The Valley Bridge
The weekly newsletter from the
Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys
November 30, 2016
 We are congregations who seek to be a collective expression of the Body of Christ, 
joyfully participating in Christ's ongoing life and work. "Therefore encourage one 
another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing." 
(I Thessalonians 5:11)
Congregation of the week: December 4-10
First Presbyterian Church of Brewster
  Pastor: Bob Bartlett
  Ruling Elders: Richard Garmer, Terry McNab, Richard Cross, Steve Naumann, Suzann Busch
  Clerk of Session: Lynda McNab
  Treasurer: Jim Behrends
  • Prayers of Thanksgiving for a bountiful and safe harvest
  • Prayers for those planning the 125th Anniversary Celebration of our congregation on September 10, 2017
  • Prayers of thanksgiving and for the ministry of our Presbytery Staff and for their families
  • Prayers for a church member recently involved in an automobile accident
  • Prayers for Members of our church family recovering from surgery and struggling with health issues
  • Prayers for those in the armed services and their families
  • Prayers for police officers and their families
  • Prayers for road maintenance crews who keep our roads clear in winter
  • Prayers for a smooth transition as a new president prepares to take office
  • Prayers for our sister congregation in Round Lake and for a great awakening in the PC(U.S.A.)
  • Prayers of thankfulness to God for the great gifts of life, salvation, and eternal life through Jesus Christ, God's Son Our Savior, whose birth we are preparing to celebrate
The Word from Rick 

The beginning of the Advent season means that the end of this calendar year is not far off. As we get ready to celebrate the birth of Christ, our presbytery leadership team is living in anticipation of what is to come, while at the same time looking back to see where we have been, and what the new calendar year will bring to the fifty-four active congregations and one new worshiping community that compose this presbytery.
In late February, we put a new mission design into place. Committees that had become familiar to us were replaced by new commissions and a committee that we empowered to do things, if not in a new way, at least in a different, more engaging way. Since the new design began, we have been on a learning curve. Because some ministries and procedures could not be lost in the shuffle, we found ourselves doing some things in a fashion that was like the "old" way, as we tried to figure out the new or better way.  In particular, the Commission on Leadership, which has combined the functions of the former Committees on Ministry and Preparation for Ministry, has been testing out different practices as it moves forward to serve our congregations and their leaders - we are writing the Manual as we live into it. The goal is to be more proactive, supportive, and timely in our work. Similarly, other commissions and committees have been at work seeking to define who they are and what they need to do to be the servants of our congregations.
In April, we started living into a different staff pattern as Virginia Molitor retired after thirty years on our staff team. Many of Virginia's functions were transferred to the synod's financial staff, while others were blended into Karen Lange's responsibilities. During the past nine months, Karen has been living into her reconfigured position - assuming new tasks and "learning on the run," while continuing her exceptional service in those roles that she has so ably carried for over a dozen years. That put us on another learning curve, during a "perfect storm" as synod's financial team was going through a reconfiguration at the same time. This has been a challenge for Karen, but she has weathered the storm, and her "head of staff" has also survived . . . and all the reports are beginning to make sense. Hallelujah!
Our transition into the new Mission Design has not always been smooth, and it has not been perfect, but we are learning as we go, and we are making progress. During 2017, I believe that the effect of our transition will become better experienced. We will begin with the Orientation and Organization of our ministry groups for the task ahead. We will be able to create a vision for 2017 with the whole year in front of us. We will be trying a new way of doing two presbytery meetings, using more technology to reduce travel and meeting expenses for our committees and commissions, we are planned an 'equipping event' for the whole presbytery in fall, and most notably, a new longer-term leader will come on board to help see this extended community of faith into its future.
As we move through this season of Advent, I continue to appreciate the opportunity that I have been given to be this presbytery's leader for the past three years. I am truly appreciative of each and every person who has stepped up to be a part of our new design. We do have great people who are committed to walk this journey together, even though we don't always agree on things. I am grateful for those of you who could have totally lost patience with us and walked away, but decided to stay engaged to help us move forward; I am also thankful for those of you who have jumped in for the first time, or who have re-engaged after having taken a step back. I look forward to guiding this journey for a few more months.
Blessings to you on your Advent journeys, as well as our shared journey into what it is that God is preparing for all of us!

