Presbyterians Today

APR-MAY 2018

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28 APRIL/MAY 2018 | Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay W hen First Presbyterian Church of Homewood, Illinois, celebrated 150 years of ministry in 2008, it wanted to both cherish the past and embrace the future. As the congregation looked toward opportunities, it decided one focus should be at-risk children who were being served by the nearby Jones Memorial Community Center. During the anniversary year, members of First Presbyterian con- verted a random collection of chil- dren's books into a functioning library at Jones Center. Karen Maurer, a retired early childhood educator, vol- unteered in that project and continues to serve in the tutoring program. She tutors a third-grader who struggles to add two-digit numbers, but she also works with a gifted first- grader. While she and the first-grader were playing Shut the Box, an old- fashioned wooden game, he showed her a new dimension of the game. She had learned it as an addition game from her grandchildren, but he surprised her by demonstrating that it can also be a subtraction game. The commitment the congrega- tion made to children during its anniversary year continues 10 years later thanks to the steady stream of volunteers like Maurer who freely give their time. Maurer says providing moral and emotional support alongside academ- ics is crucial. "Most aren't from great home situ- ations, and they often come to the tutoring program after a stressful school day," she said. Another Homewood member, Chris Dederer, led a children's choir and taught piano classes for nearly a decade at Jones Center. "I sought to lay a foundation in these children's lives and give them an opportunity to see a positive male role model," said Dederer, a profes- sional church musician. "I'm not sure how many of these kids have that in their lives." Nancy Jo Dederer, pastor of First Presbyterian, says congregations open themselves to the "joy of ministry" when they decide to serve where children are. "It's not about getting members," she emphasized. "It's about sharing the love of Jesus Christ." Making a local impact The children served by Jones Center benefit not only from the time and talents of First Presbyterian members, but also from Pentecost Offering gifts that the congregation directs to the center. Each congrega- tion may retain 40 percent of the offering for local ministries that help children at risk, ministries with youth and/or young adult minis- tries. Ministries of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) that address these needs receive 60 percent of the offering. While the Pentecost Offering can be taken anytime, most congregations receive it on Pentecost Sunday, 50 days after Easter. The offering focuses on the age range that Christian educators and others call "the first third of life." They see this opening chapter of life as critical for faith formation and for developing the skills and maturity that lay the groundwork for future achievement. The Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) program, one of the national church's ministries supported by the offering, prepares future leaders for the church and challenges them to lead a life of deeper discipleship. During her year of service at Casa del Buen Trato Hovde (Hovde House of Good Treatment), a shelter for young survivors of sexual abuse and domestic violence in Huánuco, Peru, Kristen Young saw lives transformed and experienced transformation herself. Young remembers the face of Diana, who came to the shelter scared and refusing to smile. As the days passed, Diana's somber countenance began to brighten as she experienced the warmth and accep- tance of the shelter staff. Young was especially moved when she saw the delight Diana took in her newborn son. It was a moment, she said, that gave witness to the opening words of a song frequently sung at the shelter: "The Spirit of God is in this place; the Spirit of God moves in this place." Young saw the Spirit move when Pentecost Offering helps youth reach full potential BY PAT COLE COURTESY OF THE JONES CENTER Members of First Presbyterian Church in Homewood, Illinois, tutor children at the Jones Memorial Community Center.

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