Staff Reflection


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“Home.” It is a word most of us speak or hear daily and perhaps hourly. It of course has different meanings depending on usage and context. When we use “home” personally, it refers to our residence; a place with at a minimum, a kitchen, living room, bedroom, and bathroom. I suspect that I am like most reading this article in that “house” and “home” were one and the same to me as a child developing language skills. In my case, “home” meant the same house to which my parents brought me from the hospital until I went away to college. Only when I had grown up did I fully appreciate the blessing this was, especially since that stability had been in jeopardy because when I was about five years old, because my father’s business went under and my parents had to take out a second mortgage.
What if we had no home? For me, that reality had perhaps not been so remote at one point, as I came to learn. Or what if home was far away? The Bible and today’s headlines are full of stories of such people.

You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. Deuteronomy 10:19

One well-known example of an uprooted people is the ancient Hebrews, who were forever wandering or captive. As a result, they were often removed from their beloved homeland. Part of each weekly staff meeting involves sharing devotions, which we take turns leading. My most recent opportunity came up last Tuesday, when I reminded my colleagues of the various Jewish exoduses. It gave me a chance to both reflect on my own recent trip to Italy and share my love of opera. I played for them a video recording of the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves from Giuseppe Verdi’s Nabucco. This simple tune of longing almost instantly became an anthem of national pride for Italians and remains so 175 years after Nabucco’s debut, despite its setting among a different people in a far-off land and time. In this case, the “home” was a nation, which perhaps is most relevant today to those refugee from war-torn Syria or places where gang violence is prevalent, such as much of Central America and Colombia.

This summer, members and staff of Westminster are engaged in learning and conversations to determine what we can do to be a place that welcomes the stranger. There are many, many considerations and it is far from being as simple as just hanging a sign that says “immigrants welcome” (though our signs have indeed drawn in worship visitors who have told us the signs made them feel comfortable!). Of course, we’ve been providing a temporary home for families for quite some time by hosting Greater Des Moines Family Promise. These families move into a permanent home after exiting the program. We’ve been part of helping over 100 men, women and children find a home. Last year we made a commitment to finance construction of two “tiny homes” in support of JOPPA’s planned housing communities for Des Moinesians experiencing homelessness. (It turns out that we’ll have an opportunity to actually build these houses; stay tuned to future newsletters for details.)

What does your heart tell you to do to in order to be hospitable? To what is prayer guiding you in thoughts and actions?
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2

Is it important for you to meet the “angels” you are comforting? Or is it enough to know that your contributions (monetary or otherwise) are providing a safe place for someone in need?

Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Matthew 6.

There are plenty of opportunities and no shortage of need.

Posted by Tim Wilson with 0 Comments

Family Promise

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by Judy Sebern-Beachy, Church & Community Chair

For the last five months in 2016, I had the burden, challenge, opportunity and joy of helping take care of my mother in hospice in her home in northern Iowa, along with my sister and our 91-year old father. The result of this journey was my relearning that life, at its essence, is really about people and relationships.

I reflected on this as I helped with our Westminster Family Promise HOST WEEK at the end of April. Twenty-seven Westminster volunteers provided evening meals and hosted three families overnight at church.
Family Promise is one of the few organizations helping homeless families get back on their feet. They have a 90% success rate of families being in their own home a year after they complete the program. Family Promise is supported by many churches in our community, but Westminster plays a unique role in that we provide space and some funds for their day center in our church, as well as hosting two overnight weeks at Westminster throughout the year.

As the new Church and Community Chairperson, November 2016 was my first time volunteering for HOST WEEK. My good church friend Jan Davison and I started a new tradition, which we hope to continue - we volunteered to be an overnight host for Family Promise. Basically, we had a slumber party at church, sleeping on comfortable blowup beds while we had fun hanging out in the library together. We either worked on an art project, or on a jigsaw puzzle, or just talked and giggled as if we were 12-years-old again. Not only did we serve God by volunteering at Westminster and helping Family Promise, but also we were growing our friendship in a meaningful way through mission work together.

Next Family Promise HOST WEEK, please join us, Jan and I or other volunteers like Linda Railey, Marj Luchtenburg, Linda Shelley, Vivian Thatcher, Steve Miller, Matt Culp and Roxanne Neary can help train you in this volunteer work. We certainly need more people to get interested in learning about how easy and rewarding spending some time with Family Promise can be. If you cannot sleep-over, then volunteer to cook a meal, and if you cannot cook- then sign up to bring pizza. Involve your friends, or bring your whole family and come build new relationships at Westminster.
Check out the Church and Community display board, in The Commons, for new #volunteer opportunities at Westminster!

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