Bohoc, Haiti

By Jennifer G. Stewart, First Anderson Presbyterian Church

As we drive through the large, rusted gates of the Matthew 28 Orphanage a part of me feels like I am coming home even though I am in a foreign land. The sounds of children laughing and calling our names in the orphanage are music to my heart.  This is my 5th trip to Bohoc, Haiti with First Presbyterian Church, Anderson.   We, as a church, have made an intentional decision to commit to  a long term partnership with Matthew 28 (orphanage, feeding centers, and school.)  This partnership has benefitted ALL of us. I cannot even begin to put into words the impact this mission and its people have had on my spiritual well-being.  While short term mission trips fill an immediate need, I have become a believer of making a commitment to serve for an extended time in the same place because of the relationships built and a deeper understanding of the mission at hand.

When we go to Bohoc, we all have ‘our jobs to do.’  For me, that includes serving as a pharmacist for our medical team when we travel to feeding centers/medical clinics, as a worker-bee to our educational team training the Haitian teachers at the School of Eternal Hope, and spending lots of time playing games, dancing, singing, and sharing hugs with the children of the Matthew 28 Orphanage and the School of Eternal Hope.  In the midst of all of the work we are doing we find the opportunity to share the love of Jesus with the people we interact with.  After each child is seen by a member of our medical team, I have the gift of being able to pray over that child in their native language.  The line that they often repeated back to me was, “Bondye renmen ou”  (God loves you.)

The people of Bohoc live a very simple life.  With unreliable power, no such thing as hot water or indoor plumbing, and very limited funds; relationships are key.   People care about one another and they look out for each other.   Their faith is as strong as their backs. (You can’t believe how much they can carry on their heads and backs!)  They lean in to God for strength, comfort and guidance.  The older youth teach the younger children scripture.  The women hum hymns while they cook and wash clothes.  Listening to the children sing praise songs in their native language of Creole is one of the most powerful, spirit-filled sounds I have ever, in my entire life, had the privilege of hearing.

If you have ever been on a mission trip, you understand the statement, “You just can’t explain what happens to your soul on a mission trip.”  Never have there been truer words when it comes to my time spent in Haiti.   Those who know me well know that my yearly trip to Haiti is soul-filling for me.  I reconnect with God through the dark eyes and bright smiles of the orphans.  I find a sense of inner peace in the quiet of the dirt roads we travel each day.  I long for the evening devotions the mission team shares each night…thought provoking and honest, with no need to rush or hurry.  My cup overflows as we sing and play and enjoy the simple things in life with the children…having God serve as our common thread.

One of the struggles, after spending time in Haiti, is transitioning from 3rd world back to 1st world living.  We are very blessed; we know that already. But when I spend time with people who have next to nothing, yet are joy-filled, I am embarrassed at how much ‘stuff’ matters to us.  It makes me nauseous to think about how much food and clean water we waste.  It makes me angry at how easy it is for us to forget to thank our true Provider for all we have.  It makes me sad that there is so much stuff we think we need that we forget all we really need is to love and feel loved. You just can’t fully explain this to people who haven’t experienced it.  I can, however, use my experiences to shape the conversations I have with my own children and those around me.    Let me encourage you to look for your chance to step out of your comfort zone and allow God to use you as a messenger of His love.  You do, however, need to know that “it may ruin your life. If you open yourself fully to serving God first in your life it will change you so profoundly that you are ruined in your ability to return to your normal life and enjoy it in the same ways because your eyes have been opened to how others live.”

Every time I leave Bohoc to come back to the states, I leave a larger part of my heart in Haiti. I don’t tell the kids goodbye, instead I say, “See you later.”  I will return again next year.   As we land in the Atlanta airport, I know I am coming home to my family and friends, but I feel a bit like I am entering a foreign land.

