Presbyterian Good Shepherd Primary School in Baghdad

Imagine trying to live a normal life while terrorists wreak havoc and fear around you. That was what life in Baghdad, Iraq, has been like since 2012. It particularly affected the children. School was inconsistent and playing with friends outside was terribly unsafe.

But through it all, the Baghdad Presbyterian Church persevered. They tried to make life “normal” for their congregants and community. Church and Sunday School classes continued through the terrorism of the past few years. Church activities were held when possible. Hope was to be found in the church and its pastor, Rev. Farouk Hammo. One of the most uplifting ministries was their preschool and kindergarten programs. What makes it uplifting is the journey the school went through during that time and continues to pursue.

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The Outreach Foundation
Mama Esther's Rescue Center

Rev. Charles is a modern-day hero in Kenya. He dedicates his life to preventing early marriage for girls as young as 12. In partnership with The Outreach Foundation and the Presbyterian Church of East Africa, Rev. Maina manages Mama Esther’s Rescue Center, one of several PCEA rescue centers for girls in that country. Girls from poor families in the Maasai culture have few opportunities and are often betrothed to older men for dowry money. Rescue centers offer these girls protection and hope through education. Rev. Maina recently shared the following story about one of the girls:

A desperate Maasai girl named Kiranda, accompanied by her single mother, walked over 50 miles from Magdi to PCEA Mama Esther’s Rescue Center. The mother, who lost her husband two years ago, was living with twelve children in desperate poverty with no help. The Maasai answer to this horrible situation includes marrying the girls off. Nine of the girls were below the age of 12 years old.

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The Outreach Foundation
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After years of fighting and fleeing, life is beginning to be more stable for many Iraqis. The Baghdad Presbyterian Church never stopped trying to make life "normal." They continued their worship services and Sunday School. They even continued the Church's popular preschool/kindergarten program. The pastor and elders knew it was important to help be the "anchor" of their community and help provide faith and hope.

Now, with their surroundings a bit more settled, the Baghdad Church is seizing an opportunity to have an even greater impact on the community. They are expanding their preschool/kindergarten with a primary school. And they need our help. 

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The Outreach Foundation
Syria Appeal - March 2018 Update

Pastries and Pizza, Peace and Possibilities in Homs

The pastor who had served this 162-year-old Presbyterian church for 37 years had just retired. Young Mofid Karjili, the new pastor, was eager and excited to preach for his first time to the 140 families now under his care. His wife, Micheline, and young son, Samir, were looking forward to moving into the spacious pastor’s apartment adjacent to the sanctuary. It was January 29, 2012. Homs. Within a few days, however, fanatical groups moved in and took over the largely-Christian neighborhood. Mortars began to fly and soon nearby churches and homes were in ruins. The roof of the Presbyterian Church was in tatters from shelling; the family’s apartment was destroyed. The formerly bustling streets were emptied of their residents – some 60,000 Christians.

It would be 2 ½ years – May 10, 2014 – until the guns would be silenced and the fanatics driven out. The bishop of the Greek Orthodox church called Rev. Mofid and said it was safe to come back. He was there the next day. On the wall of the church was written “Hey, dogs, ISIS is coming for you.” Mofid would later learn that ISIS had used the facilities to recruit young men for their evil work – and to torture those who resisted.

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The Outreach Foundation
Refugee/Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Appeal - March 2018 Update

Every blessing you receive is for you to be grateful and to pass it on. We remain committed to our mission, the mission that our Lord Jesus Christ entrusted to us: we must continue to be there for the stranger, the refugee, the child and the most vulnerable. We want to be his ambassadors, and we are always open to be used as tools for our Lord. We are aware that with the little we offer to those people we are making a big difference. This is an opportunity for everyone to step in with us, hand in hand, to continue this work, as partnership is what our Lord Jesus Christ meant when he said, “for where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” These words of Wafa Goussous, who directs the Orthodox Initiative (of the Middle East Council of Churches) in Amman, come from deep within her heart. For it is into the midst of her nation of Jordan that tens of thousands of Syrian and Iraqi refugees have sought safety and help... and The Outreach Foundation has come alongside this ministry, over the past two years, supported by your generous gifts.

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What in the World is God Doing in Iran?

We know Iran is one of the most closed and secretive nations in the Middle East and perhaps the world. Strict in its Islamic culture and history, Iran is known for an extremely low tolerance of Christians, and no tolerance for Muslims leaving their faith to become believers in Jesus Christ.

But, as you might expect, our loving God sees it differently. He sees a people in need of the saving Grace of Jesus Christ. Because he has no boundaries, he’s doing something about it in a mighty way. Read this slowly to absorb it: Iran has the highest percentage (of the population) growth rate of Christianity in the entire world! In fact, more Iranians have come to Christ in the last 17 years than in the previous 1,400 years combined. Although we know that with God, all things are possible, it’s almost unfathomable to comprehend. So, how is he doing it? Two major ways:

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Rebuilding Hope in South Sudan - March 2018 Update

The project, “Rebuilding Hope in South Sudan,” has a number of on-the-ground partners. This project update comes from  Mr. John Jock Gatwech, Coordinator for the Education Ministries of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan in the refugee camps in Ethiopia. Thank you, brother John Jock, for this report and for all the work you do.
Jeff Ritchie, Mission Advocate, The Outreach Foundation

From November 22-24 of last year, I accompanied Dr. Frank Dimmock, The Outreach Foundation’s Mission Specialist for Africa, the Rev. Stephen Pal Kun, Coordinator of Ministries for the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS) in the refugee camps in Ethiopia, and the Rev. James Gatdet Tang, President of the Western Gambella Bethel Synod of the  Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, on a visit to PCOSS Schools in the refugee camps in the Gambella Region of Ethiopia. Over a three-day period we covered the six camps – Kule, Tierkidi, Nguenyiel, Jewi, Pugnido One and Pugnido Two. In each place we were received with great joy and enthusiastic singing by the children of the preschools we visited.

