Chance encounter changes lives By Josiah Brown

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Chance encounter changes lives
By Josiah Brown
Meeting Sirirat Pusurinkham from Thailand changed Nancy Cabe’s life. What started as a chance encounter in Louisville, Ky., has evolved into a 14-year friendship and a ministry with women and orphans in Thailand.
While sightseeing before a Presbyterian Women’s Churchwide Gathering in 1997, Nancy asked a stranger to take her picture next to a horse. Little did she know she would encounter this stranger several more times at the conference and at her hotel.
This stranger was Sirirat, a recent graduate of San Francisco Theological Seminary, who was returning home to Thailand to be a pastor.
Over the course of their conversations, Nancy began to learn about child prostitution, which was the focus of Sirirat’s doctoral dissertation. Learning that there were more than 800,000 child prostitutes in Thailand tugged at Nancy’s heart.
After running into Sirirat four times during the conference, Nancy realized “God was bopping her on the head to do something.” Sirirat started sending cross-stitching from Thailand, which Nancy sells at the Jubilee International Marketplace at First Presbyterian Church in Spokane each year.
That first couple of years Nancy received small boxes of cross stitching and was delighted to make a few hundred dollars, but now she receives crates full of it and can raise more than $2,000 at the sale.
For Nancy, this is her way to address the problem of prostitution in Thailand. Because the women in Sirirat’s community can now make a little money through sewing, they don’t have to resort to selling their bodies.
Being the chair of the mission committee at First Presbyterian Church at the time, Nancy was also able to put Sirirat’s project into the church’s mission’s budget. The next year Sirirat made her first trip to Spokane to report to the committee on her ministry.
During Sirirat’s second trip to Spokane, she mentioned she was dreaming of opening an orphanage to take care of six children, who had been orphaned by AIDS. Hearing Sirirat’s estimate that it would cost only $5,000, Nancy said, “Let’s go find some money.”
The orphanage, which ended up costing $34,000 dollars, was finished two years later in 2003.
In 2006 the government of Thailand said the boys would have to leave because they had become teenagers and shouldn’t be living together with the girls. Again without hesitation Nancy decided that they couldn’t kick the boys out. So efforts began to build a second orphanage.
The second dorm was finished in 2008 and cost $84,000. Together the two buildings currently house 26 orphans.
For the building dedication, which Nancy attended, half the village of 5,000 came. Even though the overwhelming majority of the community is not Christian, there is strong local support.
Visiting the orphanage for the first time moved her “to tears over and over.”
Conversing with Sirirat before going she learned neither dorm had any beds. In another leap of faith she told Sirirat to go ahead and buy the beds, and despite some doubts she was able to raise the $3,000 in the short time before she left, from her friends and church community.
“I had assumed that they were sleeping in beds.” Nancy said.
When she arrived the kids were clutching their new beds because most had never had a bed before.
In March 2010, a group, including Nancy, from First Presbyterian Church visited the orphanage for a week. They played games with the children, took them on field trips, and did projects around the orphanage. They also brought money to purchase water purifiers, a washing machine and several commercial sewing machines.
For Nancy it was inspiring to reconnect with the children she met on her first trip.
“They worm their way into your heart. You can’t ignore them, you have to help them,” she said.
More than being just a project she raises money for a couple times a year, the orphanage has become part of her life.
“What started as a random meeting in Louisville evolved into a true friendship,” said Nancy.
When Nancy’s daughter died of leukemia in 2001, Sirirat came to Spokane to offer support and pastoral care.
It is a mutual relationship.
The next time that Sirirat came to Spokane was just after her sister died. So Nancy ministered to her.
In addition, Nancy uses her involvements to benefit Sirirat’s ministry.
Serving on the Presbyterian Church’s Churchwide Gathering Coordinating Team, she was responsible for purchasing tote bags for everyone coming to the gathering. So she contracted with Sirirat for 3,000 bags, providing income for more than 100 women and money for the orphanage.
When Nancy sells cross-stitching from Thailand both the women in the community and the orphanage benefit. Part of the money provides women with a fair wage, and the rest helps keep the orphanage running.
Growing up in Montana she never thought she would become so involved with an orphanage in Thailand.
“I never would have done this if God had never bopped me in the head, four days in a row,” she said.
Participating in the Presbyterian church since her childhood exposed Nancy to being caring and compassionate at a young age. A member at First Presbyterian Church in Spokane since 1965, she has been involved in various ways—from leading the mission committee to representing the presbytery at synod.
She sees her involvement with the orphanage in Thailand as “a beautiful example of listening to God and responding to God’s calling.”
Next Nancy will raise money for a women’s center on orphanage land, a place where women in this patriarchal society can congregate, sew and do Bible study.
“The women have learned to love the community of sewing together,” she said.
Estimating that they need $15,000 more to finish the center, she hopes to raise that money on Sirirat’s upcoming visit to Spokane from Nov. 10 to 22.
“We can stick our heads in the sand and ignore that prostitution is taking place and that orphans are left without moms and dads, or we can talk about it,” Nancy said.
Sirirat will be at the Jubilee International Marketplace, which is from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 11, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 12 at First Presbyterian, 318 S. Cedar. She will preach at Millwood Presbyterian Church on Sunday, Nov. 13, and speak between the services at First Presbyterian Church on Sunday, Nov. 20.
She will also speak at the Spokane Coalition on Human Trafficking at 4 p.m., Monday, Nov. 14, at World Relief, 1522 N. Washington St.
For information, call 238-6448 or 747-6580.

