U-C: What I See

Sunday, March 26, 2006


Many of you will remember the writing I did last May about my three weeks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. (you can find it in the archive of the blog under May, 2005).

There has been a grass-roots effort from the Congo Mission Network, with some support from the Worldwide Ministries Division, to bring a choir made up of members from our two partner denominations in the DR Congo for several weeks of touring this summer. I am posting a note from the Mission Network below, for two reasons.

First - if they are going to be anywhere near where you are, don't miss this opportunity to hear the best (without qualification) choir you will ever hear, and to learn about how we can be supporting our partner churches in the Congo as they confront overwhelming challenges.

Second - there are a few empty spots left on the tour. Check out the scheduling holes below, and if there's one that you and your church can fill, please do so.

This is the best of what church is going to be in the future, Presbyterians! This entire project has been organized and funded by volunteers across the church who care a lot about the Congo because many of them have been there. Our colleagues in the national office gave some support and agreed to follow the energy of the group. This is a great example of how the new mission patterns are going to work.

Presbyterians are raising the bar on what it means to be faithful. Please help if you can!


The Congo Choir Tour is a new type of mission partnership with theDemocratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Because there are more than 38,000 people dying monthly in the DRC due to the effects of civil war, including poverty, hunger, HIV/AIDS and the fact that the Congolese have not had a democratic election for more than 40 years, the Congo Mission Network (CMN) of PC(USA) Worldwide Ministries Division (WMD) has heard God's call to action.

By the grace of God, the CMN has launched the Congo Choir Tour in partnership with the Presbyterian churches of the DRC to bring 12 Congolese singers/drummers from the various Congolese presbyteries to the USA from June to August, 2006. This Congo Choir will be part of Opening Worship at the 2006 GA Meeting inBirmingham, AL in the Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley (named for the first Presbyterian missionaries to the Congo in 1891). They will also perform at the Peacemaking Program 25th Anniversary Dinner and during the WMD GA presentation time. In addition the choir will perform at Our Cultural Connections in Sarasota, FL and at the Black Expo in Indianapolis, IN. We hope that they will appear at the PW Churchwide Gathering in Louisville, KY and they will tour various cities/presbyteries in the eastern part of the USA.

The MISSION of the Congo Choir Tour (CCT) is to "celebrate and share the musical gifts and cultures of the Congolese people. The U.S. visit will provide a means to inspire a more hopeful view of this large nation of Central Africa, while encouraging participation and aid, nurturing self-sufficiency, and promoting health, education and well-being in the DRC. The tour will raise public appreciation for the challenges facing communities in DR Congo and their dreams for a better life for their diverse people."

The CCT Planning Team is eager to find congregations to host the CCT in some intermediary locations along the tour. Hosting the CCT will involve providing housing for 15 persons with willing families, an evening meal, breakfast and taking a free-will offering to support the cost of bringingthe CCT to the USA or to support education in the DRC through UPRECO, the Presbyterian University of Congo. In return, those receiving the CCT will hear some wonderful music, learn about the Democratic Republic of Congo, and be blessed by the faith of the Congolese.

Please note the routes and dates below:

From Wilmington, DE to Louisville, KY for the night of July 7
From Indianapolis, IN to Baltimore, MD for the night of July 17 and/or July18
From Raleigh, NC to Birmingham, AL for the night of August 8

If your church is on the routes mentioned above and you think that there is support in your congregation for such an adventure, please let me know.

Sue FricksNational Coordinator of the CCT

Thursday, March 23, 2006

A Presbyterian Creation Conservation Corps?

An open letter to Presbyterians for Restoring Creation and the Presbyterian Church Camp and Conference Association:


I would like to challenge you to consider an idea that has been rolling around in my head for some time. After being with the PRC gathering at Silver Lake last summer, and visiting many of our Camp and Conference Centers over the last two years, I am convinced that there is an opportunity to fill a significant void in leadership development in our churches, and possibly to provide renewed energy in both the PRC and the PCCCA.

I’d like to see us develop a “Presbyterian Creation Conservation Corps” for juniors and seniors in high school. The idea would be to recruit the PCC members from among students who have distinguished themselves in our camping programs and/or as strong advocates for restoring creation. I would gather them together regionally or nationally (depending on the number of participants) for two weeks at the beginning of the summer for intensive training (Biblical study, analysis of environmental protection concerns, skill-building for alternative technologies, land reclamation, organizing skills, etc.).

