Mission Spotlights

Welcome to the Mission Spotlight Page! Two missions and the people who are passionate about them will be featured each month in 2022! 

Mission Spotlight – Tijuana Christian Mission

Cindy Brentlinger

Children come bringing new energy and excitement but also trauma-based behaviors, fits and fears.  Caretakers leave requiring new caretakers to be hired, trained and form connections with the children.  But one constant with Tijuana Christian Mission (TCM) over the past 5 years is the light and support Cindy Brentlinger has given to many needy orphan children. 

TCM started in 1965 as a church plant in Tijuana, Mexico.  A San Diego church asked a couple to move to Mexico to serve as pastors for a church plant.  A need for a children’s home in the pastors’ neighborhood became apparent and in 1972, TCM opened its Tijuana campus.  A second location in Rosarito opened in 2006. 

Some children arrive from other children’s homes, while others arrive who are split away from their families.  In addition to immediate necessities of shelter, clothing, food and school supplies, the children’s needs go much deeper.  They require one-on-one attention, extra prayers, and often special counseling.  Cindy is right there to help provide what the children need.

Over the past 5 years, Cindy has worked as a full-time volunteer at TCM.  After graduating from college and teaching for a couple of years, Cindy made a 9-month commitment to be a house mom for TCM’s youngest girls’ dorm.  During her stint, Cindy felt the Lord calling her to stay in Mexico.   Over time, she has had different roles and leadership responsibilities.  She currently  cares for teenage girls, which includes mothering, caretaking, mentoring, tutoring and much needed one-on-one facetime.  Cindy also cares for the younger children at the Rosarito campus. 

Cindy is especially proud of birthday celebrations.  For each child’s birthday, Cindy takes the child and a friend out to lunch or dinner for a special celebration.  The child’s smile brings joy to all.  Cindy is also in charge of the Child Sponsorship Program, which matches kids with a sponsor and builds relationships between them. 

The OPPC community has provided substantial financial support to Cindy and TCM since 2018.  In 2021, OPPC contributed $7,500 through its operating budget. In addition, almost $27,000 was donated by individuals and funneled through OPPC’s restricted accounts. 

We, at OPPC, stand in awe of Cindy’s energy, enthusiasm, dedication and perseverance and are thankful we can help in small ways to make a difference in these children’s lives.  Thank you Cindy!

To learn more about Tijuana Christian Mission, please visit www.tijuanachristianmission.org and sign up for Cindy’s newsletter by contacting her at cbrent3@gmail.com.  

Food Insecurity | Marc Kruithoff

In the 2nd year of the pandemic, OPPC decided to step up its efforts to help those in our local community who are food insecure. We partnered with Carmel United Methodist Church, who has operated a food pantry for nearly 30 years, to supply eggs, hygiene products, dollars and volunteers. 

Joe McDonald and Chris Thomas negotiated with a non-profit organization – Hatch for Hunger – to deliver 300 dozen fresh eggs per month to the food pantry at a cost of just $.50 per dozen. The food pantry did not have enough cooler space, so OPPC stores the eggs and volunteers deliver the eggs as needed. Since July 2021, OPPC has supplied over 2,200 dozen eggs. OPPC spent $976 for eggs in 2021 with $2,000 budgeted for 2022.

Additionally through its Mission budget, OPPC contributed $10,000 in 2021 to operate the food pantry. The food pantry relies on donations but also purchases in bulk to meet the needs of Hamilton County residents. OPPC is on target to contribute $6,000 in 2022.

When given the opportunity, OPPC members stepped up to help staff the food pantry. Marc Kruithoff is just one of more than a dozen volunteers from OPPC. When Joe McDonald shared this opportunity, Marc signed up. It helped that Marc had recently retired and had the time to commit to the opportunity. 

The food pantry is open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays and requires 4 volunteers for each 2-hour shift. Marc works 2 shifts per month and tries to help with extra shifts when needed. 

Before volunteering, Marc would regularly pray for those who were homeless and hungry but didn’t give of his time. Now, he can pray for a specific person he has met through the food pantry. Marc’s experience has been great, as are the people he works with. Those who ask for help from the food pantry are grateful.

The experience has made Marc more grateful too. Marc, like many of us, normally doesn’t even think twice about going to the grocery store anytime he needs something. But some of our neighbors right here in Carmel do not have the resources to do that even once. 

