M.O.M. Orphanage in Sierra Leone receiving supplies shipped to them
In times of trial, anxiety and fear, one possible reaction is to narrow your view to most pressing concerns and fears. There are times this is a necessary way for us to focus our energy to deal with an immediate challenge or need. Continual narrowing of our view, though, can lead to unintentional hardening of our hearts and limiting of concern for others. In faith, we pray to God to be gracious to us. In faith, we are called to keep our prayers as spacious as the reach of God’s graciousness.
Here at Westminster Presbyterian Church (WPC), we are blessed by the witness of partners in mission both from around the corner and around the world. As we in Albany and partners in Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Liberia face similar challenges and come up with similar responses, our minds and hearts are kept open, not constricted.
All the countries are under governmental orders to stay in place except for essential businesses and efforts. Our church and churches in Africa have had to find new ways to maintain worship and contact. We have sent prayers to them and have received back their prayers for us and the United States.
Poster prepared for use in Liberia by a group of not-for-profit organizations working in that country
Among all, the basic medical prevention is distancing, frequent handwashing and use of masks. Information on these practices is shared in our community, and in information posters shared with our partners in Africa. WPC has provided funds that allowed purchase of supplies for handwashing stations in Liberia and Sierra Leone. One of our mission allies in the area, The MoonCatcher Project, has been making masks and sharing patterns for homemade masks that WPC has shared with our overseas partners and made use of locally.
A feeding program offered by HOCAP and Tema Redemption Church in Ghana
In all settings, the most vulnerable are the poor and disadvantaged. Those who are homeless are at risk in many ways. Two Ghana partners, HOCAP (Home of Care and Protection, a Christian NGO) and Tema Redemption Presbyterian Church have started programs to help feed the homeless. Within a couple of days, one site was sharing 230 meals. All three African partner countries have been feeding and caring for orphans. WPC is glad that we have been able to help support those efforts.
FOCUS breakfast program.Groups of 3 guests at a time enter to receive bagged breakfast, bagged lunch, and coffee to go
WPC locally remains the site of the FOCUS Churches breakfast program for homeless and poor area residents. Adjustments have been made in how the program distributes food so that safe hygiene and distancing procedures are observed. Our support for FOCUS has helped the food pantry to remain in service with adjustments that allow hygiene and distancing procedures.
One of WPC’s local mission contacts is the South End’s AVillage. Current COO and Westminster member Tom McPheeters writes: “One thing we know for sure is that many people in the South End have the pre-existing conditions that are causing so many deaths from COVID-19. These conditions include poverty, poor housing conditions, lack of access to healthy food, medical services that often start and end with the emergency room, and the South End’s heavy air pollution.” Our partners in Africa face the same reality. Both here in Albany and in among our African mission partners, increased efforts are being made to reach out to the communities and maintain contact with and share information and resources.
Through all of this, WPC has been blessed by:
a. the mutual prayers shared among our partners in caring;
b. the knowledge that we face similar challenges no matter where we live;
c. the similarity of the needed initial responses; and
d. the fact that none of us anywhere are alone in facing this and supporting one another.
As the impact of the pandemic deepens, these blessings will help us maintain a concern for others that is as gracious and as spacious as the reach of Christ’s love.
Rev. Bill Schram began his ministry with Westminster in March 2018 and is the current Interim Minister. Bill attended McCormick seminary in Chicago and met his wife Jenny there. They have served as co-pastors and in separate positions. He has served churches in urban, near suburb, small town, county seat towns in various positions such as pastor, associate pastor, interim pastor, and hospital chaplain. He and Jenny have two natural and one foster daughter. Delightfully, they now have a granddaughter to enjoy.