Following the training, the participants would fan out to our participating Camp and Conference Centers across the country for an eight-week, intensive, volunteer experience. Each Camp would have a focus for a particular project of land conservation that particular year (e.g. land erosion projects, wetlands protection, home-made solar hot water heaters, water purification, composting toilets, etc.), and they would go to work. In addition to the projects they’re given, Their tasks might include educating campers and coordinating events that would be open to other adults who want to come and work on the project.

The PRC would need to help us to design a curriculum of study (theological, academic, spiritual, and practical) that the students would begin during their orientation week together, and then continue during the summer (we might even have a weekly internet chat or a yahoo group for the PCC interns to remain in touch with one another throughout the summer.)

Following the summer, the students would be expected to commit to some agreed upon number of educational events or even a demonstration project at churches or in their presbytery.

Over time, I wonder if our camps could begin to design camping opportunities starting with elementary or Junior High students that would prepare them for (and entice them into) this opportunity. For instance, our camps could design curriculum to start preparing our kids with a basic, foundational eco-theology and a way to get their hands dirty by the time they are ten or eleven. By Junior High, they could be coming to a camp that has a particular theme and project – like building a composting toilet, for instance. By early high school, they could be mentored by the older high school kids who are already experienced PCC member/campers.

The Rationale:

During my moderatorial term, I have met many high school students who are anxious to serve God in some active way. They are too young for our Young Adult Volunteer programs, and certainly too young for some of the higher risk, accompaniment work that we are doing in places like Colombia, but they are still anxious to “do mission.”

There is a huge need for a camping renaissance that will engage the next generation, and there is currently little that distinguishes Presbyterian camping from the myriad other camping opportunities available to kids today. Perhaps a Presbyterian Conservation Corps could provide a unifying theme for that renaissance in Presbyterian camping, while allowing each individual camp to show great creativity in how it designs its own program around the a clear Presbyterian commitment to eco-theology. Sure would be nice for Presbyterian camps as a whole to be known for something distinctive, wouldn’t it?

Further, I would name four major challenges that the church confronts in the world today: 1) captivation by secular culture that corrupts our faith or causes many people to ignore the church entirely as a way to be faithful to God, 2) the destruction of our environment and God’s good creation that sustains us, 3) overwhelming violence, and 4) endemic poverty. This project would be designed to disciple a new generation of church leaders to respond directly to the first two of those concerns, and it would potentially create a fair possibility for raising awareness in that new generation of leaders about the second two.

I also wonder what the synergy might be for evangelizing/discipling kids who are unchurched (kind of Young Life style) into this program? It seems like this could be a way to reach out to kids who are disaffected with church, but who really want to make a difference in the world.

How would we pay for it? There are lots of questions, but here are a few ideas to get the juices flowing.

I would think we could ask the camps to put up the cost of room and board for the campers, and many camps could probably afford a small stipend of $500 or so for the summer. I would ask PCCCA to coordinate a rotation of camp facilities for the orientation, and ask each camp to take a turn at subsidizing the program by providing room and board for the orientation. (up to twenty or twenty-five students – if it got bigger than that, I would recommend regional gatherings to keep costs low and the setting more intimate for group building.) I would ask the students to raise any transportation costs for the orientation and the summer experience, and possibly to help raise the stipend itself. (I would keep the stipend pretty low the first year, and then double it if they come back the second year.)

How would we get it off the ground?

What if we formed a task force of college-aged young adults and asked them to work with a couple of reps from PCCCA and PRC to meet by phone and email to work out the kinks and design the program. It might need at least one coordinator (depending on the number of PCC Interns) to coordinate the project. Perhaps we could look to ten presbyteries to put up $300 a piece to pay a stipend, and asked the coordinator to match it through his or her own fundraising. That would probably create enough money for travel, a tiny administrative budget, and a reasonable stipend for the summer.

It is probably too late to begin even a small program for this summer, but there is plenty of time for a task force to put a program together to begin the summer of 2007. I’ve tried to give enough detail here to capture folks imaginations, but I expect that many of my ideas would be modified as the planning task force put it together. My point is that we probably don’t need to go raise a whole bunch of money if we’re willing to talk about in-kind contributions and asking our potential PCCC members to step up and help with the fundraising from their own churches. I’m pretty confident we could get ten students in a heartbeat, and that it would grow like crazy from there.

