Lebanon: Day Two - The Circle of Life

by Evangeline Paschal for the team

“Take care of your talents, because they belong to God.”

Izdihar Kassis is speaking to a room full of twenty-two Syrian refugee mothers with their infants in tow. They have come to this monthly meeting to gather diapers, formula, and handmade crocheted dolls for their babies. Fifteen women were expected but once word spread, others eagerly joined walking from nearby refugees camps, some accompanied by their other children. Izdihar does not want to turn anyone away, and fortunately there is enough to go around today.

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Lebanon: Day One - Commencement

by Julie Burgess, for the team

The simplest definition for the word commencement is the start of something new, which seems counter-intuitive as I tend to think of commencement as the end of something. We graduate from high school or college (or even kindergarten nowadays) and we celebrate commencement. We’re done! School is over! No more teachers, no more books... you know how the old rhyme goes. But of course commencement is not about the end of something, but the beginning of the new thing: first grade, college, life.

Today, our first full day traveling with The Outreach Foundation, we found ourselves climbing up 105 steps to visit one of the six schools for Syrian refugee students run by the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon (NESSL).

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Faithful Women on the Road: Lebanon

by Marilyn Borst, The Outreach Foundation's Associate Director for Partnership Development

I have returned to Lebanon for the 30th time and will soon be joined by a team of three women from Virginia, Nebraska and Washington, D.C! In the days ahead, we will meet with partners whose ministries with refugees from Syria are bringing hope and healing in Christ’s name. Grateful that Julie Burgess will return along with two wonderful "new women": Sheryl Wood and Evangeline Paschal. Late on Sunday, we will head to the Women's Conference at Dhour Shweir, sponsored by the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon. We will be gathered, once again, for a week with 100+ sisters from the Presbyterian churches of Syria and Lebanon.

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Ethiopia Blog 12: Gambella

by Frank Dimmock
*written on Wednesday June 20 (World Refugee Day) from Kinshasa (DRC)

Today is a day where the world should remember and recognize the plight of more than 65 million people globally displaced from their homes.1 Many are refugees fleeing violence and war, others are seeking asylum, but contrary to popular belief, over 58 million are being hosted in neighboring developing countries. In June 2017 I was enroute to Ethiopia on World Refugee Day. During the past two weeks I have been privileged to spend more time with many South Sudanese refugees from six camps in the Gambella region of western Ethiopia. Their situation is fragile as food and water rations are limited, schools and teachers are inadequate to meet the needs, and there is growing pressure on available firewood and fuel. In spite of the growing demands, the UN agencies and Ethiopian government are trying their best to provide for basic needs and a secure environment. They pray daily for peace in South Sudan and the opportunity to rebuild their homeland.

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Ethiopia Blog 11: Saturday

by Frank Dimmock

Wonderful day for visits to six preschools in two refugee camps (Tierkidi and Nguenyiel) and two adult learning centers. Most of the preschools have hundreds of children and too few teachers. Many of the teachers are volunteers without curriculum and materials. The Outreach Foundation has provided funds for plastic sheets to cover classrooms, blackboards and tables and will continue to support the preschools. Children comprise the majority of the population in the camps – they are everywhere!

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Ethiopia Blog Ten: Friday

by Frank Dimmock

Greetings friends. I had no internet connection last night, so there’s extra news today.

We completed our final lesson in trauma healing this morning and reviewed action plans for following up healing groups in each of the six refugee camps and Gambella town. It was a very good exercise and will help the new trainees to collaborate with others trained during the children’s trauma healing and audio trauma healing sessions. We are getting a core group of trained folks in each camp who can continue the work in their camps. On Monday next week we will be meeting with three representatives of the camp relief committees to orient them to the trauma healing work and seek their endorsement.

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Ethiopia Blog Nine: Wednesday in Gambella

by Frank Dimmock

Interesting day with lessons on Domestic Abuse including physical, verbal, emotional, sexual and economic abuse. The women were open and animated in their small groups and with the men. This was followed by identifying and taking pain to the cross. In the afternoon they completed the lesson on forgiveness. They acted out several skits and sang songs of lament and hymns of forgiveness.

In the morning, David Paduil and I visited the regional Refugee office to confirm our permission to visit three of the camps on Friday afternoon and Saturday. This was approved, and we are ready to visit the preschools and adult literacy programs in those camps.

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Ethiopia Blog Eight: Tuesday in Gambella

by Frank Dimmock

This morning we said good-bye to Debbie Wolcott, who has been helping to facilitate the audio trauma healing training, and officially welcomed Thaddeus Gichana to facilitate the adult trauma healing session through Friday. The photo helps to demonstrate how this effort is a partnership between the American Bible Society, Serving in Mission (SIM), The Outreach Foundation and the Sudanese-American Congregations in the U.S. (specifically the one in Gallatin, TN).

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Ethiopia Blog Seven: Monday

by Frank Dimmock

Today was a happy – sad – happy day as we presented certificates to the 19 participants in the first audio trauma healing training for refugees. The four-day training finished on Sunday evening and certificates were presented this morning – Happy.

All but two of them then departed back to their camps with notes and certificates to begin listening groups in their churches and communities. They are not "professional" counselors but are equipped with basic mental health knowledge about trauma and scripture to support their listening ministry. Trauma is universal in the camps and also with caregivers in clinics and relief organizations. There is great work to be done here.

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Ethiopia Blog Six: Sunday

by Frank Dimmock

Beautiful and hot Sunday today. We worshipped at the West Gambella Bethel Church along with 3,018 others on the inside and at least 200 outside the windows. It was HOT. We sat in plastic chairs beneath a tin roof and listened to eight choirs and several speeches in addition to the 45 minute sermon and 15 minute benediction. We arrived a few minutes late for the 8:00 starting time and it all concluded at 1:00 p.m. So is worship here. It is a highlight of the week for so many, a truly joyous occasion. David and I brought greetings from The Outreach Foundation and told why we were visiting.

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Ethiopia Blog Five: Gambella

by Frank Dimmock

Today was another good day in the audio trauma healing training. It was also a difficult day as we covered some sensitive areas of compound and complex trauma. We began by looking at loss and the stages of grief. This was followed by taking our pain to the foot of the cross and releasing that pain to Jesus. We then covered the audio lesson that focuses on domestic violence. This topic raised a lot of discussion and it was good to bring out some of the cultural traditions and practices that have shaped relationships within families.

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Ethiopia Day Four/Five: Gambella

by Frank Dimmock

Yesterday was a travel day from Addis to Gambella in western Ethiopia. We spent the afternoon meeting local church leaders and preparing for the trauma healing training sessions.

Wow, what a great and busy day today. We began with the first two core lessons on trauma healing with 16 participants. They included six women and eight men from the six South Sudanese refugee camps and two pastors from our Ethiopian church partners (and hosts).

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