The YAV's Have Arrived!

The YAVs Have Arrived! Volunteers in Tucson

Six young women have arrived in Tucson to begin a year as Young Adult Volunteers (YAV’s), in an ecumenical faith based period of service provided by Presbyterian Church (PCUSA).  Under the auspices of Presbytery de Cristo the women will work with 6 different area agencies, addressing the root causes of poverty.  These volunteers are between the ages of 19-30 and go through a process of applications and interviews to be selected for this program.

Emma will work with The Inn, a short-term hospitality ministry that hosts asylum seekers en route to their sponsors in other parts of the USA.  Haley will take part in the Community Home Repair Projects of AZ.  Katie is serving at Keep Tucson Together, a free immigration legal clinic.  Laura is working with the same project as Haley.

Two women who were not able to attend a recent visit to Mountain Shadows Presbyterian Church are serving a border ministry in Agua Prieta, Mexico as support to Primavera Foundation which provides pathways out of poverty.

Mountain Shadows Presbyterian Church in North Tucson Catalina will be supporting these volunteers throughout their year.  A large collection of essential items for home living was gifted to the 4 women who attended a recent service at MSPC and the church will work with  these volunteers throughout the year.

MSPC is Centered in Christ, Caring for Community.

YAVs Emma HaleyKatie Laura

2020 YAV's   Emma, Haley, Katie, Laura at MSPC sharing their experiences with congregants

New Solar System at MSPC Operational

Mountain Shadows is going GREEN! A new 12.96 KW solar system has been installed in the area just east of the Education Building.

The new system will produce electricity that exceeds our average demand. This will erase our “carbon footprint,” allowing us to care for our environment.

Over time, we will also reduce our energy costs. We will see modest energy savings over the next 15 years as the system pays for itself.

After year 15, Mountain Shadows will own the system and our energy cost savings will exceed $2,000 per year.

This system was purchased by a new Mountain Shadows member, Bruce Clark.

Bruce has a passion for using solar to reduce the use of coal and gas to produce power, which improves the air quality we breathe.

We are blessed to have Bruce as part of our congregation, and thank him for this generous gift.

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English Language Learners at Amphitheater High School “The road to college is paved with books.”

Mountain Shadows Presbyterian Church volunteers continue to work with 9th, 10th, and 11th grade ELL students to accelerate reading proficiency.  Pictured above is librarian Taryn Burlison in front of the Star Wars display, one of the most popular reading topics for all students.

“Reading coaches” meet their assigned student selected by instructor Julie Faulkner in the library. After selecting a book somewhat above their reading level, they are helped one-on-one with pronunciation and comprehension. Testing occurs in class at the end of the week.

This work is critical for immigrant youngsters in order to meet challenging state standards. Hopefully they can be mainstreamed in time to graduate with their class.  Mission connector Dennis Nelson notes  ”Coaches claim their day at Amphi is the best day of the week.”


Refugee English Language Learners

As an extension of Mountain Shadows Presbyterian Church’s refugee welcome family project, Dennis Nelson and five others formed the “Amphi Reading Roster” and began reading one-on-one with refugee children in grades 9 and 10.  Some of the students are just arriving in Tucson and many others are reading well below their grade level, this work is both critical and rewarding.

Volunteers spend 30 minutes with a student selected by Katherine Engel, Amphi teacher and English Language Learning  (ELL) coordinator.  We go to the school library and the student selects a book of interest.  Volunteers work with 2 students in a one-hour time frame, concentrating on pronunciation and memorizing sight words. One of our favorite phrases is “Look at my mouth as I say this word.”

A related MSPC project dubbed “Faith in Action” involved collecting children’s books for “Reading Seeds,” a Literacy Connects program. The program provides books for youngsters to select and take home.

Note you do not have to be a member of MSPC to be involved in this important project.  If you would like to read with refugee students, you are welcome.  Contact the chur

A Refugee Family Story

Mountain Shadows Presbyterian Church (MSPC) in Catalina, Arizona, is centered in Christ, caring for community. With that in mind and as part of the church Mission and Outreach team, Elizabeth Houle and Dennis Nelson volunteered to help resettle a single parent refugee family of eight. Momma Sifa fled the Democratic Republic of the Congo as a teenager and later married her husband in a U.N. camp in Tanzania. All her children were born in the camp; the oldest is now seventeen. The father’s resettlement document has not yet been processed but the family remains in weekly contact with the father through face time.


