Visiting Namumu Orphanage Center

by Frank Dimmock

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.

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Arriving in Zambia

Dear friends,

We meant to send some news last night, but we were too tired when we arrived in Siavonga. The trip is going well. We arrived in Lusaka on Saturday afternoon and were well-received by the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) Moderator, Rev. Abel Banda, and the Deputy General Secretary, Rev. Daniel Tembo. 

We visited the CCAP synod office construction site, where progress is being made. They are working hard to complete the building. They are now working on finishing the interior and fixing doors and windows. The synod offices are currently located in a compound where they have their poultry farm, and it is uncomfortable on some days. When the synod office is completed, they hope to expand the poultry farm in the vacated space as a way to generate revenue for the synod.

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The Company We Keep

by Marilyn Borst

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers [and sisters!]  dwell together in unity! These are the opening words of Psalm 133 and I know that each and every one of my Outreach Foundation team who went to Lebanon would echo this sentiment. It was, indeed, so very good and so very pleasant to spend eleven days learning from and in fellowship with our Church partners of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon. After five intense days spent at the conference center of the Synod, north of Beirut, in the slightly cooler mountain air of Dhour Schweir, where our days were full with Bible studies and seminars, conversations shared over meals and oh-so-many hugs and even more photographs, we said tearful goodbyes to more than 85 Presbyterian sisters from the churches of Lebanon and Syria. Over the next day and a half, we shared with each other our impressions and “take aways,” and helped one another “fine tune” what we might share when we returned to our congregations in Omaha, Tulsa, Moraga Valley, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Evanston and Gaithersburg and were asked “how was your trip?!?!... 

Click HERE to read the full story originally posted on the Outreach Blog.

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"Go... and make disciples..." Matthew 28:28-30

by Rev. Mary Beth Lawrence

Saturday, July 29 was the last day of the Women’s Conference at Dhour Shweir. It was time to say tearful and loving good-byes to our new friends, take a few hundred last photos, and to think about returning home.

Saturday was also our shortest day of the Women’s Conference, so we decided to make it last as long as possible. We got up at 2:00 a.m.! We were up in the darkest hours of the night to say good-bye to the women of Aleppo. They had a 12-hour drive ahead of them – across a border, back into Syria, and with a desire to return home before the Syrian Army closed the road for the day. These dear saints had begun their journey to this beloved conference watching bombs being dropped all around them. (Literally.) We could not let them leave without saying good-bye and gathering in a circle to pray God’s blessing on them.

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When "I" Gives Way to "We"

by Ty Hardin

Day Five
Welcome to Bolgatanga! After breakfast we were off to meet with Rev. Professor Emmanuel Martey and the rest of the officers and clergy at the Upper Presbytery. We toured and then we talked. I enjoyed his poster/slogan that said, “When “I” gives way to “We” even the word Illness becomes Wellness. Let us work together.” 

The next stop was the water production facility. Most folks have heard of water projects that put water systems in place to help a school or village. Here they package water in plastic bags for retail consumption to help sustain the presbytery. Our final stop here was back in the office complex for a moment that touched my heart and will be long remembered. I guess it’s because I sing in a choir. Our number was 13 strong as Dr. E handed out new hymnals that they had recently received and we all sang a hymn together. 

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Fruit That Will Last

by Rev. Nancy Fox, National Presbyterian Church, Washington, D.C.
This morning I enjoyed the amazing privilege of leading the women of this Synod conference – Syrians, Lebanese and Americans – in a Bible study of John 15:1-17. This passage is a part of Jesus’ urgent parting words to his disciples as they are gathered around the table for what Jesus knows to be his “last supper” with them. He is preparing them to carry on with his own fruitful ministry when he is no longer walking among them: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit” (v. 5).

We talked about the pain of pruning, very real in their lives in this time of war in Syria and of the crush of Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Lebanon. We talked about what it means to abide in Jesus, and that we are all refugees in this world until we find our home in him. We talked about how Christ’s life in us bears lovely fruit that is a blessing to others around us, and as I looked at them, I thanked the Lord for the lovely and creative generosity their churches are showing in this time with refugees and displaced people – from food aid to sharing water to giving blood to educating refugee children who have been out of school for over six years to helping restore dignity through productive lives and opportunities to support themselves through business opportunities…and the list could go on and on.

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The Kingdom of Heaven Has Come Near

by Julie Burgess

“As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of Heaven has come near.’”   Matthew 10:7

Thursday of the women’s conference week is a day away from sitting and listening and a day of journey to some special place for fellowship and laughter and food. Not that those three things aren’t happening daily! We loaded up four busloads of women and one man, our gracious worship leader Elias, for a trip to the Bekaa Valley and the Dairy of the Convent of Tanail, a nature preserve and organic farm. It was so hot, we headed out a bit early so we could have a leisurely walk before the heat of the day really set in.

106 women and Elias entered the beautiful old Catholic church for a wee bit of worship before we walked. Najla led the women in several songs in the old stone church, a structure meant to amplify the blended human voices in glorious sound. They ended with the Arabic “Abana in Heaven,” the Lord’s Prayer. Find it on YouTube, close your eyes and listen, and you will hear that the kingdom of Heaven has come near.

