Njoro Sunday – An Opportunity to Give Thanks for our Kenya Partnership

Here is a post from Rev. Beth Braxton on the NYAPC partnership with the Orphans and Vulnerable Children Ministry in Njoro, Kenya.  This message as preached on June 16, 2019.

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“God has done so much for me, that I cannot tell it all.” This is a chorus we learned in Swahili and English last summer on our church’s mission trip to Njoro, Kenya.

It is the background music in the eight-minute video put together by one of the participants, Kelvin Njoroge, a member of the Goshen International Church in Henrico County, a congregation that partners with us to care for thirty-three Orphan and Vulnerable Children.  (Goshen International is an immigrant church of persons from Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Kenya)

On Sunday June 16, I indeed felt that there was so much of God’s grace to witness to that we could not tell it all.  The video which we showed at the end of the worship service (and may be seen on our church website), is a quick history of the 2018 mission trip to Njoro: who participated, what we did, what it meant, and where we stayed. The Minute for Mission was given by two members of the Steering Committee, John Clark who participated in the mission trip and Brian Carlson who desires to go on the 2020 upcoming trip; Brian and John did a question and answer time to give our congregation an idea of what a mission trip to Njoro is like.  There are many stories of this inspiring journey; and it is a challenge to tell it all.

For “Njoro Sunday” we chose the theme of Hope; OR rather – the lectionary scripture for the day Romans 5:1-5 chose us! The Saturday program of Orphan and Vulnerable Children (OVC) is just such a place of Hope for the students (most of whom are youth ages 12 through 20 – no longer young children!) This year especially, participants are getting not just spiritual nurture, help with homework, nourishing cooked lunch – but also are participating in a small mentoring group, led by one of the adult members of the Njoro OVC Committee – including the church pastor and the social worker.

One student who stood out for us last summer was Matthew Mokoa, a thirteen year old in Class 8 (we would say eighth grade).  Several of us visited his home , a two-room rental (no electricity or indoor plumbing) where his single mom, brother and sister all reside.  His mother does casual labor (doing laundry, gardening for $2.00 per day) when she can get work.  What was noticeable about the rooms was starkness and the soot on the walls from the kerosene lamp and the cooking fire.  The mother showed us that the lamp did not work properly so they had no lamp at night.  I asked Francis Muchemi, chair of the OVC ministry, about what it would cost to get a new properly-functioning lantern.  He suggested getting a solar lamp, which cost Ksh 2,500. or about $25.00.  We left that amount and a solar lamp was then purchased for Matthew’s home.

Matthew along with everyone else in Class level 8 throughout the country of Kenya has to take a National Exam near completion – and result of that one set of exams determines where (and whether) one will go to high school – a local day school, a national boarding school, just a technical school or even dropping out of school.  Matthew scored high enough to qualify for a National School!  Here is what he wrote and I share with you from my sermon –a sign of hope.  

“ the programme (OVC) provided a Solar Lamp, which made me happy and more encouraged. I thanked God because now I had opportunity to study to my limits. I used to wake up early to study. I was happy because the Lamp had no negative effect, like the other on, which I used to use. That one produced a lot of smoke which made me cough every time. When I got the Solar Lamp, I thanked the member. Then I had hope of passing my (national) exam.

I studied until the last minute. The day of Exam came. I did my best to achieve what I desired. I completed the exams( ended)  and I patiently waited for the results. When the results came I was happy because I persevered to score 379 marks out of 500. This result enabled me to have hope of joining a National school. I really thank God because if it were not for the Solar Lamp I don’t know what I would have scored in the exams.  After some weeks passed, I was glad because I got an invitation letter to a National school by the name Baricho Boys’ High School.  … I thanked God because the school had everything that I had desired for – when I was at home! The school had enough waters. I was happy of that, because the water was throughout. So I had no excuse of not washing my clothes. The school also has electricity throughout. Now I can read any time.  This school also has clean and healthful environment. Flowers and trees are planted all over the school (property) to ensure that there is enough aeration of air in the compound. There are CCTV (security cameras) ensuring security every time (all the time). The school also has improved equipment – e.g., computers, musical instruments and many other.

In reading materials, the school is rich in books and any other required material. So I have no reason why I should fail…. It has enough dormitories for every student has his own bed. The dorms are also well aerated (ventilated) and there are Inner bathrooms… The school is also the best in balanced diet. It provides different kinds of all types. I am pleased because some of the foods I have never seen them in my lifetime. I really thank the OVC programme for such a wonderful deed to me.

Hope is a solar lamp! 

Njoro Sunday is a gift and an opportunity to present to the congregation a connect with this engaging and inspiring ministry through testimony, photos, music, arts and craft, and a taste of mandazis and samosas from Kenya.  Thank you, church!

