Prison Ministry Introduces Pen Pal Program

By Nancy Nonini
Social Justice Action Team-Prison Ministry

Do you know why 4:15 p.m. is the most exciting time of day at Perryville Prison for Women (ASPC – Perryville)? It’s Mail Call. Women rush to see if they get a letter. Others never come out because they don’t want to face yet another day without a letter. A letter in prison is an “envelope of hope,” according to Sue Ellen Allen in her book, The Slumber Party from Hell.

Women who have pen pals are less likely to go back to prison after re-entering society. Matthew 25 Prison Ministry (originated through Red Mountain United Methodist Church in Mesa) has provided pen pals for 264 inmates at Perryville; 128 have become “returning citizens” and only four have returned to prison, giving Matthew 25 a return rate of 3.1%, as opposed to the national recidivism rate of over 50%.

Since our Arouet Foundation Storytellers Breakfast in Your PJs, we have filled 5 Starter Kits for women being released from Perryville, and at least 2 people have expressed interest in becoming pen pals. Luckily for us, Matthew 25 Prison Ministry will provide a Zoom Pen Pal training on Friday, April 9 at 10:00 a.m. You can access this presentation on the Bridges page under Social Justice Action Team/Prison Ministry. This event will be recorded if you want to view it but are not available at the scheduled time. Please email Nancy Nonini at nnonini19@gmail.com with any questions or for a Zoom invitation.

Meet the 2020 Church of the Palms Social Justice Champions: Max and Kay Klinkenborg

By John Durbin

Each year, the Social Justice Action Team selects an individual or individuals to receive the Social Justice Champion Award. The person(s) chosen best exemplifies our guiding scripture: “And what does the LORD require of us but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God” Micah 6:8. The criteria for the award include: being a member or friend of The Church of the Palms, being active in church leadership roles, a history of being active in social justice ministries, personal actions challenging injustices and affecting change through education, advocacy, activism, and demonstrating the belief that everyone deserves equal economic, political, and social rights and opportunities. Max and Kay meet all of these criteria and then some.

Rev. Max Klinkenborg (Retired)
Max was born on a farm in central Missouri and walked to a one-room schoolhouse. He graduated from the University of MO and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Here are a few of his social-justice efforts spanning his life so far:

  • Led church members of a small town church to establish a “Clothes Closet” to recycle used clothes for children and adults;
  • served free food along with Kay and son Erik in a small soup kitchen to poor and homeless in Columbia, MO;
  • made two work trips to Baton Rouge with Habitat for Humanity, post Katrina, for those displaced from their homes;
  • participated in the renovation of a church in Turrialba, Costa Rica sponsored by American Baptists;
  • organized and led 10 youth mission trips to Bacone College in Muskogee, OK, learning the true story of the relocation of the five civilized tribes along the Trail of Tears; worked monthly at the Micah Ministry of Independence Blvd. Christian Church to provide meals to the homeless and food insecure in the northeast area of Kansas City, MO;
  • worked weekly at Harvesters Food Bank in Kansas City that served 26 counties in Missouri and Kansas;
  • and shed blood for the sick, donating 320 pints of blood and counting.

And of course, since joining Church of the Palms, Max has launched two programs for the homeless: I-HELP and the Shower Trailer “Feet and More” ministry.

Kay Klinkenborg
Kay was born in Missouri as the oldest of three children. She worked as a nurse and hospital administrator prior to returning to school to obtain a graduate degree in marriage and family therapy. She has done training in the fields of domestic violence, sexual abuse and women’s counseling.

The following are some of Kay’s social-justice activities:

  • along with Max and son Erik, served monthly meals to the homeless in Columbia, MO;
  • co-led with Max “Clergy Response to Domestic Violence” and “Spouses Support Group” for men whose wives were victims of childhood or adult sexual-assault;
  • founded “Women of the Corn” in Jacksonville, IL (support group for building positive self-esteem and psychological development);
  • pro-bono counseling for Women’s Shelter in Jacksonville, IL.;
  • wrote and produced the video: “ACT: Communication Steps & Tools for Advocates Working with Elder Abuse”;
  • volunteered for PORA (Positive Options, Referrals and Alternatives) remodeling old houses for transitional housing to non-street living in Springfield, IL;
  • served as chair of “’VOICES in Action” (International Conference for Survivors of Sexual Assault); coordinated “Senior Tuesday Lunches” for Ray and Clay Counties (education, meal, B/P and foot care clinic) in Lawson, MO;
  • coordinated “Dresses for Africa” (dresses and boys shorts shipped to Africa, Haiti, Kenya);
  • volunteered for Project Linus (made over 280 blankets for children in hospitals, shelters or homeless), KC, MO;
  • coordinated public seminar (LGBTQ Issues & Faith”);
  • volunteered monthly at Harvester’s Food Bank and Micah Ministry, KC, MO. (prepared and served meals for 600- 800 people).