Nancy McCabe and Sirirat Pusurinkham share concern about orphans in Thailand.

Fig Tree staff, interns increase online interactions

Collaboration produces directory translations for refugee elders

Fall has been a season of changes for The Fig Tree, along with the retirement of associate editor Yvonne Lopez-Morton.

Eastern Washington and Gonzaga University interns who served last spring and summer opened doors to increase The Fig Tree presence online.
In September, Josiah Brown, a local student studying online with City Vision College in Kansas City, Mo., began an internship to apprentice to learn journalism skills, to write and edit, and to learn and expand online presence and social networking.
Another new facet of Fig Tree work is collaborating with World Relief to translate resources in the directory for elderly refugees and immigrants.
Interns expand online presence
Josiah, a major in nonprofit management, will gather calendar and news items, share them on Facebook and Twitter, write features, edit and assist with nonprofit operations tasks.
Having had experience in urban ministry, house building and African mission since junior high at Spokane’s First Presbyterian Church, he said he wanted to sharpen his communication skills.
The February 2011 Fig Tree features a story about his involvements, which range from a Whitworth Jan Term 2010 studying poverty, hope and altruism in Tanzania; fall 2010 studies at the Denver Urban Semester of Mile High Ministries; January to June 2011, as a missionary apprentice in Senegal, and summer 2011 on Christian Peacemaker Team in Palestine and Israel.
Mary said The Fig Tree seeks to provide opportunities for more communication department interns from area universities.
In the summer, Mary Hazuka wrote features, gathered news and expanded Fig Tree presence with Facebook and on Twitter.
Josiah will build on that and will learn website development to integrate the social networking tools with the website.
He is adding news online to draw people to the website to in-depth articles and resources.
Facebook builds connections
Malcolm Haworth, directory editor and ecumenical/interfaith consultant, has also added to the Facebook use by creating conversations and directing people to resources and discussions in the wider faith community.
For example, he recently started the Inland Northwest Coalition for the Common Good, a Facebook group—informally related to the new state Faith Action Network and The Fig Tree—to build connections and conversations in the faith community.
Several pastors and lay people are conversing daily on that group.
“Since we first had a website committee develop an overall vision in 2004, we have been growing into that vision and incrementally improving our website as our limited budget has allowed,” said Mary. “We originally estimated it would take more than $1 million to develop a multimedia website.
“Now, however, with new social networking tools, YouTube and partnering with KYRS for streaming audio, we are able to provide more of the online resources we intended and we have enough traffic to develop more advertising online,” she said.
With the retirement of several people who have done bulk deliveries for many years, Mary said there is also need for more volunteers.
Writers’ training sessions in the spring, summer and fall have increased the pool of writers.
“With Yvonne’s retirement, we will be looking at our overall staffing needs,” Mary said.
Directory translations offered
As a service to elderly refugees and immigrants, The Fig Tree is partnering with World Relief, and Aging and Long Term Care of Eastern Washington to publish online translations of selected resources from The Fig Tree’s 2011-12 Resource Directory: Guide to Congregations and Community Resources.
Mark Kadel, executive, Colleen Daniels and and Susan Hales of World Relief approached directory editor Malcolm Haworth with the idea of collaborating, rather than doing redundant research to create their own directory.
Colleen and Malcolm have selected agencies. Translations of the agency names and descriptions will be done in Russian, Nepali, Burmese and Arabic for publication online now. They will be published in print in summer 2012.
Mark said elders in the refugee and immigrant communities will have the resource information available so they can decide what resources fit their needs, without asking their children or grandchildren to translate.
For information, call 525-4112.

