First Presbyterian Church of Glen Cove has always been mission-minded, helping to institute the North Shore Sheltering Program, which it houses during the winter months, and maintaining a strong relationship with the Interfaith Nutrition Network, as well as the Long Island Council of Churches. We are members of the InterAgency Council of Glen Cove and North Shore Clergy Association. There is a strong emphasis on peacemaking and social justice within the church.
New Orleans Mission
“Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler”
It was an eye-opener in many, many ways, and it embraced us both in its mysteries and its simplicity. You’ve undoubtedly heard the expression, “laissez les bon temps router”, in English, “let the good times roll”, but no where does that expression resonate more profoundly perhaps than in New Orleans. The work varied, but was all fairly intense because of the weather. The group I was part of spent time digging through dense, heavy, clay dirt. We also dug out beneath the house in preparation for a new foundation, cut old wiring out, took out old boards and flooring, cleared debris, unloaded bags of cement, etc. Returning from work the first day we felt like we’d suffered from heat, excessive sweating, sore muscles, aches, exhaustion . . . we were spent. Then we heard from one of several speakers for the week, about what Katrina was truly like for those who lived through it and are still living through 10 years later.
The theme we heard over and over again from the homeowners whose homes we were working to rehabilitate and make livable, the volunteers who had come early on, and who had found something very special in the neighborhoods and people of New Orleans, was “home”. People wanted to come home, to their houses, to their neighbors and neighborhoods. Generations of families are aching to rebuild and come home. They found what MLK used to refer to as “beloved community” there in New Orleans, even in the poorest sections, maybe especially there. People smile, they talk, even to complete strangers on the street. There is caring and compassion neighbor to neighbor. The cultural mix and the variety of traditions, foods, art, music, is rich. It gets into your heart, into your blood. We enjoyed Neighbor Night at our host site when staff from the worksites and homeowners were invited to join volunteers for dinner and conversation. It was amazing.
For one amazing week in June, I and 3 other clergy, plus 14 teenagers, ages 15-18, from 4 Presbyterian churches on Long Island, helped people in La Cumbre, Honduras build houses, replacing stick shacks with cinderblock/cement homes that offer much better protection from the elements.
Our mission team was hosted by Tim and Gloria Wheeler, Presbyterian missionaries in Tegucigalpa, who have organized, trained and helped resource numerous community projects throughout Honduras for many years. Our team worked with the local people, forming friendships, despite language barriers, learning the meaning of faith in action from the people who refuse to let their dreams die. We traveled through the mountains along dirt roads to work sites situated in the lush green rural countryside where people are growing corn, coffee, citrus trees, bananas, spices and more. They farm every inch of the land they have available to them.
One family we visited had been working for 9 years to transform what had been considered a desolate piece of land into a family farm that sustains them and they have dreams of increasing in the coming years. We saw steep mountain hillsides planted from the bottom to the top with corn and coffee and their coffee is delicious.
Once at our work site our team split into four small groups led by the local people. At each sub site the adults and teens pitched in, carrying 100 lb. bags of cement, shoveling and shifting buckets of rocky, sandy soil, mixing cement, lifting cinder blocks, twisting metal wire to secure steel reinforcement rods and other jobs. At lunchtime we gathered and were given hearty meals prepared by the local women. Then it was back to work until mid-afternoon, when we stopped in order to return to our evening location for supper, showers, devotions and sleep.
One day we toured the Mayan ruins and we also visited other sites to deliver school supplies and food packets. The Mayor of the town where we spent our nights treated us to an afternoon of hiking and sliding down water falls at a nearby nature reserve. He also gave us a presentation explaining the many partnerships he has formed with NGOs and religious groups to help his region. On the last day he gifted each of us with a certificate of gratitude and each church with a carved wooden cross using our denomination’s symbol.
The showers were cold, the electricity frequently went out, but our hearts were warmed and inspired by the generous hospitality and engaging welcome we all received. All of us were deeply moved by the people we met, the stories we heard, and the time we shared working with our neighbors to the south, our brothers and sisters in Honduras. We hope to return someday soon.
Heifer Farm Mission
If there is one thing I learned, or rather was deeply reminded of, on the most recent youth mission trip to the Heifer Farm in MA, was that we all need to get back to the basics of life. When we think of the basics in education, we think of reading, writing and arithmetic. When we think of the basics of life, we think food, water, air, and shelter. At the Heifer Farm we engaged with the basics. We learned about our common need for healthy food, which is dependent upon healthy soil, healthy water, and intelligent stewardship of both plants and animals. Everything in creation lives in interdependence on everything else, one way or another. Everything lives and dies and the earth is always renewing itself. That’s the incredible miracle of God’s creation. – Pastor Betsy
First Presbyterian Church of Glen Cove hosts the North Shore Sheltering Program from Thanksgiving to the end of March; homeless men are given food and shelter every evening from 6 pm to 6 am. They are breathalyzed, seen by a nurse, have a hot, nutritious supper, sleep in new sleeping bags, watch TV, read, talk with counselors, and have access to a shower. For more information please visit www.northshoreshelteringprogram.org.
For more information on the sheltering program contact Rev. Betsy Simpson at email@example.com.
US & World Mission
The members of First Presbyterian Church of Glen Cove support mission work in Glen Cove, the Presbytery of Long Island, nationally and around the world. Through annual budget giving, the church supports the programs of the General Assembly and the Presbytery, including seminaries, colleges, mission, churches, food programs, disaster relief and other activities.
Through special offerings and activities, the members of First Presbyterian also support non-budgeted programs.
Through the Interfaith Nutrition Network – food and monies are sent periodically to the local soup kitchen, which serves lunch on Tue, Thur and Fri each week of the year; special food and clothing collections are made at holiday times.
AA and NA groups meet weekly in our church.
There are two Hispanic congregations that meet in our church building: a 7th Day Adventist Church, and a Evangelical Hispanic Church.