Outreach and Justice Ministries
Outreach and justice ministries have been a fundamental purpose of First United Methodist Church throughout its history. Our ministry of service to those outside of the church continues to be the way we most often identify ourselves. Our care for all people, especially those who are poor and vulnerable, is how we relate to the work and words of Jesus Christ. It is our hope that if you are not already involved in an outreach ministry, you will be inspired to join us by lending your gifts, talents, energy, and time to make the world a place where more people can experience, share, and celebrate God’s love.
HOPE FOR CREATION 2016. On Tuesdays in February, we invite you to a series of panel conversations in which clergy from various religions will discuss faith-based responses to climate change. The series is organized by Hope for Creation, a Kalamazoo interfaith organization dedicated to supporting local efforts to take action and care for the early community. The events are FREE and open to the public. Location: First Presbyterian Church, 321 W. South Street, Kalamazoo, MI. Time: 7-8:30 p.m. CLICK HERE for flyer and more information.
First Church's ministry for the hungry, called You Are Not Alone (YANA), provides a free home-cooked meal at 5:30 p.m. every Sunday in the lower level Wesley Hall. YANA welcomes helping hands to set-up, prepare food, greet guests, and clean-up. Please contact Ray and Ann Sweany at (269) 350-5977 if you are interested in helping. YANA's mission statement: Acknowledging that all people are created in God's image, we are committed to providing nourishment and a safe haven on Sunday evenings. Together, we hope to build a beloved community as we listen to each other's life stories and encourage each other's gifts. We invite all who value a community without boundaries to collaborate with us in YANA as we engage in the mission of the greater church. Opening our doors to all, we give out of our abundance as we lean on God for direction.
Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON) immigrant ministry. After our first JFON general intake clinic in November 2015, we began “Know Your Rights” presentations in Battle Creek, at the ICE detention center. Recently, ICE has been in the news due to a new emphasis on finding those remaining in the country after receiving deportation orders. While following through on legal judgments makes sense, it is possible that many people with such judgments against them may not have had adequate (or any) representation in court. This is because immigration is considered a civil, as opposed to criminal, matter; and as such, there is no provision for indigent legal counsel. Indeed, we learned that a number of women from Central America are being held currently at the jail. Because we are fortunate to be working with Maia Justine Storm, an immigration attorney with a long relationship with Calhoun County, county staff were able to facilitate a meeting between Maia and the women to determine whether JFON could help. Currently, we are working with eleven such clients, providing legal representation that otherwise would not be available. The difficulty people from Central America face is that, though the situation there is dire, it doesn’t meet official criteria for asylum. The 1951 Refugee Convention spells it out: a refugee is someone with a “well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion." In spite of acknowledged, rampant gang violence in parts of Central America, it is difficult to make a case for asylum, particularly without skilled help. We continue to reach out to the community to let them know of JFON’s presence in Kalamazoo and our mission. Everywhere, we find a welcome reception, with people using words such as “amazing” in response to the news. Thank you for your equally amazing support. For further information on volunteering, contact Ann Sweany at 269-350-5977. Monetary donations, of course, are accepted at any time. More information can be found at www.jfonwestmichigan.org or at www.njfon.org.
Journey of Immigration
The Justice Team JFON task force is guiding our congregation toward better understanding of our international character. Please share about your own family's immigration expereinces by clicking the link below. Your answers can be typed right into the form. Click "submit" at the bottom when you are done!