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.

Lake of the Ozarks Stop Human Trafficking Coalition Makes Plans to Begin a Safe House

The Lake of the Ozarks Stop Human Trafficking Coalition is now ready to pursue the second part of the dream they had at their founding: that of developing a safe house for women who have been trafficked.

Sally Kemp Five-minute read.   Resources

Three years ago, when Mike McDonnel and I founded the Lake of the Ozarks Stop Human Trafficking Coalition, our immediate goal was to raise awareness about human trafficking. From the beginning, we wanted the coalition to include people of all faiths and beliefs so we could attack this evil together.

 
Through meetings each month for the coalition we have provided speakers, including survivors, to educate us about human trafficking. We have held events to help hotel and motel personnel recognize trafficking, and we have spoken to numerous local organizations, as well as at The Diocese of West Missouri’s Annual Gathering, and to state and federal meetings. We have met with young people to teach them how to protect themselves and their friends. We have shown films and discussed the trafficking depicted. It has been very gratifying to see our membership grow and become so involved in spreading the word about human trafficking.
 
Now, however, with the help of a very able Board of Directors, we feel that while we will continue to raise awareness, we are ready to pursue the other part of the dream we had at our founding: to develop a safe house for women who have been trafficked. Our vision is to provide an extended-stay safe house where women who have been terribly traumatized and are having a particularly hard time putting their lives back together, could heal and face the world again.
 
This will call for an extended program of one to two years during which time the victim can feel welcome and safe while rebuilding confidence in herself.  A safe house would establish an emotionally safe environment, develop trustworthiness, restore choice and control so that the victim could believe in her ability to solve problems, support the development of coping mechanisms, facilitate connection with others, build strength, and allow her to respond to different situations and types of people.
 
The safe house we envision would be welcoming and appropriate to the special needs of trauma survivors. All aspects of the program would be responsive to the deeply-seated effects of trauma.
 
At the outset, 4-6 women would be a part of the extended program. After several years it might extend to 10. This year we will begin to look at possible answers to housing and begin training members who wish to work with victims, as well as begin to raise the considerable sums of money that will make this possible. With God’s help, the help of our able board, members, and the generosity of the people of the lake area, we hope to open our extended-stay safe house within the next two-three years.
 
To donate to the safe house, please visit our website.

Sally Kemp is President of the Lake of the Ozarks Stop Human Trafficking Coalition (LOSHTC), and serves as a Lay Eucharistic Minister, and Lay Eucharistic Visitor with St. George Episcopal Church, Camdenton.


 

Facts, Figures, and Men’s Role in Human Trafficking

What’s the truth behind human trafficking, and how men specifically can work on eradicating it. A paper presented at the Human Trafficking Workshop for Men held at St. John’s Springfield, on September 17, 2017.

Mike McDonnell 20 minute read.   Resources

 

Editor’s Note. I’d like to warn readers that Mike’s paper makes hard reading. It doesn’t pull any punches, and it confronts, head on, a topic most people would rather not discuss. Human, and specifically male sexuality. The sad truth is that 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.

 

Mike McDonnell presents details of the breadth of the human trafficking problem.
Mike McDonnell presents details of the breadth of the human trafficking problem.
Image credit: Gary Allman

Many years ago I was intently listening to a Lenten Service sermon when the priest counseled his listeners with a statement that I remember to this day. “We will be judged not so much by what we do, but what we don’t do,” I remember it because it was true and it resounded with my soul. Since that day many years ago I have heard the same words spoken again and again. To be honest, I had probably heard those words spoken prior to that day, but I wasn’t spiritually mature enough to respond. My mind was filled with “Mike talk.” It is a problem that I share with many people that do not hear or, in some cases, who hear but ignore or do not recognize the voice of God when encountered.