Grace and Peace,
On the Road with Rick
December 4 - Preach at First Presbyterian Church, Blue Earth
December 4-10 - Winter All Staff Conference, Mercy Center, Burlingame, California
December 13 - Session Meeting, First Presbyterian Church, Osakis
December 18 - Preach at First Presbyterian Church, Brainerd
December 24 - Christmas Eve Worship at First Presbyterian Church, Fulda
January 8 - Preach at First Presbyterian Church, Osakis
January 21 - Presbytery Orientation and Organization Gathering, First Presbyterian Church, Willmar
January 24-31 - Association of Presbyterian Church Educators Annual Event, Denver
February 4 - Presbytery Meeting, First Presbyterian Church, Saint Cloud
Commission and Committee Members - Save the Date
Presbytery Orientation and Organization Gathering

On Saturday, January 21, Orientation and Organizational Meetings for the major presbytery commissions and committees will be held at the First Presbyterian Church in Willmar. This will be an important gathering for all of those who will be serving in the presbytery mission design for the coming year, and everyone serving on these ministry groups is strongly urged to be present.
The gathering will begin at 10:00 a.m. and conclude by 3:00 p.m. During that time, each group will have time to become oriented to its role within our mission design, set its priorities, make assignments, and set a calendar of meetings - both face-to-face and via Zoom.
More details will be forthcoming!
Who's Who in Minnesota Valleys for 2017

At the November 5 Presbytery Meeting, a number of individuals were elected to serve in the presbytery's mission design for the coming year. We are in the process of updating all the commission and committee rosters and will finish that over the next several weeks. In the meantime, we can to introduce you all to those serving on our behalf in this, and upcoming issues, of the Valley Bridge.
This week:
  • Presbytery Moderator - Ruling Elder Deb Hess (Redwood Falls)
  • Presbytery Vice Moderator - Ruling Elder Stan Menning (Dawson)
  • Commission on Presbytery Life
    • Class of 2017
      • Teaching Elder Al Jergenson (Foley)
      • Open (suggestions are being received by the Nominations Committee through Bill Yueill)
    • Class of 2018
      • Ruling Elder Edith Alvarez (Brainerd)
      • Teaching Elder Galen Smith (Worthington)
    • Class of 2019
      • Teaching Elder Andy Davis (Saint Peter) - Co-Chair
      • Teaching Elder Steve Tyykila (Canby) - Co-Chair
      • Ruling Elder Judy Oldemeyer (Holland)
    • By Virtue of Office - Class of 2017
      • Ruling Elder Deb Hess (Redwood Falls) - Presbytery Moderator
      • Ruling Elder Stan Menning (Dawson) - Presbytery Vice-Moderator
Next Week:
Commission on Presbytery Operations and Commission on Leadership
December Ordination Anniversaries

12/07/1994   Anna Williamson
12/15/1974   Rick Carus
12/22/2001   Penny Johnson
Occidente Prayer Partner?

Would you/your church like to participate directly in the partnership the Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys has with Occidente Presbytery in Guatemala? There are 20 churches in the newly defined Occidente Presbytery and 14 of them are interested in having an MVP prayer partner. So far, nine of our churches have said they'd like to join in this venture. We need, therefore, to have five more. (It would be embarrassing to not be able to match their number....)

We ask that once a month up to five prayer requests be submitted from your congregation to your matched partner in Occidente. And once a month, you should be receiving up to five prayer requests from them. Have your elders make up a list as part of each session meeting. The requests you receive from your prayer partner can be shared in worship, with prayer chains, at session or other meetings. It will be your responsibility to arrange for translations. This could be an opportunity to reach out to Hispanic members of your church or community; check with students who are studying Spanish and/or their teacher.

We would like you to send photos of your church and members involved in activities, directories, etc. to your prayer partner with the MVP group going to Guatemala in January. If you have any questions, contact Edith at:
Edith Alvarez
22030 Gull Lake Drive
Nisswa MN 56468-2650

Thank you for your consideration of this project. If interested, contact Edith as soon as possible and get materials sent by January 15, 2017.
Chris Conlin's News from Burundi

Since October 16 I have been in Bujumbura, Burundi teaching at Hope Africa University. I am teaching Infectious Diseases to 80 medical students at this small university affiliated with the Free Methodist church. It has been quite a challenge, and I am definitely outside my comfort zone. 

The two languages spoken here are French and Kirundi. When my wife told John McKay at church what I was doing he said, "So, Chris is in a country he has never been to, teaching a course he hasn't taught before, in a language he doesn't speak." Yeah, that's about it. But it truly feels like God is in this enterprise. Being in such an uncomfortable and challenging situation, I realize that any success I have will not be up to me. All I can do is work hard and trust God to use whatever talents I have to fulfill God's plans. 

The education system uses French, and most of the students know some English. (Just the opposite of me.) So my 8th grade French has been taking quite a beating. Fortunately, I eventually was able to get some excellent help translating my PowerPoint slides and exams into French and the students have been patient and understanding.

Our original plan for help fell through my second day here. Last year there was an attempted coup when the president announced he was running for a third term. The coup was short lived, but many of the missionaries and NGOs left. Some have returned but not all. It honestly seems fairly safe - at least for westerners. I have only heard a couple gun shots and one grenade go off the whole time I have been here. Although all the police and soldiers carrying AK47s took some getting used to.

Needless to say, the politics in Burundi are still fragile, and my assistant got caught in the middle. Fortunately I had wonderful support from my niece who is a pediatrician at a rural hospital until we could find some other help.

