Missionaries: A thing of the past?

by Juan Sarmiento

During our youth, many of us heard stories of remarkable Christians that risked their lives to witness to Christ often in difficult and remote places. People from Scotland, England, and the United States that responded to God’s call to serve in a culture different than their own. Although churches from “traditionally sending countries” continue to send missionaries, recent statistics place countries like Brazil and South Korea among those that are growing the most in the number of missionary vocations. During my recent visit with the Presbyterian Church of Mexico, I had the opportunity to interact with delightful people that are courageously crossing geographical and cultural borders motivated by God’s boundless love. Here are some of them:

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This is Your Church

by Rev. Dr. Lisa Culpepper 

“This is your church.” These are the words that I heard as I sat in worship at the newly completed National Evangelical Church in Aleppo with visiting church leaders, board members, and The Outreach Foundation’s Executive Director, Rob Weingartner.

Earlier that day, we had visited the site of the original National Evangelical Church which was reduced to rubble by tunneled bombs in 2014. In 2012 as war came to Aleppo, many members of the Church began to flee the city. In the early years of the war, the church declined from 500 members to 80. Yet, after it’s destruction by terrorists, church members began to meet in a five-floor walk-up apartment and the church began to grow again.

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Why I Support The Outreach Foundation

by Jefferson Ritchie 

“Remember the ‘who,’ ‘what,’ ‘when,’ ‘where,’ and ‘how ,’” my sister and brother who are English professors tell me when I share an article I have written with them.  Those five categories spring to mind when I think about why I support The Outreach Foundation and its Annual Appeal.

WHO: The Outreach Foundation has a staff that has a profound understanding of God’s mission that is simply this: “The church does not have a mission Rather, God has a mission and invites the church to join him in it.” Our staff has long-term connections with global partners who call us “friends,” not simply “partners.” Our staff is small but comes from seven countries.

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Persevering with the Mexican Saints

Reflecting on unity and mission four centuries after the Synod of Dort

By Juan Sarmiento

The Reformation is a vibrant movement in Latin America. By many accounts, Protestants represent around 22% percent of the population in the region. The National Presbyterian Church of Mexico alone registers more than two million members. Social scientists point to the rapid urbanization process as prompting many to seek a faith seen as more progressive than traditional religiosities as a possible reason for the trend. Others indicate that the ensuing surge of independent charismatic churches with leaderships that downplay theological reflection in favor of subjective spiritualities as another possible reason. As much as the growth of Protestant churches in the region since the 1980s is celebrated, there has also been a growing disillusion with the increased doctrinal fragmentation and confusion of recent decades.

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FORMED

by Rev. Dr. Jeffrey A. Hosmer

Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.

Genesis 2:7 NRSV

Then the Lord God and the man formed the church from the dust of the ground, and breathed life into the church, and the church became a living being. 

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“Ready and Thankful to Give it All I Can”

A tribute to Rev. Tateos Michaelian, a faithful Iranian Presbyterian on the 25th anniversary of his martyrdom.

(Updated on 6-29-19)

“I am ready and thankful to give it all I can”. That was the response that Rev. Tateos Michaelian wrote to his friend when invited to lend his expertise to a new translation of the Bible for the Iranian world in May of 1994*. On July 2nd Rev. Michaelian’s family identified his brutally murdered body.

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Rev. Dr. Majid Abel discusses the church in Pakistan

During a recent visit to The Outreach Foundation office in Franklin, Rev. Dr. Majid Abel discussed the church in Pakistan.

Hear about the history of the church in Pakistan and his personal journey in becoming a pastor. Learn about Outreach’s partnerships in Pakistan, including motorbikes for rural pastors and Gujranwala Theological Seminary.

He also discusses some of the challenges that face Christians and the church in their country.

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Roy Soto discusses Shalom Teaching Ministry in Costa Rica

Roy Soto joins Juan Sarmiento in The Outreach Foundation office to discuss his Shalom Teaching Ministry in Costa Rica.

