Sunday, December 28, 2008

Shalom Report:-- 4th Quarter 2008

In summary: we consolidated the Shalom network based at Drew and resourced Shalom conferences and sites nationally; built a national Shalom team comprised of staff, interns, and consultants; organized regional and conference Shalom trainings; equipped conference coordinators to equip their local Shalom sites; identified and nurtured new national training partner; found new ways to communicate and promote the Shalom brand of community development; produced Fall Nexus newsletter; continued planning process and trajectory work with Duncan Associates; and found seed funding for two new sites.

Building the Team:

• Attended monthly meetings with staff at GBGM as our major national partner of Shalom at Drew, and attended their national leadership training conference in Phoenix focused on online presence and organizational development. Met with the Advance Office staff and Assistant General Secretary for communications to coordinate Shalom branding and promotion. Met with Health and Welfare staff of Methodist Healthcare ministries regarding a national training partnership.

• Worked with national trainers—Will Dent and J-P Duncan—on enhancing the training and systematizing the process from information meeting to application to training to evaluation.

• Recruited MDIV students, Annie Allen and Mike Oliver, to continue their summer internships as national site coordinators.

• Recruited Jessica Moore as GBGM liaison and communications consultant

• Supported Rev. Tanya Bennett, Director of Religious Life at Drew University and member of National Shalom Committee, in giving leadership to our Shalom presence in Newark through the Newark Interfaith Coalition and the newly formed mentoring program—Nine Strong Women.

• Continued to supervise CLA student, Christian Ciobanu, a political science major, in doing a major research project on Shalom initiatives in Zimbabwe and Ghana, offering relational support to these African-based Shalom zones, and promote the work through Shalom coffee sales.

• Held first information meeting to recruit new Drew students for next year’s summer internship program, and announced availability of summer interns for specific site placements.

Organizing the Training

On January 1, 2008, 78 Communities of Shalom found a new home base at Drew Theological School. Since then, we’ve trained, reactivated and added 14 new sites for a total of 92 in the USA and Africa, including Shalom zones in Baltimore, Richmond, VA, and Western North Carolina. New Training began on native reservations in the Dakotas Conference and is scheduled to begin in Mississippi Conference in January (see attached Site Update).

Hosted Bishop Felton May as the keynote speaker at Drew’s annual Tipple-Vosburgh Lectures in October during which he delivered an impassioned lecture on the radical and prophetic spirit of Shalom, especially in the early days of the movement.

Offered Accelerated Training and consulting in Madison (May) and Equipping for Shalom training in Memphis (Oct) for 25 Regional Shalom Coordinators with oversight of Shalom ministry in their Annual Conferences. The Madison event was facilitated by our national trainers, Will Dent and J-P Duncan. The Memphis event was hosted by Dr. Gary Gunderson, Senior VP of Methodist Healthcare, and his staff who also offered units of the training. Methodist Healthcare has agreed to become a training partner of Shalom, and has assigned program consultant, Dr. Fred Smith, to work with me on a proposal.

Personally, I’ve mentored eight student interns at Drew and visited 23 Shalom ministry teams in the field this year (see Site Update).

Communicating the Message

• Worked with Drew Publications Office on the Communities of Shalom logo, dove icon, and informational brochure. Also worked with Communications Consultant, Jessica Moore, on the Fall ShalomNexus newsletter.

• Worked with Mike Oliver to continue the development of the Shalom websites: www.communitiesofshalom.org ) and www.shalomNexus.org I continue using my personal blog site to include Shalom reflections http://michael-christensen.blogspot.com/search/label/shalom

• Worked with Dean’s Office and Development on implementing the Jessie Ball duPont Prophetic Leaders initiative. This program not only allows us to pay ministry stipends to our summer Shalom interns, but also provides funds to bring prophetic leaders to campus for a one-week teaching residency.

• Presented “Social Conflict and Communities of Shalom”, Presidential Leadership Summit on Conflict Resolution at Bacone College (Oct)

• Presented “Theology and Practice of Shalom” Seminar at the School of Officer Training, Salvation Army (Nov)

• Taught “Urban Anthropology: Theology and Practice of Shalom” DMIN course at New Brunswick Theological Seminary (Dec)

• Presented “Social Conflict and Communities of Shalom” PowerPoint lecture at the Aquinas Seminar at Drew (Oct) and to the staff of the Drew Development Office (Dec).

• Designed a new course on “Prophetic Leadership in Congregation and Community” to teach in Spring Semester in conjunction with Prophetic Leaders in Residence program at Drew.

Shabbat Shalom



'Shabbat Shalom'שבת-שלום

"Shabbath"-שבת is the Hebrew word for "Sabbath." Saturday, "Shalom"-שלום means peace, welfare, health and wholensess. Shalom is also a greeting that means both "hello" and "goodbye," similar to the Hawaiian "Aloha" and the Indian "Namaste". Hence, "Shabbath shalom" is a greeting for the sabbath Saturday. Thus the person saying "Shabbat shalom" is wishing you a good and peaceful Sabbath filled with health and wholeness.

Communities of Shalom is a multicultural, interfaith network of community development sites in the USA and Africa committed to waging peace and welfare in their particular communities and neighborhoods. Initiated by the United Methodist Church, Communities of Shalom is somewhat of a movement--a grassroots movement that aligns assets and mobilizes resources, not a program that depletes funds and requires a bail out. Shalom offers hope for community transformation, not despair that things will get worse before they get better. Let us individually and corporately trust in the truth of the season-that if God is with us, who and what can be against us, as we wage peace in the world.

On January 1, 2009, Drew University will complete its first year as the new home base for Communities of Shalom. Last January 1, 2008, 78 Shalom sites migrated to Drew from the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church. Since then, we've equipped and added 14 new sites through training and reactivation for a total of 92 in the USA and Africa. Much good has occurred this year and there is momentum for a greater work next year.

If you would like a copy of the Fall 2008 ShalomNexus newsletter, an E-version is available on our website: http://communitiesofshalom.org/Nexus_Fall08.pdf

My fourth quarter Report as National Director of Communities of Shalom is available on our social networking site: www.shalomnexus.org

Stay tuned for more shalom updates in 2009.

And may God grant you shalom!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Let the Work of Christmas Begin

Howard Thurman was a mystic poet, pastor, theologian, and civil rights leader who founded the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples in San Francisco, California. It was the first racially integrated, intercultural church in the United States.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Thurman

Here's one of his poems:

The Work of Christmas

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.

by Howard Thurman

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hope Home Orphan Care Report for November



My Friends: I beg you to remember the poor during this season of sharing. We are in the midst of a global recession that affects not only the USA but the world, and especially developing countries. I left my heart, as you know, in Malawi among the one million AIDS orphans and abandoned and vulnerable children and youth who suffer from food shortages and the ravages of AIDS (not just a dip in their retirement funds).

We are now caring for 80+ orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children and youth (OVC) at Mzuzu United Methodist Church--in a wood and thatch sanctuary that holds about 100 people on Sunday and throughout the week.

Please join me in giving thanks for the fact that these kids are still alive and well, thanks to so many of you who continue to send a gift from time to time to WorldHope Corps, Inc. to sponsor a kid or help with the general need. Together, we are feeding 60-90 kids every day, supplying warm blankets during the rainy season, helping with some medical needs, and putting youth without parents or means through secondary school. Some of you have sponsored specific kids with your monthly donations. Others have sent in periodic generous gifts. Perhaps others will consider a year end gift this month, despite the 'crisis' in our own economy.

I plan to wire more funds to the church in Mzuzu before Christmas. Let me know if you want me to include your gift as well.

What follows is the most recent Report from Copeland and the Mzuzu United Methodist Church that cares for these kids. He also send some photos. Scroll down for background information on our Malawi Mission work.

Again, I thank you for your interest and support! mjc



THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH-MZUZU HOPE HOMES AND HOPE SCHOLARSHIP
November 2008 REPORT

We had Mk 139000.00 devoted to our hope homes and hope scholarship account in November 2008 and we present the subsequent data as our expenditure report.

Food Mk 83100:00

School transport (students) Mk 2200:00

Pens for exams (students) Mk 800:00

Internet Mk 3088:00

Picnic- (OVC) Mk 26000:00

Transport costs Mk 7260:00

Blankets Mk6500.00

Admin costs Mk 15000.00

Sundry costs Mk 4600:00

TOTAL EXPENDITURE MK 148, 548.00

We witnessed an exciting picnic on 29 November 2008 as the children mingled over snacks and juice for lunch and went out for recreation. This was also blended with bible quiz competition and the girl standing next to the pastor is TAPIWA (11 years old) and she scored the best at the quiz competition. The hope homes group exudes great enthusiasm in the learning the Word of God and we ask you that to keep them in your prayers so that God can engrave his name on their hearts for salvation.

