One Great Hour of Sharing

One Great Hour of Sharing brings hope and healing to the most vulnerable

March 19, 2024 by by Emily Enders Odom

Annual offering helps restore lives and livelihoods across the U.S. and around the world

For Shawn Duncan, it’s the little things — like getting a birthday card — that mean a lot.

Duncan, a military veteran living in Las Vegas, hadn’t had a mailbox in years. Or a home.

The Michigan native had been struggling for years with homelessness and mental health issues — including PTSD — when a chance encounter on Facebook with his former youth pastor changed the direction of his life.

“I hadn’t talked to him in years, but he called me and said, ‘Hey, let’s talk,’” Duncan recalled. “And we prayed. That’s when he introduced me to Caridad and Merideth.”

Caridad Gardens, a Las Vegas-based nonprofit dedicated to helping and “humanizing the homeless,”  offers job skills training and mental, emotional and physical wellness programs. Its founder, Merideth Spriggs, a former youth pastor, was once homeless herself.

Spriggs started the organization in San Diego not long after the university where she had been employed laid her off. As a result, she lost everything, including her home.

“I realized if homelessness could happen to me, it could happen to anybody,” said Spriggs, who moved Caridad to Las Vegas in 2013.

The street-centered V.I.P. “concierge approach” of Caridad Gardens is made possible, in part, through a grant from the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People (SDOP), which is in turn supported by Presbyterians’ generous gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing.

For 75 years, its purpose of helping neighbors in need around the world has remained constant, giving the PC(USA) and other Christian denominations a tangible way to share God’s love. In addition to SDOP, One Great Hour of Sharing also supports the ministries of the Presbyterian Hunger Program and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.

Although the Offering may be taken anytime, most congregations receive it on Palm Sunday or Easter Sunday, which this year fall on March 24 and March 31, respectively.

“Merideth is not someone who is just talking about something,” said Duncan. “She’s actually doing something. She’s not necessarily beating people over the head with the Bible; she’s living it — walking the walk and treating people with kindness and respect. It gives me something to be a part of. It tells me something that I want to be.”

As Caridad’s mission continues to expand, the organization has added two new partners. Caridad assumed oversight of Hebron, a low-income housing complex for veterans, people experiencing homelessness and seniors, and they gained use of a farm through the Las Vegas Rescue Mission.

Duncan is grateful to Caridad for providing him with stable housing and employment as well as for helping him get the counseling and medications he needs.

But for Duncan, it’s the sense of community that is paramount.

“Meeting people and forming relationships, where we share common things — our struggle with mental health, our struggle with homelessness — we’re able to support each other,” he said.

Offering improves the lives and livelihoods of women in Malawi

A world away in the southeast African country of Malawi, women like Tinenenji Kalamba also place a high emphasis on community, a guiding principle behind the Women’s Bakery and Value Addition Centre. The program is a project of Kasupe Ministries, a registered nongovernmental organization in Malawi.

Kasupe was originally designed to address the shortage of nutritious and healthy foods in the Kasupe region by having women produce and sell a variety of baked goods and farm products. The bakery not only employed local women as bakers, but — before Tropical Cyclone Freddy struck in March 2023 — also bolstered the production of farmers and strengthened the economy.

Kalamba was proving to be an exemplary leader when the devastating storm washed away the lives and livelihoods of thousands. This wasn’t the hopeful future that the twice-widowed 42-year-old had pictured for herself when the bakery was first started in 2022 with funding support from the Presbyterian Hunger Program (PHP).

Although Kalamba dropped out of school at the age of 12, she is widely acknowledged as the business-savvy woman behind the bakery’s success.

“I desperately wanted to lead,” she said. “I noticed that this project had potential, and I wanted to be at the forefront. I can’t lie; I also wanted to benefit since I thought I needed more of the money than the rest.”

Kalamba is HIV-positive, requiring a regimen of antiretrovirals, which are not always available at no cost. She also has nine mouths to feed — herself, her four children, their two children, as well as two grandchildren from her late sister. She works to give them a better life.

“I want to make sure that my children go farther with school,” she said. “I dream of them going to college, and I tell them never to be like me when it comes to the issues of school. I teach them to work hard, fear God and always face challenges head-on.”

It is thanks to Kalamba’s faithful leadership that the bakery operation survived the cyclone.

