The SFTS Community is so proud of the work of our alumni/ae worldwide. Here are just a few examples of those ministries. As you read their stories, please pray for all SFTS graduates heeding God's call around the world.
Rev. Dr. ChangBok Chung – Doctor of the Science of Theology 1978
President of Hanil University and Presbyterian Theological Seminary,
"Dr. Chung has helped me understand Korean preaching, culture and my own students in more ways than I can
detail in writing."
Rev. Dr. Jana Childers, SFTS professor of homiletics and
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Rev. Dr. ChangBok Chung came to the United States to further his theological studies. He returned to Korea and emerged as a well-respected teacher and seminary president who helped build a bridge of understanding throughout the Pacific Rim.
“His contribution to the churches in Korea by educating seminary students to be faithful preachers is widely recognized,” said Dr. Syngman Rhee, former Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) moderator.
“I am very proud to be called his friend and we are so grateful for his contributions to Korean churches and the church of Jesus Christ ecumenically.”
For the past eight years, Chung has served as president of Hanil University and Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Jeonju, Korea. He will honorably retire later this year after more than 30 years in theological education.
During his time at Hanil Seminary, Chung helped the institution become debt-free and established it as an outstanding theological institution respected throughout the world. He has worked tirelessly to see Hanil Seminary become a vital center for global mission, a champion for the role of women in the church and theological education, and a leader in welcoming disabled students to seminary.
Chung received a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Presbyterian College and Theological Seminary (PCTS) in Seoul, Korea, in 1969 before coming to America to continue his studies. He graduated from Columbia Theological Seminary in 1974 with a Master of Theology degree. He earned a Doctor of the Science of Theology degree from San Francisco Theological Seminary in 1978. Chung’s thesis was entitled A Study of Preaching with Particular Reference to the Korean Cultural Context.
Chung remained in California until 1980, serving as organizing pastor for Daesung Presbyterian Church in Mountain View, Calif. He returned to Korea to teach theology at Presbyterian College and Theological Seminary for 24 years until he was named president at Hanil in 2004. In addition to his numerous academic and church responsibilities, he also served as adjunct faculty at SFTS in 1985.
Chung’s gift as an educator has had far-reaching impacts. Rev. Dr. Jana Childers, SFTS professor of homiletics and speech communication, nominated Chung to be a Distinguished Alum for that very reason.
“Dr. Chung has helped me understand Korean preaching, culture and my own students in more ways than I can detail in writing,” Childers said. “I have delighted in his advice over the years and found him to be a generous mentor also to a number of the M.Div. and PhD students we have shared.”
Rev. Dr. Joseph Kang – Doctor of the Science of Theology 1981
Missionary, Old and New Testament seminary professor in Malawi, Russia
"His dynamic teaching of the Bible and his original contributions in contextualizing biblical interpretation have made Dr. Kang a superlative representative of the best in theology and biblical scholarship."
Dr. Herman Waetjen, SFTS Robert S. Dollar Professor of New Testament Emeritus.
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Rev. Dr. Joseph Kang’s passion for theology and biblical scholarship has taken him around the world from Korea to the United States to Malawi in southeast Africa and even Russia.
In 1990, nine years after earning a doctorate from San Francisco Theological Seminary, Kang was invited by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Board of World Missions to serve as a missionary professor at Zomba Theological College in Zomba, Malawi. He taught Old and New Testament at the Presbyterian seminary for 10 years.
Kang spent the next 11 years teaching biblical studies in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia. He was at Moscow Presbyterian Theological Academy for two years before moving on in order to focus on teaching theology. The PC(USA) Mission Board offered Kang the opportunity to teach Old and New Testament in St. Petersburg at the ELCROS (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia and Other States) Theological Seminary. He retired from the ecumenical Lutheran seminary in 2011.
Kang was nominated as a Distinguished Alum by Dr. Herman Waetjen, SFTS Robert S. Dollar Professor of New Testament Emeritus. Here’s what Waetjen had to say about him:
“Throughout those years of teaching, Joe has also composed and published articles and essays that communicate some startling new insights into biblical texts. His distinguished service to the PC(USA) and beyond to the international ecumenical communities in Malawi and Russia, his dynamic teaching of the Bible and his original contributions in contextualizing biblical interpretation has made Dr. Kang a superlative representative of the best in theology and biblical scholarship.”
Born in South Korea, Kang earned a Master of Theology degree from Hankuk Theological Seminary in 1971 before fulfilling his duties in the Korean Army as a chaplain. He arrived in San Anselmo in 1977 to begin his studies at SFTS, earning a Doctor of the Science of Theology degree in 1981.
Upon graduation, Kang moved to Springfield, Va., with his wife and children to begin pastoral ministry at the First Virginia Korean Presbyterian Church in Annandale, Va. He took over as pastor of the Washington Young Nak Presbyterian Church in Silver Springs, Md., in 1984. He also served on the board of trustees of the Korean Institute for Human Rights.
Bruce Reyes-Chow – Master of Divinity 1995
Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); Pastor, Mission Bay Church, San Francisco
"I feel my election (as Moderator) is symbolic of a tipping point. This shift is not from old to young, but rather about world views, from modern to postmodern. One postmodern goal is to create room and space for new people. We should be less scared to talk about problems or test solutions, and we need to think broader about what it means to be the church."
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Fifteen San Francisco Theological Seminary graduates, faculty, staff and trustees have been elected to lead Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) as General Assembly Moderators, chosen to share their considerable spiritual gifts, skills and wisdom at the leadership pinnacle. The latest is 40-year-old Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow of San Francisco who became the 218th General Assembly Moderator in 2008.
(Article by Matthai Kuruvila, San Francisco Chronicle, July 01, 2008)
The founding pastor and leader of a young Potrero Hill church, Reyes-Chow uses technology in an innovative way to connect and build his congregation. Many hope he will bring new dimensions to a denomination wrestling with dwindling numbers.
Part of Reyes-Chow's challenge will be trying to integrate the needs of younger Presbyterians into the traditional leadership of the church. He believes that younger generations are less divided by ideological conflict than in the past, more adept at accepting differences of views within one community - such as over homosexuality.
"There's a whole generation that's trying to find their voice within the denomination," said Reyes-Chow. "The line between what is liberal and what is conservative is far blurrier for most folks than what the institution would like it to be."
The election gives Reyes-Chow a more powerful pulpit. As moderator, he becomes the face of the church, an ambassador within a sometimes divided church body as well as a bridge to the outer world.
But becoming moderator does not give Reyes-Chow power to decide things unilaterally. The pastor holds one vote on the 45-member General Assembly Council.
Mission Bay Community Church has an active online life, and Reyes-Chow is at the center of that. The congregation has a Facebook group. And they use Twitter, a social networking tool that allows members to keep track of each other throughout the day.
The church's online presence gives it a possibly outsize reputation on the Web.
Reyes-Chow said his congregation has 150 to 200 actively involved members, and about 100 show up on any particular Sunday. But on Yelp.com, Mission Bay Community Church is San Francisco's best-rated church - a fact Reyes-Chow touts.
A graduate of San Francisco State and San Francisco Theological Seminary, Reyes-Chow sees his ministry as naturally existing online. While other pastors might do house visits, Reyes-Chow said he might have 200 online interactions with congregants per week.
Compared with a pastor who operates purely through personal contact, "I'm able to interact with people more consistently and at a greater level," Reyes-Chow said.
At last week's General Assembly in San Jose, where Reyes-Chow was elected, the discussion of church actions was being streamed live. Bloggers kept up a real-time commentary to parallel what they were seeing.
"We've never seen anything like it," said the Rev. Jerry L. Van Marter, news director for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Past moderators have brought their own distinctive leadership to the position, advocating for peace, missionary work or, in the case of the most recent moderator, prayer. Reyes-Chow is seen as having particular facility with technology and new ways of engaging with parishioners, especially younger adults.
"He is the most wired moderator we've had - by far," said Van Marter, who said many are expecting that kind of high-tech connection to more broadly reach into the life of the denomination.
Reyes-Chow, the grandson of Chinese and Filipino immigrants to California, was raised in Sacramento and Stockton. A prolific writer and blogger, Reyes-Chow describes himself as a "pastor/geek/dad/follower of Christ."
Laura Mendenhall – Master of Divinity 1980
Senior Philanthropy Advisor for the Texas Presbyterian Foundation, Austin, Texas; Former President of Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, Georgia
"I am the poster child for SFTS. I don't believe I would have been privileged to serve Christ's ministry without SFTS. I could not have left my home in Southern California to go back to school full time in San Anselmo. I really don't believe I would have completed my degree if SFTS had not sent professors to us."
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Rev. Dr. Laura Mendenhall fully believes that her unique theological education provided by San Francisco Theological Seminary has been instrumental in her vast ministries, which include serving as president of Columbia Theological Seminary for nine years. Considering that Mendenhall is the only women from SFTS to serve as a seminary president and that less than 10 percent of all presidents are women, that's quite a compliment.
