As part of its mission statement to “share this Good News with our neighbors in word and deed,” the Pennsylvania Council of Churches reaches out to our neighbors who pick the mushrooms, apples, peaches and cherries we eat. We are partners with two farmworker ministries, the Chester County Migrant Ministry Committee and the Fruitbelt Farmworker Ministry, providing technical assistance and advocacy on behalf of seasonal farmworkers.
Fruitbelt Farmworker Christian Ministry
Fruitbelt Farmworker Christian Ministry was formed in 1989 to coordinate the efforts of mission committees from Adams, Cumberland, and Franklin counties to minister within the migrant population that came in the late summer and fall of each year to harvest various fruit crops. The Ministry takes as its guide Leviticus 19:34, “The stranger who sojourns shall be to you as a native among you, and you shall love him as yourself.” The goals of the Ministry are to provide spiritual nurture, pastoral care, recreation, advocacy, opportunities for cross-cultural understanding through the Friend-a-Camp program, and to refer issues or problems to the appropriate agencies.
Rev. Ray Kauffman served as the first Executive Director until his retirement in the summer of 2000. Rev. Rod Runyan, who had served with FFCM as a part time chaplain and translator since 1990, then assumed the position of Executive Director.
The Ministry has also been led by a dedicated Board of Directors since its inception. The Directors have come from all walks of life such as a banker, orchard owners, interested church members, a professor, and people working in various phases of fruit processing.
FFCM ministers to all workers, regardless of their nationality or immigration status. The majority of those who come are men traveling alone, but there are also a number of families each year. As chaplains talk to the workers, they find out what needs they may have and try to meet those needs. The Ministry regularly provides blankets and warm clothing as the weather becomes cooler throughout the fall. Every year FFCM has volunteers transporting workers to doctor’s appointments, and if necessary providing translation services during these appointments. The Ministry also assists by translating various papers and documents the workers occasionally receive.
During the apple harvest season, Bible studies, worship services, cross-cultural recreational activities, and sometimes English as a Second Language classes sponsored by FFCM are held in farm labor camps. There are approximately 100 camps in a four-county area. Several volunteers visit the workers in their camps during the picking season, and Pastor Rod visits workers year-round to provide spiritual nurture.
FFCM is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization under the Pennsylvania Council of Churches. Its funding is supplied by donations from individuals, businesses, churches and larger church judicatories. If you would like to donate, would like to have someone come speak to your church or organization, desire additional information, or would like to serve with FFCM as a board member or chaplain/translator, please contact the Ministry at (717) 701-8633 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chester County Migrant Ministry
In Chester County, we minister through the Chester County Migrant Ministry. Under the direction of Lorraine Armstrong Martinez. CCMM works with the year-round population of people who harvest mushrooms in Kennett Square, the mushroom capitol of the nation.
Most of the workers come with their families and live year round in the Kennett Square area. All year long, they report to work around 4 a.m. to harvest each day’s crop and ensure that it gets to market in a timely manner.
CCMM offers warm clothing for these workers, who often arrive in this country ill-prepared for northern winters. Other services offered through CCMM include, bible study (which also help immigrants learn English), citizenship classes, transportation to Philadelphia for immigrant matters, translation services with doctors, etc. During the course of a year, CCMM helps at least 200 persons with the citizenship process.
The ministry is overseen by a management committee. The committee is designed to include representatives of local churches, ministerial associations, growers, and other non-profit groups serving the migrant population. The committees’ duties include program planning coordination, and evaluation. Committees meet six to nines times a year.
How can you help?
- Send a financial contribution the Pennsylvania Council of Churches, designated for ” farmworker ministry,” which will be divided between Chester County Migrant Ministry and Fruitbelt Farmworker Christian Ministry; or, designate the contribution for the specific ministry.
- Donate clothing, health kits or other items. Contact Chester County Migrant Ministry: 610-444-0387.
- Serve on the management committee.
- Assist with transportation. Contact Bob Walton: 610-347-0008, or e-mail.
- Additional questions, e-mail the Pennsylvania Council of Churches.