Blog Archives

Habitat for Humanity

By Jim Crowley

Chair, Church in the World Committee

 

On an unseasonably warm Saturday afternoon in late October, HPC participated in the dedication of the Habitat for Humanity 2016 “Presbyterian house”. Sponsored by 4 local churches – Highland, Second Presbyterian, Harvey Browne and img_1957Springdale Presbyterian – Habitat staff handed the keys to its new owner, Andrea Moody, a second generation Habitat homeowner and currently a nursing student at the University of Louisville. This home, and several other Habitat houses adjacent to it, are less than 2 miles from HPC on South Hancock Street in the Shelby Park neighborhood. Habitat has other houses under construction on Caldwell St., just a few blocks away.

 

You haven’t heard much about Habitat lately; Highland participated in the “raise the roof” of this house in May and, due to scheduling issues with the build-team, we only had a small number of other work days over the summer. The Church in the World Committee will be working with Habitat to try to provide more opportunities for hands on mission in addition to the financial support that Highland provides.

 

Your gifts and financial commitment made this possible and we were excited to be a part of this house, particularly as it is situated so close to our church. We send our blessings and good wishes to Andrea.

Update from Jocelyn Kirk—Young Adult Volunteer

This is a final update from Jocelyn Kirk, a church member who served as a Young Adult Volunteer for the Presbyterian Church (USA). The church supported her ministry this past year and along the way she has shared her experiences.

 

My choice to join the Young Adult Volunteers (YAV) program was a basic one: to join my two passions of faith and education. I chose New Orleans because I wanted to pick a city where the education system was not perfect; even before Katrina, New Orleans has been fighting to make a school system that ends the school to prison pipeline and promotes high school educations, whether from public institutions, private affairs, or charter schools. As an educator who has studied the school system for four years, I want to make a difference in school systems rather than simply be a part of the machine.

Working in adult education does just that. This non-profit work has come up simply because of the school system’s lack of success. Our students who walk through the door each day have been failed by the school system, yet they still find that education is the link to growth in their personal lives. I had a new student come in, bruised and beaten from an abusive husband, who saw the education of herself and her son as the best start to their new lives. That is powerful.

The YAV program is unique in the fact that it supports both education in the surrounding community and the education of their workers. I do not simply go to work and go home each week. Instead, my group reads and discusses books about mass incarceration, education, faith, and faith exploration. In our year we are focusing on New Orleans and its school system, the prison system, and the culture.

Immersing myself into my surroundings is key to the YAV program but it also is helping me with my original goal of mixing my two passions. That goal was not as basic as I believed, mainly because each day my faith and my education is thoroughly tested. My students have walked through hardships that I cannot fathom and end up on the other side; I frequently question why such wonderful, dedicated students are given such hard tasks in life. It made me question so much during my time in New Orleans because I see poverty, homelessness, unemployment, and the aftereffects of incarceration everyday. However, as I have progressed, I think I have grown to see that my students are so much stronger than I think I will ever be. They have pushed my comfort level, they have opened my eyes to the injustice in the world, and they show me everyday why teaching is my passion.

 

Closure with the Antakli Family

By Mary Ellen Peacock, a participant of the Co-Sponsor Team

 

On Tuesday afternoon, November 17, members of the resettlement team met with Lee Welch of KRM and the Antakli family to bring our three-month formal commitment for co-sponsorship to a close. It was fun to review all the progress this young family has made on their road to self-sufficiency. The parents, Shadi (father) and Hanadi (mother), are attending ESL classes regularly and are making excellent progress with their English. Ten-year-old Hasan and five-year-old Tuqa are enrolled in school and doing well. The children are very handsome and well mannered, and while Hasan went around and shook hands with everyone, Tuqa shook a couple of hands and then shyly waved!

