Justice and compassion team

The Justice and Compassion Ministry Team coordinates the efforts of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church to help those in need. 

Along with other groups in the church and local and international community partner organizations, our goal is to find ways to work in solidarity with those who are hungry or otherwise in need. We feed the homeless and food insecure, provide school supplies for area children, support those affected by disaster, organize Volunteers-in-Mission trips, and help refugees beginning new lives in the community. 

We invite you to join us in helping others as an expression of our faith. There are many opportunities for service at St. Paul’s, and many ways in which you can participate in ongoing efforts and upcoming projects.


To learn more, contact Anne and Phil Rush, Justice & Compassion Ministry Team Leaders: annesprush@gmail.com.

Backpack Build 2018

Justice & Compassion has partnered once again with Interfaith Works to get backpacks and school supplies to our youngest neighbors in need, just in time for the start of the school year. 

Thank you to all the generous donors who provided school supplies and financial contributions between July 22 and August 8.  Following worship on Sunday, August 12, hearty volunteers stuffed the book bags. We packed binders, dividers, pocket folders, pencil pouches/boxes, colored pencils, markers, highlighters, scissors, and rulers in the backpacks. We were also able to provide crayons, filler paper, pencils, erasers, and pencil sharpeners. Backpack Build coordinators Leigha Gordillo and Angela Harvey transported the packed bags and supplies to Interfaith Works for distribution.

United to Love Rally

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August 12 marks the anniversary of the "Unite the Right" event, a 2017 gathering of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., during which a counter-protester was killed. The National Park Service has issued preliminary approval for the white nationalist group to hold a similar "white civil rights rally" on August 11 & 12 in Lafayette Park by the White House.

As part of a prayerful response and call to action, the Baltimore-Washington Conference of The United Methodist Church will host the rally "United to Love: Rally for Love, Peace, and Justice" on Sunday, August 12, from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., on the National Mall at 4th Street NW (near the Capitol Reflecting Pool and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian). 

The 11:00 hour will include a service of worship with the rally itself following, in the same location, at 1:00 p.m.

The "United to Love Rally" will stand as an alternative to the hatred, but it will also be much more as people of faith claim and share God's love, peace, and justice. We feel compelled to raise a prophetic voice challenging the climate of distrust, distortion of truth, and fear, so we may shift the conversation toward our common future. Bishop LaTrelle Eastering invites all individuals, faith communities, and organizations to cross lines of difference and gather to uplift the human spirit, renounce all forms of hate, and show that we are #unitedtolove.

This event is FREE and open to all. Those attending are encouraged to register at https://www.unitedtolove.org/

For more information, phone 410-309-3400 or email rally@bwcumc.org.

Nicaragua VIM

St. Paul's has an annual tradition of supporting a Volunteers In Mission team each summer. We had planned to take a team to Nicaragua in early August 2018.

However, because of recent political unrest in Nicaragua, we have decided to cancel this year’s VIM trip. Although the entire team is heartbroken about this, we feel it is the right decision.

We have been involved in the building of two new CICOs (community preschools). Construction has been completed and we were going to put the finishing, beautifying, and practical touches on them such as brightly colored paint, murals, and ceiling fans. 

Fear not, these finishing touches will happen without us so the schools can get up and running! We are so appreciative if you have donated to this year’s trip. Know that your contributions will be sent to the community preschools to cover the costs of supplies and labor. 

We all hope and pray that the turmoil comes to a peaceful resolution and that we will be able to offer a trip in the summer of 2019. Thank you, again, for your continued prayers and faithful support of this important ministry. Please contact Athena Gaalswyk, athena_gaalswyk@yahoo.com, if you have any questions.

Meet the Missionaries

The Justice & Compassion Team welcomed missionaries Nan McCurdy & Miguel Mairena at a pot-luck dinner in Heavener Hall on Wednesday, April 18. St. Paul’s has been supporting Nan & Miguel in their work for many years. They discussed their past, present, and future projects with us. 

You can also find this summary in the May 2018 edition of the Epistle newsletter.

Starting later this year, Miguel & Nan will join the team at Give Ye Them to Eat (GYTTE), a group founded in 1977 by Mexican Methodists and missionaries. The goal of GYTTE is to work with marginalized communities on sustainable development that will improve food security, housing, and overall health.  

GYTTE has offices in Puebla, Mexico but the majority of Miguel & Nan’s work will be in a remote town called Tlancualpican, which was at the center of a recent earthquake and saw the destruction of many homes. Besides learning appropriate agricultural and technological practices, the people of Tlancualpican are learning to make earthquake-resistant “straw-bale” homes, one of many alternative construction methods that uses sustainable, locally-sourced construction materials.

