Responding to the food and nutritional challenges of families living in extreme poverty is a focus of the One Great Hour of Sharing in its International sustainable development emphasis. Families now have more access to food, and the ability to care for their families.Read more
It is not a coincidence that Lesby lives in the town "El Porvenir" which means the future. She has always been focused on how to improve her future and that of her baby Selby. Life in this municipality is not easy. Almost 40% of its inhabitants live in extreme poverty and 16% of babies and children face chronic malnutrition. However, children in this area live in better conditions than in other border municipalities in the south where almost half of children suffer from chronic diseases, learning disorders, and developmental delays as a result of chronic malnutrition.
Fortunately, Lesby had access to prenatal care at a local clinic, had an uncomplicated pregnancy, and after nine months gave birth to a beautiful and healthy baby. Lesby recalls that thanks to the education she received at the clinic she was able to balance her diet with more fruits, vegetables, and meat which greatly benefited Selby.
But what price did she pay for a pregnancy without setbacks that resulted in a healthy and strong baby? Selby's father had to migrate to the United States in search of a better future for his family. Having her partner far away left Lesby with mixed emotions. On the one hand she is grateful for the economic opportunities it entails, but on the other hand, her daughter does not know her father.
The separation of the family has been difficult. Selby's father is one of the approximately 3.2 million Central Americans who live and work in the United States. Thanks to the remittances that Lesby receives month after month from the United States, she was able to access nutritious food during her pregnancy. She also had enough money to participate in a Habitat for Humanity program to build her house, a home where Selby can now play, eat, and sleep in a safe environment.
Thanks to your support, children like Selby have a brighter future. Better health and a safe environment during childhood will have lifelong benefits.
Bread for the World is supported by contributions from One Great Hour of Sharing. And because of our support, Bread for the World has invited interested parties to participate in a conference call with special guest, Dr. Lawrence Haddad, co-winner of the 2018 World Food Prize. The Conference call will take place on Tuesday, March 19, at 3:00 pm Eastern Time. Join us in the fight to end hunger. Call 773-231-9226 and use access code 149 691 3232#.
Children's Sermon and Activity 1
BEAUTY IN THE BROKEN PLACES
THEME: Even in places that are broken and hurting, Jesus can do more than we can imagine.
PURPOSE: To help children think about how God uses the One Great Hour of Sharing offering to create new and beautiful things out of situations of destruction and pain, like the broken pieces in a kaleidoscope turn and reflect into beautiful images.
SUPPLIES: a kaleidoscope; you can have one as an example, or you can have smaller party-favor kaleidoscopes, so each child can have one.
[OPTIONAL: to use this lesson as an extended activity, have children to create their own kaleidoscopes.]
SCRIPTURE: Ephesians 3:20 (International Children’s Bible Version)
SCRIPT Gather the children and show them the kaleidoscope. Who can name what this is I have in my hand? Accept a few answers, until someone identifies it correctly or the answers slow down.
Yes! This is called a kaleidoscope. Who knows what we do with it? Accept answers, affirming correct answers.
LEADER: Have any of you ever played with one of these. What did you think of it? I’ll pass it around in a few moments so you can each take a closer look. First, let me show you the funny thing about how it works. If you look at it from the outside lens, it looks like you just have a bunch of pieces everywhere. Sometimes those pieces look broken! But here’s the trick! If you look at it through the proper eye lens and twist it, all of those shattered pieces turn into beautiful shapes and a new picture. Pass around the kaleidoscope, or pass out the individual ones to each child.
Before you looked into the kaleidoscope, could any of you imagine what the picture could look like? Could you imagine how beautiful it would be? Accept a few answers, as children keep passing the kaleidoscope.
As you twisted it, did you notice how the picture changed to a new shape? Did you have any idea beforehand what that shape would look like? Accept a few answers, as the children keep passing the kaleidoscope.
This kaleidoscope reminds me of our scripture verse today. The verse comes from our friend the Apostle Paul. A long, long time ago, Paul wrote letters encouraging people to follow and trust Jesus. Let’s listen to something that Paul wrote in his letter to members of the church in a place called Ephesus. Paul wrote? “With God’s power working in us, God can do much more than anything we can ask or think of.”