"I am the poster child for SFTS," Mendenhall says. "I don't believe I would have been privileged to serve Christ's ministry without SFTS."
As the mother of two preschool children while her husband attended graduate school in Southern California, Mendenhall was working at the Presbytery of San Gabriel when God led her to pursue a Master of Divinity degree and ordination. Unable to leave her family to travel north to SFTS's San Anselmo campus for full-time studies, Mendenhall, along with a half dozen other students, formed a collegium in Southern California that received personal theological education through visiting SFTS professors. SFTS also accepted credits she earned while a student at Presbyterian School of Christian Education.
"I don't believe another seminary would have done this for me at that time," Mendenhall said. "I could not have left my home in Southern California to go back to school full time in San Anselmo. I really don't believe I would have completed my degree if SFTS had not sent professors to us."
Mendenhall completed her Master of Divinity degree in 1980. Ten years later, SFTS created a permanent campus in Southern California, meeting the obvious needs for Reformed theological education in the region.
It was Mendenhall's personalized experience at SFTS that contributed so richly to her presidency at Columbia Theological Seminary outside Atlanta from 2000-09. Among her many accomplishments, besides being one of the few women to serve in that capacity nationwide, Mendenhall spearheaded the largest fundraising campaign in seminary history, oversaw the appointment of half of the school's faculty and helped the school alter the makeup of its students by appealing to younger theologians.
"I left because I had finished that assignment," Mendenhall said. "I felt like I was at the top of my game. I could leave and feel like I had done a good job. I gave everything I knew how to give. I wanted them to have a chance to grow in ways that I couldn't lead them."
Mendenhall is now the senior philanthropy advisor for the Texas Presbyterian Foundation, an agency for the Synod of the Sun in Austin. Her move marks a return home and allows her to assist agencies and academic institutions that have helped mold her ministries. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Austin College and a Doctor of Ministry from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Before serving as president at Columbia, she held pastoral positions at three Texas Presbyterian churches.
Her responsibilities as senior philanthropic advisor will be working with individuals in planning their personal and family philanthropy. She will also work on writing and testing a curriculum that informs and inspires Christian families in the process of creating both material and spiritual legacies.
Mendenhall's research interests include the role of the sacraments in the life of the church, the use of daily prayer in structuring Christian community, and strategies for faithful proclamation of Christian stewardship. She is scheduled to be the plenary speaker at the Western National Leadership Training Event Oct. 6-8 at Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Wyo.
"This is home," Mendenhall said of Austin. "I have moved around a lot in my life. I hardly let myself rest. Just as I accomplish a major task that's when I let myself be open to God to ask something else of me."
Mary Paik – Master of Divinity 1987
Senior Pastor, Nu'uanu Congregational Church, Honolulu, Hawaii
"At SFTS, I experienced rigorous study, thoughtful conversations and a caring community – gifts received which I bring to my new call in Hawaii. I feel like everything I have been through and all my experiences in my career have prepared me for this experience. That's why I went to seminary – to become a pastor. This is the kind of fit I would hope for anyone going into the ministry."
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Mary Paik's first call came at the remarkable age of 11 when she began playing the piano for her church. Not only did she major in music in college, but there was a time when she entertained dreams of being a choral director.
God had something planned for Paik all right, leading her from youth ministries to multicultural outreach to seminary administration to her current call in Honolulu, where she is senior pastor at Nu'uanu Congregational Church.
"This is where my heart has always been,'' Paik said. "I feel like everything I have been through and all my experiences in my career have prepared me for this experience. That's why I went to seminary – to become a pastor."
Paik immigrated to Southern California from Korea with her family when she was 11. She grew up with a dual identity, relating to Koreans as the church pianist before rushing off to a predominantly white church, where she was part of a larger youth group.
As the first Korean-American woman to be ordained Minister of the Word and Sacrament by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Paik has compiled an impressive list of contributions to the church. After graduating from SFTS in 1987, she served as Associate Pastor for English Ministries at Korean Presbyterian Church outside Detroit. After a five-year run in the Midwest, she returned to California as Associate Executive for the Presbytery of San Jose.
Her administrative skills duly noted, Paik became Vice President for Student Affairs at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, where she was part of the senior leadership team. There she served as project director for a program that develops and nurtures the next generation of Asian-American leadership in the church and community.
It's somewhat ironic that as a Korean-born immigrant who has been lifted up among Presbyterians as a multicultural leader, Paik has landed in a place where diversity is commonplace. She moved to Hawaii with her husband – Dwight Morita (M.Div. 2003) – in 2007 to be closer to Dwight's family, and has not looked back across the Pacific in either direction.
"It's the one place I feel most comfortable," Paik said. "You can be Asian and American at the same time. It's affirming and vulnerable. You can't hide behind your culture. You are what they are."
Hawaii's warm, accepting community is refreshing for Paik, a Korean Presbyterian serving as pastor of a predominantly Japanese United Church of Christ congregation. Paik says even Buddhists attend Sunday worship alongside their Christian relatives.
"I am so grateful for the embodiment of interfaith," Paik said. "It's very unique here. This is the kind of fit I would hope for anyone going into the ministry."
Jim-Bob Park – Master of Divinity 1989
Senior Pastor, Binnerri Presbyterian Church, Richardson, Texas
"Coming to SFTS, it expanded my perspectives. It challenged me beyond what I was used to. I was stuck in a little hole. It allowed me to see what God has in store for me and the world. There was a very close-knit community that helped each other. Even now we keep in touch and keep track of how we are doing in our ministries."
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The son of a missionary, Rev. Jim-Bob Park had experienced two other continents before moving to Monterey, Calif., as a 15-year-old. Born in South Korea, Park and his family were called to mission work in Argentina when he was just 10 and they moved to Brazil a few years later.
Park, Senior Pastor at Binnerri Presbyterian Church near Dallas, seemed to find a home when he landed at San Francisco Theological Seminary in the mid-1980s. It's a period of his life that he still cherishes, two decades removed.
"There was a very close-knit community that helped each other,'' Park said during a return visit to SFTS's San Anselmo campus. "Even now we keep in touch and keep track of how we are doing in our ministries. We still cherish our relationships."
Not only did Park find cultural support as a Korean student, but SFTS also provided him with needed balance in his faith. He grew up in a conservative church, recalling that "on Sundays the only thing I could read was the Bible."
"Coming to SFTS, it expanded my perspectives," Park said. "It challenged me beyond what I was used to. I was stuck in a little hole. It allowed me to see what God has in store for me and the world."
Today, as he serves as Senior Pastor of a Korean-speaking church for the first time, Park says his relationship with former SFTS Professor Warren Lee, a Korean-American, had a profound effect on his ministry. Park became more culturally sensitive, developing a special connection with ethnic ministries.
Prior to moving to Texas, Park was Pastor at Young Nak English Ministry in Los Angeles, where he served for 12 years. And after graduating from SFTS in 1989, he served as pastor at an English-speaking church in San Francisco.
Park has adjusted just fine to delivering sermons in his native tongue. But he jokes that living in Texas is a whole other story. "It's a culture shock moving to a place where it's flat," Park said.
A dynamic preacher, Park's ministry at Binnerri Presbyterian Church, which has more than 1,000 members, aims to encourage first-generation Koreans to invest in future generations. Just as Park's father helped lead him into ministry, it is Park's turn to reveal God's love and grace to Korean immigrants and their families.
Cheryl Raine – Master of Divinity 1998
Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Garden Grove, Calif.
"Spiritual formation was an integral part of my educational experience at SFTS, empowering me to develop healthy rhythms of renewal in the midst of the demands of pastoral ministry. A historic principle of the Presbyterian Church, 'that God alone is Lord of the conscience,' allows Presbyterians of deep faith to come to different conclusions on issues of faith that are considered non-essential. Therefore, with our eyes focused on Jesus Christ, Presbyterians can joyfully serve together even though we have differences."
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Cheryl Raine said yes to many calls to church leadership, but for a long time, she said no to God's call to ordained ministry.
"God would not let me go," Raine said. "I began the corporate climb, advancing many rungs up the ladder before the Lord placed a call on my heart to ordained pastoral ministry."
The former chemical engineer entered San Francisco Theological Seminary's Southern California campus in Pasadena while continuing to work full-time in various positions for Sempra Energy. After taking seven years to complete her Master of Divinity degree, Raine finally left the private sector in 2002 when she accepted her first call to First Presbyterian Church of Garden Grove.
"I am absolutely in the right place," Raine said. "I grew up loving the Lord and remember walking to church on Sundays with my younger sister. I enjoyed choir, vacation bible school, youth group and Sunday school.
"In junior high school, a verse spoke to my heart from Apostle Paul's letter to the Galatians: 'It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.' It was then that I realized that God didn't live way up there but lived in my heart and through my life."
