There's a lot you can do right now!Read more
It's a gift that keeps on giving! UCC Disaster Ministries' initial investment of $200,000 has built earthquake-resistant homes for 53 vulnerable families who survived the devastating 2015 earthquakes in Nepal. The families are paying back interest-free loans into a revolving fund, already used to build 20 more homes. Now the UCC has just sent an additional $40,000 for yet more homes!Read more
UCC Disaster Ministries and the Iglesia Evangelica Unida de Puerto Rico (IEUPR) have completed the restoration of 105 Maria-damaged homes to date, especially the repair of roofs, with the help of 420 volunteers. Immediate goal: restore 45 more roofs wait-listed to be fixed to bring the total to 150. UCC Disaster Ministries will continue to support recovery efforts as long as financial resources allow. Give/volunteer!Read more
$5,000 seed grants from UCC Disaster Ministries will go toward costs for three Hurricane Michael long-term recovery groups in the Florida Panhandle - Liberty (County) Strong, Gadsden (County) Strong and the North Florida Inland Long-Term Recovery Group (Jackson and Calhoun Counties). The UCC also is supporting recovery in Bay and Washington counties, including with recruitment of volunteer work teams.Read more
$15,000 from UCC Disaster Ministries will fund 12 months of resiliency training for an entire village in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, which a year ago (September 28, 2018) suffered a massively destructive earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 2,000 people and displaced tens of thousands. The goal is to build communities with independent ability to avoid danger, adapt to disaster risks and recover quickly.Read more
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.