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Cycling to serve others

Pastor, congregant ride through Malawi to support UrbanPromise

Special to The Sun: Pastor Stuart Spencer of First Presbyterian Church (left) and church member Jim Dugan are cycling 300 miles to visit UrbanPromise sites and raise funds to provide summer camps for 3,000 children in the African country of Malawi.

Pastor Stuart Spencer of First Presbyterian Church of Moorestown and others are biking through the African country of Malawi this month to support UrbanPromise International. 

Besides Spencer, the team consists of church member Jim Dugan; Bruce Main, founder and president of the nonprofit UrbanPromise; Kevin Callahan; Jim Cummings; Bill Judd; Larissa Smith; Stephen Choi; and Synos Mwathunga. 

They’re cycling 300 miles – an average of 50 a day – to visit UrbanPromise sites and raise funds to provide summer camps for 3,000 children in Malawi. The team returns from its 10-day trip on Tuesday, July 18.

“Our goal is to raise $50,000 to support the various missions in Malawi that we’ll be seeing,” Spencer said. “We’ll be seeing these different missions; we’ll be seeing the leaders and meeting a lot of the children and youth that they serve.”

UrbanPromise International is a nonprofit whose mission is to prepare emerging leaders to develop and sustain Christian-based youth development organizations and seed new ministries as they serve vulnerable children and teens in the world’s most under-resourced communities. 

For 15 years, the organization has trained emerging Malawian leaders to build youth-serving organizations throughout the East African county. Eleven nonprofits have been created, including high schools, orphanages, girls’ empowerment programs, summer camps, job training, feeding programs and sustainable agriculture.

“This church (First Presbyterian) has been a partner of UrbanPromise almost since the day UrbanPromise began, so we have a long history of partnership,” Spencer noted. “We have gotten to know a lot of the leaders who have been trained through UrbanPromise through the years … We have a really nice, long history with the organization.”

Spencer has been the church’s pastor for five years. He served six years as the associate pastor of Manoa Presbyterian Church in Havertown, Pennsylvania, and 22 years as the pastor of the Thompson Memorial Presbyterian Church in that state’s town of New Hope.

“They (First Presbyterian) care a lot about making a difference in the community, and they really want to help in any way that they can,” Spencer said. “They have a really great history of giving through missions internationally, but also in local ways.”

The bike trip marks Spencer’s first visit to Malawi and he appreciates the time team members are spending together.

“There’s something that really brings people together when you’re going to serve in this kind of capacity,” he observed. “I’m really looking forward to meeting the (Malawi) people, both the leaders and the people that they serve, primarily children and youth.”

“I’m always just so inspired by the people who are doing the work there,” he added.  “You just feel a very close connection in a very short amount of time.”

Spencer expects the trip to enlighten him in a new way.

“Many times, I’ve found there’s things that I can learn about how people are serving their communities,” he pointed out, “and so I fully expect that I’ll come back with some inspiration, if not some really great ideas and strategies that I will find useful.”

For more information on UrbanPromise International, visit https://urbanpromiseinternational.org. For more information on making a donation, visit https://runsignup.com/Race/MW/Lilongwe/TrekMalawi2023.

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