More than 130 youth and their adult leaders gathered…

By Dana Waters

On World Communion Sunday, more than 130 youth and their adult leaders from 5 Foothills congregations gathered at Fort Hill Church in Clemson to play games, share a meal, pray, and assemble PDA hygiene kits for people affected by hurricanes and other natural disasters. We then closed out our time together with a worship service led by Fort Hill’s youth band, Johnny & the Tulips.
In a world that seems desperate to tell us just how different we are from each other, how much better off we would be without “those people,” here in the Fellowship Hall of our church, these young people stood together as one.
And as I reflect back on that evening, I am reminded of the chorus of the very first song we sang together:
Lean on me, when you’re not strong
 And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on
– “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers

 

I give thanks for my sisters and brothers in Christ, especially the young people from Central, FPC Anderson, Easley, and Pickens Presbyterian. They have given me a new understanding of what Paul meant when he wrote,

            “There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is
there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus
(Galatians  3:28).”
Today, let’s celebrate the unity we share in Christ Jesus. That is a gift that we may well have to lean on in the days to come.

Annual Terms of Call (Teaching Elder)

Annual Work of the Minister Form

God Is

We all come from a past that may not be colored with the beauty of the Lord. Meaning we’ve “all sinned and come short of the glory of God.” We are thankful for our new brothers and sisters who have allowed the true Gospel of Christ to have pre-eminence in their life.

per·spec·tive

PSA (Presbyterian Student Association)
Clemson University/Fort Hill Presbyterian
by Al Masters

“He’s baaack!”

Laura called after a thunderstorm on a hot, muggy summer afternoon. Would you be interested and willing to come back to PSA as Interim Associate Pastor? Kelly had just resigned as she was moving on to chaplain residency, I was just finishing an Interim position at Tyger River Pres. near Spartanburg, and wondering what next road would rise up to meet me. Perfect timing!

But would it work? An almost 70 year old, very low tech, pastor returning to Clemson and college students after being away for three years…I was excited about the opportunity and anxious about being effective.

Flash forward to summer 2017…what a year! Another Game Day with Louisville, the Tigers go on to win the Natty, students accept the old guy again, YAV Intern Linda arrives from Korea, Alex choreographs “over the top” PSA Sunday, we make a new Clemson fan, Pam, in West Virginia, on the mission trip, and hear an exclusive David LaMotte concert in Montreat fall retreat.

As Fort Hill Pres. completes necessary renovation and considers the shift from attractional to missional perspective, so PSA also takes an extended Interim pause to begin developing a long range strategic plan for future sustainability partly driven by the need for additional funding. In other words, I get to work and play with the students another year-how cool is that!

Transition times are great opportunities for fresh energy and ideas as well as anxious times as the future path unfolds. As seniors graduate and new freshmen arrive, we now push the “pause” button to evaluate and re-examine the past as we prepare for new leadership. In addition to working with a super, proactive student Council, my task is to build relationships with neighboring PCUSA churches and contact PSA alums to collect stories and support. We plan to hold regional gatherings of alums and celebrate all the campus ministers and Interns who have served PSA and cultivated over 50 servant-leaders for the PCUSA. My “research” will focus on three basic questions: what did, does PSA mean to you as a student? How important was staff leadership (Directors and Interns)? How important was the building?

We will keep some PSA sacred traditions—Old Stone worship, senior night, Christmas party, spring mission trip, fall retreat, beach week, PSA Sunday, as we also explore becoming a more diverse community engaged with the University at large, especially the international students, and continue to deepen relationships with Fort Hill members.

As students and culture change over the years, we keep constant our priority commitment to nurture and challenge their spiritual journeys, to provide a safe place for hard questions and honest fellowship, to assist local churches in honoring baptismal vows of support and confirmation. It’s a privilege to be a link in the wonderful history of Fort Hill and Foothills Presbytery role in campus ministry. Even though I could (maybe should) retire, it’s pretty cool to be with such gifted, bright, funny and dedicated students as they mature through the college years. Sure beats playing golf (I’m lousy) and sitting around with a bunch of seniors talking about our latest colonoscopy!