Raine believes she has been called to First Presbyterian to help the 170-member, predominately older, congregation "reconnect with the community." The church reaches out to young families, creating a preschool program and has hosted a Mother of Preschoolers chapter. The congregation sees these programs as ways to reach out to potentially unchurched families and to bring young families to their church.
"You might ask why I serve in the Presbyterian Church? I value this expression of church because it allows for questioning and stresses education," Raine said. "A historic principle of the church, 'that God alone is Lord of the conscience,' is also important to me. This principle allows Presbyterians of deep faith to come to different conclusions on issues of faith that are considered non-essential. Therefore, with our eyes focused on Jesus Christ, Presbyterians can joyfully serve together even though we have differences. We have unity which is not uniformity, because we are the Body of Christ and we can't all be noses! Some must be hands and feet as well."
Raine loves to read, plays the violin and occasionally provides accompaniment at her church. She plays volleyball and softball on the church teams. Once a competitive softball player as a shortstop growing up, she has now retired to first base. Why? "I can catch anything, but my throwing arm is no longer as strong as it once was."
Sirirat Pusurinkham – Doctor of Ministry 1997
Senior Pastor and Orphanage Founder
Prachakittisuk Church, Thailand
"I experienced love, caring and community at SFTS. The academic excellence and spirituality enabled me to bring these same qualities to my ministry in Thailand. The church of Jesus Christ ought to always respond to the least in our midst—the poor, the exploited, the abused, the oppressed—as Jesus did. The Thai church should be no exception. "
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The Rev. Dr. Sirirat Pusurinkham is a United Church of Christ minister in Chiang Rai, Thailand, a northern city near the border with Myanmar (Burma) and Laos. In addition to serving as pastor of a 350-member congregation, she teaches in two seminaries, oversees a drug rehab treatment facility, directs a micro-enterprise development project, and runs an orphanage and AIDS ministry. Below is an article Sirirat wrote for "The Witness" web site.
By Rev. Dr. Sirirat Pusurinkham
Child prostitution is a serious social problem in Thailand. Prostitution is a form of enslavement that currently involves perhaps 800,000 children under the age of 16, bought and sold for a profit that exceeds that of the drug trade or weapons sales or lotteries or sports gambling.
The Thai culture has a long history of prostitution but the problem has never been as grave as it is at present. Prostitution has been a way of life in Thailand from time immemorial, and has not been considered an evil by Thai society. The blame can be found in the habits of Thai men, the government's focus on foreign tourism, and in the inactivity and lack of concern of Christian churches and Buddhist temples. The latter take the position of "Hear no evil; See no evil; Speak no evil," and do little or nothing to counter the evil of prostitution.
There is little health protection for prostitutes in Thailand, and HIV/AIDS has greatly proliferated. There are numerous stories of brothers and sisters crying and dying in pain, with the loss of all hope. We have countless stories of their suffering loneliness, illness, misuse and imprisonment in filthy airless rooms. In August a senior Thai health official said that AIDS had become the main cause of death in the country. I have to carry out a lot of funerals, so I know this is true.
Prostituting children, the exploitation of children, and their enslavement for financial gain are among the most despicable acts in the whole panoply of human evil. They represent a sad story of human degradation. Girls as young as 10 years old service men in the sex industry. Many of the girls typically have sex with 10 to 15 men every day and sometimes as many as 20 to 30.
There are several major reasons why prostitution, including child prostitution, is a growing industry.
In Thailand the position of women is a traditional one, remaining from the traditional position they have been assigned in Thai Buddhism. This is found in the traditional cultural attitudes of Thai men, and in the consequences of military presence, and its resulting culture of recreational sex. The social turmoil in Thailand provoked by World War II was a seedbed for the growth of prostitution in the country. It spurred the first example of a sex entertainment center for international tourists in Thailand.
The Vietnam War and the resultant R&R activities of service men in Thailand led to a dramatic increase in the use of Thai prostitutes by foreigners in the country. This period was followed by an aggressive tourism campaign, which encouraged tourists to come in great numbers. Most of these tourists were single men. The rapid increase in commercialization was encouraged by the news media.
Tourism has brought enormous growth in the construction of hotels, golf courses, condominiums, restaurants and various kinds of entertainment in the cities, and in provincial villages as well. Tourism's impact on the sex industry—to what is now called sex tourism—has been a major contemporary contributor to the growth of child prostitution in Thailand.
In Thailand there has been both migration within the country—from farm to city—and immigration from outside the country. Farming cannot provide a living anymore. Many farmers even go to work in other countries to keep their families from starving. There are no opportunities in rural areas.
Many young women from other countries came to Thailand because they want to improve their standard of living, and to support their families. Many of these young women are attracted by the promise of work, only to find themselves locked up in a brothel where they have to earn their release. Most of these young women come from countries in the region where employment is most difficult to secure. Because immigration has encouraged prostitution more and more young women, or girls, are being imported from neighboring countries. That society has denied or failed to acknowledge the oppression, exploitation and abuse of women.
It is also a racism issue. The women are recruited from the more than 40 indigenous groups in the country because they have a low status in Thai society and are generally poor. As a member of the Taiya indigenous group, who are spread between China and Thailand, I am very aware of this problem. The country puts down our indigenous people—they live in the mountains, and no one wants to know their problems. The way to stop this prostitution is to give indigenous people more opportunities—economic and educational—because this is a poverty issue.
Thailand is now in a financial crisis. Many people have lost their jobs, and women and children suffer the most. The Thai government has found that since tourism is a quick way to earn foreign dollars it cannot easily stop this lucrative if degrading business. A beautiful country, beautiful women, and inexpensive living enable the sex industry to annually earn ever more money. There are two parts to the Thai policy of promoting tourism: one is to sell the physical and cultural beauty of the country; the other is to promote the Thai people, which of course includes sex-related services. "Amazing Thailand," a tourism campaign from 1998-99, promoted to foreign men to come and see Thailand's beautiful women… and to enjoy the thriving sex industry.
The men arrive from the Europe and the U.S., and often a bus is waiting at the airport to take them straight to the girls. All of this is organized through the Internet—and not only in Bangkok. There is an urgent need to control this trade. The men pay the girls $4, sometimes $5. After the pimp has taken his share, the girls are left with less than the price of a meal.
The growth of prostitution in Thailand has had an almost worldwide effect. There are laws against prostitution, but they are not enforced. The police force is corrupt and often joins with the pimps in making money.
In Thailand today, women and children are oppressed, abused, exploited and degraded by society. Daughters of poor families are often sold into prostitution. Some parents sell their children because they need the money for food or dope. Many parents are "duped" into selling their children and do not realize the lives their children will lead. The parents don't understand the danger of HIV/AIDS, how prevalent sexual-related diseases, and how they are a death sentence for children. According to recent UNAIDS statistics, out of a total population of 60 million people in Thailand, 755,000 are living with HIV/AIDS.
The children go because they feel that they can help their families. They feel in debt to their families, and want to help improve their lives. Thai culture emphasizes that children should listen to their parents and help their parents.
Thailand is still predominantly a male-dominated country. Most of the government officials are male, and it is usually businessmen who recruit prostitutes. There is a need to teach men that they must respect women.
Prostitution, of course, means selling one's body for sexual use and exploitation. A fundamental human relationship between two human beings is debased to profit-making, in violation of the Will of God. Sex tours encourage men to do something in a foreign country that they would not do in their own country. Sex tours degrade a country's reputation. Sex tours are immoral. Sex tours spread disease. Sex tours treat girls and women like things, not persons — not like they are children of God.
The church of Jesus Christ ought to always respond to the least in our midst—the poor, the exploited, the abused, the oppressed—as Jesus did. The Thai church should be no exception. It should address the problem at several levels:
- by helping to rescue the women and children who are unwillingly caught in this web, providing re-education, health care, and job training;
- by addressing the laws that govern the practice of prostitution in order to prohibit the enslavement and trafficking of women and children;
- by addressing the economic issues that force not only women, but Thai farmers as well, to migrate to the cities, where they are exploited in a variety of ways; and
- by examining the customs and culture, of which the church is a part, to determine the part each of us plays in diminishing the worth of any child of God, and destroying the future for all too many women and children.
The church has a mission to work for the liberation of all oppressed people. Christ is the foundation of this mission. We should be working hand in hand, and should study the problems of society to find solutions together, encouraged by prayer and study of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.
I close with the 1991 poem "With No Immediate Cause" by Ntozake Shange, concerning the plight of women in the world:
Every 3 minutes a woman is beaten,
every 5 minutes a woman is raped,
every 10 minutes a little girl is molested,
every 3 minutes, every 5 minutes, every 10 minutes… every day.
Aleida Jernigan – Master of Divinity 1997
Co-Executive Presbyter of Cascades Presbytery, Portland, OR
"My call to the ministry was not a straight road, but a series of opportunities to serve others in my community, my local congregation, the denomination and the Church in general. At SFTS, I had the opportunity to discern with professors and advisors how to put together learned skills and make them into gifts for the community and for God's praise."
