Presbyterians Today

JUN-JUL 2018

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Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay | JUNE/JULY 2018 33 team, which visited the school in Haiti. Rabenaldt also had the children make a short video for the mission team to show the schoolchil- dren in Haiti. The children of San Luis Obispo are also learning to be the hands and feet of Christ in their own backyard by making blessing bags for families who spend a night in the church's makeshift homeless shelter. The children have collected things like socks, healthy snacks and water to put in the bags along with a verse of Scripture. "The kids love putting the bags together and are learning how important the little things can be," Rabenaldt said. The makeshift shelter, however, raises an important reminder to those leading children in mission. That is, to respect the privacy of those being helped and to respect the comfort level of the children doing the helping. "Unfortunately, we can't allow the kids to visit the families when they are at the church's shelter because there may be some kids staying that go to school with our children. That creates an uncomfortable situation," Rabenaldt said. While the children don't visit when families are there, Rabenaldt does take them on a tour of the shelter when all of the cots are set up. "This intentional learning will hopefully follow them throughout their lives," Rabenaldt said, adding that she hopes when the children get older their hearts for mission will continue to grow. A child shall lead us Adults often grapple with the question of how best to prepare children to be future advocates for justice, whether the subject is poverty, the racial divide or another complex issue. Christian educators say that a good starting point is talking about pressing issues with children. That's not easy, though, when adults themselves find it difficult to have honest conversations. It is also impor- tant to be sensitive to where children and teens are in their emotions, fears and understanding of what's happen- ing in the world. Thetford believes tough conver- sations happen by first laying the groundwork of kindness and caring for others at a young age, "then you have something to build on as the children become teens," she says. At Third Presbyterian Church in Rochester, New York, race is an important topic, says Becky D'Angelo- Veitch, coordinator of children's ministry and congregational life. The church, she explains, is in a metro area while the congregation is mostly made up of "white kids from the 'burbs." The children know all about the church's tutoring program at two of the city schools, D'Angelo-Veitch says. They even participate in book drives for these schools, she adds. But she also recognizes there needs to be more — more awareness about the community and more engagement with it. "I don't think we are as good at talking about it [race] as we should be," said D'Angelo-Veitch, echoing the sentiment of many white Presbyterian congregations. To foster a dialogue, last fall Third Presbyterian brought in Nikole Hannah-Jones, a nationally recog- nized investigative journalist who covers civil rights for The New York Times magazine. She was there to speak to the greater Rochester com- munity on race and the education system. "She was a challenging speaker," D'Angelo-Veitch said. The audience that night included teens from Third Presbyterian. Young and old together Perhaps the best way to start grooming the next generation of advocates is to begin with young and old learning, serving, exploring and grappling with issues together. Rocky River Presbyterian Church in Rocky River, Ohio, is doing just that. Lisa Watts, Rocky River's director of Christian education, recently offered a series of intergenerational evenings called "Bridges." Each evening had a topic that needed to be bridged — racism, religious diversity, care of God's creation and care for God's children. The night began with a shared meal and a guest speaker who encouraged conversation around the topic of the evening. "Adults and teens then shared thoughts and worked through ques- tions and issues together," Watts said. In addition to "Bridges," Watts has been working with the church's middle and high school youth groups JESSICA BAYLOR Children and teens pitched tents on the lawn of First United Presbyterian Church to buy a ShelterBox from Rotary International.

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