Presbytery Youth Ministry Builds Momentum

By Debbie Foster

Foothills Presbytery youth ministry have had quite a month of March!

Mini-Montreat, the annual high school spring retreat was a smashing success. Over 120 participants gathered in North Carolina March 17-19th for weekend of faith and fellowship. The group explored the idea of life as a balancing act as keynote speaker Andy Casto-Waters encouraged participants to recognize that a Life of faith is a balanced life, to seek those around who can show us how, while remembering that sometimes we need to take some risks.

One story in particular captures the weekend: On Saturday night, four PYC seniors had a chance to tell their stories as they responded to questions like, “How has serving on PYC helped you grow in your faith?” The high school youth, volunteers, and leaders listened as each senior shared how much of an impact PYC has had on his or her life. “It has become a second youth group,” one senior said. Another spoke of how much he has learned about church leadership and public speaking. It was a powerful moment when youth across the presbytery got to see how serving the church as Christ’s disciples can take shape in amazing and unexpected ways.

That same weekend, Ministry Architects was invited to complete a youth ministry assessment, providing the Presbytery with a clear picture of its current ministry and detailed recommendations for how the Presbytery might move strategically toward its desired future. Over 140 youth, volunteers, youth workers, clergy and presbytery staff met with Ministry Architects to share their hopes and dreams about presbytery youth ministry.

Ministry Architects presented their findings to the Committee on Shared Ministry, the Youth Ministry Task Force and members of the Youth Ministry Roundtable. The report is available online here https://foothillspresbytery.org/events/youth-ministry-assessment-session/ All are encouraged to read this initial assessment of the presbytery’s unique assets and challenges, along with key recommendations for the shaping of the next expressions of youth ministry in and through the presbytery.

The Foothills Youth Ministry Coaching Cohort also continues to meet. Each youth worker in this group of eight has selected a project to undertake for the year as they gather to learn, practice, and process ministry together.

As reflect on the great things God has done in our presbytery youth ministry in these past weeks we look towards the future with eager anticipation. We hope you’ll join us in jubilant celebration and prayerful eagerness for the years to come.

 

 

The Energy Between Us

by Scott Neely

In the fall of 2015, First Presbyterian Church-Woodruff took a risk.

Four months earlier, in May 2015, Landrum Presbyterian had ventured into a different model of pastoral leadership. Cognizant of the strain that a full-time pastor’s salary can place on a smaller congregation’s budget, the Session at Landrum decided to try something new. With the support of a small start-up grant from Foothills Presbytery and under the leadership of Rev. Dr. Gene Lassiter, Landrum developed a staffing scenario based on two very part-time team members: a stated-supply pastor charged with worship leadership, moderating the Session, and focused pastoral care; and a community minister, assigned to further pastoral care, building community connections, and teaching a Bible study. The limited scope of these duties communicated that any other work to be done in the church would have to come from congregation members.

The change that resulted was immediate. The congregation quickly found its financial footing and began building reserves. Member involvement and worship attendance shifted up, noticeably. Visitors began attending, then joined. But most importantly, the energy in the church had changed, and with it the congregation’s focus on outreach to the community. The church had stepped out of the stress of an uncertain future and into the power of an energized present.

First-Woodruff adopted this model in September 2015, again via a grant from Presbytery and led by the arrival of Rev. Steve Phillips in the very part-time but highly focused role of pastor. What had happened in Landrum kicked into gear in Woodruff—a burst of new energy, realigned personnel duties and finances, and an expansion of the already notable warmth of worship and outreach characteristic of the congregation.

But the physical plant of First-Woodruff was in need of attention. Repairs had been deferred under earlier budget constraints. With a strengthening financial position, the church began to prioritize renovations and interview contractors.

Then the Spirit moved with power. During Christmas 2015, a young adult in the church became engaged. After years of planning to have a destination wedding, she announced that she would be married in her home church. She loved what was unfolding in the congregation. She wanted to celebrate here. The wedding would be the coming November.

