Category Archives: Social Issues

Good Shepherd Center video walks the talk; shows Wilmington’s homeless in new light

Andy Lee

By Blogger Andy Lee
Walk the Talk

This is a great video. Very well done about our local homeless shelter Good Shepherd Center and the work they do.

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First person: Breaking the chains of religious tradition

By FRAIDY REISS
c. 2012 Religion News Service
Reprinted with permission

(RNS) Where I come from, girls are married off as teenagers to men they barely know and are expected to spend their lives caring for their husband and children. They are required to cover their hair and nearly every inch of their skin, and to remain behind a curtain at parties and religious events.

Where I come from, if a woman wants to feel her hair blow in the wind or wear jeans or attend college, the courts have the authority to take her children away from her.

Where I come from, you might be surprised to learn, is the United States. Specifically, New York and then New Jersey, in the Orthodox Jewish community.

Recently, two women have brought national attention to the fact that Orthodox Jewish women who leave that insular community risk losing custody of their children: Deborah Feldman of New York, whose memoir about her escape from the Satmar Hasidic sect hit The New York Times best-seller list; and Perry Reich of New Jersey, whose custody battle — which includes accusations from her husband that she sometimes wears pants — earned her an appearance last month on the “Dr. Phil” television show.

My story is similar to theirs. When I was 19, my family arranged for me to marry a man who turned out to be violent. With no education and no job, and a family that refused to help me, I was stuck. By age 20, I was a trapped, abused, stay-at-home mother.

Ten years later, still trapped and unhappy, I finally took what became one of my first steps away from Orthodox Judaism: I stopped wearing a head covering.

The consequences were swift and severe. My family cut off contact with me; one of my five siblings kept in touch long enough to inform me the others were contemplating sitting shiva for me, or mourning as if I had died.

Perhaps most shockingly, several rabbis informed me I should say goodbye to my children because I was going to lose custody of them during my looming divorce proceeding.

They were not bluffing. Numerous family attorneys unaffiliated with any religion advised me to stop publicly flouting Orthodox laws and customs.

As the attorneys noted, and as illustrated by Feldman’s and Reich’s experiences, judges look at religion as one factor in a custody dispute and generally view stability to be in the children’s best interests.

They have been known to award custody to the parent who will continue to raise the children in the same religion as before the family breakup.

Where I come from — that means here in the United States, in 2012 — women fear, legitimately, that they might lose their children if they lose their religion.

Feldman and I each managed to settle and avoid divorce trials, and each of us retained custody of our children. Others have not been as lucky. Reich, for example, remains mired in her custody battle.

Fear in the religious community, therefore, persists. I recently started a nonprofit organization, Unchained At Last, to help women leave arranged marriages, and the most common inquiry I receive is from Orthodox Jewish women who want to leave the religion and are willing to accept ostracism from their family and friends, but are terrified that a judge might remove their children.

For many, their situation seems especially hopeless because they, like Reich, felt pressured to allow a beit din (an Orthodox Jewish court) arbitrate their divorce.

The beit din’s binding decisions and agreements routinely include a provision that the children will be raised within Orthodox Judaism.

Secular courts generally enforce those decisions and agreements, even if a mother later realizes she does not want to raise her children in a religion where men bless God every morning for not making them a non-Jew, a slave or a woman.

Where I come from — the United States — the First Amendment is supposed to empower people to choose whether and how to practice religion, without interference from secular courts. What went wrong?

(Fraidy Reiss is the founder/executive director of Unchained At Last. She lives in Westfield, N.J. A version of this commentary first appeared in The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J.)

Historic Ephesus Junior Academy closer to reopening

Board member Ron Sparks poses with the Ephesus Junior Academy sign. He's trying to get the school started once more. Photo by Amanda Greene

By AMANDA GREENE
Amanda.Greene@ReligionNews.com

Since his days as a Wilmington city councilman, Ron Sparks has been working diligently on a project very close to his heart – the reopening of Ephesus Junior Academy.

The kindergarten through eighth grade school is located on two floors of the brick L-shaped side of Ephesus Seventh-day Adventist Church at 1002 Castle Street. In its 100 years, the multi-racial school hosted thousands of students before it was closed because of its low class sizes in late 2010.