You can repeat the scripture a couple of times, if you want.
Today I want us to think of ourselves as God’s kaleidoscopes – And here’s how…
If we only look at all the scattered beads, it seems like the kaleidoscope was a mess. But when we turned the kaleidoscope, we saw beautiful pictures. This is what God’s power does with us! Sometimes the world can seem like a mess! There are people who feel broken because of disasters, or wars, or because they don’t have enough to eat. It can look like nothing good can happen. But God can make beautiful things, even when the world seems scary or broken. And our scripture verse today says God does that by working through us! When we used the power of our hands to turn the kaleidoscope, we saw a new picture. God’s power can help us be a part of a new picture for people who are in need of help, too!
Today is a special time in our church where we give money to help families and communities around the world whose lives have broken pieces. Our One Great Hour of Sharing offering helps people rebuild their houses and churches after floods and fires and earthquakes. It helps people create new homes when they have had to leave their homes because they weren’t safe. And it helps communities have clean water, healthy food, and schools for their children.
This offering helps us to do more than we can ever imagine to create a new picture for our neighbors around the world-- all through the power of God! Can you imagine how God might use YOU in a new picture for those who are in need?
Let’s close with a prayer-- Amazing God! Help us to be part of the beautiful world you imagine. When people are hurting, scared, or lost, use your power in us to help them. Amen.
OPTIONAL ACTIVITY: Beauty in the Broken Places--Kaleidoscope Creation
Purpose: This activity is an extension of the Children’s Sermon in Children’s Church. Taken together, they can serve as a Sunday school lesson.
Toilet paper or paper towel tube (1 full tube and 1 partial tube per kaleidoscope)
Mylar paper or other reflective cardstock
Beads, sequins, or confetti
Clear plastic (a to-go container works well)
Instructions: For an instructional video on how to make a toilet paper tube kaleidoscope, visit:
1. Cut the reflective paper; width: 4.25”, length: 1/2” shorter than your tube Fold the reflective paper to create a triangular prism, with the reflective part inside.
2. Secure together with tape.
3. Slide the prism into your tube so that one end is even with the tube edge.
4. Use your tube as a template to trace 2 circles on the plastic. Cut out your circles--cut one to the outside of the lines so it is slightly larger and one to the inside of the lines so it is slightly smaller.
5. Slide the smaller circle into your tube so it rests against the prism.
6. Put beads, sequins, or confetti into he tube on top of the plastic.
7. Place your second plastic circle on the end of the tube. Secure with tape.
8. Decorate your kaleidoscope and enjoy!
Children’s Sermon and Activity 2
Gather the children in the space and welcome them.
LEADER: Let’s start with a game. Around the room are hidden some paper clouds. These are very special, and we need to find them and bring them all here! Can you help me?
Encourage the children to search for clouds, and give them to the leader. (Have a cloud for each child.)
LEADER: What do you notice about these clouds? Accept answers until the children notice that some have letters on them.
LEADER: Yes! Some of these DO have letters on them. I wonder what the letters might spell! You can have a child hold each letter in a line, having the rest of the class shuffle the order of the line until they are correct, OR you can put the clouds out on the floor or a table.
LEADER: These clouds spell “imagine.” What does the word “imagine” mean?
LEADER: Well it appears that we have a pretty good idea of what the word imagine means. So let’s agree, imagine means to think of a picture or story in your mind. Perhaps when you close your eyes you can see it. It is like dreaming, but you can see it when you are awake. Let’s give it a try. Let’s all close our eyes and think of something. When I count to three, we’ll open our eyes and share one at a time.
Invite responses from a few children.
LEADER: Those are some amazing things you visualized and imagined! I noticed that some of you imagined something positive and happy. Some of you imagined something [make other observations about their answers]. Some of you imagined something most people would say is impossible. Raise your hand if you think what you imagined can really happen. Those of you who didn’t raise your hands, why do you think what you imagined could not really happen?
Listen to responses.
