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A Year in the Life of our PHPC Young Adult Volunteer

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First of all I owe all of you, my PHPC family a massive thank you for sending me out to Atlanta to serve as a Young Adult Volunteer (YAV for short). And a big thank you to all of my donors. My year as a YAV has been filled with many trials, adventures, and joy’s, this year has truly changed my life. As my time working at Mercy Community Church in Atlanta, a church for folks struggling with homelessness, is coming to a close, I have been feeling nostalgic and reflecting on the year. And I wanted to share some of what I have learned.

Some of you know, the big reason I became a YAV was to answer the question of “Where is God calling me in life?” Tall order, I know… However through much discerning through this past year I feel I have a much better idea of where that path is. My gifts and passions are leading me to either continue to work with the marginalized groups of the world through social work. Or to empower our youth to find their own voice in the struggles of adolescents and to inspire them to live by the gospel through youth ministry. 

On my first day at Mercy Church, I met a woman who struggled with her mental health and came in and out of lucidness. Most of the time her reality was different than my own, but I could tell she wanted me to listen. When she came to she told me usually she is disregarded and ignored, and that she greatly appreciated me just being there and listening. Those few moments have taught me so much… Half of the battle for anyone, experiencing anything is just being there… being present with them. Whether they are struggling with depression, grief, or poverty, just be present with them, and listen even if you don't understand. It is one of the greatest signs of love you can show to someone.

Another day, I overheard one of the members of our congregation say “Mercy is the only place I can go and be looked at in the eye…” Those words struck me like a brick wall… Then I thought about my own daily life and how most people look at me. This moment taught me a lot about my own privilege and I reflected on this for quite some time. Everyday, I can expect to be looked in the eye by most of whom I come across. I can find water when I am thirsty. Everyday I can voice my opinion and know that I am heard. That day it struck me, that a lot of my friends on the street do not have those same experiences and privileges.

One question that has been asked of me a few times throughout the year was to explain my blog title (which for anyone who’s read it, I am sorry there are so few posts…) “The Breath of Life is Whisperings of Love” Which to me encompasses how I believe little acts of love can change the world. Mahatma Gandhi said, “in a gentle way, you can shake the world!” and I believe that gentleness he was talking about was that of love. The gentle act of being present for someone, the gentle act of looking someone in the eye with a smile, or the gentle act of being a voice for the voiceless.

The Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) Program is a national program of the Presbyterian Church (USA). The YAV Program is a faith-based year of service for young people, ages 19-30, in 22 sites around the world and in the United States. YAVs accompany local agencies working to address root causes of poverty and reconciliation while exploring the meaning and motivation of their faith in intentional community with peers and mentors. For more information or to apply, check out 

Worship at Five Dessert Competition

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Last week after Worship at Five, we hosted our very first Dessert Competition! There were 23 delicious entries in three categories: Chocolate, Non-Chocolate, and “Free” (gluten free, dairy free, etc.). People of all generations enjoyed sampling the desserts and voting for their favorites, and in the end, there were three winners: Sophia Braskamp, Lizzie Lett, and Eric Hart. Thanks to all who participated for a very sweet evening of fun and fellowship!

Best “Free” Dessert: Gluten Free Chocolate Crinkle Cookies – Sophia Braskamp
1 cup gluten free flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups packed brown sugar
3 large eggs
4 teaspoons instant espresso powder (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup confectioners’ sugar

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in bowl.
  2. Whisk brown sugar; eggs; espresso powder, if using; and vanilla together in large bowl. Combine chocolate and butter in bowl and microwave, stirring occasionally, until melted, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Whisk chocolate mixture into egg mixture until combined. Fold in flour mixture until no dry streaks remain. Let dough sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.
  4. Place granulated sugar and confectioners’ sugar in separate shallow dishes. Working with 2 tablespoons dough at a time, roll into balls. Drop dough balls directly into granulated sugar and roll to coat. Transfer dough balls to confectioners’ sugar and roll to coat evenly. Evenly space dough balls on prepared sheets, 11 per sheet.
  5. Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until puffed and cracked and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft (cookies will look raw between cracks and seem underdone), about 12 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking. Let cool completely on sheet before serving.


Best Non-Chocolate Dessert: Strawberry Shortcake – Lizzie Lett
Our family created this dessert one evening by happenstance.  We were supposed to bring cake to a dinner party but got started much too late.  Since we didn't have time for the cake to cool and then frost, we decided just to crumble up the cake and layer it with whipped cream and strawberries.  Everyone loved it, and "strawberry shortcake" became a family favorite!  

 1 box cake mix (yellow or white)
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 lbs of strawberries 

Prepare either white or yellow box cake mix according to the package instructions.  Set aside cake to cool.  If you are in a hurry, put the cake in the freezer to cool it off.  

Clean, core and slice two pounds of fresh strawberries.   

Pour whipping cream in medium sized bowl and beat until partially firm, but before peaks have formed.  Add sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. [Note:  if you like your whipping cream less sweet, it is ok to back off on the sugar a bit.] 

In a clear serving dish (a trifle bowl works great), add a layer of crumbled cake (bite sized crumbles).  On top of the cake, add a generous layer of sliced strawberries.  On top of the strawberries, add a layer of whipped cream.  Repeat the layering, ending with a generous layer of whipped cream.  If you have additional strawberries, add several as decoration on top of the whipped cream.  [Note: you will likely have cake left over.] 

Keep the shortcake chilled until ready to serve.

We often add fresh blueberries to this recipe, particularly when we want to serve a "patriotic" dessert.  


Best Chocolate Dessert: Nanaimo Bars- Eric Hart
½ cup butter, softened
¼ cup white sugar
5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 egg beaten
1 ¾ cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup flaked coconut
½ finely chopped walnuts
½ cup butter, softened
3 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons custard powder
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
4 (1 ounce) squares semisweet baking chocolate
2 teaspoons butter

 In the top of a double boiler, combine 1/2 cup butter, white sugar and cocoa powder. Stir occasionally until melted and smooth. Beat in the egg, stirring until thick, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and mix in the graham cracker crumbs, coconut and almonds (if you like). Press into the bottom of an ungreased 8x8 inch pan.

For the middle layer, cream together 1/2 cup butter, heavy cream and custard powder until light and fluffy. Mix in the confectioners' sugar until smooth. Spread over the bottom layer in the pan. Chill to set.

While the second layer is chilling, melt the semisweet chocolate and 2 teaspoons butter together in the microwave or over low heat. Spread over the chilled bars. Let the chocolate set before cutting into squares.

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