expenses covered), and bi-vocational priests. (A bi-vocational priest is someone who works part-time as a priest, and earns the bulk of his/her support elsewhere. This could be another full or part-time job, or retirement, or the occasional “independently wealthy.”) Currently at the Bishop Kemper School for Ministry (BKSM) we only have one person each in the deacon and priest track, and none currently scheduled to start next fall. I would encourage every member of our diocese who knows someone who has the gifts for either ministry to please talk to them and encourage them to enter into a process of discernment.

Speaking of discernment, that is another mission area where the Commission on Ministry has responsibility. The general church canons call for Commissions on Ministry to provide vocational discernment to every member of the diocese. Here’s what we mean by that. Vocation is a Latin word that means “calling.” We believe that every Christian has a “call” to ministry. Most of those “calls” are in the lay order, although few will always be to ordained ministry. We want to help every member of every congregation to discover his or her various callings to ministry at this time in their life. (Note, vocations do change over time and circumstances.)

Fr. Jos Tharakan rector at St. James Episcopal Church, Springfield. Image credit: Gary Allman

The Rev. Jos Tharakan has recently taken over as the Chair of the Commission’s subcommittee on vocational discernment. He and his committee are working to develop a number of tools to aid in this important work and to make them available on the diocesan website. As these tools become available, the subcommittee will also be providing training in how to use them. If you want to start work on discernment right now, please contact me. I have materials that I can start you with.

Another area of responsibility for the Commission on Ministry is the administration of lay licenses for specific ministries. These are:

  • Preacher (someone licensed to preach regularly in his/her church)
  • Catechist (a person who helps and coordinates the preparation of persons for baptism and confirmation)
  • Pastoral Leader (a lay person tasked with pastoral and administrative responsibility for a congregation)
  • Evangelist (a person who leads and coordinates the evangelism ministry of a congregation)
  • Worship Leader (a lay person who regularly leads worship in a congregation)
  • Eucharistic Visitor (a person to takes communion to those unable to attend worship)
  • Eucharistic Minister (a person who assists with the distribution of communion during worship)

All seven of these licenses are defined more fully on the diocesan website. The first four listed have defined tracks at BKSM. I invite you to check them out below.

The Evangelist license is brand new—defined this year—but we hope to have our first licensee soon. She just graduated from the Evangelist track at BKSM.

All of the guidelines and license applications that you will see on the diocesan website are the work of our Licensed Ministry Subcommittee, which Cosette Hardwick, Chairs.

Finally, the Commission on Ministry has responsibility for continuing education of clergy. Our Continuing Education Subcommittee, chaired by the Rev. Deacon Beck Schubert, has been working on two major initiatives. One is an orientation program for newly ordained clergy and clergy new to the diocese. Many of you saw the beginnings of this program when we passed out “welcome baskets” at diocesan convention. The new clergy have since been invited to a series of retreats at Trinity Meadows (near Dunnegan, MO). There has been one retreat so far.

The other big continuing education project has been to establish a curacy process in our diocese. A curacy is a first job for a newly ordained priest. Such a priest is normally called a “curate”. The idea is to provide a structure to teach those things that are not taught in seminary, but a priest needs to know, and to mentor new priests as they “learn the job.” We have a plan for a three-year curacy program, wherein the new priest would spend the first half in a larger parish being mentored and taking on responsibility, and then in the second half going to a smaller congregation to try to jumpstart new ministry. We applied for a grant to cover the cost of the startup of this ministry, but we were not successful. We are now working to solicit operating and endowment donations to fund this ministry. You will be hearing more about this soon.

If you remember back at the start of this article I mentioned a problem we have as a diocese in that we have too few starting positions for new clergy. This curacy program is a direct effort to do something about this. If Bishop Marty or anyone else asks you to consider contributing to this important ministry, I hope that you will give it prayerful consideration.

Fr. Bill Fasel is the Ministry Developer for the Northeast Episcopal Regional Ministry (NERM) and also Assistant to the Bishop for Leadership Development — the latter meaning mainly staff liaison to the Commission on Ministry. 

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Spiritual Complacency

Mike McDonnell argues that we are in danger of letting our complacency put our Christian heritage and our faith’s future at risk.

Mike McDonnell Three-minute read.   Resources

Complacency will be the death of our faith, our hope, our church, our denomination

Spiritual Complacency is not a place or an illness, and unquestionably it is not a situation for the fainthearted. Nonetheless, it is a circumstance that so many of us find ourselves in today. The Bible describes this mindset in the book of Revelation as “lukewarm” neither hot or cold, but indifferent in our commitment to living faith as God has asked.

As Christians we are called to live our lives as part of a community of believers. I know few, if any of us, who like their coffee or chocolate drinks tepid, but I believe it is the circumstance in which our church finds itself today. Complacency will be the death of our faith, our hope, our church, our denomination. It becomes a question of if the Episcopal Church has a hope of being vital in the twenty-second century.

I have to admit I was disappointed, but I also realized that it was God, not me, who stirs the hearts of people to take action.

Spiritual complacency is at the forefront of my thinking, because on March 30, after a year of effort, the Brotherhood of St. Andrew working with The Diocese of West Missouri put together an excellent Human Trafficking and Abuse Seminar. I had the privilege to work with Fr. Chas Marks and Gary Allman in organizing and planning the seminar. The event took place at a beautiful location — St. Andrew’s Church, Kansas City — the food was plentiful, and the four presenters excellent. It was a workshop that shared the underpinnings of modern-day slavery, the heartbreak of sex trafficking, and the dedicated work of organizations fighting to eliminate sexual abuse from the face of our planet. If I subtracted the people, directly and indirectly, involved, we had seven attendees. Consider for a minute what we were offering to the public. The opportunity to understand and an opportunity to help prevent a young person from suffering a life of anguish from sexual slavery and abuse.

Our competition that Saturday morning was Comicon, a Regional Basketball championship, snow, and complacency. The Book of Revelation states:

317You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.Revelation 3:17

Mike McDonnell Adresses the Human Trafficking & Abuse Workshop, March 30, 2019. Image credit: Gary Allman

I have to admit I was disappointed, but I also realized that it is God, not me, who stirs the hearts of people to take action.

What I see on Sunday mornings and at church-related activities during the week is a lack of participation that is an omen of complacency. Our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, our bishops, and the rectors of our churches are doing everything they conceivably can to invigorate membership participation. Attendance and church participation are not intended to bring enthusiasm to a building or an organization, but an intimate fervor to serve God, because God is who God is; the great “I Am.”

I do not believe that Episcopalians fully understand that our generation may be the most important in the history of Christianity. The foundation of Christianity spans generations of believers. We are their decedents, heirs to the faith of the apostles, followers of Jesus. We, at present, are getting near to the end of the line. What happens if we continue to falter? One, two, or three individuals cannot save a declining church. It must be the entire community of believers determined to hold the line, to stem the tide of complacency and bring a multitude of candles to light the way for the next generation.

Emmanuel, “God is with us”, are we with Him?

Mike McDonnell, is the Brotherhood of St. Andrew Coordinator for The Diocese of West Missouri

A Year in Africa – Settling in

In this second installment on her experiences working for the Peace Corps, we join join Julia Taylor as she settles into her new home and role in Mbale, Uganda.

Julia Taylor 12 minute read.   Resources

In 2015 Julia applied for and was accepted in a Peace Corps program sending doctors and nurses to Africa for one year. In 2016-2017 she was a part of the Global Health Service Partnership (GHSP) working with medical and nursing schools teaching and working with school facilities and administrators to improve the educational opportunities for healthcare professionals in Uganda.

You can read part one of Julia’s story here: A Year in Africa – Preparations & Orientation

Setting up home

The trip from the health clinic in Jinja to Mbale was dusty but without incident. I moved into my home for the next year. The first night I got bedding and the mosquito net installed. Each day a little more is accomplished. The university supplied the basics: a bed, couch and chairs for the living room, a mini refrigerator and a few dishes. I actually have two bedrooms – the second one is furnished with my empty suitcases (I promise at least an air mattress if someone comes to visit). There is a shower but alas no bathtub. Hot water is promised soon.

Local transportation. Image credit: Julia Taylor

I am slowly purchasing additions to my house. The main mode of transportation here is the boda-boda – a motorcycle with passengers. However, the Peace Corps has forbidden the volunteers from riding them. Probably a wise decision since they are responsible for our health care and a boda-boda is not the safest means of transportation. I have carried home a floor fan, a stool, a small amount of groceries and various cooking items. We were provided with an empty gas cylinder for cooking (I am supposed to get a stove … soon). I carried my cylinder to the petrol station to get it filled. After filling, it was too heavy for me to carry back so I got a boda-boda driver, gave him the filled gas container, and, since there are no street addresses here, ran home and he followed me.

I have been able to run, planning my exercise when it is light enough to be safe but early enough so that there is not too much traffic. Often on my runs, children will call out “faster, faster.” Once a boda-boda driver slowed down and asked “Are you tired yet?”

Note: school is taught in English but as with everywhere some schools are better than others. Often the only place the children speak English is in school. At home they speak their own language – Lumasaaba, Luganda, Teso, etc.

My living room now has framed pictures. I often look at them – pictures of all my children, grandchildren, siblings and cousins. Everyone wants to know why Stacey is so much taller than the rest of us.

The light in my bedroom is dim and I have yet to locate a bedside table and lamp. I do my nighttime reading in bed protected by the mosquito net and use a battery powered lantern. It works great. One of my goals for this trip was to read all 257 books on my Kindle. Unfortunately I am living with a group of readers and have added books to my collection (261). I have read Dark Star Safari (traveling from Cairo to Capetown) and the Last King of Scotland (about Idi Amin).

Although the Peace Corps provided us with a basic manual water filter, I followed the example of one of my fellow apartment dwellers (he just spent six months in Kenya) and purchased a classier one. I am happy to report it is working well.

Laundry is done by hand. Fortunately we have a cleaning lady to do many of the household chores. She works five days a week, doing laundry and cleaning each apartment (my day is Monday). For this she is paid $100 a month.

The building is an almost finished eight unit building. Five of the apartments are occupied by Peace Corps – Global Health Service Partnership people, two more by university faculty and the last is empty for now. The university/hospital is a 20 minute walk.

The Peace Corps has provided us with heavy duty padlocks for the front and back doors. All windows have bars. Each room has a lock and a set of keys. And we have armed guards at our building 24/7. Their change of shifts (midnight and 5 am) are noisy. One morning I think the guards were fighting with a chicken that got into our courtyard. I am on the first floor and have a small front porch which is a gathering place for neighbor children and the guards. Evenings are not the time to sit outside. The mosquitos are definitely a problem. I take my anti-malarial medicine every morning.

Electricity is not guaranteed. It seems to go out every day or two for up to 12 hours. However, I have lots of backup lighting so it’s not really a problem.

I am just 2-3 hours from Jinja but the languages are different. In fact, I learned that only about 25% of the people here speak Lumasaaba, the language we were studying. I would like to keep studying but I haven’t determine which language would be most useful.

On Sunday, the Anglican cathedral choir sang “Bringing in the Sheaves” in English. Once again I was the only white face in a congregation of about 550.

My major accomplishment this week (besides carrying the fan safely home – I broke the first one I purchased by running it into a building while walking home) was meeting Janet White, MD from England who founded Joy Hospice. I spent over two hours with her and touring her facility which includes a lab, maternity building, and outpatient clinic. She has been in East Africa almost continuously since 1989. She returned to England for two years to attend a theology school.

I have started working. With my counterpart Doreck, we are heading a tutorial of third year medical students. This is a two day a week (3 hours each) student led (with faculty guidance) session on various topics. This week it was stroke. I am still adjusting to Problem Based Learning and the fact that the students speak in whispers and in an accent I don’t always understand. I am certain that they have a hard time understanding my accent and think that my voice is too loud. Each session opens and closes with prayer.

Healthcare in Uganda

At the risk of boring my son-in-law (who said he didn’t care if I took the blood pressure of 3,000 people but he would be interested if my patients were 3,000 lions), I’ll give some information about the healthcare system.

  • Remote villages have a VHT which I think is a village health technician, a person who must speak some English but does not necessarily have any health care training.
  • A health clinic II (there is no health clinic I) is basically an outpatient clinic run by a nurse.
  • A health clinic III adds a maternity unit and immunizations and is run by a clinical officer (similar to a physician’s assistant – three years of post-high school training)
  • A health clinic IV has an operating room for true emergencies and is run by a doctor.
  • Then there are district (like our state) hospitals, then regional referral hospitals (Mbale is one) and finally Mulago the national referral hospital in the capitol, Kampala.

Care in all these facilities is free as long as the supplies and medicines are in stock. If the hospital is out of something, the family is expected to go to a pharmacy and purchase what is needed.

As in India, each patient arrives with at least one family member to feed and care for the patient. Each morning the grounds of the hospital are covered with drying laundry for the patient and associated family members.

Down-time

Cheese. Image credit: Julia Taylor

I have just returned from touring a dairy farm/cheese factory outside Mbale. Jerome, the owner, is originally from the Netherlands and came to Uganda as a missionary. He married a local woman and decided to stay here. Gouda is his main product but he also produces yogurt, mozzarella, cottage cheese, cream cheese and paneer. He uses solar power and methane gas (from cow manure) to supply his energy needs. I have some gouda and have ordered cottage cheese and paneer. It was a fun afternoon.

Obviously, wearing a hijab has its advantages. If a Muslim woman has a bad hair day, no one knows. Her hair is covered. The Islamic University nursing students are by far the most stylish on the ward.

Second year student nurse. Image credit: Julia Taylor

However, several Ugandans have told me that I am “smart” (meaning “looking good”). Of course, that is never when I am dressed for church or school. The compliment is given when I am in jeans and t-shirt or in my workout clothes which features very large, baggy Missouri State shirt.

I returned to the Timeless Beauty Shop (specializing in braids, weaves and dreadlocks) and had my hair cut. It is sooooo short! A barber cut it. I am considering wearing a hijab.

At Work

Checking blood pressure. Image credit: Julia Taylor

I am now Sister Julia (the British way to address a senior nurse) or sometimes Madame Julia (when I am leading a class as a tutor). I have an office (with desk and chair!) and am spending some time on the pediatric wards. I gave out Lifesavers at my final tutorial session. The students enjoyed that. I prepared for two classes that didn’t happen (schedule coordination does not appear to be a high priority here).

My biggest accomplishment has been getting all the first year students into the skills lab to do one set of vital signs (taking appropriately 40 minutes to do a blood pressure, temperature and heart and respiratory rates). Obviously more practice is required. on the schedule for the next five-week module are four sessions of 2.5 hours each for 82 students to practice, practice, practice!

Home Life

We found a small puppy outside apartment building. One of the neighborhood guards said that it had been “stepped on” by a vehicle and was “trying to die”. We brought it to our building and gave her some water, food and attention. One of my neighbors, Sarah took her to a vet the next day, but she died later. We were all very sad. The Ugandans (who do not keep pets) appeared to think we were somewhat crazy.

Travis took the Foreign Service officer exam. We all were quizzing him on information for the “random” knowledge part of the test. He kept saying that Puerto Rico was a state! And Harry Truman was a Republican! Fortunately the questions he got were “Where was MLK killed?” and “Who are the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council?”1

Our book club discussed ‘A Path Appears’, another book about aid, charity and its usefulness. I’m still not certain what the best path is. On a more positive note, we had a potluck supper. Parker the dog joined us. We couldn’t decide on the next book so everyone will just report on a book they read. Among our group of seven discussing the book, we had three immigrants to the US: one from Poland immigrating at age three (a chef who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and owner of Parker), another who emigrated from Ukraine at age nine (IT guru and great travel companion), and finally one who emigrated from India at age 17 (a Sikh who graduated from Berkeley).

There is much focus on food in our apartment complex. I made a banana oatmeal cake for book club. I tried pita (which actually did puff up) to go with Dennis’ great hummus. Earlier this week, Sarah made a wonderful noodle dish with eggplant, mango and cilantro.

The best part of my day: sitting on stairwell talking with friends and drinking wine.

Meanwhile in Malawi

In Malawi (a nearby country) there is such a shortage of food that the PCVs (regular Peace Corps volunteers) can’t prepare a meal without neighbors coming to beg for food. Needless to say, the PCVs are not having a positive experience at this time.

On Church …

I have heard that in Japan there are people pushers to cram more passengers into a train. In Uganda – at least at St. Andrew’s Anglican Cathedral – there is a similar position. They are called ushers. They push people together to get more into a pew. Then when it gets really crowded, they tell the children to get up. So most of the adults get seats and lots of children just wander around the church. Most of them are very well behaved or at least quiet. Someone appears to be selling popsicles at the back of the church. That may be why the children are so quiet.

Often there is a produce auction before the final dismissal. Today two hens and a rooster (all live, of course) were the products for sale. The preacher today was a missionary from Nigeria. I’m not certain why he was there but he was well received. When the words of a prayer or hymns are projected to the front of the church, snow scenes are the background. I guess it is to give the Ugandans a different world view.