NB: Our picnic expenditure went up because we had an influx of OVC to the picnic as can be seen from picture 047.

Thanks to world hope corps.

Copeland

P.S. I have inserted 6 pictures showing a heap of corn, picnic meal, best girl in the bible quiz competition, etc. Thanks in advance for any help you are able to provide for our OVC Christmas events.





Sunday, December 14, 2008

Muslim Feast of Sacrifice (Eid al-Adha)



I had never gone to such a feast before, but when Levent invited my family and me to join his Muslim community and interfaith friends to their Feast Day at the end of the holy season of Eid, in commemoration of father Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son (Ishmael), I responded with enthusiasm.

Levent Koç, Ph.D. is Executive Director of the Interfaith Dialog Center in New Jersey, and his organization has sponsored interfaith events at Drew and elsewhere, and takes people on cross-cultural trips to Turkey. In so doing, this progressive Muslim community helps us find common ground among the three Abrahamic religions in the spirit of shalom/salaam/peace.

About 75 people of good faith gathered in Carlstadt for the Feast of Sacrifice. Together, we shared in a common meal and gave thanks for the Lord’s provision of a ‘ram in the thicket’ as a substitutionary sacrifice instead of Abraham’s son—the sacred story of how the ancient people of God learned that human sacrifice is not required, but rather faithfulness to the will of God.

The guest speaker for the Feast was a United Methodist minister--Rev. Pat Bruger, a former student of mine from Drew and Executive Director, CUMAC Food Program in Paterson (originally a shalom zone). Pat shared about how thousands of low-income families in northern New Jersey count on this regional Food Pantry for supplemental food from time to time; and how they were forced to close their doors in during the current economic crisis; until the Interfaith Dialog Center community heard about the need and decided to share their food and funds with her organization. It was an inspiring story of how Muslims and Christians not only can get along, but collaborate on feeding the hungry in the name of peace.

After we enjoyed a delicious, traditional Turkish meat dish, dessert, raffle and dancing, Levent shared about the deeper meaning of the Feast:

“One of the two main festivals of the Muslim calendar is the Feast of Sacrifice (Eid al-Adha), which marks the end of the Hajj (the holy pilgrimage). It is a festival with many social aspects: the pilgrimage, the sacrifice of an animal, remembering and helping the poor, and the reunion of visiting relatives, friends, and neighbors. In the tradition of Abraham's great act of faith many centuries ago, millions of Muslims prepare to demonstrate their own submission to God by sacrificing an animal. Muslims commemorate Prophet Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son after God's order, as well as God's mercy in sparing his son and replacing him with a ram.

At the end of the pilgrimage, each Muslim sacrifices an animal. The meat is then distributed to those in need all over the world. The feast is a time for thanking God for His blessings and for giving to the less fortunate, regardless of their religion, race and color. The Qur'an describes Abraham (peace be upon him) as follows:

"Surely Abraham was an example, obedient to God, by nature upright, and he was not of the polytheists. He was grateful for Our bounties. We chose him and guided him unto a right path. We gave him good in this world, and in the next he will most surely be among the righteous." (Qur'an 16:120-121)

And "We made him (Abraham) pure in this world and in the hereafter; he is most surely among the righteous. When his Lord said to him: 'Submit,' he said: 'I submit myself to the Lord of the Worlds.” (Qur'an 2:130-131)

It is very important to understand that the sacrifice itself, as practiced by Muslims, has nothing to do with atoning for our sins or using the blood to wash ourselves from sin. This is a misunderstanding by those of previous generations: "It is not their meat nor their blood that reaches God; it is your piety that reaches Him" (Qur'an 22:37)

The symbolism is in the attitude: a willingness to make sacrifices in our lives in order to stay on the Straight Path. Each of us makes small sacrifices by giving up things that are fun or important to us. A true Muslim, one who submits his or herself completely to the Lord, is willing to follow God's commands completely and obediently. It is this strength of heart, purity in faith, and willing obedience that our Lord desires from us.

Next year, the Muslim Feast of Sacrifice will coincide with Thanksgiving. So let us join together next year for an even bigger Feast."


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Solidarity Sunday in Newark--March for Peace






It was cold and wet today in Newark. Yet the Solidarity Sunday March for Hope and Peace went on as scheduled as people gathered under umbrellas at City Hall and walked in groups to Lincoln Park for the rally. Ministers, Street Warriors, representatives of community-based organizations and associations, and local political leaders had their turn to speak out about how best to end the violence in the city; and soloists and choirs sang in the rain. Before the event concluded, at least 500 people showed up from the city and the suburbs as an act of solidarity and the spirit of Hope and Peace.

What follows is Dave Kerr's report on the event:

One way to look at Solidarity is simple: what can do in love for others. There are problems but let's not spend a lot of time finding out who is at fault. First, let's help the one who is hurt and work together in solidarity to prevent the problem from happening again and hurting others. Let's work to heal rather than hurt. Let's start with the child who is hungry and feed him. Let's start with the family who's homeless and find them shelter. Let's start with the stranger and take her in. Let's come to those in prison and show them the way out.

In spite of constant rain, wind and cold weather, marchers walked down Broad St. from City Hall, led by the responsive chanting of Pastor Bernard Wilks. Pastors Darlene Reynolds, Reggie Osborne, Pam Jones, David Jefferson, Bill Howard and Jethro James showed their passion and leadership to the crowd about the need to come together as a people and bring hope and real help to the many in need in our City. Community advocates Donna Jackson, Earl Best (Street Doctor) and El-Amin delivered fiery talks about the need for all of us to get out of our comfort zones and work directly with people in 'the streets' who need our help.

Faith-based activists and community leaders joined Solidarity Sunday participants, some 500 in number, in singing 'Let There Be Peace On Earth and Let it Begin With Me.' World Famous Opera Singer Kevin Maynor led the singing with 'There is a Balm in Gilead.' Souls of Integrity Choir sang Sam Cook's 'A Change is Going to Come.'

Many of our political and government leaders were there, including Council President Mildred Crump, Deputy Mayor Deen Shareef, Senator Teresa Ruiz, Assemblywoman Grace Spencer and Assemblyman Al Coutinho. Many other faith-based leaders were there also including Robert Morris, Mark Beckwith, Deirdre Malloy, Tanya Bennett, and Michael Christensen--all from the Newark Interfaith Coalition for Peace and Hope. Mayor Cory Booker sent a note wishing us well and pledging his full support for Solidarity Sunday even though he could not attend.

Solidarity Sunday was just the beginning. There will be a follow up discussion of Solidarity at our next Bridge Breakfast on December 18th at the Robert Treat Center at 8am.

David H. Kerr
Founder and President
Integrity House
103 Lincoln Park
PO Box 510
Newark, NJ 07102

Friday, November 28, 2008

Peace March Objectives

Here's a note from Dave Kerr, one of the organizers of Sunday's March for Peace and Solidarity:

Again we encourage and give thanks for the support of suburban faith based groups. Our Newark brothers and sisters are battered by violence and addiction and homelessness needing your prayers and mentoring and support.

We hope that you will attend this grass roots Solidarity movement on the 30th. We will meet at Newark City Hall on the afternoon of November 30th at 1:30pm marching to Lincoln Park for the rally at 2pm, even and especially on Thanksgiving Sunday.

Pastoral Care Response – Parents, families, and the community are working to overcome their grief at the loss of a loved one. The faith community will work to share that burden each time loss of life occurs in the city. This effort will strengthen families and provide a visible response to those working through their loss. The clergy would also expect to be a leading presence as citizens, community leaders, government officials, service providers, and others look for ways to reconcile differences, as well as provide comfort and emotional support.

Mentoring: With 70,000 individuals coming out of state prisons over the next 5 years and with tens of thousands of addicts on parole and probation, a high priority to a reentry agenda is a must. Solidarity Sunday will be the beginning of bringing faith based and community leaders together on specific and well defined projects. For example, we will encourage participants to sign up as mentors to help those trying to change their life after incarceration or after drug treatment and throughout their years of recovery. Each one of theses people needs a mentor - one on one. Integrity House alone is looking for 100 mentors and this challenge will be facilitated through our efforts beginning on Solidarity Sunday, November 30th.

