Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Advent 2007

Shadow Stomp:
The light shines in the darkness and the darkness shall not overcome it.

I grew up on a street named Yosemite Drive. In our neighborhood all the streets were named for national parks: Yellowstone, Rushmore, Everglade, Shenandoah. In the winter months, when it was too cold for our bicycles, my gang of friends would walk these streets. I remember during Christmas break we would move from one friend’s home to another begging Christmas cookies from our moms, and checking out cool, new Christmas gifts.
Of course, we were boys. We could not simply walk from house to house without some diversion, some game, some kind of alternative to boring, ordinary walking. So we played tag as we ran down the street. But this was not your ordinary game of tag which had safe bases at trees or on a lawn chair. Our game never really had a name; but as I remember it now I think Shadow Stomp would be a perfect name. Our game was a more advanced and brutal version of tag. The object was not to tag a person or anything as real and tangible as their body. The object was to tag their shadow; actually we would stomp on shadows. Our game never had a score, or rules. We never had an official start or finish. But we played all the time instead of walking. It was an activity that simply erupted in our young glee.
Shadows after dark were, of course, created by our streetlights. These were the old fashioned streetlights, attached at the top of electric poles, shining directly down. Our gang would sprint down the streets of our neighborhood trying with all the energy and speed we could muster to stomp on a friend’s shadow. We stomped, and sought to destroy our best friend’s shadow. No bodies were supposed to be touched. No one was ever hurt except the occasional fool who slipped on an untied shoelace and crashed to the asphalt. We were after shadows, and we learned to duck, and twist, and jump to make our shadows evade every attack.
The streetlights provided the light and our bodies made the shadows. But as we traveled down the street the light from the streetlight behind us would fade away, and our shadow would die into all the other darkness. Then a new streetlight from up ahead would catch us in its light now casting a shadow the opposite way. So we would race from streetlight to streetlight, casting shadows, trying to protect our own while we sought and stomped on others. Making this game even more fun is a simple fact of light and shadows. We all knew by intuition and learning that if a person stood directly, exactly, perfectly underneath a streetlight there would be no shadow. Now the game would get funny and brutal. A person was victorious, could not be defeated, could not be stomped on if they stood directly, exactly, perfectly underneath the streetlight. It was possible to be fully in the light without creating any shadow. As our game escalated, we would soon be a group of pushing, tackling, shoving boys, each trying to push the other out of that special spot. We each wanted to stand in that perfect spot beneath the streetlight where the light was complete and no shadows existed.
So it is in this season of Advent, that we ponder again Jesus Christ as a gift of light to our world. And I pray this Advent we may find ourselves standing so completely in the light of Christ that our lives will not cast any shadow. Amen!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Mission opportunities in Honduras

I have been working to build a partnership with the Presbytery of Honduras where several of our congregations already have intentional mission commitments. I have gathered here a list of opportunities which may be pursued by our congregations as mission opportunities in Honduras. For more information about the Presbytery of Honduras or any of these opportunities please contact me at the Presbytery office:

Habitat for Humanity:
Habitat for Humanity is well established throughout Honduras using the same model for new home construction which is familiar to us in the United States. Kathy Wells and I have met with the staff of Habitat in Honduras several times. Their staff is very eager to work with us and also make connections directly with the Presbytery of Honduras.
We are in the initial stages of planning a mission trip in support of Habitat for Humanity in June 2008.

Relations with the Presbytery of Honduras:
This is my primary purpose with our work in Honduras. I would like to create close personal and spiritual relationships between our Presbytery and the pastors and church leaders of the Presbytery of Honduras. My overarching goal in working with the Presbytery to Honduras is to create a partnership between our church leaders and their church leaders.

Tim and Gloria Wheeler:
The Wheelers are the only Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) full time mission coworkers in Honduras. The Wheelers are funded by our international mission program and work in cooperation with Heifer Project International. Beyond the traditional Heifer Project ministry, the Wheelers are expanding their ministry in other areas including housing, nutrition, and community development. The Wheelers hosted our October 2007 mission team for dinner in their Tegucigalpa home. Our Second Presbyterian Church in Carlisle has close relations with the Wheelers. (Please see the 2007 Mission Year book (page 59) for the essay by the Wheelers.)

Sunday School in Honduras:
During our October 2007 mission trip, the Presbytery of Honduras asked me to make a presentation to them concerning Sunday School and Christian education. I used this opportunity to discuss with them the nature and function of their Sunday Schools. Kathy Wells has written a report concerning what we learned about their Sunday Schools. (Ask me for a written copy of Kathy’s report). It is not uncommon for the Honduras Presbyterian Churches to have more children in Sunday school than adults in worship. We would like to develop ways to support these Sunday schools.

Presbyterian Medical Clinics:
The Presbytery of Honduras offers free medical clinics in all of their churches. The principle clinic is in the Pena de Horeb church and operates every week. The Presbytery of Honduras has hired a Honduran medical doctor, Dr. Moreno to lead these clinics. Our Christ Church in Camp Hill has now led two medical mission trips in cooperation with the Presbytery of Honduras. (Our Christ Church would be glad to provide orientation for any churches interested in leading medical clinics in Honduras.) These medical clinics in the Presbytery of Honduras are also supported by the Presbytery of Tampa Bay.
Our Gettysburg Church also has a very effective medical mission trip in Honduras for two weeks every June. Although not associated with the Presbytery of Honduras this is very effective medical mission work in cooperation with Cure International.

The Merienda program:
At the request of the Presbytery of Honduras, the Presbytery of Tampa Bay started a program to offer a nutritious breakfast program for all the children attending Sunday school each week. Donations of whole oats and evaporated milk are necessary to keep this program going.

High School scholarships:
High school in Honduras requires tuition, thus many youth cannot attend. The Presbytery of Honduras in cooperation with the Presbytery of Tampa Bay has created a scholarship program for Presbyterian high school students. The Presbytery of Honduras administers this program including the applications, disbursement of the funds, and the evaluation of the students. The Presbytery of Tampa Bay is seeking individuals and churches to help provide the funds to make education available to Presbyterian high school students in Honduras. One high school scholarship is $300.

A new church building for the Nacaome Presbyterian Church
The Rev. Gloria Huete is the pastor of the Nacaome Church. The congregation is meeting in a home which they must rent. A $5,000 gift from a Presbyterian in Tampa Bay has purchased the land in Nacaome for a new church. The Presbytery of Honduras has requested our Presbytery of Carlisle make a commitment to build a new church for this congregation. The cost of this building is $10,000. This is a vital project for the Presbytery of Honduras but will require significant preparation and planning for us to implement.

Our Market Square Presbyterian Church has had a connection with the mission organization Waterlines which provides access to drinking water in rural village around the world. We are working to connect a Waterlines project and the Presbytery of Honduras.

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) missionary
Given the generosity and strength of the mission work of the congregations within the Presbytery of Carlisle, is it time for us to ponder a bold goal? Should our Presbytery fund a new, international missionary position through our international mission program? If this new missionary was available and funded it may be possible for their position to be in partnership with the Presbytery of Honduras.

We are called to be a mission-shaped people in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.