Living in Uganda

I had lunch with Dennis. The food was not great and I didn’t eat much. The waitress said to Dennis “your mother wasn’t hungry.” Dennis said “She’s not my mother. She’s my girlfriend.” Dennis is the same age as my youngest daughter. The waitress enjoyed the joke.

I have learned that in western Uganda twins are considered to have special powers. If you cross them, they can put a curse on you.

Shopping. Image credit: Julia Taylor

To me it appears that there is little unemployment but a great deal of underemployment. There are boda (motorcycle for passenger hire) drivers with university degrees. Lots and lots of people are selling essentials (locks, small bags of vegetables, used clothing). There are charcoal ladies who take bags of large chunks of charcoal and break them down into little pieces of charcoal and sell them on the street. There are people who attempt to keep the store fronts clean (a nearly impossible job in this dusty, trash filled town). There are many people growing vegetables on small bits of land and of course, lots of people have chickens and/or goats. Most people seem to be busy but I believe that they are barely getting by (if that).

Apparently they do not tolerate thieves. Earlier this week just outside my office building, a man tried to steal a boda. People who were milling around outside the hospital gate caught him and began beating him. The police arrived and took the man to Casualty (the Emergency Department which was about 50 yards away) but people were very unhappy because they wanted to kill him. Lovely.

Another note on boda drivers: they are wearing ski jackets and winter caps with ear flaps. It certainly does not seem cool to me. I am running in a t-shirt. However I do remember when we were living in Hawaii if the temperature was in the low to mid-70s, everyone got out their sweatshirts and jeans. It must seem cold riding the motorcycles.

This article was originally published as a series of posts on Julia’s personal Facebook account.

1Answers to the Foreign Service exam: Memphis, US, UK, France, Russia and China

Julia Taylor attends Christ Episcopal Church, Springfield, Missouri

Stop Human Trafficking and Abuse Event

On Saturday March 30 a Stop Human trafficking and Abuse event was held at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Kansas City.

Gary Allman Two-minute read.   Resources

On a snowy Saturday morning in March a group of determined individuals attended the ‘Stop Human Trafficking and Abuse‘ event held at St. Andrew’s. Unfortunately, the group was small and Mike McDonnell discusses this in his article on Spiritual Complacency elsewhere in this issue.

Those present learned from trafficking and abuse victims how trafficking and abuse starts, and what can be done to help the victims. It wasn’t easy listening to the harrowing life stories of people directly impacted by these devastating crimes. It did, however, serve to strengthen our resolve to continue raising awareness, and take action wherever we can to fight human trafficking and abuse.

The Small but determined audience for the Stop Human Trafficking and Abuse event held at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Kansas City, Missouri. Image credit: Gary Allman

The day was opened by Jeff Butcher, National President of The Brotherhood of St. Andrew co-sponsors of the event with The Diocese of West Missouri.

Brotherhood of St. Andrew President, Jeff Butcher at the Stop Human Trafficking and Abuse event held at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Kansas City, Missouri. Image credit: Gary Allman

The all-day event featured four sessions.

Slavery, the Bible, and Gritty Evangelism – The Rev. Dr. Benjamin Thomas from the Saint Francis foundation. Slavery is seen all over the Bible, and the Bible has been used (wrongly) to defend this practice. Fr. Benjamin explained how a biblical theology of humanity stands against any practice of slavery, including human trafficking, and why fighting human trafficking should be viewed as an act of “gritty evangelism.”

The Rev. Dr. Benjamin Thomas, Director of Church Relations for the Saint Francis Foundation refutes talks about the response to slavery expressed in the Bible. Image credit: Gary Allman

Hiding in Plain Sight – Greg Holtmeyer. One in six males are sexually abused by the time they are eighteen. That means approximately twenty-five million males have been sexually abused in this country alone. There is no religion, education level, socioeconomic level that is immune from sexual predators. Greg shared his personal story of childhood sexual abuse, discussed the short term and long term effects of the sexual abuse of males both physical and emotional.

Greg Holtmeyer, Executive Director of The Phoenix Project, speaking of his experience as a victim of male sexual abuse at the Stop Human Trafficking and Abuse event held at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Kansas City, Missouri. Image credit: Gary Allman

Trafficking Survivor and victim advocate – Christine C. McDonald. Christine told us about the impact of her experience of 20 years as a sex trafficking victim. She began by telling us about her being ‘sold’ at the age of fourteen by her mother in exchange for lodging. Christine’s life-story is hard to listen to. Having escaped from human trafficking she is now an advocate for survivors.

Christine C. McDonald, Trafficking Survivor and victim advocate speaking about the impact of her experience of 20 years as a sex trafficking victim at the Stop Human Trafficking and Abuse event held at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Kansas City, Missouri. Image credit: Gary Allman

Sex Trafficking – Helen Taylor. Helen described the social and cultural underpinnings of sex trafficking as well as what is being done to abolish commercial sexual exploitation as a whole. She recounted her own personal experiences of helping people trapped in the sex industry.

Helen Taylor of Exodus Cry speaking at the Stop Human Trafficking and Abuse event held at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Kansas City, Missouri. Image credit: Gary Allman
Brotherhood of St. Andrew VP Social Justice, Mike McDonnell winding up the day. Image credit: Gary Allman

Gary Allman is Communications Director with The Diocese of West Missouri

A Year in Africa – Preparations & Orientation

Continuing to show that ministry can take on many forms. In 2016 Julia Taylor signed up to spend a year with the Peace Corps in Uganda.

Julia Taylor 15 minute read.   Resources

In 2015 I applied for and was accepted in a Peace Corps program sending doctors and nurses to Africa for one year. Now, (2016) I will be part of the Global Health Service Partnership (GHSP) to work with medical and nursing schools teaching and working with school facility and administration to improve the educational opportunities for healthcare professionals in Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, Swaziland and Liberia.

“My bags are packed – I’m ready to go”… to Uganda

Julia Taylor at her official swearing into the Peace Corps – US ambassador’s house, Uganda. Image credit: Julia Taylor

I organized my house, and was very happy to have a Mercy co-worker to rent/house sit while I was gone. I had to complete my on-line training and endure numerous immunizations, including a series of three “pre-exposure” rabies shots.

More enjoyable by far were all the “farewells”: a bon voyage Cardinals baseball game with my sisters, a wonderful weekend visit with six college friends and a goodbye luncheon given by my coworkers at Mercy Hospital. I took my Missouri grandchildren on trips to Virginia and Kimberling City. I flew to Montana to celebrate Anita (my second daughter’s) Air Force change of command.

Finally, after a rousing Independence Day celebration, I packed my 12 year old canine companion Ginger in the car and drove 1,200+ miles to Arizona. I was fueled by a combination of Red Bull and diet Dr. Pepper (I don’t recommend it) and entertained by a recording of “Murder on the Iditarod Trail”, hundreds of miles of highway construction through Oklahoma and endless radio commentaries on the 2016 presidential candidates.

I had dinner with my Arizona family and bought the grandchildren birthday presents in advance for the birthdays I would miss while I was gone. I was fortunate that I had family farewells with all my grandchildren, my sisters and four out of five of my children. My brother in California and my son in Hawaii said their goodbyes via telephone.

I was finally ready to head for Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. Thank heaven I had some help. I could have never handled the luggage by myself. Two bags weighing 49.5 lbs. each and a smaller one weighing only 38 lbs. Total baggage fees: $210.

When I arrived at Washington National airport, I tipped generously – the baggage handler, the taxi driver and the bellhop at the hotel. I was there for ten days of Peace Corps training. There were 58 other volunteers – doctors and nurses – preparing to teach. Our studies included lectures on teaching techniques, writing test questions, malaria, parasites, HIV/AIDS, hemorrhagic viruses, mental health and communication methods. A display in the lobby of the Peace Corps headquarters gave me pause. It was a memorial to all the volunteers who died during their time of service. I learned that motor vehicle accidents were the most common reason.

Some highlights of these ten days were: a visit by the Secretary of State, receiving our malaria medications and a simulation session where those of us who were out of practice were given an opportunity to return and practice IV starting techniques. During that session I also gave an Emmy worthy performance as an annoying family member in a tense clinical situation.

I realized that several of the dresses I packed were too short (I know – a strange situation for me but in Uganda knees needed to be well covered). I mailed them back home and shopped for replacements. I completely repacked all three suitcases, saw a Washington Nationals game, attended a performance at the Kennedy Center, reacquainted myself with the Metro system, visited friends from Ft Huachuca days, and walked a lot seeing the monuments and buildings that are essential to any visit to the Capitol. I took advantage of the outstanding restaurants focusing on food that I don’t think I’ll see a lot of in Uganda: Thai, Korean, tapas, and crème brulee.

We ended our Washington DC orientation with a send off from the director of the Peace Corps and the ambassador from Uganda (she gave me her card and her daughter’s telephone number). We received teaching supplies, a lab coat and medical equipment (everyone was stressed about the weight limit for baggage). Our last lectures included recommended actions for trauma in the marketplace, treatment of chronic illnesses and a recommendation to keep our mouths shut for at least three months – to listen and to learn. It will be hard but I will try!

Tomorrow at 6 am I will be leaving with my 140 pounds of luggage flying on Ethiopian Airlines for 13 hours to Addis Ababa and then on to Entebbe, Uganda.

Uganda – Travel and more orientation

Welcome to Uganda. Image credit: Julia Taylor

The 6 am pick up at the hotel in Washington DC didn’t happen. When the bus didn’t appear, we called the Peace Corps emergency number. It didn’t work! Finally the buses, which had gone to the wrong hotel, appeared. After a long check process at Dulles and $200 fee for the third piece of luggage we boarded Ethiopian Airlines. I was in a middle seat for the entire flight. We were fed often and landed in Addis Ababa without delay. The two hours flight to Entebbe included another meal.

Everyone had to present proof of immunization against yellow fever before we could pass through the Immigration checkpoint. Thirty pieces of Peace Corps luggage did not arrive. After long wait, we decided that some would take the bus back to the hotel and the rest would complete lost baggage forms and wait four hours for the next plane from Addis. I was in waiting group. There was a liquor store in the baggage claim area so four six-packs of beer appeared. Finally next plane landed. Great cheers went up each time one of our suitcases appeared on baggage carousel. Two Nigerian women in traditional dress were also waiting for luggage. They cheered with us. When all the lost luggage had been safely retrieved, there were high fives all around and a group picture taken by one of the Nigerians. Apparently the missing luggage had sat on the tarmac during a rainstorm for quite a while because the contents of my soft sided suitcase were quite damp.

“The first of many mosquito nets”Image credit: Julia Taylor

Then we were a bus to Kampala. We were told it would be a 45 minutes trip which sounded reasonable for a 23 mile trip through crowded streets. The trip took three hours which was better than the first bus. It took them 4.5 hours. The Kolping Hotel room was basic with mosquito net which is sprayed with insect repellent before bed. After 32 hours of travel, I finally got to sleep.

The next day we each received a Peace Corps cell phone. It is old style – the kind where you push the 2 key three times for a “c” when you are entering information), I set up account information for a local bank (US $1 = Ugandan 3316 shillings), received more information on malaria including practicing with a rapid detection test (I am negative for malaria for now) and were presented with a water filtration system for new residents.

Learning the test for malaria. Supplied image

One volunteer brought a yoga tape. Every evening in Kampala we met at 6:00 p.m. in the classroom. It was very popular with the volunteers and the local staff, especially since we were told that running was not advisable because of the truly horrific traffic. I learned that fresh produce needs to be peeled or soaked in bleach water. Apparently I won’t be having many salads this year. The Peace Corps office will be holding both passports and immunization records to prevent us from leaving the country without letting them know.

After Lecture Yoga. Image credit: Julia Taylor

The motto for Global Health Service Partnership Uganda is “to increase capacity and strengthen the quality and sustainability of medical and nursing education”

I’m trying to stick to a vegetarian diet but did try a small piece of goat which tastes like … meat. Each day the buffet includes at least one type of fresh banana (sometimes two) plus matookay – plantains – both mashed and steamed. Every day there is a very good sauce with peas which I eat over rice. We also break for tea (complete with pastries) twice each day. We received a small Peace Corps cookbook with suggestions for meals using products available in Uganda.

At the recommendation of the Washington DC Peace Corps staff (in order to make it through the difficult days) I started gratitude list making three entries a day of things for which I am thankful. So far, it hasn’t been hard to list three items.

Our classes on security and safety convinced everyone to stay inside with doors and windows bolted at all times. The briefings were very negative (probably realistic but …). This was followed by a trip to a mall (quite nice) for electronics purchases. Almost the entire group descended on the Africell office so I was there for over four hours. I purchased a mobile hotspot so now I have a laptop, Verizon cell phone, Africell cell phone, a small projector, multiple outlet adapters, power protector and lots of accessories to support this equipment. I wanted to buy skirts since I have learned that “trousers” are not acceptable clothing for women here but most clothing stores were closed for Sunday.

The husband of one of the doctors is an IT whiz and helped me with several electronics issues. Dennis is number 1 on my gratitude list for 25 July.

One of the highlights of today was a great lecture by a university professor on the history of Uganda. There are 117 districts (similar to our states) with 52 ethnic groups and languages. Uganda didn’t exist in any way until the British in 1894 decided the area should be part of the Empire. The British determined the borders of their newly created colony. According to the lecturer the country is still not totally unified. Districts are often more important than the country as a whole.

We started our language classes. The eight doctors and seven nurses on our group are going to five locations. Each area speaks a different language so there are five separate language classes. The language in my area is Lumusaaba. After one 45 minute lesson, I am already lost. However I did learn something: “Wakonile uyrena? Nakonile bulayi” This is a greeting which means “How did you sleep? I slept well.”

I am beginning to adjust to the eight hour time change. After several mostly sleepless nights, I am now able to go to sleep by 11:00 p.m. and wake up in time to hear the Muslim morning call to prayer (about 5:30 – 6:00 a.m.).

We also received some information about our home stay. We are going to our permanent stations on Wednesday for an eight day stay with a local family. This is being done to get us acclimated to the culture. We may not have hot water or flush toilets. The host families have been warned that Americans generally eat dinner earlier than 10:00 p.m. During my stay in Mbale (I’ve been told that it is a four hour trip) my group will meet the administrators and our co-teachers at the university. Then we will return to Kampala for additional classes and finally the Peace Corps swearing in.

The weather has been very pleasant – in the 70s and 80s. I am now repacking my three heavy suitcases preparing to depart from Kampala to Mbale at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow.

Home Stay in Mbale

It was a five hour trip from Kampala to Mbale on a very crowded bus. We crossed the source of the Nile (which flows north). No one was allowed to take pictures. It had nothing to do with Nile River itself. The issue was military security because of the bridge over it. On our bus were some “real” Peace Corps volunteers – the ones who sign up for 27 months and mostly live in very remote places. My group is very much in awe of them.

We are Mbale for eight days for our home stay (to help orient us to the local culture), introductions to university and hospital administration and more language instruction.

My home stay family is the second wife in a polygamous marriage. She has four children, three of whom are in boarding school. The child at home is a 6 year old boy named Moses and called Momo. There is no hot water (only a cold water bucket shower for the next eight days). There is a pit (indoor thankfully) toilet. No running water after about 6:30 p.m. The host “mom” is gracious. She was told that Americans eat huge breakfasts so the first day she overloaded me with carbs. I told her a banana and cereal is just fine. Here they serve cold cereal with hot milk. A dozen chickens sleep in a room off the kitchen at night. Otherwise they are truly free range.

We were given a tour of the building where we will be staying. There are seven apartments and the Peace Corps volunteers will occupy five of them. The building is still being completed and the university will provide some furnishings so I’m not exactly certain what it will finally look like and what I will need to buy to furnish it. I know I will have to get a refrigerator, pots and pans, glasses, silverware, etc. Also complicating the situation is the fact that the administrative and support staff of the university are on strike, so it is possible that our furniture will have to wait until everyone is back to work.

Cooking lunch. Image credit: Julia Taylor

There is a coffee shop/hostel just a few buildings away from what will be my new residence. Free wifi, laundromat, interesting menu, Afro-Zumba classes. We all think this will be where we spend a lot of time. I visited a second coffee shop that serves Mexican food each Tuesday and Saturday. I am looking forward to trying some Ugandan enchiladas.

Circumcision festival is a huge deal. It finishes August 8 but the leadups to the event are already happening. There are parades of many walking, laughing people – everyone except the one on whom the surgery will be performed. The age for circumcision here is 18 years and apparently the boy is not to flinch or faint. If he does it will be a point of shame for the rest of his life. The procedure is done by a layperson who apparently is beaten to death if he makes a mistake. This is a ritual for a tribe of 6,000 persons who live in eastern Uganda and western Kenya. Most gather on even numbered years for the event. The number of young men who are circumcised ranges from 15 to 100. This year the presidents of both Uganda and Kenya are scheduled to visit the festival. We viewed the area for the event. It looked like a county fairground.

the infant mortality rate is 76 deaths per 1,000 births. For comparison, it is 6.1 per 1,000 in the US.