Fr. Brian McVey, Church of the Advent, Nashville, is interviewed by the by the Springfield media during the Human Trafficking workshop. Image credit: Gary Allman

Therefore, I humbly extend an invitation to each of you to thoughtfully consider, if only for a moment, the possibility that you have ignored the Father’s calling to act not once, but countless times? I have certainly been guilty of disregarding His call, and I am sure that some of you may not have responded when called. Now my challenge to you this day as you listen to Father McVey speak and I tell you about what I know is that you consider the possibility that what you are hearing is God whispering to you to act against this most horrific crime against humanity, the enslavement of another human being.

In 2012 President Obama made an important statement concerning human trafficking:

“It ought to concern every person because it is a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every community because it tears at our social fabric. It ought to concern every business because it distorts markets. It ought to concern every nation because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime. I’m talking about injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name—modern slavery.” 1

What I decided to do with the president’s message is to substitute “man” or male in the appropriate places in the text. The statement immediately becomes gender-specific as it should well be for every man who has a strong desire for equality and justice. Consequently, the statement now reads: It ought to concern every man because it is a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every male-owned business because it distorts markets. It ought to concern every man in every nation because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime. I’m talking about injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name—modern slavery.

Labor Trafficking: the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.2

Sex Trafficking: the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion. Or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age.3

Human trafficking encompasses every corner of the world. According to the International Justice Mission, there are more than 36 million people enslaved around the world in a variety of operations.4 Trafficking involves many facets including the trafficking of people for their organs, girls, and boys for sexual exploitation and commercial sexual exploitation in tourism5 including the purchase of children for $7,000 to $14,000 each to be specifically used by ISIS as suicide bombers6. UNICEF has also identified a high level of exploitation occurring in areas, such as prostitution, massage parlors, pornography, forced marriage, sweat-shop work, begging, armed services, and migrant farming. Eighty percent of labor trafficking stems from illegal immigrants that have come to the United States with a promise of employment and a better life including undocumented and documented immigrants, oppressed, marginalized populations that are targeted because of their vulnerability7.
According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, the businesses and services most commonly exploited by traffickers are:

  • Advertising (Online and Print)
  • Airlines, bus, rail and taxi companies
  • Financial institutions, money transfer services, and informal cash transfers services
  • Labor brokers, recruitment agencies, or independent recruiters
  • Hospitality industry including hotels and motels
  • Landlords
  • Travel and visa/passport services

Some of the above are used to find victims on advertising sites, such as Craig’s List and Backpage (55% of internet child pornography comes from the United States), and trolling transportation terminals for victims. The fact is that traffickers are everywhere and will utilize legitimate business entities where they are able, to take advantage of immigrants, runaways, and individuals under duress to further their criminal pursuits. It is incumbent that these businesses acknowledge the existence of trafficking in their respective industries and take advantage of their unique standing to identify and report trafficking incidents. If they do, they will deny trafficker’s opportunities to work via legitimate organizations to advance their criminal enterprise.

Industries that benefit directly from the use of labor trafficking victims are agriculture, the services industry, and commercial industries. UNICEF has identified the 128 “worst” offenders and identified the goods that are most likely to be produced by child labor or forced labor, such as gold, sugar cane, coal, cotton, rice, tobacco, cocoa, diamonds, garments, coffee, bricks, and carpets.

A significant step beyond government legislative efforts to halt labor trafficking is to purchase “Fair Trade Certified Products.” Buying Fair Trade means that the laborer’s compensation is fair; they receive healthcare and have the collective bargaining power to negotiate safe work environments. Eliminating and or reducing the profit margin of the organizations supporting labor trafficking will adversely impact the criminal’s financial bottom line reducing their motivation to enslave individuals for monetary gain.