Energy surged in the congregation. Now renovations had a deadline. The first step was to repair the roof. As this began and next projects were readied, the pastor received a phone call. A men’s group at Westminster Presbyterian in Greenville, where he had served previously, wanted his guidance. Years before he had helped this group organize an annual local mission, using their love of construction to offer renovation and repair services to homeowners and service organizations.

“The place we were going to this year isn’t able to accommodate us as planned,” they explained. “Do you know of a place we could work?”

“You should come check out First-Woodruff,” said Steve. “This is a special place. And work is needed.”

 

The leader of Westminster-Greenville’s mission came to tour the church with Steve and a group of elders from Woodruff. They drew up a punch list. And over three weeks in the summer of 2016, teams from Westminster-Greenville renovated the Sanctuary, fellowship hall, kitchen and education building of First-Woodruff. Church members welcomed them enthusiastically, preparing lunch each day and supporting their work. In a matter of weeks, the facility was restored to its full beauty.

On November 12, 2016, the Sanctuary of First Presbyterian-Woodruff—renovated by the hands of brothers from Westminster-Greenville, fueled by the hospitality of First-Woodruff, with the support of pastoral staff from First-Spartanburg and Westminster-Greenville, aided by a grant from Presbytery, in a process inspired by an experiment at Landrum Presbyterian—filled with worshipers to celebrate the marriage of two young members.

The bride had just been ordained an elder in the Woodruff congregation.

With savings from the donated construction work and the church’s strengthened finances, First-Woodruff has begun a new local mission of funding classroom supplies for public school teachers.

See what energy moves between us.

ACSWP and Foothills Presbytery hold conversations on church’s public witness

Series of discussions finds common goal of strengthening the church

by Christian Iosso and Mike Hoyt | Special to Presbyterian News Service
Back row (l-to-r): Chris Iosso, Merwyn Johnson, Terry Alexander, Lee Close, Rob Trawick, Ray Roberts, Debbie Foster, Thomas Evans, Kirk Nolan. Front row (l-to-r): Gordon Raynal, Ted Morrison, Christine Darden, Michael Hoyt, Steven Webb. (Photo provided)

Back row (l-to-r): Chris Iosso, Merwyn Johnson, Terry Alexander, Lee Close, Rob Trawick, Ray Roberts, Debbie Foster, Thomas Evans, Kirk Nolan. Front row (l-to-r): Gordon Raynal, Ted Morrison, Christine Darden, Michael Hoyt, Steven Webb. (Photo provided)

SIMPSONVILLE, S.C. – Teams from the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) and Foothills Presbytery in upstate South Carolina met Saturday, February 18 through Tuesday, February 21. The two groups gathered to discuss differences of opinion on how the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) should make known its Christian social witness.

Planning for the meeting began at General Assembly 222 (2016) in Portland, Oregon, when one of Foothills Presbytery’s nine overtures proposed that ACSWP impose a moratorium on providing reports and guidance to the General Assembly. Rather, Foothills Presbytery wanted ACSWP to focus its efforts on educating Presbyterians about policies and theological convictions already affirmed, and on encouraging conversations among members, including those who disagree with General Assembly policies.

While the General Assembly didn’t adopt any Foothills Presbytery’s overtures, it did call on PC(USA) congregations to recommit to a biblical witness focused on values of unity, community, diversity and transformation upon which the presbytery based its series of overtures. The General Assembly reaffirmed the denomination’s foundational commitment to social justice and social witness. The Assembly also appointed one member of Foothills’ “General Assembly Reform” team, Debbie Foster, to the Vision 2020 Committee.

Following a discussion of the timeliness of complex overtures and the limited time allocated to discussion and discernment by Assembly committees, ACSWP representatives agreed with the Foothills group that greater engagement with “the people in the pew” is required to educate members on the church’s social teachings. The ACSWP representatives differed with Foothills’ team on matters of polity and practicality, while Foothills made a several part case for a more focused General Assembly and other changes in social witness (and other matters) in the presbyteries.

