Offering Hospitality to Asylum Seekers, or Love Thy Neighbor – No Exceptions

Members of your social justice team have been exploring ways of offering support to immigrants who are seeking asylum and have been admitted to the country legally. These families have applied for asylum on entry (completing all necessary paperwork to do so) and are being allowed to travel to family members in the US who are here legally, and who will sponsor them.

They come with little or nothing, and are bussed by ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement)  to the Phoenix area and dropped at local churches who have the ability to provide a shower, clean clothes, food and a place to sleep, for usually 1 to 3 days at most. They will have tickets for the onward journey provided by their family/sponsor. The church also provides transportation to the bus depot.

There are a number of churches and nonprofits in the Valley actively welcoming and providing support. We recently visited a church in the West Valley that has been welcoming groups brought to them by ICE  since Thanksgiving.They take as many as 200 people over the course of three days.  They have very limited space which is used for sleeping at night, and gathering during the day. Meals are prepared and eaten outside.

We were inspired and humbled by the witness of this congregation and are committed to finding ways that Church of the Palms will support the work they are doing. We hope many of you will join us.

As of this writing, a group of us will be go to the host church on Monday mornings for about three hours (carpooling at 9:00 am from Church of the Palms).  Please email Beth Moore ebmoore1@live.com if you wish to join us on any Monday.  We encourage anyone to go with us just to meet the people, and witness the work being done. Please feel free to speak with John Durbin or Beth Moore to learn more of the details of this effort.

As we learn more and organize our efforts, we will begin asking you for specific things that are needed. The following are needs that have been expressed at this point. If you wish, you may bring donations and place them in the designated box in the narthex labeled “Asylum Seekers.”

    • Clothing in sizes small and medium for men and women
    •     Shoes, sweaters, jackets
    •     New underwear and socks for men, women and children
    • Staples:  toilet paper, paper plates, utensils, Styrofoam cups
    • Hygiene items:  toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo
    • Food items:  Coffee; creamer, sugar; bottled water

People are also needed:

    • Drivers to take groups to the bus depot.
    • Volunteers on Monday or Tuesday to help with things such as meal preparation; sorting clothes;  doing laundry; sitting and visiting with children/parents.

Memory and Faith Project Dementia Care and Education

Wednesday, March 13, 3 to 4:30 p.m.

Have you ever wondered if someone you love is facing Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia? Have you wondered how you might help the individual or family as they faced this?

Are you a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s and facing its many challenges, feeling alone, stressed, or experiencing burnout?

The Church of the Palms’ Faith Health Ministry is pleased to be one of the churches participating in the Dementia Care and Education Memory and Faith Project, an educational project designed to provide education and resources to churches across Arizona. The program is being offered in churches with the goal being to mobilize and educate faith communities, increasing awareness and understanding of Alzheimer’s disease and supporting those living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.

The Church of the Palms’ Faith Health Ministry will be participating in this project by hosting a series of five educational sessions. The programs are aimed at identifying signs of dementia, providing a support system incorporating family, friends and the faith community, and to assist caregivers in their difficult task. Topics being addressed in the series of programs include:

    • The ABC’s of Alzheimer’s and Dementia
    • Is it Alzheimer’s or Natural Aging
    • Brain Tune-up
    • Nutrition and Prevention of Alzheimer’s
    • Memory Screening

The first session will be held at the Church of the Palms on Wednesday, March 13, at 3:00 p.m. A second session is scheduled for Wednesday, April 10. The remaining sessions will be held in the fall after the summer travelers have returned. United Church of Sun City will be hosting sessions during the same time frame, allowing interested individuals to “make-up” a missed session.

“Giving Tree” for Dysart Community Center

In the process of developing our relationship with the Dysart Community Center, we discovered that some of the 200+ children in their After-School Kids Club are going without necessities — underwear and socks.

