News for the Church, 7/2/21

Good Morning to you, Church!

Today is cool and breezy, a much welcome reprieve after the scorching temps from earlier this week. How do you do in the heat? Do you wilt like lettuce? Or, like me, do you look forward to the warmer weather?

I am saddened this week that strawberry season is coming to a close, but we ate the first 9 ripe raspberries of the season at our house yesterday, and blueberries will soon be on their way! Hooray for summer!

Here’s the news for this week:  

July Worship Schedule

I’ll be taking vacation this month, so I wanted to let you know the plan for worship for the next few Sundays.

July 4th: Rev. Shaun Whitehead will be preaching for us.

July 11th I will lead worship.

July 18th Rev. Rich Hinkle, recently retired from the Scotch Presbyterian Church, will be filling in at the pulpit.

July 25th Rev. Shaun will be back.

In August, things will be back to normal.

Humaira’s Project

We have an exciting ministry opportunity before us that session has decided we should think about getting involved with as a church. Let me tell you about it, to see what you think. 

Here is a short letter written by a young Afghani woman named Humaira. 

A handful of years ago she met Sandy Maine (who some of you may know) when they were both involved in a platform that taught English as a second language.

Sandy recognized then that Humaira was a special person— she was passionate and driven, intelligent, determined to get an education, and she desired to contribute to her country’s well being, despite living under the crushing influence of the Taliban’s patriarchy.

Humaira graduated from high school two years ago (which is a major accomplishment for a young woman in that country) and has been going to college since then, studying computer science at American University in Afghanistan (AUAF).

This year, by the grace of God and the hard work of a team of people in the North Country who are committed to her cause, Humaira was accepted to attend Clarkson University, where she will hopefully graduate in two more years. This is a timely miracle in Humaira’s life. Not only will it ensure that she continues her studies, but it very well may save her life— as American troops leave Afghanistan and the Taliban take further control.

Humaira’s family does not have the financial resources to send her to Clarkson however (she is one of 10 children). But that’s where we in the North Country come in. Clarkson has given Humaira $38,000/year in scholarships.  This is a great start, but she’s still going to need another $20,000-$40,000 per year to be able to come to school here.  Thankfully, nearly half of that money is for room and board, and Humaira’s team is seeking out families in Potsdam that might offer her housing—perhaps for a one-semester commitment.  

If housing is found, she will need $11,000 per semester (for four semesters) to cover her other expenses.

So far, there are a number of different groups of local people who have signed on to help support Humaira. The Canton UU Church is offering support, other Potsdam Interfaith Community (PIC) congregations are considering joining in, and we as a congregation are able to help some too.

Session is thinking that when it’s safe to do so (maybe this winter?), we could hold a spaghetti dinner to raise funds. There are also some of us in our congregation who are in a position to make a personal donation, and I wonder if there might be a family close to Clarkson who would be in a position to host Humaira in their home for a semester.

I don’t know the degree to which we would be able to support her, but what do you think? Do we have the energy and the excitement to put on a fundraiser dinner at some point later this year? Might you be able/willing to make a personal contribution to Humaira’s schooling needs?  Pray about it, and we will talk more about what our congregation can do later in the fall. 

In the meantime, if you’d like to make a personal pledge, see the attached letter. It has a picture of Humaira in it, more of her story, and information on where to send your pledge/donation.

Helping Humaira come to school at Clarkson is going to be a mammoth undertaking— even reaching as far as Sen. Gillibrand’s office. But together, as a whole community, we can help support this young woman as she seeks to learn skills that her country is desperately going to need in the future, and as she bravely pushes back against the toxicity of patriarchy, which seeks to strip her of her capabilities.

In the Old Testament we learn that hospitality to refugees and strangers has always been an important part of our spiritual practice. God charged the Jews to care for the stranger among them because they were once that stranger in need. That reverence for foreigners seeking shelter/help continues today. Leviticus reminds us: 

“When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt”

~ Leviticus 19:33-34

I know that we as a congregation have a rich legacy of supporting students from foreign places, so let’s be in prayerful consideration of how we might join the community of North Country folks helping Humaira.

In Faith,
Pastor Katrina