Draft of some of our Objectives:

1. To reach out to employers who will be part of our rally and who will promise jobs for qualified individuals who have a criminal record but who have completed rehabilitation. Each person referred (mentee) will have a mentor and other support people possibly including a parole or probation officer.

2. Mentors needed: To reach out to our agencies and service providers, and shelters to determine how many individuals or clients need a mentor and to determine the name and the phone number of the mentor coach for that agency. For example, the Essex County Youth House may have 12 youth per month released to our community. The Warden might be the contact person for any mentors who may want to help each released youth. There will be one mentor for each mentee and each mentor coach will organize and facilitate the appropriate training needed for his or her client. Another example might be Integrity's Outpatient Women's program where each one of these women needs a mentor to walk them through job search, transportation, legal issues, housing etc.

3. To organize a program to bring truant children and youth back to school, signing them up with a mentor, as well to lead them to the appropriate support services. Many gang leaders and members do not want violence and are willing to submit to urine testing and background checks in order to be part of "The Council" – gangs who use their influence to help others in peaceful ways.

4. To help the City's to bring our young men and women back into our community with all of the details of reintegration worked out for each parolee The support would start from the mentor picking up the former inmate upon release to job finding, mental health or substance abuse treatment needs, housing, family reintegration, legal issues etc.

5. To review our objectives from time to time and to adjust our implementation plan as needed as we learn more about the effectiveness of our efforts.

6. To organize a gun exchange program in line with what is already ongoing


See you on the 30th!!



Dave

--
David H. Kerr
Founder and President
Integrity House
103 Lincoln Park
PO Box 510
Newark, NJ 07102
973-623-0600

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Opportunity for Civic Engagement in Newark

Friends of Shalom:

Read the article below from Tuesday's Star Ledger on the Peace and Solidarity March in Newark this Sunday afternoon, November 30th, in the aftermath of a new wave of street violence in the city and about the need for hope and peace.

My family and others from Drew and the burbs will join our friends in Newark in an simple ministry of presence solidarity--to stand and march with those in the city that want to call attention to the need to engage gang culture more positively, help shape a more productive police response, and reduce youth violence, drugs and guns.

The march will begin after church at 1:30am at City Hall. We will walk down to Lincoln Park and attend a rally from 2pm till about 4pm. Attached is the flier circulated by Integrity House and the Newark Interfaith Coalition for Hope and Peace--of which Communities of Shalom is a part.

Hope to see you there!

Michael

The Star Ledger
Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Newark activists sensing a moment
They plan a march to increase solidarity


BY JONATHAN SCHUPPE, Star-Ledger Staff

In Newark, community leaders often talk about "moments" -- points in time when certain events make the city ripe for activism. The event may be a violent crime, political upheaval or problem with the way the city operates.

All three have happened in recent weeks, they say. The violence was a string of shootings one afternoon last month that left four people wounded and two dead. The political upheaval was the election of Barack Obama. And the problem is a lack of coordination among the city's various social service agencies that aim to help the homeless, the jobless, the hungry and troubled children.

Community leaders are pouncing on this moment by planning a large march and rally that they hope will bring more than 1,000 people downtown Sunday. Organizers are calling it "Solidarity Sunday" with the goal to develop a common agenda for religious leaders, government officials and social service agencies.

"Now's a good time to stop sit ting in our living rooms or offices or churches ... and look at how we can bring unity to the community so no one person is left holding the bag," said the Rev. Darlene Reynolds, one of the event's organizers. "We have to find a way to make a commitment to working with each other."

Marchers will gather at 1:30 p.m. at City Hall, then walk down Broad Street to Lincoln Park for a rally from 2 to 4 p.m. Community leaders will give short speeches about what they think needs to be done.

"The main mission on the 30th is to bring people together with answers and solutions instead of complaints and 'what can someone else do,'" said Dave Kerr, president of the Newark drug-rehab clinic Integrity House. "This is a solidarity movement. We haven't really done anything like this before."

The idea grew from monthly breakfast meetings of religious leaders and social service agencies called "Bridge to Recovery," in which participants worked to come up with a seamless net of care for the needy residents, from hungry children to ex-convicts.

Then came the shootings of Oct. 24, which jarred the city and, despite a steep drop in gun violence this year, dredged up old images of Newark's Wild West disorder. When Obama was elected a few weeks later, many Newarkers, particularly black residents, said they felt more optimistic about the country's future.

Organizers of the march and rally are trying to marshal those feelings into something more permanent -- and tangible. Kerr said he'd like to start with a plan for improved "pastoral care response," mentoring programs and "re-entry" services for people returning home from prison.

The Rev. William Howard of Bethany Baptist Church said he's has noticed "a new spirit of civic engagement" since the presidential election, and he hopes the march and rally will keep that momentum going.

"Nov. 30 could be one of the many manifestations of people in our city showing a commitment to a spirit of unity, of purpose, of civic engagement, of forward movement, of healing," Howard said.

Jonathan Schuppe may be reached at jschuppe@starledger.com



Friday, November 07, 2008

March for Hope and Peace Rally Budding in Newark

An Invitation to March for Peace and Hope in Newark was issued this week by Dave Kerr, Founder of Integrity House, member of our Newark Interfaith Coalition for Hope and Peace, and one of the organizers of this solidarity event with Newark residents who continue to experience waves of street violence in their city:

Michael and group,

Thanks to you and Deen Shareef for your able representation at our recent Bridge Breakfast. The following is information to discuss at or upcoming meeting on the 11th at 4:30pm. The Newark Interfaith Coalition needs to take a leadership role in this budding movement for peace, hope and realistic help to members of our community in need, many of them violent and involved in gangs. We would like to involve suburban churches in this march and rally and wondered if any of you have some ideas?

You might want to approach this in a different way but I have always felt that we need to "strike while the iron is hot." If we are going to pull off a march and rally in this short time frame we will need to identify our game plan quickly and then move. You can see by some of the thoughts and ideas below that if we want a rally that brings pledges by employers for jobs and mentors volunteering from churches and the return to school for chronic truants, we need to move rapidly. I believe it can be done and done well but maybe on a smaller scale at first. We can't be too ambitious but it will be a good start. Thanks for your comments.

Dave


Here's the email to our group that met after the breakfast meeting.

After our meeting today, I had a discussion with my staff and Rich Grossklaus will be following up on details related to planning a march and rally for unity on the afternoon of November 30, 2008 starting at the churches at 1pm and ending up in Lincoln Park, Newark at 2pm. We feel that the event should be held on Sunday since this is when most religious activities occur in Newark and it seems that our church people are a natural resource and talent.

We thought that Bethany Baptist, Metropolitan and St. James AME and the Bethel Outreach Ministries would be four good churches for focus and yet all would be invited. The march might start from each of these churches following down to Springfield Ave and then to Lincoln Park.

It might take as much as 45 to 60 minutes to get all of the people to Lincoln Park so the rally would run from 2pm to 4pm. We might also want to reach out to the suburban churches, Temples and Mosques, many of whom want to help as well. Our goal for the afternoon would be to mobilize 1,000 people.

Kevin Manor has agreed to sing and has a song with a music track prepared. Integrity's Choir could also sing and we might want to come up with one hymn that choir members from all churches could rehearse and sing together in the theme of unity.

The focus would be to encourage help for people who want to help themselves but need support and guidance and mentoring. It is risky to give jobs to addicts who are still getting high. Bad for our purpose and just plain stupid. Many street people are not even ready for treatment no less a job and we have to be realistic about this. Yet there are many who are ready and who will respond to our support and those not ready might be motivated by mentors.

Our recommendation would be to challenge the many employers in Newark and the County through the Chamber of Commerce to step up and pledge a job or 5 jobs for individuals who qualify in all other ways except for their past criminal history. One by one, they would step up to the mic in Lincoln Park and pledge their jobs. Likewise, we would identify mentoring needs of people leaving Integrity House, CURA the EC Youth House, Talbot Hall etc. Each institution or agency would have identified a mentoring coordinator would would meet with the church mentor volunteers for the purpose of training, guidance and support.

Another goal would be to identify programs that are actually working and helping people. Many of these programs are ongoing right now at the churches while others are happening in our neighborhoods. We know the programs that work but we also know some high profile programs that claim much and do little. (Some of these less efficient programs might need only a little help or technical support.)