Watch the video to hear how through the teaching ministry of Rev. Roy Soto, pastors and church leaders are catching a fresh vision for how to grow outwardly-focused congregations that actively engage in life-changing incarnational witness to the Gospel. Last year alone, close to 700 pastors and leaders with little or no formal theological education benefited from this ministry.

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Great Things Come in Small Packages

by Mark Mueller, Director of Development

 God’s Word teaches us great truths. One truth it teaches is that great things come in small packages. For example, Mary, a twelve-year-old girl was of no prominence or importance to the world, yet she was chosen to birth the Son of God. Jesus was born in a small way, in a stable outside a remote, insignificant village. Amid a stable, the Savior enters the world. The disciples would be considered small people (fisherman and tax collectors) and of no relative import. They were not leaders, credentialed or people of status. These 12 transformed the world through the work of the Holy Spirit. Moses lacked the linguistic skills to talk with Pharaoh, but God chose him to lead the people out of bondage. Moses led more than a million people into the desert with no plan of where they were moving. On and on these stories are told in the Bible. God has a way of putting immense value on something small and seemingly insignificant.

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Incredible Strength, Endurance, and Firmness of Character

by Todd Luke

Isaias Guzman is eighteen. If he lived in your town, he’d likely be planning for prom, graduation, summer job, and college in the fall.

As it is, Isaias lives in the village of Castilla Brito (pop. 600) in southern Mexico. After junior high, he chose to go full-time into the family business—subsistence farming. Every year his extended family clears, plants, and harvests around twenty acres or so without owning a tractor. A good year may reap profits near $6,000 and enough corn to feed the family and their chickens and turkeys. An average year can yield around $2,000. A bad year, much less. And it doesn’t take much to have a bad year.

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A Place for Healing

by Jack Baca

(Written during a recent Outreach trip to Syria)

February 14. Valentine’s Day. Or, to be more accurate, Saint Valentine’s Day, named for the 4th century bishop who was persecuted and beheaded because he insisted on marrying young men and women against the orders of the Roman emperor, who wanted his soldiers not to have any romantic attachments so that they would more willingly die for the empire. The bishop believed in love – passionate, committed, sacrificial love – the kind that makes marriages work, the kind that makes the whole world work, the kind that looked down from the cross and said, “I forgive.”

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Comfort My People

by Lisa B. Culpepper 

It was four years ago that I sat with Lina and Salwa on a curb of the retreat center in Dhour Schweir. We were overlooking a beautiful and peaceful mountain range as they told me of their war-torn lives. It was quite a culture shock for me, and I could not relate to their stories.

I did not know what it was like to have bombs exploding in my neighborhood or what it was like to operate a household on a few hours of electricity per day.

I did not know what it was like to lose my livelihood because the pharmacy I owned was destroyed or to send my husband out on an errand not knowing if he would be killed or be conscripted into the army.

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In this season of resurrection...think Aleppo

by Marilyn Borst

In February, a team from The Outreach Foundation was in Syria, led by our associate director, Marilyn Borst. Outreach traveled at the invitation of our partner, the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon (NESSL). The Outreach team visited 10 Presbyterian churches over 12 days, including the one in Aleppo, as well as the Armenian Catholic Church there - both were badly damaged in the war.

The guns of war have been largely stilled, and now a resurrection begins, especially for the churches…

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The Outreach Foundation Celebrates its 40th Anniversary in 2019

40 years is quite something.

The Outreach Foundation took shape in 1979 with a vision to reclaim evangelism and mission as Presbyterian priorities. Since then, Outreach has distributed more than $125 million to over 50 global partners in 37 countries.

Whether it be a 40th birthday or a 40th wedding anniversary, the number 40 is cause for celebration. It brings about a gathering in one form or another. It shouldn’t surprise us that the number 40 in the Bible is mentioned over 140 times. Generally, it references a special work of God. Sometimes it refers to a period of preparation, testing, or trial.

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What Is the Future of The Outreach Foundation in China?

