EPC Chaplain Endorser uses Christmas display to benefit local food bank


MarkInglesChristmasDisplay2017For the fourth consecutive year, EPC Chaplain Endorser Mark Ingles has leveraged his home Christmas display to benefit the Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado. In 2016, he collected approximately 650 pounds of canned and dry goods from people who stopped in front of his house in Colorado Springs, Colo., to view the display. His goal this year is 1,000 pounds.

“It’s an opportunity to give back to the community,” Ingles said. “More than just the beauty of seeing the display and adding that to people’s season of Christmas; it’s a tangible way of being able to have people drop off food. They’re giving to an incredibly wonderful cause.”

KOAA News 5 in Colorado Springs—the region’s highest-rated newscast—broadcast a 2-minute feature on Ingles’ efforts on December 12. The station posted a separate, 3-minute followup story on their Facebook page on December 16, in which Ingles shared that he was already halfway to the donation goal.

Click here to view the December 12 story.

Click here to view the December 16 feature.

December Jeremiah Journal brings Christmas greetings


In the December edition of The Jeremiah Journal, EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah brings Christmas greetings on behalf of the entire staff of the Office of the General Assembly.

The Jeremiah Journal is a monthly video blog hosted on the EPC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/EPChurch80. Each month’s update also is posted to EPConnection and the EPC’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.

For a transcript of this month’s edition in printable pdf format, click here.

First Presbyterian Church (Orlando, Fla.) ministry to homeless sees results, garners recognition


Lead Homelessness, a national initiative formed to fight the causes and effects of homelessness in the United States, has named David Swanson, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Orlando, one of the “11 Most Important Leaders Needed to Solve Homelessness in Orlando.” Others named to the list include Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer; Linda Gonzalez, Vice President of Social Responsibility for the Orlando Magic of the National Basketball Association (NBA); and Dr. Ben Carson, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

In a video presentation produced by Lead Homelessness, Swanson said that in his 13 years as pastor at the downtown Orlando church, “the primary need I have faced, since day one, has been how to deal with the countless numbers of homeless people that have been on our steps, that are in our church on Sunday mornings, that are coming seeking money, shelter, and all the different needs that they have. It has been a constant challenge.”

Under his leadership, First Presbyterian Church has spent $1.5 million serving the homeless population of Central Florida. However, he emphasized that while those efforts helped people, they did not address the systemic issues that caused homelessness. In a partnership with the Central Florida Regional Commission on Homelessness and the Lead Homelessness initiative, efforts are now focused on securing permanent supportive housing, in addition to meeting felt needs.

Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk, noted that homelessness in the United States is a ministry opportunity for every city-center church, and many suburban and rural congregations as well.

“The emphasis that First Orlando is involved with in helping secure housing for the homeless is having a major impact in a major city,” he said. “What this church is doing can be a real model for all our EPC city-center churches.”

Swanson emphasized that ministry to the homeless, while not always easy, can have long-term significance in many ways.

“One of the Church’s most effective witnesses is the manner in which she serves the larger community,” he said. “Being actively engaged with community leaders, civil servants, non-profit leaders, and elected officials builds positive relationships while also addressing larger social issues. It is often a winsome and positive way to intrepret the gospel to a city.  This has been the case for us as it has engaged us with the city of Orlando in the area of homelessness.”

Support EPC World Outreach on Giving Tuesday


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The EPC and its missions arm, World Outreach, has joined the global social media initiative, #GivingTuesday, that seeks to counteract the consumerism of Black Friday and  Cyber Monday with a celebration of giving.

“World Outreach desires to be an organization that gives some of our most precious resources—the members of our EPC churches—to the least-reached and unengaged places of the world for the expansion of the Church and the glory of God,” said Phil Linton, Director of World Outreach. “On this day that emphasizes online charitable giving, we follow the path set before us from our Heavenly Father, who loved the world so much that He gave His only Son for it.”

Click here to participate in #GivingTuesday with your support of World Outreach global workers or special projects.

November Jeremiah Journal explains national budget spending


In the November edition of The Jeremiah Journal, EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah explains the EPC budget and how support from EPC churches funds Connectional Support, Collaborative Ministries, and Custodial Operations at the national level.

The Jeremiah Journal is a monthly video blog hosted on the EPC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/EPChurch80. Each month’s update also is posted to EPConnection and the EPC’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.

For a transcript of this month’s edition in printable pdf format, click here.

Donations to EPC hurricane relief funds top $860,000


HurricaneHarveyCleanup

Dead shrubs and stained walls provide evidence of the extent of flooding in Houston, Texas, as a result of Hurricane Harvey.

As of November 20, more than $860,000 has been donated to the EPC’s emergency relief funds for hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. The fund for Hurricane Harvey has received $575,541.54 toward relief efforts in Texas; the Hurricane Irma fund for relief in Florida has received $159,250.67; and the Hurricane Maria fund for Puerto Rico recovery has received $126,862.25.