Thank you to Marc and all the OPPC members who volunteer and contribute to this worthwhile charity.

Food Insecurity | Lynne Davis

Lynne’s mission journey started quite a few years ago with providing clothes to Orchard Park Elementary School students and ultimately students in all Carmel Clay Schools. 

In 2017, Lynne expanded her efforts to food assistance. She and Rev. Kim Olson met with folks from Carmel Youth Assistance Program (CYAP) to discuss starting a summer food program for students who were food insecure. CYAP was looking for local churches to join the effort. 

Lynne felt a nudge from God that she needed to be involved. So, OPPC began accepting food donations from the congregation and Hamilton County Harvest Food Bank, along with monetary contributions from CYAP. 

OPPC members stepped up to gather, sort and organize the food donations. Bev Platt and Lynne spent many hours sorting canned peaches, pears, and green beans as they shared their stories. On Sunday mornings, members would pack bags and distribute them to families in need. Each family received enough food to cover their children’s breakfast and lunches for a week. The summer program ran for 11 weeks. Together with St. Christopher Episcopal Church and Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Merciful H.E.L.P), 130-170 students received weekly food supplies.

In 2021, the program changed to a central location – St. Elizabeth Seton – and only provided food for the weeks in July and early August. (Carmel Clay schools provided food for the June weeks.) OPPC volunteers continued helping to organize, pack and distribute the food bags. More than 377 children from 168 families were served.

Lynne has transitioned away from leading OPPC’s participation in the summer food program. But her energy, enthusiasm, empathy and organizational skills were the primary reason for its success at OPPC. Many thanks Lynne. We are so glad you felt and responded to the nudge from God! For more information about the summer food program and other CYAP initiatives, visit http://youthassistance.org.

Indy ARea Food Insecurity | 

Mike Pietranczyk

In the Fall of 2014, members of Orchard Park Presbyterian Church and Harvest Christian Fellowship joined together in a test kitchen in Indianapolis to cook our very first Share the Harvest Thanksgiving meal.  The meals were distributed to families in need in and around the Reagan Park neighborhood of Indianapolis where Harvest Christian Fellowship is located.  The project was a great success, but more members of each congregation wished to get involved.  In an effort to give people the chance to have a “hands-on” mission experience, in later Share the Harvest events, hundreds of containers were distributed to members who wished to cook and share their own recipes for traditional Thanksgiving dishes.  Members prepared food and returned containers filled with their homemade contributions which were packaged along with freshly-roasted turkeys, prepared in the OPPC kitchen.  Children of the congregation created hand-made Thanksgiving greeting cards that were placed into each meal bag.  In addition to the food items prepared by the members of OPPC, the HCF congregation also contributed homemade, traditional side dishes, bags of fresh produce and gallons of ice tea.

The program has continued every Thanksgiving since 2014, with much enthusiasm and generosity.  When the Covid pandemic struck, it was uncertain whether we would be able to continue this tradition.  To adapt to the challenge of not being able to prepare food ourselves, donations were collected to purchase ready-made items that could be easily prepared by the families in need of meals.  Orchard Park has risen to the challenge each year of the pandemic with incredible generosity, donating funds that would not only provide Thanksgiving meals for the 30-40 families but also gift cards for local grocery stores that would be distributed with each meal.  Hopefully, in 2022 we will be able to return to the practice of distributing meals that we have prepared in our own kitchens.  While the past two years of Share the Harvest were a great success due to the kindness and generosity of our members, there is something special about personally preparing and sharing food with others during the holidays, especially with those who may not otherwise have the opportunity to enjoy a homemade meal. Why did Share the Harvest begin?  For years, Orchard Park enjoyed a wonderful tradition of coming together for a Thanksgiving meal.  While the food and fellowship were lovely, it seemed more appropriate that we shift our focus to feeding others rather than ourselves when so many of us have so much to be thankful for, and other have so little.  The enthusiastic response to Share the Harvest each year is a testament to our values as Christians and responsibility to feed the hungry and tend to those in need.  

Mike echos the feelings of many OPPC members.  “It is easy to take so much of what we have for granted and not be aware that there are so many people living close by that get by on so little and have to struggle each day to put food on the table, much less try and prepare a Thanksgiving meal. It’s a relatively small gesture, but to see the smiles on the faces of those who receive our meals shows what a difference it can make for those who find the holiday season to be a difficult time.”  Mike is proud to organize this effort each year and thankful for everyone who pitches in to make it possible.

