Presbytery of Zimbabwe Ministry for Children at Risk - November 2017 Update

Dear friends and partners,

We would like to share some news about the Presbytery of Zimbabwe (POZ) Ministry for Children at Risk and specifically about the Lovemore Home boys. It has been a long journey placing the boys with foster parents and in schools after Lovemore Home closed. In August 2017, Lee Cooper from South Highland Presbyterian Church, Frank Dimmock and I traveled to Harare to visit with the POZ. Doug Tilton, PC(USA) mission co-worker and Southern Africa Regional Liaison, also joined us. Included on the agenda during our visit was the Lovemore Home boys’ reunion, among other things. The reunion was held on August 19. Many of the boys living in Harare came to the reunion, and it was a joy to meet each of them. They have grown into handsome young men. 

Most of the former Lovemore Home residents attend either Gloag High School or Mhondoro Presbyterian High School. Both schools are managed by and belong to the POZ. The Presbytery assigned a minister, Rev. Gleness Mambi, to visit the boys regularly, pray with them and discern their needs. 

From her latest visits, Rev. Gleness reports the following: “I am happy to report that we made visits to the schools where the boys are – Mhondoro and Gloag. We visited Mhondoro on October 2. We bought groceries and had lunch with the five boys that are there – Hastings Manene, Wilderness Nyirenda, Brandon Lee Chinyanga, Shingirai Sibanda and Tinashe Mujakachi. We prayed with them and encouraged them to work hard.

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Syria Appeal - November 2017

With Every Act of Love

I was recently listening to a favorite song by Jason Gary and the refrain reminded me of the many, many ways in which your gifts to the Syria Appeal have encouraged the work and witness of the Presbyterian Church in Syria over these past years of war: supporting families so that they can remain despite the awful economics of war; undergirding the mission and ministries of individual congregations; helping to train the next generation of leadership for those churches.

We bring the kingdom come
With every act of love
Jesus, help us carry You
Alive in us, Your light shines through
With every act of love
We bring the kingdom

The photos included here give glimpses into the ways in which your generous gifts – your “every act of love” – for the Church in Syria to The Outreach Foundation have allowed us to respond quickly to requests from the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon. The Outreach Foundation is blessed by a long, deep and trusted relationship with the Synod and with its General Secretary, the Rev. Joseph Kassab. Over the past few days, I asked him to reflect upon the current situation of the Presbyterian Church in Syria by responding to a few questions:

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Hope for Syrian Students in Syria and Lebanon - November 2017 Update

At the Top of the Hill: Hope

When I was anticipating knee replacement surgery, I once counted the steps: 106 of them leading up a steep hill to an old school building in Kab Elias owned by the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon in western Lebanon. Into this small country, about the size of Connecticut and with a population of only four million, Syrian refugees had been streaming (over one million now registered, 60% of those being school-aged children). Our Presbyterian family there (the Synod) discerned fairly quickly what God was calling them to do in this crisis – educate those children, many of whom had been out of school for several years because of the war or had never had the chance to even begin their schooling. This “re-purposed” school overlooking the Beqaa Valley, where a sea of white refugee tents is visible, would be joined by four others: Tripoli, Tyre, Minyara and Rayak. All five (with a sixth planned) are under the oversight of their local Presbyterian church with many of the teachers coming from those churches. More than 350 little lives are being embraced by this demonstration of Christ’s love and imparted with Christian values that are impacting their families, as well. 

Just a few weeks ago, I revisited the school at Kab Elias and spent some time with Ramak Abboud, the principal. Her husband, Tony, is the pastor of the Presbyterian Church down the road in Khirbet Kanafer. Since I was here in July, Ramak has had to add two more classes as her student body has increased to 102. 

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Refugee/Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Appeal - November 2017

The Years the Locusts Have Eaten

How does one keep faith following a sustained tragedy? The prophet Joel importuned God, in the aftermath of a disaster in Judah, concerned that even the priests were doubting God’s presence asking, “Where is their God?!?” God responded, taking “pity on his people”: I am sending you grain, new wine and olive oil, enough to satisfy you fully; never again will I make you an object of scorn to the nations…I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten…

In August, I spent a week with Outreach partners in Jordan who are ministering to refugees in Jordan. The Orthodox Initiative, which we support, is under the umbrella of the Middle East Council of Churches; its director, Wafa Gassous, has a huge heart for Iraqi Christians who were driven out of their homes by ISIS in Mosul and from the surrounding villages. 250 of these families have found a haven at the Syrian Orthodox Church in Amman. I was with them on the morning when modest food parcels were distributed: rice, sugar, flour, pasta, tomato sauce, tuna, corned beef, oil and tea filled bright blue bags, neatly arranged in the courtyard of the church. Inside the crowded church hall, the families gathered. As their names were called, they came up to a table in front and presented their “ID” – for all of them, this was a photocopy of their UNHCR Asylum Seeker Certificate. They were given a slip of paper and then took that “receipt” out to the courtyard to receive their parcel. 

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Musalaha - October/November 2017 Update

Musalaha has been increasingly active in bridge-building between Christians and Muslims in Palestinian communities, applying the same principles used in reconciliation work between Israeli and Palestinian believers. Through these initiatives, we have introduced Musalaha's curriculum to Muslim communities and have been learning how we can use our knowledge and experience to ease some of the tensions between Christians and Muslims. This pressure is mainly caused by historical prejudice, stereotypes, and politics, and has increased dramatically in recent years.

When one of our Palestinian staff members was asked to put a committee of young leaders together to discuss activities and reconciliation work between the communities, she quickly found fellow Christians ready to join the cause. Reaching out to Muslim leaders, however, turned out to be much more difficult. This wasn't because they were not interested; she just didn’t know any on a personal level, even though she lives in a mixed neighborhood.

This skepticism towards the other community has many reasons, most of which go back to religious stereotypes, fear of the unknown and even racism. As humans, our opinion of the other tends to be based on what we think we know about their culture or religion before we have our own experience with individuals of that group. We also tend to judge other people based on the extreme manifestations of their culture and religion, rather than considering nuance and individual faith and experience.

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Iraq Appeal - November 2017 Update

“Joyful, patient, faithful…” is a pretty apt summary of the Presbyterian Church in Iraq which I encountered, yet again, on my trip to this beleaguered country just a few weeks ago. Iraq makes the “Top Ten List” of the most difficult places to be a Christian; 75% of all Christians have left since 2003 with only about 250,000 remaining, mostly in the Catholic and Orthodox communities. And yet this Presbyterian presence, with its small “footprint” (less than 200 families in three cities), is making a big impact. Ben McCaleb, First Presbyterian, San Antonio, and Steve Burgess, West Hills (Presbyterian), Omaha, were making a return trip with me as we spent time in both Basrah and Baghdad. We were guided by the Rev. Dr. Nuhad Tomeh, mission consultant to The Outreach Foundation and Syrian Presbyterian pastor. Following the Kurdish referendum vote, Rev. Haitham Jazrawi of Kirkuk advised us not to come north but instead came down to Baghdad to meet with us. 

All three congregations (Basrah, Baghdad, Kirkuk) have some things in common: they all run kindergarten/nursery schools which are so well-respected by the non-Christian families who attend them that they have been urged to open elementary schools as well; all three either run or are setting up Christian radio stations; for the first time in a long while, all three congregations have an ordained pastor to serve them; and all three congregations open their doors to those who have never heard the Good News, and the Holy Spirit is bringing hungry souls to receive the Bread of Life. 

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Women's Ministries in Africa - November 2017 Update

Dear friends of women’s ministries in Rwanda,

Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. I hope this note finds you well. 

Bibles
We are grateful to you and to The Outreach Foundation for the support we received for Bibles for both women and children. It is a great gift to receive a Bible especially for people newly evangelized who cannot afford to buy one for themselves. It may be hard to comprehend how much it means and the happiness your gift brought to these believers. I cannot put a value on the joy I see on the faces of the children and mothers as they return home with a Bible in their hands, holding it tightly to their chests like a highly valued treasure. 

Dear Outreach friends, with part of the gift you sent we were able to procure 300 Bibles for women in Gitarama Presbytery, as well as children’s Bibles and hymnals. We gave Bibles to those who did not have one and who could not afford one themselves, most of whom are women and children. We purchased “Bibiliya Yera” Bibles with large print which is easier for everyone to read, especially older people. We also distributed 300 Bibles to children in other communities. Each of these recipients appreciates this life-giving gift which strengths their spiritual life and knowledge of the word. Having a Bible in their own language is a great gift. The presence of the word of God in their homes brings hope to families.