 

Shadi completed the process of getting his Kentucky driver’s license. He passed the written exam in Arabic and practiced with church members for the driving test. Through the generosity of a church family, a used car was donated to KRM for the family as well. When asked what the biggest challenge of resettlement was, Hanadi immediately said, “The bus!” Despite the day-to-day difficulties, the family has established their routines and learned their way around the neighborhood. They can do their own grocery shopping and make sure the children get to school. They have made friends in the Syrian community. In November, the Antakli family hosted an evening meal for members of the Highland resettlement team, an event that was greatly enjoyed by all those who attended. In December, Shadi was hired to work at Anderson Wood. As a carpenter, Shadi can use his skill and trade in his first job in the United States.

 

Lee Welch emphasized that KRM will be available for any services that are still needed for the next five years. However, the family seems to be well on their way to independence and self-sufficiency. Several team members will continue their connections in a more informal way. Judy Stubbs has given invaluable aid with her twice-weekly tutoring sessions with the family, and others have provided transportation, playtime and learning with the children, and information about resources. It has been a joyous experience for all involved, and a welcome antidote to the negative media attention to “dangers” of resettlement of Syrian refugees. The Antaklis are aware of the fear-based messages in the news, and they wanted to assure everyone that “Syrians are good people!” We hope we can ease their way into their new life by continuing to make them feel welcome and secure in their new home.

 

Editor’s Note: A special thank you goes to the many hands that allowed Highland to support the Antakli’s. Many people offered support, but these individuals provided a high level of commitment during our co-sponsorship: Terry Fontenot, Mary Ellen Peacock, Eric and Julie Hansen, Tracy Morrison, Judy Stubbs, Dean Adams, Kathy Reed, Steven Holmes, Stephanie Letson, and Mary Ellen Harned.

Minute for Mission

Cynthia M. Campbell delivered this Minute for Mission in worship on Sunday, November 22, 2015 about Kentucky Refugee Ministries and Refugee Resettlement.

 

Twenty-five years ago, Donna Craig, a member of this congregation, began a mission project to resettle refugees fleeing violence in Central America. Today, Kentucky Refugee Ministries is an independent, non-profit agency that operates out of our Pleune-Mobley Building. It settles over 1,000 refugees each year. On any given day, approximately 100 people come to KRM to learn English, to begin the process of finding employment, to sign up for medical insurance, to get help registering their children in school, to start the process of becoming citizens of the United States.

 

In the midst of a great deal of fear and confusion about refugees, especially refugees from Syria, I want to remind us of what these new neighbors of ours have been through. The process of coming to the United States is already incredibly rigorous. After fleeing their country, refugees register with the United Nations Refugee Agency which makes the determination of whether they merit refugee status. While they are living in camps outside their home country, biometric data is collected on each person by the UN agency. If refugee status is granted and if they seek resettlement in the U.S., refugees begin a rigorous screening process by various U.S. government agencies including the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department. Fingerprints and personal histories are thoroughly checked against watch-lists and databases in various intelligence agencies. The average processing time is 18-24 months. It is the most rigorous screening for any persons entering the U.S.

 

Most of the refugees resettled by agencies such as KRM are families – parents with the children. They are fleeing villages and cities that have been overrun by violence. They have left everything behind. They want what we all want: peace, the opportunity to send their children to school in safety; the ability to practice their faith without fear. John Koehlinger, Executive Director of KRM, writes: “How we treat refugees reflects our commitment to the values that define us as Americans…. Refugees have defied all odds to leave behind discrimination, threats and violence. Bringing your family here to build a better, safe life, is a quintessentially America thing to do.”

 

Yesterday, the Presbytery of Mid-Kentucky passed a resolution saying that we “affirm our commitment as followers of Jesus Christ to share the love of strangers and care for the vulnerable. We call upon our neighbors in Kentucky and our fellow citizens in the United States to join us in seeking to protect and provide hospitality to Syrian refugees. We call upon our state and national leaders to remember our nation’s commitment to inclusion and welcome, and to choose justice over fear in responding to those affected by the Syrian War.”

 

I am proud to be a member of the board of KRM, but in comparison to many of you, I am a newcomer to this ministry. I hope and pray that we will all now be part of a ministry to truth-telling to our fellow citizens as we continue to extend hospitality to families who have left everything behind in search of opportunity and peace.

 

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