Anyway, just to prove I’m not sleeping when long periods of time go by without word on the blog.

What do you think PCCCA and PRC?

For the next generation that wants to serve God,



I've been feeling guilty about my inability to keep up with the blog for the last month. I just finished a nineteen day itineration, most of which was in Ohio and Michigan. One amazing, wonderful group of people after another - sometimes several in one day. On top of all the sensory overload, most of my travel was by car, which is not good if one keeps up with blogging by typing while on planes.

Anyway, today I'm headed for Puerto Rico for a long weekend, and then I go on to Cuba to visit with our sisters and brothers in the church there. I'll try to do some writing during the coming week.

I came across this email, from Emily - a young adult volunteer in Miami, and thought folks might enjoy her energy and spirit as I do. Read on.



Family, Friends, Fellow Young Adult Volunteer's…

I don't think that I am alone in the feeling that time is flying by as my year as a YAV continues. There are so many things to be excited about, and so many things to be done, and it's hard to stop and realize that we are in the here and now, so focus!

In February, 22 youth and five adults went to the Casting Crowns concert at the University of Miami. Only a handful of the youth had heard of them, but they were excited nonetheless. Looking across at the two rows on the floor that we inhabited, I was struck by their attention to the speaker, and their reaction to the worship service that we encountered that night. They were so attentive, hanging on every word that Tony Nolan spoke. Afterwards, while we were walking towards the car, singing songs, one of the girls in the youth looked at me and said, "I want to be this excited about God every day, not just after camp or a concert, but I don't know how." My heart leapt! The fact that she was recognizing how fun it can be to worship Christ was amazing. So we spent the next thirty minutes on the way home talking about different ways that one can be excited about Christ every day of the week. What an opportunity! I love the youth at PPUMC. They have seemed to fill a spot in my heart that I hadn't known was empty until I came to Miami. My cup overflows.

Do you ever have moments where you just have to stop what you're doing because you are hit with an overwhelming feeling of just how amazing God is? This happens to me mostly when I'm listening to music or riding in the car, and I don't know what it is, but I just start smiling and my eyes start to fill up with tears because I'm so excited for the things that God is doing and will do in my life and in the world. But why doesn't everyone understand? Why don't people believe? Eternal life! Who wouldn't choose that? It mesmerizes me. The youth laugh at me because the ringer on my phone is a song by Stellar Kart, and when it rings it belts out "Life is good, eternal life is better!" And I just start singing or dancing around a bit. But really, that's exciting, right?!

Youth ministry can be frustrating; I'm not going to lie to you. It's funny, because I don't really get discouraged, I just get frustrated right after a meeting where some people pay attention and some throw pencils across the room the whole time. But then it only takes about five minutes for me to get excited about the next week and doing something different to get their attention, and to show them the love of Christ. One Wednesday night we were sitting around talking about the fact that God sent his only son to die for each one of us, and one of the high school boys was like "That's just ridiculous!" And isn't it? It's ridiculous in the sense that an overwhelming love is given to us through this act, free of charge. The Caring Place kids, while poking each other, sing about how "There's nothing my God cannot do, for you and you and you!" Nothing! Including the fact that He sent his only son to die on the cross for each and every one of us. Sin after sin, up there on that cross. Ridiculous!

Just yesterday Pastor Brian, Jackie and I were talking about youth groups, and I believe that Pastor Brian put the words together beautifully: "There's no such thing as a perfect youth group, and if there is one, it won't be after I join it." Amazing. So true! Who, in their right mind, can envision a perfect youth group when not one of us can claim perfection.

I leave you with some lyrics from the Casting Crowns that always seem to make me tear up, right around "hands and feet." I'm clueless as to why, except maybe it's because I stand in awe of the fact that here I am, small little Emily, yet lifted up in Christ and the work that I am here to do. Of course I continue to struggle in relinquishing everything in my own life to Christ, but I know that is what I strive for, and I know that through that, amazing things will happen.

Lord I give my life
A living sacrifice
To reach a world in need
To be your hands and feet.

Please keep the mission field universal in your prayers, and recognize that there are people of all walks of life and denominations spreading the wonderful Gospel across the world. I even encourage you to find out who some of them are, maybe those whom your church supports, and write to them! Nothing beats knowing you are being prayed for and supported from all over.



"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27