Proyecto Vamos Adelante

 Valcán de Fuego erupts on June 3

Valcán de Fuego erupts on June 3

During the Lenten Season, we raised over $1,000.00 for a non-profit organization that serves 24 rural villages nestled below three volcanoes outside Guatemala City.   On June 3, one of those volcanoes, Volcán de Fuego, erupted and buried two of those villages, El Rodeo and San Miguel Los Lotes, with a fast moving pyroclastic flow (lava, ash, fumes and rocks.)   Within minutes, entire families disappeared.  Two hundred individuals remain unaccounted for.  Homes, roads, and rustic infrastructure are devastated.  Rest assured, however, that when it is safe for people to return to what remains of their villages, Vamos Adelante will be there helping them to rebuild, restore and replenish.

Tragically, the  lives of these indigenous Guatemalans were a struggle prior to this disaster.  You will remember that Vamos Adelante has been reaching out to  these impoverished communities for over two decades - building schools, feeding the elderly, providing medical  services, check-ups, and vaccinations at a clinic staffed by volunteer doctors and dentists.  Our financial support also helps the organization provide water filters, woodstoves, solar lamps and small farm animals.  Sponsors are found to ensure school-aged children are in classrooms, rather than working in the fields.  Scholarships are also awarded to middle school and high school students.

I would urge you to revisit their website: and reacquaint yourself with their amazing work.  In the meantime, it’s a comfort to know that our donations are assisting in all of these efforts.  Vemos Adelante!  Ever forward!!

2018 Lenten Mission Offering

 Vamos Adelante School

Vamos Adelante School

Proyecto Vamos Adelante

Greenwich World Hunger Association

Vamos Adelante is a private initiative that serves a region of Guatemala where the population harvests sugar cane and coffee beans.  Therefore, they are without income for long periods of time.  Due to the lack of educational opportunities, illiteracy is widespread and poverty fosters illness and malnutrition.   The Vamos Adelante School (pictured above) assists children from nine villages not only with their academic performance but also provides the nutrition necessary to overcome the traumas related to their living conditions.  Contributions help to defray school fees, provide academic materials, uniforms and shoes.  Please give generously our Lenten Offering and support this amazingly successful venture to some of the poorest communities in Central America.

2018 Lenten Mission Offering

Proyecto Vamos Adelante

 Nina Jorgensen

Nina Jorgensen

Nina Jorgensen, founder

Twenty years ago, a 29 year old Pan Am flight attendant from Berlin by the name of Nina Jorgensen found herself without employment when the airline went bankrupt. While she still had free passage on several airlines, she made to decision to visit Guatemala – a random choice, which has ended up being a twenty-year “extended vacation.”  Nina is an artist and a photographer, so she immediately began supporting herself by selling her artwork on the streets of Guatemala City.   In her spare time, she volunteered at a local women’s prison, teaching inmates to read.   Over time, she gained the women’s trust and a number of them asked if she would look in on their children – many of whom lived in the squalor of Guatemala City slums.

Some may describe Nina as “quirky” and a “free spirit.”  But, everyone speaks of her compassion, particularly for those living on the margins of society.  She eventually settled in the gorgeous, little village known as Antiqua, nestled beneath three volcanoes – one of which, Fuego, is still active.   She quickly discovered, however, that on the “back side” of Fuego, an artist would have to paint a much uglier picture of Guatemalan society – villages where residents live in abject poverty – homes made of corrugated steel -  dirt floors -  no food, no clean water, no health care,  no education.  And so, she began reaching out to this “marginal” community through an organization she called Proyecto Vamos Adelante (the Moving Forward Project.)

Nina has an unusual approach.  She makes a “compact” with her clients.  If a mother will go to classes and learn basic hygiene, how to boil water, how to prepare healthy meals … if she will make certain her children go to school on a regular basis (and on time!) …. if she will take them to see a medical doctor, and not a witch doctor … she will, in turn, provide food and arrange quality health care.

Proyecto Vamos Adelante is the only NGO providing support to the indigenous community on the back side of Fuego.  Through the years, Nina Jorgensen's work has expanded to twenty-four villages.  And, it is making a real difference.  She has been in the region long enough to see children graduate from school, get married and start families of their own – all living parasite-free, illness-free lives.  Needless to say, her presence is larger than life throughout this region, because of the work she has been doing.