Because it did not have the required minimum of 12 students enrolled, the school’s accrediting organization, Adventist Education, temporarily closed Ephesus Junior Academy just before its 100th birthday.

“My mother went here, I went here, my aunt when here,” Sparks said. He’s on the school’s board. “The church stands behind the school. To say we were not happy when it closed is not even close to describing it.”

Ephesus alum Carl Newton said his heart broke when he heard the academy had closed.

“Especially now, kids need a school like that. That kind of attention,” he said, now a graduation coach at Hoggard High School. “Everybody can’t go to the same school. At that point in my life, that school met my needs.”

At one time, the church was so dedicated to keeping the school open, it subsidized tuition, sending up to $3,700 each month (the amount due for 12 students) to its parent organization, even though it only had four students enrolled. Tuition at the private school was one of the lowest in Wilmington at $250 per month.

But it wasn’t enough.

Adventist Education challenged Ephesus to boost its enrollment to at least 12 students and raise $60,000 in payroll balances for its teachers before re-opening. There are other Seventh-day schools in the area including Wilmington SDA School, Carolina Adventist Academy in Whiteville and Myrtle Beach SDA Christian School.

Sparks blamed the school’s sagging enrollment on the closing of a daycare linked to the school six years ago and the lack of community recruitment.

But he said the school has had a lasting impact on children in downtown Wilmington. In its history, the school was located in Castle Hayne and off Beasley Road.

The school once held fundraising education banquets with invited speakers talking about the state of American education. In 2002, one banquet theme was “The Role of the Home, the Church and the Community in the Education of the Child.” In 1985, an Ephesus school fundraiser featured Kennedy Center and Crystal Cathedral performer Wintley Phipps.

Sparks hopes the school can return to being a vibrant part of the downtown community again.

To prepare for a re-opening, Ephesus replaced all of the school’s windows, installed a handicapped stair access to its second floor and bought all new laptop computers.

There aren’t any electronic smartboards at Ephesus, as there are in

One of the classrooms at Ephesus Junior Academy. The school hopes to reopen in fall 2012. Photo by Amanda Greene.

many local public schools. But Sparks says the school has something more substantial – small class sizes and one-on-one teacher attention.

“We have a long history of being able to turn children around, children who have been in distress in the public school system,” he added. “When issues break out in the classroom, what the public schools can’t do is pray with the children. Our children can pray together.”

Ephesus Academy’s curriculum includes a bible class at each grade level along with art, computers, language arts, math, music, physical education, science and health and social studies.

But “turning children into Adventists isn’t the mission,” Sparks said. “We want to develop moral children to survive in the modern world.”

Newton took away many life lessons from his time at Ephesus Academy.

“Teachers then were more concerned with you learning the lesson versus preparing for a test,” he said. “And just being honest and always thinking about your fellow man, having integrity, always trying to do what was right and acknowledging the fact that you knew right from wrong. We were taught to acknowledge that.”

Amanda Greene: 910-520-3958 or on Twitter @WilmFAVS

Court says non-Jewish man can sue for anti-Semitic remarks

By STACY JONES and BEN HOROWITZ
c. 2012 Religion News Service
Reprinted with permission

(RNS)A New Jersey appeals court has ruled that a man who alleges he

endured anti-Semitic slurs can sue his former supervisors — even though he is not Jewish.

Myron Cowher, a former truck driver for Carson & Roberts Site Construction & Engineering Inc., in Lafayette, N.J., sued the company and three supervisors after he allegedly was the target of anti-Semitic remarks for more than a year.

Cowher, of Dingmans Ferry, Pa., produced DVDs that appear to show supervisors Jay Unangst and Nick Gingerelli making such comments in his presence as “Only a Jew would argue over his hours” and “If you were a German, we would burn you in the oven,” according to a state appeals court ruling handed down April 18.

The appeals court did not consider the merits of Cowher’s case, only whether he has standing to pursue it. The suit, alleging discrimination that created a hostile work environment, had been dismissed by a Superior Court judge who ruled that because Cowher was not a Jew, he could not sue.

