The History of The Outreach Foundation in China: Built upon 150 Years of Relationships

by Jefferson Ritchie

The Outreach Foundation was a new missionary movement within the Presbyterian “family” when the churches in China reopened. When the time came for us to work in Mainland China, we looked to those within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) who already had connections with the Church in China. In this blog I want to highlight two of those people, Dr. Insik Kim and Dr. Donn McCall. Dr. Kim opened the way for us to build relationships with the Church in China, and Dr. McCall gave us confirmation of the mission strategy we would pursue. 

The Rev. Dr. Insik Kim was Coordinator for East Asia and the Pacific for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) from 1973-2008. Prior to the opening of the churches in China, Dr. Kim was part of a China Working Group at the National Council of Churches in the United States and Canada (NCCCUSA) that was tasked to explore what they could do collectively in China when the churches would be permitted to open again.

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When the World is at its Worst, the Church Must be at its Best

Lessons from the Church Past and Present

In the early 2nd century, Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, wrote seven letters as he traveled to Rome to answer to the charge of being a Christian. Since he knew that he would never recant his faith, he also realized that he was traveling forward to his own death and indeed, St. Ignatius was one of the early “high profile” martyrs of the Church. His letters, which date from around 107, are addressed to one fellow bishop and to six congregations most of which lay along his route through Asia Minor (modern Turkey), such as at Ephesus, Smyrna and Philadelphia. In those letters, he not only sends a message of encouragement but also speaks words of correction and concern over issues within that particular church which Ignatius, because of the respect in which he was held, knows will be heard. His pastoral words still resonate with power and truth today:

“For the work we have to do is no affair of persuasive speaking; Christianity lies in achieving greatness in the face of the world’s hatred.” (Letter to the Romans)

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The History of The Outreach Foundation in China: My Personal Introduction

by Jefferson Ritchie, Mission Advocate

The year that the Executive Director of The Outreach Foundation, Dr. Howard Chadwick, visited Taiwan and saw the movement of the Holy Spirit in the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan, he also came to South Korea where my wife, Megan, and I were missionaries. Dr. Chadwick led a retreat for the Presbyterian missionaries and told us what was going on in Taiwan as well as introduced us to the newly-formed Outreach Foundation. 

Around this time, we also began hearing about the reopening of the churches in Mainland China. Some of our denominational leaders had visited China and shared what they had seen with us when they stopped by Korea on their way home. Their stories interested me, and I hoped for an opportunity to see the Church in China one day.

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Pray the Way: the Power of Prayer in Mission

by Marilyn Borst

I constantly remember before our God and Father, your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love and your endurance inspired by your hope in our Lord Jesus Christ…Paul’s opening address to the Church in Thessalonica resonates with similar beginnings to his other epistles. …Without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers… [you are] always in every prayer of mine …constantly mentioning you in our prayers…  Paul was as much a man of prayer as he was a man of action. Remarkable, that his intimate knowledge of the Church of his day and its congregations scattered around the Mediterranean basin seems, in many ways, far superior to our own in this day of the Internet and Facebook.

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Some GOOD News for World Refugee Day - June 20, 2018

by Rev. Dr. Nancy T. Fox
Chair, The Outreach Foundation Board of Trustees

When we hear that this world of ours holds 65.6 million refugees and forcibly displaced people in 2018, most of us cannot fathom the reality. That massive number becomes more comprehensible when we consider that it is just slightly more than the entire population of France and just slightly less than that of the United Kingdom, this year’s twenty-first and twenty-second most populous countries. One in every 116 people in the world is currently displaced from their home by persecution or violent conflict such as war; over half of them are children. Twenty more are displaced every minute. How many members does your church have? With a little math, you can figure out the equivalent proportion of your own community that would be displaced. 

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China and The Outreach Foundation: A Strong Global Partnership

by Jefferson Ritchie, Mission Advocate

In 2019 The Outreach Foundation turns forty years old. Over the next few years I will be telling part of our history in those areas of the world where I was involved as staff liaison from 1998-2018. I will be drawing on insights of other staff and trustees, friends from both U.S. churches and the global church to tell the story of our missions in China, Egypt, Brazil, and parts of Africa. My hope is that others will add to this history by sharing what God has done through The Outreach Foundation in other countries.