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Aleida Jernigan has worn many hats throughout her career and each position has uniquely prepared her to serve as Co-Executive Presbyter of Cascades Presbytery in Portland, Ore.
Succinctly stated, Jernigan thinks of herself as a "pastor to the pastors." But with the soul of an activist and special interests in women's rights, Hispanic ministries and the ecumenical movement, Jernigan has also become a valuable resource on many Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) committees.
"My call to the ministry was not a straight road, but a series of opportunities to serve others in my community, my local congregation, the denomination and the Church in general," Jernigan said. "At SFTS, I had the opportunity to discern with professors and advisors how to put together learned skills and make them into gifts for the community and for God's praise."
Born in Cuba, Jernigan moved to New York City in the 1960s, living in a mixed neighborhood where the Presbyterian Church reached out to Hispanics, supported rent control and assisted the needy with their taxes.
"I visited several churches, but the Welsh pastor at the Presbyterian Church was a very warm person and invited me to come back," Jernigan said. "The rest is history. In my own family there is a sense of justice – working to improve the community. That was what intrigued me about the people of the church."
Jernigan moved with her family to San Francisco in 1965 and her top priority was finding a home church even if that meant riding a bus across town. Three years later she moved to Petaluma, where she found a home congregation at First Presbyterian Church. There she engaged with Christian educators, who sensed her call.
"They would say 'Why don't you try seminary?'" Jernigan recalled. "Perhaps they saw things I didn't see. It is interesting to see how other people perceive you."
Before seminary, Jernigan had been a stay-at-home mom, ran her own professional cleaning business, worked in banking, and was a supervisor for the upscale department store I. Magnin. She believes those experiences allow her to view theological issues throughout different lenses.
"San Francisco Theological Seminary helped me put my business experiences and theological understanding together,'' Jernigan said. "I learned to see how my gifts can be used for the church.''
Early in Jernigan's journey toward ministry, she was told by a pastor that she had gifts of peacemaking. Considering the many committees, caucuses and cabinets she has served, Jernigan's business savvy, ability to moderate and promote dialogues, and her faith have been used by God in many ways.
Here's a look at a few Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) committees on which Jernigan serves or has served: General Assembly Mission Council; Advocacy Committee for Women's Concerns; Association of Presbyterian Church Educators; National Association of Presbyterian Clergywomen; Spiritual Coordinator for Hispanic/Latin Presbyterian Women; Moderator for Hispanic Caucus (Synod of the Pacific); Movable Feast Project (Synod of the Northeast); Facilitator for Newly Ordained Pastors Program (Synod of the Northeast); Acting Executive Presbyter (Redwoods).
Patrick Bailey – DASD 2005
20-year career in the Army, including 16 years as chaplain
"The gift that SFTS gave me is the spiritual direction to work with my chaplains, making it possible for me to accompany them through times of loss and trauma in the combat zone."
Earning his diploma just before his final tour in Iraq, Patrick Bailey said, "That was a healthy way to go into a situation that was not positive. I didn't think we needed to be there.''
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Considering Rev. Patrick Bailey has served as an U.S. Army chaplain in Korea, Kosovo and Iraq, excuse him for relaxing a little in his latest ministry as pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Telluride, Colo.
"It's a tough assignment, but somebody had to do it,'' Bailey says with a chuckle.
After 20 years in the Army, including 16 years as a chaplain, Bailey loves the great outdoors surrounding his new home. A graduate of San Francisco Theological Seminary's Diploma in the Art of Spiritual Direction program, Bailey is now working toward a Doctor of Ministry in Christian Spirituality with his dissertation focusing on nature and spirituality.
Bailey's education and spiritual formation from 2002-05 through the Diploma in the Art of Spiritual Direction program couldn't have come at a better time. Just after graduating, he was deployed to Iraq for a 14-month tour, supervising six chaplains that ministered to troops in the heat of battle.
"The gift that SFTS gave me is the spiritual direction to work with my chaplains,'' Bailey said. "That was tremendously helpful for me. They knew a lot of people who were blown up."
Bailey, an ordained Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) minister since 1987, was thrust into the worst part of the Iraq war from 2006-07. To further complicate matters, he admits he was personally conflicted about the United States' role in the Middle East, making his spiritual training even more valuable as his faith was tested.
"That was a healthy way to go into a situation that was not positive,'' Bailey said. "I didn't think we needed to be there.''
Bailey earned a Master of Divinity from Columbia Theological Seminary and a Master of Theology from Emory University. He served as a pastor in Atlanta and as a chaplain in the U.S. Army starting in 1992.
He made his way out to the West Coast in 2002 when he taught World Religions at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif. Living just two hours south of SFTS's San Anselmo campus, he took advantage of the Seminary's winter team when the DASD program is offered.
Just as his studies at SFTS helped him prepare for the war zone, Bailey says his time in San Anselmo was key in his transition from Army chaplain back to church ministry.
"It's nice to be in a place where our children will want to visit,'' Bailey said. "They are both avid snowboarders.''
Sharon Stanley – Master of Divinity 1989
Executive Director of Fresno Interdenominational
Refugee Ministries, Fresno, Calif.
"How do we as people of faith, as Presbyterians, seek to welcome in people who are coming here as new arrivals, some of whom have literally been pushed out, who have nowhere else to stay? It's very important in hearing and in witnessing to Jesus Christ that we seek to connect in profound and culturally appropriate ways."
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Communities all over the country are experiencing it – changing population because of immigration. In Washington state, Hispanic immigrants come to work in the agricultural fields. In northern Virginia, immigrants from Ghana form fellowships to worship in their own language. In California, an historically Japanese Presbyterian church tries to reach out to more recent arrivals from Latin America.
In some ways, all of these are stories of journeys, of people displaced from their own countries, sometimes voluntarily, but often pushed to move by war or violence or the basic need to provide food and shelter for their families.
Twenty years ago, Sharon Stanley, then a brand-new graduate of San Francisco Theological Seminary, started the work that for her has become a transforming ministry. Stanley had grown up in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia; been encouraged by Korean friends to go west to seminary; and upon graduation felt called to work with Asian immigrants and the poor.
She moved to Fresno, Calif., a city in which she had never before stepped foot, for what was supposed to be a three-month, temporary assignment working with Hmong refugees from Laos. As she discovered, "it was an astounding environment."
Fresno is located in the great central San Joaquin Valley — flat, an agricultural powerhouse. About a third of the country's food is grown there. A 2005 Brookings Institution report issued after Hurricane Katrina lashed New Orleans, Katrina's Window, focusing on domestic poverty, found that Fresno had the highest per-capita concentrated poverty of any city in the United States, making it "a sort of Appalachia of the West Coast," Stanley said.
The neighborhood into which she moved, filled with Hmong families, was named after a Hmong refugee camp in Thailand.
Living there, Stanley experienced firsthand the clashes of cultures, the old ways mixed with the new. It was not uncommon, she said, to see an entire cow carcass stuffed into a grocery cart, feet up, being wheeled to someone's home for a Hmong shamanistic ritual.
She became, in time, the founding executive director of Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries, which works with the more than 60,000 refugees in the Fresno area who come from Southeast Asia, Africa, and Slavic countries, and elsewhere. FIRM has staff members from seven cultural backgrounds and 11 denominations. Her job, in part, is a struggle to find answers to questions like "How do we as people of faith, as Presbyterians, seek to welcome in people who are coming here as new arrivals" – some of whom "have literally been pushed out, who have nowhere else to stay?"
Stanley contends that "it's very important in hearing and in witnessing to Jesus Christ that we seek to connect in profound and culturally appropriate ways." She describes it as finding ways to weave "our cultural background with the power of what the Holy Spirit is doing throughout the world."
Stanley has learned, through long experience, to look for natural points of connection, what she calls the bamboo of the relationship. In Laos, the Hmong use bamboo for everything – to carry water, to trap animals, to build homes. "It's strong, it's flexible enough … for many uses," Stanley said. "It's sustainable. God grows it, sometimes a lot more than you want to have … growing in your backyard." For the Lao and Hmong people, it reminds her "so much about the rootedness of their traditional home culture."
Finding those points of connection can mean, in part, taking the time and making the effort to understand the history, the culture, and the experience of the immigrants. Many have learned the hard way – by discovering what does not work – about the importance of listening and paying attention.
Stanley has learned much, for example, about how Hmong people tend to view the connections between the physical and the spiritual worlds. She has studied both the Hmong and the Laotian languages. She now knows, for example, how deeply the Hmong people care for and value children, and not to touch the head of a child, which is thought to be a point of connection to the spirit.
