Bob and Kristi Rice - June 2017 Update

Surrender
“Father…not my will, but yours, be done.”
Luke 22: 42

On the morning of Wednesday, June 14, 2017, Kristi went for a bird watching jaunt with the Nature Kenya group. I stayed at the guesthouse and took some time to rest and do some therapeutic, meditative coloring. While I was tempted to color in the page with the theme of “Healing,” I was drawn in my spirit to color in the dramatic “S” for “Surrender.”

Surrender feels like the greater, all-encompassing theme of our lives, while of course we are earnestly seeking and praying for healing. We came to Nairobi three weeks ago from Juba regarding a couple of health issues which were badgering me. First was a fish bone I swallowed in Kinshasa which left my throat perpetually disturbed. Second was an inexplicable tiredness and lethargy that still won’t let me go. Over the last three weeks we have been to see the doctor four times and had two multitudinous rounds of tests performed.

 

Hope for Syrian Students - June 2017 Update

Who didn’t grow up singing “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world: red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”?

I am reminded of Jesus’ unswerving love for children every time I visit the Middle East. I am moved by the realities of life for Syrian children and young people, be they refugees now living in Lebanon or Syrian children and young people in our Presbyterian churches who remain in their own country, even in the midst of war. What they all have in common is a need – a thirst – for education.

Many of you, both churches and individuals, have given generously to support the five special refugee schools which serve close to 400 children. 

Refugee/Internally Displaced Persons Appeal - June 2017

Doubles and Triples

I just finished reading an inspiring report written by one of The Outreach Foundation’s partners in Jordan, the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC). For the past few years, with your generous gifts, The Outreach Foundation has supplied funds for MECC’s ministry with some of the 2.7 million – million – Iraqi and Syrian refugees who have sought a haven in this country which, admirably and with great dignity, refers to them as “guests.” MECC’s “hands and feet” for this ministry has been the Greek Orthodox Church which has been faithfully ministering to these refugees and bringing them glimpses of Hope and Light. The following excerpts and photos are taken from that report on their Winter Appeal, which focused on the “Orthodox Initiative (OI).”

Celebrating the Life of The Very Rev. Bernard Muindi, Great Partner and Friend of The Outreach Foundation

We're saddened to announce the recent death of the Rt. Rev. Bernard Muindi, former moderator of the Presbyterian Church in East Africa, former pastor of the Riamukurwe Parish at Nyeri, and visionary advocate for the needs of vulnerable children at Nyeri and beyond. His daughter, Anne, shared with us that the scriptures he selected for his funeral service are Joshua 1:1-9 and 2 Timothy 4:1-8. He has indeed fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith. Please hold his widow, Eunice, in your prayers, along with all his family and the parish and denomination that he served. The following letter was sent to the Presbyterian Church of East Africa from Executive Director Rob Weingartner:

Don and Martha Wehmeyer - June 2017 Update

Greetings in the name of the Lord Jesus, Savior and Redeemer of God’s elect,

We have had some very busy months here. I have been teaching at both San Pablo and the Mints program. Mints is a non-residence program that has become popular in many countries. Here in Mérida, I had nine students (four pastors and five lay folks) for Soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) and now with the same group I have just started Patristics (theologians from the first seven or eight centuries of church history). The picture here is a few of the students at Gethsemane. 

I was officially installed in the Seguidores de Cristo (Followers of Christ) mission church as pastor for a period of up to three years. In the Mexican Presbyterian church, pastors are installed for one year (pastor oficiante), for three years (pastor comisionado) and up to five years (pastor instalado). 

Todd and Maria Luke - June 2017 Update

Dear friends,

May is the wild card month for the Xpujil region’s agrarian communities. With immeasurable toil, families have cleared their land and are ready to plant. But sowing seed must wait until the rain returns. So, the farmers wonder. Will soaking rains come in May or in June? The good news is, some rain has already fallen – enough to refill our nearly empty guest house cistern. But more is needed. 

Here is a worthwhile prayer: Lord, send the rains that refill family cisterns and farmers’ hopes.

May is also festival time in the county seat, Xpujil. Two weeks of games, rides, food stands, and men who hawk blankets, pots, utensils, and pans with their voices electronically amplified to eleven. Eleven is also the volume level setting for the nightly concert/dances which begin, appropriately, at 11:00 p.m. and last until the break of dawn.  

Bethlehem Bible College - May 2017 Update

An invitation to the Bethlehem Bible College Conference
Christ and the Checkpoint: Jesus at the Center
May 28 – June 1, 2018

We believe that theology and religion are important and continue to shape how people around the world view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There is a lot of fear and rejection of the "other" and the commandments of Jesus are cast aside. Our goal is to return to the basics of our faith and bring Jesus back to the center when it comes to kingdom and end-time theology, Christian advocacy for peace that is rooted in justice, and our mission to our neighbor. 

Bethlehem Bible College invites you to the fifth "Christ at the Checkpoint" conference in Bethlehem from May 28-June 1, 2018. The conference hopes to follow the success of the first four conferences. The theme of this conference will be "Christ at the Checkpoint 5: Jesus at the Center." 

José Carlos Pezini - May 2017 Update

The ministries in Brazil are going well. In fact, they are growing more quickly than I can handle. When I started working with pastors here, I had no idea that so many of them were experiencing burnout. About a third of the pastors who participate in the three-day SARA retreats suffer from this, and many of them are taking anti-depression medication. So, there is a real sense of urgency for a time of healing and wholeness for God’s servants within the SARA retreat ministry.

SARA is working in three different areas. Our main focus, of which the retreats are part, is mentoring more than two hundred pastors. In order to be able to care for each of these 200 pastors, I have trained 40 other mentors but even this number is not enough to meet the great demand. The mentors offer to their mentees one hour of conversation per month, while the mentees commit to participate in two SARA retreats each year. 

Syria Appeal - May 2017

I live in Atlanta and, like most Americans who spend a lot of time in their cars, I am well aware of how long it takes to drive to other cities where I sometimes go for work or even vacation: it is about a four-hour drive, north and west, to get to Nashville; in the other direction, it is about four hours east and south to get to historic Savannah. I was recently in Hasakeh, Syria, where that “four hours away” analysis recalled an unsettling reality: four hours to the west was Raqqa, the self-proclaimed “capital” of ISIS in Syria; four hours to the east was Mosul where, even now, the Iraqi army is attempting to drive out ISIS from the city they had hoped would be their “capital” in Iraq. Connecting Raqqa and Mosul is a swath of fertile farmland where, in the middle, stands the city of Hasakeh, smack dab in the center of the area which was targeted to be the “heartland” of a new ISIS caliphate. 

If you were a Christian living in Hasakeh, and in such proximity to danger, would you be “too close for comfort”?

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.