In a small, aluminum prefab classroom, baking under the relentless summer sun that nurtures the lush vegetable crops for which the nearby Beqaa Valley in Lebanon is famous, hope is being incubated. 40 young Syrian Muslim women, mostly refugees from Aleppo and some of them mothers and widows, are learning to sew. Izdihar Kassis, a local pastor’s wife and a dynamo for Christ’s Kingdom, has run several faith-based non-profits and has now created Together for the Family to address the refugee crisis.
It is truly amazing what God has accomplished through the SARA ministries this year. The number of pastors in the mentoring program is growing every day. In this update I would like to tell you about a mentor training retreat we held in May in Curitiba.There were thirty-three pastors from six different denominations in attendance. SARA works with the Presbyterian Church of Brazil, Independent Presbyterian Church of Brazil, Lutheran Church, United Presbyterian Church, Bethany Evangelical Church and Congregational Evangelical Church.
In late July, I brought a team of eight women from the U.S. to participate in a week-long conference in Lebanon which was sponsored by the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon. Held in the mountains north of Beirut at a retreat center owned by the Synod, it gathered in more than 100 women for rich days filled with Bible study, worship, fellowship, recreation and learning – the “stuff” which comprises similar events everywhere. But there was one major difference: most of these women had come from the Presbyterian churches in Syria and had traveled over dangerous roads...
Greetings in Christ’s name from an exceptionally hot Cairo! The seminary has become quieter with most of the students away on their summer internships, so it is a good time to look back and reflect on the busy end-of-session period. Amid all the excitement and preparation for graduation in May, the ETSC community received a double blow as it learned of the deaths of Jack Lorimer and, two weeks later, Ken Bailey. Both were missionary giants, who in their different ways made an immense impact on the life of the Egyptian Church and indeed internationally.
Last week, I had the opportunity to gather at beautiful Montreat with a wonderful group of folks who have been engaged for years in ministry with smaller membership congregations. “Smaller” now describes the majority of congregations in the United States, most of which continue to lose members. In the PC(USA) the median size congregation has 84 members; that is, half of the churches in the denomination have 84 members or fewer. At the meeting, I was given some time to share my reflections about small congregations with the group, and this is the substance of what I shared.