Marketing fair trade involves educating and connecting people

By Mary Stamp
For Sarah Calvin, marketing for Ganesh Himal Trading Co., in Spokane means sharing ideas of fair trade and stories of fair trade producers to inspire people to make conscientious choices about what they buy.
Despite the global economic crisis, she said Ganesh Himal is doing well.
“It’s significant that fair trade continues to grow and we are selling to more new stores,” she said.
“In this economy, people are more conscientious about how they are spending their money. The economic trauma has shifted people’s consciousness, so people are more interested in buying fair-trade products,” Sarah added.
Ganesh Himal’s annual Thanksgiving Weekend Festival of Fair Trade brings attention to fair trade, giving attendees the opportunity to talk directly with fair-trade importers and offering handcrafts from around the world from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Friday through Sunday, Nov. 25 to 27, in the lobby of the Community Building at 35 W. Main.
This holiday sale features products available through Inland Northwest fair-trade businesses, including items from Guatemala, Chile, Mexico and around the globe through Moonflower Enterprises, Conosur Imports, Singing Shaman Traders, Corazon Scarves and Kizuri, plus shoes from Spain sold by Katie Frankhauser.
Sarah said the local vendors who are participating are members of the Fair Trade Federation and follow its fair-trade criteria as they work directly in long-term partnerships with artisans.
“This year’s festival will feature handcrafted clothing, jewelry, housewares, pottery and more from around the world—made in sweatshop-free environments. Purchases of these products support artisan cooperatives, small farmers and sustainable economic development in some of the world’s lowest-income regions,” said Sarah.
People who don’t need to buy things can donate to projects, such as the Baseri Clinic in Nepal, the girl child education fund in Nepal or a girls’ orphanage in Chile.
Ganesh Himal Trading, which started the festival, has been importing fairly traded products since 1984.
Sarah came to Whitworth from Los Angeles. She said that a Jan Term trip to Guatemala with Ron Frase in 1989 inspired her global interest and planted seeds for her interest in fair trade.
After completing her degree at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, she lived there 13 years, working for nonprofits, with developmentally disabled children and as a courier traveling to Asia for the Asian Reporter, Sarah visited Thailand, Laos, Burma, Vietnam and Indonesia.
She decided to start her own import business, Indras Imports, choosing the name based on a Hindu story about the Indras net and interconnectivity. The Indras net is a net in the sky that stretches to eternity. At every cross-section, there is a jewel, she explained. If one jewel is changed, the change is seen in all the jewels.
She said that, like Hinduism, Buddhism emphasizes the idea of interdependence.
Introduced to Buddhism in Asia, she said it has also influenced her interest in fair trade. She went on several trips to Burma, Thailand and Laos studying Buddhism in monasteries and participating in retreats. In Spokane, she has taken some classes with Buddhist nuns from the Sravasti Abbey near Newport.
“Fair trade acknowledges the interdependence of people and the environment everywhere,” she said. “That awareness contributes to people becoming conscientious consumers.”
Seven years ago, she began to work as an apprentice with Ric Connor and Denise Atwood, owners of Ganesh Himal and found her niche as part of a team doing creative marketing of fair trade and fair-trade products, and educating people by sharing stories of producers.
“I bring stories of producers to the forefront,” she said.
“I have also learned the importance of the organic growth of a business, growing in a slow, sustainable way, rather than making quick expansion,” she said.
Sarah particularly values the opportunity to work in partnership with producers in Nepal and elsewhere to help them produce products with their own cultural and aesthetic sense, while being sensitive to what products will sell in the United States.
“They send us incredible designs, and we work with them to create a product that will sell in our market,” Sarah said.
While working in a women’s co-op in Nepal before coming to Ganesh Himal, she helped design a wide-strapped messenger bag with local artisans. Ganesh Himal still sells it.
“Fair trade is playing a strong role in the global economy as people become aware of globalization and problems associated with it,” she said.
“Many good things are coming out of the economic and environmental turmoil,” she said. “People are becoming more selective about what they buy, more concerned about the inequities of the global economy, and more sensitive to how products are made and where products come from.”
For information, call 448-6561 or visit