Members of Foothills Presbytery and the PC(USA) Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) meet in South Carolina. (Photo provided)

Members of Foothills Presbytery and the PC(USA) Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) meet in South Carolina. (Photo provided)

As a commissioner to the Portland Assembly serving on the Social Justice Committee, the Rev. Mike Hoyt, pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church in Greenville, expressed concern that the large number of complex and controversial issues being considered at any given Assembly may prohibit the depth and diligence of examination these issues deserve. “At some point,” Hoyt said, “we have to recognize human finitude and the limits of what can be done well in two days of committee meetings, and two days of plenary.”

On polity, Foothills Presbytery has long advocated for a form of government or constitution that is not easily changed by frequent relatively small amendments. At the General Assembly itself, Foothills would seek to set a higher bar for incoming business, allocating more discernment to presbyteries, and the use of supermajorities or no voting at all to push for more consensus. ACSWP acknowledged the rapid pace of business in some GA committees, and in some floor debates, but stood by traditional emphases on majority rule and encouragement of multiple voices from more presbyteries.

ACSWP reaffirmed to the group its support for recent Assembly votes on inclusive ordination and marriage, and divestment from U.S. companies supporting the occupation of Palestine, even though both initiatives came from presbytery overtures and other GA bodies. In January 2015, Foothills Presbytery approved the change in the definition of marriage by a vote of 84-61.

The Foothills and ACSWP teams both showed deep familiarity with the church and its ambiguities. On some social-ethical issues, the General Assembly is seen as making too much impact, while on others the GA did not seem to make enough difference. The group asked the following clarifying questions:

  • Whose responsibility is it to take the studies and statements of the Assembly to congregations for discussion and action?
  • How effective are the church’s communications strategies and how can pastors be helped to deal with controversies—some of which are seen as unnecessary?
  • Are ACSWP reports sometimes too academic or more oriented to the needs of the Washington and the United Nations than to adult study classes?
  • Is Foothills doing enough public witness itself, even in areas where congregations are doing very significant social ministries?

Both groups were united in grieving the numbers of congregations and individual Presbyterians who have left partly in response to recent GA decisions, knowing that congregational and presbytery culture generally determines how those decisions are viewed. And both groups know that younger people in our culture tend to be less traditional and often associate the church with conservative positions quite different from those of the Assembly—about which they have not yet heard.

An open forum discussion at the meeting hosted by Foothills Presbytery and the PC(USA) Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) in South Carolina. (Photo provided)

An open forum discussion at the meeting hosted by Foothills Presbytery and the PC(USA) Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) in South Carolina. (Photo provided)

Among other events for the ACSWP visitors was a presentation by Dr. Christine Darden, a former NASA scientist and pioneering African-American woman whose group is featured in the hit film, Hidden Figures. Dr. Darden, a recent co-chair of ACSWP, spoke at the Mattoon Presbyterian Church. The Rev. Christian Iosso, Coordinator of ACSWP, led an Adult Forum class at Fourth Presbyterian, Greenville, on the Social Creeds of the Churches, 1908 and 2008.

On Monday evening a group of comprised of chaplains, pastors, and medical and mental health professionals met to discuss the proposals for ending the “war on drugs” contained in a report being circulated for comment by ACSWP, “Healing Not Punishment,” which is in part a response to states decriminalizing marijuana.

At the invitation of the Presbytery, representatives of ACSWP attended the Foothills Presbytery meeting on Tuesday, which featured a celebration of the presbytery’s history and mission. At the end of the meeting, Dr. Steve Webb, an economist co-chairing ACSWP, presented a discussion of the General Assembly’s recently adopted report on “Israel-Palestine: For Human Values in the Absence of a Just Peace.” While re-affirming the church’s preference for a “two-state solution,” the Assembly report documents the de facto reality of a one state controlled in almost all respects by the government of Israel.

