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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Focusing on the Historic Presbyterian Mission Areas of China: A U.S. Perspective

Installment 11 of the History of The Outreach Foundation in China

by Jefferson Ritchie, Mission Advocate

The previous installment of the history of The Outreach Foundation in China was about the thirteen years that the Rev. Dr. Peter Lim was involved in our work in China, first as an informal consultant and mission partner, then as our China Mission Specialist. In this installment we want to return to the decision made in 2004 to focus most of our efforts in China on the parts of China where Presbyterian missions were strongest. While we did not give up our relationships in other parts of China, we pivoted toward Jiangsu Province and, to a lesser extent, Shandong Province.

We did not know at the time that God was putting the same idea on a Presbyterian congregation in North Carolina, First Presbyterian Church in Wilmington. This is a brief account of their China story.

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Peter Lim, Former China Mission Specialist for The Outreach Foundation

Installment 10 of the History of The Outreach Foundation in China

by Jefferson Ritchie, Mission Advocate

In a couple of earlier installments of the history of The Outreach Foundation in China we have spoken of the impact of our trips to China on the U.S. participants. In this installment we want to speak of the impact of one of our trip participants upon The Outreach Foundation itself. He is the Rev. Dr. Peter Lim, a participant in our 2002 trip who became the China Mission Specialist of The Outreach Foundation from 2008-2015.

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Refining the Mission in China: Focusing on Regions with a Presbyterian History

Installment 9 of the History of The Outreach Foundation in China

by Jefferson Ritchie, Mission Advocate

In the first six years of our commitment to the Church in China, The Outreach Foundation supported specific projects identified by Chinese Christians to help them meet their priority goal of training more leaders for their growing church. We had begun taking groups to China to see what God was doing there and to invite their participation in that work. The connection with the Church in Heilongjiang was strong, and the “mini-library” project was in the process of being implemented at the national level

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The Church in China and the Lancaster Family

Installment 8 of the History of The Outreach Foundation in China from 1993-2018

by Jefferson Ritchie, Mission Advocate

In the last installment of the history of The Outreach Foundation in China I spoke about the development of the Mini-Library Project, a proposal to provide thousands of lay leaders serving the Church in China with biblical, theological, and pastoral resources for their ministry. It was approved by the Presbyterian Women of the PC(USA) at the end of 2001, and we received over $175,000 from their Birthday Offering. The Outreach Foundation raised a similar amount of money over the next few years from within our constituency. A key family with a long history of connection to The Outreach Foundation played a pivotal role, and this is their story.

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"This is the Golden Age for the Church in China": Opportunities for The Outreach Foundation at the Beginning of the New Millennium

Installment 7 of the History of The Outreach Foundation in China from 1993-2018

by Jefferson Ritchie, Mission Advocate

I closed my last blog with this reflection:

“As the 21st century dawned, The Outreach Foundation was ready to make a strong commitment to the Church in China. We needed more insight on how to work well with the Church, whose top priority was leadership training. The next trip would lead to a huge breakthrough for The Outreach Foundation.”

In this blog I want to highlight how that 2001 trip led to The Outreach Foundation’s first national-level project in China. I begin with the following summary of the trip:

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Early Outreach Foundation Mission Vision Trips to China: Learning by Doing

Installment 6 of the History of The Outreach Foundation in China from 1993-2018

by Jefferson Ritchie, Mission Advocate

By early 2000 The Outreach Foundation was well into a major project in Northeast China, the Hallelujah Church in Harbin. Construction had begun, and we were receiving photographs of the progress of the new sanctuary. Our primary mission strategy for China, however, was not construction, but the development of leaders, and to that mission we now turned our attention. Our next trip to China would be an exclusively Outreach Foundation trip and would be to discern which of the Bible Schools and seminaries we should support. Naturally, we also wanted to see the progress on the Hallelujah Church.

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When You Follow Jesus into the World: Transforming Mission in China

Installment 5 of the History of The Outreach Foundation in China from 1993-2018

by Jefferson Ritchie, Mission Advocate

In my previous blog on the history of The Outreach Foundation in China, I emphasized how meeting Chinese Christians has impacted the lives of American Christians. In this blog I want to share a two of those impact stories. 

David Bridgman, the son of missionaries who returned to China on our 1998 trip after fifty years away, wrote a journal of his experiences entitled “China 1998: An Opening Door.” Our time in Harbin was especially moving for him. This is what he wrote on the meeting our group had with two of the church leaders, the Rev. Lü De Zhi and the Rev. Li Mei Lan:

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The Outreach Foundation in China: the Heilongjiang Initiative

Installment 4 of the History of The Outreach Foundation in China from 1993-2018

by Jefferson Ritchie, Mission Advocate

Heilongjiang Province, located in the northeastern corner of China, was an unlikely place for The Outreach Foundation to begin its first sustained mission involvement. Historically, it had no Presbyterian missionaries; instead it had a Russian heritage dating back over 100 years. But it did have a “Presbyterian Connection” through its 2,000,000 Chinese of Korean descent. 

Among the Christians in the Church in Heilongjiang were Korean Chinese, and one of the Korean Chinese Christians, the Rev. Li Meilan, was a leader in the Church in Harbin, the capital city of Heilongjiang Province. Pastor Li was used by God to build the bridge to American Presbyterian mission efforts when she met two American Presbyterian missionaries serving in South Korea. This is how it came about.

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

Installment 3 of the History of The Outreach Foundation in China from 1993-2018

by Jefferson Ritchie, Mission Advocate

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.

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

by Marilyn Borst

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

Installment 2 of the History of The Outreach Foundation in China from 1993-2018

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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