Keith Vandegrift and Lana Bell - Januarty 2018 Update

Dear friends,

Thank you for your love and support this past year. In many ways, this has been a hard year for us but we’ve been inspired and sustained by your encouragement. For that we thank you.

This is just a brief year-end update. Our move to the town of Jovellanos at the end of November has proven to be a good one. We felt we were moldering in Matanzas. We were bored and about to live in a construction site. In one week in Jovellanos we experienced more friendship, fellowship, support and ministry than the previous two months in Matanzas. That has been gratifying. To be sure, Matanzas is a nicer town in most ways, but our relationships here have been great.

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John McCall - January 2018 Update

Dear friends, 

I began the first day of 2018 in Nanjing, China. Once again this year I am teaching a two-week intensive course at Jiangsu Seminary here. This weekend I preached on both Saturday and Sunday at two rural churches north of Nanjing.

Since I have been teaching here for a number of years, many of my former students are now serving churches throughout this big province. This year I was fortunate to visit a district where some of my former students are serving. They were delighted to be together on Saturday and Sunday. One couple drove two and a-half hours from their church to be with us. It was joyful reunion to hear their stories of both deep joy and the challenges they are facing. We worshiped together, we prayed together, we laughed and cried together. I was moved by their stories of seeking to be Christ's salt and light in the dramatic change of today's China.

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Musalaha - January 2018 Update

Following the Star: Discerning God’s Will in the midst of Political Turmoil

One recent Sunday our preacher reflected on passages from Matthew 2, which tells the story of the Magi from the east. It is interesting that this record appears in the Gospel of Matthew since scholars see this book written for a Jewish audience.

Matthew 2:1-12 deliberately presents us with a specific narrative about wise men who were learned scholars and searching for a sign. Their study confirmed this sign was a star, telling them that the “King of the Jews (Matthew 2:2)” was born.

The wise men assumed that the king would be born in a palace in Jerusalem. After all, Jerusalem was the home to King Herod and the presence of the Temple with all its grandeur and splendor. Herod the Great was powerful and skillful and he had numerous building projects throughout the land. Some of his work still exists today and can be seen in Caesarea, Masada, and Herodium. 

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Developing South-South Mission Partnerships - January 2018 Update

One of the frequent features of Christianity in Africa, Asia and Latin America is enthusiasm for mission and evangelism. Through our “Developing South-South Mission Partnerships” project, The Outreach Foundation seeks to come alongside efforts that our partners are undertaking to bridge cultural differences with the purpose of sharing the Gospel in areas where there is less access to it.

Last July I visited with a Brazilian family dedicated to demonstrating the love of Christ in word and deed in a North African country. Having arrived in the country 16 years ago after 13 years of fruitful ministry in Jordan and Morocco, their mastery of the language and culture is exceptional. They are currently working in coordination with the small Christian community there to follow up with the growing number of people that have expressed an interest in learning more about the Christian message. They are also mentoring other missionaries arriving from Brazil, Guatemala and other countries.

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Syria Appeal - January 2018

ALEPPO: TIDINGS OF COMFORT AND JOY?

Now to the Lord sing praises, all you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas all other doth deface.
O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy.

Aleppo is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places on earth; many historians believe that the site has been lived in for more than 8,000 years. But over the past five years, our nightly news stunned us with the images of this ancient city turned to rubble due to a bloody war. In Aleppo alone, over 5,100 civilians were killed in 2016. In all of Syria, over 470,000 civilians have been killed during the five-year span of the conflict – from March 2011 to February 2016.

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New Church Development in Brazil - January 2018 Update

Reaching Younger Generations Through New Churches

“Each church has its own style but each one of them needs to have two main characteristics: It needs to be centered in the Gospel, committed to it, because that is what gives it integrity. It also needs to engage people that are not part of any church by identifying deeply with what they are going through.” With those words, Ricardo Agreste challenges Brazilian Christians to become actively involved in planting churches that welcome new generations who are not part of any congregation. Ricardo serves a Presbyterian church that was started fourteen years ago and which has now planted twenty additional churches. He is also one of the directors for the Center for Training of Church Planters (CTPI is its Portuguese acronym) which effectively equips pastors among several denominational traditions.