GYTTE also has a dedicated training center and test farm in the near-desert climate outside Puebla. There GYTTE facilitates Community Health Worker certifications, training on how to raise and care for livestock, workshops on how to build everything from solar cookers to water-free composting toilets, and much more. GYTTE serves as host for VIM-type groups working in Mexico. Part of the GYTTE mission also includes providing for “the spiritual growth of the Methodist congregations through training events and retreats for laity, clergy, youth, and adults, as well as the production and distribution of Christian Education Materials.” To read more, visit: www.gytte.org

Previously, Miguel & Nan spent 15 years in Nicaragua. In 2017, they came back to the United States on a year-long assignment as Mission Advocates for the Western Jurisdiction in the United States where they helped train and prepare new missionaries whose field assignments will be anywhere from 2 months to 2 years. One of the missionary teams Miguel & Nan worked especially closely with are the first Cuban Methodists sent as missionaries, Leo Garcia and Cleivy Benitez. Miguel & Nan enjoyed sharing their wisdom with Leo & Cleivy, who were medical doctors before feeling called to missionary work and who now serve as pastors and teachers in the Quéssua Mission, one of the oldest Methodist Missions on the continent of Africa, and are “Papi and Mami” to about 60 boys at the orphanage there.  

Miguel & Nan themselves participated in training sessions with the Disaster Response Task Force. In a newsletter to supporters, Nan wrote: “Miguel finished his Emergency Response Teams (ERT) certification last August and was part of the first ERT after Hurricane Harvey to reach the Rio-Texas Conference. Together with twelve others from California-Pacific and Desert Southwest, he worked with homeowners on five homes over nine days in the area of Victoria, Texas.” Despite a quick response, the full recovery process can be slow for families already struggling to make ends meet or those without insurance. Nan explained, “In a year, or two, or three, UMC construction teams will help families rebuild their homes… Construction VIM teams are still working on homes damaged by Hurricane Sandy!”

Miguel & Nan also spent time this past winter at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota to meet with and support the Lakota Sioux in their ongoing struggle to protect their source of clean water and their sacred land.

Miguel Mairena and Nan McCurdy are directly supported by offerings made to the United Methodist Church’s Global Ministries missions programs through The Advance, the UMC’s official channel for collecting and distributing donations. If you would like to make a donation towards their work, checks may be made payable to St. Paul’s UMC with the memo line marked “Miguel & Nan.” Their designated Advance ID’s are: #12877Z (Miguel) or #10801Z (Nan).

Ministry Partner Highlight:

InterFaith Works

Interfaith Works, founded in 1972, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency and a non-sectarian interfaith coalition of more than 165 affiliated congregations of diverse faiths, working together to meet the needs of the poor and homeless in Montgomery County, Md. Their trained, professional staff members and volunteers work with individuals and families in crisis to help equip them to lift themselves from poverty and homelessness through prevention, stabilization, and empowerment programs.

To get involved directly with Interfaith Works, visit: http://www.iworksmc.org/getinvolved/

On any given day, 981 people in Montgomery County are homeless, including 230 children. Almost 72,000 Montgomery County residents are living on annual incomes below the Federal poverty line, and 19,757 of these residents are children. The IW Women's Center Shelter, Men's Shelter, clothing center, educational, job readiness, and family programs serve those most at risk in our community.

  • BackPack Build

    In August 2017, St Paul’s did a fabulous job packing over 100 backpacks for school children in need. We packed binders, dividers, pocket folders, pencil pouches/boxes, colored pencils, markers, highlighters, scissors, and rulers in the backpacks. We were also able to provide crayons, filler paper, pencils, erasers and pencil sharpeners. It took 2 SUVs to transport everything to Interfaith Works! Many thanks to all members of St Paul’s for their love and support – especially the 2x4s Group families who used their monthly lunch meeting to help assemble everything! 

  • IW Women's Center NeeDS

    On June 12, 2017 the sewer line failed at the new Interfaith Works Women’s Center in Rockville and flooded the Rose Room dorm where 19 shelter residents sleep each night. All items that were contaminated by sewage had to be discarded, including residents’ clothing, documents, personal care items, and irreplaceable keepsakes. The losses turned what was meant to be a time of healing for residents into a stressful ordeal. Office equipment was also damaged, offices were rendered temporarily non-functional, water service had to be shut off entirely, and all 70 residents had to be relocated from Rockville to the Interfaith Works Empowerment Center in Silver Spring. Clean-up and repairs are still underway.

    Due to the nature of this emergency, St. Paul’s UMC responded to the IWWC request for monetary donations to help address specific needs quickly and efficiently. Through a special offering, our generous donors provided almost $4,000 towards this effort. With our help, they were able to help women in the shelter replace lost items, pay for equipment repairs, and restore a safe, clean, and beautiful facility for residents.