Also there are entrepreneurial street efforts that are worth notice. Kenny Jones for example has begun mentoring work with groups of DYFS referred youth in Union County as well as Essex. He has generated dollars to support his work and is being tutored by Robert Parkinson, MBA from my staff developing a budget and a strategic management plan for his growing business. He could be a poster child for some of our street efforts and for people to generate new businesses. Bill, your suggestion about the Rutgers Entrepreneurial classes may be very timely since I know many 'street people' who are doing many creative things helping others but don't have traditional training or recognition or management skills.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

“The People have spoken”



My eyes welled up last night and this morning as the national milestone of putting an African American family in a White House built by slave labor. Anyone with a social justice bone in their body, whether they voted for Senator McCain or not, must be over-whelmed with a deeper joy today in seeing the flood of images of jubilation from around the world.

"The people have spoken!" said Senator John McCain. “All Americans can be proud of the history that was made yesterday.” said President George W. Bush. Now the real work begins of systemic change in “remaking the Nation, block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand, said President-elect Barak Obama. And I would add, “zone by zone of shalom.”



As the images of joy and celebration continue to stream in from around the world, and tears fall down our cheeks, let us also remember how fearful at least 25% of those who voted for McCain feel about an Obama presidency, according to the polls. Many are convinced that the country has taken an apocalyptic turn, that the America they know and love is gone. It is a time for understanding and commpassion, healing and reconciliation, re-building trust, taking the risk of collaboration, coming together in the spirit of hope , and finding common ground. Time to develop a global perspective as a citizen of the world. Time to trust the God of all the nations, while we seek the shalom of our country with liberty, justice and prosperity for all.

“Some trust in horses, some in chariots, but our hope is in the Lord our God.” Psalm 20:27

Sunday, November 02, 2008

“Spread the Wealth Around”

Stewardship Sermon: “Spread the Wealth Around” (Luke 16:1-13)
By Michael J. Christensen

If one were to cast a vote on Tuesday based on just one social issue, what would that issue be? The candidate's position on abortion rights? Homosexuality? War? Immigration, Economics?

Interestingly, for Christians, Jesus did not take a pro or con position on abortion, homosexuality, war or immigration. Never addressed these important issues. But he had plenty to say about taxes and riches and the right use of money. Economic justice looms large in the Gospels.

What is the second most frequent topic addressed in the entire Bible? No, not sexuality. Not killing. But Money! Second only to the topic of the Kingdom of God. Hundreds of scripture verses about money!

So if we want to major on the issues the Bible majors on, and on what Jesus cared most about, it's 1) the Kingdom of God and 2) Use of Money.

Our political candidates aren't talking too much about God's Kindgom of love, peace and justice for all, but they are talking a lot about money and wealth. So, let's talk about money and wealth, since we all tend to vote our pocket book.

There once was a rich man who worked very hard for his money. His wife wanted to spend or give away some of his wealth. As the rich man grew older, and made out a will, he told his wife that he wanted to take all his money with him to the grave; that his wealth was not to be shared with family or church or spread around to charities. “Please honor me with this final request.” And so he died.

The wife dutifully fulfilled her husband’s wish to be buried with his money, against the counsel of friends, family and even her minister. After the funeral, at the grave site, after the casket was lowered into the ground…there was a hushed silence. Finally, the minister asked the wife: “How could you bury him with all that money?”

“It was easy,” she said. “I wrote him a check.”

Behold the shrewdness of the wife. Let us learn from her wisdom how to spread the wealth around.

Jesus tells a similar story of shrewd stewardship in the Gospel of Luke—the Parable of the Rich Man and his Steward (Luke 16:1-13): http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=LUKE+16:1-13

A paraphrase of the parable goes like this: ‘There once was a rich man who had a bad steward who managed his business. When the rich man discovered that the steward had squandered his wealth, he confronts him and announces that he cannot keep his job. “What to do?” the manager thinks to himself. “I’m not strong enough to dig. I’m too proud to beg.”

“I know," he says to himself, “ I will make friends with those who owe my boss money by discounting their debt. Then they will be grateful, will think more highly of me, will owe me favors, and will welcome me into their homes in hospitality so I won’t starve.” So, he asked each one, how much do you owe, and one by one he discounts the debt (we don’t really know why the man with 100 jars of olive oil got a 50% discount and the man with 100 containers of wheat only got 20%, but there it is.) When the Master finds out about this shrewd provision, he was upset but impressed. He commended his steward for how he used Mammon to make friends.’ (Re-read the text in light of the gospel of free market capitalism).

A steward is a trustee and manager of another’s property and resources. Mammon, in the Bible, is the god of wealth who is still alive and well in the world today. Jesus often told parables based on simple stories from everyday life to make a shocking and surprising point. Let us pay attention here and learn a lesson from the shrewdness of a worldly steward. “For the children of this age (whose values are rooted in materialism) are shrewder in dealing with other people’s money than are the children of light (whose values are rooted in the spiritual age to come). “So, be wise as serpents, yet harmless as doves.” Though you cannot serve both God and Mammon, you can serve God and use Mammon (or dishonest wealth) for good and holy purposes.

Which of the four Gospels says the most about money? Correct. The Gospel of Luke has the most to say about economics. It is addressed to the Gentile outcasts and economically poor. Jesus tells many parables about Kingdom economics in the Gospel of Luke. We hear about the Rich Young Ruler, the Good Samaritan, the Widow’s Mite, the Lost Coin, the Farmer who built bigger barns to horde his wealth, the Banquet Feast for the poor, the Rich Man and Lazarus, and the Rich Man and Bad steward.

On the one hand, Jesus is radical and uncompromising in his teaching about money and wealth. One cannot serve two masters—God and Mammon. “Either you will love the one and hate the other, or be devoted to the one, and despise the other.” As Bob Dylan as a Christian sang: “You gotta serve somebody…It may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you gotta serve somebody.”

On the other hand, Jesus is very practical, realistic, and even a bit accommodating about the economic realities of life in this present age, as his parable suggests. As Reinhold Niebuhr once said: “Jesus sometimes asks us to get our hands dirty in a sinful world.” Sometimes, using Mammon or ‘dishonest wealth,’ may be the lesser of two evils. Or as Billy Sunday reportedly said: “The Devil’s had the money long enough.” Time for it to be redeemed and put to good use. Those who insist on uncompromising economic purity in this world would have to live as St. Francis did, in utter simplicity and dependency on God alone for daily bread. For most of us, managing money will be a necessary distraction.

THREE BIBLICAL OPTIONS:

The author of Luke/Acts identifies and illustrates at least three different ways or models of how to serve God with your money: from radical discipleship to more conventional economics: 1) Give it all away, 2) Give half of it away, or 3) Manage it responsibly as a wise (and shrewd) steward of God’s resources.

1. Give it all away: “Come, leave all, and follow me,” Jesus asked his first disciples (Luke 5:11). “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (12:33).

To the Rich Young Ruler, who was careful to keep the whole law, Jesus said: “Sell all that you have…” (18:18). He asks the same of some Christians today. “Sell your possessions and give to the poor,” Sell your goods to feed the poor, take an oath of poverty, live simply and radically in anticipation of the coming Kingdom of God. St. Francis and the Little Brothers of Jesus, Brother Roger and the Taize Community in France, Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta—each heard and obeyed this call.

Radical stewardship practiced today usually involves joining a religious community with a common purse or community of goods, with no private property held, as in monastic orders and small communities of faith. For example, Sojourners Community in Washington D.C. has been an example to many of how to live simply, joyfully and responsibly in the world below the national poverty line. The Simple Way in Philadelphia is a radical postmodern community of “urban monks” committed to simplicity of lifestyle and solidarity with the poor. (Visit them virtually at www.TheSimpleWay.org

2. Give half of it away: When Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector, was confronted by Jesus, he responded in economical terms by ceasing to exploit others and promising to repay any that that he had overcharged--fourfold (with interest). From then on, he promised to give away half of his wealth to the poor (Luke 19:2-8).

The widening gap between rich and poor is a contradiction of kingdom values and an abomination to God. To reverse this natural process of the rich getting richer and the poor poorer, God delights in exalting the poor and humble and casting down the rich and proud. This is because God has a special interest n the economically poor and socially disinherited. God’s social system of economic justice constitutes what has been called an “upside-down kingdom” where the greatest are least, and the least of these are the greatest.

