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God Is At Work!

 This fall, when the school year begins, three members of Raleigh court Presbyterian Church will be enrolled in theological seminaries and another will head to Guatemala as a Young Adult Volunteer for the Presbyterian Church(USA). I want to let our readers know that these young people are answering a call to serve the Lord and our congregation is proud to sponsor them.

Dirk Labuschagne (pronounced Lah-boo-shane) came to Roanoke from South Africa. After finishing high school, he attended the University of Praetoria where he received a bachelor’s degree in Theology. Dirk decided to become a pastor in the Dutch Reformed Church, and was working on his master’s degree in theology at the University of Vienna, Austria, when he met a young girl from Roanoke.

Amy Rhodes, an English major at JMU, was in Austria teaching children English. Dirk and Amy met there at an English speaking church in October 2007. They were married in South Africa in October 2008 and started the visa process for Dirk to come to America. Once in Roanoke, Dirk decided to join Raleigh Court Presbyterian Church, since Presbyterian theology is closest to that of the Reformed Church of South Africa.

In November 2010, the Session of RCPC agreed to sponsor Dirk’s application to McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. Dirk taught an adult Sunday School class during his year at RCPC, and preached a well received sermon before heading to Chicago last fall to begin his journey into the ministry.

His letter to our congregation at the close of the spring semester reported: “A wonderful first year at McCormick. …I have taken advantage of the University of Chicago library as I have researched papers and prepared for exams. At this point, Hebrew is behind me and Greek is before me, I have examined theological issues I studied in South Africa from an American point of view, and I have hammered out a ‘faith statement.’ … Next year I will be starting my field placement at Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church, which will give me invaluable experience working in a congregational setting as a student intern.”

Rachel Erb grew up in Raleigh Court Presbyterian Church, where I had the pleasure of teaching her in Sunday School when she was in third grade. She was a talented child, excelling in art, music and schoolwork, and used those talents in service to the church. After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Rachel worked tirelessly at RCPC, assisting in the music department, singing in the choir, preparing posters and other art projects as she worked with the youth and children.

It was no great surprise when she decided to apply to Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. She received a full scholarship. Before she left to begin her study of Hebrew last summer, she preached a moving sermon to her home congregation. Now at the close of her first year at seminary, she reports: “I have been genuinely challenged, both personally and academically, but on the whole it is a rewarding and affirming experience by far. It is a marvelous realization that through it all I truly feel I am doing what God has called me to do. … I have been blessed with remarkable and inspiring professors and fellow students who come together to create a community that faithfully engages, supports, and challenges its members as we all seek to discern and follow God’s call in our lives.”

After a summer spent as a small group leader at the Youth Conferences at Montreat, North Carolina, as a participant in the Worship & Music Conference, and two months of Greek school at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, Rachel will be back in Richmond in time to help with new student orientation at the beginning of September. She was recently elected Fellowship Committee Chair for next year. She has also accepted a year-long internship at Three Chopt Presbyterian Church, which will start in the fall as a hands-on addition to her continuing course work.

Our third seminarian, Richard Aylor, had already been accepted at Princeton Theological Seminary when he joined RCPC . He decided to postpone entry until he had some practical experience. Since joining last November, Richard has shadowed our Associate Pastor, Josh Robinson, assisting with Communicants’ class, reading Scripture for worship services, singing in the choir, working with the youth, and preparing homilies occasionally for our Wednesday morning Communion service. Richard has made a name for himself at our church and is well-loved by everyone. After the sermon he delivered in July, everyone agreed he will make an outstanding preacher. He will leave for his studies at Princeton after Labor Day.

Last, but certainly not least, we learned that Kate Garden, the youngest child of our Senior Pastor, Tupper Garden, has been selected by the Presbyterian Church (USA) to serve as a Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) with four other women in Guatemala for the 2012-2013 year. This program is for young people between the ages of 19 and 30 who commit to do a year in service to others, living modestly, and meeting regularly for prayer and study. Kate will live with a host family and “will be doing anything from working with churches in a free-lunch program, to working in a primary school, to helping Guatemalans gain better access to health care.” Kate will also go to language school to become fluent in Spanish.

When the Gardens came to Raleigh Court twenty years ago, Kate was a toddler only eighteen months old. We watched her grow up and I’m proud to say she is also one of my Sunday School students! She graduated from Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina this past June with a major in history and a minor in religion. As her departure on this great adventure approaches, Kate writes: “I am so pumped up I can hardly stand it! But nerves are also creeping in as I realize we are about to leave for a whole year, and that so many of our preconceived notions and comforts are about to be challenged in big ways. Please pray for us that we don’t get homesick and for our safety. Please pray for the work we do – that God will work through us in a way that we could really make a difference and that others could really make a difference in us. Pray for me because I have to make a blog to be posted on this link (and those who know me know that I will need divine intervention to make that technology happen!) so that you can all keep up with me as much or as little as you like:

There is hope for the world – God is at work!

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