A “Giving Tree” will be out in the narthex filled with suggestions of sizes on pink and blue hearts. Take as few or as many hearts that you can help with. Dysart Community Center will be thankful for new or “gently used” clothing. The “Giving Tree” hearts will be replenished each week.

Community labyrinths

Come walk, pray, reflect, and return to the world, different.

We have created two labyrinths, recognizing the diversity that is embedded in our church and community. One is long, and one is short; please make use of both. The longer one will follow the traditional meandering path that has been used for centuries. Recognizing that that path is simply too far for some, a second labyrinth was designed to meet the needs of those who require the assistance of walkers.

We hope this tool for meditation and reflection can help all of us find meaning right here, right now, in our lives. We invite and welcome all in the community beyond our doors to experience this spiritual practice.

Thank you to Max Klinkenborg for coordinating this project and to the many volunteers who came to build it.

image credits: Rev. Paul A. Whitlock, Senior Pastor, Church of the Palms UCC, and Nancy Tsuchiya

Social Justice Action Team Works with Dysart Community Center

At a recent meeting, the Social Justice Action Team approved working through the Board of Mission & Outreach to establish a long-term relationship with the Dysart Community Center. The reason for this decision is that the center embraces the same purpose as our team: to serve the needs of the marginalized, oppressed, and often forgotten. The mission statement of the Dysart Community Center is: To provide educational and developmental opportunities for low-income children and adults in our local communities.

Dysart Community Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization established in 1962 by a group of 12 determined volunteers to provide basic health and educational resources to local families on the verge of poverty. Educating those in need was the first priority for these volunteers and remains so today. From its founding more than fifty years ago, Dysart Community Center has expanded its services to provide a variety of educational programs for thousands of West Valley residents in our local communities. Today it proudly serves our community with GED, ESL, and citizenship courses for adults; after-school and summer care for youth; and access to various basic needs resources for families and individuals.

The center believes that by empowering the community through education while providing relief from various social and economic stresses, it can play an important part in helping community members reach the full potential of their character and capabilities. Dysart Community Center’s work with migrant families and assisting homeless is very much in line with the priorities of the Church of the Palms Social Action Team.

The Church of the Palms Social Justice Champion Recognition: Carolyn Modeen

This recognition is awarded to a person who is a member of our church, active in leadership roles, and active in social justice ministry. The individual  demonstrates a long-term commitment to seek justice on local, regional, and global issues. Her/his actions challenge injustices and effect change through education, advocacy, activism, and fundraising. Finally, the individual demonstrates the belief that everyone deserves equal economic, political, and social rights and opportunities.

The first recipient of this recognition goes to Carolyn Modeen.

Carolyn, a member for over 20 years, has served as Church Moderator, Chair of the Board of Mission and Outreach, initiated sale of free trade items, helped with the monthly fellowship breakfasts and provided leadership for Ecumenical Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Carolyn’s community roles have included: volunteer with Central Arizona Shelter providing clothes for the homeless, participation in marches and rallies for peace and to stop wars. Twice a month she holds up “Peace” signs on Bell and 99th.

Carolyn has advocated for sensible gun legislation, marched for women’s reproductive health rights and has given speeches at Planned Parenthood gathering. She has participated in equal pay gatherings and efforts to correct worker pay disparity. She demonstrated for migrant rights as workers and participated in monthly meetings of domestic violence prevention program.

Carolyn has been an active participant with Grandmothers for Peace and has volunteer at Benevilla since 1984. She regularly gathers signatures to help political candidates have names placed on election ballots and get initiatives on ballots.

Carolyn lives the following scripture: Micah 6:8 … “And what does the LORD require of us but to DO JUSTICE, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God.” Well done Carolyn! Thank you for your service!

Social Justice Team update

Seeking JUSTICE through Prayer, Action, Love, Ministry & Support
P. A. L. M. S.

The Church of the Palms Social Justice Team, which is part of the Board of Mission & Outreach, is moving forward by addressing major social justice issues of our times.

