Parish News

The Parish News provides you with the latest news, information and inspiration about First Presbyterian Church and its ministries.

To read the September 2017 Parish News, please click here: September Parish News

Pastor’s Peace – Rev. Justin Karmann

A youth mission trip is a beautiful thing. It is an opportu-nity for our Youth to go out into the world, to share in new experiences outside of their community, and to help people that can’t really help themselves. If that last line has you uncomfortable, you’re not alone. Mission trips truly are a blessing, but sometimes our enthusiasm to help can be detrimental to the community we are intending to help. Take the country of Haiti,  for example. After being devastated by multiple natural disasters, countless churches across our nation rallied aid by providing goods such as shoes, and sending crews of young men and women ready to work. And yet,  experts will tell you, all of our philanthropic  endeavors caused more harm than good. By inundating the market with shoes, local factories and suppliers no longer had a demand so businesses went under. By sending work crews, local labor was not empowered or paid to clean-up and re-build their own country. As the book, When Helping Hurts notes, Mission Trips to Haiti with their innocent intentions, actually caused more harm than good. These mission trips are too short to develop any sort of relationship with the community meant to be served.  Instead of empowering communities to rise up out of poverty, cycles of dependency and submission left Haiti with more of the same. This reality has troubled me over the years and I used  to wonder: would our mission trip be causing more harm than good? Would we be hurting instead of helping?

I can confidently say thanks to the Habitat for Humanity organization that we are  doing exactly what we need to be doing. Habitat for Humanity affiliates are established into communities and they stay there. They build relationships in neighborhoods, they employ local contractors and day-laborers, and they train, educate, and empower the people they are serving to join in their community renewal. Brian, the lead contractor in Roanoke, points to entire neighborhoods who have experienced renewal throughout the thirty years that Habitat has been in the community. Because of their organization, our church doesn’t need to worry about causing more harm than good.

The freedom in knowing that our Youth can serve a community and return the next year to see the fruits of their labors is beyond rewarding. To witness a family be in their home brings tears to the eyes of those who worked on that home the year before. An invisible bond is formed between our Youth and that family. This year, we wanted to emphasize that bond even more so than years past. This year, we hoped for greater relationships and community outreach.

And there is no better way to do this than by throwing one big party. A party where everyone can share stories, laugh, and learn from one another. One of my favorite moments from the party was seeing a young boy smiling as one of our youth painted a tiger on his face. That smile stayed on his face the entire night.

In our send-off service the Saturday night before we left, we challenged the Youth to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul   in Philippians 2:15 describes those who embrace Christ’s calling to love and serve as stars shining brightly in the world. Our Youth were challenged to know the community they served, to hear their stories, and to reflect on the differences and similarities in their lives. And our Youth stepped up to this challenge. They embraced their calling with such fervor, it surprised all of us. At the Community Block Party, our Youth ran the show. They served the food, they ran the games, and they formed invisible bonds with many of the Roanoke youth. They interacted with the community in such a personal way, many from the neighborhoods would show up on the job sites to continue the fellowship. Because of Habitat for Humanity’s presence in Roanoke, our Youth created relationships and also built houses. They loved and were loved back. They are stars who shine brightly in our world and we could not be more proud of them!

–  Rev. Justin Karmann