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An Inviting and Abiding Relationship

by Juan Sarmiento

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”   Matthew 11:28-10

With sixty-two Brazilian congregations serving an estimated population of eighty thousand people that trace their origin to that country, the Orlando area was the location for a mentoring retreat for Portuguese speaking pastors from May 14 to 17.

The purpose of the gathering was to seek spiritual renewal and to acquire skills for preventing and dealing with the reality of burnout in ministry. Within an environment of grace, trust and mutual support, we shared about, among other things, the challenges associated with ministering interculturally and among highly mobile immigrant communities, dealing with family conflict, physical exhaustion, and depression. Participants came from five different U.S. states as well as Brazil.

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We Have Come Together - Tumekutana 2018

by Caryl Weinberg

Tumekutana is a Swahili word meaning “We Have Come Together.” Founded 11 years ago, the Tumekutana conference began as a gathering of Presbyterian and Reformed Women’s leaders from 16 countries in Africa and 26 denominations. This year’s conference, the fourth Tumekutana gathering, will include women from 23 countries and 33 denominations.

Each conference focuses on a theme identified by the African women, relevant to the setting of the gathering. During the conference women receive training, are challenged and encouraged, and establish friendships and networks that go far beyond each meeting. Whether leading women in a denomination of five million people or “only” 250,000, these women leaders have important roles with the potential for significant impact on the women and families in their churches and countries.

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What the Birds Teach Us: A Reflection for Earth Day

by Jeff Ritchie

My father loved to watch birds, and he passed on that love to his four children. Dad always had his eye out for red-tailed hawks and owls as we drove down the highway or walked through the woods. One day we were out in the country on a quiet, two-lane road when he pointed out a bird I had never seen: “There’s an indigo bunting!” Now that was a bird to behold. Such exquisite blue in a bird I had never seen. I became a bunting fan for life. (Many thanks to my college classmate, Brian Smith, and to Mr. Jack Zievis, a fellow resident of Atlantic Beach, for permission to use their photos).

My wife, Megan, and I enjoyed indigo bunting sightings when we lived in Tennessee. Now in Florida, we have discovered another bunting, the painted bunting. When one frequented our bird feeder over several days last week, we shared the joy with our grandsons, Alex and Matthew. Now they are bird fans.

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Turning the World Upside Down

by Camille Josey

In one generation God used the small house churches of the early Christian movement to turn the world upside down. By the 4th century, Christianity had spread across the width and breadth of the Roman Empire. No master plan, no vision statement (aside from “Jesus is Lord.”), no CNN. Why, then, do so many small churches in the West today feel so insignificant, as though they do not have the resources to continue the spread of the Gospel?

It’s all a matter of perspective. If your measurements are the traditional budgets, buildings and butts in the pew, a small rural church of 70 members is bound to feel inferior to a 7,000-member church. But take a look from another angle. The first map, labeled >1000 members reflects a total membership of approximately 309,000. What do you notice here? Do you see all of the geographical territory of the U.S.A. that is not reached by these congregations?

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The Day the Revolution Began

by Jeff Ritchie

My wife and I spent a week in Washington, DC recently. We saw many museums and monuments during our stay. The theme of “revolution” was very prominent in the Museum of American History. A different kind of revolution, the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, was exhibited in the relatively new National Museum of African American History and Culture. A third revolution, the revolution of travel through air and into space, was showcased by the National Air and Space Museum. Megan and I were profoundly moved by what we saw in the museums and monuments of Washington. 

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"Take and eat; this is my body": An invitation to new life

On the third Sunday of March 1557, in the bay of what nine years later would become known as the city of Rio de Janeiro, Dr. Pierre Richier officiated over the first Reformed service of communion on our continent. Richier was one of the two pastors sent by John Calvin to serve a group of 500 French colonists and to share the Christian faith with the Tupi people who inhabited the area.

The events that we meditate upon during Holy Week remind us that through Christ’s life, death and resurrection we are received into communion with God and God’s beloved people. 

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Connections, Relationships, Discernment and Dedication

Eight countries of origin, 63 missionaries, nine species, 300 churches, 1979 and 13,447,000 people…. what do these numbers mean? They represent connections, relationships, discernment and dedication in proclaiming the Good News of Jesus! Outreach’s Executive Director Rob Weingartner shares some fascinating facts about mission, witness and The Outreach Foundation. Enjoy!