There is a difference between an immigrant and a refugee. An immigrant is foreign born, a non citizen who enters the country without inspection, or arrived temporarily, overstaying the time allotted by a visa.

Refugees work with organizations to complete applications, with the intention of leaving their homeland due to severe persecution. The process takes anywhere from 18 months to a year, includes interviews, medical screening, security clearance, and the assignment of a US partner to help with relocation. Refugees can be referred by the UN, US Embassy, or a nongovernmental organization (NGO).

In August 2016, The Tucson Refugee Ministry (TRM) helped bring MSPC’S mission team together with Sifa and family. The family was placed in an apartment where they were oriented to appliances, and other ways things operated. They had food and medical benefits but needed to repay a huge travel loan. There is limited cash assistance, bus passes, a work permit and now a green card for Sifa, plus the opportunity to become a citizen of the USA five years after they live and work here.

MSPC members signed on to help with this huge transition. We completed background checks, Refugee Resettlement 101 Training, and started work on TRM’s checklist for volunteers. So many things for us to learn and participate in! The apartment has 3 bedrooms, a bathroom, and a kitchen that extends into a family room. The family had to learn how to cook on the stove, do without a washer and dryer, shop for food, use the bus for transportation, and speak the English language. A welcome basket supplied by people at MSPC contained all kinds of home-based items.

Our job was to help them with English, shopping and apartment living, plus an introduction to Tucson social and cultural life. Some of us even accompanied Sifa and children to medical appointments to help communicate. The children were enrolled in the local school system, daycare options were arranged as needed, and regular visits that were educational and social took place. Trips to area attractions took place, the oldest son balanced education with the need to find a job, and Mom adapted baby breast-feeding and other child rearing skills necessary to get a paying job.

Shortly after her arrival, Momma Sifa announced that she was pregnant! During what was supposed to be a late pregnancy checkup, Elizabeth found herself in the delivery room when her namesake Elizabeth came into the world. That’s a story in itself, but now U.S. Citizen Elizabeth is walking, Mom has secured a job, and the children are doing well.

We enjoyed much fun stuff with the family: Refugee Thanksgiving night at Amphitheater High School, a visit to Apple Annie’s Farm, Christmas at La Encantada and Tohono Chul Park, and much more. Last spring, Denny- now Babu (“grandpa”), took the boys to Biosphere 2. He had quite a time explaining Biosphere 1!

Our time with Sifa and family has been rewarding beyond description. To love, laugh, and be part of a young family’s life is truly a gift from God. If you wish to learn more about this program contact MSPC 520-825-7858 for more information.

Young Adult Volunteers (YAVs): a year of service for a lifetime of change

The YAV program is open to people from ages 18-30 who are ready to commit to intentional living (simple living), social justice, spiritual formation and vocational discernment. The Tucson Borderlands YAV program has been in operation since 2003, and about 60 young people have participated by serving alongside local partners such as Primavera, Community Food Bank, and House of Neighborly Service. They can even partner with Frontero de Cristo and live their year in Mexico. Presbyterian Church (USA), supporting congregations and presbyteries along with some placement agencies share the funding of the program. It costs $22,000 per student, and each participant is asked to raise $4000 for that goal.

Mountain Shadows Presbyterian Church in Catalina has supported this program for several years. Participants explore God’s calling while living as part of a Christian community in sites around the world as well as here in the US. MSPC has invited the YAVs to attend services and speak about their opportunities. A welcome basket was gifted to the most recent foursome including items typically appreciated in simple living.

Each YAV receives a regular stipend, housing, transportation assistance, and student loan repayment during the year of service. In the YAV house in Tucson there is a long dining table that originally served as a communion table at Ghost Ranch ( a retreat and education center owned in New Mexico, run by the Presbyterian Church). It was repurposed in 2012 and donated to the YAVs as a place to share meals.

An average week in the life of a YAV includes 32-36 hours a week working with the assigned local partner. Other 4-8 hour days are meant for focusing on community life. MSPC looks forward to another year of work with these dedicated people and learning of their experiences.

New Books in the Church Library


Stop by and check them out!

“BOUNTY - Ten Ways to Increase Giving at Your Church” by Scott McKenzie, 254.8 McK (donated by Fran Moran)

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“SHOW LOW DREAMS” by Jane Barr Stump, 978 STU (donated by Jane Stump) 


New book for MSPC Library: Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help by Robert Lupton.  March 2018

A beautiful Christmas Story written by Pastor Rachel Srubas


Observing Epiphany
Presbyterians Today December 4, 2017

A centuries-old ‘chalking’ and house blessing bring the memory of the Magi into our homes

By Rachel M. Srubas | Presbyterians Today


Cassi, a member of my church, once dreamed a dream so vivid, so compelling, that when she woke up, she was sure she knew what God was calling her to do with her life. That day, she enrolled in a foster parent training course.

