Ghana #3: Reflections from Ghana

by José Pezini, Coordinator for Portuguese Language Ministries, The Outreach Foundation

And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. John 17:3

My mind wanders from one thing to another. Not because of questions, but rather reflection about everything I have seen and felt in the midst of this people.

Maybe this verse makes more sense today than it did before. The people we saw today have absolutely no material wealth at all. They live in very simple homes, including the pastor. In their homes there is no furniture, no electronics etc. They have no cars or possessions that we would consider essential. The lunch they graciously shared with us did not come from the supermarket, but from something harvested right there.

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Ghana #2: Reflections on the First Day

Reflection by Rev. Fabio Quintanilha, Pastor at Thomaz Coelho Presbyterian Church in Rio de Janeiro

More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:8)

What does Jesus mean to me? This question cannot be answered from a theological concept, but from a relationship. Attending a youth service today in Ghana made me think of Paul's words. To the Ghanaians, Jesus is pure joy! The passion in each gesture made me think of how passionate Jesus is! It is possible to have everything and not have the joy of those young people. The joy of Jesus has nothing to do with what we have, but to know who he is for us. It is possible to have that joy and I want to have that joy!

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Ghana #1: Giving thanks with the Church across continents 

 by Juan Sarmiento

“To those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom  of God” 1 Corinthians 1:24 (New Living Translation) 

The word “mission” often brings up a set of negative connotations and assumptions. There is no doubt that missionary work has all too often been done as the attempt of the powerful and wise by the standards of this world to come to the rescue of those seen as weak and foolish. It is no wonder that mission, undertaken in that attitude of implicit superiority, can evoke adverse reactions.  

But what if we begin to see mission less as the initiative of benefactors and more as the grateful response to the amazing grace of God manifested in Christ.

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Ethiopia #6: Traveling from Ethiopia to Kenya

by Frank Dimmock

Today I say good bye to Ethiopia and hello to Kenya. Yesterday was a wonderful day visiting the Outreach work with South Sudanese Presbyterians in 3 refugee camps. We traveled in convoy to the camps due to security concerns, but then were free to see the pre-schools and meet with many of the trauma healing trainees in their settings. It was good to hear the reports and concerns of those who are conducting regular healing groups in the camps. There are 14 in Kule camp and 12 in Nguenyiel camp. They also shared their priorities for making their work more effective. We were able to demonstrate the audio device that will be used in each camp for listening groups. They were very excited to hear the voices and dialogue in Nuer.

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The Outreach Foundation
Ethiopia #5: Sunday in Gambella

by Frank Dimmock

Sunday in Gambella is reserved for worship and for visiting friends and families - still a wonderful tradition in much of Africa. I walked from the guesthouse where I am staying to the main Newland church for their 8:30 service. This is the Nuer church of the West Gambella Bethel Synod of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY), our Presbyterian partner. They are collecting funds and constructing a larger church building to accommodate the ‘mega church’ numbers of worshippers. The service was shortened to 3.5 hours due to a scheduled funeral for the wife of an elder. By then, I was cooked (finished a liter and a half of water) but honored to bring greetings from The Outreach Foundation. The lectionary reading was from Romans 13, submitting to authority, which was appropriate following inter-ethnic violence in town the day before. Attendance was more than 2500 inside and the ‘nursery’ with countless young children and mothers were in the ‘annex’ outside. There were many choirs, wonderful singing and several offerings. The entire service was in Nuer, but the Synod President, Rev. James Gadet (also preacher for the day) provided translation for me. I was blessed!