Church’s annual Jubilee market grows to include 30 fair-trade vendors

Since starting 23 years ago with only one vendor, First Presbyterian Church’s annual Jubilee International Marketplace, a fair trade sale, has grown to 30 vendors.
The marketplace will be held from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 11, and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 12, at the church, 318 S. Cedar.
The vendors range from local ministries like Christ Kitchen and Transitions for Women, to international organizations such as Ten Thousand Villages and Maya Earth Coffee.
More than 2,000 people attend the sale each year purchasing between $60,000 and $65,000 worth of products. Because the sale is a ministry of the church, all that money goes to those organizations and fair trade businesses.
The products at the sale are fairly traded. The majority of them come from artisans in developing countries, who lack outlets to sell their work.
Some products come from ministries in Spokane that provide employment. People can give donations in someone’s name, for the person who has everything.
The sale has become a way for many in the congregation to be involved in fair trade. Putting on the sale requires 100 volunteers, ranging in age from five to 95.
“We hope the sale will be a catalyst for people to think differently about their shopping decisions,” said Mary Frankhauser, one of the key people who helped to start the sale.
She sees the sale as more than a simple craft sale.
“I don’t do craft sales, but I do promote fair trade and economic justice,” she said. “The Bible is full of references to economic justice. We can’t ignore that.”
This year, First Presbyterian Church is offering a three-week Sunday morning class around the Jubilee sale, which is titled “Everything Counts.”
The class will center on the idea that “everything we do in life affects other people” and how that relates to fair trade.
The first two classes will be before the Jubilee sale and will feature different vendors sharing about why they are involved in fair trade.
The last class will be after the sale and will help people think, “Now that we have had this experience, what is our next step,” she said.
“Throughout the year the rest of our decisions are equally as important as they are on that weekend,” Mary said.
The “Everything Counts” class began at 10 a.m., Sunday, Oct. 30. It is also on Nov. 6 and 13 at First Presbyterian Church.
For information call 747-1058, email or visit

