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Immediate Support for Victims of Hurricane Harvey

IMMEDIATE SUPPORT FOR HURRICANE HARVEY – The torrential rains are still affecting parts of Texas and Louisiana. Historic flooding has forced rivers and streams from their banks and submerged homes, churches, businesses and roads, stranding thousands of people. We are relying on the generosity of Presbyterians to provide financial and hands-on support to help the whole church stand with these communities and the Presbyterian family as it responds to its neighbors. God’s people are once again called on to stand in the “GAP” – Give. Act. Pray. GIVE: Checks can be made out to Highland Presbyterian Church with “PDA-Harvey” in the memo. ACT: When the church made hygiene kits in April, that effort supports people affected by such disasters.

 

PRAY: God, our Shelter, be a strong presence in the lives of neighbors who, having survived the winds and rains of Harvey, now face grief, uncertainty and weary days. May our generosity in prayer and in tangible signs of support overflow more than floodwaters, to sustain your work of healing and rebuilding and to bring comfort and strength to those who suffer. Amen.

 

Keep up to date on long-term recovery efforts at http://pda.pcusa.org/situation/tropical-storm-harvey/ or facebook.com/PDACARES.

 

If you would like to offer prayer and need guidance, consider praying this prayer written by Rev. Lauri Kraus:

 

God of our life, whose presence sustains us in every circumstance,

in storm and distress, we welcome the restoring power of your love and compassion. We open our hearts in sorrow, gratitude, and hope: that those who have been spared nature’s fury as well as those whose lives are changed forever by ravages of wind and water may find solace, sustenance, and strength in the days  of recovery and rebuilding that come.

 

We are thankful for the generous grace of days of preparation; for the wise counsel of experts and the generous collaboration of so many communities, that in the face of the storm kept many out of harm’s way, and lessened the effects of wind and water on others.  We pray for those yet in harm’s way; who wait in neighborhoods  while the waters rise, who pray for the rains to cease.  We pray for those huddled at home or among strangers while wind ravages, for those who have fled from home and wait and wonder.  We ask for sustaining courage, for the kindness of strangers, for hope that does not disappoint.

 

We open ourselves to listen with compassion to the stories of those whom Hurricane Harvey has not spared: communities deeply affected, whose livelihood, homes and stability have been destroyed.  We pray in grief, honoring the lives, shattered and the livelihoods, homes and businesses for whom recovery seems an insurmountable mountain.  We lift our voices in sorrow and compassion for families who have lost loved ones, homes, or livelihood.

 

We ask for sustaining courage for those who are suffering; wisdom and diligence among agencies and individuals assessing damage and directing relief efforts; and for generosity to flow as powerfully as rivers and streams, as we, your people, respond to the deep human needs beginning to emerge in the wake of the storm.

 

In these days of relief, assessment and response, open our eyes, our hearts, and our hands to the needs of your children and the movements of your Spirit, who flows in us like the river whose streams makes glad the city of God, and the hearts of all who dwell in it, and in You.

 

In the name of Christ the Healer we pray,  amen.

 

 

the Rev. Dr. Laurie Ann Kraus

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance

 

Prayer in the Wake of Hurricane Matthew

God of our life, whose presence sustains us in every circumstance,

in the unfolding aftermath of storm and distress, we welcome the restoring power of your love and compassion. We open our hearts in sorrow, gratitude, and hope: that those who have been spared nature’s fury as well as those whose lives are changed forever by ravages of wind and water may find solace, sustenance, and strength in days of recovery and reflection that come.

We are thankful for the generous grace of days of preparation that helped many to be prepared; for the wise counsel of experts and the generous collaboration of so many communities, that in the face of the storm kept many out of harm’s way, and lessened the effects of wind and water on others.

At the same time, we open ourselves to the stories of those for whom Hurricane Matthew was not a near miss: communities deeply affected, whose livelihood, homes and stability have been destroyed. We pray in grief, remembering the lives that have been lost in the Caribbean, and for communities damaged, especially those already rendered fragile by the earthquake in 2010 and Superstorm Sandy. We lift our voices in sorrow and compassion for families who have lost loved ones, homes, or livelihood. We ask for sustaining courage for those who are suffering; wisdom and diligence among agencies and individuals assessing damage and directing relief efforts; and for generosity to flow as powerfully as rivers and streams, as we, your people, respond to the deep human needs beginning to emerge in the wake of the storm.

