2016 Ministry Highlights

by Tom Widmer

Through you our donors, God richly blessed The Outreach Foundation in 2016. Because of your trust in us and our responsibility to you, we constantly ask ourselves if we are accomplishing the three priorities set by our Board of Trustees. Below we reflect upon those three priorities and share ministry highlights for each.

Priority 1:  Helping the church live out its missional calling
In Jesus’ Great Commission, he calls us to go out and make disciples of all nations. (Matt 28:19) In light of that, Outreach works with churches across the U.S. to help them better understand Jesus’ command and to help them be more engaged in his work. Kairos Church in Atlanta typifies a church living into that call:

Kairos traveler Melisa Booher enjoys time with two HOM preschoolers during a class visit.

Kairos traveler Melisa Booher enjoys time with two HOM preschoolers during a class visit.

As a new church development, Kairos Church began in 2008 in a living room, then, as the congregation grew, they moved into a rented building in Grant Park. From the beginning, their ethos was to encourage one another to daily follow in the way of Jesus. In doing so, they committed to dedicate their resources to mission. They contacted The Outreach Foundation and discussed their mission plans with staff. Shortly after, 14 members traveled with Outreach on a vision trip to Haiti to see God’s work through Haiti Outreach Ministries (HOM). They returned knowing that partnering with HOM would be a strong and meaningful relationship.

Since 2012, Kairos has made ten trips to Haiti, ranging from work projects to medical clinics to teacher training and VBS sessions. Additionally, they support 50 students, including an entire school class, accompanying them from preschool through 7th grade. Drew Ditzel, Kairos’ senior pastor, commented about the relationship with HOM: “When we go to Haiti, the Lord profoundly deepens the bonds that are formed. People open up. When we’re engaged in a different way of life, it shows you how we’re supposed to encounter Jesus.  I’ve found that we’re relying on Jesus instead of thinking we are Jesus.”

Priority 2:  Building the mission capacity of the global church, especially where the church is vulnerable or growing rapidly
We believe one of our most vital tasks is to help build the capacity of our global partners, especially in leadership equipping and development. The Presbyterian Church in Egypt illustrates this work:

Outreach trip participants praying for soon-to-be pastor Medhat at the site of his new church at El Sadat City.

Outreach trip participants praying for soon-to-be pastor Medhat at the site of his new church at El Sadat City.

The Evangelical (Presbyterian) Church of Egypt was founded by American Presbyterian missionaries in 1854.  Today, the Synod of the Nile is made up of 392 churches. It is both a vulnerable yet rapidly growing church. Three churches were bombed by the Muslim Brotherhood during the Brotherhood’s governmental reign. But the Synod is undaunted – it has 95 new church plants in operation, with 17 new churches started last year alone. Yet, there are 100 Presbyterian churches currently without a pastor, depending upon evangelists, seminary students and church Elders to provide worship leadership.  

Medhat Yacoub is one of the “new breed” leaders in the church. He recently graduated from the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo and is awaiting ordination, yet he already has responsibility for a church. He is leading a new land grant church in El Sadat City outside Cairo. They are currently meeting in a flat donated by one of the elders, but construction is in progress for the church building. He leads a congregation of approximately 20 families and 25 children.  But with great faith and knowing God’s ability at multiplication, they are building a sanctuary to seat 300! God is at work through his people.

Priority 3:  Transforming lives through mission involvement
The heart and joy of mission is relationships –  learning how another culture lives and worships; feeling the same emotions as mission partners when confronting poverty, war or persecution; and, frankly, learning how easy it is to be a Christian in America. Steve Wright of Zionsville Presbyterian Church, has been transformed by mission:

Steve Wright and his wife, Kay, on one of their Brazil mission trips.

Steve Wright and his wife, Kay, on one of their Brazil mission trips.

About a year before Steve was to retire, he began to ask God how he should use his time after retirement. God didn’t hesitate responding. He started leading Steve into mission through his church. Steve was appointed to the Mission Commission, which surprised him since he never had much interest in mission previously. Steve became the liaison with The Outreach Foundation for Zionsville’s work in Brazil. As he learned more about it, Steve became intrigued with the church and leadership development work of Jose Pezini, Outreach’s Brazilian missionary.

Seeing is believing. Steve traveled to Brazil to experience it firsthand. He visited church plants and sat in on a pastors’ retreat led by Pezini (even though it was in Portuguese!). During that time, Steve met many Brazilian pastors from around the country, creating strong bonds with them. “Involvement in Brazil with the Brazilians is like family.” Steve commented. “God walked right with us in building relationships.” Since then, many Brazilian pastors have visited First Presbyterian Zionsville, staying in members’ homes and deepening the relationships between the Brazilians and Americans. Many have attended a three day Great Banquet retreat at Zionsville. It has been so meaningful that 17 Zionsville members will travel to Brazil in September to bring the retreat experience to the Brazilians.  Steve’s faith has strengthened through all of this. “I see God working in so many different ways,” said Steve. “None of this would have happened without God in the middle of it.”

Tom Widmer
Director of Development