We are delighted to  dedicate our 2018 Lenten Mission Offering to Greenwich World Hunger Association, who has been enthusiastically supporting Proyecto Vamos Adelante for many years.   May our contributions help this worthy endeavor “move forward” into its third decade of service to the people of Guatemala!!

2018 Lenten Mission Offering

Greenwich World Hunger Association


Vamos Adelante (“Let’s Go Forward!”)


This year’s Lenten Mission Offering will focus on Greenwich World Hunger Association’s sponsorship of the Vamos Adelante Project, a NGO providing education, health and nutrition services for residents in the impoverished Esquanta region of Guatemala.  This remote area suffers the symptoms of chronic poverty - widespread illiteracy, malnourishment, parasite-related illnesses, and alcoholism.  Our offering will help Vamos Adelante staff various  health facilities and schools endeavoring  to improve education, hygiene, nutrition and overall physical, as well as emotional well-being. Throughout the Lenten season, we will focus on the projects currently underway.  So please give generously to this offering.  Checks can be made out to NGCC and we will send one donation at the completion of the campaign.

2017 Christmas Offering

Hunger In Suburbia


Hunger in suburban America has been rapidly growing.   Even though employment statistics have improved over the past decade, earning a “living wage” remains a challenge.  41.2 million Americans struggle with food insecurity.  This represents a 57% increase since the late ‘90s. 

Suburban hunger in  is often referred to as the “invisible epidemic.”  Without warning… job loss, divorce, medical injury, even death can rip middle class families apart.  Because of shame and a sense of powerlessness, many hide their hunger secret from family, friends and neighbors.  Pocketing food from work and skipping meals in order to stretch supplies are so common today that such practices barely register as a way of coping with hunger.

No one can function properly on a constant diet of microwavable macaroni and cheese mixes.  We need quality protein and fresh fruits and vegetables, especially children.  Resources are available for those who qualify: National School Meal Program, Summer Food Service Program and Food Stamps.  Tragically, government cutbacks in these programs are coming at a time when need is only expanding.  Local Food Pantries, like Neighbor-to-Neighbor, are now essential in responding to this epidemic.

Please give generously to our Christmas Offering.  Checks can be written to NGCC and we will make one donation to Neighbor-to-Neighbor Food Pantry, together, as a Church Family at the conclusion of our campaign.

2017 Christmas Offering


We are again designating our Christmas Offering for the outreach of Greenwich’s Neighbor-to Neighbor Food Pantry.  I recently came across the heart-wrenching account of an American family of four.  While they don’t live in our immediate area, their experience is sadly becoming all too common.  The father is unemployed because he suffers from Parkinson’s disease.  The mother works, but her salary doesn’t cover all their expenses.  They qualify for food stamps, but recent cuts in the SNAP program are taking a toll.  “We’re doing everything we can,” she says, “It just isn’t enough.”

When asked how it feels to be hungry, their daughter, Molly said, “It feels like I’m going to throw up all the time.”  Thankfully, the family receives food assistance and other essentials from their local food pantry.  “Sometimes people run out of money and can’t buy food,” the eight-year old adds. “If I had food …I would help anybody that doesn’t have food.”

It’s difficult for us to realize just how important a local Food Pantry is to those in need.  Please give generously to this year’s Christmas Mission Offering.  It’s the least we can do.

2017 Christmas Offering


At its meeting last Sunday, the Church Council approved a Mission Offering to be received during the Advent season.   Our local Neighbor-to-Neighbor Food Pantry will be the beneficiary of this collection.

There are dramatic income disparities among the residents of Fairfield Country.  When you add up the cost of food, housing, utilities, clothing, transportation, health care, taxes, modest retirement savings and unexpected emergency costs, too many of our neighbors are struggling to make ends meet.  In order to afford Connecticut’s cost of living, a family with two adults and two children (with both parents working) need to be earning well over $50 an hour.  (The minimum wage in our state is $10.10.)

