Presbyterian Street Children's Ministry in Kigali, Rwanda - July 2017 Update

The “Centre Presbytérien d’Amour des Jeunes” (CPAJ) is a faith based non-profit organization working under the authority of the Presbyterian Church in Rwanda. CPAJ is responsible for the rehabilitation, re-education and reintegration of street children into their families. This requires effective training and an appropriate plan for the children and their families. This is one of the reasons it was important to have a building where the CPAJ children could gather with their parents and CPAJ staff. Due to our good partnership with The Outreach Foundation, we received funding that helped us build such a facility, the multipurpose hall. This hall is being used to accomplish this goal as well as for many other needs of the children and the community in general.

The main objective of the new multipurpose hall is to improve our rehabilitation capacity by promoting recreational and educational activities for the children and providing knowledge to the parents through conferences and other educational tools. The hall is equipped to facilitate coaching activities. We would like for CPAJ to be a center for recreational and educational activities for vulnerable young people. We also rent out the hall to people in the community for meetings and events to generate income to help the children.

Iraq Appeal Update Kirkuk Church Update - July 2017

...we rejoice in our suffering, because suffering produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope; and hope does not disappoint us….  Romans 5: 3-5

I first met them in May of 2015. They had been living at the Presbyterian Church in Kirkuk for almost a year by then. Philip, the youngest member of this family who had fled the Christian village of Qaraqosh, had an impish smile and bright gray-green eyes. He was, in Southern parlance, “cute as a button.” 

His father had been a guard at one of the churches when they fled the onslaught of ISIS with only the clothes on their back. Along with his four siblings and parents, “home” was now a small Sunday School classroom at the Kirkuk Church – and they were so very grateful to Rev. Haitham Jazrawi and the congregation for it. Recently, I asked Rev. Haitham for an update on this family and the general state of those for whom the congregation was caring for at the church. This is what he shared: Philip is now entering the 4th grade! He graduated third grade as the #1 student in his class. Similarly, his sister, Vatican, is now entering 7th grade, which is the start of high school in Iraq (as opposed to 9th grade in the U.S.). She also finished 6th grade as the #1 student for her class! 

Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo - July 2017 Update

Congratulations
At the recent synod meeting, Dr. Atef Gendy was elected Moderator of the Synod of the Nile for the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Egypt. It is a great honor and shows the high regard in which he is held within the church.   Dr. Gendy expressed his gratitude towards his colleagues for putting their trust in him and hopes to serve the church in the best possible way. This is a one-year appointment, and he will be able to combine it with his role as president of ETSC. At the same meeting Rev. Yousef Samir, the senior pastor of Heliopolis Presbyterian Church, was elected to serve as chairperson of ETSC’s board for the next four years.

Graduation
It is always good to work in strong partnership with friends and donors both overseas and within Egypt. The results of this partnership could be seen during the graduation of 52 of our students just a few weeks ago. The graduation took place at Heliopolis Presbyterian Church. It was a wonderful event, and the church was absolutely packed as family and friends came to witness the special ceremony.

Holistic Evangelism in Tete Province - June 2017 Trip Report

Dear friends and supporters of Tete Province,

This was the eleventh time I traveled to Tete Province, and it may very well be the most memorable! The nine person team, sponsored by The Outreach Foundation, included my wife Elizabeth and fellow Trustee Tom McDow. We arrived at the Tete Province border on Thursday, June 8 with Rev. Nedson Zulu and Sebber Banda and project assistant Rev. Carlos Faquionne. Over the next four busy days, we visited with pastors and church leaders at wells, churches, and schools and witnessed a drama performance on preventing malaria and cholera. These events alone would have made a very successful mission trip. But we also experienced the dedication of the long- awaited Leadership Training Center (LTC).

We arrived at the LTC in the village of Tchessa, near Zobue, on Saturday afternoon and helped Nedson, Sebber, and Carlos attend to some last minute details for the dedication and worship on Sunday. Choirs from all over Tete Province started arriving about 5 p.m. on Saturday. They had come early to sing and praise God for the dedication of the LTC.

Pakistan Update - July 2017

In May Rob Weingartner, Executive Director, and Harris Cummings, a member at Western Hills Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, traveled to visit with partners in Pakistan. We left encouraged by their faithful service in Christ’s name in a very challenging and complex context.

At the Pakistan Christian Recording Ministries and Pakistan Bible Correspondence School in Faisalabad, we were warmly greeted by PCRM director Zahoor-Ul-Haq, PBCS executive secretary Rufan Rawar William, and their staffs. 

Each of these ministries’ main focus is on reaching the majority Muslim population, but as they do their work they are also strengthening the faith and discipleship of many who are Christians. Pakistan is the third largest Muslim country in the world after Indonesia and Bangladesh. Its total population is about 180 million of whom 96% are Muslims, 2% are Christians and 2% are other minority groups.

Dustin and Sherri Ellington - July 2017 Update

Dear friends,

One of the parts of my work which I (Dustin) feel most strongly about is mentoring master’s students and fourth-year bachelor’s students as they carry out research and writing projects. The young African church has many serious matters to think through, and all of my students are sorting through challenges facing their churches as they do their academic work. Let me share a little about my current research students and the significance of their areas of focus.  

Rev. Bannet Muwowo is a Zambian Presbyterian pastor writing a master’s thesis that seeks to describe what the process of mature biblical interpretation should be like and what it should accomplish in Zambia today. Rev. Muwowo believes people’s poverty tends to take control of what they are able to see in the Bible; poverty drives interpretation. People may think, for instance, that whenever the Bible uses the word “blessing,” it is talking about material well-being. Rev. Muwowo suspects that 

Near East School of Theology (NEST) - June 2017 Update

Future generations will no doubt look upon 2017 as a historic year for the churches and societies of the Middle East, especially for the Near East School of Theology. Two of NEST’s alumnae were ordained in the Presbyterian Church of Syria and Lebanon, known as the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon. Rola Sleiman (‘97) was ordained in the Tripoli congregation on February 27, and Najla Kassab (’87) was ordained in the Rabiyeh congregation on March 24. 

NEST community members, faculty, and students were in attendance at both ordinations. We are proud of these alumnae who became pioneers of women’s full ministry in the Protestant churches of the Middle East. Along with a being proud of our graduates, we are also overwhelmed and gratified by their success.

For years, our seminary has been promoting women’s full ministry in the church, including ordination; for years, our faculty has taught and supported and argued for women’s ordination, and now it has become a reality. 

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.