And since Kay has joined Church of the Palms, she has provided spiritual counseling to several church members, has led groups and taught marvelous education programs spanning a wide variety of social-justice topics.

Wow, we are blessed to have the Klinkenborgs as members of Church of the Palms.

Quarantine, Schmorentine, Church of the Palms is Not Closed…We Are Deployed

Do you do any of these things: pray, take action, love, tend to others’ needs, support the work of our church? If you do, you are part of our church’s Social Justice Action Team, seeking justice through Prayer, Action, Love, Ministry & Support (PALMS). Using 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 our inspiration, our team is working hard in these challenging times to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our community and beyond. Thank you for being an important part of the team. We appreciate and need your involvement. Here is what you are helping to accomplish as reported at our most recent meeting:

Homelessness

  • Jan Eckstein expressed the gratitude of the HART / Helping At Risk Teen’s Pantry for our church’s donation to the Back to School Drive. 275 backpacks were filled and 150 have been delivered.
  • Max Klinkenborg reported that through our Interfaith Homeless Emergency Lodging Program (IHELP) over 20 individuals are off the street and in a home. A shower trailer for individuals not yet in housing has been ordered from the manufacturer and will be arriving soon. The Sun City Rotary Club and the City of Surprise have expressed interest in being partners in this project.

Immigration/Refugee

Suzanne Boisclair reported we have provided $450 to support food needs of the African Refugee Solutions Church members suffering from Covid 19. This will be combined with a donation from Shadow Rock UCC to purchase food in bulk to be distributed to those in need. Pastor Paul reported that our church made a $1,500 donation earlier in the year for the same cause.

Creation Justice

  • Terry Starr reported on the goal of Arizona Power and Light to have 3,000 Faith Climate Voter Campaign Pledges before the November election. The Faith Climate Voter Campaign Pledge can be found HERE.
  • Equally important is the distribution of the Faith Values Voters Guide.  The voters’ guide covers important issues besides the climate crisis, including income inequality, health care, immigration, LGBTQ rights, restorative justice and more.  The guide can be found HERE.
  • Andrea Stefanov reported on the work being done by her and Beth Moore to create a check sheet that individuals could use to help determine their carbon footprint.
  • Nancy Tsuchiya reported on changes being made in recycling efforts and a new aluminum can recycling project being launched with the help from IHELP guests.

Antiracism & Anti-Religious Intolerance

Debby Stinton reported on her partnership with the Southwest Conference on racism. She is currently in the “Sacred Conversations to End Racism Institute.” Debby will be trained as a trainer of trainers on racial justice issues. Debby and partners from the Southwest Conference will take an in-depth look at the subject of racial conciliation as a precursor to racial reconciliation. Debby is preparing a list of resources on this topic to be distributed to those interested in this timely topic.

Neighbors in Need

  • Suzanne Boisclair reported that because of Covid 19, operations at the Dysart Community Center have been limited. They are, however, providing 2 meals per day to the community. In April, our church brought clothes left for the asylum seekers to the Center.
  • John reported on the work of Kay Klinkenborg to provide water to either the White Mountain Apache or Navajo nations based on recent media coverage of the lack of drinking water for these tribes.

Palestinian-Israeli Issue

Beth Moore reported that the challenges for the Tent of Nations (TON) continue to grow. Three factors are contributing to the continuing struggle: Obtaining volunteers because of Covid 19, increasing tension in Bethlehem between Palestinian and Israeli citizens, continuing annexation of territory in the region and difficulty in obtaining supplies for the farm.

Criminal Justice and Prison Reform

  • Jane Zukowski requested assistance with the “Women of Perryville” Project. Each day women leave Perryville Prison after having served their time, often without clothes to reenter society. There is an urgent need for clothing of all sizes: shorts, pants, tops, and business attire for job interviews. No undergarments, sleepwear or shoes, please. Donations can be boxed or bagged (no hangers) and dropped off at church. For more information, leave a message for Jane Zukowski at the church office.
  • Nancy Nonini reported on the “Inside Out Network” led by Fred Nelson, a Lutheran pastor. The Inside Out Network is dedicated to crafting innovative solutions to connect returning citizens with service providers, churches, and ministries, as well as to connect those serving on the inside in prison ministry with those outside who are working on re-entry challenges. Inmates receive tablets to begin the process of re-entry while incarcerated and use their smartphones to continue the relationship when in the community. The Inside Out Network is always free for returning citizens.

LGBTQ Equity

Vickie Ashenbrenner reported on the Pride Parade in the church parking lot in June, the three-year anniversary of the ONA covenant celebrated during a Sunday worship service, and the anniversary of raising the rainbow flag.