Those lessons take time and experience. Not long ago, Stanley went with a group to Laos – where, she said, the culture is "not efficient, but is in a way very deeply relational, and so strongly values not demonstrating conflict." One American man in her group grew frustrated, late one evening, at how slowly the gathering was moving. It was taking forever to get to the official part of the meeting. But the Laotian hosts wanted to make certain they showed hospitality, that their guests were well-fed and cared for.
For them, "it's an eating, not a meeting," Stanley said.
And even though it was late at night, the Laotian leader knew exactly what he was trying to accomplish, Stanley said. Because they were working with government officials, things had to proceed in the proper way. In that culture, "showing your own conflict is evidence of not having a very good sense of spiritual control and not having a value of peacefulness," she said. And if conflict is openly expressed, "you will lose much ground rather than gain it."
Stanley also has educated herself about the history of conflict in Laos and Vietnam and the role the U.S. government and military played in that, a history that contributed directly to the outpouring of Hmong refugees leaving Laos, and to the distrust some refugees feel toward American authorities.
A picture quilt that a Hmong woman involved with Stanley's ministry made shows scene after scene of journey and exodus – from the Hmong working peacefully as farmers to violence and destruction; crossing rivers and jungles, with many dying along the way; to new border crossings in the United States, as the Hmong immigrants struggle to find their way in schools and citizenship classes and in big, strange supermarkets.
Stanley's advice to others working with immigrants, shared at the recent Churchwide Gathering of Presbyterian Women: "Don't be concerned with efficiency, but demonstrate over and over and over that you truly care about relationships. Listen for what the needs really are. Look at the skills that community members have."
Fearful of being evicted, deported, or misunderstood, "new communities are fearful to speak and say the truth," Stanley pointed out.
So ask questions. She constantly asks the immigrants, "'What would you recommend?' 'What would you suggest?' Don't ever assume when you walk out of that session meeting that you've got it all figured out."
Provide opportunities for sharing. Cooking classes, in which the immigrants learn to make chocolate-chip cookies and lasagna, and the Americans tackle spring rolls, is one example.
She has used folk tales from the Hmong culture to illustrate community-organizing principles, stressing, for example, the traditional Hmong inventiveness and persistence in dealing with problems such as substandard housing with high rates of lead, roaches, and mold in the walls.
And be prepared, she said, for expressions of faith and ways of telling faith stories that may be different from those the people of the congregation are accustomed to hearing. That takes some adjustment, Stanley said.
But with that broadening of the borders, she said, "think of the breadth of new faith stories we begin to have new opportunities to tell."
(Article by Leslie Scanlon, Presbyterian Outlook National Reporter, Sept. 14, 2009.)
Tim Nonn – Master of Divinity 1986
National Coordinator for Tents of Hope, fighting Darfur genocide
"The interplay of scholarship and community organizing allowed me to develop a process of action and reflection, which is essential for building coalitions and social movements. It may seem overwhelming for one person to feel they can make a change. But by joining in the efforts with schools, congregations and local communities, it can create a broad-based response."
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Listening to Dr. Tim Nonn (M. Div.'86) share his passion for helping the 2.5 million displaced civilians in Darfur would inspire anyone to join the fight against the genocide that has occurred in Sudan.
"Whenever I see any images or read stories about the people in Darfur, I become very emotional," said the Petaluma resident who used to turn away from horrific images of the African nation's internal turmoil. "I felt powerless and overwhelmed by the Darfur genocide, but as it turned out, it was God's purpose for me to help."
Currently, Nonn serves as the national coordinator for Tents of Hope, a project whose mission is to involve communities in creating tents that are both works of art but also focal points for educating the public about the Darfur crisis and raising money to fight it.
"Art is healing. And this world needs healing," Nonn said, adding that everyone has creativity and painting a tent is a fun way to involve the community in raising awareness. "I was worried that people might not have enough ideas about what to paint. But one day I watched a group of college students painting a tent and another day I watched some elementary students painting a tent. Now I'm worried we won't have enough canvas."
Nonn's inspiration for getting involved came in 2004 after watching a television program about Darfur, which featured a story about a Dafuri woman who had witnessed her husband's murder and the burning of her village. For a week, she walked across the desert with her three children until they reached a United Nations refugee camp. Nonn thought of his own son lying asleep in his bed, safe and secure, and he felt compelled to help.
"Her heroic act of survival and hope inspired me to respond," Nonn acknowledged. So he published a letter in his local newspaper titled "Dear Sudan," articulating the need for awareness and relief.
With support from Church World Service and the United Church of Christ, the letter launched the "Dear Sudan" movement and inspired Petaluma and other communities around the country to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for humanitarian relief in Darfur. Dear Sudan also helped organize a "Save Darfur" rally in San Francisco in which 5,000 people linked hands across the Golden Gate Bridge.
Nonn believes his Master of Divinity from SFTS and Ph.D. from the Graduate Theological Union gave him the biblical and theological grounding for his activism.
"The interplay of scholarship and community organizing allowed me to develop a process of action and reflection, which is essential for building coalitions and social movements," he said, recalling his time living in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco while doing his doctoral research. "I had the opportunity to live and work among some of the most marginalized people in American society. I have learned that movements for peace, justice and human rights employ constantly evolving strategies for change."
But even prior to attending seminary, Nonn was no stranger to activism. In the 1980s, he served as the executive director of the Tucson Ecumenical Council's Central American Task Force, organizing an international campaign to provide refuge to high-risk civilians who were targeted by death squads. It was there that Nonn learned the strength of a social movement is found within the diversity and traditions of local communities.
"It may seem overwhelming for one person to feel they can make a change," he acknowledged. "But by joining in the efforts with schools, congregations and local communities, it can create a broad-based response."
During one of his travels, Nonn himself realized he did not have to change the world.
"It's perfect. All we have to do is see the sacredness in one another and the world," he said.
Now, through the Tents of Hope project, elementary and secondary school students in the United States are doing just that with their Darfuri counterparts.
American students will paint one side of 1x1-foot canvas panels and Darfuri students will paint the other side. The tents will then be sewn together and displayed in Washington D.C. in September 2008 at the national event, "Gathering of the Tents" where the artwork will be a dynamic message of unity, peace and hope.
U.S. Representatives Lynn Woolsey and Donald Payne addressed Nonn's work at an event in San Rafael recently. "We believe in what Tim is doing and look forward to seeing the tents of hope."
Nonn notes that some of the wonderful stories of the Bible – the creation story, the story of Exodus and the story of Jesus' life and death – are examples of hope shining through a hopeless situation.
"Out of every hopeless situation," he says, "comes the power of hope."
(This article appeared in the 2008 Winter issue of Chimes.)
Bill Soldwisch – Master of Divinity 1971
Presbyterian Church U.S.A. mission worker in Mexico
"The Mexican Presbyterian church has a real commitment to evangelism because they've always been a minority. And their culture is such that if there's not a church nearby, they will start services in their homes. They have a grassroots evangelistic mindset and talk about their faith all the time. Others may not be so good talking about their faith, but they're real good at inviting people to come along."
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The seed of the Rev. Bill Soldwisch's 25-year career as a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission co-worker in Mexico was planted by his pastor in Pasadena, Calif., when he was a teenager.
(Article written by Jerry Van Marter, Presbyterian News Services, Oct. 16, 2009)
"Through his own mission service and his leadership of youth mission trips to Mexico, he taught that we learn a lot more about God and ourselves when we interact with Christians from very different places," Soldwisch said. "It helps us focus more on who God is and what's really essential and what's peripheral."
Through those conversations and mission trips as a teenager, Soldwisch said, "God put it in my heart that cross-cultural mission service was the only kind of faith work I wanted to do."
Soldwisch was part of the World Mission Challenge - a month-long itineration of more than 50 PC(USA) mission workers and international peacemakers in more than 150 of the denomination's 173 presbyteries. The challenge connects Presbyterians with the church's overseas mission workers and enlists their prayers, communications and financial support.
Soldwisch, who will retire later this year, planted new churches in Tijuana, Mexico, in partnership with the Presbyterian Church in Mexico.
"In the 1970s, Presbyterians in Mexico decided to plant churches in the 15 Mexican states, including Baja, where there were no Presbyterian churches," Soldwisch said.
After college, Soldwisch served in the Peace Corps in the Philippines for two years before coming to San Francisco Theological Seminary, where he graduated in 1971. After seminary, he served pastorates in western Washington and Guadelajara, leading to him being asked to join the church-planting effort.
"It was kind of strange to be asked to do "overseas" mission work in Tijuana, because I'd grown up only 100 miles away," Soldwisch said. He and his wife - whom he had met in the Philippines during his Peace Corps stint - went to Tijuana in 1984. Working in bi-national teams, they first helped establish Iglesia Presbiteriana Dios Habla Hoy ("God Speaks Today" - the same name as a common Spanish language Bible) in a middle-class section of Tijuana.
"We chose that spot so we could engage in outreach in poorer parts of the city without having to constantly worry about the congregation's survival," Soldwisch said.