Economy has impact on people and reduces number who can afford counseling

By Yvonne Lopez-Morton
As director of counseling services at St. Joseph’s Family Center in Spokane, Catherine Armstead sees the psychological impact of the economic recession.
“Counseling is a luxury when your finances are minimal or non-existent,” she said.
A person may need therapy, but still has to pay the rent or house payment, feed the family or pay for medications.
“We have multiple calls each week, sometimes each day, from people who have no income but need or want counseling,” she said. “They have nowhere to go.”
“It can feel as if there is no way for the person needing counseling and having to make decisions how to use the small amount of money they have,” she observed.
St. Joseph’s mission, she said, honors community values and provides services people can’t access through other programs.
Given the struggles people face, she finds it fulfilling when someone she is counseling makes positive changes.
“People come to counseling for various reasons and if their internal motivation is less than their external motivation, their readiness for change may not be high,” said Catherine.
Such internal conflict may reduce a person’s commitment to follow through with moving issues in their lives to resolution.
She said that if they cannot have counseling it complicates any existing mental health concerns by adding stress to their issues.
A career centered on a passion for counseling and helping others overcome personal and family challenges brought Catherine three years ago to St. Joseph’s Family Center, which was founded and is sponsored by the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia.
Catherine said its outpatient counseling, spiritual and healing arts focus on the development of the whole person, strengthening families and creating a healthier community.
Her staff includes three marriage and family therapists, a mental health counselor, a psychiatric nurse practitioner, a social worker and administrative staff.
In addition to administrative tasks and fund raising, she also provides personal counseling services with center clients.
The key issues clients face are depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety, as well as couple and relationship issues.
Counseling and mediation services support children through seniors as individuals, couples and families.
Staff also offer classes and workshops on relationship enhancement, anger management and parenting children of divorce.
Catherine said that the parenting children of divorce classes, for example, help parents understand how divorce or separations affect their children at different developmental stages. In addition they learn how to create a supportive and safe climate for their children in order to reduce the impact of conflict and acquire communication skills.
Sessions for anger management are separate for men and women. Participants learn the nature of anger, ways to identify the triggers, alternatives to aggression when angry, coping skills and personal strength.
Catherine said it’s important for people to learn to express anger constructively rather than destructively, to be aware of how anger affects their life and learn to deal with angry outbursts, strained relationships and personal frustration.
SJFC accepts most insurance plans and, while they receive no government funding, they provide services to seniors on Medicare. They do not accept Medicaid. Fee assistance is available to those who qualify.
The center raises funding from private donations and through local fund-raising events.
Catherine was born in Spokane where she lived for 19 years before pursuing her educational and professional goals. She was away from Spokane for 34 years and then returned to Spokane in 2006 to be closer to family and also pursue new job opportunities.
She has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in psychology from Central Washington University and a doctorate from Washington State University.
Her career has included working for school districts and higher education, including serving as staff psychologist and multicultural services coordinator at Eastern Washington University when she returned to Spokane where she was a psychologist and the coordinator of Multicultural Services.
Her individual counseling, crisis intervention and outreach to the university community addressed issues such as relationships, depression, eating disorders, academic performance, substance abuse, self-esteem and childhood physical/sexual abuse.
As coordinator of multicultural services, she served as a liaison for diverse students to ensure their academic and student-life success.
Catherine, who was raised a Pentecostal and has attended several of Spokane’s historic black churches, said she was raised in a home that was committed to helping others less fortunate.
She said that her mother, through church activities, was always collecting things for others.
Knowing there was always someone struggling more than their family, she said her faith taught her “to think of others before yourself,” so it was natural for her to pursue a career that focused on how she could help others.
When asked how faith intersects with counseling she explained that a person’s idea of the connection between their faith, health and healing is personal.
“When clients talk about their faith being important to them, I work with them to bring that into counseling,” Catherine said. “I don’t impose my own values on them but work with them to clarify how they want to utilize their faith in counseling.
She explained that for those that are really motivated and make a commitment to change, their faith becomes a positive force in their healing.
For information, call 483-6495.