The Biblical mandate for equity is not to be understood as a demand that everyone have exactly the same amount of money, land, possessions, or resources. Rather, equitable distribution means that no one has abundance at the expense of those who have less than what they need. God desires equity, St Paul wrote, that the scripture might be fulfilled: “the one that gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little…” (II Cor. 8:15, quoting Exodus. 16:8).

There are many modern examples radical generosity: John Wesley’s motto was “earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can” and told his Methodist followers that he should be considered a hypocrite if he died with more than a once of gold and silver in his pockets. C.S. Lewis gave all his book royalties to charity and lived on his modest income as a University professor. Gandhi said, “There are enough resources in the world for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed.” Mother Teresa said: “Give until it hurts…” Reverend E. V. Hill in Los Angeles boldly preached: “God gives it to ya to get it through ya; if God can’t get it through ya, He’ll stop giving it to ya!”

Mercy means giving alms. Tithing means bringing a tenth of your income into God’s storehouse. Giving generously means, to some degree, redistributing the wealth through equitable means, knowing that “the Lord loves a cheerful giver…” (II Cor. 9:7)

3. Manage wisely is the third economic option in Luke/Acts. Faithful and responsible, practical and effective, and yes, the creative and shrewd use of wealth and resources that belong ultimately to God is acceptable model of biblical stewardship. This model is what the parable of the Rich Man and Shrewd Steward is about. But there are other, more honorable, ways to be a good trustee of God’s resources.

A group of wealthy women who followed Jesus (including Mary Magdalene), managed their own money and supported Jesus and the disciples “out of their means” (Luke 8:1-3). This is an example wise and generous management. Paul taking a collection from all the Gentile churches for the Jewish believers in Jerusalem is another example (I Cor. 16).

Here are three principles of biblical stewardship?
• Divine ownership: “The Earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it” (Ps 24:1) God is the giver of all that we call our own—all the cattle on a thousand hills, all the gold and silver, all the land, natural resources, personal gifts and talents. It all belongs to God. It can be freely shared.
• Human stewardship: knowing that God is the land owner and Master, and we are the stewards or managers of what has been entrusted to our care. Good stewardship requires spiritual detachment, contentment and generosity, as well as wisdom and skill to spread the wealth around.
• Divine/human partnership: the responsible use of God’s resources requires us to lean how to practice wise, shrewd and compassionate management for the good of all, in direct response to God’s will and activity in the world. There are proper limits and procedures to spreading God’s wealth around.

CHOOSE YOUR MODEL AND BE FAITHFUL

St. Paul admonishes Christians to choose how best to practice generosity and stewardship, whether we sell all, give half, or manage well what has been entrusted to our care: “ Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (II Cor. 9:7)

Common to all three models is the eschatological vision and values of the coming era--Kingdom of peace, righteousness and just economics.

Money is not evil, but the love of money is the root of all evil (I Tim 6:10). If money is the first priority on your life, its idolatry or the worship of Mammon. We are accountable for how we use God’s silver, gold, cattle, land, resources. Wealth is never neutral.

Models are available, not simply for our choosing but in response to what God is asking each one of us. No one size of stewardship fits all. What is God asking of you in this season of your life? What model do you want our leaders to follow? Which model will you follow?
• Dispossess yourself and follow Christ radically?
• Give generously while working for debt-reduction and redistribution of God’s wealth for the sake of global justice?
• Practice compassionate and creative stewardship? Learning lessons from bad stewards and well as form good and faithful managers. Remembering that God is the owner and we are not….

Biblical Stewardship may be your preferred model…given your present life circumstances, spiritual capacity and personal charism. But what is not an option is serving Mammon by
• neglecting the poor
• disregarding immigrants
• exploiting others
• conspicuous consumption of goods
• greed
• hoarding
• bribery
• theft
• corruption
and storing up treasures on earth

So, here is a simple test question to assess where your heart is: If a special election were held today, for whom would you vote? God or Mammon? We cannot vote for two masters. Will we vote our pocket book or vote our faith in the One who owns and loans it all?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

HopeHome Report for October


It's the end of the month and the HopeHome in Mzuzu, which cares for 86 orphaned and abandoned children, is down to $11.31 in their bank account. We need to send another $1000 next week to meet November's budgeted expense for food, blankets and school fees.

Here is Pastor Copeland's report for October:



Mzuzu Circuit UNITED METHODIST CHURCH HOPE HOMES &HOPE SCHOLARSHIP Report for OCTOBER 2008

TO: REV MICHAEL

The Hope Homes and Hope scholarship account received MK139 000.00 (US$985) in September from WorldHope Corps and the subsequent is our expenditure breakdown.

INCOME Received 139 000.00 OCT.

EXPENDITURE

DESCRIPTION AMOUNT (MK)

Blankets 95 000.00
Internet 2 905.00
Transport 6 200.00
Food 25 000.00
Text Books 1 900.00
Admin Costs 6 400.00
Balance c/d 1 595.00

TOTAL 139 000.00 (US$

NOTE: This leaves us with a balance of MK 1595.00 (US$11.31)

Our joy and appreciation for the succour that you accord us is unfathomable and we commend you to the Lord Jesus for lasting blessings. Bless all the friends that stand around you in doing this noble service.

You can always look forward for the manifestation of fruit for God out of this program.

Note that we bought 20 blankets for the 22 children that were not given blankets when we distributed blankets in June 2008. We remain with only 2 children now without blankets.

Love from
Copeland and Leaster, Peter and Darlison

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Newark Interfaith Coalition Promotes Peace in Newark



Newark, NJ: It happened again this week. Two people were killed and four wounded in a drive-by shooting on Friday afternoon, October 24, near public schools in Newark-- New Jersey’s largest city. According to police reports, at least 3 people in an SUV drove around the city firing randomly at pedestrians, including a 20-year-old male and 24-year-old female who died. A ninth grade girl and a 16-year old boy, along two others, were also shot, but survived. This was the latest incident in a series of violent crimes over the past few years in a city known for gang violence and systemic poverty.

Eighty-three people were murdered in 2007 and 52 so far this year, according to a New York Times article published on Saturday, October 24. What the news media did not report were on-the-ground reports of unwarranted police actions in a neighborhood conflict the aftermath of the shootings. According to David Kerr, President of Integrity House, “there was a group of street people and ministers marching around each of the scenes of violence both yesterday and today, praying and calling for peace.” Their presence on the streets was not appreciated by police who over-reacted, and one officer may have committed assault. Clearly, there is a need in the city for solidarity among neighbors, peaceful demonstrations of concern, mutual understanding, conflict resolution, and a social transformation of the systems and structures that give rise to poverty, addiction, youth violence and despair.

Newark is also “a city of peace and strength” said Mayor Cory Booker, who recently helped local religious leaders launch the Newark Interfaith Coalition for Hope and Peace focused on engaging gang culture and reducing youth violence. Drew University and Communities of Shalom was one of the founding members of the Coalition last Spring. David Kerr, a member of the Coalition, offered the following perspective in a letter to local religious leaders:

“Many if not most gang leaders and members want the same things we all do, jobs, security, food, shelter and safety and a sense of family and community. From the mouth of gang leader, Akintola Hanif talking about the recent film "Moral Panic": "When you give people a chance and equip them with the skills necessary to build a life, they do it. These kids don't want to die."

The Newark Interfaith Coalition of Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders from the greater Newark area was formed to explore ways of engaging gang culture to reduce youth violence in the city of Newark. Working with city officials, these religious leaders are engaging other city organizers and city officials to consider the ways existing resources may join with religious organizations in the greater Newark area to strategize about new possibilities of action in Newark neighborhoods, working collaboratively to support and strengthen existing efforts and promote the efforts to lead from violence toward peace.

The first public event of the Interfaith Coalition was held on April 3 at the Newark Symphony Hall. City leaders from non-profit organizations, social services agencies, churches, mosques, temples, and other religious organizations were invited to hear and discuss presentations by Newark-based former gang members and parents of gang members, and by two guests: Rev. Jeffrey Brown, one of the founders of Boston's Ten Point Coalition and Imam Earl El-Amin from the Muslim Community Cultural Center of Baltimore, Maryland, both models of grassroots religious-based programs which have transformed gang violence in those two cities.

“Recent highly-publicized events have brought deserved focus to long-standing issues of violence in Newark often resulting from grief, addiction, abuse, depression, despair, hopelessness, and fear. Many public, private, and religious institutions have addressed these important issues. Faith tells us to "seek the welfare of the city," and we want to be a more effective part of ongoing efforts to address this multi-level challenge,” said Bishop Mark Beckwith, Presiding Bishop of the Newark Episcopal Diocese and one of the organizers of the coalition.

