Written by Phyllis Richards
UCC Partners in Service volunteers are meeting this week for an annual mid-term gathering. They share stories, offer mutual support and reflect on the meaning of their service. Through your participation in One Great Hour of Sharing, you make it possible for people to offer their gifts of service and passion for hands-on service in U.S. disaster recovery, refugee resettlement and immigration work. Perhaps, you would like to become a Partners in Service volunteer yourself. More Information is available on our website. Thank you. We invite you to consider your continued 2014 OGHS participation.
Through OGHS, you have been there with Betzi Yungclas as she climbs into the Humane Borders pick-up truck and heads into the Arizona desert several times each week. The truck carries distinctive blue barrels full of water that Betzi and other local volunteers and staff distribute to water stations in the desert. The stations are on pre-approved private and public lands and marked by tall blue flags that can be seen by people crossing the desert and dehydrated. Humane Borders has documented that between October 1999 and March 2012, 2,269 deaths were recorded at the U.S.-Mexican border. A 2013 Newsweek cover story article tells of one such mother and child. Global economic systems over the past several decades have destroyed local farms and markets in Central America and southern Mexico. People are desperate to survive; desperate enough to cross the 262-mile desert and risk death by dehydration in hopes of finding employment to feed their families. Immigration issues are vast, of course. During an exercise during the gathering of volunteers, Betzi reflects on the goal of her service with Humane Borders. “To take death out of the equation,” she states simply.
At the same time, a group of thirty newly arrived refugees from Myanmar (Burma), Somalia and Iraq surround Crystal Zook as she coordinates a cultual orientation session. They have just arrived in Lancaster, Pennsylvania through Church World ServicRefugee and Immigration Ministries. Some have arrived after decades of living on the edge of survival in refugee camps. Some have arrived as the result of danger to their lives from political violence. All have arrived to new and disorienting differences of language, food, smells, transportation, housing, jobs. Crystal, with her patient spirit, shares necessary information, listens through as many gestures as words, and gathers the new refugees together so they can meet one another and offer mutual support. Her favorite part of service? Crystal smiles, “getting to know the women, to hear their stories, to share tea with them.” Crystal and the CWS Refugee and Immigration office staff help people find new possibilities for life. Your participation in OGHS helps that happen every day.
Through OGHS, you are there in southern Arizona and southeast Pennsylvania and throughout the world as lives are saved and made whole. Thank you for your participation and passion.
OGHS is one of the All-Church Offerings of the United Church of Christ. Your congregation can be 5 for 5 by participating in the One Great Hour of Sharing, Strengthen the Church, Neighbors in Need, and Christmas Fund offerings and through generous support of Our Church’s Wider Mission (OCWM).
The establishment of an OGHS Endowment is coming soon. Help provide long-term stability for the UCC’s systemic and relational participation in disaster recovery, sustainable development and refugee relief.
Sharing in God’s Love,
Rev. Mary Schaller Blaufuss, Ph.D
UCC Global Sharing of Resources Team Leader