Using the scripture passage from Micah 6:8, “And what does the LORD require of us but to DO JUSTICE, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God.” As its admonition and inspiration, the team is working hard on being the hands and feet of Jesus in our community and beyond.

Following is a partial list of accomplishments and plans of our team this past year.

LGBTQ Equity

  • Purchased and displayed the rainbow flag.
  • Participated in the Gay Pride Parade. Our Church was very well received, with our “Jesus didn’t reject anyone, neither do we,” banner. It was commented on and cheered for by many parade participants and watchers.
  • Supports, encourages and helps the efforts of Ronn Enzweiler and the Sun City LGBTQ Club to produce tote bags for agencies to distribute to the homeless.
  • Investigating whether gay married couples in AZ can become foster parents.
  • Reached out to United Church of Sun City which recently voted to become an Open & Affirming Church.

Immigration/Refugees

  • Members of the team established a working relationship with Shadow Rock UCC in support of its Sanctuary Program.
  • Developed a long-term relationship with Lutheran Social Services Southwest (LSS-SW) to support its ministry to immigrants including refugees.
  • Kurt & Linda Hofmann assisted in the assimilation process for a non-English speaking refugee Afghan family.
  • Nancy and Richard Mueller provided instruction in sewing and computer programs for refugees.
  • Suzanne Boisclair participated in a training program for the purpose of tutoring youth refugees.
  • Beth Malmgren connected with Arizona Immigration & Refugee Services to see how our church could be of support.
  • Representatives of Church of the Palms are participating with the UCC Southwest Conference in the “Faithful Witness at the Border” program to call attention to the humanitarian crisis of separating refugee children from their parents.
  • Through the Board of Mission & Outreach our church supports the ministries of Solutions Church serving refugees from South Africa.

Palestinian – Israeli Issue

  • Beth Moore, with the help of several team members, organized a fellowship breakfast and, “meet & greet,” dinner. Daoud Nassar from the Tent of Nations outside Bethlehem shared the challenges of seeking to maintain their family farm in the occupied West Bank.
  • The purpose of this project, undertaken by the Nassar family, along with inter-national volunteers from around the world, is to develop and protect the land and create a center for people from different countries, cultures, and religions to come together and build bridges of trust – and hope – and peace. Through their work with women, youth and families from the nearby village of Nahalin and refugee camps in and around Bethlehem, non-violent approaches to peace are put into practice and their motto “We refuse to be enemies” is lived out.
  • The Church of the Palms is planning to purchase trees for the Farm. The team discussed launching a fund-raising program in September/October to purchase trees for the Tent of Nations Farm and generating scholarship funds to assist a representative from our church to assist in planting trees on the farm. Joyce Stoffers mentioned that the purchase and planting of trees also has benefit for environmental issues.

Homelessness

  • Members of the team met with Robert Sanders, Regional Director with LSS-SW, and other City of Surprise community leaders in March regarding IHELP – Interfaith Homeless Emergency Lodging Program. It was proposed to the Church Council in June that Church of the Palms consider being a major player in this program.
  • Our church continues to support ministry to the homeless population through the HART Pantry program and supporting Children First Academy, a school for the homeless in the Phoenix metro area.

Religious & Racial Appreciation

  • Debby Stinton leads the White Privilege Program, Part 1 & Part II.
  • Barbara Arnold presented information on the Code of the Underground Railroad Quilt and the need for the quilt to be protectively encased in order to preserve it and so that it can be permanently hung at Church of the Palms.
  • Plans are underway to establish a relationship with Arizona Interfaith Movement to determine what they are doing to promote religious and racial tolerance and how our team could be part of this effort.
  • The annual Ecumenical Retreat was held in early September and focused on “Time, Eternity and the Importance of Religious Holidays in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.”