LEADER: I have a story to share from the Bible about a guy named Paul who prays and tells us that God can do more than anything we can ever imagine. A long time ago, when the church was first beginning, people like Paul, who were called Apostles, shared the good news about Jesus and how we should put our faith in God. Paul liked to write letters to encourage people to be kind, and to put their trust in God. In one letter Paul wrote to the church in the city of Ephesus, Paul chose to add a special prayer to encourage people to trust in God. The prayer ends: “With God’s power working in us, God can do much, much more than anything we can ask or think of. To [God] be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus for all time, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21, International Children’s Bible).
That sounds amazing to learn that if we trust in God’s power, God can do more than we can do on our own. God can do more than we can imagine, kind of like what we imagined earlier. Let’s imagine the amazing things God can do when God’s power is working in us to help others.
First, I am going to pass out a cloud to each of you. Then, I want you to draw a picture of something that you think people need help with, but not like putting your toys away. Let’s think about how people feel when it is too much rain, or maybe when they are hungry and don’t have any food.
Give each child a cloud and give time for them to draw.
LEADER: When you’re done flip your cloud over. Now let’s close our eyes and imagine how God’s power could help the people in that situation. Imagine how God could use YOU to do something to help them. I wonder how God’s power in you could do more for those people than they could ever imagine or ask?
LEADER: After you’ve thought about it, draw a picture on the other side. Begin with the sun shining. Next can you show what you could do when God’s power is working in you?
Allow children time to draw.
Once many are completed, invite them to share with the class the side of the cloud that has been affected by damage and then turn to the side where the children have thought of ways that God can use them. You might display the clouds in a prominent area in your church for adults to see how children can show the possibilities of God’s power working through them.
Close with a Prayer. Dear God, Thank you for allowing your power to work through us. Help us to look to you when we need help or when we see other people who need help. Help us to remember that with you we can do more than we could do on our own. Amen.
Compare and Contrast
Too many of God’s children live in hellish conditions. The One Great Hour of Sharing offering invites us to use our imaginations towards a world where fewer of God’s children must live this way. Yet, in our minds, the word “imagine” may be too weak, too puny. Or maybe what comes to our remembrance is John Lennon’s now-iconic song of the same name. (One way into the theme “more than we can imagine” could be to talk about why Lennon was likely disheartened and discouraged by religion.) The lyrics include the words: “Imagine there’s no heaven; it’s easy if you try. No hell below us; above us only sky.” [If the preacher has audio capability, the song could be played (with appropriate license). Or the tune could simply be played on the piano or the preacher says the lines from the song].
While it is, of course, true -- thanks be to God! -- that millions of Christians have found their inspiration in their religion to help their fellow human beings, we must admit that it is also indeed true that religion has too often been the source of strife and even injustice, instead of peace and reconciliation. “Hell” has too often been used as a weapon, and “heaven” has too often been used to dismiss the importance of earthly suffering.
But God’s understanding of “imagine” is different: it is God’s hope that Christians will imagine – and work for – a world where peace, freedom, and justice are more and more a reality for all people. The One Great Hour of Sharing offering invites each of us to give generously and participate in God’s imagination so that people everywhere will live as one.
In much of common English usage, the word “imagine” (and its variants) usually connotes something not really real. “Oh, that’s just your imagination.” “You’re imagining that.” (The preacher has an opportunity here to contrast that ordinary use of the word imagination with God’s use of the word.) The way “imagination” is commonly used is often a dead-end – nothing comes from it. God imagines a world where all might live in peace – and created such, according to Genesis. Paul imagines a world where through Christ all are reconciled to God and one another (2 Corinthians 5:19). John of Patmos imagines a world where there are no more tears, and pain shall be banished (Revelation 21). But God’s imagination always moves towards creation and re-creation. And God’s imagination always invites us to join God as co-creators of a vision of what can yet be: a world where there is less violence, where all people have clean water and decent hygiene, where no one is hungry.
Through our gifts, we can join God in imagining these things and more! We don’t have to be relegated to only imagining, but we can join in by doing our part to make it so.
Mission Moment 1
Oebaki (pronounced Oe-ba-key) is a small village in West Timor, Indonesia. It is considered one of the poorest communities in the country. The prefix “Oe” means water, but the drought has stolen this town’s identity. Poverty abounds, and families struggle to feed their children.