Food Insecurity | Sarah Burnham

15+ years ago, Sarah and her OPPC Women’s Circle realized some Orchard Park Elementary School students needed extra snacks over spring break. They met this need and eventually provided Christmas and spring break breakfast and lunch meals, along with snacks, to 30-40 students. 

Over time, the program expanded to include students from other elementary schools. At one point, OPPC members were providing Christmas and spring break bags to almost 300 students. As the mission grew, an ancillary goal was to coordinate with other organizations helping schools. Today, OPPC partners with Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Merciful H.E.L.P.), St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church, Hamilton County Harvest Food Pantry and St. Elizabeth Seton. Sacks containing weekend breakfasts, lunches and snacks are distributed to 150-200 students weekly during the school year. Each year, OPPC members donate food and back enough bags to distribute for 4 weekends. usually in the late fall. In 2021, OPPC’s young families group, including children as young as 3 years old, helped with packing. 

Sarah’s journey is compelling. As Sarah volunteered at Orchard Park Elementary School, she realized that there was an overwhelming need to make sure the students were well-fed over school breaks. School and OPPC have been Sarah’s home for the past 20 years. . . her heart is here in the Orchard Park community. This is where she and her children devote their time, energy and talents. Because she knew many of the students in need and because she knew what OPPC could accomplish, she spearheaded the effort to assist students in need. With the help of many members, OPPC met the challenge and still meets it today. 

Sarah has received so many blessings while leading the food program. She has worked with incredible people who have the most generous spirits and hearts. Sarah has been able to help educate the community about the socio-economic diversity that exists in Carmel. But her biggest blessing is sincerely knowing that she and OPPC members are making a difference in the life of a child. Because of OPPC and other organizations’ support, kids, just like our kids and grandkids, aren’t hungry on weekends and over school breaks. 

Sarah says it is an absolute honor to be able to serve in this way. In turn, Sarah, it is OPPC’s honor to have you and all who have helped with this program as mission volunteers. Thank you.

Haiti Ministries | Al and Becky Atz

UPDATE 4/26/2022: Haiti Pro-Famille Clinique - Dr. Renaud Gerve and Pro-Famille Clinique are making progress in building a new medical clinic in Cap-Haitien. Click here to see pictures of the building progress.

UPDATE 3/23/22: Even in turbulent times, Dr. Renaud Gerve and Pro-Famille Clinque are moving forward with building a new medical clinic in Cap-Haitien.  Al  Atz recently visited Haiti to discuss initial steps.  Read here for more information.

Original Story:

Imagine organizing work teams, flying to Haiti, and then trekking over bumpy roads to care for Haitians in need of medical care, food, education, and Christian fellowship. Al & Becky Atz have done that and more, spearheading OPPC’s mission work in Haiti over the past 25+ years. 

Al has served on OPPC’s Mission Committee for 30 years. Originally, OPPC’s mission work centered on Southeast Asia, and Al traveled to Laos, Thailand, and Burma. Those experiences gave Al the grounding to venture into Haiti, at OPPC’s request, to evaluate a mission project closer to home.

OPPC joined the Medical Benevolence Foundation, the medical arm of PCUSA, to renovate a vacant existing hospital and build 3 more buildings to establish a functioning medical facility. The actual work commenced in 1996 with one team each led by Al and former pastor, John Stevens. When John retired in 1997, Al continued leading 2 teams every year even after the building was complete, morphing into building maintenance. Becky, a charter member at OPPC, signed on to help in 1997. Because of her nursing background, compassionate nature, and a quick study on building projects, Becky was and still is a valuable asset. Other team members have included Glen Kooy, Von Ballew, Jay Cotton, Pat Thomas, Joe McDonald, and Michael, Sheryl, and April Johnson. Covenant/Mombin Crochu Hospital is still going strong today. It is run by the Haitian Ministry of Health and subsidized by Village Partners International, a non-profit organization. OPPC contributes $8,000 each year from its mission budget.