Even though our Federal Budget exceeds $4 trillion, massive cuts in programs benefiting our nation’s vulnerable populations are underway.  Over the next decade, $193 billion dollars is expected to disappear from the food stamp program, alone. Thread by thread, the social safety net is being unraveled.  425 Connecticut residents (1 in 8) use food stamps.  35% support children.  28% are elderly. We need to wake up … and see the crisis that’s unfolding.

It is also why we desperately need community food pantries like Neighbor-to-Neighbor, who are scrambling to address insecurity amid the shadows of one of America’s most affluent communities.  Please give generously to our Christmas Mission Offering.  Checks can be made out to North Greenwich Congregational Church.  You will receive the appropriate tax information in your quarterly statement.  Then, as a church family, we will make one donation to Neighbor-to-Neighbor.

Say "Boo" to Hate

 Shelbyville, Tennessee Counter-Protest,  October 28

Shelbyville, Tennessee Counter-Protest,  October 28

An interfaith counter-protest to a white supremacy rally took place in Shellbyville, Tennessee this past weekend.  The gathering gave more than 400 individuals a unique opportunity to celebrate Halloween -  by saying “Boo” to hate.  Both demonstrations were peaceful.  Organizations like the Nationalist Front, the League of the South and the Traditionalist Worker Party chose Shelbyville for their  “White Lives Matter”  march hoping to rile up racial resentment in this diverse and working class town - where a number of immigrants are moving because of the work available at a chicken factory.  Little did they know that their event would be so vastly outnumbered.  170 Tennessee faith leaders came together to support the counter message of love and solidarity.  And yet, it was a young man in the eighth grade, son of Latino immigrants, who organized the “Honk - To Say “Boo To Hate”  protest, enabling even passersby to participate!!

Margaret Ernst, a UCC seminary intern working in neighboring Brokmeade commented, “As a northerner, born in Connecticut and now living in the South,  (this event) has taught me that at an  historical moment when white supremacy is looking for new recruits, the North and liberal cities on the coasts have much to learn from courageous, rural and working class Southerners who are showing the rest of us how to face our history and carve out a new future with humility and togetherness.”

Way to go, Margaret!!

Northern California Wildfires


“This is one of the greatest, if not the greatest tragedy that California has ever faced.  The devastation is just unbelievable.  It is a horror that no one could have ever imagined.”

Governor Jerry Brown

The United Church of Christ recently sent out the following statistics:

15 major wildfires are still raging

41 individuals are confirmed dead

200 people are still missing

40,000 are currently displaced.

3,000 community shelters are operating to house nearly 100,000 evacuees

217,000 acres have been burned

5,700 homes and businesses are reported destroyed

$3 billion dollars is the estimated cost of damages

9,102 FEMA assistance registrations have been filed.

With the help of our OCWM partners, 430 disaster workers are on the scene, serving more than 29,400 meals and providing more than 2,700 mental and health services.

Word has been received that the First Congregational Church of Santa Rosa was not destroyed.  The pastor writes, “It’s still smoky here, but the church is OK.  The major fire damage is only two or three blocks from us.  Unfortunately, 6 families have lost their homes.”  Others in the congregation describe the area as feeling very much like a “war zone.” 


Pray for Northern California

Global Refugee Crisis

Global Refugee Crisis


Our government recently announced that next year, the United States will welcome the lowest number of refugees since Congress enacted the 1980 Refugee Act.  Only 45,000 individuals will be admitted.  This decision comes as the global community struggles with the worst displacement crisis in history.  65 million people have been forced to leave their home because of violence and persecution.

The following statement was issued by Dr. John C. Dorhauer, General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ:

            “This Administration has now set the lowest refugee admissions goal in U.S. history, which is an affront to faith traditions like the United Church of Christ who work daily to accompany refugees and welcome them to our communities.  We cannot allow politics to influence the moral imperative to welcome refugees who are fleeing extreme conditions and facing political persecution.  We are committed to continue to lift up the voice of refugees and all those who are targeted by harmful policies that hurt marginalized communities.” 

In Matthew 24, Jesus teaches us that the way we treat the most vulnerable members of our society reflects how we treat Christ himself.  As a people of faith, we must do everything we can to call upon our elected leaders to increase refugee admissions, reaching out to those struggling to rebuild their lives and raise their families in safety. 