Presbytery members also shared a six-week study resource developed by the presbytery in 2012, “An Introduction to Middle East Issues, and The Witness of Palestinian Christians.” Both groups felt the church’s reports explain the nature of the occupation and dispossession of Palestinians, Christian and Muslim, much more carefully than most of the spectrum of U.S. media present it, returning the conversation to how the church can better witness for a just peace there, and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Represented at the meeting from Foothills Presbytery were:
Rev. Gordon Raynal, Stated Clerk
Rev. Debbie Foster, Associate Stated Clerk
Rev. Dr. Tom Evans, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Spartanburg, SC
Rev. Dr. Mike Hoyt, Pastor, Fourth Presbyterian Church, Greenville, SC
Lee Close, Ruling Elder, First Presbyterian Church, Spartanburg, SC
Dr. Ted Morrison, Ruling Elder, St. Giles Presbyterian Church, Greenville, SC
Rev. Bill Lancaster, Teaching Elder, Foothills Presbytery, Honorably Retired
Rev. Dr. Merwyn Johnson, Teaching Elder, Foothills Presbytery, Honorably Retired

Representatives from ACSWP included:
Dr. Christine Darden, recent Co-Chair, and retired NASA scientist, Hampton, VA
Rev. Dr. Ray Roberts, Co-Chair, Pastor, River Road Presbyterian, Richmond, VA
Dr. Steven Webb, Co-Chair, retired economist, World Bank; Reston, VA
Dr. Robert Trawick, ACSWP member, Professor at St. Thomas Aquinas College, Blauvelt, NY
Rev. Dr. Chris Iosso, Coordinator, Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy, Louisville, KY
Rev. Terry Alexander, HR, Charlotte, NC; liaison to ACSWP from the Advocacy Committee on Women’s Concerns
Dr. Kirk Nolan, Professor of Religion at Presbyterian College, member of the Social Ethics Network of the PC(USA)


Used with permission:

APCE 2017

Twelve Educators, Youth Directors and Ministers from Foothills Presbytery attended the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators (APCE) national gathering Jan. 25-28 in Denver. APCE is a network of those who are passionate about educational ministry. We connect, enrich, empower, and sustain one another as we model, teach and share the story of Jesus Christ.

Focused on the theme “God with us in the Chaos,” the 2017 gathering offered education, worship and resources and a network of professionals to help us all ponder how to find God’s order in a complicated world.

(Allyson Helive, TJ Ramaley, Mary Morrison, Pressley Cox, Donna Foster, Susan Tompkins, Debbie Foster, Barbara Stoop, Susan Felton, Amy Rawlings, Deborah Broadwell, Tom Malone)
The conference drew more than 600 people (pastors, Christian educators, youth workers, children’s ministry directors, adult spiritual formation leaders and more) from 43 U.S. states, Canada and Pakistan. This year marks APCE’s 46th year. The organization now has more than 850 members from five denominations: the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Christian Reformed Church in North America, Moravian Church in America, Presbyterian Church in Canada and Reformed Church in America.

 

In addition to a large resource marketplace there was a Spirituality Center for participants and a “Chaos Un-packed” space for rest and renewal. Each day included a time for worship, music and a presentation from amazing speakers: Nadia Bolz-Weber (Lutheran Pastor House for all Sinners and Saints & best selling author) Denise Anderson (Co-Moderator PCUSA and Pastor Unity Presbyterian Church Maryland) Jon Brown, (Pastor of Old Bergen Church) Larron Jackson (Minister of the American Baptist of the Rocky Mountains) and Shannon Johnson Kershner (Pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago).
More than 60 workshops were offered throughout the week on topics including developing resilience skills to help young people deal with grief; the pastor as educator; praying Scripture; and adult faith formation in the 21st century. Foothills participants are gathering February 16th at Easley Presbyterian to share their favorite workshop highlights and “take-aways” from the conference with each other and other Educators in our Presbytery.

A big highlight of our week was when our own Susan Tompkins (First Greer) was recognized as completing all the requirements to be a Certified Christian Educator in the PCUSA. There will be a service of recognition for Susan at our 102 Stated Meeting of Presbytery February 21 at First Church Spartanburg,