Daughters of the King: Mission Trip to Honduras

God gave me an idea and a nudge at a meeting of the Daughters of the King Province III board last year.  I should invite those present to join me on a mission to Honduras.  Carol White from the Diocese of Southern Virginia accepted the invitation followed by Joyce Frenz from my own chapter at St. John’s, Franklin.  It wasn’t long before her husband Randall, a Lutheran pastor, signed on as well.  We had a team!

I now marvel at the path we took to get to Danli, Honduras.  We were four individuals answering a call but really not sure what God was calling us to do.  We sometimes wandered off the path and I was reminded of Proverbs 3:5-6, Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

A mission trip was not new to me – I had accompanied my husband numerous times on his veterinary mission trips, but this time I would be leading a team with a very different mission.  Lord, what would you have me do?  My husband’s veterinary team was working with SAMS missionary Jeannie Loving, who just happened to be a Daughter of the King.  We communicated with her and after much correspondence, prayer, and a shared daily devotional, God guided us to a plan: a quiet day, a Bible study, and a service project.  It was a very ambitious plan that would require money for materials, interpreters, and in-country transportation for us and the participants.  We applied for and received a generous grant from the National Daughters of the King Self-Denial Fund to cover those expenses.  God gave us the plan and provided the means.  Now we had to trust Him to show us the how.

Ten months later, February 10, 2017, we finally arrived in Honduras.   The first task was to organize our service project.  Our plan was to assemble and distribute mother/baby kits to the public health clinics.  In Honduras, any woman going to the hospital or clinic to deliver her baby is required to bring with her a shirt, cap, socks, receiving blanket and two diapers for the baby and two sanitary napkins and an adult diaper for her.  Many families earn an average of only $20 a month and it can be a real hardship to procure these items.  We had brought with us more than 200 each of baby onesies, hats and pairs of socks donated by individuals in the US.  With the help of local Daughters, we packed all the required items in a 2 ½ gallon zip lock bag.  We included a card written in Spanish stating this kit was from Honduran and US Daughters of the King who were praying for the mother and baby.  These same Daughters accompanied us to the clinics to deliver the kits.  At one clinic, the doctor in charge clapped his hands and exclaimed he was so thrilled it gave him goosebumps.  He ushered us into a room where two very young women had just delivered babies.  We prayed with the new mothers and handed each of them a kit.  Priceless.

Extra baby items and cash to purchase diapers, etc. were left with the local Daughters of the King so they could continue with this project.

Meanwhile Pastor Randall met with ten women for a Bible study.   They came from four different Episcopal churches and some had ridden about an hour on a non-air-conditioned bus  to get there.  They were attentive, inquisitive and faithful in attendance.  We left extra study books for these women to lead Bible studies in their home parishes.

The main event was our Quiet Day which was attended by more than 50 women and about a dozen children.  The morning program was a series of songs and scripture readings with intervals of silent meditation.  After lunch, we opened with a guided meditation followed by a service to admit nine new Daughters of the King to the Order.  A celebration of Holy Eucharist closed out a beautiful, spirit filled day.  It was a great day in the Kingdom!

I had a vision but I never envisioned the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through us.  We hope by reading this you will be inspired to step out in faith to do a mission at home or abroad.

Kathy Paulo is a member of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Franklin, PA, and has been a member of the Daughters of the King since 2005. 

Invitation to the Diocesan Prayer Vigil – March 17 & 18

altar-boy-1190759_1920The conviction that praying shapes believing is part of our Anglican heritage.  Prayer is a core practice of our Christian faith and serves as both a foundation and covering for our common mission.

I invite you to join me in prayer for our diocese at St. John’s, Sharon, on March 17-18 from noon to noon.  We will set aside 24 hours to pray for each other, our common life and mission, and our communities.

Please join us as you are able.  I recognize that not everyone will be able to join us in Sharon, but I hope that you will offer prayer from wherever you are during that time.

+Sean

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The schedule for the prayer vigil is below.  As you can see on the schedule, we will be praying from noon to noon with services and events planned throughout the vigil.  All are welcome to join us for any portion of the vigil, whether that be attending a single service, coming just to pray on your own for a time, or being present for the full 24 hours.  There will be food provided throughout our time.

We will also have a form on the website for those who would like to submit prayer requests to be prayed over by our intercessors.  You are welcome to submit as many as you would like.

If you have any questions about this event or submitting a prayer request, please contact Vanessa.