Imagine having a garden, but not being able to feed your family, or digging into the sand of a dry river bed in search of drinking water.
Imagine your child has been diagnosed with stunted growth, a preventable early childhood condition with lifelong consequences.
Now imagine the world the way God intends.
God imagines a world where all are fed, everyone has access to clean water, and all children grow up healthy. The author of Ephesians writes, “Now to God be the glory, who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine...” (Ephesians 3:20).
Your gifts to One Great Hour of sharing help make this world look more like the world God imagines. In Oebaki, your gifts help support well-trained savings and loan groups that allow families to buy resilient vegetable seeds for farming, yarn for weaving stunningly beautiful traditional fabric, and egg-laying chickens for a sustainable source of protein essential to prevent child stunting. These enterprises produce excess goods that families sell to generate income.
Today in Oebaki, those who once struggled during the dry season and drought can now maintain a diversified diet by eating stored root vegetables from the last harvest, supplemented with greens purchased at the market.
Nelci Tlonaen works hard in Oebaki with her husband and three children—two in elementary school and one entering high school. Despite the current drought, she feels confident that her family will persevere. “Even now, I can afford clothes and food for my children. I don’t have any difficulty paying for their school.”
That’s what happens when we imagine the world as God intends. Through your gifts, a new reality exists for families in Oebaki and around the world. Please give generously!
OGHS MISSION MOMENT 2
Imagine a 12-year-old child that you know. Maybe this is a neighborhood child, one of your own children or perhaps a grandchild. In your mind, what does the child do on a normal day? Go to school? Eat breakfast with friends? Argue with a sibling about what game to play after school?
Today I would like to tell you about another 12-year-old child. Her life is a little different from most children you know. We’re going to call her Z, which is the first letter of her name. For Z, a German language course in Serbia felt like the most normal thing she could imagine. She was born in Iran, but her family came from Afghanistan. They were refugees. And, like millions of other refugee and immigrant families, Z’s family began the long journey towards a better life. They went through Serbia, and eventually made it to Germany.
In Germany, aid workers spotted Z and her family. They were walking through a park, looking out of place and afraid. The aid workers offered them hope in the form of a safe space to rest and warm noodles, which Z described as “the sweetest food she had tasted in years.”
“O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in God,” the Psalmist sings.
Your gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing help the aid organization, Info Park, assist refugees with a safe place to rest, educational opportunities, and nourishing food to eat when they are hungry.
Your gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing help children like Z, inch closer and closer to the goals they only dream about as they navigate borders, checkpoints, and an exilic life.
Your gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing assist learning centers where girls and boys can escape the life of refugee camps and experience the normalcy children in many parts of the world take for granted.
Because of your generosity, Z is on a path towards education that only she and her mother dreamt of for her. Z won the Hamburg regional competition for best writing skills among newcomers to Germany. Two years earlier she didn’t know a word of the language. She had only begun attending a German school in Hamburg a month before the award, and yet she walked away with the prize.
Thank you for making it possible for families like Z’s to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” Your gifts provide more than we can imagine!
1. Psalms 34:8
Since July 2016, nearly 170 women and girls have attended German classes at Info Park. Of those, 140 successfully graduated and received a language certificate. Teachers from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland inspire students to gain confidence, knowing that if they work hard they will have more opportunities.
Lectionary Preaching Notes from the lens of UCC Humanitarian and Development Ministries
(Disaster, Refugee and Global Sustainable Development)
These ministries are made possible by your participation in the One Great Hour of Sharing Offering (UCC)
Text: Luke 5: 1-11
Preaching Focus: Following Jesus means making an impact for the common good that is more than we can imagine.
Interpretation and Informing Stories
The disciples are fishing, without success. This story like many others has multiple layers of meaning. There is the physical, that these people who fish for a living, need that catch for their livelihood. No fish – no income. Jesus steps in and the fish that have eluded them are present in abundance.