However, the appeals court reversed the judge in its 3-0 decision, saying that if Cowher can prove the discrimination “would not have occurred but for the perception that he was Jewish,” his claim is covered by New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination.

The “proper question” in this case, the court said, is what effect the supervisors’ allegedly derogatory comments would have on “a reasonable Jew,” rather than on a person of Cowher’s actual background, which is German-Irish and Lutheran.

Employment attorneys say the ruling is significant in that it expands the scope of who can bring discrimination suits under the state law by allowing a person who is not actually a member of a protected class to pursue a claim.

The law has typically been used to protect people based on their actual age, race, religion or sexuality. Judges, like the one who initially ruled on the validity of Cowher’s suit, have sometimes dismissed cases when there’s a discrepancy between the alleged remarks and a person’s actual characteristics.

The alleged slurs occurred from January 2007 until May 2008, when Cowher left the company due to an unrelated disability, according to his attorney, Robert Scirocco.

Gingerelli, who still works for the company, and Unangst, who does not, could not be reached for comment. Both men denied that they perceived Cowher to be Jewish, the court said.

Unangst also said that “perhaps” he had commented to Cowher about “Jew money,” that he had called him a “bagel meister” and that he had used the Hebrew folk song “Hava Nagila” as the ring tone for calls on his cell phone from Cowher, the appeals court said.

Cowher testified he had told both men to stop the comments, but they had not, the court said. Cowher’s attorney said Cowher is pleased with the ruling and intends to go forward with the case.

Cowher stayed on the job for more than a year after the alleged comments began because “he needed the work,” Scirocco said. He added that Cowher is now working as a truck driver for another company.

(Stacy Jones and Ben Horowitz write for The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J.

Nixon felon and evangelical icon Charles Colson dies at 80

Chuck Colson in prison. Photo via Religion News Service archives.

By DAVID MARK and ADELLE M. BANKS
c. 2012 Religion News Service
Reprinted with permission

WASHINGTON (RNS) Charles W. Colson, the Watergate felon who became an evangelical icon and born-again advocate for prisoners, died Saturday (April 21) after a brief illness. He was 80.

Despite an early reputation as a cutthroat “hatchet man” for President Richard M. Nixon, Colson later built a legacy of repentance, based on his work with

Prison Fellowship, a ministry he designed to bring Bible study and a Christian message to prison inmates and their families.

Colson founded the group in 1976 upon release from federal prison on Watergate-related charges. Prison reform and advocating for inmates became his life’s work, and his lasting legacy.

Colson had undergone surgery on March 31 to remove a pool of clotted blood on his brain. On Wednesday (April 18), Prison Fellowship Ministries CEO Jim Liske told staff and supporters that Colson’s health had taken a “decided turn” and he would soon be “home with the Lord.”

Due to his illness, for the first time in 34 years, he did not spend Easter Sunday preaching to prisoners, his ministry said.

”For more than 35 years, Chuck Colson, a former prisoner himself, has had a tremendous ministry reaching into prisons and jails with the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ,” said evangelist Billy Graham in a statement. “When I get to Heaven and see Chuck again, I believe I will also see many, many people there whose lives have been transformed because of the message he shared with them.

He will be greatly missed by many, including me. I count it a privilege to have called him friend.”

In many ways, Colson’s life personified the evangelical ethos of a sinner

in search of redemption after a dramatic personal encounter with Jesus. He also embodied the evangelical movement’s embrace of conservative social issues, although often as a happy warrior.

Today, Prison Fellowship has more than 14,000 volunteers working in

President George W. Bush listens to Robert Sut...

President George W. Bush listens to Robert Sutton, left, a graduate of the Prison Fellowship Ministries InnerChange Freedom Initiative, during a roundtable discussion in the Roosevelt Room Wednesday, June 18, 2003. The initiative is is part of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice System and the new prisoner reentry and treatment program proposed by the Department of Justice. White House photo by Tina Hager (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

more than 1,300 prisons across the country. More than 150,000 prisoners participate in its Bible studies and seminars every year.