And it is thanks to a grant from the PHP, made possible by Presbyterians’ generous gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing, that the humanitarian outreach of Kasupe Ministries can continue uninterrupted.

“Tinenenji is the first to arrive and the last to leave the bakery,” said Dr. Fletcher Padoko, executive director of Kasupe Ministries. His long-term goal is to reverse generational poverty and eradicate preventable diseases, namely HIV/AIDS, in partnership with Malawian nongovernmental Christian organizations.

Valéry Nodem, PHP’s associate for International Hunger Concerns, said that in the years he has worked with Kasupe, he is “always amazed at how much they can do with so little.”

“What’s unique about Kasupe is their approach, especially the way they relate to the community,” Nodem said. “They are grassroots, not top down. They go out into the communities and find out what they need. Even if they don’t have the money right away, they start the programs. They’re making a big impact with what they have.”

Although the rebuilding process after the cyclone has been hard for people in the villages, the women like Kalamba are still able not only to survive, but also to thrive in this hostile environment.

“Kalamba stands tall to be counted not just as a participant in community life, but as a leader,” said Padoko.

Restoring households on the brink of disaster

In a similar way, Bernadette [who has asked that only her first name be used] thought that she had seen the worst of what natural and human-caused disasters could do.

For well over a decade, she and her family withstood Syria’s humanitarian and economic crisis, the country’s ongoing localized hostilities and its collapsing infrastructure.

But now — following the devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Syria and Turkey in 2023 — the longtime school supervisor’s home began crumbling beneath her feet.

"The building we live in had cracks,” she said. “In our apartment, there were cracks in the beams and columns and the wall.”

And yet, despite the significant damage to their home and the danger to their family, they stayed.

Although most of their neighbors had left the unsafe apartment building, Bernadette’s family remained in their home because they had no choice. Not only did they have no other family to take them in, but they also simply couldn’t afford to pay the escalating rent costs elsewhere. Between her meager salary and her husband’s — even lower than hers — their combined income is barely sufficient to meet the family’s basic needs.

“Our economic situation is very bad,” said Bernadette. “We can only buy essential food items like bread, rice, bulgur and vegetable oil on a daily basis in small quantities.”

In the midst of such dire conditions — families pushed to the brink, many without access to water, shelter, education, medical care and other essential services — the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), a long-term partner of the PC(USA), works around the clock to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people.

“What we offer can bring hope and show solidarity,” said Samer Laham, regional director of Diakonia, the branch of MECC that administers its social, humanitarian and development services programs.

“Whenever people are unable to secure basic needs, some families adopt negative coping mechanisms such as reducing meals, resorting to child labor, or, as a last resort, many find a way to leave Syria,” he added. “What the MECC does is continually seek to support the people of Syria. We have aided families like Bernadette’s, whose homes were damaged by the earthquake in Aleppo, working to ensure that they live in a stable building where their children can sleep safely.”

The humanitarian mission of the MECC is made possible, in part, through a grant from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA), which is in turn supported by Presbyterians’ generous gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing.

“The PC(USA)’s relationship with MECC dates back to the council’s beginnings in 1974,” said Dayna Oliver, associate for International Program Administration for PDA. “It is because of our longtime association with MECC that we are able to most effectively implement PDA’s mission and activities with local partners who are on the ground.”

Because of the sheer magnitude of Syria’s crisis, the MECC’s interventions were very strategic in nature, designed to contribute to the overall well-being of the most vulnerable.

“We weren’t only distributing food or hygiene kits; we established a special engineering committee to assess the damage of buildings affected by the earthquake,” explained Laham.

Bernadette is grateful that her building could be stabilized, and her apartment rehabilitated.

“Now that we have our living place safe again, we can only offer our prayers and thanks to all who have given so generously,” she said. “Our prayers likewise go out to all who stand by us and collect the Offering to ease our economic burdens and encourage us to stay in our country and continue witnessing to our Christian faith.”  

Give to One Great Hour of Sharing to support Self-Development of People, the Presbyterian Hunger Program and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.

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it adds up to a lot.

Each gift to One Great Hour of Sharing helps to improve the lives of people in  challenging situations. The Offering provides us a way to share God’s love with our neighbors in need. In fact, OGHS is the single, largest way that Presbyterians come together every year to work for a better world. Join us!