It is such a gift to be a part of NYAPC and connect with the justice issues of Washington, DC, through Radcliffe Room, Community Club, McClendon Center, 7 2 9. Scholars –in-Residence, and now the Day Service Center!  It is a gift as well to be able to connect relationally with persons in our Cuba Partnership and in a developing country such as Kenya, East Africa. The Presbyterian Church of East Africa membership of four million to five million is 10 percent of the country’s population! In Kenya, the Presbyterian Church is strong and growing.  Evidence for me – in the seven years I have been at the NYAPC and providing leadership to three mission trips to Njoro, the parish has expanded into three congregations! Their faith is contagious and encouraging and hopeful for all of us.  

The apostle Paul’s words are powerful: “Hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit given to us.”

Let me say it this way as I did in my sermon on Njoro Sunday — Because our transcendent creator God who put the planets in their courses, unique fingerprints on all 5 billion people on this earth, and the brilliant color in the butterfly wings and the immanent God who came to us in the human being Jesus who wept for Jerusalem and washed his friends feet and cared for the bent-over woman, spoke truth to power – this God, this transcendent immanent God, this magnificent embracing God of love has been poured into our hearts!! 

And Because of that powerful love, Hope will NOT disappoint us!  It is the fiber of our being that can help us make a better world and give us all the grace we need to enjoy it!! 

Living that love is life!

57th Annual Community Club Award Ceremony and Graduation Pictures

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Amy Gillespie receives a special award from Community Club.
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Titi wins the tutor of the year award.  Titi and her student, did the presentation.
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Kasey Kelly receives a “Thank you” from Tom Karr and Shamika Bradey
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Molly Smith presents and explains the Dornan Scholarships.

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Paul Dornan and Molly Smith smile for a pic!

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Susie Campbell and Susan Baumbach

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Tutor pairs
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Tutor pairs
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Tutor pairs
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Tutor pairs
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Seniors!

Seeking Transitional (Interim) Pastor

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The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church seeks to call a full time Transitional (Interim) Pastor.  NYAPC is an inclusive community of faith in the heart of Washington DC, furthering God’s transforming work, challenging the powerful, standing with the oppressed, lifting up the broken-hearted, and making God’s love and justice visible by welcoming and loving all.

With the retirement of a long tenured Senior Pastor, we are seeking a Transitional Pastor who will:

  • Provide frequent and consistently inspired sermons and worship-filled experiences that would seek to connect our faith to the public sphere, would seek to bring us deeper in our faith, and would inspire us to have deeper relationships with one another.
  • Lead the church in transformational practices including some of the traditional work of the Interim Pastor engaging the congregation in a time of purposeful discernment, visioning, and strategic planning.
  • Examine deeply the organizational, administrative, and financial life of the congregation so that we might be able to improve communication on all levels, to engage and redevelop our structures including committees, schedules, and staffing models, and to encourage and inspire a connection between one’s spiritual and financial life.

Please see:

To apply, please send PIF and cover letter to pastorsearch@nyapc.org.  We will be reviewing PIFs starting in June.  We hope that the Transitional Pastor will begin the call with us in August.

Usher and Deacon Sign Up

It takes a village, or more specifically two people for the early service and four people for the second service.  What are we talking about?  Ushers.  Add in one liturgist per service and we’re looking for eight volunteers per week to help with the worship service.  Ushers greet members and visitors, collect and count the offering, and direct folks to receive communion.  Liturgists lead the Call to Worship and the Dedication Prayer, and deliver the first scripture reading.  These moments of service are open to all members – there is no requirement that one serve on a church board or be a deacon.  Volunteering as an usher or liturgist is easy via the online SignUp Genius.  You can also send an email to the points of contact listed in the bulletin: John Yoder for ushers and Mark Zaineddin for liturgists.  We look forward to you joining us on a future Sunday.

-Deacons

7-2-9 40th Anniversary

20180606_194314On February 14, 1979 the following persons met with friends from St. Elizabeths Hospital to become charter members of the 7-2-9 Club:

Nell Cloer, Jack McClendon, Susan Eager, Wilma McKee, Jerry Evans, Mary Prothro, Betty M. Jackson, Alice Shafer, John Leitch, Anna Thomas, Fran Lynch, Paul Tomlinson, Will Myers, Betty Tupman

All but Ms. Eager have joined the heavenly host which cheers us on as we run the race.  Throughout the 40 years many individuals have regularly volunteered or made contributions to programs for the in-patients who come by bus from St. Elizabeths or the community-based out-patients who attend.  It would be impossible to name or thank all these dedicated individuals.  I do, however, wish to mention several past volunteers who have made significant contributions:  Ella Cleveland who has provided musical entertainment for 30 years; Willie Harley and John Quinones who have provided karaoke monthly for 10 years; and Bob and Imogene Wilden who for many years were inspirational volunteers.  In addition, Mr. Lectoye Oliver, Recreational Therapist at St. E’s and his staff have been  faithful in their providing transportation and supervision every Wednesday evening.   We are indebted to the NYAPC Board of Deacons for their financial and spiritual support for these forty years and our current liaison with the Decaons, Ms. Mary Nell Clark.  I do thank those who today stand here as a core of current volunteers on Wednesday nights:  Britton Walker, David Super, David Wooden and Mike Kuban.  Jim Martin, Kristina Majewski Sally Stearnes and Phil Telfeyan were unable to attend today.  Most of our current volunteers are not members of NYAPC but we are always hoping more members will volunteer.