Area clergy march, show solidarity with Occupy movement in region

Clergy and laity from Baptist, Episcopal, Lutheran, United Methodist, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ and Unitarian Universalist churches have recently expressed solidarity with the Occupy Spokane movement’s presence at Monroe and Riverside to express a call for economic justice.
They said their motivation comes from scriptural calls for jubilee, for sharing and for loving neighbors.
On Friday, Oct. 15, the Rev. Happy Watkins of New Hope Baptist Church reminded more than 300 gathered at the corner that Martin Luther King, Jr., had “the audacity to believe that people everywhere can have three meals every day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.”
“The ultimate challenge is where people stand in difficult times,” Happy said, pointing out that more men of color are in prison at Airway Heights than are studying at Washington State University, Whitworth University or the Community Colleges of Spokane.
He was one of several clergy present.
Dan Morrissey, professor of corporate law at Gonzaga University, explained why the Occupy movement is using the claim, “We are the 99 percent.”
He said the cause is “right and just” when the top 1 percent receives 25 percent of the income and owns 40 percent of the wealth in this country. He added that the chief executive of one corporation made $32 million last year and the next executive in that company made $28 million.
“Corporate America is sitting on money that could put young people to work,” he said.
At the Saturday, Oct. 16, rally and march, nearly 500 people walked from Riverfront Park through downtown Spokane, stopping outside banks. There were more than 10 pastors, marching wearing their vestments, collars and stoles.
Chants of marchers included:
• “Banks got bailed out. We got sold out.”
• “We are the 99 percent.”
• “Who’s got power. We do, people power.”
• “Corporations are not people.”
• “We say people. They say profit.”
Their message was a clear challenge to corporate greed and a call for economic justice.
On Oct. 24, about 17 clergy and laity from the various mainline Protestant churches gathered with their crosses and clerical garb at Westminster Congregational United Church of Christ and marched to the Occupy Spokane site, stopping outside several corporate banks to pray, swing an incense burner and sprinkle holy water—symbolically calling for healing of and by the banks.
George Taylor, a retired Presbyterian pastor visiting from Victoria, B.C., told of his recent participation in Occupy Washington, D.C.
“Participants are clear about their goals. We believe in economic justice for all,” he said. “We are worried about our country. We are good folks, reasonable people.”
George anticipates that as mainstream media see people participating and as the movement gains strength, they will recognize that the church’s role in the Occupy Movement is to tell truth to power that wealth needs to be spread around for all to share from Wall Street to Main Street.
“Canadians are protesting, too, but we are calling it ‘resistance’ to what is going on in our two countries with corporate and political leaders unable to solve the problems,” he said. “We spend $2 billion a week on the war in Afghanistan and are cutting back on programs for people in the United States.”
The Rev. Alan Eschenbacher of All Saints Lutheran Church said he had worked in the business and financial world for 22 years. When he was there he believed it was right to make money and to invest money.
“I gradually became convinced that people need to understand when they have enough,” he said. “What’s enough? When we have enough, we need to share it with others.”
In his ministry serving a meal for homeless people in Browne’s Addition, he said he meets many people who do not have money and who can’t play or participate in the game.
“Capitalism is a game,” he said.
Alan’s prayer outside one of the banks was for “those who enter to understand the ramifications of wealth.”
The Rev. Linda Crowe, pastor of Veradale United Church of Christ said: “I’m here because I know too many people who are just hanging on by their fingernails financially.”
Those people are both church members and people who come to the church doors.
“Their numbers have increased,” she said. “Economic justice is the issue.”
The Rev. Mike Denton, Pacific Northwest United Church of Christ conference minister, participated in the walk in Spokane, visited the site three times in Seattle and visited with people from the Chicago site when he was in Chicago.
“This movement is a basic piece. It’s something many of us have been waiting for, for a long time,” he said. “It’s a Pentecost moment in the life of the church.
“The church is at its best in these times, when it brings its moral sensibilities to the world. The church is frequently at its best when the world is not at its best,” he said.
“The moral arc of the church is moving in tandem with the moral arc of the world,” he said. “More and more members of the faith community are coming out to demonstrate.
“Chicago Theological Seminary students are building a golden calf that will become part of the demonstrations,” Mike reported. “We have a false idol in money.”
He said that on Oct. 24, the movement was about one month old in the region. He knows that more clergy are mentioning the movement in prayers and sermons.
He reported that he knows that within the United Church of Christ Conference,there are Occupy gatherings in Moscow, Yakima, Ellensburg, Wenatchee, Coeur d’Alene, Colville, Chewelah, Northport, Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia and Anchorage.
