We would like to share some news about the Presbytery of Zimbabwe (POZ) Ministry for Children at Risk and specifically about the Lovemore Home boys. It has been a long journey placing the boys with foster parents and in schools after Lovemore Home closed. In August 2017, Lee Cooper from South Highland Presbyterian Church, Frank Dimmock and I traveled to Harare to visit with the POZ. Doug Tilton, PC(USA) mission co-worker and Southern Africa Regional Liaison, also joined us. Included on the agenda during our visit was the Lovemore Home boys’ reunion, among other things. The reunion was held on August 19. Many of the boys living in Harare came to the reunion, and it was a joy to meet each of them. They have grown into handsome young men.
Most of the former Lovemore Home residents attend either Gloag High School or Mhondoro Presbyterian High School. Both schools are managed by and belong to the POZ. The Presbytery assigned a minister, Rev. Gleness Mambi, to visit the boys regularly, pray with them and discern their needs.
From her latest visits, Rev. Gleness reports the following: “I am happy to report that we made visits to the schools where the boys are – Mhondoro and Gloag. We visited Mhondoro on October 2. We bought groceries and had lunch with the five boys that are there – Hastings Manene, Wilderness Nyirenda, Brandon Lee Chinyanga, Shingirai Sibanda and Tinashe Mujakachi. We prayed with them and encouraged them to work hard.
I was recently listening to a favorite song by Jason Gary and the refrain reminded me of the many, many ways in which your gifts to the Syria Appeal have encouraged the work and witness of the Presbyterian Church in Syria over these past years of war: supporting families so that they can remain despite the awful economics of war; undergirding the mission and ministries of individual congregations; helping to train the next generation of leadership for those churches.
We bring the kingdom come With every act of love Jesus, help us carry You Alive in us, Your light shines through With every act of love We bring the kingdom
The photos included here give glimpses into the ways in which your generous gifts – your “every act of love” – for the Church in Syria to The Outreach Foundation have allowed us to respond quickly to requests from the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon. The Outreach Foundation is blessed by a long, deep and trusted relationship with the Synod and with its General Secretary, the Rev. Joseph Kassab. Over the past few days, I asked him to reflect upon the current situation of the Presbyterian Church in Syria by responding to a few questions:
When I was anticipating knee replacement surgery, I once counted the steps: 106 of them leading up a steep hill to an old school building in Kab Elias owned by the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon in western Lebanon. Into this small country, about the size of Connecticut and with a population of only four million, Syrian refugees had been streaming (over one million now registered, 60% of those being school-aged children). Our Presbyterian family there (the Synod) discerned fairly quickly what God was calling them to do in this crisis – educate those children, many of whom had been out of school for several years because of the war or had never had the chance to even begin their schooling. This “re-purposed” school overlooking the Beqaa Valley, where a sea of white refugee tents is visible, would be joined by four others: Tripoli, Tyre, Minyara and Rayak. All five (with a sixth planned) are under the oversight of their local Presbyterian church with many of the teachers coming from those churches. More than 350 little lives are being embraced by this demonstration of Christ’s love and imparted with Christian values that are impacting their families, as well.
Just a few weeks ago, I revisited the school at Kab Elias and spent some time with Ramak Abboud, the principal. Her husband, Tony, is the pastor of the Presbyterian Church down the road in Khirbet Kanafer. Since I was here in July, Ramak has had to add two more classes as her student body has increased to 102.
How does one keep faith following a sustained tragedy? The prophet Joel importuned God, in the aftermath of a disaster in Judah, concerned that even the priests were doubting God’s presence asking, “Where is their God?!?” God responded, taking “pity on his people”: I am sending you grain, new wine and olive oil, enough to satisfy you fully; never again will I make you an object of scorn to the nations…I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten…
In August, I spent a week with Outreach partners in Jordan who are ministering to refugees in Jordan. The Orthodox Initiative, which we support, is under the umbrella of the Middle East Council of Churches; its director, Wafa Gassous, has a huge heart for Iraqi Christians who were driven out of their homes by ISIS in Mosul and from the surrounding villages. 250 of these families have found a haven at the Syrian Orthodox Church in Amman. I was with them on the morning when modest food parcels were distributed: rice, sugar, flour, pasta, tomato sauce, tuna, corned beef, oil and tea filled bright blue bags, neatly arranged in the courtyard of the church. Inside the crowded church hall, the families gathered. As their names were called, they came up to a table in front and presented their “ID” – for all of them, this was a photocopy of their UNHCR Asylum Seeker Certificate. They were given a slip of paper and then took that “receipt” out to the courtyard to receive their parcel.
“World Children’s Day” will be celebrated on Monday, November 20. It is a time for the world community, churches and individuals from all walks of life, particularly believers, to express their dedication to and concern for the well-being of children.
The World Council of Churches is inviting its member churches worldwide to mark World Children's Day by organizing celebrations for children on November 19-20 and letting the voices and thoughts of children be heard. In many communities around the world, I am sure the focus will be on the problems faced by children and the important role of churches in supporting young people worldwide.
One of the biggest challenges facing children in our world today is poverty. Many children living in poverty are orphans and others are vulnerable in indescribable ways that are unacceptable by the standards of our society. The Outreach Foundation believes that all children have a right not just to survive, but to thrive and fulfill their potential for the benefit of a better world. This means giving them access to basic services while understanding the difficult situations children face in different parts of the world. Today over 150 million children live on the streets or in absolute poverty globally. They are at risk because many of them don’t have loving caregivers, are living in unhealthy environments, or have been traumatized in some way. The majority of these vulnerable children are in urban centers of developing countries in Africa, but there are also street children in Brazil, Haiti, and other parts of the world. Many of these children suffer from health problems like cholera, tuberculosis, anemia, and HIV/AIDS. They are exposed to a variety of toxic substances. They are faced with mistreatment and abuse and often go unseen. Many have inherited the name “invisible children” with no right to protection. They face numerous risks ranging from lack of identification to inadequate protection, which often results in exploitation through trafficking and forced labor.
I have a favorite quote from Frederick Buechner (a Presbyterian pastor and a prolific writer) and it is not “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet” – although that is a really good one! It is this: “If you want to know who you are, as opposed to who you think you are, pay attention to where your feet take you.” At the end of the day, no matter how often we pray for the Global Church or send funds to support the work and witness of the Global Church, there is much to be said for a willingness to actually be present to the Global Church.