After months of preparation and mountains of paperwork, Cassi invited a friend and me to her now child-ready home. It was the sixth of January, the Epiphany of the Lord, also known as the Feast of Epiphany or Three Kings’ Day. I brought two items: a candle and a stick of chalk. We lit the candle to signify the light of Christ that once shone brilliantly in the heavens, leading the Magi, wise star-watchers from the east, to follow its beams all the way to Bethlehem. There, the Gospel of Matthew tells us, they found the young Savior with his mother.

Now, why the chalk? A centuries-old Epiphany tradition more common in Europe than in the United States is known as “chalking the door.” On Epiphany, the day following the Twelfth Day of Christmas, guests gather at a home to invoke the Magi’s and Christ’s own blessing upon it. Drawing on the second chapter of Matthew — the only Gospel depicting the Magi — those gathered may read a brief, responsive liturgy or say a prayer.

Although Matthew never mentions the Magi’s names, tradition has it that they were called Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar. The initials CMB also abbreviate a Latin house blessing, Christus mansionem benedicat, meaning “May Christ bless this dwelling.” Chalking the door on the Feast of Epiphany involves writing — with chalk — these three letters, interspersed with crosses and flanked by the numbers of the present year, on the lintel of a house’s front door.

Life’s purpose made clear

When we three women chalked the door of Cassi’s house on Epiphany, we prayed that she would soon receive her long-awaited foster care license. We prayed that one of the roughly 18,000 children who live under our state’s supervision would soon find with Cassi a safe and loving foster home. This was the holy day marking the Messiah’s revelation as a homeless infant born to a young unmarried woman and an honorable foster father. It was fitting for us to seek God’s blessing on the vocation to care for children in need that had come to Cassie through a powerful dream.

The English word epiphany is rooted in the Greek word epipháneia. An epiphany is a revelation, a manifestation. All six occurrences of epiphanies in the New Testament’s original Greek language refer to Christ’s coming. Notably, none of these occur in Matthew’s account of Christ’s revelation to the Magi. Even so, the story portrays the manifestation of God in person. The Most High is shown forth in the least likely, humblest guise.

Matthew’s second chapter also refers to three dreams that convey divine guidance to the dreamer. First comes the dream that warns the Magi to steer clear of duplicitous King Herod. A few verses later, Joseph dreams of the Lord, who leads the exiled holy family to Israel. Then another dream warns Joseph away from Herod’s son and toward the Galilean town of Nazareth.

By standards such as these, Cassi’s dream of the direction her life was meant to take seems downright biblical. Her dream was fulfilled and our Epiphany prayers were answered when later that year, an infant who had been exposed to drugs in the womb was placed in Cassi’s care. Both the baby and the foster mother flourished.

The dream of the Magi, the insight of Joseph, and Cassi’s experience all manifest this truth: When our minds are at rest and we are receptive to the light that shines in the darkness, sometimes God is revealed to us and our lives’ purposes are made clear.

Open to epiphanies

But what if you’re someone who rarely remembers a dream, much less receives divine guidance by night? You might think you’re exempt from epiphanies and immune to the self-revelation of the Lord. Resist this conclusion and remember that you, as much as anyone, are a beloved child of God, created in the image of your Creator. The very fact that you’re reading this meditation on epiphanies means you’re open to the One who made you, whose handiwork you show forth simply by being alive. You, yourself, manifest the Maker’s creativity. To you, perhaps quite unexpectedly, God can be made known.

No one can manifest mystical knowledge at will. It would be hazardous to try. However, through such practices as prayer, Scripture reading, spiritual direction and compassionate service to others, people of faith become gradually formed by the Holy Spirit into disciples who have the mind of Christ. The key to becoming an epiphany-receptive Christian is to practice self-emptying love, like Cassi, who fosters babies unable to repay her, or like Joseph, who raised Mary’s child as his own. Jesus appears in many people, from fragile infants to older adults, and all need love. Jesus is the ultimate receiver and revealer of God. If you know nothing else, know this much. To you will belong the holiest epiphany of all.

Rachel M. Srubas is the pastor of Mountain Shadows Presbyterian Church in Tucson. She is the author of three books.