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Ethiopia #4: Pinyudo Refugee Camp

by Frank Dimmock

From Thursday, November 8th, through Saturday I was visiting the Pinyudo refugee camp, 5 painful hours South of Gambella. The camp has approximately 86,000 refugees with more than 50,000 children. One zone of the camp has refugees remaining from the conflict in South Sudan in the 1990’s. The Outreach Foundation has helped to train eleven refugees in Pinyudo 1 camp and three more in the smaller sister camp Pinyudo 2. I was able to meet most of them and learn of their progress with healing and listening groups. I also met four of the children who participated last year in the children’s trauma healing camp. I am encouraged by the efforts of these committed volunteers. There is much work to be done in helping the refugees understand and release their trauma, experience forgiveness and rebuild hope. In Pinyudo there are 8 parishes and more than 40 churches where we are working to build communities of healing. It is exciting! 

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Ethiopia #3: Audio Trauma Healing Training

by Frank Dimmock

There is too much to report since my last blog. Day two of the audio trauma healing training was focused on rape and domestic violence in the morning and on releasing our pain at the foot of the cross and forgiveness in the afternoon. Needless to say, we went overtime and were exhausted. Personal stories were shared, tears were shed and we ended in prayer. On our final day of the training, we covered “How can we live as Christians in the midst of conflict?” and “Looking ahead.” The participants had the opportunity to practice using the audio devices and solar speakers. As they graduated, a designated trainee from each camp was issued the recorders and speakers to take away. They have plans for forming listening groups.

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Ethiopia #2: Trauma Healing for Refugees

by Frank Dimmock

It has been a very busy and long day 1 with the audio trauma healing trainees.

We reviewed 6 lessons, listening to the Nuer audio recordings and going through the discussion questions. They remembered many of the stories and exercises we had done in the June training. It was a good review. There are 6 women and 7 men representing five of the six camps in the region. They are part of a team of trained trauma healing refugees from each camp.

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Ethiopia #1 - Greetings from Gambella

by Frank Dimmock

Greetings from Gambella, near the border with South Sudan. I arrived here on Saturday following two busy days in Addis. I managed while there to: get permission from the authorities to visit the refugee camps in this region; buy and transport a bicycle for the South Sudanese education and trauma healing coordinator in the camps; meet with the evangelist in charge of the Nuer Presbyterian Congregation in Addis (Gabriel Chieng Tot); visit with a South Sudanese medical doctor completing specialty training in OB/Gyn; spend time with an American group from Shenandoah Presbytery; and have dinner with the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) President Rev. Yonas Yigezu Dibisa.

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China #7: So, what did you DO in China?

by Nancy Fox

In Shanghai on Tuesday, October 23, we met with six of the top leaders of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), which is the official Protestant church (a single denomination) in China and the largest Protestant body in any country. In Jiangsu Province alone (where we have spent most of our time), there are about two million members. The “three-self” element is drawn from what was new Protestant mission thinking around the end of the 19th century, that newly planted churches should be self-governing, self-supporting and self-propagating. That approach was shown to be highly successful in Korea and was embraced by the Chinese church after foreign missionaries were expelled in 1949 and the re-opening of churches following the Cultural Revolution. Because of this three-self emphasis, the Protestant church in China is truly Chinese.

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China #6: Humility

by Laurie Denham, National Presbyterian Church, Washington DC

October 21, our group split the day between Jiangyin and Suzhou. Those of us in Suzhou spent most of the day at Lion Mountain Faith Church with the delegation from University Place Presbyterian Church (UPPC) in Takoma, WA. We arrived at the church to discover they were having their annual rummage sale to benefit the surrounding community. As we entered the sanctuary, I immediately observed a wonderful diversity of age and socio-economic status in the congregation. This is a church that truly serves their community.

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China #5: Grasping the Lord’s Abundant Grace

By Julia Sensenbrenner, for the team

On October 19, we left Nanjing and drove to Suzhou, where we visited Dushu Lake Church and enjoyed a delicious dinner of Suzhou specialties. We marveled at the beauty of the church, opened in 2010, with its commanding statue of Jesus and beautiful stained-glass windows, including many by He Qi, a Chinese artist who trained and taught in Nanjing before moving to the United States. We enjoyed meeting Pastor He and Pastor Thomas, two of the four pastors of the church, which offers three worship services each weekend, including a Sunday afternoon service oriented toward young people.

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