In these days of relief, assessment and response, open our eyes, our hearts, and our hands to the needs of your children and the movements of your Spirit, who flows in us like the river whose streams makes glad the city of God, and the hearts of all who dwell in it, and in You.

In the name of Christ the Healer we pray, amen.

Prayer by the Rev. Dr. Laurie Ann Kraus

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance

Prayer reposted from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance
http://pda.pcusa.org/pda/resource/prayer-hurricane-matthew/

The Path of Syrian Migration, Day 6

Throughout Holy Week, the Rev. Dr. Laurie Kraus, Coordinator of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, is making the European path of Syrian Migration with colleagues from the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the PCUSA Moderator Heath Rada. For the published version with visual media from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, click here. This post was republished with the author’s permission.

 

 

Easter Sunday, March 27: Samos Island, Greece

 

Today you shall be with me in paradise

The word is a rare one– used only 3 times in the New Testament, it might instead be translated “garden.” Paradise as God’s garden — a place where the scent of orange blossom is in the air, trees are heavy with fruit, the ground brings forth abundance, both in produce and beauty.

 

Such was my first impression of the island of Samos, where we flew yesterday to meet with relief workers who are supporting asylum seekers at their first stop after the sometimes perilous crossing across the Adriatic from Turkey. The scent of orange blossoms was heavy on the light breeze, and everywhere we looked, even so early in the season, trees were laden with olives, oranges, lemons. The sea was beautiful, with just a hint of the violence in the waves that has endangered so many on their crossings. Samos is a beautiful place…for some.

 

Our conversations were with representatives and relief workers from the IOCC and Apostoli, the response and development agency of the Greek Orthodox Church; with the team leader of the UN High Commission on Refugees office, the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders. At the camp– now a locked detention center–on the rocky hill above Samos town, several hundred asylum seekers from many countries, are no longer able to leave the camp for sundries, SIM cards or a cup of coffee in town. All time is measured here by two dates: March 20, when the EU approved its refugee return policy with Turkey, and April 4, when the deportations are set to begin. Many have already spent time in camps in Turkey, where conditions are rumored to be difficult, and they do not wish to have come so far on hope only to be returned. The aid workers describe a heaviness of depression settling over the camp as hope of a successful passage to Europe dims and their conditions worsen.

 

That heaviness was mirrored in the voices and stance of the Doctors Without Borders Staff and the UNHCR, who, according to the practice mandated by international human rights standards, they may no longer work for relief within the camp’s locked fences. “We do not support those who imprison refugees,” explained one of the physicians there.

 

At the port, small IKEA prefab houses wait for the continuation of migration– more numbers are expected even in the face of such small odds for success. It is hard to silence hope. On this Easter Sunday, we celebrate the triumph of hope over despair, life out of death. Let us also bind ourselves to the Love that death could not conquer, and in the name of the Stranger who on this holy day long ago greeted his friends by name in the Garden, believe and act as though no one, especially no refugee, will be condemned as a stranger among us, or refused welcome in our midst.

 

 

My favorite Easter hymn was written by a Reformed Church of Hungary pastor at the end of the 16th century: 

  

There in God’s Garden stands the tree of wisdom, whose leaves hold forth the healing of the nations.

Tree of all wisdom, tree of all compassion, tree of all beauty.

Its name is Jesus, name that means “our Savior,” there on its branches see the scars of suffering.

See there the tendrils of our human selfhood feed on its lifeblood.

Thorns not its own are tangled in its foliage, our greed has starved it, our despite has choked it.

Yet look!, it lives, it’s grief has not destroyed it, nor fire consumed it.

See how its branches reach to us in welcome,

Hear what the Voice says: “come to me, you weary

Give me your sickness, give me all your sorrow, I will give blessing.”

This is my ending, this my resurrection;

Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit

This I have searched for, now I can possess its, this ground is holy.