In the United States, we can become more cognizant of businesses that most often are the greatest source of using trafficked victims as a source of labor as identified by DOJ, FBI, National Human Trafficking Resource Center, etc.: small businesses, such as roofing companies, asphalt companies, nail and hair salons, hotels and motels, restaurants, agriculture, labor brokers, employers of domestic servants, mall kiosks, travelling sales crews or illegal businesses, such as drugs, arms trade or panhandling, etc. Many times legal businesses will use contracted workers and are unaware that they are using trafficking victims as a source of labor. Consequently, businesses, no matter their size, need to be aware of the legitimacy of laborers they used through sub-contractors by requesting employers to provide the worker’s credentials, such as passports, visas, green cards, I9’s, and vetting the providing contractor, if necessary.

Indicators that might indicate an individual is being trafficked: Do workers have identification? Is there a preponderance of non-English speaking workers with one individual speaking for the entire group? And is their movement closely monitored, such as being unable to leave the work area even to use the bathroom without an escort? To aid in identifying victims, I am providing some information cards that fit into a billfold, and brochures that you may take with you showing trafficking indicators and a hotline number for reporting suspicious activities.

I continue my paper by concentrating on sex trafficking, pornography, domestic abuse and the shocking and destructive effect that these actions perpetuate on our society. Specifically, the horrific impact they have on the lives of women which demand our attention. However, because the balance of my presentation is fixed on sex trafficking and women, I do not want anyone to believe for a moment that labor trafficking or the sexual abuse of boys and men is acceptable because it is not. Three percent of males are trafficked for sex8, and 1 out 10 boys will be victimized before adulthood9. In a 2008 study performed in New York “boys comprised about 50% of sexually exploited children.”10 However, girls and women are the bulk of sexual exploitation, therefore, deserving of my focus this day.

Why do men abuse sex and how do our actions affect our view of women? Why are men willing to risk reputations, families, and careers to engage in self-indulgent sex? My conversation with you squarely focuses on “us” and the consequences of our unconstrained actions, buying sex, the use of pornography for personal gratification and its impact on our souls, society, and the women and families we assert to love. And finally, can anything be done to change the present circumstances?

Sex trafficking may be the most hideous crime ever to confront humanity affecting some 4½ million females worldwide. The revenues from human trafficking are estimated to be $150 billion with $99 billion derived from commercial sexual exploitation, $32 billion from construction and manufacturing, $9 billion from agriculture including forestry and fishing, and $8 billion saved annually by employers of private home domestic workers under the conditions of forced labor.11

FBI statistics show that sex trafficking is the fastest-growing business of organized crime. Every year in the US approximately 300,000 American youths are at risk becoming victims of sex trafficking.12 Within 48 hours one in three runaways is solicited by sex traffickers, with one in eight likely to be a victim. Amazingly, the average age of girl preyed on by pimps is 12 years old.13 In the article “Life on the Street: New Wave of Prostitution with More Violence Is Overwhelming Los Angeles Authorities,” Miles Corwin reports that a madam told a room filled with 30 other madams and call girls that more and more of her male customers were asking her to procure 12 or 13-year-old girls. Give that request some thought. These young girls will be raped, “broken in” to perform various forms of sexual acts, suffer physical abuse and tortured as they groom them for the sex business. They will be compelled to have sex with several men daily to earn their pimps as much as $5,000 to $30,000 plus a week.14

The truth is that these numbers can be overwhelming, seriously depressing and very scary; especially, for those of you with young children. If you were to Google “sex trafficking” you find government and private organizations, such as, the FBI, DOJ, Polaris, National Human Trafficking Resource Center, Administration of Children and Family Services, UNICEF, etc. with statistical analysis that would fill several typewritten pages with unimaginable facts validating the immense impact of sex trafficking on our society. It is a sad commentary on men. We are by far the biggest perpetrators of this social catastrophe, well over 90%. We are the traffickers, the pimps and the johns that ultimately are the suppliers, marketers, and customers that tolerate the peddling of our children, wives, and girlfriends for control, money, drugs, and personal sexual gratification. These shocking and disturbing issues must be at the forefront of our social agendas to stop sex trafficking, especially, if we want to make a positive change in the lives of girls and women everywhere. If we men think that we are not impacted by trafficking because we do not pay for a prostitute or sell our own children for drugs or sex we better wake up, and quickly. The private conversations we have concerning women and the sexual comments we make are overheard by young men and our youth and are accepted as reality. We need to transform ourselves and the world. So, let us begin!