A second major Coalition action was the co-sponsorship of “Bradley Court Day” –including a resource fair and interfaith prayer service—on July 21, 2008. Bradley Court is a large public housing complex known for drug dealing and gang activity and in need of social services and resources to help raise the quality of life in the neighborhood, and bring peace and hope to the city of Newark. Integrity House and the Bradley Court Tenants Association, with the support of the Newark Interfaith Coalition for Peace and Hope, and many other groups including the City, Fire Department and Police Department, joined efforts and mobilize resources to offer on-site opportunities for rehab, employment readiness, and truck-driving jobs for those willing to sign on for training.

According to Kerr, “One thousand people were there to feel this show of humanity and love and joy and safety under the torrid July sun. There were job opportunities, and sprinkler fun and animals to pet and great choirs and singers and over a dozen addicts brought out in a van for detox thanks to Bethel Outreach Ministries. There were 70 children getting their hair cut and styled. There were men and women of faith and there were prayers. There were children having fun and adults showing love. It is significant that all this was done in their neighborhood. We witnessed peace and love replacing distrust and anger.”

New actions currently are being considered by the Newark Coalition for Hope and Peace in response to the recent youth violence. A group calling themselves “Nine Strong Women” have emerged with a determination to make a difference in the city. ShalomZone training has been requested and offered. And Jews, Muslim and Christians have offered prophetic leadership ‘in such a time as this.’


Creep, Jayda and Loose, “motivational speakers” now working with the Newark Coalition to help engage gang culture and reduce youth violence.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Two hundred dollars goes a long way



Pictured above is Pastor Copeland Nkhata and orphaned children with HIV/AIDS who needed food and medicine this month in Malawi.

Their need was met by Stacy Radmore (pictured below in a remote village without fresh water)


Stacy is one of several contributors to our orphan care project in Mzuzu, Malawi. She was tempted to spend her money for new LL Bean ski jacket that costs $199. Instead, she sent $200 to WorldHope Corps to help 12 children in dire need of food and medicine in time of AIDS and a global recession.

I just received this email update from our partner Copeland Nkhata, pastor of the United Methodist Church in Mzuzu, who with his congregation cares for over 60 orphaned, abandoned, and vulnerable children in the neighborhood.


--Forwarded Message Attachment--
Date: Tue, 21 Oct 2008 12:06:02 +0000
From: cmnkhata@yahoo.co.uk
Subject: Re: from copeland
To: mchriste@drew.edu

Dear Brother Mike,

THIS IS FOR STACY.

I thus report that the US$200.00 from Stacy was used in the following way:

Food for:

1 Felex and Emily --a sibling headed family. They are hiv/aids victims but very zealous for the Lord.

2 Towera and Elia a very vulnerable couple with 3 children. They have zero income a month but a tried christian family.

3 Witness Mwale is a woman with 6 children at one of our rural churches on the way to the lake. She is very vulnerable but a blessing in church.

4 Elton an orphan in form 4 needy and often left alone on account of his economic situation. He is such a lovely boy though.

5 School materials for Rachel an orphan who really needed help at the time this money came. She now is at the university.

6 Medicines for Asante-- one orphan who is hiv/aids positive in the Hope Home program.

I and the leadership of my church are happy that Stacy and you Mike decided to bless our circuit in this way. May the Lord always remember you and multiply your resources.

Love to you from the recesses of our hearts. Some day I will send you their pictures. Its the lack of a digital camera that hinders me from remmiting pictures in time as I always have to borrow from friends.

Pastor Copeland



Others may want to support our Orphan Care program in Malawi during this season of global hardship. If so, please send your tax-deductible donation to

WorldHope Corps, Inc.
11 Ardsleigh Drive
Madison, NJ 07940

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Road to Mzuzu



Most women(but not men)in Malawi have to walk several miles to collect clean water from the nearest well, or make due with water puddles and streams nearby. They carry heavy containers on their heads back to their own village which lacks potable water from a fresh, reliable source. This is why 1 our of 5 children die before the age of 5 from preventable, waterborne diseases. Contaminated water typically is collected from stale ponds and muddy streams.

Chappy Valente, a professional painter and entrepreneur from North Carolina, accompanied me to Malawi last Spring as part of the mission team. As we watched women collecting rain water from puddles on the ground to take back in buckets on their long journey home, Chappy captured a moment in time in the 'warm heart of Africa' in this delightful painting entitled "The Road to Mzuzu".



I asked Chappy (pictured above) if I could post his painting on my blog with the hope that our "Friends of Malawi" would find it inspirational; and might want to purchase a print to hang on their wall. And support the Malawi mission in the process.

WorldHope Corps, Inc. has made arrangements with the artist and his chosen lithograph printer and framer, to make quality prints available to WHC at a discount. We will pass on that savings to those who donate at least $250 to the Malawi Village Well Fund of WorldHope Corps.

A deep water well costs between 6,000-$10,000 depending on how deep the bore hole and how remote the village (see previous blog posts for details). It takes many individuals to contribute to the Village Well Fund to make a difference in the lives of 1000+ villagers who need access to clean water. WorldHope Corps is committed to providing a total of 20 deep water wells in northern Malawi. So far, in partnership with CitiHope International, we've installed seven wells.

The 14"x18 quality prints of "The Road to Mzuzu" for donors are stretched onto the stretcher bars and ready for framing. They are certified, signed and numbered limited edition prints. It art with a conscience, and for a purpose: to provide a deep well for an African village without clean water.

Donations can be sent to
11 Ardsleigh Drive
Madison, NJ 07940

Let me know if you can help in this way.

Monday, September 29, 2008

60 AIDS orphans sponsored




Good News today!

WorldHope Corps, Inc., committed itself to support 60 orphans and abandoned children affected by AIDS in Malawi on a monthly bases. Through a grant of $10,000 from the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund, and with the help of many friends of Malawi who will continue to contribute to the need, we can send $1,000/month to the HopeHome program of Mzuzu Circuit United Methodist Church in Mzuzu, Malawi, which is caring for 60+ children.



What follows is the email I received today from Rev. Copeland Nkhata, the church's pastor and HopeHome program director:

Dearest Brother,

I happily got your email and express my deep-seated gratitude for both the financial aid and the advice to limit the number of orphaned and vulnerable children we care for to 60 for adequate funding.

I went to check the account and the funds have come in MK206000.00 ($1500). The [HopeHome] program will resume in October as you had indicated.

The past 2 weeks I was down with flu and sneezing making my work speed low and I have started recovering. There is too much dust in Malawi as it is very dry and hot now.

My regards and love to you and Stacy and the all the rest who help us. Assure Bob that I will soon deliver the food to Esnat’s children. We love you and do thank you for standing on our side. We thank God for making you available during our hard times. Your reward is great in heaven.

Greet all sweet friends and your family.

copeland





WorldHope Corps is pleased to join CitiHope International and Hopegivers International in helping to fund the HopeHome program in Malawi.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Too many kids in Hope Home




Dear Copeland,

Please forgive my silence. I've been working behind the scenes to do all we can to help. I strongly urge you to limit your good work to your financial capacity to care for the children and youth. I am concerned that you have given hope to too many kids without adequate provisions to fulfill their need. I would suggest limiting your program budget to $2,000 a month and 60 kids. That is about $30/per month per child, which is all I think we can raise together this year for orphan care.

That being said, WorldHope Corps, INc. received $10,000 from the United
Methodist Global AIDS Fund. So we can match and co-sponsor what CitiHope is
doing for the rest of this year. And we will try to raise $1000/month beginning in January from Friends of Malawi.

So, I will wire you $1500 next week to be used as follows:

$1000 for October HopeHome expenses
300 from Bob Robinson to help Esnat Banda's surviving children
200 from Stacy Radmore for your church to use as you see fit.

shalom, michael



Brother Michael,

I am so glad for both your advice to keep the number of the OVC at 60 and for the breakthrough of another donation from UMC. I entirely agree that 60 is good and manageable size. Thanks alot.

God uphold all of you.

