Friday, August 21, 2009

Our Missionaries in Honduras: Mark and Ashley Wright

Praise God! Ashley and Mark Wright and their three children arrived safely in Honduras to begin their mission service. Please see their mission connections webpage at:

You may find webpages for all of our Presbyterian international missionaries at missionconnections. Please pray for the Wrights as they begin their service with the Presbyterian Church in Honduras. This article is copied from their initial mission connections article:

Rev. Mark and Ashley Wright

The Wrights are the first Presbyterian mission co-workers to serve with the Presbyterian Church of Honduras. They began their service in July 2009. They’re tasked with leadership and theological training, as well as promoting congregational self-sufficiency in the Honduran context. While their primary role is helping to build the capacity of local church leaders, the Wrights also nurture and resource the PC(USA)’s mission network.

Once the center of the Mayan empire, Honduras is a now a sparsely populated, mountainous country in Central America, and one of the poorest in the Western Hemisphere. Throughout most of the last century it has been ruled by various military dictatorships, but since the 1980s the military has been more restrained and democracy is growing, as is the income level of the people. The Presbyterian Church of Honduras consists of 20 churches located within a 60-mile radius from the capital city, Tegucigalpa. The church members are said to be so enthusiastic that many meet four days per week: Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday as well as Sunday.

Ashley recalls a particular moment of insight that occurred in India when she was only 10 years old. “We were in New Delhi visiting the Taj Mahal and it was very, very hot. We had walked back up to the front along the flat pools, and were standing next to a man chopping sugar cane. He tossed the left-over ends into a huge pile on his left, and many children were scampering onto the pile looking for pieces that had any juice left in them. I started watching a little girl who was about 6 years old. She stopped in front of me and we stared each other up and down—I in my dress and shoes and hat and she in a dirty undergarment but with a gold stud in her nose. She was very thin, and from the way she tore into her small stump of discarded sugarcane she was obviously very hungry. For the first time, I realized how extremely blessed I was to have been born into my family in the United States and not into poverty in India. I realized at that young age that I was not put into the world to be a taker, but to be a person who gives and makes the world better.”

Mark tells about the time during his junior year abroad in 1986-87 when he was part of a group of American students who crossed the Berlin Wall and were hosted by a group of students in East Germany. The two groups defended their countries vigorously. Then, Mark reports, “As the evening wore on and our leaders went home for the night, we all began to talk and defend less and listen more. Words got easier, ideas and ideologies got softer, and we all began to be able to admit both the faults of and our love for our respective nations. A wall fell that day. Later, during graduate school at the University of Salzburg, I took another trip to Berlin and Checkpoint Charlie, where not long before the guns, dogs, and barbed wire had seemed so permanent and dangerous. This time, however, I borrowed a hammer and climbed on a stretch of that thick wall. I beat enough pieces of concrete off to fill a backpack and I brought them home when I returned to the United States. The funny thing is, I don’t know what happened to them. It seems that even the pieces of that wall have disappeared.”

Ashley spent four years in children’s ministry for the Kennedy Heights Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. She gave children’s sermons, taught both preschool and confirmation classes, and organized Bible school. Prior to that work, she had served in a similar ministry with children at First Presbyterian Church in Spruce Pine, North Carolina. Before that, she worked as a librarian at Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta, a high school biology teacher in Charlotte/Mecklenburg, North Carolina, and a customer service representative for Eagle Vision in Memphis, Tennessee.

Mark spent a year in Germany and another in Austria and is fluent in German. He served for almost five years as pastor of Kennedy Heights Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and two and one-half years at Spruce Pine Presbyterian Church, Spruce Pine, North Carolina.

Ashley earned a bachelor’s degree in art and literature from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. She also earned an M. Div. from Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia. Mark holds a bachelor’s degree in religion from Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina. He has also earned three masters degrees. The first was in teaching from the University of Memphis, Tennessee. His certificates are in middle school and high school biology, chemistry, science, and German. The second was in German language and literature from Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio. The third was an M. Div. from Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. Ashley is a member of the Balmoral Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tennessee, and is a candidate for ordained ministry in the Presbytery of the Mid-South. Mark was ordained to the ministry of Word and Sacrament on July 1, 2001. He is a minister member of the Presbytery of Cincinnati.

Ashley and Mark have three sons—Ethan, Eliott, and Gabriel—who will accompany them on their assignment to Honduras.

Praying for our Schools.

In preparation for a new school year, the New York Board of Regents wrote a prayer which they expected to be read at the start of the year in every public school in the state of New York. The pray was brief and nondenominational:

Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessing upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our country.”

On June 25, 1962 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the State of New York could not have an official prayer read in public school classrooms. The Court deemed unconstitutional a public prayer to be used in public schools which was composed by governmental officials. As we know, there was a chorus of outrage at this Supreme Court decision from many devout Christians. But since that long ago day, those of us who attended public schools which never had official public prayers, and who now have children looking forward to another school year in public schools which never have public prayers, we have learned that, in fact, the civilized world has not come to an end because of that Supreme Court decision.

I believe we church leaders need to hear again and take to heart President J. F. Kennedy’s very perceptive response to that monumental Supreme Court decision:

“We have in this case a very easy remedy and that is to pray ourselves. I would think that it would be a welcome reminder to every American family that we can pray a good deal more at home, we can attend our churches with a good deal more fidelity, and we can make the true meaning of prayer much more important in the lives of all our children.”