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Tumaini Children's Ministry - January 2018 Update

Tumaini-Huruma Homes Recent Success Stories

The Outreach Foundation would like to thank each and everyone who made a difference in the lives of children in Nyeri-Kenya. As most of you know, this children’s ministry started by The Very Rev. Bernard Muindi went through difficult and trying times after the passing of Rev. Muindi. We also learned recently about another death at Tumaini – a child named Saitoti who was ill and died after being hospitalized at Tumutumu Hospital. We continue to pray for the young and vulnerable 150+ children who are residents at both the Tumaini and Huruma homes. At the same time, we celebrate the success of those whose lives have been impacted by the Tumaini ministry through your generosity.

It's a bold thing to ask people to give financially to help children in Kenya, but it is also gratifying to know that your gifts have changed the lives of orphans and vulnerable children. It is such an honor to watch the transformation that happens when we listen and obey the voice that whispers in us the message to share resources.

Knowing that our Lord commends us to care for the least of these and to love them as our own children, we would like to share that at the conclusion of 2017 we had nine Tumaini/Huruma students who graduated from various universities in Kenya and entered the job market. They hold degrees in Computer Science, Social Work, Cooperative Management, Education, Wildlife Enterprise Management, Information Technology and more. All these youg people are shining examples of God’s servant leaders who ha

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Iraq Appeal Update - December 2017

This update is provided by Rev. Haitham Jazrawi, the pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Kirkuk, Iraq. It is a powerful reminder of how our faith can sustain us in the midst of unimaginable loss and brokenness.    
-Marilyn Borst, Associate Director for Partnership Development

Since late summer 2017, the Iraqi Armed Forces and the Kurdistani Peshmerga Forces, aided by the U.S. Air Force, have been able to regain control of the Nineveh Valley and much of its surrounding towns. The capital of Nineveh Province, Mosul, was finally “liberated” from ISIS in late July. I use the term “liberated” very loosely in this sense because, in reality, Mosul hasn’t been so much liberated, as it has been obliterated. Western Mosul, also known as the “Old City,” is practically rubble; it’s easier to count the buildings that remain standing than the ones that have been destroyed.

Stories of families running as bullets rained left and right became the norm. Sometimes children laid in the rubble and used the bodies of their dead parents to shield themselves until the armed forces were able to pull them out of harm’s way. I still remember the sight of a mere five or six-year-old little girl; her face made the rounds on Iraqi television stations. She had clung onto her dead mother’s body in the street for three days in the hope that mom would wake up and save her. These are but a few of the sights that are burned into our memories from this past horrific summer.

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José Carlos Pezini - December 2017 Update

Dear friends and supporters,

This year has been very busy for Odete and me. We have been traveling all over Brazil, teaching, training, consulting, leading pastors’ retreats, coaching, and mentoring pastors. We have witnessed the action of God in the lives of many pastors. They have shared with us their struggles and difficulties. Many of them have thought more than once about leaving the ministry. Others are discouraged and still others are suffering from depression. During these three years we have helped more than fifty pastors get out of depression.

Our retreats have served as a place where they are encouraged and challenged to seek God first in their lives. A great number of pastors seem to be doing ministry on “autopilot.” They are tempted to read the Bible only to prepare sermons and not as a means to a devotional relationship with God. They see themselves as working for God rather than working with God. 

The good news is that pastors who have mentors through the SARA ministry and who participate in our retreats are being transformed. Their devotional life has been rescued, and their passion for ministry has returned. They have shared with us their joy and say that they cannot live without attending retreats and being accompanied by a mentor in ministry. As a result of their participation in retreats and mentoring, their churches have grown and because of this, they have regained their confidence as servants of God.

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Don and Martha Wehmeyer - December 2017 Update

Dear friends,

Martha and I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy, Happy New Year. We have been blessed this year, your prayers and support have kept us preaching and teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Southern Mexico, Colombia and Chile.  We are so honored to have you as a part of the ministry our Lord has laid upon our hearts. Only one thing we ask, please write us ‘de vez en cuando’ – once in a while. Of course, we get emails and Martha is big on Facebook but we really want you to know it is not a problem to answer your emails or phone calls. We want you to feel a part of what we are doing because you are! In fact, come and visit. We have extra bedrooms and plenty of coffee to share.

