Rebuilding Hope in South Sudan - April 2017 Update

South Sudan has been in crisis since December 2013 because of a civil war which has devastated the land, killed tens of thousands of people, and driven millions into Internally Displaced Person camps inside the country or into refugee camps outside the country. The Outreach Foundation has re-framed our mission with the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS) to rebuild hope among the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled to camps in Ethiopia.  

One of those refugees is John Jock Gatwech. I met him in 2013 when he was a teacher at the leading school of the PCOSS, Good Shepherd School in Malakal. John also worked in the Department of Education of the PCOSS. In addition to being trained as an educator, he has also studied theology.

The next time I met John Jock was in Gambella, Ethiopia in 2015. He had fled for his life when the civil war reached Malakal, headquarters of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan. Living in Gambella with an uncle, John had no income and had lost most of his belongings. But John wanted to make a difference through his calling as a teacher. 

After we met John Jock on our initial visit to the refugee camps, he sent us a proposal to establish preschools in three of the parishes of the PCOSS that had been established in the camps. The target group would be almost 400 children. Additionally, adult literacy classes would be started. All the classes would be taught by volunteer teachers. 

Bob and Kristi Rice - April 2017 Update

Just after Thanksgiving last year we got a text message from our leadership at Presbyterian World Mission: “Don’t buy your tickets back to Congo yet. We need to talk.” In the ensuing conversations with our leadership we learned that our church partner, the Congolese Presbyterian Community (CPC), had asked us and another mission co-worker not to return to Congo because of instability in the country and conflict within their denomination. There were discussions between Presbyterian World Mission and CPC through December and January to see if the door might still be open for us to return as planned. In February, it was concluded that the door has indeed closed, and we would not be able to return. If you receive the e-mail version of our newsletter you should already know this news, but we wanted to say it again for those who get only the print version.

God has given us peace and hope in the midst of uncertainty during these months of transition. Plenty of other emotions have also hit us. We grieve having to give up our Congo home and leaving friends we had grown to love. On the other hand, we also felt relief when the decision finally became clear. We are grateful for the prayers and words of encouragement and comfort received from so many of you who have heard this news. We worry and grieve for our friends in Congo living in the challenging reality of conflict. 

Don and Martha Wehmeyer - April 2017 Update

Greetings from Yucatan,

Oh, my goodness is it April already? I know there are still Christmas cookies in the refrigerator, what is happening to the speed of time?

Time has flown by because we have been busy. We had a wonderful trip to Covenant Presbyterian Church in West Lafayette, Indiana. This church has been supporting missions in Mexico faithfully for many years. While there our hosts Alan and Barbara Bartelt took us to the LOUDEST Christian rock music concert this side of Jupiter – a group called Casting Crowns. To give you an idea of the number of decibels hurled towards us, we watched the man in front of us take out his hearing aids then stuff cough drops in each ear. Not satisfied, he then added half the printed program and a sock to each ear. That seemed to help because many others seemed to follow the example. In all seriousness, we were happy to see the enormous Purdue Auditorium sold out to people wanting to see a Christian band with a strong evangelistic message. Casting Crowns shared the gospel very well.

We recently had a great visit from Eileen McAvoy of Westminster Presbyterian in Durham, NC. She led a two-day conference on Non-Violent Communication (NVC). The conference was given to a combination of city lawyers and social workers and a few non-profit agencies – all people dealing with the difficult day to day work of serving dysfunctional families. Please look up the work of NVC online. They have a lot to offer. 

The Outreach Foundation
Dustin and Sherri Ellington - April 2017 Update

Dear friends,

Greetings from Zambia. I (Dustin) recently wrote a short article for the publication Mission Crossroads telling how our call to mission service came about and our move from Egypt to Zambia. Perhaps by sharing this article with you, I can give some of you a little background, while those who have known us a long time may appreciate a big-picture glimpse of God’s guiding hand. Our story could be told from other vantage points; this one is mine. May it encourage your own witness and service right where you are, and may we all be open to the nudges and detours God has for our lives. At the end of this letter you’ll find a few prayer requests; meanwhile, here’s the article: 

Following God’s Detour:
Teaching future pastors for the growing African church

One day, while taking a break from studying in the Duke Divinity School library, I got into a conversation that would change the course of my family’s life. As I talked with a stranger, I learned he was the only person in the world with a Ph.D. in New Testament (my field also) who could speak the particular language of the country where he was training Christians for ministry. This really struck me.