Puerto Rico Disaster Relief


The United Church of Christ has sent the first of what will be numerous grants to our ecclesiastical partners in Puerto Rico.  $10,000has been donatedto “Discipulos de Cristo en Puerto Rico” for first aid kits, electric generators, gasoline, drinking water, water filters, non-perishable food, battery-powered radios and batteries.  DCPR is also sending out assessment teams to interview victims, evaluate damages and seek measures to overcome the crisis left by the two category-4 hurricanes. 

Puerto Rico is facing a devastating humanitarian crisis.  The 150 mph winds and drenching rains left islanders without power and access to fresh drinking water.  With no power, waste and water treatment plants are now crippled … setting up potential for any number of water-born diseases.

Last week, the U.S. Government waived the Jones Act, a 97-year old set of restrictions which limit shipping between U.S. ports to U.S. owned and operated ships.  This temporary act will hopefully expedite the delivery of needed fuel, medicine, food and water todesperate residents.  Our UCC Justice and Witness Ministry is lobbying Congress to make the lifting of the Jones Act permanent, as well as designate the funds needed for long term recovery and rebuilding.

Caribbean Initiative

 Resident of Dominica pondering the future

Resident of Dominica pondering the future

Hurricane Maria is the latest in a seemingly endless line of tropical storms to devastate islands in the western Atlantic.  Tragically, this week the island nation of Dominca suffered the brunt of 160 mph winds,  leaving the lives of some 73,000 residents in ruins.

We have probably spent vacation time in one or more of the islands impacted by this season’s hurricanes:  Antiqua, Anquilla, Baruda, The Bahamas, Cuba, Culebra, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe. Haiti, Montserrat, Nevis, Puerto Rico, St. Barts, St. John, St.Kitts, St. Martin,  Turks and Caicos, Vieques, and the Virgin Islands.  The extent of the losses is simply “mindboggling.”  It will take years for people in the Caribbean to rebuild their homes and lives.

Sadly, these tragedies have come precisely at the time when the United Church of Christ’s Global Ministries is promoting its “Caribbean Initiative,” an 18-month program designed to raise consciousness of the issues, priorities, successes and struggles of our partners in seven Caribbean nations, including Venezuela and Colombia.  Needless to say, the Initiative (announced this past summer) will be taking on an entirely different meaning and context.  

Our thoughts and prayers are with all those impacted by the storms and the UCC Disaster ministries endeavoring to assess the overwhelming need.  Among the original objectives of the “Caribbean Initiative” is to know the joys and concerns of our neighbors, and in so doing,   understand ourselves, our world and our faith anew.   Little did we know how important those goals would soon become.

Cacao Sustainable Initiative


 As Hurricane Irma pummels the Caribbean Islands, my thoughts and prayers are with the small holding farmers whose crops will be totally destroyed.  During my trips to Haiti, I met a number of local cacao growers who provide raw materials to various multi-national corporations.  Needless to say, when the supply chain is interrupted by ever-increasing extreme weather patterns, the chocolate industry is severely impacted.  The African drought is having the same catastrophic effect, as well. Climate science suggests the dilemma will only get worse. While it’s important for governments to engage and address issues involving climate change, it will – no doubt - be the private sector that affects the transformational changes needed to reverse the trend.

In a September 6 on-line posting, Business Insider reported that the British chocolate giant, Mars Corporation, has decided to set aside $1 billion to fight climate change. CEO Grant Reid has indicated that the consequences of doing nothing will lead only to the further global calamity. Mars is upfront.  They are a food business, based on agriculture.  Their primary concern is the supply of raw materials required to support their $35 billion dollar business. This investment is being done to protect profits.  At the same time, they are beginning to realize that their own future requires reducing the company’s carbon footprint by 60%, and challenge other corporations to see the same handwriting-on-the-wall by following their lead.

Even though I continue to have serious issues with the multi-national companies who drive the cacao industry (particularly their exploitation of child labor) the Mars Cacao Sustainable Initiative is perhaps the most encouraging sign of environmental action to date.