Schedule for Prayer Vigil
March 17-18
St. John’s, Sharon
12:00 PM       Stations of the Cross
2:30 PM         Centering Prayer teaching and prayer time
5:30 PM         Evening Prayer
7:00 PM         Healing Service
10:00 PM      Compline
11:00 PM       Oral Reading of Book of Revelation
12:00 AM      Private Prayer/Intercession over submitted prayers
7:00 AM         Morning Prayer and Praise
9:00 AM        Prayerwalk & prayers for community
11:00 AM       Eucharist
12:00 PM      Lunch with St. John’s Family Kitchen (if you wish to stay)

Now Accepting Applications for Mission Trip to the Dominican Republic

And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.’  Mark 16:15

The Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania will conduct a third mission trip to the Dominican Republic to work with our partner congregation, Cristo Salvador, from July 21-29, 2017.

Cristo Salvador Episcopal Church in Santiago offers hope amidst the drug use and poverty of their neighborhood, ever trying to reach out to IMG_9607those around them. With this in mind, rather than simply sending money and never meeting one another, folks from our diocese will work with the folks there, getting to know one another, learning from each other, and experiencing different ways of life. We will also assist with the church’s Vacation Bible School, which will help Cristo Salvador proclaim the good news to the youth and adults of their neighborhood. We are going to support them, hoping that what we do furthers their ministry in that community. You can read more about our diocese’s relationship with Cristo Salvador and the mission trips in 2015 and 2016 here.

image1We are currently accepting applications for volunteers for this year’s mission trip through February 15th. More information about the trip can be found at http://dionwpa.org/our-diocese/mission-trip-2017, as well as an online application. Please note that at this time you must be 15 years of age or older to participate in the DR Mission Trip.

If you have further questions about the trip or how to apply, please contact the Rev. Melinda Hall. We look forward to sharing the experiences of this year’s group of volunteers this coming July!

Be Part of the Conversation

yoga-1146280_640I detest pigeons.  But more than actual pigeons, I really detest the pigeon pose in yoga.  It involves folding one leg under you in such a way that stretches your hip, while the other leg stretches behind you and your arms and head rest on the mat.  Ideally that’s what it involves.  When I fold into pigeon, there is nothing ideal about it.  Without fail, my leg goes to sleep, the numbness disintegrates into pins-and-needles, and I begin wondering whether I will lose my leg altogether from a lack of blood flow; by the time I exit this pose, will I look more like the one-legged maimed pigeons of cities than a stretched and rested human?

With such manifestations of yogic skill and grace, you may wonder why in the world I continue to attend the Monday yoga class offered in my town.  It’s twofold, an intertwining of personal spirituality and corporate kingdom spreading.  Engaging with me can be a hyper experience, as I frequently bounce between ideas and exhibit a rather deplorable lack of focus.  Too often my thoughts are racing ahead to the next minute, hour, or week instead of being focused in the task or moment at hand.  It isn’t conducive to really good thinking or praying; it doesn’t foster listening to others or to God- or even to myself.  So along with reading on the topic, I have chosen to take up yoga to practice mindfulness.

To a degree, it is working.  Depending on the pose, I can focus on my breathing better than in the past; I can sometimes translate that skill beyond the studio into the ‘real world.’  But that’s not the sole reason I’m at the yoga class.  Last summer at Holy Trinity, we began exploring our identity and adjusting our programs and worship to live into that identity.  As a congregation, we developed our core values, penned blue-and-brewsthem, refined them, and hung them on the wall; they guide us in all decision-making.  We decided to ‘go public’ about being a congregation that embraces all people and began reimaging and rewriting worship services to include the musical talents of several parishioners and to reflect language we use in everyday life.  Formation activities moved outside our walls, to an arts café and a bar/restaurant; we have embraced learning as a key element of who we are.  Additionally, we began teaming up with local organizations to sponsor events that outsiders may not think churches sponsor, chief among them Blues and Brews with the arts group, but also concerts and our animal blessing.

Great as all that may be for our life together, it is not about us.  It is all aimed at reentering the conversation happening in our town, a conversation about economics and politics, loss and hope, drugs and alcohol, football and wrestling, bike trails and beer, questions and longings and spirituality.  Is this new or different?  No, it is not.  But it is a new orientation for us, one that is exciting and challenging.  Much of it is about listening to people, putting ourselves in different places so we hear many stories and better understand what God is doing here so we can partner with God in that work.  That’s why I torture myself with the pigeon pose: to meet new people, learn about their lives, and listen to their spirituality.  And that is happening, slowly.  Investing in a community and others takes time, more time than I would like.  But hopefully I’ll learn a little patience through the yoga and learn to listen more deeply to the people I meet and to God.  And together with the others at Holy Trinity, we can be part of the conversation happening in our community.