Meet the Church of the Palms Social Justice Champions: Pam & Paul Clark

Each year, the Social Justice Action Team selects an individual(s) to receive the Social Justice Champion Award. The person(s) chosen best exemplifies our guiding scripture “And what does the LORD require of us but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God” Micah 6:8. Selection criteria includes: History of being active in social justice ministries, personal actions challenging injustices and effecting change though education, advocacy, activism. Pam and Paul clearly meet these criteria.

Pam Clark

Pam began her advocacy work while living in Douglas, AZ, on the border with Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico in the mid ‘60s. Her church helped a congregation in Agua Prieta, Mexico, to refurbish their own church and, working together across the border, they collected clothing for children living in poverty. It was while in Douglas that Pam’s passion for creation justice was born.

Douglas was controlled by the economic presence of Phelps Dodge copper mining in nearby Bisbee and smelting operations at the town smelter. Douglas also was the gateway to Mexico. When the first Earth Day was created in 1970, Pam became acutely aware that Phelps Dodge was a huge polluter in the area and also was the source of employment for most of the local residents. The smelter worked at peak levels at night because the nighttime winds carried the acrid sulfur dioxide smoke into Mexico, rather than Douglas. People who objected were told that the smoke represented dollars in paychecks.

From that early awakening to this day, Pam continues to work to protect the environment and advocate for those marginalized. She adopted a plant-based diet in 2013 and learned about the plight of animals in contemporary mass farming and slaughter operations, which has a direct and negative influence on global warming and climate change.

When Pam came to Church of the Palms, she joined the Mission and Outreach Board, where she and Paul worked to establish the original Social Justice Committee, which preceded the Social Justice Action Team. In 2012, they examined the issue of undocumented youth, now known as DACA students. Pam has worked with Shadow Rock UCC in its refugee/sanctuary program. In 2008, Pam while with Paul in Indonesia, worked with young women to help them better understand money, saving and planning their future. Finally, Pam has been involved with UMOM’s New Day Center in central Phoenix, as well as outreach programs for several churches along the Mexican border.

Rev. Paul Clark, retired

In 1957, while Paul served at Tenafly Presbyterian Church in New Jersey, he was invited to visit mission personnel in Hong Kong. The Head of Church World Service (an agency supported by Church of the Palms UCC) urged Paul to visit a large group of White Russian refugees (non-Communist Christians) who were stranded in Hong Kong. Paul had an opportunity to visit the refugees, an experience he found to be deeply moving.

When Paul returned to the Tenafly Church, he preached a sermon asking congregants to write to government officials urging them to act on behalf of the stranded refugees. As a result, Paul was invited to appear before U.S. Senate Sub-Committee on Refugees. He also secured an invitation for the local young Russian Orthodox priest to go to Washington with him. As a result, the U.S. Senate Sub-Committee on Refugees reassigned more than $60,000 to help relocate the refugee families, some to the U.S. and some to Brazil.

So began Paul’s journey in the world of social justice challenges and projects. While living near New York City, Paul served on the U. S. Committee for Refugees. In Ithaca, New York, Paul helped to assemble five busloads of Cornell students and staff, community clergy and others as they became part of the “March on Washington.” Paul led one of the committees of clergy traveling to Washington as “Clergy Concerned Regarding the Vietnam War.” In Tenafly, Ithaca, and San Diego, Paul secured housing for the poor or newcomers to those communities, including those from Vietnam, Central America and Cuba.

In 2012, Paul and Pam began the original Church of the Palms Social Justice Committee.

Despite some recent health challenges Pam and Paul Clark continue to be advocates for social justice. Congratulations for being this year’s Social Justice Champions.

I-HELP: Church of the Palms Provides Relief to the Homeless

Over a year ago our Social Justice Action Team was exploring ways to address the growing homeless population in our corner of Maricopa County. We learned of a program that was being used in Avondale and four of our members went to see the program in action at the First Baptist Church.

The program was I-HELP run by Lutheran Social Services and it was having success, twelve homeless people at a time. LSS provided the staff and resources for the program; churches provided housing and food for the guests for up to 90 days until they were settled in their own housing. It was not a short term solution, like a soup kitchen or a shelter, but an intentional effort, focused on adults who had lost their housing through some bad fortune and needed temporary help to get back on their feet.

With the blessing of the COTP staff and the church council, members of the Social Justice Action Team began conversations with LSS and the city of Surprise, offering to be a host church should an I-HELP program be developed in the North West Valley. LSS acquired the grant money needed to staff the program, other churches were recruited to host and the program was launched on Sunday, October 27, 2019.

A twenty member I-HELP Committee at COTP has been working for several months planning and preparing to host I-HELP every Monday evening beginning 10/28/’19. Many volunteers have already committed to drive the bus, provide food and stay overnight in addition to financial support.