The organization founded by Colson also provides post-release pastoring for thousands of ex-convicts, and supplies Christmas gifts to more than 300,000 kids with a locked-up parent through its Angel Tree program.

Colson also founded Justice Fellowship, to develop what he called Bible-based criminal justice, and advocate for prison reform. In 1993, Colson won the $1 million Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, and donated the money to his ministry.

As recently as February, Colson was still contributing to political debates, writing an open letter with fellow evangelical leader Timothy George that criticized the Obama administration’s health care contraception mandate.

”We do not exaggerate when we say that this is the greatest threat to religious freedom in our lifetime,” he wrote with George, comparing the mandate to policies of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

In 2009, Colson was a chief architect of the “Manhattan Declaration,” which advocated grass-roots resistance to abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage. He called the manifesto “one of the most important documents produced by the American church, at least in my lifetime.”

”The Christian’s primary concern is bringing people to Christ,” Colson told Christianity Today magazine in 2001. “But then they’ve got to take their cultural mandate seriously. We are to redeem the fallen structures of society.”

Colson also was a key figure in Evangelicals and Catholics Together, a network of religious leaders who found common ground supporting a “culture of life” and reaffirmed their stance in 2006 when they called abortion “murder.”

Religion was far from Colson’s mind during his early adult life, when his main passion was politics. A Boston native, Colson showed early signs of political acumen as a star debater in high school.

After graduating from Brown University, Colson enlisted in the Marines and rose to the rank of captain. Following law school and a stint in the Pentagon, Colson worked on Capitol Hill as a top aide to Sen. Leverett Saltonstall, R-Mass.

After serving on Nixon’s 1968 election team, Colson was appointed by the newly elected president as special counsel to the president. During Nixon’s first term, he was known as Nixon’s feared but respected “hatchet man.”

Colson once bragged of a willingness to “walk over my grandmother if necessary to assure the President’s reelection,” and was roundly known within the Nixon administration as the “evil genius.”

”I was known as the toughest of the Nixon tough guys,” he said in 1995.

Nixon himself described Colson as one of his most loyal aides. “When I complained to Colson I felt confident that something would be done, and I was rarely disappointed,” the former president wrote in his memoirs.

Among other activities, Colson helped set up the “Plumbers” to plug news leaks. The Plumbers engaged in illegal wiretapping of Democratic headquarters at the Watergate apartment complex, triggering the scandal that took down the Nixon White House.

Colson was also involved in the creation of the Special Investigations Unit, whose members broke into the office of Dr. Lewis Fielding, the psychiatrist of Dr. Daniel Ellsberg, who had given copies of the Pentagon Papers, a secret account of U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia, to newspapers.

Nixon aides justified the break-in on the grounds of national security, but

Colson later admitted that the agents were trying to dig up damaging information about Ellsberg before his espionage trial.

As the Watergate scandal mushroomed, Colson pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in 1974, and the felony led him to serve seven months of a one- to three-year sentence at Alabama’s Maxwell Prison as Prisoner 23226.

Colson later said he became a Christian before going to jail, and his time behind bars cemented his faith.

”There was more than a little skepticism in Washington, D.C., when I announced that I had become a Christian,” he said in 1995. “But I wasn’t bitter. I knew my task wasn’t to convince my former political cronies of my sincerity.”

In addition to his work with Prison Fellowship, Colson authored more than 30 books that sold more than 5 million copies, including his seminal 1976 autobiography, “Born Again.”

Colson became an evangelist for better prison conditions and championed what he called “restorative justice,” in which nonviolent criminals should stay out of jail, remain in the community where they committed their crime, and work to support their families and pay restitution to the victim.

Colson also forcefully advocated President Clinton’s impeachment and removal from office in 1998 over what he called perjury and obstruction of justice stemming from the Monica Lewinsky affair.

Newspaper series focuses on clergy’s role on both sides of Amendment One debate

David Scott

By Blogger David Scott
Politics + Religion

The Durham Herald-Sun is running a three-part series on how clergy are involved in the Amendment One debate.