In my three years learning about human trafficking and specifically sex trafficking over the last several months, I have thought a lot about how to categorize the various key components of the trafficking business. If I were to put together a process chart, I would place them in the following order:

  1. Vulture
  2. Trafficker
  3. Pimp
  4. John

The vulture (or recruiter) is searching for his prey until he finds his quarry, in this case, females, especially young girls and young women. According to the International Organization for Migration, 52% of sex trafficked victims are recruited by men, 42% are women, and 6% are both men and women. He or she may find them at shopping malls, bus stations, walking down the street or in your neighbor’s home. Potential victims are everywhere. He wants the girl that has suffered abuse or may have run away from home to escape, or has low self-esteem or maybe came from a dysfunctional family. He will present himself as a savior, someone who will love, care and protect them, providing them with a sense of security. After he gains their confidence, he will take on the role of sex trafficker or sell them to a trafficker.

The sex trafficker will begin the grooming process by raping or having the girl raped several times by different men, forcing her to perform various expected sex acts. This may take days or weeks, but the girl will be primed to perform as asked or she will be beaten, starved, humiliated and even killed. They will strongly imply that if she does not do what she is told she will be blackmailed with pictures and or videos showing her performing various sex acts. The images will be sent to her family, church, and friends. If she still refuses, they will threaten to kill her family or target an additional family member for prostitution, usually a younger sister or even a brother.

The pimp is the marketer and the seller of sex services. He will take the product to market, expecting high return with little risk for his investment. He will advertise the girls on the internet, take them to sporting events, nightclubs, truck stops, exotic dance clubs and have the girls walk the streets, potentially earning himself over a million dollars annually. The girl’s salary is $0, with their freedoms restricted; they will be under constant surveillance and expected to provide unrestricted sexual favors multiple times. At the end of their sex career, they will suffer from Post Traumatic Stress, potentially endure multiple pregnancies and abortions, sexual diseases, beaten numerous times and even slain. They will more than likely die from a drug overdose, suicide, malnutrition or be killed at a young age because they would no longer comply with the pimp or john or maybe they are no longer attractive and a moneymaker.

The john is you and me. We could be a doctor, lawyer, minister, factory worker, engineer, sanitation worker, office clerk …

We, my friends, are the reason that young girls are taken from their homes, that families are broken and that women have to suffer a lifetime of humiliation.

The john is you and me. We could be a doctor, lawyer, minister, factory worker, engineer, sanitation worker, office clerk; in other words; it could be any of us. There is a good likelihood that we are married with children or even grandchildren and look at pornography on a regular basis. We, my friends, are the reason that young girls are taken from their homes, that families are broken and that women have to suffer a lifetime of humiliation. We are the purchasers of illicit sex.

As men of God, we need to become accountable for our actions and the actions of all men. This evil will continue to exist for as long as man walks this earth if we continue to ignore our responsibility to women. As men, we need to be proactive, take the initiative and begin change.

To accomplish this transformation, we need to initiate the process of scrutinizing our relationships with the girls and women in our lives. More importantly, we must consider what we can do to move the generational thought process of boys and young men beyond seeing women as a sexual object to appreciate better the female role as a worthy partner in our lives. This process needs to start with us and be transferred down to every generation of males in our realm of influence.

Slavery has been around for thousands of years. Men and women have been forced into bondage because of war, poverty and their sex. Certainly, women and children had little say about their circumstances being forced into situations where they performed labor and or provided sexual favors to their captors. I have often thought about the Samaritan woman at the well from the Gospel of John.

416Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” John 4:16-18

Women were and are still used as a property in many parts of the world to satisfy and serve the needs of men. In considering this passage, I wondered why this woman was married five times? Was she divorced each time or did her spouses die or was she trafficked in the patriarchal order of that period? There are many reasons a male over 2,000 years ago could have contrived to rid himself of an unwanted female. Maybe she was too fat, too old, too skinny, bad sex or maybe she could not produce a male heir. Whatever the reason she was being passed from man to man for their personal use, financial benefit, and pleasure, much as women are today.

Jesus knew her heart. Consequently, he is speaking to her with compassion and understanding. By his words he acknowledges her as a person as with every woman encountered, he took the time to explain to her who he was and his purpose.

413Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14

425The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” 26Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”John 4:25-26

We may rationalize in our minds that she was disreputable, but my instincts tell me that she had not been living a life of her choosing. Her questions were straightforward and her responses to Jesus genuine. She is by all indications a woman of little means, few friends and trapped in a system that provided no freedom and little promise for a better life. In short, she was trafficked. I doubt if anyone considered her plight as an individual being trafficked for labor and or sexual favors; after all, she was a woman and more than likely considered nothing more than disposable property. However, Jesus words filled her with hope and excitement.

It is evident from the various documentaries, news reports, and women marching in the streets, occupying important political offices and executive positions in large corporations indicate that some things have and are changing. However, the question remains, has it changed significantly enough to make a real difference in their lives? Looking at the situation from a female’s perspective, not much. Men in high political positions hurl insults at women; executives still pressure women for sexual favors (Fox News is a recent example), and 1 in 5 women on college campuses are raped annually.15

Have you ever compared nude art and pornography, and wondered to yourself, what’s the big deal, is it not the same? Ravi Zacharias, Christian Apologists, notes that while both utilize nude figures, one stimulates the immoral instincts in man while the other strives to highlight the beauty of man, and thus “the glory of God.”16

If ever in history there has been a crime against the will and mind of man it is pornography. The depiction of women being subjugated by men for their personal sexual gratification has been portrayed in stories and movies for years. The image of beautiful, seductive women meeting our sensual desires is a dream that men have had throughout the ages. Of course, even more tantalizing is women seeking out men for passionate sex with no strings attached.

I have had conversations with men who say that they use pornography to enhance their sexual relationships. Possibly, that may be true in the short-term, but the long-term consequences go well beyond the initial pleasure. The impact on women and young girls is a tragedy of life-changing proportions. The resultant effect is that the lives of young girls and women are sometimes damaged beyond repair. Men will eventually find that sexual arousal is only available through the more graphic depiction of sexual activities up to torture and potentially, murder. Typical sexual encounters with his spouse or girlfriend will depend on these visual displays to aid in finding sexual arousal and gratification.

Now, before continuing on the deceit that is found in pornography and destructiveness, it brings to the individual, and his family, I will address the victims of sexual violence, and be assured that pornography is not victimless.

Sex is a godly and a good act when performed with a woman that you love. However, if you have watched or purchased porn, please be aware that 1 in 5 images is of a child. It is estimated that many come from homes where they have already suffered severe abuse with porn becoming an extension of that exploitation. These kids are homeless, runaways and to be honest just “throwaway kids.”17 The children are used for diversifying the sex trafficker’s revenue sources and represent’s a $3 billion dollar industry. I guess you could say that the kids are in the minor leagues of the sex racket for porn and prostitution. They start the girls out watching porn to desensitize them as to the sex acts they will be asked to perform many times daily.

Why do men turn to porn? What is it in porn that men cannot find in a normal relationship. Is it more tantalizing, more satisfying? Men turn to porn for a variety of reasons:

  • Partner is not satisfying
  • Partner is not sexually available
  • Partner is sexually unattractive
  • All men do it, why not me?