Copeland

Monday, August 25, 2008

Hope Home Report for July



HOPE HOMES & HOPE SCHOLARSHIP REPORT JULY 2008

INCOME MK139,000

EXPENDITURE:

Tuition and Exam fees MK133000.00
Food 11000.00
Transport 1500.00

Internet 4000.00
Grand Total Expenditure MK149500.00

NOTE: MK10,500.00 is local contribution to make up for the over expenditure

It is our joy to extend our gratitude to the Citihope office – Malawi, Citihope office USA and also Rev. Michael Christensen who jointly stand behind the success of the Hope Homes and Hope Scholarship program.

SUCCESS STORIES

It is also praise worthy as we report that:

1. Mababazo chilembwe has passed and been awarded a Certificate in Financial Accounting and now admitted into the 1st stage of Diploma in Accounting.

2. Ellen Mhone has passed and is awarded a Certificate in Business Management ABE – UK with a Distinction in Accounting. She also has done a 2nd Diploma in Marketing. These paper have enabled her to pick up a good job with a big company at a good salary from 1st July 2008.

These two are outstanding success stories in the Hope Scholarship program.

There are more success stories among our students who are continuing with Diploma course in Marketing, Accounting and Business Management. As soon as they complete, I will give you a full update.

The other group of students are pending Form 4 examinations towards the end of this year. And we are expecting a string successes. You will be surprised with the abundance of fruit from this scholarship. Keep us in your prayers as we send to Heaven our deepfelt joy for your wholesome financial succour.

Special vote of thanks to Paul Moore Jr. and Rev Michael Christensen who have thrown their unfathomable weight of support to the birthing and thriving of this program at our church. Many souls have been blessed and made to survive through the food and the scholarships.

Regards from



Leaster Mhone Peter Botha Darlison Nyirenda Pastor Copeland Nkhata
(Administration) (Secretary) (Treasurer) (Coordinator)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

My Dear Brother Michael,

I am blessed to report our success story:

(`1) We have put up a better structure for the sanctuary and job was finished on 20th july. But I went away on the same day in the rural areas of dedza district--away from internet on national assignments. You will soon get the pictures.
We have too many thanks to the friends of mzuzu circuit.

(2) Ellen one of the students you sponsored for accounting course has picked up a good job with a good company and will send you the details and a picture also. Your services has excellent fruits and you can expect alot more

Love from

copeland

Saturday, June 28, 2008

From: Michael Christensen
Subject: good news
To: "Copeland Nkhata"
Date: Thursday, 25 June, 2008, 4:32 AM


Hello my friend. I have two pieces of good news of great joy to tell you:

1. I submitted the proposal to UM Global AIDS Fund to help fund our HopeChurch
program. Let's pray that it comes through in a timely manner.

2. We raised $2,000 for your ministry, which I wired to you on Monday. Please
confirm receipt. It is designated as follows:

$1500 to replace the roof on the church
$300 to provide housing for the Banda family that Bob Robinson wrote you about.
$200 for emergency fund to be used at your desecration in behalf of your
orphaned and vulnerable children in your care.

michael

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Mother Shalom



South Central, Los Angeles, was the neighborhood in the city where Communities of Shalom began in 1992. I met Marx Gutierrez from El Salvador who was there attending High School at the time. He remembers what happened at the corner of Florence and Normandy Streets in South Central, LA, when Reginald Denny was pulled out of his truck and beaten while the crowd looked on and the police did nothing; and how the Rodney King beating resulted in a not-guilty verdict for the police and resulted in a major, 3-day uprising in the neighborhood, until the National Guard came in and finally imposed law and order. He can still remember the fires, the bright orange night sky, the mass looting, 45 unsolved killings, the social chaos...And how the United Methodist Churches responded by creating a zone of shalom in 7 neighborhoods of Los Angeles.

Today, Marx is a community organizer, and married to Jennifer Gutierrez, Conference Shalom Coordinator in the Calif-Pacific Annual Conference, and Rev. Vilma Cruz now pastors Pico Union Shalom church and community center (and garden).

During California-Pacific Annual Conference session today, I was given a short 'courtesy' time to remind the United Methodist churches where and why shalom began. Here are my notes:

Greetings: “Shabbat shalom!” “Aloha!”
Shalom to you, Bishop… and Shalom from my Bishop, Beverly Shamana, and my Dean, Maxine Clarke Beach...

Shalom is not just a Jewish greeting or a special way to say ‘hello.’ Shalom is a biblical word that means health, healing, harmony, wholeness, peace, welfare and community well-being. As used by Jeremiah:

“Seek the shalom of the city where I have sent you, and pray to the Lord in its behalf, for in it’s shalom, you will find your shalom.” –Jeremiah 29:7

What is Communities of Shalom?

Communities of Shalom is
• a grass-roots, faith-inspired, Methodist-initiated, community development network of shalom sites (also known as “shalom zones”) in the USA and Africa
• Coordinated and equipped with ShalomZoneTraining by Drew University Theological School in collaboration with the General Board of Global Ministries
• Supporting local congregations and communities in working together to raise the quality of life in their immediate neighborhoods, villages and towns
• Focused on health, healing and wholeness—so that all God’s people can experience shalom—shalom in all its fullness.

What's the basic concept?

The basic idea, born in LA, is to create a shalom zone by focusing community organizing and development work in one single block, or 4 square blocks, one square mile, one long country road, or however the community wants to define itself. By taking on small part of the whole, we can transform the world one community at a time.

What are Communities of Shalom doing in the world today?


Nine UMC congregations in the city of Baltimore are working together with local residents, police, civic groups and business folks to help reduce the high murder rate in the city in the name of shalom.
Newark Interfaith Coalition is working together to reduce gang violence
Affordable housing in Richmond
Legal services for illegal immigrants in Dallas
Appalachian poverty in West Virginia
Green Shalom in Scranton
Mobile health clinics ('Shalom Mobiles') in Houston and Ghana
Micro enterprises in Zimbabwe

Shalom is on the loose, and it all began in Los Angeles.

History of shalom:

The Shalom initiative began in Los Angeles, in south central LA, in direct response to the social uprising following the Rodney King verdict in 1992.
Pastor Jim Lawson led the LA contingency as they gave a report to the 1992 General Conference about what was happening in their city. The Order of the Day was set aside for over an hour as delegates listened and tried to discern how best to respond.

Pastor Joseph Sprague drafted a proposal to create a ‘shalom zone’ in Los Angeles. When the vote was taken, support for the resolution and the concept behind it was overwhelming. It is remembered as one of the few times that the General Conference was able to make a bold decision with bipartisan support.

Seven shalom zones were created in LA in 1992 by 13 UM congregations. Among instigators of shalom were Rev. Thomas Hill, Bishop Roy Sano, and Rev. Brandon Cho. By 1995, under Rev. Jim Conn’s leadership, twelve 501 c 3’s were started to do community development work, including: Rakestraw Community Center and PICO Union Shalom (the mother shalom).

The shalom concept caught on nationally: shalom teams trained and equipped to take on just four square blocks in city after city, and systemically work together with representatives from all the sectors of the community for the total well-being of that particular neighborhood…thus transforming the world one community at a time.

Soon, other urban areas, and eventually, rural communities around the country, created shalom sites (for example, there are now 30 sites in South Carolina).

I am in fruitful discussions with Jim Conn, Director of New Ministries, and Jennifer Rodriguez, Director of Urban Ministries, about renewing communities of shalom in the Conference. This is very important to me since the city of Los Angeles is home to the mother shalom site where it all began. So I would ask you to think about it, pray about it, and discern whether you and your church are called to shalom ministry.

Support for Shalom:

As National Director of Communities of Shalom, I am delighted to provide leadership and support to this growing network.

The International Shalom Resource Center at Drew University 1) provides on-going training, technical assistance, and relational support to registered communities of shalom (see website); 2) prepares and places student interns in selected shalom sites; 3) facilitates equipping and networking events and summits; and 4) hosts an online social networking and resource site: www.shalomnexus.com and a public website: www.communitiesofshalom.org

ShalomZoneTraining is a trademark product is available to equip local ministry teams in how to help bring about systemic, sustainable change, health and wholeness, asset-based community development, love in action, organizing and multicultural collaboration (and that's how you spell SHALOM).

A Call to Shalom:

Shalom work is not just another church outreach program but a particular model of transformational ministry. Evangelism and social action, relief work and ministries of mercy are important, but it’s not at the heart of shalom.

You’ve heard the conventional wisdom: “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach people to fish, and they will eat for a life time.” But what if the lake is polluted? What if the fish have disappeared from the stream? What if there is a monopoly on the fishing business and the people who live near the water cannot access the local assets? What then?