Starting on Sunday (April 22) and continuing Monday (April 23) and Tuesday (April 24), the Durham Herald-Sun newspaper is running a series about how clergy are involved on both sides of the debate about Amendment One, North Carolina’s proposed change to the constitution for marriage between one man and one woman.

I recommend these articles to our readers.

WilmingtonFAVS: 910-520-3958

BRIEF: Two locations scheduled for National Day of Prayer next week

Prayer Mormon

Boy praying (Photo credit: More Good Foundation and Wikipedia)

The Wilmington citywide observance of The National Day of Prayer will be in two locations at noon on May 3: in downtown Wilmington in the courtyard beside the Main County Library on the corner of Third and Chestnut street, and the second location is Hugh MacRae Park on South College Rd. Each observance will include music and prayer and will last until approximately 1 p.m. There will be prayer for national leaders, local leaders, communities, military, families and many more topics. There will also be opportunities for attendees to pray.

Details: contact Dale Miller at 910-763-2452.

– Amanda Greene

Historians race clock to collect Holocaust survivor stories

Yad Vashem Hall of Names

By MEREDITH MANDELL
c. USA Today 2012
Reprinted with permission

JERUSALEM (RNS) Zvi Shefel recalled the day the German army arrived at his Polish town of Slonim in the summer of 1942. The soldiers immediately began mass exterminations and eventually killed more than 25,000 Jews, including his mother, father and sister.

There is nothing in that town that Shefel, 86, can find about his family,

Memorial to the Deportees, Yad Vashem, Jerusal...

Memorial to the Deportees, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, Israel Denkmal der Deportationen, Jad Vaschem, Jerusalem (Israel) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

he said while attending the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial Thursday (April 19) for the “Day of Remembrance” commemoration of the 6 million Jews killed in the Nazi genocide of World War II.

“I’ve visited all the archives in Belarus to find the names of people, but they weren’t there because the archives of Slonim were burned by the Germans when they retreated — but we have to keep the memory of what happened in order to never forget,” he said.

The annual remembrance was observed in Poland and other nations as well, and it took on special meaning this year to historians who are trying urgently to collect the remaining testimonies of eyewitnesses as their numbers dwindle.

One survivor dies in Israel every hour, according to the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, a nonprofit group based in Tel Aviv that helps care for needy survivors. Today, there are 198,000 survivors in Israel; 88% are 75 or older.

Israel’s Yad Vashem memorial contains the largest archive in the world of historic material related to the Holocaust — or Shoah, as it is known in Hebrew — and it has been intensifying its campaign to record the accounts of survivors. Teams of historians have been dispatched to interview elderly survivors in their homes and collect artifacts.

Holocaust memorial

Holocaust memorial (Photo credit: NH53 via Wikipedia)

“We are really racing against the clock to find every survivor and get their stories told before they die,” said Cynthia Wroclawski, manager of the Shoah Names Recovery Project.

Since its establishment in 1953, Yad Vashem, an Israeli governmental authority, has collected 400,000 photographs, recorded roughly 110,000 victims’ video testimonies and amassed 138 million pages of documents on the Nazis’ genocide of Jews in Europe. It was after the Holocaust that the United Nations approved in 1947 what many Jews had sought for decades: a permanent homeland in what is now modern Israel.

At Yad Vashem on Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a speech that the lesson of the Holocaust is not only to remember the past, “but to learn the lessons and more importantly to implement those lessons to ensure the future of our people.”

On Thursday, thousands of young people from Israel, the USA and other nations marched between the Nazi death camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau to honor the millions of Jewish dead.

Despite the immense scholarship on the Holocaust, many unknowns remain, including the identities of roughly one-third of the Jewish victims.

In 1955, Israel began creating a page of testimony for each victim, and by 2004, Yad Vashem had 3 million names when it first uploaded the names database to the Internet. Survivors have since added pictures and scanned letters to the victims’ individual pages in what have become “virtual tombstones.” At the end of last year, 4.1 million names had been recovered, Wroclawski said.

“We are trying to find them by name, which is an expression of an individual’s identity. The Nazis tried to exterminate not only the people but every memory of the individual and strip away their humanity and any memory of them,” Wroclawski said.