The Rev. Melinda Hall is vicar of Holy Trinity, Brookville. 

Giving Thanks – St. James’ Community Soup Kitchen

img_1709-478x640If you drive through Titusville on a Tuesday morning just before lunch time, you may notice how busy the corner of Main Street and Franklin Avenue is compared to the rest of town. Cars line the edge of the roadway, and people walking singly or in groups of three or four make their way down the sidewalk towards the doors of the St. James Parish Hall. Outside the hall a white sign proclaims “St. James Community Soup Kitchen Today 12 – 1 pm. All are Welcome!”

All are indeed welcome to this particularly busy ministry of St. James, as I came to find out. I spoke with Eda Scales and Noni Stanford, two of the soup kitchen coordinators, last Tuesday as they were preparing to serve over 200 people for the annual Thanksgiving dinner. Even though I arrived at 11 am, well before the usual serving hour, most of the tables in the hall were already full of people chatting and having steaming cups of coffee, enjoying each other’s company and relaxing before the beginning of the meal. Volunteers zipped back and forth, topping up glasses and making last minute preparations, but everyone I passed had enough time to smile and say hello as they went about the business of Thanksgiving dinner.
The food program at St. James has been running continuously since 2001, serving hot meals once a week to anyone who drops in. The first few dinners had perhaps a dozen people in attendance, but numbers have increased steadily to the point that on any given Tuesday there are img_1706-640x478at least a hundred people in and out of St. James’ hall, sharing a meal and fellowship (and double that for the Thanksgiving celebration).  Volunteer participation is both ecumenical and community-oriented: at least four churches in the area send helpers to aid the St. James’ crew, and they are often joined by women from the St. James House – a shelter program run by the local YWCA that is housed in the old church rectory. On the few occasions when Canon Martha Ishman is unable to attend dinners, Pastor Terry Brown of the Methodist church in Enterprise gives the blessing before the meal.

The program was given a jumpstart in its early days with a grant from the Diocese, but between donations from parishioners and support from local groups and businesses like Northwest Hardwoods, the VFW, United Way, and a partnership with the Second Harvest Food Bank, the soup kitchen ministry is now self-sufficient and able to provide hot meals and groceries for people in and around the Titusville area. It is also one of the only regularly scheduled soup kitchens in the area that doesn’t charge a fee for the meal. Eda pointed out to me that not only does the program meet financial, social, and spiritual needs for attendees in general, it is particularly valuable to people with special circumstances: the working poor, people on fixed incomes or Social Security, and others who may not qualify for assistance programs, but still find themselves in need. There are no qualifiers to participate in the food ministry, and everything is on the honor system – if someone says they have a need, they may receive.

The program also encompasses the God’s Abundance Cupboard food pantry, which began on an emergency basis whenever the church was open, and has since grown so that there are now twice-monthly scheduled pickup days where families can come and get a bag of groceries including fruit, cereal, soup, vegetables, and (thanks to a grant from Giant Eagle) two packages of frozen meat. The food pantry now gives out approximately 70 bags of groceries each pickup day.
The financial benefit of the meals and grocery donations is readily evident when you see the number of people who participate in the program. As I walked around the tables and chatted with people the social and spiritual benefits made themselves known. For many of the attendees, the soup kitchen is about much more than a hot meal – it’s an important social space, and a church outside of church. From Noni: img_1689-599x640“If you miss a week or something, they ask ‘where were you last week?’ They feel like this is their church, even if they don’t all come on Sundays.” It’s obvious that the people visiting last Tuesday felt at home. Chatter passed back and forth between people and tables with a familiarity that only comes from regular interaction. I sat down near the kitchen to chat with one young woman and her 14-month old daughter, and she mentioned that she was there because her parents came regularly. Her father was seated further down the table, and he introduced me to his wife, one of his cousins, and another relative (who was one of the volunteers, and not able to sit with them as he was working). He said how much they appreciate the church, and his wife jumped in to tell me a story about how one of the previous priests, after seeing that she had been crying at one of the meals, was able to get them help that saved them from being evicted from their home. Both volunteers and people sitting at tables stopped me as I walked around and asked if I needed a seat or a plate, and there wasn’t a single table where someone didn’t have a story or a joke to share (or a groan about the upcoming snow in the weather forecast). As Eda had said while we talked, “you see the face of God in everyone around the tables.” If the smiles on the faces of the volunteers are any indication, they receive as much joy in giving as the attendees do in receiving.

Noni walked by with a large tray filled with slices of pumpkin pie, signaling an end to the first wave of dining, and I waved goodbye and worked my way back through the tables towards the exit. Knots of people who had finished eating or were waiting for spaces to open up at the tables stood in the entry hall and outside on the sidewalk, and several folks wished me a happy holiday as I zipped up my jacket and headed down the street.

