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Gorge churches honor Warming Shelter’s Andy Wade

Keynote speaker John Boonstra calls for action on climate change

Andy Wade, “the CEO of the Warming Shelter,” received the 2013 Inspired Service and Action Award from Gorge Ecumenical Ministries.

“We call Andy this because he is truly the guy who makes the shelter work,” said pastor and shelter volunteer Rev. Linda Presley.

About 100 people attended GEM’s Feb. 10 event, at Hood River Valley Christian Church. The occasion was the annual “community celebration and service of gratitude.”

Guest speaker Rev. John Boonstra of Hood River spoke on “building a movement of the faithful,” and his concerns over justice and environment issues, including climate change. (See page A6 for comments from Boonstra.)

GEM provides support and funding for a wide variety of community activities and programs including food banks, elections and public issue forums, Warming Shelter, Emergency Voucher Program, Crop Walk, Building Community Connections (Hispanic outreach), Vacation Bible School, Peace Village and more.

Wade was presented with a $100 check in his name to the Warming Shelter, by Presley and Rev. Anna Carmichael of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, two of the Hood River congregations that are involved in providing nightly shelter, food and support for the homeless.

The shelter program, in its fourth year, moved in 2011 to a nightly program from early December to mid-March. In 2009 and 2010, the shelter opened only on nights when the temperature dipped below 32 degrees.

This year, under Wade’s leadership, the program has seen an expanded volunteer base and training regimen, along with regular meal preparation by parishioners at St. Mark’s.

“He has been dedicated to his ministry with both the guests and the volunteers, banging the drum of service,” Presley said.

The host churches are Hood River Alliance, Church of the Nazarene, Vineyard Fellowship, Immanuel Lutheran and Riverside Community Church.

“What makes Andy the CEO of the shelter is his ministry with his guests,” she said. “Without fail he brings joy to a situation that could easily be overtaken by grief, frustration and despair.

“We are all inspired by your service,” she told Wade. “I hope we can all be as welcoming and gracious to the strange as you have been.”

Wade said, “I really am humbled and honored, and standing by two people who really could have gotten the award themselves,” he said, turning to Carmichael and Presley. “When I look out at the volunteers and site coordinators and our team that’s been guiding this ... you can’t give yourself this honor but I would want to give it to you.”

He said the shelter has had more than 200 volunteers, including 120 this year.

“We couldn’t do it without them. There are 40 shifts to fill each week and I am humbled, yes; but I accept it in honor of all the people who have been there to keep the shelter running to keep it open and keep it running smoothly, really to bless those who otherwise would be living outside in the winter months.

“I know they are greatly appreciative of all the prayers and support and all the work, including getting the food ready and everything else.”

Rod Parrott, GEM president in 2012, turned the reins over to Pam Tindall of White Salmon, saying that in 2013 his hope is that GEM will “take a look at our resources our communities have and the moves we want to make” to serve people in both Washington and Oregon.

Parrott noted that a recent Providence Health Systems $15,000 grant was divided between GEM’s Hood River-based programs and the Mt. Adams Ministerial Association based in Klickitat County.

Parrott said GEM will affiliate with both Oregon Ecumenical Ministries and its counterpart to the north, Washington Faith Action Network, “to work together to indentify the kinds of work the ecumenical ministries can do in the respective two states. That’s going to be a step in the direction of making us more whole and more balanced.”

He also said that GEM members will participate in the annual advocacy day on Feb. 20 in both Olympia and Salem.

Parrott said that in 2013 the focus by GEM will be “immigration, violence — especially guns — mental health, and homelessness.” Community partners in Hood River County are “looking at an emerging 10-year plan to end homelessness,” Parrott said.

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“We can’t choose to be in relationship with each other: we are. We can’t choose to be in relationship with the planet: we are,” said Rev. John Boonstra.

In April, Boonstra will resign after six years as pastor of Bethel United Church of Christ in White Salmon to work on behalf of raising climate change awareness. In his remarks on Feb. 10 he noted that the carbon levels around the plant are rising every day and the “cliff-of-catastrophe” is predicted by scientists to be here in 16 years, he said.

“It is a bone-chilling reality that now tightly frames all the other pressing social, political and economic issues of our time,” Boonstra said. “It’s global; but it is intensely local and irritatingly personal.”

To Boonstra, reducing global warming has a connection to all local social action.

“This room is full of precious folks who put yourselves out there in the stress, in defense of people’s dignity, volunteering to help vulnerable people.

“We gather because we are moved to do something, anything, to level an unequal playing field, to make our dreams from the mountaintop come alive in the valley, to make our spiritual visions compatible with our communal life.”

Boonstra said GEM is based on the belief that “all that is divine, all that is good, gifts us every day with sacred visions of what Heaven on earth looks like.”

He said every one of these heavenly visions is wrapped with an earthly invitation:

“Build a movement of the faithful to struggle to make the visions visible; stand against all that assaults their loving kindness; organize against all that undermines their justice; educate against all that undermines their peace; pray without ceasing.”

Boonstra cited the Book of Micah (6:8): “Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.”

“As we enter 2013, do we get a passing grade on Micah’s call? And what about God’s requirement to do justice?

“Do we build spiritually inspired work with other sectors in the community — with labor, with environmental organizations, with immigrants, with tribes? Do we garner more resources to meet the needs of victims of poverty?

“Do we take determined aim at using greater strategic influence of our local and state public policy agenda? Do we use our media to message a vision of kindness and justice?”

Boonstra said that in 2013 the danger faced is that “we reduce our acts to bring about justice as not being strong enough to eliminate systemic racism, confront sexism, get us beyond homophobia, get assault combat weapons off the gun market, overturn economic exploitation and stop climate change.”

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