We have made the rounds of the local, district, university and hospital officials. Routine protocol visits seem to be the same the world over except that here all visitors sign an official logbook. The one we signed started in 1957. I learned that the infant mortality rate is 76 deaths per 1,000 births. For comparison, it is 6.1 per 1,000 in the US. Life expectancy in Uganda is 59 years. In the US it is 76 years for men and 81 years for women.

Image credit: Julia Taylor

The only way you can tell who is a boy and who is a girl here is by the clothes the child is wearing. Girls always wear skirts and dresses. All children have their heads shaved – much cooler and cleaner that way.

Using the app Whatsapp? I was able to call my cousin Mary just before her 50th wedding anniversary party. I was glad to talk to her but very sorry to miss the celebration.

We took a field trip to a synagogue outside Mbale. The rabbi who is the only trained rabbi in sub-Saharan Africa was extremely gracious and without notice took lots of time to talk to us. . There are 400 people in the local congregation and approximately 2,000 Jews in Uganda. Three of our group of seven are Jewish so we plan to be back for services.

Ugandan street scene. Image credit: Julia Taylor

Shopping in the marketplace was chaotic and confusing but fortunately we had our language teacher with us so I was able to replace my forgotten underwear, buy African fabric for the Peace Corps swearing in on August 11, and locate a dressmaker who promised to make the dress before we leave Mbale on August 4.

Walking here is a challenge both due to number of motorcycles and the fact that I can never remember which way to look when crossing the street since they drive on the left side of the road.

Mt Elgon Waterfall. Image credit: Julia Taylor

It was a long, very bumpy bus ride (with a full bladder – very poor planning on my part) to the top of Mt Elgon which I was told is approximately 9,000 ft. in elevation. We saw lots of very isolated villages on the way. There was a great hike to a waterfall – definitely got my exercise for the day. The view was magnificent.

St Andrew’s Anglican Cathedral has three Sunday services (English, Lumusaaba – the language I am attempting to learn, and Lugandan – the language used in the capitol). The English service I attended included some African music. We also sang two verses of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” Each service was over two hours long. An American fire marshal would have emptied half the church. At my service there were at least 550 probably 600 people jammed in. After we stood up for a song, I was slow to sit down and almost lost my end of the pew. Afterwards, one of the priests invited me to his house for lunch (two other Peace Corps volunteers were staying with him). I even saw a little CNN. Then I did some shopping and walked to the coffee shop for African tea (lots of milk), and Kindle time.

One day we visited the main campus of the university where we will be teaching. It was about a two hour drive. The vice chancellor was most gracious. She was certain we had met before. We decided that it must have been in Hawaii. She had been on Oahu for a week-long meeting at the University of Hawaii. Since we were near Kenya, we drove to see the border. A policeman gave us a tour of the border area – we definitely stayed on the Ugandan side. The sight of very long lines of very large trucks waiting to be inspected before crossing the border seemed quite familiar. It was similar to the Arizona-Sonoran crossing at Nogales.

On the last full day in Mbale, we had a dinner for our host families. Several medical faculty members also attended. The site coordinator surprised me with a birthday cake. Everyone sang to me and then three large sparklers were placed on the cake and lit. It was a great time. A perfect ending to our week!

Birthday Cake, complete with fireworks! Supplied image

Back to Kampala

We left Mbale in an air-conditioned bus! The highlights of our trip back to the capitol included lots of sugar cane pieces provided by a fellow Peace Corps volunteer who cut them down in his home stay family’s back yard, a purchase of habanero oil, and a great lunch of vegetable curry & naan.

Back at the Kampala Kolping Hotel, the reunion among the volunteers from five locations in Uganda was joyous. After all, we hadn’t seen each other in eight days. The comments were either bragging about how luxurious the home stay accommodations were (hot water, actual showers) or trying to be the person in the most challenging situation (only cold water bucket showers, a five hour church service). I was excited to feel hot water again and I had no trouble remembering to turn on the heater for hot water a few hours before my shower.

There is a small television in my room. I can watch the international version of CNN and two local stations broadcast in Lugandan. However, one evening one station had the Olympics on – in Portuguese. Unfortunately in the middle of a swimming event with the American relay team in the lead, the programming was switched back to local Ugandan news. I still don’t know the result of the race.

My exercise routine is mainly walking up and down four flights of hotel stairs for 30 minutes each morning since it isn’t considered safe to go to the Kampala streets alone. Each morning starts at 5:00 a.m. with the Muslim call to prayer broadcast loudly from all mosques. The call (broadcast five times a day) does not last long but it does remind the roosters that it is time to get up and crow for the rest of the morning. Not to be outdone, the Christians broadcast music with singing all morning on Sundays.

Almost every business – banks, hotels, malls – are protected by rolls of nasty looking barbed wire across the top of walls, and guards, usually men in uniform, with long rifles. You are required to pass through metal detectors to get into the mall.

Whites and Asians are called muzungus by everyone. I think it means foreigner in Swahili.

I went shopping for household goods at a local department store where irons cost 56,000 – Ugandan shillings, thankfully not US dollars. There were quite a few items in the store that carried the Target brand name. The bedding is being individually ordered (sheets, pillowcases, mattress pads, etc.) and then sent to a seamstress who is custom making them. We missed lunch at the hotel but fortunately there was a “Mr. Tasty” chicken shop which in addition to chicken, fish and pizza also sold ice cream. I had a scoop of butterscotch. Ice cream is hard to find here and is a real treat.

On a second shopping trip I purchased some essentials that I am certain I cannot find in Mbale: olive oil, balsamic vinegar and macadamia nuts. I am still looking for white chocolate.

We had more classes and a trip to the Peace Corps office. Once returning to the hotel, Kampala Friday evening traffic was so bad, we all got out of the bus and walked to a very upscale mall. It had a bookstore, gelato, a fitness center, numerous clothing shops and much more. I had my eyebrows threaded & got a supper of hummus and vegetables. One member of our group, a retired pediatrician from Ohio, had volunteered with the initial class of the Global Health Service Partnership in 2013. He has already seen three students that he taught at that time including one we ran into in the mall.

There are multiple starches for every meal – mashed plantains, yams, rice, pasta and occasionally mashed “Irish” (white potatoes). Every morning I was thankful for cold milk on my cereal. We have “break tea” every day at 10 am (tea, coffee, pastry) and evening tea at 4:00 p.m.

Lectures included psychiatry (which included a reminder that homosexuality is still a crime in Uganda) and African traditional medicine. The lecturer reported that 60% of Ugandans use a traditional healer as their primary care provider. She mentioned that if there is a doubt that the baby was fathered by a member of the clan, the baby is in the doorway. If the domestic animals step over the baby that indicates that the father is a clan member and all is well. If the animals step on the baby, the child does not belong to the clan.

We did practice teaching with students from a local university as the target audience. There were several lectures on HIV/AIDS which is still a major problem in Uganda. Adding to this problem, TB is also a huge issue here. Death from AIDS plus TB is four times greater than death from AIDS alone.

We also visited an 84 year old traditional healer who says she is successful in treating all diseases except epilepsy. Traditional healers are licensed by the government and supposedly the herbs they use are tested. On the same day we saw a bone setter. This family ran a practice and a hospital. Many people go to the hospital for x-rays then take the x-rays to the bone setter (who is trained only by his/her family – no formal education is required). The patient has gauze, herbs and then a bamboo split applied. Some people then go home and come back for checkups. The more serious breaks, such as the femur, stay in the bone setter hospital for three to four months until the bones are healed.

We had a cultural afternoon visiting the Ugandan National Museum, the tombs of the kings of Uganda, (official title is the Kabaka of Buganda). Four kings are buried there but they don’t really die so they each have nine wives living on the burial grounds. The women are supported by the kingdom of Uganda (which as far as I can tell is physically the same as the country of Uganda so Uganda has a president with political power and a king with no power but tradition and respect). Kingship is passed down by family: the oldest son gets land and the youngest son gets authority so the current king’s youngest son will one day be king. We visited the National Theater which has lots of craft shops. I bought a pair of earrings and a Ugandan nativity set to add to my collection of 70+ crèches.

Another cultural experience was the trip to the Ndere Centre where we watched amazing performances of variety of traditional African dances. The energy and stamina required for the three hour program was incredible. The audience included people from the USA, Canada, China, England, the Netherlands, Switzerland and several other African countries in addition to Uganda. It seemed to me the local version of the Polynesian Cultural Center (those who lived in Hawaii will understand this).

As our time in Kampala draws to a close, the festivities began. One night we had a happy hour complete with heavy pupus and a trampoline. A very welcome treat was the mango margaritas. 

Our official swearing into the Peace Corps took place at US ambassador’s house. I wore my new outfit that I had made from African material and tailored in Mbale. In addition to the seven doctors, eight nurses, one librarian, one computer scientist and one accountant in our Global Health Service Partnership volunteers, we were joined by 44 “real” Peace Corps volunteers. It was a surprisingly moving ceremony. I am proud to be part of the Peace Corps!

Orientation is finally finished. Now it is time to get to work!

This article was originally published as a series of posts on Julia’s personal Facebook account.

Julia Taylor attends Christ Episcopal Church, Springfield, Missouri

Three Months (30 Days) In India

Ministry can take on many forms. In 2015 Julia Taylor embarked on what she thought was to be a three month stay in India, working at the NRI General Hospital, Mangalagiri, Andhra Pradesh, India with Project Hope.

Julia Taylor 15 minute read.   Resources
Saying Goodbyes. Supplied image

My journey for three months with Project Hope began with two boring days driving to Arizona. After I arrived in Phoenix (the temperature was 105°F) I read the instructions for my trip to India (I thought I had read them several times, but apparently I had only printed them). I discovered that I needed a visa! And antimalarial medicine! I completed my online application for an e-visa and contacted my primary care provider in Ozark who sent a prescription for doxycycline (antimalarial) to Hawaii (my next stop).

With my e-visa approved, but only for 30 days — I could renew it in India (or so I thought) — I left for Honolulu.

I spent five days in Hawaii, and while I was there, I attended church at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral. I went to the 8 a.m. service which is mainly in Hawaiian. It was a special service remembering Prince Albert’s (son of Queen Emma and King Kamehameha) baptism. Because in 1862 the four year old prince had become an honorary member of a fire fighting company, the Honolulu Fire Department was there in uniform and with a fire truck. Hawaii’s governor and first lady were also at the service as well as black gowned descendants of Hawaiian royalty. The school my three daughters attended while we lived in Hawaii, St. Andrew’s Priory, is on the same property as the cathedral so I took a few pictures for them.

All too soon my time in Hawaii was over, and I was up early for my flight. I had a quick walk around Waikiki to say aloha to Oahu and then went to the airport. I was flying China Eastern Airlines to Shanghai and was the only Caucasian passenger. The seat next to me was empty so I enjoyed good food, my Kindle, and some sleep during my ten-hour flight. I had to get a one day visa just to spend eight hours in the airport. I walked a lot during my layover.

My flight to Delhi was almost all men. After we landed I slept in one of few comfortable chairs in the airport. My Kindle continued to supply me with great reading material and I found some tea and pastries when the food court opened at 4:30 a.m. Although there was an earlier flight directly from Delhi to Vijayawada (my final destination), Expedia had booked me through Hyderabad. That added ten hours to my trip. Hyderabad airport had terrible food but there was diet Coke available. There were many heavily veiled women including one with thick black gloves to coordinate with her total body black covering. I watched with interest as she gave her husband money and apparently told him to go buy some food for the children (which he did). Another stereotype slightly damaged! Airport security was now segregated by sexes with full body pat down for everyone. Other than being a very long trip (over 40 hours from Honolulu) it was not a bad experience. There were at least two meals on each leg of the trip and vegetarian options on all.

My destination was definitely not a tourist attraction. On my last two flights I was asked if I were on the right plane. From Shanghai on, I was the only non-Indian passenger.

Vijayawada airport is tiny. I was supposed to be met on arrival. However, my pick up was 90 minutes late. I was beginning to be concerned – it was getting dark and the airport closed after my Air India plane returned to Hyderabad – when my ride with two nurses and a driver arrived. The hour-long ride to the hospital showed that the most important car accessory in India is the horn. The traffic was crazy. Buses, people, motorcycles, three wheeled motorized carts, bicycles and cars. All was chaos but everyone survived. I was housed in the hospital’s “staff quarters.” My room was basic but clean. I had a private bath and shower. The shower was a bucket and small pitcher but I had hot water.

The next day I learned three important things:

  1. The tea was great – just like chai latte.
  2. I was wrong about the visa. It could not be extended. I would have to leave the country and reapply for a new visa. That was not an option since any country near India also requires a visa so I would have to leave India for home in 30 days.
  3. Although the doctors and nurses were taught in English and the hospital officially used English, actually everything was done in Telugu. Even the people who spoke English reasonably well had difficulty understanding me because my American accented English was very different to the Telugu accented English they heard in school.

Hospital

Julia at work. Supplied image

They wanted to assign volunteers to the area in which they were currently working. However, they had no concept of Case Management – arranging for patient care after hospital discharge — In India that is a family responsibility. In fact, unless it is an emergency, patients are not admitted to the hospital without a family member (or neighbor or someone) to care for them. That care giver goes to the pharmacy to buy the medications and supplies the patient needs, provides meals and in general cares for the patient. Some of the hospital wards are 60 beds with only one or two nurses. Family assistance is required. Often entire families stay at the hospital for the totality of the patient’s stay. There are always people sleeping in the hallways. At night the hallways are crowded with families sleeping.

Nurses rotate through three shifts: 8 am – 2:30 p.m., 2 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. – 8:30 a.m. Transportation (or lack of transportation) is the reason for the arrangement of the shifts.

There is no way for nurses to get to or from the hospital at 11 p.m. If it safe to do so, nurses are allowed to sleep during the overnight shift.

The hospital and associated medical and nursing schools were started by Indian doctors originally from that area of India, who had practiced in the United States. The hospital offered a wide range of services including open heart surgeries and renal transplants. Since I had experience in the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU – the recovery room) I was assigned there. One of the highlights was attending a nurses’ conference on Stress Management. At the end of the two day program, a yoga master was introduced. After a brief lecture, he led 250 nurses to a large room where we lay on the floor and “relaxed.”

Church

Julia Taylor ‘Preaches’ at Shalem Evangelical Church.
Shalem Evangelical Church. Image: Julia Taylor

One of PACU nurses was the wife of a pastor of a Christian church. Vimala asked if I would attend the church and (I thought) she asked if I would pray for them. Of course, I agreed. Later I learned that I had agreed to preach at the Shalem Evangelical Church. I also learned that I should wear white to church. Santhi, the PACU charge nurse, took me shopping for white church clothes and a sari.

Julia Taylor at Shalem Evangelical Church. Supplied image

That Sunday at the church and I was nervous at the beginning. The congregation was Telugu speaking so everything I said was translated by the pastor. Any Bible verse mentioned was immediately located in their Bibles. The women covered their heads. Men and women sat on opposite sides of the small church. The service was over three hours long and filled with lots of music and enthusiastic singing. Communion in the form of dense bread and a sweet liquid was given to all. Everyone was so gracious and encouraging. It was a wonderful experience.

Hindu Worship

Hospital Shrine. Image: Julia Taylor

In the room across the hall from me was a doctor from Calcutta who was at the hospital to administer tests to the medical students. He was visiting a temple and asked if I would like to go too. The visit was interesting and very confusing. We had to be barefoot. I received a tap on the head with a silver vase, sweet water and a handful of spicy cooked rice. I later learned that food – often rice and small yellow chick peas – is often associated with Hindu worship. The hospital had a temple across from the main lobby and a small shrine in one of the hallways. I often noticed hospital personnel stopping for a few minutes in front of the shrine. It is common for families to have shrines in their homes. At first I thought I had caught a man just coming out of a shower – he had just a towel wrapped around his waist. Later I learned that Hindu men often pray wearing only a prayer towel.

Praying at the hospital shrine. Image: Julia Taylor

There is a trinity of gods in the Hindu belief: Shiva the destroyer, Vishnu the preserver and Brahma the creator (The total number of gods in the Hindu pantheon is difficult to pin down, varying from three to 33 million).

Ganesh in the hospital foyer. Image: Julia Taylor

I knew September 17 was a holiday for some reason, but I could not understand the reason for the holiday. I learned from Wikipedia that it was Ganesh Chaturthi, the festival of the elephant headed god. A temporary shrine to Ganesh was constructed in the hospital lobby. At first the elephant face was covered in newspaper. The priest / monk/ Hindu altar guild member(!?) uncovered the face, dressed the statue in cloth and flowers, poured a sack of rice at feet of Ganesh, then added more flowers and some fruit. All this took about one hour. People came and watched and prayed at the shrine. Within a day the fruit was gone and flowers had wilted. The statue was supposed to remain in place for 10 days However, after three days the statue was moved with great ceremony. There were fireworks, bands, loud speakers, and much dancing as the statue was moved via tractor to the canal where it was “drowned.” Every small community had its own celebration. It was an amazing cultural experience. I danced, was pelted with pink powder (my hair was still pink on my return to the US), had my hands painted with henna and had a wonderful time.

Celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi. Supplied image

During the four weeks at the hospital I discovered:

  • Banana juice is wonderful!
  • There is life without toilet paper.
  • Plain yogurt with salt is not my idea of great dessert.
  • Putting on a sari is very complex.
  • Hawaii is not crowded. India is crowded!
  • One issue I had never considered – how to keep monkeys from stealing the food you are preparing for dinner.
  • How to drink from a plastic water bottle without my lips touching the bottle (because the bottles are reused multiple times!)
  • Both the rules of cricket and the Hindu beliefs are too complicated for an ordinary human to comprehend.
  • Many Hindus also pray to Jesus.
  • Doxycycline for malaria prevention is hard to take. Every morning I was reminded of morning sickness.
  • My laptop allowed me to listen to the St Louis Cardinals games. The 10.5 hour time difference did make catching all the action almost impossible.
  • “Had your breakfast?” seems to be a greeting similar to “how are you?” Or perhaps everyone was worried that I was starving.
  • In India after a woman gives birth, she gets 84 days paid maternity leave.
  • Everyone eats with their hands. Apparently I was incompetent at this task. Someone usually gave me a spoon after a few minutes.
  • Transportation is normally by three wheeled motorized cart. There was a bench for three passengers. One trip I took carried 11 passengers. It was crowded! Another method of traveling was by motorcycle. I rode as the fourth rider on one. Not necessarily safe but fun.
  • As India is a former member of the British Commonwealth, residents refer to nurses as “sisters”, elevators as “lifts” and lab coats as “aprons”. I was “madame” and the nurses stood up when I came into the room.
  • The only person I saw during my days in Mangalagiri who was lighter skinned than me was an albino Indian man. I got used to stares everywhere I went.
  • I nearly caused a riot in a girls’ orphanage when I brought out bottles of bubbles for the girls.
  • This is a middle-class home (wife is a nurse, husband an accountant): a two room apartment – one bedroom with a double bed for the couple, nine year old daughter and six year old son, squat toilet, no hot water, no oven, no refrigerator, dishes and clothes were washed outside, a motorcycle, and lots of beautiful saris.
“Everyone eats with their hands. Apparently I was incompetent at this task. Someone usually gave me a spoon after a few minutes.” Supplied image

Soon it was 22 September, my last full day in the hospital. Time had gone by so fast. I really was not ready to leave but I had to.

During my brief stay my work accomplishments were:

  • I observed both the PACU (Post Anesthesia Care Unit) and the step-down Post-Op ward. For each unit I wrote up my findings and submitted them to the hospital administration.
  • I participated in an EKG class taught by the hospital nursing educator. Later I developed student worksheets for identifying various cardiac rhythms.
  • I created information papers on the ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) medications.

These papers will be used as the hospital develops an ACLS certification class for the ICU and PACU nurses.

“… the PACU nurses dressed me in my sari. I had absolutely no idea how to do it myself.” Supplied image

In the afternoon the PACU nurses dressed me in my sari. I had absolutely no idea how to do it myself. The nurses were really amazed at that I had no experience with a sari.

Dressed like, but not looking like a native resident of India, I made the rounds to say goodbye to the hospital executives. PACU had a party for me complete with a gift of a replica of a Hindu temple and a cake. Apologies were made because my name was spelled wrong on the cake but no one noticed that the cake read “Happy birthday July”. It was the first real dessert I had tasted in over four weeks, and it was very good.

Next I went to a gathering of the head nurses of the hospital who had prepared a farewell gathering for me. There were speeches and refreshments. I was presented with a beautiful cloth (apparently the giving of a cloth is an Indian tradition). One of the comments I heard several times during the good-byes is that it is amazing how long (how old) Americans keep working. Apparently by the time someone in India is my age, he or she spends their days in bed having children and grandchildren wait on them.

Julia on her last day at NRI General Hospital, Mangalagiri. Supplied image

I left clothes including my white church outfit which was now permanently pink and Project Hope t-shirts with the staff. I gave the last of my bubbles to a boy waiting somewhat patiently outside the OBGYN ward and presented an 11-year-old girl hospitalized for electrical burns with a small bottle of hand lotion.

Julia gives an 11-year-old girl hospitalized for electrical burns a small bottle of hand lotion. Supplied image

Early on 23 September I was packed and ready to go. Santhi (the PACU charge nurse) and her husband accompanied me to Vijayawada airport from which I left for a two-hour flight to Delhi.

At Delhi airport I was met by a tour guide and driver, and was delivered to my five-star hotel. I had gone from Spartan living to the lap of luxury. After a lunch of Thai curry (I needed a change from Indian) I had a brow threading, facial and scheduled a hot stone massage for later. There was a fourth floor outdoor pool that overlooks the city and several trendy looking bars. However, I did have time for some culture. I toured the National Museum. There were lots and lots of statues of Hindu gods. Santhi and her husband had given me a print out of what was essentially “Hindu for Dummies”. I planned to study it and then go over the multiple pictures I took at the museum. Hopefully I would be able to link a picture with a god. I also walked around India Gate, the giant memorial for soldiers killed during World War II. Back at the hotel the doorbell for my hotel room rang! It was a bellman who asked if I wanted the turn down service. I declined. Too much luxury too fast might be harmful.

The 75-minute hot stone massage was awesome. And there was fresh fruit in my room! My supper was two bananas and two apples. I did not try walking or running outside the hotel now that I was in a big city. The traffic was unbelievable, and I was lucky not to get run over because I couldn’t figure out which way to look when crossing a street (they drive on the left). I checked out the television stations. The listing identified programs in English, Hindi, Punjabi, Spanish, French, German, Arabic, Chinese, Korean and … Australian!

The next day I traveled to Agra – home of the Taj Mahal. The trip took almost four hours and was interrupted only by a 45 minute stop with a man shouting and claiming my driver had hit his car. Somehow it was resolved without involving the police and we continued on our way. We passed a restaurant advertising ‘multi-cuisine pesto bar”. I was sorry we couldn’t stop. We passed a fresh meat market – the goats were waiting at the door to be selected for dinner. I was becoming more vegetarian every day.

The trip took me through rural India for the first time. There were grass huts that I think were for storing crops, not for housing, but I could not be sure. I think I glimpsed an even deeper level of poverty than I had seen previously.

Nevertheless, I proceeded on to my next five-star hotel where one of the many services offered was “astrologer available on request.” Compared to the Western tourists I saw, I was dressed like a very poor country relative or a missionary. I had no other clothes except those I wore in Mangalagiri which is much more restrictive in acceptable fashion than are the cities of Delhi and Agra.

I visited the Taj Mahal. As expected, it was awesome. A few facts:

  • It was built in the seventeenth century by Shah Jahan as a tomb for his favorite wife who died at age 39 after her fourteenth pregnancy.
  • He had planned a matching black Taj Mahal for his tomb but that did not happen because the Shah was jailed by his son during the last eight years of his life.
  • The scripts on the front of the building are chapters from the Koran. They are not painted but are made of precious stones.
  • The exterior is cleaned with layers of Pakistani mud which is rinsed with distilled water.
  • The entire building is an amazing work of symmetry and detail – all completed without the aid of a computer.
  • One of the most popular places to have a picture taken is at the “Lady Di” bench, the location where Princess Diana sat and viewed the Taj Mahal when she visited.

One of the newest attractions I visited was the Swaminarayan Akshardham, a ten year old temple which includes boat rides, movie theaters and displays promoting a vegetarian diet. The focus was an 11 foot high gold covered statue of the holy man Swaminarayan. Also on the 100 acre campus (because of the importance of the elephant in Hindu culture and India’s history) are carvings of 148 life sized elephants. Even though I injured several toes walking into recessed lighting (you have to be barefoot in a temple) it was a great experience.

“My hair was still pink on my return to the US.” Supplied image

I finished my time in India with visits to the Red Fort and Agra Fort, both planned by Shah Jahan who designed the Taj Mahal. I also visited a carpet factory and, of course, bought a knotted wool carpet. Hopefully it will go well with the silk carpet I bought in China. I rode in a bicycle rickshaw through the streets of Old Delhi (it was terrifying – so crowded!) and visited the site of Gandhi’s death – he was killed by a fellow Hindu who disagreed with his policy of allowing Muslims to live in India.

I spent my final hours packing and repacking and leaving clothes in my hotel room (hoping that someone could use them and that I would be under the 50 pound weight limit on luggage). At last I was ready for my 15-hour flight from Delhi to Newark, NJ then on to Phoenix and finally a 1,300 mile drive back to Missouri.

I was not certain what my next adventure would be, but I did know that my first priority at home would be to do something about my fluorescent pink-orange hair. Even though it was a reminder of a great time in India, it just wasn’t my style.

This article was originally published as a series of posts on Julia’s personal Facebook account.

Julia Taylor attends Christ Episcopal Church, Springfield, Missouri

Building Community in West Missouri

People from across the diocese tell their stories of how diocesan grants and funds are being used in their ministries and outreach.

Gary Allman 15 minute read.   Resources

New Deacons

Five transitional deacons were ordained at the opening Eucharist of the 129th Convention of The Diocese of West Missouri. Find out more about them.

Gary Allman 15 minute read.   Resources
Friday, November 2. (L-R) The Rev. Bradley Heuett, the Rev. Marco Serrano, the Rev. Chandler Jackson, the Rev. Sean Kim, and the Rev Jeff Hurst with the Rt. Rev. Martin S. Field at the opening Eucharist of the 129th Convention of The Diocese of West Missouri. Image: Gary Allman

The Rev. Brad Heuett

Friday, November 2. Ordination to the diaconate of Bradley Heuett (Nearest to the camera), William Hurst, Chandler Jackson, Sean Kim, Marco Serrano at the opening Eucharist of the 129th Convention of The Diocese of West Missouri. Image: Gary Allman

I was born in Trenton, Missouri where I spent most of my growing years. I moved to Springfield in 1998 to further my higher education at Southwest Missouri State University now known as Missouri State University. While attending classes, I was fortunate to meet my wife Krista of eighteen years. We have been truly blessed by God who has given us two boys Jacob (16) and Hunter (13). We currently reside in Ozark and enjoy movies, games, and experiencing new cuisines.

One of the most important aspects of life that I hold dear is knowledge, and I think that we should always look for educational opportunities. I would consider myself a professional student, and I find myself fulfilled while sitting in a classroom. I have attended many higher-level institutions in search of knowledge and even more programs which offer certifications in a wide array of topics. I have acquired degrees in communication, respiratory therapy, and general education. The licenses, certifications, and training that I have been fortunate to attain range from Presbyteral studies, conflict and dispute resolution, mediation, Certified Respiratory Therapist, CPR instructor, and heavy track operator.

Along with my education, I have also had broad employment experiences. I have worked in many construction fields, sales, education, combat arms, and medical. My most prominent employment experience came while serving in the U.S. Army. In 2003, I enlisted and deployed to Ar Ramadi, Iraq as a Combat Engineer, and after returning home, I changed jobs to Respiratory Therapy. I finished my military career working with patients at General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Not long afterward, I received what I know now as my call to ministry. In a split second, I was overcome with and became aware of all of the suffering, strife, and distress of God’s children as well as the anger I was holding in my own heart. In that moment of desperation and with tears in my eyes, I dropped to my knees and prayed for God’s guidance. The next day my search began for a reason for what I saw and felt. It took time, but it didn’t take long for me to be made aware of my path and that with God’s help, I can make a difference. I am most excited to begin my new career as a clergy member of the Episcopal church while learning how I can serve the less fortunate and spread the love of God wherever I am called.

The Rev. Jeff Hurst

Deacons Jeff Hurst,Chandler Jackson, Sean Kim, Bradley Heuett, and Marco Serrano prepare to dismiss those in attendance at the opening Eucharist of the 129th Convention of The Diocese of West Missouri. Image: Gary Allman

I am originally from Southern, Illinois and grew up in a small town of Coulterville, Illinois which had a population of 1,200 souls. My family was Methodist, and I came to experience Jesus Christ at a young age. However, it was not until the end of my junior year in high school that I took my personal discipleship seriously. Through the guidance of my Methodist pastor, Rev. Ralph Anderson, I accepted a call from God to pastoral ministry in 1974. After graduating from high school, I attended a bible college, a liberal arts college, and finally seminary, and began serving small parishes in the United Methodist Church. I served seven churches in the UMC over a span of 17 years. In 2002, my family and I were tired of the mandatory and constant relocating, so I left the UMC. .

My wife Brenda and I moved to the Kansas City area in 2006 and worked briefly with a church ministry in overseas missions until 2009. We both began working for the Park Hill School District in 2007 and continue working there today.

Having sensed a call to return to pastoral ministry for many years, in late 2014 my wife Brenda and I began exploring the Anglican way of life and worship. We found our way to St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Kansas City, Missouri in August of 2015, and were confirmed in November by Bishop Marty. I began my studies at BKSM in September of 2015 and graduated in May of 2018. It was thrilling to be ordained as a transitional deacon at our recent diocesan convention!

In the next 6 months, I look forward to being ordained a priest in Christ’s holy church where I can better magnify the Sacramental nature of worship, daily Christian life, and ministry. I can’t forget that John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist societies, was an ordained Anglican priest his entire life and ministry. In a way, I feel I will have come full circle when I’m ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church.

I deeply appreciate the acceptance and love we have experienced from the members at St. Mary’s Church as well as from Christ Church in St. Joseph where I’m privileged to serve for a while as a transitional deacon.

The Rev. Chandler Jackson

The Rev. Chandler Jackson gives Communion to the Rev. Paula Lively. Image: Gary Allman

Like many, my path to ordination was not a simple, straightforward journey. It took many twists and turns. My father was an Episcopal priest, graduating from seminary when I was six years old. Growing up, I was very active in the church, but wanted no part of ministry. In fact, I told God I would do anything else: music, teach, anything but pastoral ministry. Ah, but our God has a sense of humor.

During my brief stint in the Navy, I met a young lady who was of another denomination. Like most guys, I followed her and ended up becoming a minister of music in that denomination. That was fine, no pastoral ministry. Of course, I was asked to take a church, but I declined; Not my calling. After her death at a young age, I found my way back to the Episcopal Church and served the church in many capacities: music, Sunday School teacher, and a whole lot more. I worked at colleges and universities for 30 years as a librarian and professor (that teaching thing again) and sang in professional choirs, but avoided pastoral work at all costs.

Then came a fateful Monday evening. I was at the church to lead evening prayer. As happened occasionally, no one showed up, so I said the Office by myself. As I was going around turning off lights and locking doors, I felt restrained from leaving the sanctuary. I sat down in the back of the church and was puzzled. After some prayer, I left the sanctuary and made it into the parish hall before I was compelled to return to the sanctuary and more prayer. After third try and finally telling God I would talk to my rector the next day, I felt free to leave. God had finally gotten through my thick skull and let me know I couldn’t run from ministry any more.

Due to several factors, I moved to Springfield and began attending Christ Episcopal Church. After some time, I felt it was time to meet with Fr. Ken Chumbley, our rector, and let him in on God’s plan for my life. After going through the discernment process, I enrolled in BKSM in the Anglican Studies program. A little weird for a cradle Episcopalian, but my ministry formation had been in another denomination, so it made sense. I graduated last spring and am glad to be finally pursuing the vocation God called me to decades ago.

The Rev. Sean Kim

The Rt. Rev. Martin S. Field lays hands upon Sean Kim Image: Gary Allman

My path to the ordained ministry has been a long, circuitous journey. I first felt the call in college and marched off to seminary upon graduation. But while in seminary, I soon discovered that my understanding of ministry was narrow and limited; I basically thought that all I had to do was preach once a week (my Presbyterian background may be partly to blame). When I learned about the other responsibilities, especially providing pastoral care to the sick and dying, I realized that I lacked the emotional maturity and commitment. At the same time, I was drawn more to academics and decided to pursue a career as a historian.

While in Boston for graduate school, I found my spiritual home in the Episcopal Church. Trinity Church was near my apartment, and I fell in love with the beautiful liturgy. I eventually joined the Church of the Advent, an Anglo-Catholic parish. The liturgy first drew me to the Episcopal Church, but far more important for me than even the liturgy were the people whom I met. Nowhere else had I experienced the kind of profound and authentic sense of community that I encountered in the Episcopal Church. Here was the Body of Christ.

Fourteen years ago I returned to the Kansas City area, where I had grown up, to teach Asian and world history at the University of Central Missouri. St. Andrew’s in Kansas City became my home parish. As I became involved in the life of the church through its many ministries, I began to feel the call to ordained ministry again. This time, however, the call came through those around me – the voices of fellow parishioners and the clergy. After an extended period of discernment, I decided to take up the call to the bi-vocational priesthood.

In preparation, I studied at the Bishop Kemper School for Ministry (BKSM), focusing on Anglicanism and other areas missing in my previous seminary education. It was exciting to be in school again. I especially appreciated the intellectual rigor and the powerful bonds of community at BKSM. Another formative experience was my Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) training at Saint Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City, where I learned what it means to provide pastoral care at some of life’s most difficult moments.