I walked out the doors of the hall that day far more uplifted in spirit than I had been prior to arriving. The weather may be getting colder and the days shorter, but God’s presence in this ministry will continue warming hearts throughout western PA’s people for hopefully many years to come.

Megin Sewak, Communications Specialist for the Diocese of Northwestern PA

Wrap-Up Post from the DR Mission Team

‘I would like to see Senor Hidalgo.’ This is how my morning begins on Saturday: with an inquiry to see the customs official at the Santiago airport. I’m shown into a small office with dingy lights, one high-heeled shoe lying ominously next to the metal-framed desk. A previous misadventure with customs? I briefly contemplate what my Brooks sneaker would look like next to it, before snapping out of it. I’m never very rational or clear-headed at 3:30am.

Hidalgo appears, in his official uniform, with a ring of keys. ‘You’re here too early.’ He says, looking only briefly at the carbon form in my hands, while unlocking a door to a larger room where I glimpse the two bags that are my reason for being here. With the dim lights and the carbon paper and the suspense, I really feel like I’m in a film noir set in 1940. ‘Too early?’ I reply back, really not liking where this seems to be leading. I want the two bags of our 640 pairs of glasses to take back to America, and I want them now, not later. Who knows what the line is like at immigration? ‘You must wait,’ he says. That’s when I wish it were a movie, because then I’d be some super cool CIA person with karate skills and the ability to teach Hidalgo a real lesson. Instead, I’m a puny priest with no real arm muscles and only a passing knowledge of Spanish.

‘No. No. I’m not waiting. We are not too early; your airport website says arrive 3 hours early. I am taking the glasses. I am going to Delta. You can come with me, but I am going. Now. Right now.’ At least that is what I think I said- this is all happening in Spanish- in my most defiant tone with blazing eyes. A long pause, hands on my hips; heart beats shallow, anger pulsing behind my eyes as I try to think of my next move, but I can’t because it is 3:30am, and I’ve not had any coffee.

Then he looks at the man with him, in a regular button-down shirt, round faced and younger. A decision is made as they point me to the door and grab the cart with the glasses. I become the ringleader of a parade through the outdoor airport, complete with a giant cart holding the big black bags and two customs officials. They escort me to the Delta check-in and wait with me until I check the glasses, procuring copies of my tickets and baggage tags before giving me a stack of stapled papers they assure me I’ll need in the US, which I put away because no one in the US cares about 640 pairs of glasses, all looking like they came from 1982. Only Hidalgo cared.

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And that is probably the only ‘rational’ explanation for why our vision clinic never happened this past week. Let me be clear: no one we worked with anticipated any trouble. The company from whom we rented the equipment and bought the glasses sends teams all over the world- often to the DR- with little trouble; the American missionary in the DR, who plans our trip, works with teams that do vision clinics and has never encountered an issue. The priest at Christo Salvador also did not anticipate this problem. Over the course of the week, Father Hipolito made repeated phone calls and visits to the airport; the diocese involved their government liaison. Despite having the paperwork all finished on Wednesday, customs refused to give the glasses back. I feel quite relieved even to have received them back to take home.

The losers in this are the people of the barrio where we work. They were signed up for appointments. The last day, a little girl asked Tina about glasses; it was the worst feeling in the world to say ‘no, no glasses.’ I have sent scans of the paperwork I received back to the missionary in the DR to try and get an answer, but I remain unsure whether we will have an answer. By no means was the week a waste of time, but this was undeniably disappointing. We will do our best to figure out what went wrong and make an informed decision about next year.

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In wrapping up this blog, I would like to extend an enormous ‘thank you’ to those who kept us in your prayers and to the churches and individuals who supported us financially. Without the assistance and commitment of our sponsors, we could not have gone. The team is grateful for their support of this ‘one church’ endeavor that grows the kingdom and changes lives.

– Melinda Hall

Post from Friday of DR Mission Trip

The dreaded time has come to say our goodbyes. We were only here for a short period of time,  and made such a huge impact on the kids’ lives. Just by being here for a little while the kids even made an impact on me. Despite what happens in the children’s lives, they came to Vacation Bible School and forgot whatever was the matter at home, and had a huge smile on their face. They also loved playing with my hair every day! I cannot wait to come next year and see the kids again. I am going to miss them so much. They were so cheerful to see us come and happy we were having fun too. By the end of the week we had 73 kids. This is a lot for the community the church is located in. The first day we had about 45 children show up.  They loved the games and crafts we had for them. For this being my first time being out of the country and first mission trip, I was scared of the different culture and food.  Once we got here Friday, I noticed a lot of things were the same and not a lot different from home. The food was different but I tried a lot of news things, including rice, fried eggplant, and papaya.