 

 

 

 
 

The Path of Syrian Migration, Day 5

Throughout Holy Week, the Rev. Dr. Laurie Kraus, Coordinator of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, is making the European path of Syrian Migration with colleagues from the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the PCUSA Moderator Heath Rada. For the published version with visual media from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, click here. This post was republished with the author’s permission.

Good Friday, March 25, 2016: Athens, Greece

Today was a travel day, moving back from Good Friday in Hungary to the fourth week of Lent here in Orthodox Greece. It felt a little like limbo: Easter is just on the horizon after a long hard Lent, and now, we are back in the wilderness, wandering and waiting. We flew south over the Balkan Mountains, still shrouded in snow, and landed in Athens. Watching the forbidding mountains from the window of the plane, I marveled at how tenacious, how brave those thousands of asylum seekers are, risking sea and mountain and harsh judgment from their would-be hosts for the barest hope of refuge in Germany or some other country in Europe.

 

For us, it was different. From departure to arrival, our access and transit from country to country was effortless. We are in the Schengen Area, a large swath of Western, Atlantic and Eastern Europe where, for some of us, internal borders have been eliminated. There were no stops for passport control, security or customs, and in the Athens Airport we left for the city without showing any papers or documents. This agreement, signed in 1985, makes inter-European travel matter of fact, as easy as crossing a state line in the US. But for those asylum seekers from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and parts of Africa who have made the harrowing Adriatic crossing from Turkey or paid smugglers their life savings to be transported to safety, there is no Schengen Area. The borders of Europe are closing down, the US and much of the rest of the world is mired in political argument about the risk or value of refugees from the Middle East, and last week’s agreement with the EU may instigate a reverse migration crisis back into Turkey and countries of origin.

 

Throughout this week, I have been holding the passion narrative of the gospel of Luke close to my spirit. The story describes the many betrayals and human failures that resulted in the death of Jesus on the cross, in excruciating detail. Judas who betrayed him to death; Peter who denied him in fear, disciples who ran away, officials and leaders who jeered and judged. Sometimes, painfully, I identify with one of those, and with them, I weep. But the story also in two places draws our attention to another kind of person, a bystander. In verse 35, Luke says that after Jesus cried out, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do, “the people stood by, watching.”   Then again, following the centurion’s horrified affirmation: “Surely this man was innocent,” Luke observes: and when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts.

 

I can’t help but wonder, is that all they did? Is that all we are doing? Watching, beating our breasts in a show of grief, and then returning home, to our own kind of spiritual Schengen Area, where life and passage between hard realities and painful stories is too easy?

 

In November of 1938, Nazi violence against Jews went public on Krystallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass. The Reformed theologian and German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, read that night from Psalm 74, and wrote in the margin of his bible, “how long, O Lord, shall I be a bystander?”

His eventual embrace of active faith, rather than passive standing by, ended in his imprisonment and death. Here at home, across the developed world, individuals and families fleeing war and persecution are seeking welcome, refuge, and sanctuary in our midst. To stand by is to accept whatever the powers and principalities determine is best for those whose demands are inconvenient and hard.   To choose welcome means to embrace uncertainty, risk, and a wider, less convenient understanding of the world and our place in it. My prayer tonight comes with the words of a sixth century hymn:

 

One:

The cross is the way of the lost

The cross is the staff of the lame

The cross is the guide of the blind

The cross is the strength of the weak

The cross is the hope of the hopeless

The cross is the freedom of the slaves

The cross is the water of the seeds

The cross is the consolation of the bonded labourers

The cross is the source of those who seek water

The cross is the cloth of the naked.

 

ALL:

O God

you have made us for yourself,

and against your longing there is no defense.

mark us with your love,

and release in us a passion for your justice

in our disfigured world;

that we may turn from our guilt and face you,

our heart’s desire. Amen.

 

The Rev. Dr. Laurie Kraus, Coordinator, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance

For more information on Presbyterian Disaster Assistance’s response to Syria, visit: http://pda.pcusa.org/situation/syria/ The Rev. Dr. Laurie Kraus, Coordinator, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is traveling the path of Syrian migrants who have fled war and are seeking safety through Holy Week. As she travels with colleagues from the Presbyterian Church (USA), she is writing and reflecting about the experience. Kraus worships with Highland Presbyterian Church and her reflections are reprinted with the author’s permission.

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