Before being ordained to the transitional diaconate at diocesan convention, I served as an intern at Christ Church Warrensburg. Currently, I am serving as a deacon at St. Anne’s in Lee’s Summit. It has been an extraordinary blessing to share in the life of the loving, vibrant communities at St. Andrew’s, Christ Church, and St. Anne’s. Looking ahead, I am not sure where I will be serving after my ordination to the priesthood; I am open to the Spirit’s leading.

The Rev. Marco Serrano

Marco Serrano (nearest to the camera). Image: Donna Field

Being raised in the church, I first discerned a call to ordained ministry when I was 17 years old. I was not a member of the Episcopal Church at the time, and I really did not have any idea what ordained ministry might mean for me or my life. And so, while I knew that I loved God and very much wanted to serve the Church, the path to ordained ministry was unsurprisingly not a straight line.

Part of my calling and vocation has been a deep and longstanding desire to serve at-risk and vulnerable populations, and I took that passion with me to law school. While I am grateful for the chance to study and practice law — and my hope is to integrate all my training into a singular vocation — I sensed after law school that I was yearning for something deeper.

God was patiently guiding me to the beauty of Anglicanism. During law school, I lived across the street from an Episcopal church. At my first job, I again lived across the street from an Episcopal church. And while it took a bit of time, I eventually got the hint and fell in love with the liturgy and reverence of Anglican worship. As I did so, my call to ministry was reawakened.

By the grace of God, I have re-learned and remembered that the harvest is indeed plentiful, and that the joys and sacrifices of ordained ministry form a very high call. It has been a singular privilege to join The Diocese of West Missouri in its mission to be God’s loving and beloved community in this time and place. And I anticipate both challenges and triumphs as I seek to serve and love the people of God. Soli Deo gloria.   

(L-R) The Rev. Marco Serrano, the Rev. Sean Kim,., the Rev. Chandler Jackson, the Rev. Bradley Heuett, and the Rev Jeff Hurst. Image: Donna Field

A New Curacy Program to Attract Younger Priests

In the next 3-5 years when one quarter of our seminary prepared priests will retire. The Diocese of West Missouri is actively seeking funding for a new Curacy Program to attract and retain younger clergy.

Sally Shied Ten-minute read.   Resources

September 15, 2018, Kim Taube and Warren Swenson are the most recently ordained priests in West Missouri. Image: Gary Allman

T The average age for a parish priest in The Diocese of West Missouri is around 62 years old. America’s pastors are growing older. In 1992 the average pastor was 44 years old and one in three was less than 40 years old. Twenty-five years later the average age is 54 and only 1 in 7 is less than 40 (The Barna group). Many factors go into this number, but the quandary will affect the health of congregations all over.

The Diocese of West Missouri will be seeing a significant turnover in the next 3-5 years when one quarter of our seminary prepared priests will retire. Transitions in the diocese will be more common. With thoughtful planning, the diocese can maximize the potential of our new priests (Curates) to be effective and remain active in the church. This can be a time of growth and renewal! To quote Bishop Marty, “We need to plan now for this transition, and we diligently need to seek new energies and new perspectives of generations now entering the fullness of their adult years”.

The Diocese has submitted a grant application to the Lilly Endowment for $860,594.77 to cover major expenses of a project to attract and retain younger clergy (see Footnote2). The goals for the Curacy Program of The Diocese of West Missouri are:

  • To attract new priests;
  • To retain the promising and gifted seminarians who originate from this Diocese and others;
  • To bring energy and vitality to the diocese; and
  • To provide the stable leadership necessary to spur growth in congregations that otherwise would not have access to full-time clergy.

The Diocese of West Missouri is seeking additional funding of $25,000 over a three-year period to support the Peer-to-Peer learning portion of this project; which includes three weekends per year at a small retreat center in the rural Ozarks. This is an aspect of the project that can stand on its own should the Lilly Endowment funding not come through. This program is for all newly hired and newly ordained priests and deacons as well as the new curates.

Where Did this Plan Come From?

The Curacy Project came to the Commission on Ministry, Subcommittee for Clergy Continuing Education, Orientation, and Mentoring from a small group led by the Rev. Meghan Castellan. After receiving the 100% backing of the sub-committee they drafted a resolution to the convention of The Diocese of West Missouri who referred it back to the sub-committee to begin research and study and determine the feasibility of implementing a diocesan-wide curacy program. In March the committee was ready to press forward preparing our application to the Lilly Endowment. The leadership for this initiative has come from the Commission on Ministry and its special sub-committee. Chairman of the committee is The Rev. Deacon Beck Schubert; other members are Walker Adams, Ruth Beamer, The Rev. Ken Chumbley, The Rev. Dr. William Fasel, Robert Maynard, Sally Scheid, Mickey Simnett (see Footnote1), The Rev. Galen Snodgrass, and The Rev. Ron Verhaghe. Also assisting the committee are The Rev. Canon Dr. Steve Rottgers and Gary Allman, Communications Director, of the Bishop’s staff.

The Curacy Program will give Curates experience in both urban and rural settings. The trend is that only urban areas can support full-time priests. The Rev. Dr. Bill Fasel said clergy coming from residential seminaries and intending to work full-time will only experience the life of the church in metropolitan areas. Realistically, future bishops and leaders will come from this group with little to no understanding of small towns and small churches. The Diocese of West Missouri wants to give Curates a broader experience. Several churches in the diocese are described as “on the bubble” — in that they previously could afford their own priest and had larger congregations. As congregations shrank, from a myriad of outside forces, these churches can no longer afford their own priest. They now share a priest which obviously does not give the congregants as much access to a member of the clergy.

It is hoped that with more access to a priest, through the Curate or the priests and deacons ordained through the Bishop Kemper School of Ministry, they will have a chance to do more planning and once again become strong. Right now, two churches in the diocese have seen this phenomenon with a dedicated part-time priest. Even when only with a church for a short time, the Curate can lead new ministries, new growth, enhanced energy, and renewed optimism. This reinvigoration will enable some churches to grow to the point where they can, once again, be able to afford a priest. The mixed experience of larger and smaller churches, urban and rural will help the Curate to transition a future church.

As any ordained person or those involved on the Commission on Ministry, Standing Committee and other formation groups can attest, hearing a call to the priesthood through the ordination process takes a candidate many years and multiple interviews at the local, regional, and diocesan level. The requirements include a bachelor’s degree and three years of seminary resulting in a Master of Divinity. During this period the candidate most likely will have to relocate at least once. It is a long row to hoe. Ordination is like other graduations in that it is the commencement of a long and hopefully, fruitful career.

By the time a young priest comes to a congregation, a great deal of time and money, not to mention prayer and faith have been invested. Yet, in general, four times as many clergy leave the calling within the first five years than those who served forty years ago. Whether the priest comes from one of the three-year seminaries or a program like the Bishop Kemper School for Ministry.

Seminarians are well prepared in theology when they graduate. But the learning has just begun! Local clergy have commented, “The hardest thing I had to do was doing work I had never done before”; “Getting the lay of the business end of running a parish”; “Adjusting to the demands for my time and personal attention, not just from a few friends, but from every parishioner, all with their yokes, some light, some not.”; “That budgets and Vestry politics matter”. Canon Steve said “ordination is a steep learning curve. The new priest must learn how drive the bus where the rubber meets the road.” He said that common professional challenges are learning what you do not know and that are you not ready to save the world. The most important knowledge is how to build and maintain relationships.

At this time The Diocese of West Missouri has no formal Curacy program. Several current priests were surveyed about what would have made their transition to priesthood easier. In addition to the comments they made about difficulties with their transition experience, they all indicated a more formal mentorship program, and a peer group with whom they could share experiences would have helped. Comments included how important it was to have a regular prayer life, “This is a lonely profession. Know yourself. Know your needs.”; “maintain your relationship with your spiritual director. If a mentor is not assigned to you, find one. If the mentor is not a good fit, find a better one.”

Throughout the program Curates will learn the importance of time management, boundaries and balance. Curricular will be drawn from Leadership Bootcamp, Evangelism 101, and Project Resource, providing Curates with the tools to inspire radical generosity and engage faith communities in the journey of changing the culture of stewardship in The Episcopal Church.
In the peer support sessions, they will learn how to form their own support groups — and more importantly the need to, and how to select a mentor, either lay or ordained from their ministry context, though not a supervisor; how to create community; the importance of self-care and the need to establish and honor a sabbath. Curates will be able to develop peer relationships with a variety of priests serving in a variety of settings. These leaders will have a support system, so they do not feel all by themselves, even in a small town, and they will know how to take care of themselves.

Desired Outcomes for the Diocese and Curates

To evaluate the program, the following outcomes are being aspired to:

Outcomes for the diocese

Short-Term (1 year)
90% of Curate supervisors will report growing congregations with the Curate assigned to them.

Long-term (3 year)
At the end of the Curacy Project (3 years) The Diocese of West Missouri will have developed a sustainable method of filling vacancies and retaining 65% of well-trained Curates in the diocese.

Outcomes for Curates

Short term (1 year)
After each year of Curacy, 100 percent of Curates will report developing collegial relationships with each other; learning and experiences in the program will positively affect their confidence in pastoral work.

Long-term (3 year)
75 percent of Curates will report they have grown in ministry and feel they can be an effective parish priest in a variety of setting

Sustainability and Continuation

In addition to the Lilly Endowment support, the COM subcommittee is working with the diocese to create an Endowment Campaign to raise money to help fund the future of the Curacy Program.

In Conclusion

The Curacy Program is a natural fit for the mission of the diocese as it responds to new issues of these times of reduced financial and human resources. We are calling out new leaders and will be preparing them to be sent out. Training that the Curates receive will be in line with our baptismal vows. Doing these things marks our fidelity to the vows all Episcopalians make to follow Jesus.

Your thoughts and prayers for this new initiative are sincerely appreciated.

Sally Shied is a member of the Commission on Ministry, Subcommittee for Clergy Continuing Education, Orientation, and Mentoring, a Lay Eucharistic Minister, Diocesan Convention Alternate Delegate and member at Christ Episcopal Church Springfield.

Footnotes

1 Regretfully, since this article was written in July 2018, Committee Member Micki Simnett lost her battle against cancer entering into the larger life on August 31. Besides serving on the Commission on Ministry, Mickey was also serving an elected term on the Diocesan Council. Mickey was a recipient of the Bishop’s Shield.

Let light perpetual shine upon her.

2 In late September the committee was informed that the Lilly Endowment had received nearly 600 applications and awarded grants to 78 charitable organizations. The Curacy Program was not one of the projects selected for funding. The committee is now looking for alternative funding for this very important program.

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Clover House, providing space for healing and hope

Clover House is an oasis, providing healing and rest to young women sorely in need of a safe place to stay. Created by Saint Francis Community Services, the program provides restorative, residential care for female adolescent survivors of sex trafficking.

Shane Schneider Five-minute read.   Resources

CupcakeImage: Flickr user sayo ts

Searching for something to cook, she discovered the last two boxes of cake mix in the cupboard. For the next three hours, she laid claim to the Clover House kitchen, baking dozens of chocolate cupcakes with care and attention. The frosting, she made from scratch, and when she finished, 36 perfect cupcakes graced the counter top.

“Well, what now?” asked The Rev. Susanne Methven.

“Let’s find homeless people and give them a cupcake,” said the 17-year-old cook.

***

Opened in 2016, Clover House is an oasis of sorts, providing healing and rest to young women sorely in need of a safe place to stay. Created by Saint Francis Community Services, the program provides restorative, residential care for female adolescent survivors of sex trafficking. The home-like setting offers both security and community to youth dealing with complex and unique trauma. At Clover House, survivors have the emotional space to develop healthy relationships and to rediscover their sense of purpose.

The Rev Susanne Methven blesses Clover House.
Image:Image: St. Francis Foundation

***

“Stop!” shouted the passenger, and Mother Methven hit the brakes. The youth hopped from the van and approached a homeless person sitting on the sidewalk. “You want a cupcake?” she said as she placed one in his hand.

Near the hospital, she yelled out the window to a couple walking, “You guys want a cupcake?” before leaping from the van with two in her hand.

At the hospital emergency room, she offered one to a woman on the phone, who smiled and spoke to someone on the other end, “I just got a cupcake.”

***

“For the past two years, I’ve lived in this house with these young women,” said Methven, Clover House director. “I’ve witnessed how the ordinary rhythms of living in the context of our Clover House values shapes us. We are a community of women who learn together and choose to love each other as the best way of becoming fully human. Along the way, we are deeply touched by each other.”

Without intervention, survivors of sex trafficking often face lives of brokenness, addiction, legal problems, and mental health challenges. One of only a handful of similar programs in the nation, Clover House helps survivors move from hurt, to healing, to wholeness. The program approaches the youth keeping the whole person in mind – spirit, mind, and body. It includes Living Compass, an Episcopal-developed wellness program; volunteer opportunities within the community; individual, group, equine, and gardening therapy; and use of a gym. The youth also attend school while at Clover House and develop important life skills.

“Serving here is one of the few occasions in my life when I have felt strongly that this is my calling,” said Methven. “Clover House is important because it’s through community – with each other and with God – that we find the hope and grace to learn together and be shaped by love. The biggest gift is watching these girls grow and change. These are youth who have experienced the depths of human evil, yet who have the resilience, strength, and courage to heal with our support. Their stories inspire me.”

***

The youth gave away every cupcake that day, and she did it joyfully –- indeed, with an abundance of joy. Mother Methven marveled that this young woman, who had both seen and survived so much suffering and ugliness in her short life, should get such happiness from giving away cupcakes.

The next day, she asked her why.

“When I was homeless,” she replied, “people would give me food. But I never got anything fun like a cupcake.”

Shane Schneider is the Senior Copywriter for The Saint Francis Foundation and Saint Francis Community Services. He is the major contributor for Saint Francis’ quarterly magazine Hi-Lites.


Five Tips for ‘Gifts for Life’

Five personalized ways to support Gifts for Life and spread the word about the good work done by Episcopal Relief & Development. Why not create a ‘ripple effect’ of blessings?

Richard Hoff Five-minute read.   Resources

Cover photo for the 2018 Gifts for Life catalog Image: Episcopal Relief & Development

Anne Browne loves all the work that Episcopal Relief & Development does, and wants everyone to know that “Episcopal Relief & Development is the best organization they can support!” But her real passion is reserved for one program: Gifts for Life. She deeply appreciates how directly Gifts for Life empowers local partners, offering individuals and communities the ability to help themselves in ways that respect their home, history and culture.

A born educator, Anne spent many years with the American Field Service as a coordinator and counselor, worked with intellectually disabled students, taught kindergarten, and put in 21 years as a docent at the Los Angeles Zoo – along with raising seven children, enjoying 11 grandchildren (and several godchildren) and running home-based mail order businesses selling cards, stationary and children’s books and toys from around the world.

With this background to draw from, it’s no wonder that Anne is ingenious at finding personalized ways to leverage her support for Gifts for Life and spread the word about the good work done by Episcopal Relief & Development. Here are some of her favorite tactics for creating a ‘ripple effect’ of blessings.


Five Tips from a Gifts for Life ‘Professional’

One: Think like Miss Manners

Everyone likes to be thanked – or will at some point earn a congratulations, be in need of condolences, or have some other reason why acknowledgement with a card is socially graceful and appropriate. Following the advice she used to give her card-buying customers, Anne makes sure she always has a stash of 10-20 Gifts for Life cards on hand for just these situations. (Every Gifts for Life donation is acknowledged with a card.) As Anne says, “It’s just like buying something for the food pantry and leaving it in your car – it’s right there when you get to church.”

Children receiving nutrition after a disaster, DR Congo Image: Episcopal Relief & Development

Two: Give to Celebrate Holidays and Birthdays

Instead of buying special Christmas, Valentine’s or birthday cards, double the effect of your goodwill by donating to the Gifts for Life program that is most relevant or appealing to the person you are giving for – while spreading the word about Episcopal Relief & Development’s good work.

Three: Honor Others

Anne became an Episcopalian at age 19. She was drawn by the positive changes in her family due to counseling by an Episcopal priest her aunt and mother met following the early death of Anne’s cousin. For Anne, being an Episcopalian means to ‘walk the walk and talk the talk’ and to have a commitment to being ‘active in community’ – two reasons she is so supportive of Episcopal Relief & Development! Four years ago, Anne decided to walk her own walk by honoring people in her church who she felt truly live out their faith. She chose Thanksgiving as an appropriate time, and sent Gifts for Life cards to those special members of her community, acknowledging their contributions.

Four: Especially for Kids

Anne adds small tokens to Gifts for Life cards to make the donation more real and tangible to young people. One favorite is a small stuffed lamb or other animal to accompany an Animal and Agriculture donation. Another is a book or some colored pencils with an Early Learners gift. She also suggests including a colorful photo (think a flock of bright yellow baby chicks!). Applicable for any age, photos grab attention and interest and help anyone understand what this gift in their honor really represents.

Child with her pig, Nicaragua Image: Episcopal Relief & Development

Five: Especially for New Grandparents

Anne loves sending cards supporting Early Childhood Development programs to new grandparents, who will be celebrating their new connection to why this program and the education it helps support is so important, anywhere and everywhere in the world.

“It is truly a blessing to share and to give.”

