Community News – September 2012

Runners Raise Money for PWS&D

Barb Summers poses with a group of children in Dadaab, Kenya.

A team of runners has announced they will participate in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on behalf of Presbyterian World Service and Development.

The team aims to raise $10,000 in support of the church’s relief and development work around the world.
Barb Summers, one of the team’s members, sees the Oct. 14 marathon as a way to say “farewell and thank you to PWS&D.”

Until recently, Summers served as PWS&D’s communications coordinator. As of this month she is associate secretary of Communications.

To honour “the many people I’ve been blessed to meet in my five years with PWS&D … I wanted to do something meaningful to wrap up,” said Summers.

“The money raised through the marathon will be undesignated, meaning the funds will be used where the need is greatest.”

Team PWS&D has invited church members across Canada to sponsor individual runners, donate to the team or join the marathon.

More information is available on ¦ —Seth Veenstra

HIV Activist Passes Away

Human rights advocate John Plater, 45, passed away July 28 due to complications caused by HIV and Hepatitis C.

Plater’s health struggles shaped his work: he was determined to make the health system safer for others.
Diagnosed with severe Hemophilia A at the age of one, he was later infected with HIV and Hepatitis C through a tainted blood transfusion.

“He was the driving force of our organization for the last 20 years,” said David Page, executive director of the Canadian Hemophilia Society.

Plater also helped lead the call for the Inquiry on the Blood System in Canada and worked to attain compensation for those who received contaminated blood.

Professionally, he worked as a lawyer, practicing with ARCH: A Legal Resource Centre for People with Disabilities before starting his own practice in 2000.

“The word that comes to mind when I think of John is ‘giant’,” said Page. “He had a giant intellect and a giant character. With his booming voice and bright red hair, he was larger than life.

“He treated everyone fairly. He was compassionate towards everyone he met. And I believe that stemmed from his faith.”

Plater is survived by his wife Karen, the Presbyterian Church’s associate secretary for Stewardship.
“John always put other people before himself,” she told CBC Radio on Aug. 1. “He was driven to care for people and to live life to the fullest no matter what he was doing, no matter what was going on. … We always said we needed to love hard, to play hard and to work hard and we tried to do them in that order.”
In an statement, the PCC expressed its sadness at Plater’s passing as well as gratitude for his “tireless support for Karen in her work.” ¦ —SV

PCC Supports Internship

Brockenshire Lemiski is the most recent intern hired by Project Ploughshares through its partnership program with the Presbyterian Church in Canada.

The Christian social justice organization based in Waterloo, Ont., works with churches and governments worldwide to create peace by developing policies with partners in conflict zones.

Lemiski recently completed a diploma in international development at Humber College, Toronto.

“I was attracted to Project Ploughshares because of their focus on the critical links between conflict and
development,” said Lemiski.

The internship program, founded in 2007 by the church, “gives young Presbyterians an opportunity to participate in an ecumenical agency we support and to learn about global issues,” said Stephen Allen, associate secretary of Justice Ministries.

While Ploughshares provides the bulk of the training, the church, using undesignated bequests, covers the salary and administrative costs associated with the internship.

“It’s about building future leadership in the church,” said Allen. ¦ —SV

Microcredit Helps Build a Better World

Her organization is making people “bankable,” Nandy Heule, director of investor relations at Oikocredit, told staff during a presentation at the Presbyterian Church’s national offices.

“There are millions who are unbankable—who cannot gain access to financial services,” she said. “This means they cannot have a loan or insurance or a mortgage. That is a huge impediment to growth—economic growth, community development.”

Oikocredit provides private funding to microfinance institutions. These, in turn, offer loans for individuals, businesses and co-operatives to invest in their local communities. The ecumenical organization specifically lends capital to organizations that provide sustainable opportunities for people living in poverty, such as credit and savings co-operatives and fair trade organizations.

The Presbyterian Church has been investing in the work of Oikocredit since 1987, when the organization opened its first Canadian office. The Women’s Missionary Society is also among its investors. ¦ —SV

Worship Between Canadian and Syrian Congregations

St Andrews and Homs
Huda Kandalaft translates as members of St. Andrew’s, Ottawa, worship with the Presbyterian Church in Homs, Syria.

A month after Homs, Syria, was heavily bombed by government forces, a Presbyterian church in Homs and one in Ottawa held a joint service over speaker phone.

On July 15, the churches shared prayers and testimonies through a translator and sang hymns in Arabic and English.

“What we heard was an amazing spirit of strength and trust in God in the midst of so much desolation and destruction,” said Rev. Andrew Johnston, minister at St. Andrew’s, Ottawa.

“It was very emotional and moving. I think everyone was touched to hear their story and to be able to speak to them,” said Huda Kandalaft, director of Christian development at St. Andrew’s and a former member of Homs Presbyterian. She joined the Ottawa congregation in October 2011.

“It was like speaking to the early church when the early Christian believers worshipped, believed and lived out their call even though they were surrounded by death and despair,” she said.

During the service “their prayers were for all Syrians,” Johnston said of the Homs church. “They didn’t ask for prayers for their congregation. They didn’t ask for prayers for Christians. They said, ‘Pray for us all.'” ¦ —SV

Church Anniversary an Opportunity

Victoria Chinese celebrated its 120th anniversary by renewing its commitment to evangelism and outreach.
“We are praying for a vision for our near future,” said Rev. Gwendolin Lam. “There are and will be a lot of questions and challenges laid before us, but we trust God.

“We are close to downtown, which has more social issues. It’s a challenge, but also an opportunity to serve.”

Lam is adamant that no matter what happens they plan to continue ministering to Victoria.

“Our goal is to bring people to God—to build them up by instruction and fellowship for ministry in the church in order to magnify God.” ¦ —SV