Installment 16 of the History of The Outreach Foundation in China 

by Jefferson Ritchie, Mission Advocate 

For almost a year I have chronicled the work of The Outreach Foundation in China from the 1990s until 2018. In this final installment of our China history, I will list a few projects that have not been previously mentioned. We will also speak of our on-going relationships, programs and projects which are now coordinated by the Rev. Juan Sarmiento. Finally, we will suggest some future possibilities to explore with the Church in China as well as potential challenges.

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The Amity Foundation, a Christian-Initiated Non-Governmental Organization

Installment 15 of the History of The Outreach Foundation in China

by Jefferson Ritchie, Mission Advocate

After the opening of China in the late 1970s, the Church in China was permitted freedom to worship and engage in ministry inside the church walls. It was not, however, allowed to do social ministries outside the church. Neither could it print Bibles which were scarce because so many had been destroyed during the Cultural Revolution.

The leadership of the China Christian Council found a way to address these needs by setting up a non-governmental organization (NGO), the Amity Foundation, in 1985. Its mission was to print the Bible for the churches in China and to serve the society of China through education, health, development, disaster relief, and other specialized ministries.

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A Tribute to Dr. Lamin Sanneh

by Juan Sarmiento

 Lamin Sanneh* was a man of deep faith. Since the age of eighteen, that faith guided a journey that would take him from the banks of the Gambia River to become one of the foremost experts in World Christianity. A mixture of profound sadness and gratitude overtook me last week when I received news of his sudden death.

As a young man, Sanneh was bold to not let the expectations of his family and community stop him from publicly professing faith in Christ. He recognized that following this new path placed him at odds with some fellow Christians who did not consider it appropriate for a Muslim to convert. Later, Sanneh’s desire to study theology and become ordained were also met with staunch resistance in the church. However, he continued to pursue his calling in such diverse places as a historically black college in Virginia, USA and the Near East School of Theology in Beirut, Lebanon.

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Networking for Mission in China

Installment 14 of the History of The Outreach Foundation in China

by Jefferson Ritchie, Mission Advocate

God’s mission flows into the world through relationships, and our mission in China has been marked by a plethora of such relationships, both within and beyond the Presbyterian family. This installment of our history will mention several networks in which The Outreach Foundation participated, including a Presbyterian China Network of which we were one of the founders.

Christian Leadership Exchange (CLE): Shortly after The Outreach Foundation became seriously committed to mission relationships in China, we learned about a network called Christian Leadership Exchange. Its purpose was to introduce American mission organizations to the officially recognized Church in China through an annual symposium on the Church in China.

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English Camps: Going Deeper in Relationships in China

Installment 13 of the History of The Outreach Foundation in China

by Jefferson Ritchie, Mission Advocate

One of the most fruitful results of the decision by The Outreach Foundation to focus on the provinces where Presbyterian missions had been historically strongest in China was a program we developed between 2009 and 2012 with the Jiangsu Provincial Christian Council. We called it the Summer English Exchange. The idea for these exchange experiences came from The Amity Foundation, a social service and development organization founded by Chinese Christians in 1985. One of the contributions Amity made to Chinese society was their Summer English Program. Every year international volunteers would spend four weeks helping English teachers in Chinese Middle Schools improve their spoken English. Many U.S. Presbyterians participated in this program which continues today.

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Shadyside Presbyterian Church and Its Shandong Connection

Installment 12 of the History of The Outreach Foundation in China

by Jefferson Ritchie, Mission Advocate

In the last installment of the history of The Outreach Foundation in China we told the story of First Presbyterian Church of Wilmington, North Carolina and its historical connection with Jiangyin in Jiangsu Province. In this installment we will share about an American church with an historical connection to the Shandong Province, just north of Jiangsu. This is the Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Presbyterians in the northern stream of U.S. Presbyterianism began sending missionaries to Shandong in the 1860s. By 1895, the Shandong Mission had become the largest, and, in many ways, the most successful work of the PC(USA) in China (G. Thompson Brown, Earthen Vessels and Transcendent Power, p. 78). Some notable American Presbyterian missionaries served in Shandong, and one of them, the Rev. John L. Nevius, greatly influenced the Presbyterian missions to the Korean Peninsula that began in the 1880s.

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