Bujumbura is the capital, and by far the largest city in the country - a city of about 1 million people in the poorest country in Africa. It is on the shores of Lake Tanganyika and surrounded by beautiful steep hills. Across the lake you see the mountains of the Congo. Traffic is challenging. The streets are always full of pedestrians, trucks, overflowing buses, taxis and cars (half of them with the steering wheel on the wrong side), motorcycle taxis, bicycle taxis, and three wheeled tuk-tuk taxis. There are no traffic lights in the whole city and no lane markers. I will never complain about our Minnesota roundabouts again.

This weekend I will have a chance to visit my niece at her rural hospital outside of Gitega about 100 miles from Bujumbura. I am looking forward to seeing the more rural parts of Burundi. It is a very religious country - the majority of the people are Roman Catholic but there are a number of protestant churches as well as Orthodox, Muslim and Hindi. I have gone to several church services - one at the Free Methodist church near campus and others at the church my missionary hosts attend. Services are in French, but there is someone translating into English. During worship they sing songs in English, French, and Kirundi. As a very small country, Burundi has to accommodate its neighbors. They are faithful, hardworking people living in a difficult situation.

They really need the doctors I am teaching. But only children under 5 and their mothers get medical care from the government. Everyone else has to pay cash and there is not much of that. There are very limited medical services - no bacterial cultures for example. The nearest MRI is in Rwanda and a CT scan costs more than surgery - so they are rarely done.

My host is an emergency pediatrician and toxicologist and the dean of the medical school here and his wife teaches English at the university. Up where my niece is there are 5 or 6 other young missionary docs - all trained in the US, including an ophthalmologist and a general surgeon and more than 20 missionary children. They are amazing people. Dedicated, faithful, hardworking and with true hearts for the Lord and for service to God's people.

I gave my last lecture today, exams are next week and 4 December I leave for home. I know I will miss this place, but look forward to being back in Minnesota for the winter. Thanksgiving 4° south of the equator is just not the same.

Thank you again for your prayers and support.

Amahoro. Imana iguhezagire. (Peace. God bless you)
Chris Conlin
A New Ministry Opportunity

The Randall Presbyterian Church, Randall, Minnesota is seeking a Pastor to lead them into the next chapter of their congregation's life. If you, or someone you know, has a passion for small towns and energetic small-member congregations, please encourage them to take a look at this opportunity!  The Ministry Information Form -- MIF#: 03892.AC. -- for this opportunity is posted on the Church Leadership Connection web site --
New Overtime Rules Blocked by Judge
On November 22, 2016, a federal judge in Texas issued a nationwide injunction that blocks the implementation on December 1st of the Department of Labor's proposed changes to the salary test under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"). In sum:
  1. At present any employee who earns an annual salary of $23,660 ($455 per week) and who satisfies one of the duties tests (ex. executive, administrative) is an exempt employee who is not eligible for overtime for hours worked over 40 hours in a workweek.
  2. The injunction means that the salary test will not change on December 1st, at least if the injunction is not overruled by a higher court.
  3. Therefore, by federal law, at least, on December 1st employers need not make changes in categorizing employees as exempt or non-exempt.
Employers should continue monitoring the news for updates. It is possible the Department of Labor may appeal this decision and seek an expedited appeal. Employers should be prepared that this might happen and for the time being be prepared to comply with the proposed FLSA changes if the injunction is lifted.
It is recommended that employers consult with their local attorneys on the impact of this injunction. In addition, employers should consider whether to implement changes passed on to employees, such as planned pay increases. Withdrawal of such plans may have legal implications and will likely impact morale.
Michael K. Kirk, Associate General Counsel
Legal & Risk Management Services
Presbyterian Mission Agency
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
The University of Dubuque Theological Seminary is pleased to announce that we will be offering eight online courses for Commissioned Ruling Elders in our CLP/CRE lay ministry program, scheduled from January 30 to May 10, 2017. We would appreciate it if you would pass on this information within your presbytery/church and advertise it in your newsletter or other publications.
Introduction to Old Testament - Dr. Mark Hughes
Introduction to New Testament - Rev. Grant VanderVelden
Christian Education - Dr. Susan Forshey
Pastoral Care - Dr. Beth McCaw
Reformed Theology - Dr. Gary Eller
Introduction to Preaching - Dr. Timothy Slemmons
Presbyterian Polity - Dr. Scott Nesbitt
Reformed Worship & Sacraments - Dr. Richard Shaffer
We would also ask you to encourage anyone you may know with gifts for ministry to consider applying to our lay ministry program.  Application and course information for our CLP/CRE program can be found at and then click on "CLP/CRE Info" in the "Welcome" box under the news feed.  I have also attached our CLP/CRE flier for additional information.  The current tuition rate is $390.00 per course.
As always, current students can register by going online at   or by contacting Carla Gibbons, Distance Education Coordinator ( or call 563-589-3630 / 1-888-207-8218), to pay by credit card or check. Feel free to contact Carla or me if you have any questions. In addition, please check our continuing education website at for upcoming spring events .
Six New Things: November 29

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