Shefel created the Slonim Jews’ Association in Israel for the few survivors from Slonim, which is now a part of Belarus. He and members of his group have been putting together a list of names from memory and came up with 3,000 for the Yad Vashem remembrance project.

“It’s very hard to connect the names,” said Shefel, who read off the names of his family members who perished, as did many others at the memorial. But “without history, there is no future.”

(Meredith Mandell writes for USA Today.)

Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a (Hindu) match

A Hindu wedding ceremony. RNS photo courtesy Flickr

By MEGAN SWEAS
c. 2012 Religion News Service
Reprinted with permission

LOS ANGELES (RNS) Kamna Mittal and her husband moved to the Bay Area soon after they were married in India in 2000. In addition to being in a new country, the couple were new to each other. Their marriage had been arranged.

“When you go for an arranged marriage,” she said, “it’s a total gamble.”

Now a mother of two, Mittal counts herself lucky that it worked out, but 12 years later, she wants to help Indian-American singles in the Bay Area meet directly.

Turns out even love can use a little help every now and then, and the age-old practice of arranged Hindu marriages is getting a 21st-century makeover.

Sapna Thakur, 34, recently moved to the Bay Area and attended Mittal’s first mixer in February, a Valentine’s Day-themed singles party. “Why not? Give it a shot,” she thought before going.

“It was a bit awkward in the beginning but then it was fine because there were a lot of games and people were mingling. I had a nice time.”

The marriage process is in flux in Indian-American culture, opening the door to new avenues for matchmaking. Even as singles’ attitudes on dating change, Hindu tradition still holds sway through mixers, matrimony websites and matchmakers.

Within Indian culture (which is predominantly Hindu), marriage is as much about families coming together as it is about couples coming together. Hinduism orders families into four major castes and thousands of sub-castes, each with their own particular ritual role or profession. Ideally, a couple must be in the same sub-caste, region and religion. Priests also compare their horoscopes to ensure compatibility.

Especially in Indian villages, matchmaking tends to be informal, using “extensive kinship networks,” said Lindsey Harlan, chair of religious studies at Connecticut College. When an Indian gets to a marriageable age, “aunties,” who are not necessarily related, start looking out for potential life partners.

A family also might hire a marriage broker to help the process along. These days, matrimony websites can serve the same broker role as the “aunties.”

Parents, both in India and in the U.S., create profiles listing their children’s personal and familial information — including caste and religion — on sites like Bharatmatrimony.com, which has more than 20 million profiles worldwide.

The website’s CEO, Murugavel Janakiraman, said 10 percent of clients are immigrants to the U.S. or American-born Indians.

“There have been a lot of more modern inventions trying to achieve the same goal as matchmaking by ‘aunties,'” Harlan said. Such inventions, she said, are “a reaction to the fear that kids will make inappropriate choices and suffer the same divorce rates that the (U.S.) does in general.”

Parties like Mittal’s can serve to either continue or break tradition: Singles might click with somebody outside their caste, or they could meet more of “the kind of people that your parents would like you to marry” than they might in everyday life, Harlan said.

Thakur’s parents encouraged her to go the singles party, even though they had wanted to arrange a marriage for her when she was younger. Now that she’s older, her father is more open-minded about who his daughter marries — “but it has to be an Indian,” she added, and preferably from one of the higher castes.

Thakur herself is also more open to arranged marriage than she was when she was young.

“When you’re working, it’s really difficult to meet people,” Thakur said. “You go there, you meet someone. You can meet them a few times. It’s basically semi-arranged.”

Thakur’s desire to marry reflects Indians’ traditional values at a time when only 51 percent of American adults are wed, according to 2010 Census data.

“It’s not like a flirty or just everyday kind of party,” Mittal said. “From the girls’ side or boys’ side, they are both serious about finding a life partner.”

Indian immigrants tend to look for the same religion, caste and region, Mittal said. American-born Indians might want somebody who is Indian, preferably raised in America, too. Ninety percent of Hindus in America marry within the faith, according to the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

“I’ve seen so much that blows those stereotypes out of the water,” said Jasbina Ahluwalia, a Bay Area matchmaker who serves the South Asian community. Still, culture can add a burden to dating.