Anne didn’t know Episcopal Relief & Development well throughout most of her life. Now that she does, she wants to share the good news, with people in her church and with others. Gifts for Life has offered her a perfect way to show her concern and caring for this world while cultivating new links in her ‘chain of blessings’ and introducing people to an organization that she knows does good and necessary work.

Anne Browne (center) with her family Image: Episcopal Relief & Development
Episcopal Relief & Development is grateful for Anne’s dedication to Episcopal Relief & Development, and for her commitment to finding ways of making Gifts for Life a gift for all occasions!

Richard Hoff is a Major Gifts Officer for Episcopal Relief & Development.

The Sexual Immorality of Pornography

Pornography seems to have gained a certain amount of legitimacy and respectability. It’s not unusual to hear someone (albeit jokingly) refer to their ‘porn stash’ or questionable online browsing history. The reality is that pornography can create ripples of pain and human suffering that spread out into the world.

Mike McDonnell 15 minute read.   Resources

 

Editor’s Note. I’d like to warn readers that Mike’s article makes hard reading. Once again he doesn’t pull any punches, and confronts, head on, a topic most people would rather not discuss. Pornography and human — specifically male — sexuality. As I’ve mentioned in the past in relation to sex trafficking, if we choose to be offended and pretend that this problem doesn’t exist, there cannot be an informed discussion. Without discussion there will be no change.

 

In today’s society pornography seems to have gained a certain amount of legitimacy and respectability. It’s not unusual to hear someone (albeit jokingly) refer to their ‘porn stash’ or questionable online browsing history. Such comments give credence in an ‘industry’ (and it is an industry) that has a very dark underbelly. So while, in some circles, pornography may be accepted and embraced as a part of today’s world, for others, the impact of the criminal elements who exploit (primarily) men’s weaknesses creates ripples of pain and human suffering that spread out into the world. For some pornography can become an addiction, and then there is the plight of the ‘participants’ many of whom are coerced by blackmail, abduction, and threats of violence to them or their families. It all starts with ‘an innocent bit of fun’…

The darkness of pornography can engulf your mind and soul bringing the weight of desperation that presents no glimmer of hope, or light just foreboding, and an unimaginable gloom. It is a nightmare coated with the aura of seductiveness that radiates a false promise of sexual fulfillment and love, that can result in disappointment, shame, broken relationships, destroyed lives, and personal ruin.

Pornography may be the most challenging evil for men to defeat. It attacks at the heart of a man’s natural desire to find love and intimacy. Unfortunately, some men misunderstand love and become confused in their effort to find closeness through sexual gratification. It is easy to understand the allure of sex and its power over the minds of men; but when we seek momentary satisfaction through a third party, we have crossed the line of morality in so many different ways.

This statement from The Catechism of the Catholic Church is excellent in defining the dangers found in porn:

Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public) since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials.

I have heard men speak of porn as “nothing more” than pure entertainment and, that moreover, it enhances their sexual relationships with their spouses or girlfriends. What is the effect on a man watching someone else have sex? What benefit do they receive? What justification do they use to rationalize their self-gratification? Who benefits, and at what cost to the individual watching or reading porn? After all, it may seem that the woman or young girl performing sex acts areis having a great time even if it is staged.  We can be taken in by a false realism believing that the girls are not being forced to satisfy unusual sex requests, and are not suffering physical abuse and torture; instead what we are viewing is merely two people finding pleasure in each other’s arms. Therefore, if we continue to follow that cloudy logic, it would look as if that all the women are enjoying themselves, moaning and groaning in delight, and besides, don’t they all experience an orgasm? So if they are enjoying every minute of the encounter why shouldn’t I? They are having great sex and making good money. What is wrong if I satisfy myself by becoming part of their reality even if it is manufactured?

Statistics for porn are easily accessible if you are seeking more data… you will discover that the analytical part of porn is depressing and frightening.

Porn Hub is the most significant pornography site in the world. Each year for the past five years they have published an annual “Year in Review,” to “discover and reflect,” on how people have been viewing porn. What is amazing is their business acumen in their target marketing by age, sex, sexual preferences, location, time of day usage, country, state, etc. They have terrific insight into who is using their product and when. If you happen to be a porn-site visitor who mistakenly believes your information is private, you may want to rethink your position. Let us review Porn Hub’s Analytics (1) 2017 worldwide numbers and Daily Infographics 2013 stats (2) for the US:

Porn Hub Analytics (1) (www.pornhub.com/insights):

  • 28.5 billion annual visits to Porn Hub
  • 81 million daily visits
  • 25 billion searches performed
    • 50,000 searches per minute
    • 800 searches per second
  • 4 million videos uploaded
    • 810,000 amateur videos

Daily Infographics, US (2) (www.dailyinfographic.com/author/timwillingham):

  • 8.7 billion annual visits
  • 24 million daily visits to porn sites
  • 40 million Americans are regular visitors
    • 28,258 are viewing porn every second
  • Porn yearly revenues $2.84 billion
    • $3,076 is spent on porn every second 
  • 116,000 requests for “Child Pornography” every day

Statistics for porn are easily accessible if you are seeking more data. However, as I was warned before receiving the Porn Hub Analytics, you will discover that the analytical part of porn is depressing and frightening.  The numbers reveal an alarming and almost overwhelming prevalence of pornography throughout the world.

What does that say about us men? What in the world is going on in our minds that we need this external stimulation to find satisfaction and, most importantly, what does God say about pornography? 

I am not a scientist nor a theologian, but I am a pragmatist. You may look at those professions and wonder what does being pragmatic have to do with science or theology, let alone porn?  Nothing actually, but from my perspective, it allows me to ask myself several essential questions without dependence on science or religion. Is sex beneficial to me? Does sex satisfy? What are the costs and rewards of sex? Is there a moral quandary when using pornography? And why do I need artificial stimulation to satisfy my sexual cravings?

As a young man, it seemed as if I had sex “on the brain“ 24/7, and indeed I probably would not have been opposed to reading or viewing porn. It is and was very seductive, stimulating and alluring. Consequently, being rational about sex and controlling urges was challenging. However, age conveys a measure of wisdom, and clarity of thought; although, getting older does not free me from the lure of pornography. Though the desire is significantly dampened, it still lays hidden in my mind.

Let me take a moment to review and answer the questions I asked:

Is sex beneficial? I don’t know about you, but I love sex. There is nothing more satisfying than finding yourself entwined with a woman. It is both fulfilling and relieving and offers a degree of closeness that cannot be attained in any other manner. It is a gift given to two people that cannot be measured in precise physical terms but is to be understood as spiritual when given and received in love.

Is sex satisfying? Yes, no and maybe. Yes, when it is being given and received by two individuals as an offering, willingly and openly accepted. No, when it is forced or coerced, for self-gratification without care or concern for the other person’s well being. Maybe, when a person, because of their physical and or mental condition is allowing another person to use his or her body to satisfy themselves or being gratified themselves. 

What are the rewards and costs of sex? The rewards resulting from a healthy sexual relationship are cumulative. It brings a feeling of well being, intimacy and attachment that are realized in very few circumstances. It is part of the shared human experience that the very personal contact of sexual intimacy can only bring by strengthening the bond between a couple. The flip side is the toll that porn will inflict on a relationship through the pretense that pornography interjects excitement and variety in sexual relations. However, pornography’s goal is to blur the lines between love and self-gratification. It achieves this by featuring women and even children who “seem” to be willing to perform and enjoy all varieties of sexual perversions that the viewer may desire. Porn embeds an illusion in the minds of men that will become more addictive over time. This deception has the effect of ultimately subduing the love women may feel for their spouse, which can eventually wreak havoc with family relationships and careers. The fundamental question that must be considered by all men viewing pornography is: do my actions have a negative or positive impact on my family and others in and beyond my sphere of influence?

Is there a moral quandary when using pornography? Let’s be clear, porn is destructive and supports criminal elements that trafficks women and children (including boys) for the sole purpose of enriching themselves at the cost of lives. Men who watch and purchase pornography are not doing it for any reason, except to satisfy their sexual desire, no matter the detriment to the victims who are raped, violently molested, starved and even killed during deviant sexual behavior.  Researchers have also found an association between the use of pornography and infidelity in marriage. Does that surprise anyone? (What Porn Does to Intimacy, July 16, 2014, Psychology Today)

What do you think? Is there a “moral quandary?” As I‘ve already mentioned, I am a pragmatist. The chances that pornography could bring about anything positive is remote. It is destructive to men and devastating to the children and women who suffer from the consequences of persistent sexual abuse. Is it immoral? Damn straight!

418 [Men] are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. Ephesians 4:18-19

If you are using pornography to fill an emptiness in your soul, please find help. If you are married, you need to understand why you require artificial stimulation to satisfy your sexual cravings and work out how to remove your dependence on it. If you are single, please realize that what you are often watching supports the trafficking of humans and that the picture you see is only an illusion and is not real sex or love. It is make-believe, not real and is an evil, immoral pretension of what is a beautiful, life-sustaining gift to humankind. It is not the answer to the spiritual wellness or joy you deserve.

This is a revised version of an article originally published on the Brotherhood of St. Andrew’s website.

Mike McDonnell is co-founder of the Lake of the Ozarks Stop Human Trafficking Coalition, VP Social Justice (Human Trafficking Ministry) with the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, and a member of St. George Episcopal Church, Camdenton.

Human Trafficking as It Relates to Slavery

Most Americans turn a blind eye towards slavery believing it only existed in the past. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Mike McDonnell Ten-minute read.   Resources

We live in a world rife with cynicism, racism, hatred, bigotry, and the most despicable of all these sins is the enslavement of another person to accommodate man’s greed, lust and insatiable desire to control another’s life. In the First Letter to Timothy, we find Paul’s words:

18 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it legitimately. 9 This means understanding that the law is laid down not for the innocent but for the lawless and disobedient, for the godless and sinful, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their father or mother, for murderers, 10 fornicators, sodomites, slave traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching 11 that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.
I Timothy 1:8-11

Mike McDonnell presents details of the breadth of the human trafficking problem. Image credit: Gary Allman
Most Americans turn a blind eye towards slavery believing it only existed in the past, possibly during the Civil War or maybe in biblical times, remembering Moses freeing the Hebrews from Egypt. I have read commentators who believed that slavery was a means used by the ancient world to care for widows, the poor and less fortunate; producing a welfare system through servitude. It was possible that some wealthy individuals took responsibility for those requiring help and these same people may have been emboldened by the fact that Jesus never spoke of physical slavery, but of the slavery that made us prisoners to sin. As you read Paul’s words above, you may wonder how people could believe that slavery was right in any way, shape or form. I am a pragmatic person, and I think Jesus was the ultimate pragmatist. He came to give eternal freedom and not to release those who were in temporary human bondage. However, because our Lord did not make any profound or lasting statements about slavery does not make it right.

Slavery has dominated the history of the United States and the history of The Episcopal Church for far too many years. In most cases, our nation and our church were complicit in the continuance of slavery. In today’s modern world we find women bonded into prostitution, children trafficked for sex and labor, and men forced to work for slave wages across the globe, and yes, even in our own backyard, here in the US.

I want to share a few important dates, with brief descriptions, so that you may understand and appreciate the bravery of those few who have brought us to where we are in our struggle against human trafficking:

  • The 1780s saw the first organized anti-slavery society established in Britain. 1.
  • In 1807, the slave trade was abolished by the British Parliament. 1.
  • In 1839, the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society was created, giving for the first time impetus to America’s abolitionist movement. 1.
  • In 1856, at the Episcopal General Convention, The Episcopal Church had “nothing to do with party politics, with sectional disputes, with earthly distinctions with the wealth, the splendor and the ambition of the world.” 2.
  • In 1865, the Protestant Episcopal Freedman’s Commission addressed the changes that had taken place in the south after the Civil War.2.
  • In 1877, the first Negro delegates were elected to the General Convention in West Texas and Florida. 2.
  • In 1883, the abolishment of slavery was itself abolished by the British Parliament. 1.
  • In the 1904 and 1907 General Conventions, a Suffragan Plan was established with restrictions. A suffragan could sit with the House of Bishops but could not vote. 2.
  • In 1921, the African Orthodox Church was formed by black Episcopal Priest, George Alexander, resulting from prejudices within The Episcopal Church. 2.
  • In 1948, the segregation of the armed forces and civil services ended. 2.
  • In 1948, Article 4 the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights stated that “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.” 3.
  • In 1954, after the Supreme Court ruling in the Brown vs. Board of Education, the Episcopal Church began to dismantle its institutional segregation policies. 2.
  • In the 1958 General Convention, a resolution was adopted that officially condemned racial prejudice and segregation in the South. 2.
  • In 2000, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA 2000) was passed into law. It is considered to be the essential anti-trafficking law ever approved. 4.
  • On October 4, 2008, the Episcopal Church apologized for its role in slavery.
  • In March 2018, the Congress passed the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act. This bill holds accountable websites, such as Backpage, when they knowingly facilitate sex traffickers. 5.

In many places in our world, people subscribe to the enslavement of others. In the United States, the home of the “free,” we are exposed daily to the notion that some people are not as valuable as others. This narrative is usually based on race, ethnicity, and sex with the desire to enrich oneself through the subjugation and control of others. The International Labour Organization estimated in 2016 that there were 40.3 million people in forced labor of which 2 million are in the Americas. In the United States, because of the secretive nature of labor trafficking, it is difficult to provide an accurate number of victims; however, it is estimated to be in the tens of thousands.

Sex trafficking is an appalling crime. In the United States, it is estimated that 300,000 youths annually are at risk to sex traffickers, with one in six being trafficked. The average age of a girl trafficked is 13 and will be asked to perform various sex acts up to 20 times daily. In a recent conversation with a trafficked victim, she contended that she was expected to produce $2,000 to $3,000 daily from being prostituted. If not, she was severely beaten or starved, or her life threatened. This woman subjugated her body to daily sexual abuse to generate income for her pimp’s financial gain, while she was degraded by the johns who paid for sex, and a society that sees her as nothing more than a prostitute who could leave her enslavement if she so chose.

We men have turned a blind eye towards our accountability in the treatment of women in our society, but even worse, we have enabled abusers, pimps, johns, and pornographers to capture our souls, our nation, and to damage forever the girls and women that have long suffered as sex objects. We do this through our conversations, glances, the purchase of sex and pornography, and by not teaching our male youth that women are to be respected. I suggest to men that they consider what it is like to be chained and tortured and forced to have sex against their will. What it would be like not to have a choice as to who you are with and to feel your body violated, not once, but multiple times daily, every single day of your existence. Imagine your mother, wife, daughter or sister suffering the constant repetition of this horror. The reasons why some girls are targeted by traffickers while others are not, varies. These trafficked girls and women may very well be the same women we purport to love and care for, but we do little to change their sexual environment. Therefore, where they live, their economic situation, race, or ethnicity does not protect them from sexual abuse and predators.

I believe there are very few women who have not suffered from unwanted sexual advances. Many women have been physically and sexually abused. Maybe you know someone, family or friend, who has experienced this kind of violence. It is likely that we are aware of females who have been abused or even suffering harm today. Just possibly, we may have been the abuser. The questions we men must resolve to find the answer to is why do we harm women, why do we seek sexual gratification illicitly, and why do we purchase and watch pornography?

Human trafficking in today’s world is called “Modern Day Slavery.” Slavery from the ancient times to the American Civil War to present day slavery has one thing in common, the exploitation of many for the financial gain of the few.

In the four-plus years that I have been involved in the “Stop Human Trafficking” movement, I find myself writing and rewriting the same words and asking myself, “How can I break through the generations of men with the learned behavior of discounting and abusing women?” I find myself becoming angry every time I look at the statistics about the number of women and children trafficked globally and in the US. I find that statistics do not stir the hearts of men, no matter how shocking they are, if we are not motivated to alter the way that we view and treat women. I understand that perfectly. I am as guilty as the next man in the way I regarded women. Years ago, my favorite response came from the question “When you see a woman what do you notice first?” I replied, “It depends on which way they are walking.” It sounded cute and funny then and to me was an innocent statement of fact. Unfortunately, it was a statement that went straight to the heart of sexual objectification of women. As I became involved in the anti-sex trafficking movement, I spent some time reflecting on my “go to” comment, and what I saw about myself was disconcerting. I realized how revealing my actions and views were in promoting the abuse of women to those around me, especially my children and friends. It was impossible for me to proclaim any degree of holiness when I believed that the degradation of women was acceptable.

Learned behavior is problematic to change, but not impossible. It takes desire, perseverance, support, and occasionally professional help to alter unhealthy behavior. Recently there was an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch religion page titled: “Look to Jesus to learn how to treat women.” Anita Anton quoted a comment from Barbara Leonhard, Oldenburg Franciscan,

“Jesus refused to treat women as inferior. Given the decidedly negative cultural view of women in Jesus’ time, the Gospel writers each testify to Jesus’ treating women with respect, frequently responding in ways that reject cultural norms. He recognizes their dignity, their desires, and their gifts.”