In 1997, Al, Becky, and team members began supporting Ludner St Amour’s vision of a new school, The Christian School of New Vision. The school was located approximately 13 miles from the hospital in a village where there was no school. Each year, the school added a grade. Al & Becky promoted individual sponsorships of students and teachers, resulting in the sponsorship of 99 students and 7 teachers. OPPC, through its mission budget, sponsored 3 teachers and funded some of the school’s building projects. To address the needs of the first wave of graduating seniors, Al & Becky helped create a post-high school scholarship program in 2012, funded by Orchard Park members. Also, during the same period, Becky organized medical clinics at the school, twice a year, to address the medical needs of the 800 students and families.

The Christian School of New Vision experienced a crisis when its founder had a stroke in 2015. With help, Al ran the school for another year, and then all the students transferred to other schools. The post-high school scholarship program continued and expanded to include students from the Central Plateau. Courses of study range from 3 months to 4 years, focus on marketable educational opportunities and include studies in nursing, education, accounting, construction, computer science, and even a diplomat. 53 students were enrolled in 2019. Since then, 25 students have graduated with 28 students still in the program for 2021-22. OPPC contributes approximately $5,000 from the mission budget. Individual OPPC members have contributed $153,824 over the past 4 years. Al & Becky are directors of the non-profit – Central Plateau Scholarship Program – which administers the program.

As if all this wasn’t enough, Al & Becky developed a strong bond with a young boy – Renaud Gerve – who watched Covenant Hospital’s construction back in 1996 and decided to become a doctor. OPPC supported Dr. Gerve’s medical education, and when he opened a mobile clinic in 2012 to serve the remote villages in the Central Plateau area, OPPC was there with monies to support the mobile clinic. The mobile clinic serves 20 remote mountain villages and routinely treats between 500-1,000 patients each month. Additionally, every year, Becky and her team assemble birthing kits for use by midwives and village health care workers. OPPC contributed $26,476 towards the mobile clinic endeavors in 2021. Al & Becky serve as Treasurer and President respectively of the Pro-Famille Clinique Foundation, Inc. They call Dr. Renaud family - a son. 

Through the Alternative Gift Market, hosted at OPPC each Christmas season, Al & Becky helped start a school in the remote village of Ganga for young school-age children. The village is too far from the nearest school, and the young children are unable to walk so far. A teacher who lives in the village was hired and instructs students up to the 5th grade. 

Becky & Al have served side by side for many years caring for and educating Haitians. Their passion and commitment spilled over into their personal lives. In 2014, Al & Becky married. Today, their lives are filled with joy, pride, and knowledge of all the good they have done for so many Haitians. Well done Becky & Al!

Camp Pyoca | Mike Davis

Mike’s first memory of Camp Pyoca back to when he was in grade school. Mike and his mom, Jennifer Graver, spent a weekend at camp previewing what camp would be like. Sharon England and Mary Giesel were in charge, which meant lots of crafts, campfires, and fun! 

Mike attended Camp Friendly a couple of times during his elementary/middle school years. But it was his sister, Hannah, who was more of a regular until Mike was old enough to be a volunteer counselor. The Camp Friendly experience also extended to a bunch of Mike’s cousins, including Olivia and Rachel Cain, with Grandma Philly (Phyllis Graver) doing drop-off duty.

Life-long mentors and friendships were just part of the Camp Pyoca experience. Mike especially remembers Rob Peterson and Kristy Truax as guiding persons who modeled Christian behavior.

Being a counselor for Camp Friendly was great, but it was only one week. So after a year at Ball State, majoring in construction management, Mike signed up to be a Camp Pyoca counselor for the entire summer. That experience changed his life. His skills and interests converged, and Mike found that he loved working with kids, in a Christian setting, along with completing hands-on camp projects. Mike transferred to IU and changed his major to recreation management.

After several summers of full-time counseling, Mike started working as Camp Pyoca’s program director even before he had graduated from college. Since then, Mike has never left… he is now the Executive Director. 

According to Mike, OPPC is one of the most committed congregations within the presbyteries to Camp Pyoca. Not only has OPPC designated substantial monies through its regular mission budget and Crossways Endowment, but many of the staff have come from the OPPC ranks – the list of summertime counselors goes is long.  Additionally, OPPC folks have served on Camp Pyoca’s board of directors over the years – Rob Peterson, Sam Muse, Shelly Wood – with Greg Pemberton serving as a key resource as Camp Pyoca looks to the future. 

Camp Pyoca’s philosophy is the same today as it was for Mike. Camp is a place where the campers can be themselves, realize they are important just as they are and that they are loved by God. Who could ask for a better experience than that! Future generations, here we come.