 Processing cacao beans in Haiti

Processing cacao beans in Haiti

Hurricane Harvey


Hurricane Harvey made landfall on August 25 as a Category 4 storm packing 130 mph winds.  It devastated the town of Rockport, near Corpus Christi, and has caused unprecedented flooding throughout southern Texas and Louisiana.  Some 8 million people are currently impacted by more than 50 inches of rain.  It is estimated that 30,000 people are currently displaced and over 500,000 homes have sustained some form of damage.  FEMA is preparing for 450,000 assistance applications in the coming weeks.  It is sizing up to be the largest housing recovery effort in U.S. history.

As always, the United Church of Christ Disaster Ministries are prepared for long-term recovery work in the region - coordinating efforts with the leaders in the South Central Conference, our Church World Service partners, as well as federal and state agencies.  Not only will our Wider Church be assisting in the rebuilding of homes and communities, we will also provide psychological and spiritual support for those who have lost everything in the wake of this catastrophic event.

Our prayerful and financial support of the UCC’s “Our Church’s Wider Mission” helps to make these ministries possible.


  Floral Tribute to Heather Heyer, who was killed in Charlottesville, VAon August 11

Floral Tribute to Heather Heyer, who was killed in Charlottesville, VAon August 11

Among the racial and homophobic epithets hurled at the White Nationalist rallies this past weekend was: “Blood and Soil.”  This phrase first appeared within a 19th century European agrarian movement determined to take certain countries “back” from what was perceived as a growing, decadent, urban elite.   It was later adopted into the Fascist lexicon of Hitler’s Third Reich.  “Blood and Soil” would come to promote the control of certain territory (soil) by a certain race (blood.)

We see “blood and soil” ideology popping up in today’s political discourse, not only when privileged, young men chant it in the street, but when a White House spokesperson accuses a journalist of being “too “cosmopolitan,” or when an elected official rants that our “heritage and culture” are under siege.

We no longer have to wonder whether there is a White Nationalist agenda underfoot in American society.  It is staring us in the face.  Rarely does our nation face such moments of moral clarity.  There is no room for equivocation.  As Americans, but more importantly as Christians, this “Blood and Soil” agenda must be denounced and repudiated.



  Keyhole garden: Zimbabwe

Keyhole garden: Zimbabwe

Christian Care Zimbabwe

We have been supporting Christian Care Zimbabwe's outreach to the famine-stricken nation.  A three-year drought has destroyed traditionally grown crops and killed essential livestock.  Some 3 million people are currently impacted.

Christian Care Zimbabwe is helping to finance low input “key-hole” gardens in the hardest hit Chipinge district.  One hundred “nutritionally vulnerable” households were selected to participate in this project. Eligibility required family units to have at least one member in the following categories: pregnant and new mothers, families with kids under the age of 5, persons living with HIV/AIDS or tuberculosis, or individuals with disabilities.  Each household receives training and supervision to grow mineral rich vegetables, despite climactic challenges - including temperatures that soar to 113 F.  To date, 75% of the households have been successful in meeting their daily vegetable requirements.  Some have even grown surpluses that are sold at local markets.

Christian Care Zimbabwe is a self-development of people program -  Zimbabweans training fellow Zimbabweans - to promote agricultural sustainability during perhaps the most challenging humanitarian crisis of our time.

Syrian Refugee Crisis

The U.S. Refugee Admissions Program  (USRAP)

A letter co-authored by Senator’s Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and James Lankford (R-OK) was recently sent to Secretary of State Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelley asking for clarity about the status and future of the United States Refugee Resettlement Program.  This bi-partisan inquiry is also signed by fifteen other Republican and Democratic colleagues, including Connecticut’s Chris Murphy.  The letter asks for specific information in light of an Executive Order that temporarily suspends refugee resettlement, now being prevented by a court injunction.

The letter states:  “The USRAP is a critical pillar of our national foreign policy and enables the United States to fulfill key international commitments.  Refugees come from the most vulnerable and persecuted populations around the world and are the most securely vetted travelers to the United States.  According to the United Nations, we are in the midst of the largest refugee crisis in modern history.  We must not lose focus of our need to protect others fleeing persecution around the world.”

Needless to say, we are all eager to learn about the responses from Secretaries Tillerson and Kelley.  The United Church of Christ and its Church World Service partners stand ready to work with the Administration and the USRAP in securing a path for refugees seeking safety around the globe.