In UCC sustainable development ministries, we are part of such experiences in sustainable agricultural work. In Central America, people need their farms and gardens to produce food in order to live. When that land does not produce food because climate change has caused drought or violence has made it dangerous to cultivate the land, people suffer. They need the land to produce food for their livelihood. When people are brought together to teach each other new cultivation techniques that work in the new drought-prone lands, or when access to a microsavings loan cooperative enables women to gain access to cash for agricultural inputs, the community as a whole is strengthened. Families have money for uniforms and shoes to send their children to school. People connect with their neighbors in new ways to depend on each other. These strong communities have a greater impact than we can imagine. Communities thrive. Violence is curbed. People can stay in their home countries and not have to risk a dangerous journey north to try to enter the U.S. for asylum.
The story of disciples and the disciples fishing also has a layer of meaning about where assistance comes from. In humanitarian work, the danger is that those with access to resources may create systems that exercise power over rather than power with those who need access to those resources. Whether deliberate or not, the transfer of resources can become disempowering rather than a building up of community. A needs-based mission based on identifying needs and then meeting those needs can be disempowering. A grace-ful mission, however, identifies strengths and gifts present among a community and seeks new ways that these strengths can be brought together for the building up of community.
Greg Jarrell, in his 2018 book “A Riff on Love,” exemplifies this asset and strengths-based approach to life and faith. Using his experiences as part of the Enderly Park Community in Charlotte, North Carolina and as a professional saxophonist, Greg writes of abundant community and belonging. As the book cover notes “Surprising teachers. Tragic losses. Unexpected gifts. Every neighborhood has stories and ways of singing the stories of their place. Start digging in, and you find all sorts of music. In a neighborhood skilled in improvisation, like Enderly Park, you also discover new ways to sing those songs, and a choir of new kinfolk to sing them with.” I recommend this book to you for your devotional and activist reading.
Be Thou My Vision
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We sometimes think that “imagination” means something escapist or illusory. Yet, imagination is not something unreal or fake. No, it is essential to God’s hope for creation. Hear how the Apostle Paul put it: “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine….” (Ephesians 3:20-21). And God imagines a world where all are safe,all are loved, all are fed.
You see, when we use our imaginations in the way that God does, we can begin to envision – and work for! – a world where no child goes unfed, un-housed, or unloved; where no one ever fears abuse or violence; where clean water is not a dream but a reality for all; where small farmers do their work with dignity and are paid a fair wage for their labors; where agricultural practices enrich and renew the land rather than deplete it; where survivors of natural disasters have the resources they need, now and for years to come; where vulnerable immigrants are welcomed in Christ’s name.
Can YOU imagine these things? Through your gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing what we can imagine becomes ever more a reality for more and more people. Please give generously! “More Than You Can Imagine...”
More than we can imagine
Hurricane Maria caused unimaginable damage in Puerto Rico. Who would believe that so much infrastructure, electricity and housing were destroyed? People’s lives and families were disrupted.
For Edda, a woman who lives in a house once belonging to her parents, the thought of losing her childhood home to the storm was unimaginable. Hurricane Maria left the roof of her house in such bad shape that water was leaking through her home every time it rained. To make matters worse, Edda’s husband had recently undergone knee surgery. She had to put towels and buckets around the inside of the house so he didn’t slip or fall on the wet floors.
Edda couldn’t fix her roof by herself and because of the surgery, her husband couldn’t either. They could not imagine how the repairs on their home would happen. They could not imagine that strangers would come and help them with a good roof that could weather the next storm.
Thanks to the Iglesia Evangelica Unida de Puerto Rico (IEUPR), and help from four amazing volunteers, their roof was fixed in four days. Edda was grateful for the help because it wasn’t possible for her to do it alone.
Lydia Rosaly, with IEUPR shared Edda’s story, and like Edda, Lydia is thankful for our support, and walking with them towards a holistic long-term recovery.
Your support provides more than we can imagine. Thank you!
One Great Hour of Sharing, United Church of Christ
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The following Lectionary Preaching Notes are from the lens of UCC Humanitarian and Development Ministries
(Disaster, Refugee and Global Sustainable Development)
These ministries are made possible by your participation in the One Great Hour of Sharing Offering (UCC)
Written by: Rev. Dr. Mary Schaller Blaufuss
OGHS travel makes our work in the world through the United Church of Christ come alive. Listen to these testimonials and consider how you can be involved in future trips.Read more