St. Elizabeths has given the 7-2-9 Club the first Community Partner Award in 2014 (also awarded in the early 90’s but forgotten by the institution).  The program, initiated by Dr. Jack McMcClendon is designed to serve a population of those recovering from mental illness who are often overlooked in typical mission or outreach activities by churches.  It provides a purely social experience outside the structure of the hospital institution where informal conversations, games, entertainment and refreshments are the primary activities.  As Mary Prothro used to say, “we just have fun!”  It provides a venue for those preparing for transition from the hospital for “real life” social experiences without the structure required in most institutional settings.

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The following is from a note written by a recent volunteer who was asked “What does 7-2-9 mean to you?”  I feel it beautifully captures both the goal and the achievements of 7-2-9:

I have been thinking about 729 today because it is one of the things for which I am most thankful.  As a newcomer, what has struck me the most is how comfortable our guests have come to feel in the program.  Many have various ways of making it their own that are meaningful to them and accepted by the larger group.  Before I came to 729, I did not realize that favorite Christmas carols included the Star-Spangled Banner and The Battle Hymn of the Republic, nor had I heard The Old Rugged Cross performed at karaoke.  Sometimes members just want to go over to the windows and look down on the dynamic activity of downtown Washington, from which they are otherwise locked away.  When we play bingo, some members systematically manage six or more boards to maximize their chances of winning; others have one card but play it intently; still others are mostly talking with other people at their table, recording perhaps one in two or three the numbers called.  Occasionally, a couple of members’ urge to play chess overwhelms their desire to follow the day’s planned activities.  But it is all done and received positively and good-naturedly, and the ability to exercise those small bits of personal freedom likely mean a lot to the members.  All this makes me proud to be a part of it and grateful to NY Avenue Presbyterian for its steadfast support of the 729 Club.

To this, I say AMEN.

Spencer Gibbins, Co-Coordinator

February 17, 2019

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Alternative Christmas 2018

IMG_4747Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way….to the Alternative Christmas gifts in the back of the sanctuary! This year’s eight gift projects include four local and four international recipients, plus the always-popular Fair Trade Olive Oil from Palestinian farmers. All of our projects have been connected with NYAPC as part of our mission and partner relationships.

Locally we have our traditional:

  • Open Arms Housing supporting 90 of the city’s most vulnerable women
  • Geriatric Day Care for 40 DC senior residents and their caregivers
  • Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, led by our own Kathy Doan, was a new addition to our projects last year.  It provides legal services annually to 500 children— toddlers through teens- -through CAIR’s Detained Children’s Program
  • Our new program this year is One  D.C., with a grassroots organizing mission involved in worker co-ops, job apprenticeships and training

Internationally, you are familiar with

  • The Kenya Orphans and Vulnerable Children program that helps 35 children each Saturday and provides comprehensive assistance.
  • First Presbyterian of Havana with its new pastor, Rev. Liudmila Hernández, who is working to expand First Havana’s mission outreach, especially with children and youth, and is  embarking on church renovations including the library to provide computers for young people.
  • The Presbyterian Churches in Baghdad and Basra, Iraq struggle to continue their missions with internally displaced refugees, their Pre-K schools, and FM radio outreach.  In October, the Baghdad Church opened three new grades to its Pre-K school and needs school desks and equipment.
  • The Presbyterian Churches in Homs and Damascus, Syria continue to cope with war and bombing while welcoming back Syrian refugees and continuing their thriving services and missions.

Finally, you know about that wonderful Palestinian olive oil that you love to use and give as perfect gifts.  Just $20 a bottle and it goes fast!! Get your bottles before they run out.

So jingle your way to the Alternative Christmas tables, look at the wonderful projects, get more details and inspiration from the catalog.  You may buy your gifts at the tables today and the next two Sundays, or go online to the NYAPC web site.  Pick up a catalog for details on giving and the projects.

GIVE LOVE THIS CHRISTMAS!!  During Advent, bring Hope, Joy, Love, and Peace to those who need it most.  Give Alternative Christmas gifts in anticipation of the coming Emmanuel.

-Marilyn Seiber, December 2, 2018

Nominating Committee Seeking Recommendations

The Nominating Committee is currently working to fill the 15 or so church board slots for new terms that begin in January and we can use your help. If you know someone at church that you think would be a good candidate, please let us know. Also, self-nominations are welcomed and encouraged. If you have served before and are ready to do so again, or never have but are interested, please contact David Gillies at dcgillies@verizon.net or Miriam Dewhurst at Miriam.Dewhurst@gmail.com. Your help is greatly appreciated, as it will help ensure we have effective lay leadership in the years ahead.

Thanks – David Gillies