Then, someone needs to mobilize the people to take back the lake!

Giving people fish is relief work. Teaching people to fish is education. Taking control of the lake is the hard, spiritual work of community organizing and community development. Shalom ministry is faith-based community development work over the long term.

Dom Heller Camera, Archbishop of Brazil, used to say: “When I fed hungry people, they called me a saint. When I started asking ‘why are these people hungry?’ they called me a communist.

Shalom ministry addresses systemic issues for community transformation as well as individual well-being: “Seek the shalom of the city where I have sent you, and pray to the Lord in its behalf, for in it’s shalom, you will find your shalom.” –Jeremiah 29:7


Zaferia Shalom Zone Agency in Los Angeles, operated by Wesley United Methodist Church in Long Beach, Calif., has linked Wednesday morning Bible study with its food ministry. People waiting in line for food are invited to engage in Bible study led by the Rev. Cherrye Cunnigan. The Zaferia agency is one of several "Shalom Zones" in the area. In a Shalom community, churches collaborate with local organizations, businesses, institutions and residents to transform the conditions that affect people's lives -- to change negative forces within the community to positive actions for shalom (peace). A UMNS photo by Larry Hygh. Photo number 02-435, Accompanies UMNS #513, 11/12/02



A 92-foot mural titled “A Beacon of Hope” graces an outside wall at the Rakestraw Community Education Center in South Central Los Angeles, one of several Shalom Zones in the area. A Shalom community is a geographic area where churches collaborate with local organizations, businesses, institutions and residents to transform the conditions that affect people’s lives -- to change negative forces within the community to positive actions for shalom (peace). A UMNS photo by Larry Hygh. Photo number 02-438, Accompanies UMNS #513, 11/12/02


For information on how to become a shalom site, or re-activate an historic shalom zone, or to request shalomzone training, visit us at www.communitiesofshalom.org communitiesofshalom.org

As my pastor, Cecil Williams, used to say: Shalom/Salaam, Right On/AMEN!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Blankets needed for Orphan Care

What follows is a monthly report from Copeland Nkhata, pastor of the Mzuzu UMC congregation and program director of our Orphan Care program in Malawi.

Be sure to read his appeal for blankets for the kids, and his proposal to take the cost out of the food budget in July. If we raise additional funds--approx $600--we can supply blankets for 80+ vulnerable children and the center would not have to use food money.

Unlike here in the USA, its cold at night in July in Malawi. Blankets are needed in the Center. Shipping costs are too high to find blankets here to ship over. We need to wire funds for local purchase of what is needed. Please let me know if you would like to help by emailing me at mchriste@drew.edu


Dear Rev Michael,

Thanks for all the help. The Hope Homes and Hope Scholarship Program is growing as you can testify of what you saw on 9th March. We have gratitude for you are making a difference in our community especially among the Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC).

We wish to ask for your advice over the issue of blankets for the OVC seeing that the cold season afflicts the children in a dreadful way. If it would find approval in you, we suggest that instead of supplying corn in June or July, we may buy blankets for them so as to shield them from the cold Mzuzu weather. Mzuzu is particularly cold and without good coverings one is in a mess. We had one of the best picnics and our children enjoyed both learning and play.



SUCCESS STORIES

ASANTE
I am 12 years old. My mother passed away in 2002. I am in Grade in 7 and I am part of the UMC Hope Child protection project. I am HIV+ and the condition was very bad when I tested positive in the year 2006. Through the food support I receive from the project, my health has improved and my CD count has gone up. My mass has increased tremendously. My school work is so good. For 3 years now I always get position one at school. I thank God for this help.

JESSIE MHONE

I am 9 years old and I attended standard 6. My father abandoned me at birth and I have never seen him. I have been raised by my grandpa. In 2006 my grandfather brought me to UMC Hope Homes programme where I have received food provisions and my health has improved. It has been very helpful for me to obtain food when resources were not otherwise available. I thank God. My school work has been easy through this support and I often score Position one and I am proud to be part of this Programme.

MONICA PHIRI

Iam 12 years old. My father and mother passed away when I was one year old. I have been brought up by my grandma. Life has been hard. Food was one of the most critical problems till when UMC Hope Homes started supporting me with food. I thank God for two things: the Hope Homes have bought me food, a blanket and clothes. I really find this programme useful for my life.

MABABAZO

I am a young man aged 16 and have duly completed my training in Certificate in Financial Accounting. I am a very opportunity and blessed orphan who having lost my father 10 years ago through HIV/AIDS scourge had little means to go on with school till the UMC Hope Scholarship offered me a place at college for training. I am now very happy and sure that my future will ripen into success. I thank God for connecting me into this opportunity through the church.

LYNESS

I am an orphan aged 12 and lost both parents at birth through HIV/AIDS. I have been reared by my granny. I have been vulnerable all through but in 2007 the UMC Hope Homes started taking care of me. The church has bought me food monthly and last year in June they bought me a blanket to protect me from the cold weather. I feel good and happy for the Lord has visited me with His mercy.


COPELAND
Leaster
Darlison
Peter


THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

HOPE HOMES & HOPE SCHOLARSHIP

APRIL 2008 REPORT


DESCRIPTION INCOME (K) EXPENDITURE
Received 139 000.00
Transport 14 370.00
Communication 2 115.00
Food 75325.00
Picnic 20 000.00
Books 12 920.00
Fees 11 000.00

Stationery- pens 75.00
Medical care 2 350.00
Sundry expenses 800.00
Balance c/d 45.00
Total 139 000.00 139 000.00

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Thank you from Copeland


Rev. Copeland Nkhata, Pastor of the Methodist Church in Mzuzu, with his wife, Jane, who with their congregation took in 57 orphans to care for since 2006

I received the following email from Rev. Nkhata this morning, acknowledging receipt of our funds to replace the roof and conveying his deep gratitude. I asked him to borrow a camera and send a photo when he can. Read and rejoice:

Dear Michael,

Very many thanks and truly words cannot suffice to say thank you for such great intervention with funds to let us replace the roof of the church. Be assured that the job is soon done. I will assign Leaster to go down to Blantyre to purchase the tent soon.

Convey to all friends of Malawi Mzuzu circuit that we are glad for they have been used of the Lord to make a difference among the people of Mzuzu. God flourish your hearts for his kingdom.

Love from

copeland



For more photos of the Orphan Church in Mzuzu, as well as our March Mission Trip, click on this link to the Photo Album:

http://michael-christensen.blogspot.com/2008_03_01_archive.html

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

We raised enough to raise the roof !


We raised enough to raise the roof of the orphan church in Malawi!

On May 12, Rev. Copeland NKhata prayed about the sudden loss of the roof to his church. He shared the need with others: "We are still holding together, though a few of our members are excessively shocked. Our services are badly affected, but we have hope that God will always protect his work."

Apparently, God told him to find a friend with a computer and email his friends outside of Africa. The email that reached Sarah Harrington, who passed it on to me, read as follows:

"Sad news: armed robbers have stolen the tent that we had used to roof our small church structure. The roof is now bare, and drizzle or sunshine affects our services. The matter is with the police. Please pray that God would bail us out of this mess."

The 'tent' he was referring to is the relatively expensive, waterproof, roof covering on wood and thatched built church of 150 Methodists (including 57 AIDS orphans) who worship together in a simple sanctuary of wooded planks and a dirt floor with sun or rain streaming in depending on whether it’s the dry or wet season in Malawi.

Rev. Nkhata is pastor of Mzuzu United Methodist Church and Director of the HopeHome program for AIDS orphans in Malawi. He emailed me what had happened in the church where I preached in just 3 months ago, and I agreed to pass the word to friends of Malawi that the church for orphans needed a new, waterproof roof. The original cost to construct and install was $1000. The estimate to replace was $1500.

Eleven friends of Malawi responded with gifts of $15 to $500 in a timely manner, and by Monday a total of $1,815 was received or pledged. I made a deposit to the WorldHope Corps account and wired Copeland $2,000—a little less than his annual church budget!! It will be enough to replace the roof and also provide food for some of the 57 AIDS orphans cared for by the congregation.



That’s how God answers prayer: by inspiring believers in God’s inclusive love and justice to hear the cries of orphans and windows in distress, and to respond with tangible acts of loving kindness to people they have never even met.

And that’s how WorldHope Corps works: by connecting available resources with qualified needs, facilitating specific ways to make a difference in the world.
Thank you for responding. Together, we raised the roof!