In our churches and in our homes, our congregations, pastors and parents have the responsibility to pray for our schools, students, and teachers. As we begin another school year let us pray.

NOTE: For an excellent discussion of public religion in America, including the story of the 1962 Supreme Court ruling on school prayer, see Jon Meacham. American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation. (Random House, 2007).

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Honduras: A Call to Prayer

This call to prayer has been sent out to the General Assembly's Honduras mission network and is posted on Tim and Gloria Wheeler's mission connections page:

A call to prayer and expression of concern for Honduras

From the Central America and Mexico Office with information from PC(USA) mission workers Tim and Gloria Wheeler

August 4, 2009:

During this time of great difficulty in Honduras we are led to ask for ongoing prayers for a peaceful process in the country and for a process of reconciliation that will lead to real benefits for the whole population. During the past three months the country has been living a time of great tension and division. The degree of polarization has become even more evident after the events of June 28. As in any conflict of this dimension, there are two sides that need to be heard in order to move ahead along a peaceful path that will eventually allow the country to develop and prosper that benefit all people, especially the most excluded and forgotten.

In this atmosphere of tension the news of mediated talks taking place in Costa Rica come as very positive news in the hope for movement forward in a process of peace, democracy and national reconciliation. The immediate future of the country depends on these talks and we pray an agreement can be reached for the upcoming months leading to scheduled elections in November. The talks will be mediated by President Oscar Arias. The positions of the parties involved are distant and both will need to make concessions and move to a more central position for the good of the country and to avoid violence. On the positive side there has been a great deal of discussion of national problems and the need for political reforms so that the democratic system will work in a better and more just way. If this can happen in a national dialogue to strength the democratic process so that public institutions work much better, then all will benefit from the present conflict, especially the people who have been traditionally left out of the national dialogue and agenda.

Special prayers are asked for Honduran families who may suffer division from a political crisis in which they have no control.

Pray for the Honduran Presbyterian Churches that are dealing with a range of difficulties brought on by the interruption of normal life.

Pray for children to be able to go back to school.

Pray for nonviolence on the streets and that people will express their opinions without violence.

Pray for people in rural communities who do not have enough to eat and in whose name so much is said and proclaimed.

Pray for continued dialogue at all levels of society on fundamental issues facing Honduras and that freedom of expression not be curtailed.

Finally, please pray for the many mission partnerships that exist between the PC(USA) and churches and communities in Honduras.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Report from Camp Krislund

Dear Presbyterians,

Our Camp Krislund 2009 summer camp has been a remarkable success. We are grateful for the leadership of our new Program Director Art DeVos. One evening while our JCCC (Joint Camp and Conference Committee) was at the camp we appreciated the joyful enthusiasm of all the campers when Joel, a huge stuffed bear, was marched around the dining hall to uproarious applause. The girls’ wagons had just won the daily award for being the cleanest and best decorated unit. They won the opportunity to keep Joel for the day! Joel the Bear is a small sign of our success in bringing a new culture of clean to our Camp. Several other successful changes have been initiated this summer:

We have revitalized the chaplains program. The chaplains are now responsible for the daily “Nightfest” worship service talks, for daily staff devotions, and for preaching at the Saturday morning worship with all the parents in attendance. This intentional and high profile inclusion of our pastors in the summer camp program will reap an abundant spiritual harvest for years to come and create a closer relationship with our churches.

In the dining hall we have seen wonderful improvements. Under Pam DeVos’ leadership we have changed to family style dining. We overcame the overwhelming stress on kitchen volunteers by rotating all the campers and summer camp staff through dining hall set-up and clean up responsibilities. Importantly, because we have a large percentage of campers on scholarships, we applied for and were approved to receive food supplies from the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank system which has created extraordinary cost savings.

With expertise and volunteers from our State College and Derry Churches, we now have two new longhouses at Camp. These new housing units replaced the old, canvas tents which had been a mainstay at Krislund. The longhouses and the newly renovated Conestoga wagons improved the camping experience at Krislund this summer.

We remember well the cold, dark days in January and February when we sat at our JCCC Board meetings agonizing over a massively out of balance budget and wondering if summer camp was possible. God is good; All the time. We have a much better grasp of our financial management on a day to day basis. We have successfully concluded what many parents have told us is the best Krislund Summer Camp ever.

We need your support as we build on the success of summer camp 2009 and bring Camp Krislund up to its potential and our vision. Our financial viability is still tenuous. There is still an enormous amount of infrastructure repair and maintenance work to do. Looking ahead, we have gathered a remarkable, professional team to guide our plans for the construction of the new adult lodge through your Funding the Future capital campaign. This construction and the careful management of our new lodge are still before us.

Camp Krislund belongs to the Presbyterian congregations of our three presbyteries. It is your camp! We are grateful for the abundant support and encouragement so many of you have provided through this difficult year of transition. We believe we have turned the corner; our Camp Krislund is poised to move into a bright new future in service to our churches and our Lord.

In Christ;

Chuck Curley, Pastor State College Church, Huntington Presbytery JCCC chairperson
Joy Kaufmann, General Presbyter, Huntington Presbytery
Charlie Winkelman, Pastor Jersey Shore Church, Northumberland Presbytery JCCC chairperson
Bill Knudsen, Executive Presbyter, Northumberland Presbytery
Harold Nightwine, Elder Derry Church, Carlisle Presbytery JCCC chairperson
Mark Englund-Krieger, Executive Presbyter, Carlisle Presbytery