That strategy paid off. Dios Habla Hoy has spawned several other churches and fellowships in the Tijuana area.
"The Mexican Presbyterian church has a real commitment to evangelism because they've always been a minority," Soldwisch said, noting that Mexico is overwhelmingly Catholic.
"And their culture is such that if there's not a church nearby, they will start services in their homes," he said. "They have a grassroots evangelistic mindset and talk about their faith all the time. Others may not be so good talking about their faith, but they're real good at inviting people to come along."
Other partners have come alongside, Soldwisch said. San Diego Presbytery has an outreach ministry called Baja Presbyterian Missions that is partnering with the PC(USA)'s Presbyterian Border Ministry in organizing and building five congregations (to date).
Korean Presbyterian churches in Los Angeles are also active in the church-planting efforts and have established a seminary in Mexicali to train pastoral leadership for the burgeoning churches.
Recently a Phoenix-area congregation purchased a 50-foot construction trailer and refurbished and equipped it as a mobile health clinic for use in squatters and other low-income communities around Tijuana. The health clinic has become the catalyst for the development of two more new congregations.
"It is both a wonderful mission project for the church and a rich evangelistic tool for our ministry," Soldwisch said.
For 25 years, Soldwisch has lived out the promise born in him during those teenage years.
"Mission work is constant giving and receiving, walking with and trusting God," he said. "That and a constant focus on prayer."
Soldwisch said that the PC(USA)'s Mexican partners "say the three most important aspects of evangelism are prayer, prayer, and prayer."
Robert Hattle – Master of Divinity 2006
Ordained tentmaking minister serving Oakland Presbyterian Church, Topeka, Kansas
"Personally, with my strong rural background, I realized that I wanted to be in a rural area, especially knowing that it's pretty traditional that most people in rural areas have two jobs just to get by. Any church I was going to serve had to know how to do tentmaking well. As a tentmaker, I truly feel the integration of the skill sets that I have to do the things that I have a passion for."
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With more than 30 years of clinical and administrative experience in the field of nursing, the Rev. Robert Hattle was trained to promote health and preserve life, gifts he now gratefully shares both with his congregation and with the larger community here.
(Article by Emily Enders Odom, Presbyterian News Service, May 14, 2009)
Hattle, a registered nurse and an ordained tentmaking minister — earning a living primarily from his secular employment — serves the Oakland Presbyterian Church of Topeka, Kan., approximately 25 hours weekly while working up to 24 hours as needed each week as a clinical R.N. at Midland Hospice House.
"I'm finally settling down and doing something I always dreamed of doing," he said, reflecting on his long journey toward discerning his call to bi-vocational ministry.
Describing himself as a "typical baby boomer" who was unchurched as a child, Hattle found himself instead passionately drawn to the work of social justice, especially nuclear disarmament, environmental and poverty issues.
Setting out as a young nursing school graduate to take up a life of social activism, the Ohio native moved to Las Vegas, N. Mex., to become a hospital emergency room manager there, while immediately seeking out opportunities for involvement in the small, rural town.
"Wherever I went in Las Vegas, I kept falling in with Presbyterians," Hattle said. "They were consistently there."
When Hattle was eventually invited by fellow community activists in Las Vegas to visit the First United Presbyterian Church — an invitation which Hattle said, in "true Presbyterian style," came after three years — he walked in and felt instantly at home. "I felt the Spirit moving in me," Hattle said, although admitting that it took him ten years to join the congregation.
"I'm a born-again Christian with a slow gestation period," he said.
Later nominated and ordained as an elder, Hattle was soon tapped by the Presbytery of Santa Fe to put together a parish nursing program. In so doing, he was advised by the Rev. Don Wales, a former pastor of First United Church and head of the presbytery's program for Commissioned Lay Pastors (CLPs), to seek out that training for himself.
"It was then that I had an epiphany," Hattle said. "In talking with Don, I realized that I was called to go to seminary full time to get my M.Div. It wasn't exactly the voice of God, but a kind of shove."
Because his own spiritual formation had occurred relatively late in his life in a small, rural church, Hattle chose to fulfill his professional development requirement at San Francisco Theological Seminary by serving two small churches. Both congregations to which he was called – one of which is now no longer a church — were located in rural Humboldt County on the far north coast of California.
Upon graduating with his M.Div. in 2006, Hattle — who had always viewed his life experience and skill sets both in nursing and in ministry as a seamless whole — intended to pursue tentmaking when seeking his first ordained call.
"Personally, with my strong rural background, I realized that I wanted to be in a rural area," Hattle said, "especially knowing that it's pretty traditional that most people in rural areas have two jobs just to get by. Any church I was going to serve had to know how to do tentmaking well."
When Hattle was first approached by the Oakland Presbyterian Church — at which he celebrated his first anniversary in the spring of 2009 — he learned that the congregation previously had a part-time pastor who was also a nurse. "They understood when I interviewed with them something very critical to understanding tentmaking," he said. "Tentmaking is a two-way street. The church didn't see itself as lucky to have a pastor who has a part-time job to support himself, but lucky to be paying a pastor part time so that he can do ministry in the community."
The Rev. Marcia Clark Myers, director of the PC(USA)'s Office of Vocation — a joint ministry of the General Assembly Council and the Office of the General Assembly — is seeing a resurgence of interest in tentmaking not only as a viable model for ministry but as a model of choice, thanks to the witness of bi-vocational ministers like Robert Hattle.
"In studying leadership trends in the PC(USA), it has become increasingly clear that the church needs different kinds of leaders, not necessarily full time," said Myers. "Tentmaking ministry can really open new doors of possibility both for congregations and seekers of calls."
Recently named to the board of directors of the Association of Presbyterian Tentmakers (APT), Hattle looks forward to actively promoting and witnessing to the benefits of the bi-vocational ministry model.
"As a tentmaker, I truly feel the integration of the skill sets that I have to do the things that I have a passion for," he said. "I also see the need for advocating and recruiting people like myself from health-related and other professions to come into the ministry with exactly the kind of skill sets and professional background that would make them outstanding candidates for ordained ministry."
Hattle has already begun to envision the possibility of attending regional and national professional gatherings of social workers, nurses and others, to set up a booth where he would engage attendees in conversation about a possible call to ministry. "We need to do that proactively," he said, "to ultimately help our professional colleagues in their own spiritual development."
While he works on realizing those larger dreams, Hattle has already committed to teach a workshop for Presbyterian attendees at the Big Tent — a first-of-its kind event scheduled for June 11-13 in Atlanta — as part of the New Immigrant Ministries Convocation there.
Entitled, "Feeling the Call" to Tentmaking, Hattle and co-presenter, the Rev. Fred Bunning, will be sharing the benefits and blessings of the call to bi-vocational ministry while welcoming general questions and personal observations about the tentmaking model.
"So often people speak of the apostle Paul as the model and namesake for tentmaking ministry," Hattle said. "I prefer to trace it farther back to Moses and the tent of meeting, where Moses gave the various tribes different responsibilities to build the tent. In my mind, that is a more effective metaphor. It's not about the individual but it takes a group of people to make a tent."
Norm Nelson – Master of Divinity 1965
President of Compassion Radio, Orange, Calif.
"I saw people who were willing to pay the price for their faith and I also discovered I was meeting Presbyterians all over the place. Our history and heritage is so strong in so many places in the world that I'm now repaying a lot of debts and the Presbyterian Church is one to whom I owe a lot."
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Norm Nelson firmly believes that Americans "simply don't understand the world as well as we should."
Take the U.S. response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, for example. "We were told over and over by our leaders, 'The world changed on 9/11,'" the evangelical former Presbyterian minister says.
"To those who have eyes to see in the rest of the world, it did not except in the United States," Nelson insists. "We've seen violence and various forms of evil demolishing the hopes and prospects of people throughout the world for generations. To say 'the world changed on 9/11' is the most egregious indicator that we simply don't understand the world."
Nelson is attacking that ignorance head-on. He has transformed a syndicated radio program his father started in the 1940s — the "Morning Chapel Hour" — into a 30-minute daily journey into the world's most troubled areas, where he reports on a myriad of humanitarian crises and the efforts of people of faith to alleviate them.
"Compassion Radio" has taken Nelson to Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Sudan, Israel/Palestine, North Korea, China and a host of other countries. "We take an in-depth look at trouble spots and God's creative redemptive work in those places and we invite our listeners to join what He is doing," Nelson told the Presbyterian News Service during an interview while he was attending a meeting of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s Iraq Network.
"Our program informs Americans about the world and reminds people elsewhere that they are not forgotten and that we'll support them however we can," Nelson says. "I call it 'a ministry of showing up.'"
Nelson is convinced "there's an overwhelming desire and need in the church to reconnect with the world. We're finding a tremendous receptivity that crosses all the borders of politics and religion."