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Exhilarated Spirits and Significant Skills Training

by Beth Brock

We arrived in Tamale on Saturday, July 22nd. At the airport, we were greeted by Rev. Dr. Solomon Sumani Sule-Saa, who serves as Presbytery Chairperson for the Northern Presbytery of Ghana. Solomon was a most gracious host over the two days we were in Tamale. He had a packed agenda ready for us from morning until late evenings.

Upon arrival, Juan was invited to spend nights with Solomon, and the rest of us spent our nights at the quaint A-WAN guesthouse, which had just enough rooms for the rest of our group. It was the perfect size and accommodation for out team. The staff was very supportive and kind.

Saturday evening, we were treated to an informative and lovely dinner with various leaders of the Northern Presbytery. We gathered to meet one another, then they presented and educated us on various statistics of their presbytery. They also shared various programs they lead, and hurdles they face. It was an informative time.

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See What Love Can Do

by Rev. Mary Beth Lawrence, Gaithersburg (MD) Presbyterian Church

This is my first trip to Lebanon and my first opportunity to meet so many wonderful Christians from Lebanon and Syria. I love the word “first” because it implies that there is a “second” or “third” that follows. I hope so.

There are so many things I could share, some of which my colleagues already have mentioned – the beauty of the country, this retreat center, and the women. Then there is the legendary hospitality of the Middle East. One feels like one has walked straight into the stories of the Bible. I now know the menu of the Great Marriage Supper of the Lamb. For sure there will be hummus, cucumbers, tomatoes, garlic, and pita loaves.

We have been honored to meet several church leaders while we are here. Many of the pastors and pastors’ wives are leaders of their local churches, of course. They are faithful and incredibly creative in how they minister in their local contexts.

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A Global Denomination

by Ty Hardin

There is a tradition here in Ghana that when an elderly person that has lived a full life passes away, they have a procession to honor and celebrate the life of that individual. They march around and shoot off a cannon. A very loud cannon. A shake the windows and walls cannon. No live rounds, mind you, just the powder. But the thunderous noise alone (at 6:35 a.m.) is almost enough to cause the need for a second procession. 

Lance and I were having coffee at just after 6:00 a.m. He and Juan and Amy were going with Dr. Solomon (Sumani Sule-Saa) to the rural Yendi district area and were scheduled to depart at 7:00. Just before the aforementioned time, we heard drums and chants. Then there was a loud BANG. We both jumped up to see what was the matter. We walked out  just in time to hear another big BOOM and the drums and chants were much closer this time. I decided this was best investigated from inside. Dr. A promptly appeared and explained to us the tradition of celebrating a well-lived life. What an awesome and informative start to the day.

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Mutually Encouraged

by Martha Erisman

Today was the first full day of our official daily conference schedule. The days begin with a morning meditation in small groups followed by breakfast, then worship and three speakers on various topics, with meals and breaks in between. Today’s topics were a Bible study on 1 Corinthians, followed by a talk on “The 5 Love Languages,” and finally a fascinating college-level seminar titled “The Impact of Reformation on the Church.” Each day after lunch is an extra long break for the Syrian women to re-connect with each other, as they come from all over their country and are not able to see each other easily anymore. Most importantly for our group (“The Americans” as we’re lovingly referred to), it was day one of two craft days. Marilyn put together a veritable smorgasbord of beads and jewelry making supplies for bracelets and necklaces. Our job was to assist the women during the two-hour craft time. It was hectic but lots of fun!

We’ve had a couple of worship times now, led by newlyweds Elias and Petra. They met here at the Dhour Shweir Conference Center and were just married in May. What a joy they are to see and what joyful music and worship they lead! Petra has a beautiful voice, and Elias accompanies on the piano. The room fills up with such a beautiful sound of women’s voices singing uplifting hymns in Arabic. I can’t understand their words, although we do get the title translated, but it doesn’t matter. Worshiping God through music doesn’t need to be in our words here, it transcends language. It’s truly beautiful and joyful to hear. 

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Witnessing With Joy in Ghana

by Beth Brock

Our group of six from Germantown Presbyterian Church, located just outside Memphis, TN, arrived in Ghana on Friday morning. We were tired but very excited. We met up with our two friends from Columbia Seminary, and then we were all greeted by the dynamic and gracious Dr. John Azumah. We were overwhelmed by his warm welcome. He felt like family immediately. He is an amazing host. 

We settled in for the day/night at the lovely Hephzibah Christian Conference Center. Our meals there have all been open air, beginning with lunch on our first day –which was wonderful. The staff of the center is accommodating and sincere. After lunch, we toured where the first Presbyterian missionaries set up camp in Ghana. We also visited the Akrofi-Christaller Institute for Theology, Mission and Culture, a premier mission institution and Outreach partner established by the Presbyterian Church of Ghana. We were mesmerized by the wonderful theological college where people all over the world come to study. The staff of the Presbyterian College of Education is very proud of their accomplished school, as they should be. You can feel the Holy Spirit within its walls. 

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