It is a joy to share some great news with you. Three years ago, Steve and Kay Wright came to Brazil to visit the church planting projects that their church, Zionsville Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, has supported. I had the privilege of accompanying them and during the days we were together, they shared with me about the Great Banquet, a retreat ministry which had greatly impacted their congregation. They invited me to attend a “Great Banquet,” and I did so the following year. Seeing what God was doing through this three-day weekend largely led by lay people, I heard the Lord whispering in my heart that the Great Banquet would be a wonderful gift to the Church in Brazil.
Steve Wright agreed with me, and we began planning for a Brazilian version. Zionsville Presbyterian Church started inviting Brazilians who spoke English to its semi-annual banquets to become the seed group of a Brazilian leadership team. In two years twenty people, ten men and ten women, traveled from Brazil to attend a Great Banquet. Steve and Kay returned to Brazil two years ago to guide this leadership group in preparing for the banquet. Then, with the blessing of God, we set the date for the Great Banquet in Brazil.
East Africa Mission Catalyst Stu Ross writes this summer from Kenya:
Building Churches in Distant Places Mission work is not easy…that's what Daniel and I always relay to each other when we send men off to distant places to do difficult tasks in the mission field.
We had such a challenging task. We loaded materials to build two churches in Boruhalo and Karare way up in northern Kenya not far from Ethiopia. The area also borders on the dangerous northeast province of Kenya where Somali bandits roam. The two churches are close to a town called Marsabit, a ten-hour drive from our base in Kikuyu.
We worked all day loading the twenty-foot truck. First, we loaded all the mabati for the two churches in the middle of the truck, then the steel for each church, one on the left and one on the right. Then we added the cement and all the doors and windows which were already fabricated in our shop.
It is 6:30 a.m. in the remote village of Andolofotsy, a six-hour drive from Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo. Léa Harilalao opens the door and looks across the road to the thatched shelter where a dozen or so people have already begun to congregate. “The dispensary is only meant to open at seven,” she laughs softly, “but, as you can see, people come early.” So, often – when she does not have visitors to look after – Harilalao, a midwife, begins to examine patients well before 7 a.m.
Today, though, she graciously makes time to introduce us to her work and to the community she tirelessly serves. Harilalao runs the dispensary at Andolofotsy, one of 36 largely rural dispensaries established around the country by the Development Department (SAF) of the Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar (known by its Malagasy acronym, FJKM). This is also one of seven facilities that SAF has opened with assistance from Presbyterian World Mission – which is why I have joined Dr. Josoa Randrianonivelo, the head of SAF’s Health Program, and Pastor Paul Razafintsalama, the president of the local FJKM regional synod, to visit the area.
I recently took the bullet train for a short half-hour ride from Taipei to a new city near the Taiwan Science Park. This area is Taiwan's Silicon Valley. Most of Taiwan's cutting-edge, high tech industry is located in this area. What used to be all rice fields is now many upscale, high-rise condominiums. While Taiwan's birthrate is dropping, this area has the highest birthrate in all of Taiwan. Many of the young engineers and software folks who work and live in this area are having children.
Thirteen years ago, the Presbyterian Church decided to start a new church development in this neighborhood. The founding pastor is a man who is full of joy and shares life with his church members. When I had dinner with the pastor and several of the members, one of the member's six-year-old son loved to sit with the pastor. This church is full of first-generation Christians who have come to know Christ's love through this congregation.
I have just returned from my 10th trip to Iraq. I first encountered our Presbyterian family there on a trip in 1998. My admiration for their faith and faithfulness under difficult circumstances multiplies with each visit. Middle Easterners have “hospitality” in their DNA and food is one of the ways in which this is extended – with frequency and in abundance! In an attempt to offset the generous hospitality we had been receiving from the church in Baghdad, I had taken to walking laps in the church courtyard/parking lot, just down the stairs from the guest apartments where we have been staying. 30 minutes goes slowly when you are walking confined laps so I passed the time singing hymns (in my head, because everyone else is asleep) and praying for that place and for its work and witness. Each lap took me past the "guard house" outside the gates where, around the clock, in eight hour shifts, Iraqi soldiers protect this Holy Ground – and I offer a prayer of thanks for them.
Day two in Siavonga, on the edge of Lake Kariba. The vulnerability of children and families in the Siavonga district of southern Zambia is obvious and has been affirmed by our visits with children at the Namumu Orphanage Center and by others we have met during the last two days. Today we began by meeting with the government District Commissioner, together with the Namumu director and board chairman. We expressed appreciation for the support that the District has promised to the Namumu orphanage and their concern for the well-being of the children.
This meeting was followed by a visit to the local fishing boats on the shore of the lake. In planning for financial sustainability of Namumu, the decision was made to launch a fishing business on the lake. The Outreach Foundation and other supporters assisted in the purchase of four fishing boats for Namumu.