He asked what I hoped to do upon finishing my Ph.D. at Duke. I told him I wanted to advance the gospel, and that I’d love to do that especially through teaching the Bible and working with young people whom God was calling. 

The Outreach Foundation
Linda's Library

In the United States, we take much for granted, including education and public libraries. Libraries are an integral part of community development and learning, not only in America, but around the world. In the U.S., we have one public library for approximately every 2,700 people. However, this is not so elsewhere. In Kenya, there is one library for every 726,000 people. It is no wonder that Stu and Linda Ross, Outreach missionaries in Kenya, focused their attention on building schools to educate children, particularly the over looked and often oppressed girl-child. 

Children and adults have little access to books. When Stu and Linda would bring books to the schools, they experienced an unprecedented eagerness by the students. Stu recently commented, “Whenever I have taken books to the school for the library, the girls would meet me and before I could get the books into the library they wanted to see what I had brought. They were yearning to see what books were in my vehicle.” There were never enough books, and certainly not enough to share with the local community.

Linda Ross suddenly and unexpectedly passed away on March 17, 2016. Because of Linda’s particular love for the young school girls, Stu began a memorial to build a library at Grace Girls’ High School in Maasailand. “Linda always had two or three books going at the same time,” Stu commented. “She loved books and I know it broadened her view of the world.” She wanted the same for the children of Kenya. 

The Outreach Foundation
Tumaini Children's Ministry - April 2017 Update

A message from Rev. Nicholas Miriti, new parish pastor

Dear Tumaini ministry partners and friends, 

Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. “Bwana Yesu Asifiwe” which means Praise the Lord! I am humbled as I write this inaugural message as your new pastor. As I introduce myself, I would like to first thank the Almighty for his provision of life and for giving me a flock to shepherd here in Kenya and abroad. 

Nehemiah 2:18 says, “…Let us arise and build.” During this time of  Lent, it is worthy to remind ourselves of the noble work of building that is being continued through the death of Christ on the cross. Building means either starting a new structure or repairing an existing one. Christ came in order for us to be established and built up as Christians. 

As Christ sacrificed his own life in order for us to be united with God, we also need to sacrifice in order to help our brothers and sisters who are less fortunate. Through our partnership with the Presbyterian Church of East Africa, Riamukurwe parish, and The  Outreach Foundation, Tumaini and Huruma schools care for hundreds of vulnerable children. 

Alan and Ellen Smith - April 2017 Update

Dear friends and family,

People so often ask me what I “do” in Russia. It is a question that never ceases to perplex me, but I always answer in the same way, “I drink tea.” It is not the answer these same people want to hear and sometimes they even get irritated with me, but I can explain (and usually do). Our Russian partners don’t need me to “do.” They want me to visit often, but they generally won’t let me “do” anything. I am cared for at every turn, for Russians have a deep sense of hospitality. Often my visits start at a table over tea, followed by a ride in a car to another church and another pot of tea. And as we drink tea, we talk deeply and listen closely. They share what they are trying to accomplish, what obstacles they perceive, how Christ has led them through such challenges before, and the joys they have in the midst of real struggle.

They want to hear about my walk as well. Isolated during more than 70 years under the Soviet Union, they want to connect and connect deeply. I vividly remember a time when I was trying to organize a marriage seminar that they had asked for. 

John and Gwenda Fletcher - April 2017 Update

When we first met Idriss, he was 12 years old. He came to our house seeking medical treatment for his friend Jean, who had a sore leg. The two boys had formed a bond when they met at a center for homeless children a few years earlier. Jean was diagnosed with osteomyelitis (an infection of the bone) and admitted to Good Shepherd Hospital where over the next several months of treatment, he slowly recovered. Throughout Jean’s hospitalization, Idriss slept on the floor beside him, brought him food, helped him get to the bathroom, cajoled him into taking his meds, entertained him, and otherwise played the role of patient guardian. That was quite a responsibility for a 12-year-old, but Idriss had grown up fast in the year since his mother died and he was left on his own.