Let me mention three prayer requests for 2018: 
First is our ministry with theological education, especially San Pablo Seminary in Mérida, Yucatán and Berea Seminary, Palenque, Chiapas. Both of these schools are teaching solid Reformed theology but have severe financial challenges. The best thing to do is to help with scholarships as this accomplishes two things at once. The students get to study, and the professors get paid. The Outreach Foundation is the best way to send scholarship funds. $160 dollars a month pays for room, board, tuition and books in Chiapas. Mérida is $200 a month. There is no future for the Church without leadership formation. The life of a pastor in Mexico is tough, yet young people who could be entering other professions are stepping forward, so we do want to encourage them.

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Bob and Kristi Rice - December 2017 Update

Equipping and Preparing Leaders for the
Church in South Sudan
“College Day” at Nile Theological College

A festive quality filled the air. The large tents were erected by students and faculty for this special, annual occasion. We were gathering to celebrate the 26th anniversary of the founding of Nile Theological College (NTC). Our small contingent of mission co-workers showed up close to eleven in the morning amidst a flurry of activity. In attendance were alumni, faculty, former faculty, esteemed guests and the student body. A local choir led us in song, filling the tent with vibrant sounds and distinctive Arabic praises. The theme verse for the day, emblazoned on the banner up front, was from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Amidst all the adversity the apostle Paul faced, he boldly proclaims, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”   Philippians 4: 13

Perhaps this theme reflects well the journey of Nile Theological College, particularly over the last six years. From their origin in Khartoum, a second campus was planted and developed in Malakal in the Upper Nile State in 2011. 

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PCEA Mabati Church Construction - December 2017 Update

Dear friends and partners,

Gandini Church was dedicated on October 12. This church is unique in many ways. Located about 90 minutes north of Mombasa one hour off the Mombasa highway in the bush, it is in a heavily Muslim area. Quite remote! So far not too unusual but here comes the uniqueness. The four-acre plot that the new church sits on was donated by a Muslim, Mzee Piro, and his wife who are now church members. Piro said he wanted to have an altar that his people could go to. Also unique about Gandini Church is that half of the members came from the Islam faith and 97 percent are from the Duruma tribe. This is the first Duruma church with PCEA.

This church started in 2004 under a tree until a mabati structure was built. The original structure blew over once before their new church was built. In 2012, they began building their new church. I received a call from the Moderator of the General Assembly last June asking if we could help with the cement floor. We agreed to help, and when I visited and learned the story about Muslims being converted, we decided to find funds to help complete the church with the assistance of the Pwani Presbytery.

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Women's Ministries in Africa - December 2017 Update

Dear friends,

In 2016, The Outreach Foundation included “Goats for Rwanda” as an alternative Christmas gift to honor a loved one. The gift of a goat is very beneficial financially to a Rwandan household. Goats produce milk which is sold for drinking or making cheese and yogurt. As “payment,” the families team up with others from their church to breed the goats. The resulting kids are then given to other church families.

A gift of 34 goats from The Outreach Foundation was given to 34 households from the Matyazo Sub Parish of the Presbyterian Church in Rwanda (EPR), Gitarama Presbytery. The General Assembly of the Sub-Parish selected the deserving households on November 5. A committee of three people appointed by the Sub-Parish Council met with the representatives of the beneficiaries at the area market place on November 9. Each family representative was given the chance to select a goat of his/her choice. 

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Home of Hope - December 2017 Update

Dear friends and ministry partners,

At this very special time of the year, we once again greet you in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ as we reflect on our awesome God and Father’s goodness and the powerful work of the Holy Spirit we have witnessed here in Zimbabwe. As Mary did, we rejoice in our Lord God and Savior for the amazing works we have seen him perform during this past year and which we know we will continue to see. His mercies are new every morning and he is doing a new thing in our country.