His presence in Spokane was in relationship to a movement among clergy to join delegation visits, opportunities for those who haven’t joined other activities to be part of an event for religious leaders to say, “Thank you,” and to ask occupiers what religious folks could do to support them. On Oct. 24, there were clergy delegation visits in San Francisco, Oakland, Boston, Chicago, New York, Akron and Spokane, Mike said.
Outside another bank, Lynda Maraby, an urban missioner and Eastern Washington representative on the Faith Action Network board, prayed: “Lord, we know who you love. You do not love wealth and power. We depend on your power.”
At another bank, the Rev. Kris Christensen of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in West Central Spokane, prayed: “Oh God, whose name defies any captivity of our naming, may your Spirit come on those who rule with money and power, and stir in their hearts compassion for the lost and least. In the name of your son.”
Kris said that from serving in a poor part of town she sees people who are being “further ground into poverty in the economic system. It can’t continue. I can’t be silent any more.”
While Episcopalians may hesitate to talk about evil and sin, Kris asserts that “what is happening to the most vulnerable is sin.”
In front of the downtown mall, the Rev. Jim CastroLang, pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ in Colville, noted: “God is present here with us and is not happy about the divide between the rich and the poor. God is here and God’s love reigns, even in stores and banks. God of love, teach us to love, to share, to protest faithfully. You love and respect all people. Empower everyone that our voice will be heard speaking truth to power and wealth.”
Jim later affirmed: “This is what the Gospel is about.”
In Colville, he has been preaching that the church’s role is about more than making people feel good.
“We can’t stop there. The church is to be God’s voice for justice in the community. God’s vision for the world is that there not be a divide between the rich and the poor,” he said.
“I sense we are in an historic time, but it will take hard work. Pastors have busy lives. We need to deepen our commitment if we are to sustain our involvement,” Jim said.
He reported that Occupy Colville meets at 4:30 p.m., Wednesdays, and noon, Saturdays. Twenty-five people gathered on Saturday, Oct. 22.
At the Occupy Spokane site, clergy came in solidarity to say thanks to those who stand on the corner, sharing the messages and receiving affirming honks from passing cars.
The Rev. Kevin Dow of Highland Park United Methodist Church said: “I felt I couldn’t not be here. I’ve been worried for a long time about the growing gap between the rich and the poor, wondering when it would become intolerable enough.
“More and more people are out of work and depend on others to help them survive. There have been increasing numbers of people coming to the food banks and becoming homeless,” he said. “We need to be about the business of sharing and caring for one another.”
The Rev. Jane Nelson-Low, a retired Episcopal priest who served six years in Wallace, Idaho, said that in the biblical tradition of Leviticus there is the Jubilee tradition.
“It’s a process for wealth to be redistributed on a periodic basis. Every 49 years, the land was to be returned to its original owners to prevent the accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few and to prevent passing it down generation to generation,” she said.
Recognizing that was public policy then, she said the 21st century needs to find its own techniques, aware that “God’s will is that no one be obscenely rich and no one be wretchedly poor.”
Jane added that when Jesus announced the year of the Lord’s favor in Luke, he was announcing jubilee. When he called people to love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength and to love their neighbors as themselves, she said, “It’s partly about charity, but also about justice, specifically economic justice.”
Spokane clergy have formed Protest Chaplains, aligning with a national organization of that name and having their own Facebook Page, in addition to the Inland Northwest Coalition for the Common Good group. Some clergy it connected began discussing the Occupy movement among other issues.
Kris said that the role of Protest Chaplains is to be available to the Occupy Spokane participants, to be a resource, a presence and a training source on dealing with conflicts that arise so the movement can be healthy.
One idea is for pastors of different denominations to each take different days of the week to be present, such as the United Church of Christ on Mondays, the Episcopalians on Thursdays and the Methodists on Fridays.
“Part of our presence can help those holding signs and waving when people with mental illness, using drugs or in need of resources approach them,” said Kris. “We can be there to be a listening presence and a referral resource.”
The Rev. Andy CastroLang said she is “tired of the wicked levels of inequity.”
She said that Americans need to remember that the government is an incomplete project and “we are part of it.”
She expects things may get worse as people work to make the country better for everyone. As a downtown pastor, “it’s so in my face who is sick, homeless and hungry on the street outside our building. It’s getting worse. With the cutbacks, there is less money than ever.”
The church itself has less money to help people with rent or bus vouchers, so she has to refer people to other programs, some of which are referring people back to her church for help .