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When Jesus Passes By: Thoughts on Worship and War Psalm 29

Some people say that Jesus passes by…. while the dough is rising for the “awamet.” It was Baptism of the Lord Sunday in Tripoli, Lebanon (a city of sweets) where the syrupy “awamet" (meaning, “to rise out of the water”) pastries were being passed around. As the platter was quickly emptying we were told that this traditional sweet is served in celebration of baptism. The dough, which is made the night before, is left to rise and later formed into small balls which are fried in hot oil. Watching them sizzle and skip in ‘baptismal’ oil, they float to the top, rising to new life, and a drizzle of syrupy sweetness.

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The Lord's Prayer and God's Mission

Some years ago, I began to look at the Lord’s Prayer and how it relates to our missionary calling as disciples of Jesus. This Lenten Season the church where Megan and I worship is studying and reflecting on the Lord’s Prayer, and it has become an opportunity for me to think again how Jesus’ prayer can form us, his disciples for our worship and work. 

The prayer starts off “Our Father.” The God to whom we pray, who is the Father of our Lord Jesus, is “our Father.” He is my God and the God of people from every tribe, tongue, and culture who have turned to the living God through faith in Jesus. 

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We Are Not So Small When We Are Together

My relationship with the small church has been an on again, off again relationship. I grew up in a small congregation where my faith was formed, I was confirmed, served as a junior elder and as a youth leader. In my young adult years, however, I became disillusioned when the congregation refused to have anything to do with the Vietnamese refugees settling in the neighborhoods around the church.

That’s when I moved my membership to a mega church that had a robust community ministry. I spent the next 25 years in that worshiping community working on local mission projects, serving as chair of the newly formed global missions committee, teaching Sunday School and serving on the session. It was in the life of this congregation that I heard the call to ministry and where I was sponsored as a seminarian.

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Remarkable

by Marilyn Borst

I am not much of a sports fan, but I am easily caught up in the excitement of the Olympics. Much to my husband’s surprise, I am glued to the television and cheer for countries not my own: the Dutch in speed skating, the Russians in curling, the Norwegians in cross-country skiing. Having spent so much time “on the road” and out of this country, I guess that I am easily “at home” in other cultures. Some of that “ease” comes from discovering that people are more alike than they are different, as these photos may suggest: kids love to play in model trains, women out for an afternoon outing enjoy an ice cream cone, a family in their “Sunday best” take a photo in front of a lovely flower display, a choir robes up and leads in worship.

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Only Intangible Benefits

by Rob Weingartner

Earlier this week my wife Terry and I received a statement from our church listing our financial contributions for 2017 for use in preparation of our income tax return. I smiled as I read the IRS-conforming language at the bottom of the statement: “Only intangible religious benefits are provided in exchange for contributions.”

Intangible. That describes something that is unable to be touched or grasped, something not having a physical presence. I understand the reasons for the caveat on the giving statement; we put something similar on the statements that Outreach sends to our donors. But the language required by the IRS runs so counter to the incarnational character of our faith and discipleship. 

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Diaspora Mission – An Old-New Phenomenon

by Jeff Ritchie

Almost 2,000 years ago the Apostle Peter wrote a letter to people whom he called “the exiles of the Dispersion” living in what is now Turkey. Who were these “exiles of the Dispersion?” They were Jews living outside their homeland dispersed among the non-Jewish majority population, and so were called by a short-hand word, “the Diaspora.” These Jews had come to believe in Jesus as their Messiah, and they in turn shared their new faith with Gentiles. The churches to whom Peter wrote were born out of mission among the Jewish Diaspora.

Today the phenomenon of Diaspora Mission is once again a major part of God’s mission to build up his kingdom. 

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Sharing Faith and Participating with God's Mission with People of Other Faiths

by Jeff Ritchie

My friendship with Jeff Horen goes back to our days in junior high in Louisville, Kentucky. Our birthdays are two days apart. We were inseparable in high school where we specialized in “creative play” to the consternation of our teachers. During class we surreptitiously played “dots.” In breaks between classes we played paper-wad basketball (the “goal” was the trash can in our classroom). Outside of class we had an on-going rivalry in ping-pong and backyard basketball. We had a special connection which we have kept through the years since high school.

My friend Jeff is an Orthodox Jew, and I am a Christian. We have talked about matters of faith for decades, but the past year the conversation has gone deeper.

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