Praise God that the swelling in Joan’s foot has gone down and she has been more comfortable with it. Dave is also doing better with the back issues he was experiencing. The problem remains but by monitoring his actions/movements (e.g. not working on the vehicles any longer in awkward positions) he is much like he was previously. He just cannot stand for very long anymore. Praise God for both of them and that we can see his hand of protection and healing on them. In the same way, we are confident that our Lord will heal the hearts of Joan and Craig and their family at the unexpected and sudden loss of Joan’s son (and Craig’s brother), Gary. The void such a loss may leave in our lives can only be filled with the knowledge that our heavenly Father can fill such a void with his compassion and love.

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Sureste Presbyterian Theological Seminary- December 2017 Update

Good News Amidst Natural Disasters in Mexico

The 8.1 magnitude earthquake that struck the southern Mexican state of Chiapas and neighboring Oaxaca and Tabasco on September 8th resulted in a death toll of at least 90 people, with thousands of people injured. At least 70,000 people were displaced due to significant home and infrastructure damage. Felt strongly in places as far off as Mexico City and Guatemala City, it was described by President Enrique Pena Nieto as the worst earthquake to have hit Mexico in a century. Shortly after that on September 19th, Mexico City and its surrounding areas saw 370 people killed and 6,000 injured from the effects of a 7.1 earthquake in the Greater Mexico City area. 

The Outreach Foundation’s partner, The National Presbyterian Church of Mexico, became actively involved in demonstrating Christ’s love through relief efforts by opening the facilities of its national headquarters to receive donations for those displaced by the destruction from the earthquakes as well as from the devastation caused by Hurricane Katia flooding in Veracruz.

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Frank Dimmock - December 2017

Dear friends,

2017 has been a year full of new experiences, blessings and lessons learned. I am thankful that during the challenging times, both personally and for those around me, God has been calling us to trust in him. I am reminded by Isaiah 58:11: “The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”

The newest country in the world, South Sudan, is at the top of the Most Fragile States list. More than two million South Sudanese are living as refugees. They are part of my concern and my ministry as Africa Mission Specialist with The Outreach Foundation.

During my visit with South Sudanese refugees in June, church leaders stated that healing trauma wounds and memories was a priority for all refugees, adults and children. We then began planning to conduct a training of local facilitators to work with children from each of the six camps for South Sudanese refugees in the Gambella region of Ethiopia.

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Nile Theological College - December 2017

Dear friends,

Nile Theological College carries on its ministry in North-East Africa through its campuses in Juba (Republic of South Sudan) and Khartoum (The Republic of Sudan). Each location has its own unique character and lives out the calling to develop Christian leaders in very distinctive ways amid formidable ethnic and religious tensions. The Khartoum campus recently sent us a moving update worth celebrating.

Leading to a bachelor’s degree, Nile Theological College (NTC) in Khartoum offers the highest level theological training institution in the Republic of Sudan. Presbyterians, Episcopalians and members of other Protestant traditions attend school there. 

With ninety-eight percent of the population of the country being Muslims and seven percent of the population having access to college-level education, the school plays a crucial role in the current and future life and witness of the church. As only eight percent of those attending college in the country are women, The Outreach Foundation comes alongside the efforts of Nile Theological College in support to its female students.

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Philemon Project Preschool - November 2017

GROW Receives License!

GROW Early Childhood Development Center provides wholistic Christian care for at-risk families by providing a safe, high quality, early childhood development program for one to four-year-olds as well as adult mentoring programs for their parents/caregivers. GROW creates a Christian environment where children thrive and parents become active participants in the success of their child through the love of Christ. 

The Philemon Project has grown since our beginning! We have 16 full and part-time staff members and three volunteers committed to carrying out the best Christian early childhood and adult mentoring program. We hired legal counsel and an outside accounting firm to ensure organizational strength, and by God's grace moved the project through various challenges and obstacles. One essential obstacle we needed to overcome was gaining our license with the Ministry of Health. Without our license, we could be closed down at any moment and disrupt a thriving ministry. When we face challenges, God's word encourages and instructs to gain perspective. 

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The Outreach Foundation