Church of the Palms will make a difference in the lives of our neighbors who ‘need a hand up, not a hand out’. It will also be a blessing to our volunteers who show generosity and hospitality to our guests, a win-win endeavor.

Criminal Justice / Prison Reform

For I was hungry and you gave me food… I was in prison and you visited me . . . truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of My family, you did it to Me.  Matthew 25:36

One of the issues being addressed by our Church of the Palms Social Justice Action Team is criminal justice/prison reform. Can you imagine that just receiving a letter at mail call can make you feel special and give you hope for a second chance? Sharing a short letter with one of the women in the AZ State Prison Complex at Perryville lets her know that she is not forgotten.

Red Mountain United Methodist Church in Mesa has the Matthew 25:36 Prison Ministry that includes a pen pal program with women at Perryville. The letters may be short but offer encouragement, hope, and an opportunity to share one’s faith. Just this small interaction can make a difference in the possibility of staying out of prison once released. According to American Journal of Criminal Justice, the normal recidivism rate is 40%, but for people who have penpals, it is only 5%. What a gift! 

We are building a pen pal program here in the west valley at Dove of the Desert United Methodist Church in Glendale. If you are interested in finding out how you might be able to give hope to a woman at Perryville and hopefully start a program at COTP, please contact Nancy Nonini (member of our Social Justice Action Team) at nancy.nonini@cox.net.

Also, look for additional information in upcoming Sunday bulletins on this topic and other issues being addressed by the Church of the Palms Social Justice Action Team.

Seeking Justice through Prayer Action Love Ministry & Support (PALMS)

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.

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.

Next Steps in Discerning COTP Involvement with the people of Israel/Palestine

The Church of the Palms Social Justice Action Team has begun a conversation on ways we might continue to learn about and engage with the people living in Israel/Palestine.

75 COTP members attended the fellowship breakfast in March at which Daoud Nassar spoke (founder of the Tent of Nations outside of Bethlehem). 20 members participated in a four-week study group held in the spring of 2017. We would like to continue to build on the interest and support expressed by congregation members to these two events. The team came up with three possible ways of continuing our learning and ministry in this part of the world. (There may be others and you are welcome to suggest them.)

Please take a minute to email Beth Moore at ebmoore1@live.com to let her know if you are interested in any, or all of the following. Your response at this time is not a final commitment, but a way to hear from those of you who have an interest. Please include your full name in your email.

Learning
Engaging in additional learning opportunities about Israel/Palestine. For example a four week study using a text/written materials, or a DVD / film followed by discussion.

Advocacy
Being part of a group to receive email updates from Beth on events in Israel / Palestine (approximately monthly) with a request to take “action”. This usually means making a call to congressional representatives to express your opinion / thoughts about the issue. Often “talking points” are provided if you wish to use them.

Travel
Participation in a 10 -14 day trip to the Holy Land that would include opportunities to hear from both Israelis and Palestinians about their search for a just peace, as well as visits to some of the historical holy sites. This would also include a visit to the Tent of Nations with opportunities to volunteer. Timing to be decided but could be Fall of 2019 or Spring of 2020.

Fundraising
Contributing to or helping to raise funds for a special gift to the Tent of Nations – for example olive or fruit trees, or a piece of equipment they need. This might be done in conjunction with a planned trip and could be taken by the group travelling to the farm.

Social Justice Action Team

Seeking justice through Prayer, Action, Love, Ministry & Support

The Church of the Palms Social Justice Team has been very active. The team members working on the Immigration/Refugee issue have developed a working relationship with Refugee Focus, a division of Lutheran Social Services. For more than thirty years, this organization has served some of the world’s most persecuted people living right here in Phoenix. Violence and armed conflict chase millions of people from their homes, their families, and their countries, forcing them to seek safety in other countries around the world.

Honoring a proud identity as a nation of immigrants, the United States has welcomed refugees and asylees throughout its history. Every year, the State Department identifies global regions in which people have an exceptional need for protection outside of their home countries. These refugees and asylees are then invited to resettle in the “land of opportunity,” in a nation that has traditionally cherished the value of uplifting the oppressed. Refugee Focus services include:

Pre-arrival housing
Case management
English classes
Transportation services
Employment support
Education service
Women’s empowerment
Immigration services

And here is what Church of the Palms Social Justice Team members are doing to support this effort:

Beth Malmgren – tutoring in finances
Linda Hofmann – teaching English
Kurt Hofmann – mentoring families
Nancy & Richard Mueller – teaching English
Suzanne Boisclair – teaching English
Linda Rouches – working with children

Please feel free to speak to any of these Social Justice Team members to see how you could become involved. The Social Justice Team meets the second Friday of the month at 9:30 in the chapel. All are welcome.