“Separating one’s own priorities and values from expectations of others — family, parents — I think can be very challenging,” she said.

Even if parents approach her, as they sometimes do, the first consultation must be with the single person, in private. “If someone says,’I want to find another Indian,’ I ask why,” she said.

Ahluwalia doesn’t necessarily advocate a wholesale break with tradition, but clients need to have thought through their answers. If a woman says she wants to marry a Hindu, for instance, Ahluwalia asks what that means: Going to temple each week? Simply being spiritual?

Thakur is willing to look within the parameters set by her parents, but she has her own priorities: physical attraction, education, good employment and stability. She didn’t meet anybody she liked at Mittal’s party.

“I guess you become more fussy when you get older,” she said.

Bride and groom hold hands during a Hindu wedding ceremony. RNS photo courtesy Flickr

House of Mercy grows; looks to become a community center

House of Mercy volunteers pray with a guest. Photo courtesy of Global River Church.

Andy Lee

By Blogger Andy Lee
Walk the Talk

Global River Church’s entire ministry is based on Ezekiel 47. In this chapter, the prophet describes a river flowing from the threshold of the temple of God. Ezekiel experiences the water deepening into a river that flows into the Dead Sea, instantly purifying the sea into fresh water where fish can swim and live. Everything that touches the flowing water thrives. Trees line the border of the river, and the trees contain healing in their leaves.

This is the vision that constitutes GRC’s mission to bring healing, both physical and spiritual to those in need. One way the church fulfills this mission is through its House of Mercy. They not only give monetary assistance, they also pray for physical and emotional healing, and they have witnessed miracles.

When I interviewed Pastor Michael Satorre, the pastor of GRC’s benevolence ministry, I was struck by Satorre’s humility and gentle spirit. He is a man who has given his life to service for others and the God he believes in. But the House of Mercy did not start with Satorre. In fact, he never planned to be a pastor.

A former pastor named David Green and another member of the church, Annie Shaw, started House of Mercy. His experience of living in poverty as a child made him passionate about helping people.  They counseled and assisted those in need the best they could with a small monthly budget of $500.

Not long after Green started this ministry, he died of a heart attack. His funeral was filled with people from all walks of life who shared testimonies of how Pastor Green had helped them. They told stories of him buying groceries for their families, giving away air conditioners, and bringing Christmas presents to children. The testimony of his generous heart made an impact on the leadership of the church who knew this ministry must continue.

Since his death, Green’s ministry has more than tripled in size. It has a much greater budget, more volunteers and serves a wider demographic. People from three surrounding counties come to House of Mercy for assistance.

The House of Mercy’s doors are open 10 a.m.- 3 p.m. Fridays. It is

House of Mercy volunteers work with guests. Photo courtesy of Global River Church.

located in the Global River administration building behind the church. Participants can call ahead to schedule an appointment, but appointments are not necessary. Volunteers are available to counsel and pray with each client, and participants are provided a $20 Food Lion card and other assistance if needed.

Beyond their Friday ministry, the House of Mercy also prepares for hurricanes and disaster situations with its House of Mercy Response Team. The team stores enough canned goods and other non-perishable food to feed at least 250 people three meals a day for two weeks.

The House of Mercy also plans to start an after school feeding outreach that would involve traveling to different schools around the city to feed children who don’t get a meal when they go home.  For many of us, it is hard to believe there are children in our city who have no food at home. But this is the reality.

The program is modeled on the St. Louis Dream Center in Missouri.

“I see in the future of Wilmington a Dream Center, a place where broken families and single moms and just broken people can come and receive the love of Jesus without condemnation or judgment,” Satorre wrote in an email. “A place where they can receive healing and encouragement and especially hope. A place where they can receive medical, financial, spiritual help and shelter for homeless families, abused children and individuals.”

Sounds like a village of hope to me.

For more information contact Pastor Michael Satorre at 910-392-2899, ext. 103 or email him at mercy@globalriverchurch.com.