To the readers of this blog, I give my heartiest thanks to all the many responses I received when I took the risk and told my personal story about the origin of my art project: SOJOURN EMPATHIES. To celebrate this honest response, I am publishing each comment I received today.

So enjoy.

Also note the article I have included from the Courier Journal about some of our very own Louisville Presbyterians who met with ASSAD, head of State of Syria.



Thank you for imparting your story. My heart hurts and is moved by the struggles endured by you and those in Syria, as well as all those who suffer injustice around the globe. I have spent some of our snow day time doing a bit of volunteer work in the community…I have you and a few others to thank for the inspiration to get out and contribute how I can. It is a little, but I know a little here and there adds up! Your words are helping me in a personal way, and I am sure they are echoing out to guide others as well. Thank you for your tender reminder. I am remembering to be more grateful, aware, and purposeful, regardless of what others say or do, with each precious moment of this life.

Ameye Schwarz
English and Drama Teacher
Western Hills High School
Frankfort, Ky.

Jan, You know my belief in Jesus as the Son of God the Creator, and my true dependence on the Holy Spirit that works within us to help humans accomplish His Will for our own lives and our world, so I am certain that He that is in you is greater than he ( the Evil one) that is in the world. Your art and your blog make people think about the suffering of the world, and we should. I know that only the removal of evil will completely get rid of that suffering. And I know you know that I believe that happens at the return of the Christ. Meanwhile, people like you that are driven to help those in pain are doing the work of a lifetime, supported by the Trinity. You have made me rethink how we lead our Beta students in silly, sometimes frivolous donations. I need to challenge their knowledge and compassion for those that have no recourse against the ones that hurt them. Thank you for reminding me of my job as a sponsor and as a Christian.

Lorrie Fraley
Social Studies Teacher
Western Hills High School

Melanie commented on SOJOURN EMPATHIES: A Commemoration of All Who Have Lost Homes and Loved Ones in War Torn Countries
Thank you for sharing this project with me. It strikes me as the kind of project that the KY Foundation for Women would support through an Artist Enrichment grant. If you are not familiar with their work, check it out here…
The Artist Enrichment grant is due in Sep. with funds awarded in late Dec. I realize that is several months away, but you may find it helpful. I have worked with them on many projects and enjoy the support, on many levels, that I have received from them.
all best,
Melanie Van Houten
Artist and Graduate of
Western Hills High School
Frankfort, Ky
Congratulations on connecting with an important need and doing something about it. There are so many “causes” that it is sometimes too overwhelming to act. The only solution is to pick SOMETHING that moves you which you did. Thank you for helping to make the world a better place. It is not only what you accomplish with this particular project that matters but, just like the Reiki you mentioned, it is the energy you project into our world. Thank you.
From David Imbrogno
Artist in Ohio

I am touched to hear of your project and am so glad to know of the work you are doing, Jan!
From Rebecca Barnes
Rebecca Barnes-Davies is an environmental activist with over a decade of experience in advocating for public policy changes, educating groups of concerned Christians, and writing numerous articles. She is a consultant for Environmental and Social Justice Ministries and also served as the director of Presbyterians for Restoring Creation. She is an ordained minister with her theological education obtained at Louisville Theological Seminary.


Local Presbyterian Church members meet with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus on peace mission

From Courier Journal, Feb. 2, 2014

Rev. Dr. Laurie Krause, director of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, left, and Amgad Beblawi, Presbyterian Church mission coordinator, recently traveled to Syria to encourage this week’s peace talks in Geneva and share the church’s hopes for peace in a brief meeting last Saturday with Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad. Photographed at / Jessica Ebelhar/The Courier-Journal

Amgad Beblawi
• Position: Coordinator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission work in the Middle East, Europe and Central Asia. 
• Age: 48 
• Previously: Served for five years as the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s associate for Middle Eastern congregational support in the U.S. Before that, he worked at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., as academic adviser and director of Career Services. 
• Education: Master’s degrees in theology and biblical studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. 
• Personal: Immigrated to the U.S. in 1985. Wife, Susan; son, Justin.
Laurie Kraus
• Position: Director of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, the national and international response agency for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). She is a certified Compassion Fatigue Professional through the International Association of Trauma Professionals and is a member of the International Critical Stress Foundation. 
• Age: 56 
• Previously: Served as pastor of Riviera Presbyterian Church in Miami and as associate pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Utica, N.Y. Also taught at the Florida Center for Theological Studies in Miami. 
• Education: Bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College, master’s in divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary, and doctorates in ministry from Columbia Theological Seminary and Florida Center for Theological Studies. 
• Personal: The author of the 2008 book “Tuning My Heart: the Melody of the Liturgical Year in Proclamation, Poetry and Praise.” Husband, Warren Broome; daughter, Gilliam Kraus-Neale.

Baby steps matter, be they cultural, humanitarian or political.
That was the takeaway for two local Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) members who — while on a recent refugee-assistance trip to the Middle East — were unexpectedly included in a quickly scheduled meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus.
At the Jan. 18 meeting with a delegation of religious leaders, they said, Assad attempted to reach out to the West, caution against foreign military intervention in Syria’s civil war, and appeal to those whose humanitarian work there goes back centuries.
The meeting came in the wake of the Assad government’s massive crackdown on protesters involved in the 2011 “Arab Spring” uprising, a conflict that has claimed an estimated 130,000 lives.
The United States is among the nations calling for Assad’s removal from power. But Assad has insisted that a transition of power is not up for discussion. And a week of U.N.-sponsored international peace talks in Geneva ended Friday without concrete progress. Assad’s team submitted a “declaration of principles” that made no mention of transferring power.
But the Syrian leader struck a very different tone in the Jan. 18 meeting attended by the Rev. Laurie Kraus, who directs Presbyterian disaster assistance and humanitarian aid, and Amgad Beblawi, a coordinator for the organization’s mission work in the Middle East, Europe and Central Asia. They work for the Presbyterian Mission Agency, an arm of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
“He spoke of amnesty, he explained the ideology of the fighters, and he talked about the perception that Western governments, including our own, aren’t seeing the whole picture,” Beblawi recalled.
They went into the meeting understanding Assad’s motives.
“He’s an embattled head of state,” Kraus said at the church’s offices in Louisville, where she and Beblawi shared their story.
They said the Syrian president said militancy threatens the entire Mideast region, and that foreign military intervention is not welcome. Assad also suggested that America’s current leadership is not reflecting the nation’s interests.

Photo caption:
Rev. Dr. Laurie Krause, director of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, left, and Amgad Beblawi, Presbyterian Church mission coordinator, recently traveled to Syria to encourage this week’s peace talks in Geneva and share the church’s hopes for peace in a brief meeting last Saturday with Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad. Photographed at / Jessica Ebelhar/The Courier-Journal




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