I appreciated her comments because if we treat women with “respect,” showing them the dignity they deserve and allowing them to use their God-given gifts fully, the sexual objectification of women will begin to cease. Finally, after all these thousands of years, women will be equal in the eyes of man. We can at least adhere to the path that the holiest man of all time, Jesus of Nazareth, has shown us to follow. So, let us begin.

This is a revised version of an article originally published in the Brotherhood of St. Andrew’s magazine: St. Andrew’s Cross.

Mike McDonnell is co-founder of the Lake of the Ozarks Stop Human Trafficking Coalition, VP Human Trafficking Ministries with the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, and a member of St. George Episcopal Church, Camdenton.

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Saint Francis Community Services Reach Out to Youth in Kansas City

Working in partnership with the school district and with the nursing programs at Kansas City Kansas Community College and Metropolitan Community College, Saint Francis Community Services focus on prevention by identifying potential health problems before they grow more serious. That includes mental health issues.

Shane Schneider Five-minute read.   Resources

In April, at Schlagle High School, Debra McKenzie gathered a small group of students around her to discuss the health risks of cigarette and marijuana smoke on their lungs. One 18-year-old student moved in close to McKenzie and whispered that he had already quit smoking marijuana because he’s on probation. When she asked why he started using it in the first place, he said he had been depressed ever since his cousin was shot and killed. He just wanted the pain to go away.

 

“We run into that a lot,” says McKenzie. “Many of these kids start these behaviors to block out some of the stuff that has happened to them.”

Saint Francis mental health therapist Godswill Chuka, left, visits with a student during a recent Youth Health Day at Schlagle High School.
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That’s why she likes to use outreach events to connect with kids who need help learning to cope with depression, overcome addiction, or deal with behavioral issues. A community outreach project of Saint Francis Community Services, Youth Health Day provides health and dental screenings to students at all 13 middle and high schools in Kansas City, Kansas. Working in partnership with the school district and with the nursing programs at Kansas City Kansas Community College and Metropolitan Community College, McKenzie and her staff focus on prevention by identifying potential health problems before they grow more serious. That includes mental health issues.

McKenzie, Saint Francis clinical director for community-based services, sensed why the student had confided in her. He needed help.

“I told him that in our ADAPT and mental health programs, we work with students just like him to find new ways to deal with depression and pain,” she said. “I told him I was sure we could help him and asked if he’d like to give us a try. Without hesitation, he said, ‘Yes,’ and gave me his phone number.”

They’re just two of the programs Saint Francis provides in Kansas City, but ADAPT and mental health treatment are essential pieces of the Episcopal nonprofit’s array of child and family services. ADAPT (Adolescent/Adult Drug and Alcohol Prevention and Treatment) provides multi-level outpatient alcohol and drug treatment within a therapeutic setting for persons struggling with substance abuse. Most of Saint Francis’ adolescent clients have been court-ordered to receive treatment, which means they often lack motivation to participate. So, to ensure they show up to get the help they need, Saint Francis even provides transportation to counseling sessions.

“As part of our mental health services, we also offer psychological assessments” said McKenzie. “Through our collaboration with the University of Kansas School of Medicine, we can provide psychiatric and medication evaluations. Our program fills a gap because Wyandotte County has a shortage of psychiatrists who serve indigent and low-income populations. Often the only other place where clients on Medicaid can receive services is through the Community Mental Health Center, which has long waiting lists. We can shorten the wait period for clients who need help.”

Saint Francis currently provides substance and mental health treatment for about 75 persons, most of whom are between the ages of 12 and 19. But clients don’t have to be youngsters to receive help. Nor, must they be low-income or referred by the courts. Anyone with an assessment indicating they need treatment can self-refer and get help.

Yet, most of Saint Francis’ work in Kansas City centers on struggling and at-risk young people. The ministry also offers the HEART (Healthy Empowering Adolescent Relationship Training) program, which helps young people develop self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship and decision-making skills. And, as in the rest of Kansas, Saint Francis provides foster care in Kansas City, which includes an anger management program for teens dealing with trauma.

Service to children and families is built into the DNA of Saint Francis Community Services, and its story of ministry is something The Very Rev. Chas Marks enjoys sharing with both his diocese and the rest of the Church. He’s a busy man. Priest In Charge of St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church and Dean of the Northwest-Metro Deanery, Marks also serves as Saint Francis’ Senior Advisor for Community and Church Relations.

“Saint Francis is providing life-affirming services to an underserved population in the Kansas City Metro,” said Marks. “I get to share the story of the good work Saint Francis is doing in Kansas City and in other parts of the world with our local community and churches. There are so many opportunities for individuals and parishes to partner with Saint Francis to provide healing to children and families in Kansas City and beyond.”

When Marks isn’t pastoring, he’s talking about Saint Francis in pulpits and at coffee klatches throughout The Diocese of West Missouri. He hopes to meet friends and partners willing to join Saint Francis in its ministry of service to those most in need — the overlooked, the marginalized, the powerless. It’s a mission Saint Francis shares with the Church, and it’s a mission of hope.

Dozens of young people and adults regularly pass through the office doors of Saint Francis to receive therapeutic treatment for substance use or other behavioral issues. Some days, the clients include parents attending a support group because McKenzie and her colleagues always try to include the family in a client’s treatment. That’s because Saint Francis believes strong families produce healthy and happy children.

“Our hope,” said McKenzie, “is always to help those who need it most, especially those who lack the resources, the knowledge, the skills, or the support to help themselves. That’s why we’re here.”

To learn more about Saint Francis Community Services, contact Fr. Chas Marks about a visit to your church.

Shane Schneider is the Senior Copywriter for The Saint Francis Foundation and Saint Francis Community Services. He is the major contributor for Saint Francis’ quarterly magazine Hi-Lites.


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Interview With Dean Peter DeVeau

An interview with Dean Peter DeVeau, who recently concluded his ministry at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, Kansas City.

Melissa Scheffler Five-minute read.   Resources

The Very Rev. Peter DeVeau.
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What’s your favorite memory of your time at the Cathedral?

I have to say that I absolutely love December at the Cathedral. All the people that course through our spaces in the month of December.

Also, I think some of my best memories are of Thanksgiving Eve, when we come together without all the pressure of High Holy Days. We have a service that has a real connection to the rest of the world, in that we take the harvest altar apart because it’s going to be used for food. That seems to embody what I see as the essence of the Cathedral.

Another thing was when we had the service for Nelson Mandela here, after he died. And how the South African community has made a home at the Cathedral. They have their Freedom Day celebration here every year. That, to me, has been an important part of who we are as a Cathedral.

What will you miss the most about being at the Cathedral?

The people. I’ll miss the people and the connections, the connections to Greater Kansas City through the Cathedral. The feeling that I’m in the heart of the city. And I’ll miss staff colleagues. I guess you could boil it all down to relationships.

If you could have people remember one thing about you, what would it be?

That I had a good impact on the Cathedral. And if I’m going to be remembered for something at the Cathedral, I’d like it to be for getting The Way going, the catechumenate. That’s a really transforming time for the people who participate in it. What’s very interesting about the people who have been part of The Way, most of them stick around and are here consistently and they’re strong supporters, both in terms of their time and their resources.

Peter DeVeau.
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What do you plan to do in the future?

Hmm, well, those doors are opening, but I’m not sure at this point. I do know that I will do some writing. I already have started outlining a book.

What words of wisdom would you offer to the next Dean?

I think that you need to understand two things here at the Cathedral. The Cathedral is the cathedral for The Diocese of West Missouri and it’s a house of prayer for all people, but it’s also a vibrant parish church and it’s important to keep that in balance.

And I would want to say to the next Dean that it’s not like a parish church in the sense that there are a lot more demands on your time here. So it’s important to gather a staff that is capable of taking care of the day to day tasks that are necessary to keep the church running smoothly.

I would also want to say to the next Dean another important thing, too, is to build many different ways in which people can be connected in small groups. So that they have one-on-one relationships with people in the congregation, so that there’s better connections between everyone.

Dean Peter DeVeau formally retires in July 2018. This interview was originally published in the Spring 2018 issue of Angelus.

Melissa Scheffler is Communications Coordinator at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral.

An Extended Stay Safe House For Human Trafficking Victims

We are ready to begin the next step in our plan: which is to open an extended-stay safe-house.

Dr. Sally Kemp Two-minute read.   Resources

Dr. Sally Kemp, President, LOSHTC.
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For the past three years, Lake of the Ozarks Stop Human Trafficking Coalition’s (LOSHTC) goals have been to raise awareness about human trafficking in the Lake of the Ozarks area. We have held monthly meetings for the public to discuss various aspects of human trafficking: how it occurs, how to recognize it, and many other pertinent topics, including victims sharing their stories of being trafficked for many years. We have presented talks across the lake area whenever requested, we have shown movies with discussions following to teach young people how to protect themselves and their friends. We devoted a meeting to the dangers of surfing the web, especially for children and teenagers.

With the help of a grant from The Sharing and Caring Foundation and a donation from Wise Women Who Give to Women, we were able to present a full day’s training to 38 members of law enforcement from across the area. This helped them understand the neuropsychological impact of abuse on the development of the young brain, how this leaves a child vulnerable to human trafficking, the effects of it on those trafficked, how to recognize and approach an individual who appears to be trafficked, and the usual outcomes for these individuals. Because the event passed the Federal criteria for training, certifications with CE credits were awarded to the participating officers.

Along with our on-going awareness training, we are beginning to partner with the SART (Sexual Assault Response Team) program at Lake Regional Hospital to compile figures each month on how many women and girls have been treated in the hospital for injuries consistent with sexual violence and trafficking.

While we will continue to raise awareness, the coalition now feels that we are ready to begin the next step in our plan: which is to open an extended-stay safe-house. Such a place can provide the extra time and treatment needed by women who are having difficulty re-entering normal life. This is usually due to marked PTSD and a complete lack of belief in their own worth, because their survival depended on obeying their trafficker.

In such a haven, over one year and sometimes two, women will receive Trauma-informed Care. This allows a victim to receive intensive and validating treatment that addresses their PTSD trauma and helps her reclaim her life. We are beginning to look at possible sites and are gearing up for intensive training for those who will be working with the victims.

Dr. Sally Kemp is Co-founder and President of the Lake of the Ozarks Stop Human Trafficking Coalition and a member at St. George Episcopal Church Camdenton. She is also a licensed Lay Eucharistic Minister, Eucharistic Visitor, and Worship Leader.

We are the Brotherhood of St. Andrew

The Brotherhood of St. Andrew is a 133-year-old ministry to men in Episcopal and Anglican churches. Currently, the Brotherhood has over 4,000 members in more than 500 chapters.

Jim Goodson Five-minute read.   Resources


The purpose of the Brotherhood is to bring men and youth to Jesus Christ. The men in this ministry have a rule of life that includes the disciplines of prayer, study, and service. Sharing these disciplines creates a sense of purpose in men’s lives, bonds them together and provides opportunities for men to share their faith journey questions and to learn from each other how to follow Christ and bring others into his kingdom.

Men, by nature, keep their problems to themselves. The Brotherhood offers an avenue where men can allow themselves to share concerns about their spiritual and personal lives.

… as Christians, we are called by God to feed the poor, visit those who are sick or in prison, comfort the afflicted, and as Brothers in Christ our daily prayers and regular studies challenge us to encourage and support others in their walk with Christ.

Clergy often turn to the men in the Brotherhood to provide leadership roles in the Church. The Rev. Jim Nelson, rector of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Friendswood, Texas says, “For me as the rector of a church, the Brotherhood is a group of men who take their faith seriously, who I can count on to put Scripture into service both within the parish and in the community.”

Brotherhood chapters and organized men’s ministries perform hundreds of local, community and worldwide outreach ministries. These ministries include everything from painting the church buildings to driving people to church, building Faith Chests for the newly baptized to raising funds to support ministries in Honduras, Peru, and Uganda.

Brotherhood chapters are quick to respond to crises in their local communities. Brotherhood chapters and men’s ministry groups hold fund-raising events to support homeless veterans, abused women, build Habitat for Humanity Homes and provide food, clothing and shelter to people in need.

One Oregon chapter built a ship to deliver a medical mission team throughout the Micronesian islands.

All Brotherhood chapters perform some form of ministry in their parishes, towns and cities.

All Brotherhood chapters perform some form of ministry in their parishes, towns and cities. Brotherhood chapters are quick to respond to crises in their local communities. When a tornado struck Moore, Oklahoma in 2013, hundreds of Brothers from Texas and Oklahoma responded almost immediately, helping families recover and rebuild their homes. The same thing happened in 2012 when the hurricane Sandy struck New York and New Jersey. A team of Brothers was on the scene before the National Guard.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is a member of the Brotherhood
Image: Gary Allman

When an explosion rocked the hamlet of West Texas in 2013, hundreds of Brothers contributed thousands of dollars even as Brothers from nearby Waco were on the scene helping clean up the mess. Most recently, the flooding in Houston, Mississippi, and the mud-slides in California brought Brothers from our churches out to help.

On a national level, the Brotherhood leadership provides speakers to regional meetings throughout the nation, to educate and inform men and women in our churches and communities about the racial reconciliation, recovery from addictions, and provide prison ministries both inside and outside state and federal prisons.

Brothers are involved in many ministries both in their local parishes and worldwide.
Image: Brotherhood of St. Andrew

“We help churches develop Veteran Friendly Congregations,” President Jeffrey Butcher says. “It’s a proven program that offers support to veterans returning from Iraq, Afghanistan and other conflicts.” We work with congregations to assist them in developing and supporting Scout troops, we offer discipleship and mentor training programs and we work with congregations to help combat sex trafficking.

So why do we do these things? Because as Christians, we are called by God to feed the poor, visit those who are sick or in prison, comfort the afflicted, and as Brothers in Christ our daily prayers and regular studies challenge us to encourage and support others in their walk with Christ.

If your church does not have a Brotherhood of St. Andrew chapter and you would like to get information about starting one, contact President Jeff Butcher or Executive Director Tom Welch (contact details below).

May the power of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you always. 

Jim Goodson is editor of the St. Andrew’s Cross, the monthly publication of the Brotherhood of St. Andrew.


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Eight Stories Of Recovery In The Aftermath Of Hurricane Harvey

On August 25, 2017, the most powerful storm to hit the state of Texas in more than 50 years pummeled the Greater Houston area. Hurricane Harvey. Tens of thousands of residents were devastated with major damage to property and homes.

Mike Smith One-minute read.   Resources

St. Paul’s Community Dinner.
Image: Denise Trevino-Gomez

During major disasters like Harvey, Episcopal Relief & Development works closely with church partners to address immediate and long-term needs in impacted communities. Prior to this event, the organization’s US Disaster team provided disaster preparedness training and resources for volunteer leaders in most dioceses around the Episcopal Church including the dioceses of Texas and West Texas. Immediately after the hurricane, key stakeholders across impacted areas were invited to participate in informational webinars to help even more local partners respond. Church leaders were mobilized to distribute resources for temporary housing and household goods, using church knowledge to prioritize those with the greatest need.

Native Texan and Major Gift Officer for Episcopal Relief & Development, Mike Smith, recently traveled to his home state to witness and document the devastating impact of the storm. During his trip, he gained a deeper awareness of how neighbors work together during recovery efforts. Mike also witnessed the strength and power of ecumenical cooperation as congregations and church partners leveraged local relationships to meet the immediate and complex needs of diverse communities throughout Texas.

“If it weren’t for all the churches, we’d be right back where we were right after the storm.”

— Loa Heckendorn, Dickinson, Texas

Read the following short stories that Mike captured during this visit.

Love Made Manifest: A House in Pearland and a Street in Conroe

Image: Mike Smith

We lost all of it. The children lost all their belongings, their toys. But now the kids are happy because it is starting to come together and I’m happy. Very Thankful.

Episcopal Churches and Episcopal Relief & Development partners are doing amazing work all over the vast greater Houston area. Literally, hundreds of church communities are working every day to serve those in need.

St. Andrews Church in Pearland, Texas, 23 miles south of Houston, developed such an appetite for service that three years ago its members formed an outreach mission church called MOSAIC. They hold events with names like “Messy Church,” “Yoga Worship” and “Dinner Worship.” And they rebuild houses for those who barely made it through Harvey. Debbie Allensworth is MOSAIC’s director. She assembles volunteers, organizes their schedules, helps procure building materials and tries to keep everything on schedule.

I visited one of MOSAIC’s rebuilding efforts in Pearland, just a few miles from St. Andrews. It is the home of Norma Gallegos, a single mother of four who supports her family on her job at a local fast food restaurant. Her house lost its roof, floors, several feet of walls, and her family lost many possessions. Norma and her children, ages 8 to 17, have continued to live in the house through rebuilding. It’s chaotic and difficult, but the work is getting done.

“I worked very hard to provide the necessities of life,” Norma said. “We lost all of it. The children lost all the belongings, their toys. They were very sad. But now the kids are happy because it is starting to come together and I’m happy. Very thankful.”

Image: Mike Smith

I can’t think about the world’s problems. I just try to stay focused on this little piece that I can do something about.

40 miles north of Houston in Conroe, Texas, The Abundant Harvest Food Truck serves meals to residents of the Needham Road community. On this half-mile long street, River Oaks Drive, with about 100 homes, everyone lost a lot and some everything.