Pornography addiction is not something that occurs overnight. It is a “process addiction” that may have been unintentionally initiated by looking at soft porn but begins to take on life as a want leading to an apparent need. Once the user associates the porn as a need rather than want, your brain discharges dopamine “releasing the same chemical involved when a drug is ingested.”18 “Dopamine fixes your attention on that desirable object” (porn), “giving you your power of concentration.”19

Wives of porn addicts suffer trauma, blaming themselves for their husband’s addiction. Think about the indelible impression and profound hurt that your wife may feel walking into a room finding you masturbating while viewing pornography or possibly even worse, sneaking glances at pictures of naked women during sexual intercourse. I had an encounter with a very beautiful woman who was distraught and bewildered because she found that her husband was looking at a Playboy centerfold during coitus. The entire episode ended badly for her husband. My guess is that they are no longer married unless he has sought help for his addiction, and my friends it is an addiction.

Women ask themselves why their husbands prefer images or videos to them. Are they not attractive enough or is sex with them boring? The truth is that as the addiction takes hold of your life, even a beautiful woman will seem physically repulsive. Pornography produces an alternative reality in the mind of a porn addict potentially damaging any chance of having a normal relationship without seeking professional help.

The enormous problem with an addiction to porn is that the door is opening to a greater darkness in the mind and heart. Addicts will no longer find the same satisfaction that they had initially derived from viewing sex media; consequently, they will seek extreme sources of hedonism to satisfy their need for sexual excitement in order to fill the emptiness that they have in their personal lives. Their ability to have a normal sexual relationship will disintegrate, and will eventually cost them their job, marriage, family relationships and potentially lead to more unrestrained behavior including extreme forms of sexual perversions, such as sexual torture and murder. Pornography has also been linked to rape, sexual abuse, and users of sex trafficking victims, and sex workers.

I mentioned earlier that johns come from every walk of life composing a heterogeneous population. Consequently, it is difficult to pin down a particular profile and reason for using prostitutes for personal gratification. Men who have been interviewed concerning why they use prostitutes provide an interesting insight into the rationale behind their actions. Some comments range from just being lonely to pure uncontrollable lust. In a 2010 ABC report on “Why Men Buy Sex.” one man commented that it was “No big deal”; it was just like buying a beer. Some other comments:

  • “Prostitution is like masturbating without having to use your hand.”
  • “I feel sorry for these girls, but this is what I want.”
  • “Look, men pay for women because he can have whatever and whoever he wants. Lots of men go to prostitutes so they can do things to them that real women would not put up with.”
  • “We’re living in the age of instant coffee, instant food. This is instant sex.”
  • “Prostitution is a last resort to unfulfilled sexual desires. Rape would be less safe, or if you’re forced to hurt someone, or if you’re so frustrated you masturbate all day.”

It is evident from their comments that these men see women as vessels for their personal sexual enjoyment, not as an equal.

Professor Neil Malmuth, UCLA, researched men who buy sex-determining that prostitution is a form of sexual abuse. Professor Malmuth makes two key points about the similarities between men who buy sex and men who are at risk for sexual aggression:

  1. ‘Both groups tend to prefer impersonal sex, a fear of rejection by women, a history of having committed sexually aggressive acts and a hostile masculine self-identification.’
  2. ‘Men who buy sex, on average, have less empathy for women in prostitution and view them as intrinsically different from other women.’20

The wide-ranging problems with men and sexual abuse are complicated, to say the least, but I hope that you see the connection with sex trafficking, pornography, and prostitution as a continuous circle each inter-connected and feeding the other. The complexities that are derived from the male’s mental attitude towards women are far more complicated than we will discuss. However, the connections are real, and the challenge for every man taking part in this discussion is how do we transform our thinking, and deal with our own problems, and how do we disseminate this knowledge to our children and grandchildren?

So, what is this awareness that as men we should impart to our male children? I am warning you that the answer is simple, but a thorny problem because men feel it is something that a person needs to earn. It is the same thing that you and I crave every day of our lives, respect. Respect for ourselves is hoped for, but how do we disseminate that same regard we seek to our mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, and as a matter of point, all women? Respect is really problematic only because of long-held attitudes of women being submissive to men making them susceptible to abuse and attacks that are so ingrained in our society globally that if we don’t change, women will always be victims of male abuse.