Idriss was born with albinism (a congenital disorder characterized by the complete or partial absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes), and his father had abandoned him and his mother shortly after he was born. In Congo, people with albinism are said to be “people without a race” and they are widely discriminated against and ostracized. The biggest medical threat here to people with albinism is skin cancer. 

City Evangelization, Busanza Vocational Training Center

Dear friends and partners of the Presbyterian Church in Rwanda,

Through your generous gifts God is doing amazing work in Busanza! Last July, we dedicated the Vocational Training Center comprised of a vocational training school for both men and women and a school for special needs children. The special needs school was built in partnership with Legacy Mission Village (a not-for-profit ministry based in Nashville, TN). 

A lot of exciting things have been taking place at the new center. Students in the Sewing and Tailoring School (both men and women) have learned how to make dresses. The sewing students are pleased to be learning these skills. The center also offers hair dressing and hair styling classes. Students in these classes are now able to cut, curl and style both men’s and women’s hair. 

There has been a big improvement in the lives of children with special needs as a result of the new school, which is managed by the EPR Kanombe parish and the parish education committee. Most of the children come from poor families, so the church serves them breakfast to help them focus and learn. 

Bill and Bette Bryant Crisis Nursery - March 2017 Update

Lolo and her foster mother, Ms. Agness Pumulo Nyambe

Lolo has been under the care of Christian Alliance for Children in Zambia (CACZ) since January 2016. Lolo had been abandoned by her family. A good Samaritan found her and brought her to the police station, where she was transported to the District Social Welfare Office (DSWO) by the Child Protection Unit (CPU). The police and DSWO have tried to find her family, but their efforts have been in vain. 

Lolo lives in the Bill and Bette Bryant Crisis Nursery. When she first came to the home, she was a quiet little girl who often blended into the background because she was so soft spoken. She was respectful to others and a fast learner. She quickly learned how to follow the routines of the home and did not have any trouble adjusting. 

Today, Lolo is no longer the shy, introverted little girl she was a year ago. Her vibrant personality is now evident. She has a warm and loving heart and at just four years old, she already seems to understand the importance of sharing her toys, caring for others, getting along with other children, and respecting her elders. 

Gordon and Dorothy Gartrell - March 2017 Update

Dear friends and family,

We are south of the equator, so this time of year is our summer. It has been very hot and unfortunately seriously dry. Our church work, however, has NOT been dry, but lively and refreshing. Presbytery meetings here are held yearly and last from Friday to Sunday, beginning with committee meetings on Friday afternoon. We have only seven churches in our presbytery spread out over this large state. The last few meetings have been in a meeting center in the capital, Salvador. We hosted the January 2017 meeting. It was a wonderful experience for us and those who attended. There were about 40 people there. Our church members have the gift of hospitality and are realizing they can serve the Lord by opening their hearts and homes to others. They are good cooks, so their meals are delicious. The attendees spent two nights and ate five meals with us. They slept in our homes and ate together at the church. Our church used to have an elementary school, so it has a small but nice kitchen in which large meals can be cooked. The presbytery meeting began with a meeting of the Adult Group on Friday afternoon.

Syria Appeal

God with Us

Note: An Outreach team of ten traveled in January to Lebanon and Syria. They visited some of the 18 Presbyterian churches in Syria, meeting with pastors and church members. Jack Baca, an Outreach trustee, reflects on a part of the journey…

One of the key affirmations of Christian faith is that, in Jesus, God came to be with us. The angel said to Joseph that the child to be born would be called precisely that: Immanuel, God with us. We Christians take our clues for how we are to live from what God did and does in Jesus, and so we, too, go to be with others. This is an expression of love: to do what it takes to be with others.

This ancient theology kept running in my mind on Saturday, the second full day of our time in the Middle East, as we spent the better part of the day traveling. Early in the morning we left Beirut for the arduous trip through that bustling city, into the countryside and through farmland, across the border, and into Syria, as we made our way to Latakia, on the coast.

Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo - March 2017 Update

Dear friends,

Warm greetings from Cairo. We have completed our short January term, when the students have intensive classes over a three week period. During this term, we invite international scholars to come and share their knowledge with our students. In past years, we have had people like Professor Iain Torrance, President Emeritus of Princeton, and Professor Mark Labberton, President of Fuller.

This year we were fortunate to have Professor Jostein and Professor Gerd-Marie Adna from the VID Specialized University in Stavanger, Norway with us. Both of them taught classes to the senior students: Jostein on New Testament and Gerd-Marie on Religious Symbolism. Neither are strangers to ETSC, having visited on a number of occasions in the past. Gerd-Marie first came to Cairo in 1985 to study Arabic and stayed for just under a year. During this time, she found the seminary library a haven of peace and started to develop a lasting friendship with ETSC. Gerd-Marie  married Jostein in 1987, and she introduced him to Cairo in 1990. 

John McCall - February 2017 Update

Dear friends,

This past weekend was a four-day holiday in Taiwan to commemorate the February 28th memorial when thousands of people were slaughtered by incoming forces from China in 1947. Many of the Taiwanese leaders were taken away at night and jailed or killed. For years this was a taboo subject, but as democracy flourished here it became a part of the history of this land.

Last year we took a group of pastors to Montreat Conference Center in North Carolina (see September 2016 update). We planned to have a retreat here in Taiwan for these pastors six months after our return, to check in with each other and to see how this experience shaped them and is still shaping them. We had pastors from every corner of Taiwan join in this experience, so Sunday afternoon they drove down from the high mountains, or took a several hour train ride from south, east, north, and west.  

Bethlehem Bible College - March 2017 Update

I was a stranger and you did not take me in, I was naked and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not visit me.   Matthew 25: 43

Dear friends of Bethlehem Bible College, 

What we do for one, we do as if we are serving Jesus. This was the mentality of a group of BBC staff who visited the governmental hospital in Bethlehem to spend time with patients in need of dialysis. The staff spent time sitting, talking and laughing alongside those that were undergoing treatment.

This BBC group was the first to visit the dialysis section in the hospital. It was a big room with around twenty-two patients that undergo the process three times a week for five hours each time. In the Bethlehem area alone, there are one hundred patients including children.

Tumaini Children's Ministry - February 2017 Update

Dear friends and Tumaini partners,

Thank you to all of you who pray for our children at Tumaini. God answered your prayers and has blessed us with success. The Tumaini children are blossoming and doing well in school. We are so excited to report their progress.

Due to their outstanding performances, some of the children have earned university scholarships and others have received high school sponsorships from local sponsors. 

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine,  you did for me.” Matthew 25:40

Mercy is a Tumaini  child who was awarded a full university scholarship by Kenya Methodist University... 

PCEA Stone Church Construction - February 2017 Update

Sunday January 29, 2017 was a big day here in Kenya as we dedicated two churches for the PCEA Church, one in Rugongo and one in Karura outside of Nairobi. 

There is something unique about every church we dedicate. PCEA Rugongo Church has only thirty members. The area is quite poor, but these thirty members persisted and even completed their church in three years. Most of the church members are senior citizens, and all the church officers are women.

When PCEA church officials visited with me about nine months ago, they were completely exhausted and needed some assistance to complete the church building. They didn't need much. They only asked for windows and doors and some finishing touches. All they needed was a little encouragement and a small push.

Linda's Library - February 2017 Update

Dear friends and family,

We are happy to report that the building for Linda’s Library at Grace Girls’ High School is now complete! In January, we had the furniture made, tables and chairs. They were delivered to Grace on February 7. On February 8, Annie, David and I went to the site to place the furniture in the two main rooms. Traveling to the site is always an adventure – especially when you leave the paved road. It is about an hour’s drive through the bush on a bush “road.” On the drive, we saw about 200 camels in one herd and two dyk dyks, which are the smallest antelopes. We did not see any elephants on this trip, but the water supply at Grace was interrupted the previous night when elephants broke the pipe looking for water. 

The library is really taking shape. We only have about 200 books, but all the groups coming this year will be bringing books (including me). That furniture is being made. 

The Outreach Foundation