Molly Carr is the human food service machine that makes this ministry without walls work. I met her at the kitchen of Trinity Episcopal Church in The Woodlands, Texas where Molly, Dulce Salas and their volunteers prep and cook meals.

They had received 160 pounds of donated Texas barbeque—brisket, sausage, ham, and chicken that morning. It would make 400 meals. Molly, Dulce and volunteer Michele Berkowitz made short work of prepping the food, Michele said she saw the food truck on the street one day, looked it up and liked what she read. This is the fourth time she has volunteered to help. The women sliced, pulled, chopped and vacuum-sealed the food and stashed it in the freezer.

Molly drove me to the Needham Road community where she serves regular meals with the help of neighborhood women. Nestled between the West Fork of the San Jacinto River and Grants Lake, the street got hammered with floodwater from both sides.

Most of the residents in this community work long days and try to repair their homes between shifts. Some of them are lucky enough to have a trailer, but some are living in tents in the yard. It’s a close-knit community and people look after one another.

After preparing the meals for the food truck, Molly, Dulce and the volunteers meet at one of the residents’ houses and eat together and often have church together.

Molly said she couldn’t think too long about how much work there is still to do, how many people are in need across the Houston area. “I can’t think about the world’s problems. I just try to stay focused on this little piece that I can do something about” she said.

An Organizer Who Connects People with Services

Image: Mike Smith

If it weren’t for all the churches, we’d be right back where we were right after the storm.

116 days after one of the worst storms ever to hit Houston and South Texas, reminders of Hurricane Harvey are everywhere: from spray-painted scrawls that designate “condemned” buildings to piles of wallboard, carpet and two-by-fours mucked out of homes that can still be salvaged.

There is also a lot that isn’t so obvious, such as the work being done by churches and their indefatigable volunteers from the very communities that were hit or neighboring areas.

Loa Heckendorn is food pantry supervisor for M.I. Lewis Social Services in Dickinson, Texas.

“If it weren’t for all the churches,” she said, “we’d be right back where we were right after the storm.”

On the day I arrived, Ms. Heckendorn was handing diapers, boxes of cereal, and other supplies to Chelsea Weaver, whose baby Ava was born five days before Harvey hit. The family needed food, but the M.I. Lewis offices and warehouse couldn’t supply it on their own. Inundated during the storm, their food supply had been ruined.

Enter Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, which donated space to start a new pantry as well as space in the church buildings for the agency’s office functions.

“Holy Trinity has accommodated anything we need,” said Loa. “A lot of the food has come from the church. I’m not even worried about restocking our pantry. The churches will do that.”

Kecia Mallette is director of operations for Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Dickinson, Texas. She juggles two cell phones and scores of relationships she has made with people all over Dickinson, where roughly 80% of residents suffered damage from Harvey. She bounces over the roads in her black Nissan Frontier, checking on the progress of a rebuilding project or meeting with clergy from other churches in the community, or just stopping by to check on people.

Originally, Mallette’s job was part-time. She came in to help with the parish business processes and to hire and train a new office manager. But Harvey changed all that. Mallette became a founding member of the Galveston County Long Term Recovery Group, sanctioned by FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency). She’s supervised the building of a new website for a group called Galveston County Recovers.

“It’s an interfaith group that includes non-profits, faith-based organizations, community groups, all of them local,” she said. “The disaster was so broad-based, it required all these groups working together.”

Kecia said that approximately 45,000 people applied for FEMA benefits in Galveston County, south of Houston, and probably 4,500 of them will need individual case management to guide them through the maze of agencies they must navigate to get back on their feet. If Kecia thinks this is an overwhelming job, it doesn’t show. She seems to take one thing at a time, and then move on to the next. And she has helped put Holy Trinity at the forefront of disaster response in the community.

A Melting Pot of Cultures Gather For A Food Fair

Image: Mike Smith

They come here for food, but they leave with so much more.

The line forms before sunrise on the day of the “Food Fair” at ECHOS, Episcopal Community Health Outreach Services. Snippets of Spanish, Vietnamese and Mandarin, as well as English, are heard as people huddle under blankets in the parking lot of The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany. Executive Director Cathy Moore buzzes around the office, making sure that the doors can be opened soon to the 150 or so who wait patiently in the morning cold. A table with donated clothing, diapers, bedding and toys is available to all.

Each client fills out paperwork and interviews with an ECHOS case manager to determine the family’s needs. The staff at ECHOS helps clients sign up for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicare and Medicaid. Health care teams from University of Texas Dental Branch, University of Houston Optometric School and Texas Children’s Hospital provide services on a regular basis.

Image: Mike Smith

“They come here for food, but they leave with so much more,” Moore said.

“We want to help them get health services before they walk into an ER when things are so bad, their foot has to come off,” she said. “People wait so long because they think they can’t afford care.”

Through November ECHOS had served almost 11,373 individuals and more than 5,000 households this year. After Harvey, 49% are new clients.

ECHOS was established by The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany in 2001, a response to the rapid influx of immigrants and changing demographics in the Southwest Houston community. Many of ECHOS clients live nearby in apartments, many of which were severely damaged by the flooding.

Image: Mike Smith

After I lost everything in Harvey, the nice people here helped me so I choose to help them. I’ve lost but I’ve also been blessed. I’ll be here anytime they need me.

ECHOS provided rental assistance to many who lost their apartments and needed help getting into new housing. They have also provided beds, dressers and tables.

The twice-a-month food fair provides each family 45-60 pounds of fresh produce, fruits, bread and dairy products. The Houston Food Bank is ECHOS’ long-time partner.

Louis Ramirez hoisted boxes of corn from the food bank trailer. He lives in the Southwest Houston neighborhood and was hit hard by the storm. Ramirez finally got back into an apartment on Nov. 1, with rent assistance from ECHOS.

Now he is the one helping others as a regular volunteer at ECHOS.

“After I lost everything in Harvey, the nice people here helped me so I choose to help them. I’ve lost but I’ve also been blessed,” he said. “I’ll be here anytime they need me.“

A Home Restored

Image: Mike Smith

I pinch myself all the time about this house. I would never have believed this could happen.

Kathy and John Bradley stayed in their Dickinson home during the storm. John has emphysema and a heart condition. Kathy had knee replacement surgery recently, so they both had trouble getting around. When it became obvious that they needed to get out of their house, it was too late.

The mandatory evacuation order came late at night when most people, including the Bradleys, were asleep. The couple couldn’t see how to leave safely or where they would go. They played cards at their kitchen table as the waters rose.

“When the water started coming in,” Kathy said, “we swept it out. I’ve lived in Florida so I’ve dealt with hurricanes before. “

The “22-foot ditch” next door—the bayou—was supposed to handle the excess water. It didn’t. And like so many of their neighbors, the Bradleys’ walls were damaged. When the water finally receded, the house was a mess. It needed extensive repairs.

An insurance adjustor walking down the street of abandoned houses saw a debris pile in the front of the Bradleys’ house. It was the only indication that someone might be living there, so he knocked on the door. The adjustor called a local Presbyterian church that put the Bradleys in touch with The Fuller Center for Housing. Fuller is a non-profit ecumenical organization that partners with community groups to build and rehabilitate homes for people in need.

Fuller sent in a team to rebuild; when I visited, they were putting the finishing touches on the house, which now has a new roof, back wall, siding, bathroom, drywall, kitchen island and cabinets. Kathy chose the colors. Everything except the brick was rebuilt.

Fuller decides whose house can be rebuilt based on several priorities, including: people without insurance, income at 50% of area median, elderly, handicapped, single parents with children at home, and owned by the residents. Homeowners are only required to pay what they receive from their insurance company or FEMA. The estimated cost of the repairs done to the Bradleys’ home was $75-80,000, according to Brian Gioe, Fuller’s building director.

The Bradleys have lived in their house at 4805 27th Street East for 30 years. He’s a former Navy veteran who served on the USS Saratoga. She spends a lot of her time taking care of him.

“I pinch myself all the time about this house. I would never have believed this could happen. If this is our last Christmas together, it will be in a beautiful house.”

Forged in a Flood, Two Churches Form a Unique Partnership

Image: Mike Smith

We will light a candle. We will not let despair rule the day.

When Hurricane Harvey and its endless rains pummeled South Texas, Holy Trinity Church in Dickinson, Texas somehow remained above water, miraculous given that the church building sits next to the banks of the Dickinson Bayou.

Faith Lutheran Church, 1.6 miles around the corner and down the street, wasn’t so lucky. Faith lost pews, hymnals, carpet, flooring and walls. Parishioners don’t expect even to get back into the building until late January. The main worship space will take longer and will cost more than they have.

The Rev. Stacy Stringer, rector of Holy Trinity Church, reached out to her counterpart, Pastor Deb Grant, inviting her and the Faith congregation to share Holy Trinity’s space and worship together. They’ve been doing so ever since, with a kind of tag team approach, alternating preaching and celebrating.

I was there on Advent 1. The priests’ stoles and the Advent wreath candles were blue, not purple, a simple act to recognize the Lutheran tradition.

In the Litany for Advent Hope, Pastor Grant prayed: “People of God, what will you do with hope?

The congregational response: “We will light a candle. We will not let despair rule the day.”

Image: Mike Smith

Advent tells us to keep watch, prepare, to see what is needed and then to do something to help. Maybe this is exactly what I’m being called to do.

In her sermon, the Rev. Stringer spoke of the darkness that had threatened so much of the Dickinson community since Harvey, and how easy it can be to fall into despair. But she reminded worshipers that their community had not fallen, that they were bringing light to the world through their care for each other.

“Advent tells us to keep watch, prepare, to see what is needed and then do something to help, “she said.

The Rev. Stringer never thought much about disaster relief and response, but now says, “Maybe this is exactly what I’m being called to do.”

The church parking lot, which was used as a launching point in September for a flotilla of rescue boats, was full on the Sunday I visited. After services, the Rev. Stringer and Pastor Grant greeted worshipers after the 10:30 service.

People lingered, talking with the ministers and each other, finally leaving to return to their lives, some of which will be in flux for a long time.

Heading back down route 517, I passed Faith Lutheran church and saw the marquee that said, simply: “We Thank God for Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.”

Relearning the Meaning of Ministry at Mount Olive Baptist Church

Image: Mike Smith

We can’t stop doing this. This is what ministry is all about.

It started with a drive through the neighborhood. Pastor Amos Charles Sowell, the minister at Mount Olive Baptist Church in Dickinson, saw peoples’ houses flooded out, all their possessions ruined.

“I didn’t suffer any damage,” he said. “I saw all these other people who lost their homes, cars, everything.”

He decided, he said, that he didn’t need to play as much golf. He asked for volunteers to prepare meals in the church kitchen for neighbors who didn’t know where their next meal would come from. They started small, rice and beans mostly.

“People came here devastated, with tears in their eyes,” he said.

A food pantry contacted the church and asked if it could deliver two truckloads of food. Pastor Sowell said they would take it. Since then the church kitchen has received more than 45 truckloads, and cars line up around the corner and down the street to pick up food.

Pastor Sowell said they give a lot of food to people who come back two or three times a day. But he knows it’s because they are feeding other families, relatives and neighbors. There is a substantial undocumented population in the area, and they are likely some of the recipients.

Mount Olive has 150 active members and twenty of them volunteer regularly to sort, organize and pack. When we visited, two women packed boxes and two men moved them into trunks of waiting cars. Pastor Sowell says he packs boxes in his sleep.

He asked his congregation if they would like to stop this work at the end of October or November. The congregation decided to continue indefinitely. An older woman in the church who regularly volunteers told him, “We can’t stop doing this. This is what ministry is all about.”

Mike Smith is a Major Gift Officer at Episcopal Relief & Development.


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This article was originally published by Episcopal Relief & Development.

The Origins Of The Saint Francis Foundation

The Kansas priest who brought God’s redemptive grace to troubled boys.

Shane Schneider Five-minute read.   Resources

Fr. Bob — The Rev. Robert Mize Jr. (Center) — photographed in 1945 with boys from the St. Francis Boys’ Home
Image: St. Francis Foundation

Western Kansas in the 1940s was a vast expanse of sky and rolling earth sparsely dotted with towns and farmsteads. Episcopalians and their churches were few and far apart, cast across 10,000 square miles of wind-blown prairie served by The Rev. Robert Mize Jr., a young and energetic priest. Fr. Bob served isolated churches and families with a pastoral heart and a spirit of simplicity modeled after Francis of Assisi.

Like Francis, Fr. Bob cared little for money and embraced a poverty that was both practical and unaffected. This was just as well, since the Missionary Diocese of Western Kansas was poor, and his boss, The Rt. Rev. Robert Mize Sr., could barely afford to pay his son’s living expenses. That was okay with Fr. Bob, who preferred to wear donated, second-hand clothing and who gave nearly every coat he owned to homeless men he met on the street. Like Francis, he served Christ by serving the poor and marginalized. He believed resolutely in the power of forgiveness to heal even the most broken, and though he never married, his spiritual children can be counted in the thousands.

Fr. Bob — The Rev. Robert Mize Jr. — 1938
Image: St. Francis Foundation

Nearly 75 years ago, Fr. Bob opened Saint Francis Boys’ Home in the dilapidated former “Old People’s Home” in Ellsworth – against the advice and counsel of, well, nearly everyone. During his travels across the Kansas prairie, Fr. Bob had met many boys in trouble with the law for reasons ranging from truancy and vandalism to car theft and armed robbery. Most ended up in the Topeka Industrial School or other institutions of the juvenile justice system – disregarded, forgotten, written off. That any boy might be given up for lost was an affront to the redemptive power of God, and it troubled him deeply.

Fr. Bob believed a Christ-centered approach held the key to a boy’s rehabilitation. He called it “Therapy in Christ,” and it involved daily prayer, accepting responsibility for one’s actions, unconditional love, and forgiveness. Fr. Bob fervently believed unconditional love and forgiveness (even before it was sought) would enable boys to regain their self-worth and begin to order their lives accordingly.

It didn’t happen overnight. Fr. Bob initially faced skepticism and stiff community opposition in Ellsworth. He spent countless hours apologizing to local merchants, returning stolen merchandise, and tracking down boys on joyrides in stolen cars. Yet, he never wavered in his conviction that unconditional love and forgiveness could change lives. And it did. Gradually, most of the boys quit running, reformed, and left the home to lead happy, productive lives. Eventually, Saint Francis opened another Boys’ Home near Salina, and by the time Fr. Bob left in 1960 to become Bishop of Damaraland in Southwest Africa, the ministry he founded had built a solid reputation of success throughout the state, the nation, and the Church.

Today, Saint Francis Community Services serves more than 10,000 children and families through active ministry in Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Texas, Mississippi, and in the Central American countries of El Salvador and Honduras. As a ministry, Saint Francis serves and advocates for children and families struggling with poverty, drug and alcohol dependency, mental health issues, domestic violence, refugee status, and human trafficking.

Bob Mize died in 2000 following other successful ministries in Africa and the United States. Today, he lies buried back on the windswept prairie, in a humble church cemetery near rural Hays. Many over the years have called him a saint; perhaps he was. Only God knows for sure. But to the thousands of children and youth served by Saint Francis over the last seven decades, Fr. Bob’s vision gave life-saving healing, hope, and redemption.

Shane Schneider is the Senior Copywriter for The Saint Francis Foundation and Saint Francis Community Services. He is the major contributor for Saint Francis’ quarterly magazine Hi-Lites.


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Book Review: “Do This, Remembering Me”

The Rev. Jerry Kolb One-minute read.   Resources

What’s the most difficult pastoral care visit you’ve had to make? I suspect that many would say it is visiting a person who has advanced dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. There is now help with this issue in the form of a very practical little book written by an Episcopal priest, Colette Bachand-Wood.

In this 111-page paperback book, she conveys some her own experience with her demented father together with her pastoral experience as a Hospice Chaplain and a parish priest. She introduces you to a number of people and uses their stories to help you understand particular situations. Over the years she has collected these ‘stories’ and presents some very practical and meaningful ‘actions/suggestions’ to help in ministering to these people.

While much of the book is focused on providing pastoral care, the suggestions and activities she offers are just as valuable to family members dealing with this issue. She provides a number of the most common signs of dementia and suggests some ways to best approach these people. Helping people to recognize their own body language, choosing the best words and being aware of your own tone of voice are some of the suggestions she offers to help in communicating. At the conclusion of the book, she provides three appendices:

  • Putting together a worship service,
  • Prayers, and
  • Resources in which she provides a number of additional activities and services.

Interestingly, the parish she serves is designated as a “Dementia Friendly” parish. She has people in her congregation specifically trained to assist families that want to continue to bring their loved ones to worship. These people know how to assist family members if and when something unexpected might happen. This is a great book and every clergy person should read, mark and inwardly digest the wisdom that Colette Bachand-Wood has so succinctly shared with her readers. It was published in 2016 by Morehouse Publishing and is available through Church Publishing or Amazon.

The Rev. Jerry Kolb is a Chaplain to the Retired Clergy and Surviving Spouses for The Diocese of West Missouri.