The only way, I believe, to alter this cycle of abuse is to instruct our boys and young men regarding respect, consent, and non-violence in relationships. If we start teaching the male children in our lives at this very moment, we have an opportunity to ensure that women will be considered equals and treated with dignity. We must pray that a female baby born this very day will grow up in a world that honors her sex, respects her as a human being and loves her for who she is, a child of God.

If addicted, what can you do?

What can you do if you have a problem with sexual addiction? First, give yourself a pat on the back, because you have just crossed the first barrier to recovery by taking responsibility for your actions. The good news is that your success is obtainable now that you have accepted the challenge of altering your life’s direction. So, what do you do next? Seek professional help for your spiritual and emotional well-being! You can begin the spiritual recovery process with a priest or minister by seeking prayer, counseling, and absolution. However, to succeed in a permanent transformation, you will need sustained support from your pastor, family and the guidance of professional psychologist or psychiatrist experienced in sex therapy. Remember, it is a beginning, and with the right assistance, you will begin to see the light of hope at the end of a very dark tunnel leading to reclaiming your life.

If the information that I offered today has disturbed you or stirred your heart or possibly made you angry enough that you want to take action I have provided you with a few action items that you can begin undertaking as soon as you leave today:

  • Buy Fair Trade Products, transfairusa.org
  • Teach the males in your sphere of influence respect for women
  • Inform yourself about human trafficking through research and by attending workshops
  • Support anti-trafficking legislation by meeting and or writing your federal and state legislators
  • Volunteer your time with anti-trafficking organizations
  • Learn to recognize the human trafficking indicators

Conclusion:

President Harry Truman once said, that “great men’s first victories in life were over themselves and their carnal urges. Self-discipline with all of them came first“.21 We do not have to go too far back in history to find the truth in Truman’s words. Sex is powerful, seductive, rewarding and destructive at times. I know that there was a time in my life and the lives of many of my male friends where sex seemed to be on our minds 24×7, almost completely controlling all our actions. As men, we need to open our minds and hearts to what we can do to stop Human Trafficking. Albert Einstein was quoted as saying:

“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”

I think it is imperative that we don’t ignore evil or God speaking to us by doing nothing.

As I said earlier, “Let us begin.”

Mike McDonnell is co-founder of the Lake of the Ozarks Stop Human Trafficking coalition, and member of St. George Episcopal Church, Camdenton.

Resources

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References:

  1. Human Trafficking by the Numbers. Retrieved from http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/human-trafficking-numbers
  2. Retrieved from, www.co.washington.mn.us/2422; Trafficked Victims Protection Act, TVPA 2000
  3. Retrieved from, www.co.washington.mn.us/2422; Trafficked Victims Protection Act, TVPA 2000
  4. International Justice Mission, 2016
  5. Department of Homeland Security, Definition of Human Trafficking, www.dhs.gov/ble-campaign/definition-human-trafficking
  6. Random Facts, 55 Little Known Facts About Human Trafficking, facts.randomhistory.com/human-trafficking-facts.html
  7. Utah trafficking in Persons Task Force, Captain Fernando Rivero
  8. National Institute of Justice and Disease Control & Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey, 1998
  9. Child Maltreatment Report, 2012
  10. Catholic Citizen, Men and Boys Sex Trafficking Overlooked, May 11, 2016
  11. Human Rights First, 01/07/17
  12. Christian Science Monitor, October 2016
  13. National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking
  14. Urban Institute, May 11, 2014
  15. www.trafficking.org
  16. National Sexual Violence Resource Center, Statistics About Sexual Violence
  17. Ella Hutchinson, Licensed Professional Counselor
  18. Ravi Zacharias, Theo-Sophical Ruminations, Art vs. Pornography: What’s the Difference, May27, 2009
  19. Kevin Majeres, MD, www.purityispossible.com
  20. Professor Neil Malmuth, UCLA, MAILONLINE, Sept. 15, 2015
  21. Samuel W. Rushay Jr., Prologue Magazine, Spring 2009, Harry Truman and his History Lessons