-Abby Wheeler

Post from Thursday of DR Mission Trip

Seeing the children waiting each morning, makes us smile. We are greeted with hugs and smiles. They are excited to learn new games and teach us their games. They are so happy to see ping pong balls and balloons and game time goes so quickly.

During craft time today, the teachers read ‘The Giving Tree’. The children then traced their hand to create a tree that they decorated with stickers to make ‘leaves’ of thanks. As we helped them trace their hands we noticed how they were sharing crayons and helping each other draw leaves.

This week is going very quick. Even though it’s not going the exact way we planned, each day we are reminded of how this partnership in the DR is truly as blessing for all of our church family.

– Julie Westman – Church of Our Savior, DuBois

Post from Wednesday of DR Mission Trip

It’s after lunch, post worship on Sunday, and we’re all sitting around Fr. Hippolito’s table, having just eaten a load of flan to prove how grateful we are for the invitation.  The afternoon seems long and stretches out into a haze of humidity and heat, making me feel lazy and languid.  For a few minutes I have been following the conversation between Fr. Hippolito and our translator, Ernesto, listening particularly for how it is we’re getting back to the hotel, but the conversation is mostly about church.  I’ve been learning Spanish fairly diligently, so I am following along ok, but I find myself stuck on one word.  Finally I just ask what it is.

‘Oh,’ says Ernesto, ‘the word is templo.’  I am slightly confused because this sounds a lot IMG_9607like the word I just learned meaning earthquake.  Surely this is not the word.   ‘Um, what does it mean?’ I ask, Ernesto looking at me like I am really slow today.  ‘Templo, you know, the church building?’  No wonder he’s raised his eyebrows at me like I’ve lost it; that
should have been easy.  ‘Riiiiight!’ I chuckle with him.  ‘But wait, Ernesto, I learned iglesia means church.’  ‘Yeah,’ explains Ernesto, ‘Templo is the building but iglesia is the people.  You know?’

The laziness flees from my body as I sit bolt upright.  ‘For real?’ I say, totally captivated by this superb theology expressed linguistically.  ‘Yes.’ Ernesto says in a voice that is meant to convey his authority but also that he thinks I am slightly silly for the question.  ‘That is the best ever!’  Because it is.  Because think of all the time in English spent trying to parse the difference between the church where I attend and the place it physically occupies and
the church as the body of Christ, the gathered disciples.  The iglesia is what matters; templos are completely secondary.

IMG_9625This week in Santo Domingo is an iglesia experience, the one church gathered for kingdom work.  We talk a lot about being one church in our diocese, partnering together to do more and to support one another, and this relationship with the iglesia of Christo Salvador in the DR is an extension of that.  There is only one iglesia of Jesus Christ, and we’re all part of it- Americans, Dominicans- any Christ follower.  Being one church is what this is about.  It is not about running the perfect VBS or experiencing a new culture; it is not about ‘going on a mission trip’ or even holding a vision clinic.  It is
about partnering to bring the kingdom, to be Christ in the world.

For one week, we get to witness how the kingdom is unfolding in a different place and be part of it, to see what Jesus is up to in an entirely different barrio than our own.  We have the joy of supporting our brothers and sisters who work diligently and faithfully despite issues of poverty and development.  We have the privilege of developing relationships with people who seem so different and yet are so similar, people who like us pray for the kingdom to come and God’s will to be done.

Why partner and visit the DR?  Because we’re all one church, that’s why.  Because we are all in this together.   But we easily forget that, we even forget to be one church in the IMG_9622
diocese, as each templo gets consumed by parochial affairs.  This week reminds me that the Jesus movement is a global movement.  That the Spirit is loose, not only in my backyard, but all over the world, stirring up new things and overturning systems and inviting us to be part of her dance.  Being here opens my eyes, extends my vision, and sends me back differently.  We are one in Christ, we are the iglesia.

– Melinda Hall

Post from Tuesday of DR Mission Trip

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

The second day of vbs went well!! I was so excited to see many more children attend bible school this morning. The craft was amazing, and the children really enjoyed painting their corazon (heart).  Today, two amazing girls caught my eye we when singing during lunchtime. Everyone here is so compassionate and despite the rain that fell today, it didn’t stop us from having a good time. I’m excited for what the rest of the week brings us. Prayers for our eye clinic! 

-Stephanie Onyeiwu, Christ Church Meadville