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Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo - October 2017 Update

Celebrating ETSC’s Online Program    
Exciting things are happening at ETSC this fall! We are absolutely thrilled to announce the introduction of three new programs this fall semester, all of which will be by E-Learning (Distance Learning). We thank God that this has happened and also thank our faithful partners who have made this possible. The programs are:
•    MAT–Master of Arts in Theology Online    
•    CTS–Certificate in Theological Studies    
•    CCM–Certificate in Church Ministry

They will target students in Egypt who are not able to study at one of the ETSC campuses because of distance or due to family responsibilities or work commitments. They will also target those from the wider Arab-speaking world who may not have access to good theological education in their home country. The programs are obviously filling a need, as 126 applications were received out of which 98 were accepted. Successful applicants come from all over Egypt and also from countries such as Lebanon, Syria, United Arab Emirates and even two from Namibia (admittedly they are Egyptian, so well able to cope with the Arabic!). There were also successful applicants (again Egyptian) from the United States and Europe where Arabic-speaking pastors are doing great work among the refugee communities. 

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Namumu Orphanage Center - October 2017 Update

Dear friends,

Some of you have traveled to Namumu in Siavonga, on the edge of Lake Kariba, and fallen in love with that place and even more so with the children being cared for in that place. God has changed so many lives since Namumu’s inception. Frank Dimmock and I visited Namumu Orphanage Center in August and would like to update you on the situation there.

The vulnerability of children and families in the Siavonga district of southern Zambia is obvious and has been affirmed during our visits and by others we met there. During the three days we spent at Namumu this summer, we met with the children; Mr. Simamba, the director; Ms. Rudia Mwela, the nurse; the Namumu Board; and the government District Commissioner. They expressed appreciation for the support given to the Namumu children and addressed some of the concerns for the children’s well-being. 

We also met with the board of management and went to see the fishing boats on the lakeshore. Several years ago, The Outreach Foundation and other supporters assisted in the purchase of four fishing boats for Namumu to generate income with the goal of creating financial sustainability for the orphanage.

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José Carlos Pezini - October 2017 Update

Dear friends and supporters,

It is a joy to share some great news with you. Three years ago, Steve and Kay Wright came to Brazil to visit the church planting projects that their church, Zionsville Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, has supported. I had the privilege of accompanying them and during the days we were together, they shared with me about the Great Banquet, a retreat ministry which had greatly impacted their congregation. They invited me to attend a “Great Banquet,” and I did so the following year. Seeing what God was doing through this three-day weekend largely led by lay people, I heard the Lord whispering in my heart that the Great Banquet would be a wonderful gift to the Church in Brazil.

Steve Wright agreed with me, and we began planning for a Brazilian version. Zionsville Presbyterian Church started inviting Brazilians who spoke English to its semi-annual banquets to become the seed group of a Brazilian leadership team. In two years twenty people, ten men and ten women, traveled from Brazil to attend a Great Banquet. Steve and Kay returned to Brazil two years ago to guide this leadership group in preparing for the banquet. Then, with the blessing of God, we set the date for the Great Banquet in Brazil.   

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PCEA Mabati Church Construction - October 2017 Update

Dear friends,

East Africa Mission Catalyst Stu Ross writes this summer from Kenya:

Building Churches in Distant Places    
Mission work is not easy…that's what Daniel and I always relay to each other when we send men off to distant places to do difficult tasks in the mission field.

We had such a challenging task. We loaded materials to build two churches in Boruhalo and Karare way up in northern Kenya not far from Ethiopia. The area also borders on the dangerous northeast province of Kenya where Somali bandits roam. The two churches are close to a town called Marsabit, a ten-hour drive from our base in Kikuyu.

We worked all day loading the twenty-foot truck. First, we loaded all the mabati for the two churches in the middle of the truck, then the steel for each church, one on the left and one on the right. Then we added the cement and all the doors and windows which were already fabricated in our shop. 

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Doug Tilton - October 2017 Update

Dear friends,

It is 6:30 a.m. in the remote village of Andolofotsy, a six-hour drive from Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo. Léa Harilalao opens the door and looks across the road to the thatched shelter where a dozen or so people have already begun to congregate. “The dispensary is only meant to open at seven,” she laughs softly, “but, as you can see, people come early.” So, often – when she does not have visitors to look after – Harilalao, a midwife, begins to examine patients well before 7 a.m.

Today, though, she graciously makes time to introduce us to her work and to the community she tirelessly serves. Harilalao runs the dispensary at Andolofotsy, one of 36 largely rural dispensaries established around the country by the Development Department (SAF) of the Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar (known by its Malagasy acronym, FJKM). This is also one of seven facilities that SAF has opened with assistance from Presbyterian World Mission – which is why I have joined Dr. Josoa Randrianonivelo, the head of SAF’s Health Program, and Pastor Paul Razafintsalama, the president of the local FJKM regional synod, to visit the area. 