But confronting the world's problem areas head-on and telling the truth as he sees it does not always make Nelson popular with listeners … or sponsors. In 1997 Compassion Radio lost about half its radio outlets "when I dared to point out on the air that the Palestinians are the victims of a huge humanitarian crisis. To those for whom the world is black-and-white, being perceived as anti-Israel cost us."
But Nelson refuses to back down. "Everywhere we go, God opens surprising doors," Nelson says. "It makes me tremble — something far greater than our little radio program is going on. We're spies for hope, trying to find out 'What is God doing?' and 'How can we join it?'"
Some of Nelson's stories are small scale. An Internet listener in Indonesia contacted him about a Baptist church in Johannesburg, South Africa, that was rescuing "throw-away" babies. "The church, pastored by a woman, discovered that desperately poor migrants were throwing their newborns in dumpsters because they had no way to care for them," Nelson recalls.
"The church, which was surrounded by a huge wall because the neighborhood was so violent, cut a hole in the wall, labeled it the 'Door of Hope,' and urged women not to throw their babies in dumpsters but to place them in the 'Door of Hope."
Compassion Radio traveled to South Africa and did a series of programs on the ministry. Nelson's appeal for funds resulted in enough contributions to build and stock a clinic and nursery which has since rescued and cared for more than 1,000 infants who otherwise would have died in the dumpsters.
Compassion Radio has no field staff, no direct humanitarian service of its own. "We look for partners who are doing the work. We tell their stories and then solicit financial support for them," Nelson says. Compassion Radio currently sponsors humanitarian projects in some 30 countries.
And he's excited about the PC(USA)'s growing number of grass-roots mission networks, which are also focusing attention on particularly troubled spots around the world. "I am so proud of the Presbyterian Church, which can be so bureaucratic, for turning people loose like this. The creativity will really grow."
After being somewhat estranged from the PC(USA) — Nelson graduated from San Francisco Theological Seminary, did graduate work at Princeton Theological Seminary and was ordained by Santa Barbara Presbytery before becoming involved in campus ministry and then the "interdenominational" Compassion Radio ministry — Nelson says he developed a renewed appreciation for the church of his youth when he started broadcasting from Iraq in 1999.
"I saw people who were willing to pay the price for their faith and I also discovered I was meeting Presbyterians all over the place," he says. "Our history and heritage is so strong in so many places in the world that I'm now repaying a lot of debts and the Presbyterian Church is one to whom I owe a lot."
And so Nelson and Compassion Radio will continue scouring the world, seeking understanding and support for those in most dire need. And the ministry will continue to be controversial.
Through a chance friendship Nelson made with a Sudanese economist in Saudi Arabia, he is now drumming up support for a new university in Khartoum, Sudan, where the Islamist government has come under much criticism for its tacit approval of paramilitary violence against much of its Christian population.
Nelson has recruited a number of U.S. educators — many of which he knows from his days as a campus minister in the northeast — who are working with Sudanese officials to ensure that human rights issues, economic and political reform and interreligious dialogue are incorporated into the curriculum for the new school.
"We are taking it one step at a time," he says. "We have agreed on a statement of principles, based on the U.S. Bill of Rights. As long as they take each step with us, we'll continue."
There's one other condition … "they are providing unobstructed access to Darfur so we can lift up the needs and opportunities to join God there," Nelson says.
"I just want to do what I can to help, wherever and whatever it is. Whatever we have that we can give to the world, through the Presbyterian Church and others, we want to give. We don't care who gets the credit," Nelson says.
"What's most important is to be faithful."
(Article by Presbyterian News Service, June 28, 2007)
Derrick Weston – Master of Divinity 2007
Mission Advancement Manager, Pittsburgh Project, Pittsburgh, Pa.
"The lessons of God being concerned about the poor and the community are included in the coursework at SFTS. God is not just concerned with the individual but with the community as a whole. It is humbling to be part of the Pittsburgh Project, and I strive to connect the vision of the project with the surrounding neighborhood."
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When Derrick Weston graduated from SFTS a year ago (M.Div. '07), he took the Seminary's mantra – "whole leaders for the whole church" – quite literally. Weston has returned to a faith-based inner city youth program where part of his job involves finding, encouraging and preparing other leaders.
In his second year as mission advancement manager for the Pittsburgh Project, an inner-city program to improve the lives of youth and families in the urban Pennsylvania town, Weston travels to churches promoting the program and looking for volunteers. He describes his work as looking for "people resources, not just financial resources."
It is easy for Weston to see how his time at SFTS helped prepare him for this current role. SFTS taught him how to read the Bible through a new lens, an important tool when working with disadvantaged groups.
"The lessons of God being concerned about the poor and the community are included in the course work at SFTS. God is not just concerned with the individual but with the community as a whole," he said. "It is humbling to be part of the Pittsburgh Project, and I strive to connect the vision of the project with the surrounding neighborhood."
The Pittsburgh Project began 23 years ago when a youth pastor at a suburban church took his youth group to the inner city to do free home repairs. Now that suburban pastor, Saleem Ghubril, is the current executive director of the program, which has grown to a staff of 60 with more than 2,500 volunteers annually. In addition to home repairs for the elderly, disabled, sick and poor, the Pittsburgh Project has also begun several child and youth development programs, including after school and summer programs.
"After school and during the summer, kids in the community have a place to come and develop healthy relationships with loving adults," said Weston. Instead of hanging out in the streets, Pittsburgh Project provides them a constructive outlet and a safe haven with a Christian emphasis. "We give 400 kids a good place to be."
Weston had worked at the Pittsburgh Project before considering attending Seminary. When he visited SFTS nearly five years ago, he "fell in love with the school, the area and the community."
But he always knew his calling would take him back to Pittsburgh and Ghubril.
"I was thrilled and very grateful to return back to the Pittsburgh Project," said Weston, who enjoys his increased leadership role in his current position. "The home repairs are a great thing, but the real strength of the program is the relationship building. Bringing together the young and old, the black and white, the rich and poor, the people from suburban areas and people from the inner city, but most importantly the relationship you build with God."
Weston relishes his charge to help build those kinds of relationships.
"I see that as a focal point of my job," he said, adding that his absolute favorite part is working with the college students who work with the program during the summer. "I really enjoy getting to know the students and youth leaders who participate in our service camp, the homeowners we serve, and the other people I encounter in my work, but the long-term investment that is made in our summer staff is the most rewarding thing for me," said Weston.
The fruits of his labor have been many. People from all over the city, the state and the country have come to assist. Although Weston is grateful for the widespread support, he is a strong believer that local churches should take responsibility for the people in need in Pittsburgh.
"It is great to have people helping from all over, but the churches in Pittsburgh should also strengthen their ties."
This need was magnified recently when the Pittsburgh Project community was shocked by the murder of a young girl who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"Everyone was affected by it whether directly or indirectly," Weston said, noting "there is an urgency and an immediacy for a solution to violence in this community."
As the Pittsburgh Project continues to expand its $3 million-a-year program, Weston hopes it will continue to do current programs with a higher level of excellence.
"We do a lot of things and we do most of those things very well, but my fear is that we will grow complacent," he said. "We can always do what we do better and my hope is that we are striving to serve students, homeowners, the community, the city, and God with as much excellence as we can possibly muster."
(This article appeared in the Fall 2008 issue of Chimes.)
Garrett Andrew – Master of Divinity 2006
Pastor at First Presbyterian Church, Albany, Ga.
"This church is living proof that God is greater than any one church, any one person, any one planet or any one universe. First Presbyterian is a standing miracle. I think even the presbytery had written this church off. But our members know more now about resurrection than any of them ever did before."
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For the die-hard members of Albany's First Presbyterian Church, those who came faithfully to the historic old downtown structure in rural Georgia as their weekly attendance gradually dwindled to a handful, there is solace to be had in the knowledge that they understand a little clearer now one of the most basic tenets of the Christian faith.
First Presbyterian, whose membership once surpassed 400, was down to some "18-to-25 faithful" and in danger of having its doors shut before the church's pastor nominating committee decided to take a chance on a fiery young believer who was preaching at an African-American church near Oakland, Calif.
Some eight months later, under the leadership of 28-year-old Garrett Andrew (M.Div. '06), First Presbyterian has increased its membership by 68 percent and those once sparse Sunday crowds have grown to around 100.
Not that the church's members and their young pastor are ready to declare victory just yet. For the suddenly growing church, there's still plenty of work to be done before the resurrection of First Presbyterian is complete.
"We're riding the wave of the Holy Spirit here," said Andrew, born, raised and educated in California. "This church is living proof that God is greater than any one church, any one person, any one planet or any one universe. First Presbyterian is a standing miracle. I think even the presbytery had written this church off. But our members know more now about resurrection than any of them ever did before."
Many of First Presbyterian's members are quick to credit Andrew for the church's turnaround. But just as quickly, the boyish pastor deflects such talk.
"People rightfully look to their pastor as a leader," he said, "but a lot of people look for the pastor to do everything. That's not what being a church family is about. A church body must recognize and use the gifts of all its members."