Food Pantry, Necessity Pantry & Christmas Toy/Winter Hats Ministry

St. Michael’s, Independence – ministry now offers toys for children up through age sixteen

The Rev. Dr. Douglas P. Johnson Five-minute read.   Resources

Christmas toys ready for collection at St. Michael’s Supplied image

I have been a priest in The Diocese of West Missouri, both active and retired, for nearly thirty-five years. So, I have become familiar with many of our congregations and their various ministries. St. Michael’s Episcopal Church is one of those. Granted, I saw it mostly from a distance until I became their Interim Rector early in the fall of 2016.

St. Michael’s is certainly not one of our larger congregations with an average Sunday attendance of less than 100, but they are some of the hardest working folks I have ever seen in the Church. This hard work is reflected in every area of their life and allows them to see God at work in the deeper recesses of the soul. Given their size, the amount of their outreach ministry is especially noteworthy and almost beyond compare.

Our Food Pantry is open twice a week for whoever needs it – no pre-qualifications or vouchers needed. Our Necessity Pantry is open twice a month, voucher needed, and provides almost any of the basic necessities of life that you could think of. Did I mention that we also operate a clothes closet on the side, striving to keep clothes reflective of the current season? All of this serves about 250 families or just over 700 people each month. It is an amazing and a wonderfully graced ministry of the Lord!

In the middle of December as we opened the doors on our Necessity Pantry, our annual Christmas Toy and Winter Hat Ministry also went into full gear.

Let me explain. Although a good number of folks at St Michael’s contribute toward this ministry financially, spiritually, and physically by working at the Necessity Pantry, the lion’s share of the work on this is done each year by Cecelia Carter. Cecelia is the one who gathers together our delegated resources, both those we have raised and those she has brought together. This year, for the Christmas Toy Ministry, those resources have approached $2000, not to mention all the toys which were just brought in by folks. Because of God’s grace working through Cecelia and the people of St. Michael’s, we were able to give out hundreds of toys to families who would have had nothing under the tree otherwise. This is a labor of love for Cecelia and none of it would happen without her.

Let me tell you just a little bit about Cecelia. As a youngster, she recalls the times that the only Christmas she ever really experienced was from donations being given to the City Union Mission. She will tell you the story about how one of the gifts she longed for was a Bible and that years later she happened to be at a dinner party where one of the guests commented about a young girl he had come across years before at the Mission, and that all she wanted for Christmas was a Bible. The two, as it were, were finally reunited. Much of her working life was spent as a social worker at the City Union Mission where she found herself involved with much the same sort of thing. She was always trying to find toys for children at Christmas. She continues to live life with a soft, gentle soul and a longing for the Lord. She found her way to St. Michael’s in 2011. It seems now as though that was a path led by God. She first began collecting toys to distribute through St. Michael’s when Mother Pat Miller (the rector at the time) made announcements about families using our Food Pantry having additional needs for Christmas. And then it began, as God placed it upon Cecelia’s heart to act.

The first year toys were collected just for children up to five years of age. Gradually the age began to rise as both Cecelia as the folks at St. Michael’s saw the larger need. This ministry now offers toys for children up through age sixteen. To begin with, Cecelia did all of this by herself and actually guarded it from others. But she has learned to open herself to God’s grace as well as this has become more and more a ministry of the body of Christ gathered at St. Michael’s. Cecelia is still very much the one in charge though.

The amazing thing is that parents, when they come in, don’t take the toys you think they might take. Greed does not seem to be the motivator for the majority of those we serve. 

The Rev. Dr. Douglas P. Johnson is Interim Rector at St. Michael’s, Independence.

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