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John McCall - October 2017 Update

Dear friends,

I recently took the bullet train for a short half-hour ride from Taipei to a new city near the Taiwan Science Park. This area is Taiwan's Silicon Valley. Most of Taiwan's cutting-edge, high tech industry is located in this area. What used to be all rice fields is now many upscale, high-rise condominiums. While Taiwan's birthrate is dropping, this area has the highest birthrate in all of Taiwan. Many of the young engineers and software folks who work and live in this area are having children.

Thirteen years ago, the Presbyterian Church decided to start a new church development in this neighborhood. The founding pastor is a man who is full of joy and shares life with his church members. When I had dinner with the pastor and several of the members, one of the member's six-year-old son loved to sit with the pastor. This church is full of first-generation Christians who have come to know Christ's love through this congregation.

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Nancy Collins - October 2017 Update

Dear family and friends,

Greetings to everyone from Tulsa, Oklahoma. I have been spending time with my 24-year-old son Charles, who finished his nursing program on September 21. I managed my schedule so that I was able to be there with him. YAY!!

It is also interpretation assignment time again – I have the opportunity to spend time with many of you who support my ministry as regional liaison in East Central Africa. It is wonderful to see folks face to face and hear in more detail about the important ministries of your congregations. Partnership has been a theme sounded in the visits I have made to date.
 
July 29 was the 20th anniversary celebration of the partnership between Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery (EOP) and the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian Synod of Livingstonia (CCAP Livingstonia). CCAP Livingstonia General Secretary Rev. Dr. Levi Nyondo and Mrs. Ruth Nyondo were present at a special worship service with some of the key leaders in the EOP partner team. They shared the ways the partnership transformed their lives. 

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Rwanda Church Construction - October 2017 Update

Dear friends,

We would like to share a joyful update sent to us by Outreach Mission Staff Stu Ross on the dedication of two churches in Rwanda. Stu traveled to Rwanda during World Communion Sunday weekend to dedicate Nyabubare Church on Saturday and Karambi Church on Sunday. Both churches are part of the Presbyterian Church of Rwanda (EPR) with whom The Outreach Foundation has a strong relationship.

Stu writes: The dedications were well-attended by the congregations and leaders of the churches including the new President of the Zinga Presbytery, Rev. Daniel Dushimimana. Rev. Daniel told the congregations to remember where they came from. 

The bulk of the work building these churches was done by the congregations. They made bricks, collected sand, brought water, collected stones, and did other manual labor. 

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Scholarships for Presbyterian Students at Protestant University (PUR-formerly PIASS) - October 2017 Update

Dear friends and partners,

We are happy to share the following exciting news from Professor Elisee Musemakweli, Vice Chancellor, PUR: Complying with the PIASS Strategic Plan (2013-2017), the Protestant Institute of Arts and Social Sciences (PIASS) General Assembly voted in August 2016 to transform the institution into a university. The Rwanda Governance Board responded favorably to the request, and PIASS changed its name to the Protestant University of Rwanda (PUR) therefore increasing the scope of its operations. This decision was based on achievement in terms of academic activities, research, community service, and partnerships with other local and international universities. 

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Alan and Ellen Smith - October 2017 Update

Dear friends,

After a very busy summer in Russia, Ellen and I are back in the U.S.A. for a couple of months of mission interpretation, combined with a bit of family time and the Russia Mission Network meeting in Pittsburgh at the end of September. Although we have been somewhat overtaken by events over the past few weeks, it is high time to tell you about this year’s Roma children’s camp.

All of the camping programs of our Russian partners have been affected by new legal stipulations. After several tragic mishaps that occurred last summer in secular camps, the state has become much more stringent in enforcing various safety, health and sanitation rules involving children’s camps. These rules can be very specific and sometimes unrealistic especially when the camp involves children staying in tents rather than in fixed cabins. 

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Dustin and Sherri Ellington - October 2017 Update

Dear friends,

A church that supports our ministry recently sent us interview questions focused on prayer and God’s presence. I (Dustin) responded and thought I’d share the results with you. The questions are based on a book by Walter Brueggemann called Praying the Psalms. He says that Christians pray for all kinds of people in all kinds of situations, and he mentions three ways of knowing how to pray for others. One way is to attend to what’s happening in our own lives and surroundings, since we share a “common lot” with all people.

As you read my answers, Sherri and I would also invite you to consider: How might you answer the questions below for your own life, and for the unique place where God has placed you?

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