In addition, $21,000 has been donated to the Mexico Earthquake emergency relief fund, which was set up at the request of the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico. The Mexican body is a fraternal partner of the EPC.

“In this week that we celebrate God’s generosity, I praise the Lord for the magnificent generosity demonstrated in support of our hurricane disaster relief funds this fall,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “We continue to work closely with the EPC churches in areas affected by the hurricanes to ensure we can get these funds to them as quickly as possible.”

Recovery efforts in southeast Texas continue, with Christ Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Houston serving as the resource center for Samaritan’s Purse in the area. Pastor Richard Harris said that Samaritan’s Purse has hosted more than 2,800 volunteers at the church during the recovery effort.

“That is a Samaritan’s Purse record for disaster relief work,” he said.

Brad Starner, Director of Church Finance for New Hope Presbyterian Church in Fort Myers, Fla., expressed gratitude for the donations to the Hurricane Irma fund.

“We thank God and the EPC for the goodness of His people through our denominational family,” he said.  “Almost all of us in Southwest Florida lost trees, electricity, water, internet, and lots of little things from our homes. However, some of us lost considerably more due to flooding and wind damage. In particular, we have families with extensive damage to their homes and property which will require months of rebuilding and repair.”

Starner noted that Immokalee, a largely migrant agricultural community southeast of Fort Myers, was hit especially hard by the storm.

“Immokalee was devastated,” he said. “In partnership with First Baptist Church of Immokalee, we sent teams of volunteers and supplies to those in need—many who simply could not live in their homes due to flooding and wind damage,” he said. “We continue to support those relief efforts directed by our Missions Council, which is taking an active role in caring for those effected by the storm.”

On November 20, the Office of the General Assembly received a check and note from a member of the New Hope congregation, which read,

Please accept the enclosed donations for Hurricane Maria Relief. My daughter, Lily, had a birthday party and collected donations instead of gifts. She also sold brownies and lemonade to add to the donations.

“While it is certainly a blessing to see the amount of money given to these relief funds,” Jeremiah said, “the spirit (and act) of generosity displayed by Lily—who turned 12—and her friends touched me in a way that is hard to describe.”

Each of these emergency relief funds remain open for donations. Gifts can be made online (Choose “Emergency Relief” from the first pulldown menu and the specific fund from the second pulldown menu,) or checks made payable to Evangelical Presbyterian Church with the appropriate fund noted on the memo line and sent to:

Evangelical Presbyterian Church
5850 T.G. Lee Blvd., Suite 510
Orlando, FL 32822

“We have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving,” Jeremiah said. “Thank you for your generous, sacrificial response in helping those in need in the EPC.”

U.S. Helsinki Commission hears pleas of Andrew Brunson’s daughter


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Andrew Brunson’s daughter Jacqueline Furnari is shown in a frame from the recorded video of the U.S. Helsinki Commission’s November 15 hearing on Turkey, “Prisoners of the Purge: The Victims of Turkey’s Failing Rule of Law.”

Jacqueline Furnari, daughter of Andrew Brunson, shared an emotional plea for the United States to continue efforts to secure the release of her father. She spoke to the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, on November 15 in a hearing entitled “Prisoners of the Purge: The Victims of Turkey’s Failing Rule of Law.”

Andrew Brunson is an EPC teaching elder, arrested in Turkey in October 2016 and subsequently held on charges of espionage and terrorism. The hearing was held in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C.

“I know my dad and his character as only a daughter can,” she said, “and I know the charges against him are absurd. My father is not an armed terrorist trying to overthrow any government. My dad is a pastor who went to Wheaton College, then on to seminary and got a Ph.D. in New Testament. He has selflessly served Turkey for 24 years now. Everything in his life is centered on his faith. For my family, who has loved, served, and prayed for Turkey and its people, seeing these absurd charges brought against my father has been an extremely painful experience. The past year of our lives has been filled with uncertainty, worry, tears, and countless unanswered questions.”

In her five-and-a-half-minute testimony, Furnari recounted her childhood in Turkey.

“As I grew up, I saw my father pour himself into his work, and how willing he was to sacrifice his needs and wants for the sake of others. He believed, as I do, in a greater purpose in life and actively lived out his life with a purpose of showing people the love and grace of God.”

She also described her February 2017 wedding in a civil ceremony.

“We didn’t want to get married without my parents present, but because my husband is in the military, we could not postpone it. We had received my dad’s blessing, but neither of my parents were there. I will never get that moment back. For those of you who are fathers of daughters, I’m sure you would want to walk your daughter down the aisle. My father didn’t get that.”

Furnari concluded with an emotional plea to the Commission.

“My family has suffered greatly because of these absurd and false charges. Please make any and all efforts to secure my dad’s release and bring him home for Christmas. He’s been imprisoned falsely for far too long.”

Click here to view the 97-minute hearing in its entirety. Furnari’s testimony begins at 50:30, and she responds to questions at 1:10:34.

The Helsinki Commission consists of nine members from the U.S. Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce.