… To be God’s hands and feet, striving to use our time, talents, and money to support those in need …
Erin’s Outreach Team is hard at work supporting over 20 organizations that help those in need here in Knoxville, in East Tennessee, and throughout the nation and the world with compassion, mutual respect, and love.
New Hope for Guatemala
Andrew Loveall came to Guatemala in 1999 on what he thought would be a short-term mission trip. He didn’t expect to like it and he didn’t expect to stay. He couldn’t speak a word of Spanish, not even “adios” or “uno, dos, tres.”
But feeling a divine call on his life, he quit his job and moved his family to Guatemala, working with a clinic serving the desperately poor who scavenge at Guatemala City’s massive municipal dump. There he began to encounter Guatemala’s street children. Their needs overwhelmed him.
Thousands of kids live on the streets. Incredibly, they are not abandoned, but come from destitute families who send their youngsters—as young as five—to beg and make money in tourist towns such as Antigua. There they shine shoes, sell souvenirs, and serve as tour guides. Many are victimized by those who take advantage of children. Few go to school. Often they are detested by local officials, particularly because they come from rural, indigenous Mayan tribes.
Over the next decade Andrew developed a unique business model, working with local officials to establish schools, clinics and other infrastructure in partnership with generous friends from the United States. Once established, the schools become eligible for funding through the Guatemalan Ministry of Education and do not need as much help from America. A mentoring program also developed, with Andrew giving key youth leadership roles in local projects.
Now, more than 22 years later, he is still here as the founder and director of New Hope for Guatemala, centered in Antigua. In a one-of-a-kind partnership with the Guatemala Ministry of Education, New Hope works in eight schools in five different towns (Antigua, San Antonio, El Rodeo, El Tesoro, and Chuchuca). They handle whatever the schools need, from providing teachers to replacing electrical systems and roofs. But most important, they mentor the students and help their families survive the disasters that are a part of everyday life in Guatemala.
If these children just had a fair chance, Andrew realized at the beginning of his ministry, they could do anything. Today New Hope is giving them that chance, providing a better future for the indigenous children of Guatemala.
Many of our usual activities were affected by the COVID pandemic over the past couple of years, but the determination and creative thinking of the ministries we support allowed them to continue their critical work. After months of lockdown and restrictions on meeting together, Erin’s members are able to again support local partners in person.
Erin participated in the four annual PC(USA) offerings: the Peace and Global Witness Offering in October, the Joy Offering in December, the One Great Hour of Sharing in April, and the Pentecost Offering in June. In response to the pandemic, we added announcements of these offerings to our online worship services and included instructions for donating through the Erin website, and are happy to report that even when we could not meet in person for worship Erin’s members contributed just as much.
On the last Saturday in January we again worked at FISH Hospitality Pantry. Though it was a cold day, more than a dozen Erin members helped serve 250 families and individuals.
In March we collected 207 packets of seeds for the Morgan-Scott Project, serving Morgan and Scott Counties where 29% of residents live in poverty. They distribute free vegetable seeds so their clients can plant gardens to help feed their families. The Morgan Scott Project also hosts a large garden and distributes the fresh produce each Friday during the growing season.
The PCUSA One Great Hour of Sharing offering was collected on Easter Sunday, April 9, and Erin again served at the FISH Hospitality Pantry in North Knoxville on Saturday, April 22.
In May we gathered diapers, baby wipes, and children’s underwear for Compassion Closet, a local organization that provides supplies to foster families who often receive children on short notice. Many of the children come with only the clothes they’re wearing, so foster parents can come to one of the Compassion Closet locations and get free clothing, toys, cribs, car seats, and other supplies.
We also got a special request from FISH Pantry to serve on May 27 and 12 Erin members were able to help them out.
Our local portion of the Pentecost Offering went to Drums Up, Guns Down, founded in 2021 by Obayana Ajanaku, the West African drum teacher for Austin-East High School and Vine Middle Magnet School, following the deaths of three Austin-East students due to gun violence. Mr. Ajanaku realized that traditional drumming has always helped people deal with anger, frustration, and pain. He created a program for youth and young adults so that through learning to drum, participants will not only experience emotional healing, but will be able to express themselves, develop effective communication and problem-solving skills, and learn to work with others in positive ways.
In June we focused on Dan and Elizabeth Turk, our mission partners in Madagascar. We informed the congregation about their work through newsletter articles, announcements during the church service, and bulletin inserts with special needs and prayer requests.
We also set up a GoFundMe account to help Sunset Gap repair their ten-year-old refrigerated truck. Without the truck they can’t pick up perishable food from Second Harvest, FISH Pantry, the food bank in Morristown, or Knoxville grocery stores.
We served our usual once-a-quarter Saturday morning at FISH Pantry on July 22 with 14 volunteers. We’ve also started collecting plastic grocery bags and egg cartons to help FISH package the food they give out.
Andrew Loveall, founder and director of New Hope for Guatemala, visited Erin the weekend of August xx, his first visit in nearly ten years. More than 30 members were excited to hear his presentation at lunch after church and find out about recent accomplishments and challenges.
We again focused on our campus ministries at UT Chattanooga, UT Knoxville, and Maryville College at the start of a new school year.
October saw the beginning of a new year for Justice Knox, with house meetings after church and the combined gathering at Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church, where we decided to focus on economic inequality—specifically, the difficulty of sustaining small businesses such as hair salons, as well as large ones like grocery stores, in low-income neighborhoods.
We also collected the Peace and Global Witness Offering and used the local portion for Sunset Gap’s ministry in Cocke County.
Dan Turk visited Erin on November 26 and updated us on the work he and Elizabeth are doing in Madagascar. This is the first time either of them has come to Erin in decades, and 15 people listened to his lunchtime presentation with food donated by Trader Joe’s. Madagascar isn’t well-known, and Dan’s visit helped us understand the serious challenges it faces due to poverty, drought, and cyclones (both exacerbated by climate change) and political unrest.
We again sponsored an Angel Tree for children through Sunset Gap Community Center, and Erin members bought five gifts each for 12 children. Our youth group wrapped the gifts (all 60 of them!) after church on December 3 before they were delivered to Sunset Gap. We also collected coats, gloves, hats, and scarves for children and adults at Sunset Gap—especially needed by those who sleep in their cars.
On Christmas Eve we collected the Christmas Joy Offering, which is administered partly through the Office of Pensions and helps current and retired church staff and their spouses facing financial hard times. Part of the offering also supports PCUSA-affiliated colleges that help develop leaders among students of color.
Erin members gathered towels, washcloths, and blankets for the homeless clients of Volunteer Ministry Center in downtown Knoxville.
After several years’ hiatus we resumed volunteering at FISH Hospitality Pantry on the last Saturday of February, and continued volunteering on Saturday mornings once each quarter. Fourteen Erin members gave up their Saturday morning on February 26 to help more than 200 clients—many of them families with children—choose food items donated by local grocery stores and other programs.
The Outreach Team created a list of Forty Things to Do During Lent. Each item included an inspiring quote and a concrete action, and many of the actions involved missions Erin supports. A list was sent out at the beginning of each week via email and Facebook.
The congregation collected diapers and baby wipes for the refugee family from Syria that our sister church, Powell Presbyterian, is sponsoring. Pastor Katina Sharp and Director of Music Becca McCurdy are former members of Erin and we were thrilled to support their small church in this huge endeavor.
A fund in memory of a longtime Erin member helped pay tuition for Pastor Mamisoa Rakatomalala of Madagascar, who visited Erin during our mission fair in 2017, as she pursued a graduate degree at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. The congregation signed a card and contributed toward a gift certificate to congratulate her on her graduation with highest honors in May.
A dozen Erin members served 211 guests at FISH Hospitality Pantry on Saturday, May 28.
We sent $500 from the Outreach budget to Central Bearden Baptist Church to help with meals and snacks for volunteers working at the Remote Area Medical Clinic held in their building the weekend of June 24-26. Volunteer doctors, nurses, and dentists provided free care to more than 250 area residents who could not afford health care or health insurance.
Around 40 Erin members and friends attended the Justice Knox Nehemiah Assembly on May 2 at the World’s Fair Park amphitheater. City and county officials agreed to specific steps to improve public transportation, deliver affordable housing, reduce gun violence, and promote more equitable discipline in our schools.
Five Erin youth and two adult leaders participated in a mission trip to Sunset Gap. Outreach contributed $500 from our budget for supplies the kids needed to complete cleaning and construction projects.
We sent the $450 remaining in our team’s budget to Knoxville Utilities Board. They have a program to assist members of the community who have a hard time paying their bills, and need for the program has increased significantly as a result of the war in Ukraine and rising energy costs.
Sixteen Erin members, including several new faces, volunteered at FISH Hospitality Pantry on Saturday morning, August 27.
Outreach focus for the month was the Presbyterian university ministries we sponsor: Hope House at UT Chattanooga, UKirk at UT Knoxville, and Maryville College. We informed the congregation about their work among students and their challenges as the new school year begins.
We sent $1,000 to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance as it provides crucial help in the face of natural disasters and humanitarian crises in the US and around the world. At this time funds are needed for the flooding in August in eastern Kentucky and in Texas, and the refugees from Ukraine fleeing to surrounding countries in eastern Europe.
September marks a new year for Justice Knox, and Erin held two house meetings to discuss issues that affect our members. Over 20 Erin members of Justice Knox joined members from 21 congregations at the fall gathering to select a new justice emphasis. Our new focus is the increasing number of unhoused people, not only in Knoxville city but in suburban areas as well.
We also collected the PCUSA annual Peace and Global Witness Offering, and send the local portion to Safe Haven Empowerment House, a group working with youth in East Knoxville.
Erin Church has sponsored Angel Trees for many years, where congregation members choose a tag from the Christmas tree and purchase the requested gift. This year’s tree is for children served by Sunset Gap Community Center in Cocke County, one of the poorest in the state. We collected five gifts each for 11 children, a total of 55 tags, and our youth group wrapped all of the presents before we delivered them to Sunset Gap.
We collected the Christmas Joy Offering, one of four PCUSA annual offerings. Funds support retired and current pastors and other church workers facing financial challenges, and also support Presbyterian-affiliated colleges serving communities of color.
Erin joined Justice Knox, a coalition of local congregations working to address the root causes of issues that affect our community. The organizational meeting for Erin was held via Zoom on September 6.
Erin participated in the Peace and Global Witness Offering, one of the PC(USA)’s four yearly offerings. Twenty-five percent of the funds collected stay in our community, and we sent this portion to Safe Haven Empowerment House, a group working with pre-teen and teenage boys in the Austin-East community.
We collected clothing, household items, and cleaning supplies for Presbyterian congregations affected by severe flooding in Waverly, Tennessee. We also sent funds to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance to support their help on the ground in Waverly and other crisis areas around the world.
Erin gathered health and hygiene items, blankets, and pillows for clients of Sunset Gap who are homeless and often sleep in their cars. Jigsaw puzzles were popular during the COVID shutdown, and an Erin family donated puzzles for members to purchase with a donation to Sunset Gap.
More than 25 Erin members participated in the Justice Knox fall kick-off at First Baptist Church downtown, and Erin was recognized as a new partner congregation.
We again supported Compassion Closet, which provides much-needed items for foster parents in Knoxville who often take in children on very short notice. We hung a Christmas tree with 50 tags describing specific needs. Erin members purchased or provided funds for cribs, diapers, car seats, children’s clothing, and toys and placed them under the tree. (PHOTO in Feb 2022 Erin newsletter)
Many of us used our unexpected time at home during the pandemic to clean out closets, and as a result we collected more than 50 new and gently used coats for the Morgan-Scott Project. This is, as far as we can remember, the most we’ve donated in the more than 25 years Erin has participated in the Coats for the Cold program.
FISH Hospitality Pantries
Florence Crittenton Agency
Helen Ross McNabb Center
Hope House—UT Chattanooga campus ministry
Interfaith Health Clinic
John Knox Center, Kingston, Tennessee
Maryville College Center for Campus Ministry
Mobile Meals of Knoxville
Morgan Scott Project, Deer Lodge, Tennessee
Near East School of Theology, Beirut, Lebanon
New Hope for Guatemala
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance
Presbyterian Mission Partners: Dan and Elizabeth Turk, Madagascar
Presbyterian Shared Mission
Sunset Gap Community Center, Cosby, Tennessee
UKirk Knoxville—UT Campus Ministry
Volunteer Ministry Center
Where is God calling you to share your faith, time and talents?
Come to our Sunday worship service where one of our team members can give you more information on how you can help through volunteering, planning, fundraising, and more. You can also join us for our monthly meetings, held the second Sunday each month after worship in the Outreach room.