Environmental Issues

  • Nancy Tsuchiya and Joyce Stoffers organized a visit to a local recycling company to determine how our church could more fully participate in such a program. A proposal will be going to the Church Council to purchase more ecofriendly materials to be used for social functions in King Hall.
  • George Wall made a presentation to the team on the impact of global warming and how we need to be a voice for this concern.
  • Plans are underway to contact Doug Bland, Executive Director of Arizona Interfaith Power & Light, to make a presentation to our church leadership on how we could become a partner in this effort.

Gun Violence

  • A letter to the editor written and edited by the team was published in the Sun City Independent regarding stopping gun violence.
  • Members of the team participated in non-violent protests in Sun City and Phoenix to stop gun violence.

There are currently 28 members of our church and community participating to one degree or another in our Social Justice Team. The team meets the second Friday of the month at 9:30AM. Our next meeting is Friday, September 14th. Please plan to attend if you have an interest in any of projects being undertaken by our social justice team.

“My Bag Project”

Our LGBTQ Equity sub-group of the Social Justice Team would like to introduce Ron Enzweiler, a new-ish member here at Church of the Palms, and his ministry “My Bag Project.” Ron is a member of the LGBTQ Club of Sun City and the Sun City Sewing Club. He was featured in an article in the November 2017 Sunviews Newspaper regarding the work that the Clubs are involved in with helping Eve’s Place for domestic violence victims. You can see the article and a sampling of his work on our bulletin board by King Hall.

In conversation with Ron, we found out that he has a wish list of items he needs for his “My Bag Project” ministry. Plus, he would love to have others, who love to sew, join him in this endeavor.

Here is his list:

  • Broadcloth, Seersucker, Corduroy (not too heavy a weight)
  • Duck (the kind of material that can be easily cut by senior arthritic hands) A little dirty is OK
  • NO upholstery material

Ron does have a contact in central Phoenix for crushed velvet, lace, trim items. If you would like to donate to Ron’s ministry or give him an hour of your time, he would love to have you contact him at 480-225-8231. Ron believes that those who are in transition, or homeless, need to have something of their own to carry their possessions in, besides a trash bag, and we believe the same.

Debby Stinton
Assistant Pastor

Ron Enzweiler "My Bags Project" for Eve's Place, Sun City, Arizona

 

Homeless Ministry in Sun City and the West Valley

Most of us take a lot for granted, including a permanent address, a place to lay our head at night, a place we call home. But an increasing number of people are homeless across the United States, in Arizona, in Maricopa County and in our own communities. A recent newspaper article reported the number of homeless in Glendale doubled over the previous year and Surprise, that counted no homeless as recent as 2014, is identifying a homeless population, albeit small, but very visible and of concern to many residents.

What is the face of the homeless? From data gathered in January of 2017, single adults account for 72% of the homeless population; men make up 64% of that number. Families represent 27% of the population. In Maricopa County 35% of the homeless were over 45 years of age; 6% were over 62, up from 4% in 2015.

The Social Justice Action Team is seeking ways for our church to be a leader in addressing this growing concern in Sun City and the West Valley. Members of the committee have been in conversation with Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest, the sponsors of IHELP (Interfaith Housing Emergency Lodging Program). Team members have visited an active IHELP church and have shared information and a timeline with the Church Council.

IHELP is a working program that provides case management, life planning, finance counseling, job search and preparation, employment services, health care referrals, vital documentation assistance and enrollment in public benefits through LSS staff supervision and guidance. Individuals in the program have 90 days of shelter and meals at no charge. The goal of the program is to move persons from homelessness to self-sufficiency. Multiple churches provide places of shelter and a meal; a Lutheran Social Services case worker implements the IHELP program and provides the services.

At this point the SJAT has more questions than answers. As we continue to develop a plan of action and work in cooperation with other churches to address the needs of the homeless, be in prayer for the homeless and those who provide shelter/food to meet their daily needs. For more information on this project please contact: Max Klinkenborg maxklink@yahoo.com.