Organizing for Compassion

 

Organizing for Compassion: Newspaper article June 10, 2011

Reverend Sarah Taylor Peck 

On a beautiful, boutique -size winery in the middle of Ohio this month, I fell in love with Week of Compassion.

 At the beginning of June, I spent 48 hours with Brandon Gilvin, associate director of Week of Compassion (WoC), Amy Gopp, director of WoC, and a handful of bright, open hearted Disciples of Christ.

We examined the good work of Week of Compassion. We celebrated our denominational response to the Gospel through sustained, long term action in corners of our world that are hurting. We praised the immediate emergency responsiveness of the Disciples after earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes and floods.

I fell in love with Week of Compassion as a movement.

Don’t get me wrong, falling in love can be easy when you are surrounded by beautiful landscapes, delicious wine and extravagant food.  On our first night, the group worked with a chef to cook our own delicious meal. Our menu included soy glazed salmon, homemade empanadas and spicy shrimp. This experience would make anyone’s heart flutter. 

 Throughout this first night, between Amy Gopp’s deviance from the marinade recipe and Brandon Gilvin’s slow and strategic ‘mincing’ with a knife, we began to set the tone for our “Organizing for Compassion” training. The retreat started out with this experience where we explored global tastes and multi-cultural flavors as we built relationships. We developed strong comradeship in a collaborative framework. We began with this model of partnership and collaboration because WoC works through covenantal relationships.

In our newsletters, prayers from our pulpit, and announcements about WoC stewardship, many of us picture Week of Compassion as solely a disaster response ministry. We think of WoC when tornadoes rip Joplin, Missouri apart. We think of WoC when a tsunami washes away thousands of people in Japan. We think of WoC when wildfires spread or epidemics break out or the earth trembles in Haiti. WoC works tirelessly to offer refuge, resources, and supplies to the victims of these disasters.

But beyond this, WoC focuses on deep, covenantal relationships with people across the world. WoC invests in long term partnerships with communities desperately trying to rise above hunger, poverty, disease, illiteracy and all forms of suffering that destroy human dignity.

As a denomination, we should take pride in Week of Compassion. WoC makes one of the largest impacts in outreach ministry across denominations by contributing 94% of all donations to the work, God’s work. For every dollar an individual, congregation, or community gives to WoC, this is how it is spent:

-50 cents- emergency fund

-25 cents- sustainable development

-8 cents- fund to settle refugees around the world

-10 cents tithe back to Disciples mission sites, Work trip grants in our congregations

-6 cents- administrative costs

 I take pride in this generous, extravagant use of donated funds. And our entire denomination should, too.

When Amy Gopp offered a blessing on our meal that first night, she prayed to our gracious and loving Creator, for the meal we were to enjoy, for the hands that prepared it, for the farmers who picked every bit it, for the workers who bent down in the soil and planted the seeds and tended to the first buds of our abundant resources. She reminded all of us of the long term perspective the development of our meal, and interconnected human stories that shape every action we take in this world.

Week of Compassion is about telling the story: the story of sustainable development and rehabilitation that empowers people and communities as they transform from suffering to abundance; the story of long term assistance to people and communities in the aftermath of natural disaster; the story of our denomination fearlessly working to change the world as it is to the world as it should be.

Throughout this weekend, nine of us were invited into the movement of Courageous Compassion. We tethered our hearts to this thriving ministry within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). We learned about the impact that Week of Compassion makes around the world, across the entire body of Christ on earth.

I left this weekend with a conviction on my heart. How can I support Courageous Compassion? Can I commit as much support to this movement as I do to my weekly coffee treats? Can I donate a few dollars a month to support this ongoing, long-term mission in the world?

 How should our church respond to this important branch of our denomination that acts as the hands and feet of Jesus among us? As the Associate Minister overseeing our Outreach, I will offer prayers without ceasing for our mission and service in the world, our call to courageous compassion, and our commitment to the good work of our denomination in God’s world.

 If your heart of service is tugging at you to act on or support the work of Week of Compassion, contact me through the church office.

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