National, world leaders voice support

With the Occupy Wall Street movement now in every state and more than 900 cities around the world, national religious leaders are speaking out.
The United Church of Christ’s Collegium of Officers released a statement saying, “we live in a very rich country in a rich world; however many continue to suffer the consequences of greed on the part of a few. There is enough for all if we share and if we organize our life together in ways that care for each other.”
Despite the varied messages of those in the protests, the UCC officers see the protests as “a reminder that thoughtful, faithful, and committed people can make a difference when voices are united for the common good.”
The director of the Presbyterian Church (USA) Office of Public Witness has urged faith leaders to join the movement saying, “faith has a role to play in the leadership of these movements.”
However he warns that religious leaders shouldn’t seek to control the movement “but to model to participants how to express themselves through nonviolent means.”
Even the Vatican has aligned themselves with the movement saying, “the basic sentiment behind the protests is in line with Catholic social teaching. The economy should be at the service of the human person and strong action must be taken to reduce the growing gap between the rich and poor.”
In addition, the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church also affirmed that “the growing movement of peaceful protests in public spaces in the United States and throughout the world in resistance to the exploitation of people for profit or power bears faithful witness, in the tradition of Jesus, to sinful inequalities in society.”

Couple in mission concerned about repression of Roma in Europe

As Doug and Liz Searles share in Eastern Washington churches about their mission work since 2007 with the minority Evangelical Reformed Church in predominantly Catholic Poland, they remind each listener to be attentive to God’s call to share God’s love in the world wherever they are.
They also encourage Polish Christians to be attentive to God’s call to mission—teaching, preaching, listening, loving, caring and inspiring—where they are.
Just as they raise awareness in Poland, they are informing people here about persecution of the Roma people in Eastern and Central Europe since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Liz and Doug, who have served as missionaries since 1997—in India and China—are now in Poland, where their work is supported by a joint appointment by the Presbyterian Church, USA, and the common Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ.
In October and early November, they spoke to churches of those denominations in Yakima, Spokane, Clarkston, Pullman, Tonasket, Ephrata, Othello and Richland, before going on to share in Western Washington through Dec. 18.
“Reaching out globally matters,” they told the congregation at Veradale United Church of Christ on Oct. 23. “It saves lives both spiritually and physically.
“We come as people transformed by mission, a link in a circle of ministry in which everyone is transformed,” said Liz.
“We are your hands and feet abroad, and you are our hands and feet here,” said Doug.
The Searles seek to inspire Polish Reformed churches to reach out in a land where their Protestant churches are marginalized.
Liz described the Evangelical Reformed Church in Poland as having had a 20-year period of recovery since the country ousted the Communists. Previously, Poles had suffered occupation under Hitler and Stalin.
“People are living their way into reconciliation with each other in a post-atrocity environment,” said Doug.
Lodz, Poland, where they serve, lost a third of its population—more than 230,000 people—during the Holocaust, including the pastor of the Reformed Church who perished in a death camp.
“The scars of history continue to divide communities,” Liz said. “In some towns, Protestants are identified with Germans, who were ‘cleansed’ out of parts of Poland when postwar borders were drawn.”
“The result of having lived in a climate of fear can be fearfulness today,” she said. “Fear is an expectation that something bad will happen, even though there may not necessarily be a present reality to be dealt with.”
For today, it means some Poles and some congregations “hold onto a siege mentality, a fear that leads to survivalism. Such churches may feel that they must be armed fortresses against the world.
“The result is atrophy that makes it hard to reach out in love,” Liz said. “Perfect love, however, casts out fear.”
The Searles said one message they have brought to the Evangelical Reformed Church in Poland has been, “Fear not!”
Another is that it’s okay to demonstrate a joyful faith and that worship and service can be fun.
Along with those messages, they encourage churches to overcome their prejudices about the Roma, formerly known as Gypsies, and to reach out to them.
“The term, ‘Roma’ is what most who migrated from India about 1,000 years ago prefer to call themselves,” Liz said. “It means ‘person.’ ‘Gypsy’ in most Central and Eastern European languages is part of the verb ‘to steal.’”
Although gypsies used to travel in caravans or wagons, Doug pointed out that since the 1960s and 1970s, they have been settled travelers. There are now 12 million in Europe, a marginalized minority living in shanty ghettoes outside cities, stigmatized, loathed, persecuted and facing human-rights challenges.
The Searles reported that during the third week of October, a community of 400 Roma, Sinti and Irish and English “Travelers” were evicted from a longstanding settlement at Dale Farm in the United Kingdom. The government is spending $28 million to remove them using tasers and bulldozers, and providing no replacement shelter.
“Western Europe is forcibly transporting Roma East to the poorest countries, such as Bulgaria, Romania and Kosovo, and then closing the borders,” said Doug. “Ninety-nine percent are unemployed.”
Under communism, Roma were taken care of by government programs, but under capitalism, no one will hire them, he said.
They have been taken from their homes and offered no other places to live or find shelter.
Liz said many compare the economic and social climate of Europe today to the 1930s.
“Those parallels are chilling she said. “As the economies contract, people seek scapegoats. Neo-nationalist movements and xenophobia are on the rise. Recent elections in Central and Eastern European countries have put in far-right members of Parliament who run for office on a platform of cleansing the country of the ‘Roma problem.’
“The Roma remember that nearly 1.5 million of them died in the Holocaust,” she said.
The Searles showed a video depicting expanding ghettos on the outskirts of cities, communities with no water or electricity. Children are segregated to attend substandard schools. Their parents have no jobs.
The video shares comments of rural Roma telling how their lives are depressed, working in the fields for only enough to eat for one day, living 12 people to a room. Most Roma live on less than $2 a day. Most are born, live and die without being registered, so they cannot be citizens or find jobs.

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