Betts Smith has been a member of First Presbyterian longer than anyone else on the church rolls. She joined in December 1949 when membership was above 400. A rift in the church in the mid-1950s contributed to a downward spiral that hit near bottom about 15 years ago.
"It got to the point where I just said 'I'm going to stay here until the doors are closed for good,'" Smith said. "Thank goodness, that didn't happen."
But it almost did.
Monty Cox, the 27-year-old chair of the pastor nominating committee who had joined First Presbyterian when he was 9, said the church was on the verge of being unable to pay its utilities bills. He cringes at the thought of how close his church came to closure.
"The people who were still coming here — and some days there were only about 18 — were growing frustrated," Cox said. "We knew if we brought the wrong individual here, we were done. It was critical we get the right person."
The long strange trip that brought Andrew to First Presbyterian certainly has the markings of divine intervention. After serving an internship at Sojourner Truth Presbyterian in Oakland and working for a year at nearby Elmhurst Presbyterian, Andrew said he "opened myself up to the entire country."
His biography listed in the PIF drew interest from a number of unusual places.
"I was contacted (for interviews) by a Chinese church, a Taiwanese church, a church all the way across the country in Mobile, Alabama," Andrew said. "I said yes to everyone I heard from except for one church: First Presbyterian of Albany."
Andrew and his wife, Melinda, did not really want to leave California, but they decided to travel to Mobile for an interview. And since they were flying all the way across the country, they relented to visiting Albany.
"I sent out eight e-mails to people whose resumes I'd seen on the PIF after looking at 75 to 100," Cox said. "Garrett was the only one who replied, even though his reply was that he wasn't interested. Since he had responded, I looked closer at his resume and realized how impressive it was.
"I sent him another e-mail telling him how interested in him we were."
When Garrett and Melinda finished their tour of the newly built — and heavily attended — Presbyterian church in Mobile, they figured they'd found a new home.
"It was perfect," Andrew said of the thriving Alabama church. "The interview went great; Melinda and I loved it. I started a couple of times to call the people in Albany and tell them thanks but no thanks, but something made me go ahead with the trip."
When the Andrews saw the mostly vacant downtown area and the condition of the stately old church, they were even more convinced they were headed to Mobile.
"We went to a service, and there were about 18 people there, including us," Garrett Andrew said. "The kids choir sang a song — there were three of them, and one of them was dressed in full fatigues with a John Deere hat. An older gentleman walked up to me before the night was over and said, 'You look like a Yankee.'
"I knew this place was wrong. Everything about it said, 'no'. I knew when we got to the airport, I would never see Albany, Georgia, again. Just goes to show you that God has a sense of humor."
Cox made one final push to convince the Andrews to stay in Albany while the pastor and his wife were waiting at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport for a plane that would no doubt take the couple to Mobile. But a funny thing happened during that wait.
"Here's what happened: God kicked me in the face," Andrew said. "I thought back to a sermon my mentor had preached about the apostles' lack of faith during a storm. Jesus went into the storms unafraid, and I knew it was my calling to go into this storm."
The church appeals to members and visitors both old and young, black and white, rich and poor. The response has been nothing short of miraculous.
"There are a lot of people who've been around for a while who don't like changes," said B.F. McKinney, the church's oldest member at 90. "But change is good when God's in it. We've got a good minister now, a man who's blending the old and the young and getting them to work together."
Thirty-three-year-old Jason Hill, in the past an "off-and-on" attendee, says the new spirit at First Presbyterian is good for his young family.
"The church is alive now with growth and spirit," he said during a recent Bible study session. "It's like a renaissance here, alive and thriving."
Andrew is given to writing down quotes he likes. A section of one wall in his office is covered with yellow Post-It notes that contain such words of wisdom as "No man can at one time call attention to himself and glorify God ..." and "A church filled with the Holy Spirit is God's greatest tool ..." and "Work as though everything depends on you, but pray as though everything depends on God."
On another section of the same wall is one little Post-It note, sitting by itself.
"I have these sayings that inspire me over here," the pastor says, pointing to his collection of quotes, "but I also have these three devils here that I look at every day."
On the tiny slip of paper are three words: "pride, money and sex."
"Pride's the worst of them; that's why I thank God that He and my family bring me down to earth every chance I get," Andrew said. "Every time I preach a sermon and think 'I'm so good,' invariably the next one will suck.
"I've learned to put my trust in the Holy Spirit, and I believe that whatever we have or will accomplish at First Presbyterian Church will be the will of God."
During a fellowship dinner at the church on a recent Wednesday night, Charlie Mullis came by to talk to a visitor. A member at First Baptist Church of Albany for 48 years, Mullis and his wife, Pat, are the newest members at First Presbyterian.
"I felt that First Baptist started losing its direction several years ago," Charlie Mullis said, adding that he and his wife began visiting other local churches. "One day we parked in the parking lot across the street and I turned to Pat and said 'You want to go in this one?' We came in and felt right at home. And once we got caught up in the exciting things happening here, the passion and conviction led us to become members here."
For any who doubt the impact Garrett Andrew has had on the members of First Presbyterian Church, Mullis' next words offer ironclad proof. This 73-year-old man, who had the same church home for 48 years and now has been a member at his new church for only three weeks, looks a visitor in the eye and gives his account of resurrection.
"This is my church home now, " he says. "I have some old Baptist minister friends that I'd probably want involved, but if I died tomorrow, Garrett would preach my funeral."
(This article is reprinted with permission by The Albany Herald and ran in Fall 2008 issue of Chimes.)
Estuardo Bazini-Barakat – Master of Divinity 1997
ACPE Supervisor, Center for Urban Chaplaincy
at Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center
"SFTS curriculum, cross-cultural approach, and internship opportunities in diverse urban settings in Los Angeles have shaped my interfaith inner-city ministry as a Clinical Pastoral Education supervisor. Once I became a pastor in the PC(USA) organically my ministry evolved into pastoral care in the parish and the longer I stayed in the church the more I found myself assisting people in the different transitions of life or crisis."
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"Telling your story is a good way of looking back," muses Estuardo Bazini-Barakat, Presbyterian Chaplain and CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) Supervisor in training at the Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center. As with many stories of faith, Bazini-Barakat's is not as much about the destination, but the journey along the way.
He was born in a small village in Guatemala, in a Christian home. While attending university in Guatemala City, training to be a veterinarian, his ministry first began to take shape.
"At that time there was a lot of political turmoil going on," he recounts, "and my response to the violence was a strong attitude of non-violence."
That attitude led to reach out to students on campus. "That is where I started enjoying being in ministry and leading people," Estuardo says, "and found that being together was a way of providing pastoral care."
It was that experience that led Estuardo into the ministry. He moved to the United States, where he began studies at San Francisco Theological Seminary's Southern California campus in Pasadena.
"Once I became a pastor in the PC(USA) organically my ministry evolved into pastoral care in the parish," he reflects, "and the longer I stayed in the church the more I found myself assisting people in the different transitions of life or crisis."
This unfolding call to pastoral care led Bazini-Barakat to make some phone calls after he heard about the possibility of the chaplaincy at the LA County/USC Medical Center. LA County/USC Medical Center has had a Presbyterian chaplain for over five decades. With the changing role of the synod, which had funded the position, the program was facing closure due to budget constraints. A core group of individuals and ministries began to meet and discuss the possibility of restoring the chaplaincy.
When Bazini-Barakat heard of this discussion, he began to inquire about the possibility of becoming the chaplain. Three years ago, based on the prayer and financial support of the Los Ranchos Presbytery along with the Presbytery of the Pacific, San Gabriel Presbytery, and San Fernando Presbytery, the chaplaincy program was restored.
Though Bazini-Barakat found such a fit for his passions and gifts, his sense of call continued to unfold. "I realized that having more training as a chaplain would allow me to assist other chaplains," he explains. This has led to the creation of what will soon be the first completely bilingual CPE program in the nation. As a supervisor in training, Bazini-Barakat mentors six CPE students in their education as chaplains.
"Most of my time is now spent being an educator so now I am reaching out to the students and reaching out to the patients through them," he explained.
Bazini-Barakat's desire is to help the students see themselves as part of an interdisciplinary team consisting of the doctors, nurses, social workers, and other medical support staff at the hospital.
"A patient may not be able to articulate a need or doesn't feel heard, so part of our work is to do advocacy for patients, while keeping good working relationships with other members of the interdisciplinary team," he says. "Our CPE program is a ministry to the poor which gives our students a unique opportunity of immersion in this setting."
Bazini-Barakat notes that LA County/USC Medical center is the largest educational hospital in the United States. For those who might be interested in attending the program, or finding out more, contact Bazini-Barakat at EBaziniBarakat@aol.com.
(This article appeared in the Together in Mission, a bi-monthly magazine of the Presbytery of Los Ranchos.)