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Hope for Syrian Students in Syria and Lebanon - February 2018 Update

In January I took a team of seven mission leaders and pastors to Lebanon. The Rev. Dr. Marshall Zieman, former Outreach trustee and current pastor of the Presbyterian Church of the Cross, Omaha, Nebraska, was part of the team. Marshall shares his account of the visits we made to two of the six schools for Syrian refugee children which are run by the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon with whom we partner. 
Marilyn Borst, Associate Director for Partnership Development

January 8 After spending yesterday with the local church in Tripoli, Lebanon on the warm coast of the Mediterranean Sea, we headed over the snowy mountain pass east of Beirut into the Bekaa Valley – the breadbasket of the country – to the city of Zahle, near the border with Syria. Today’s visit focused on refugee children. We were able to interact directly with Muslim children whose families fled their homes because of ISIS in Syria and found lifesaving refuge among the Christian community in Zahle.

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The Outreach Foundation
Gordon and Dorothy Gartrell - February 2018 Update

Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”  Matthew 4:19

Dorothy and I are in the United States for six months speaking at churches about our work in Brazil, where we are PC(USA) missionary co-workers working in partnership with the United Presbyterian Church of Brazil. We are working in leadership development in the local church as well as evangelism. We have been in Governador Mangabeira in the state of Bahia for the last 2½ years, which is a couple of hours from Salvador on the coast.

We arrived in the U.S. the first week of December. We spent several days at headquarters working on our talks and being oriented by the staff. Everyone was focused on Christmas in December, so we took advantage of that and went to see our children.

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Musalaha - February 2018 Update

Light in the Darkness

On a rainy afternoon in Jerusalem, fifty-seven women arrive at Tantur Ecumenical Institute seeking reconciliation against the odds. Despite common faith in Jesus, the group is far from ordinary – composed of Palestinian Israelis, Jewish Israelis, and Palestinian women living in the Palestinian Authority.

Recent political activity tried to exacerbate the distance between these communities; so, everyone who walks through the door is performing an act of courage, vulnerability, and gentle defiance against stereotypes. Still, each person carries a unique set of expectations or doubts.

In the first session rather than focusing explicitly on the theological rhetoric and the wounds and fears that have historically served to dichotomize these communities, the staff brought our focus to relationship building. The group is broken into smaller circles, and we engage in a game: each person is given a different colored slip of paper.

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Daniel and Elizabeth Turk - February 2018 Update

We are so thankful for the many supporters of Dan and Elizabeth Turk’s ministry in Madagascar. In response to God’s command to steward and care for the earth that God declared good, Dan is leading remarkable work focused on biological diversity, caring for creation, food security issues and other agricultural programs that express the grace and goodness of our Lord. Thank you for helping to make this work possible.

Update from Daniel Turk on the Fruit, Vegetable, and Environmental Education (FVEE) Project

During 2017 the Fruit, Vegetable, and Environmental Education (FVEE) project of Madagascar’s largest Protestant church, the Fiangonan’i Jesoa Kristy eto Madagasikara (FJKM), established a fruit center at Mahatsinjo; continued training in fruit growing, gardening, and environmental education at three FJKM seminaries; and began a new collaboration with the FJKM schools. The following gives details of how the project is making an impact on various groups of people in many locations in Madagascar.

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Christian Education for Presbyterian Children in Rwanda - February 2018 Update

On a typical Sunday at EPR Remera-Kicukiro, you would find hundreds of our members singing, praying, and dancing. Unfortunately, you would also find the children of our church crowded together in an undersized, packed classroom. All of the children of EPR Remera-Kicukiro are forced to share one common space on Sundays. This includes children as old as 14 and as young as three. The classroom is often so overcrowded that children must sit in each other’s laps as they are instructed. They come in large numbers anyway! The congregation has 224 children attending Sunday School classes. Church members who volunteer their time and have Christ’s love for the children serve as teachers. As a congregation, we are thrilled at the opportunity to grow and to count these children as members of our young church.

Because Sunday School and the education of our children is the main focus of evangelism of our church, the vision of our congregation is to make it strong and enjoyable. We know that the secret to having a future generation in the church and nation is to invest in Christian education for our children. 

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City Evangelization, Busanza Vocational Training Center - January 2018 Update

The Busanza Vocational Training School was built by the Presbyterian Church of Rwanda (EPR) in partnership with The Outreach Foundation. The school was dedicated in July of 2017. A mission team from Nashville was present for the joyful dedication celebration with this community.

The first enrollment (class) of 34 students (17 in sewing and 17 in hairdressing) graduated at the end of 2017. Of these graduates, 70% in sewing have jobs and 80% in hairdressing are employed. These percentages demonstrate the importance of the school and the impact it has on the lives of our community and nation.

We just started our second enrollment on Monday, January 22 with 26 students registered in sewing and 23 students in hairdressing. One of the students in hairdressing, Ishime Sandrine, says: “I decided to come two years after I finished secondary school and was still without job. I see that there is a big opportunity for those who finish hairdressing. They get employed almost immediately or can start their own businesses.”

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Home of Hope - January 2018 Update

Dear friends in Christ, 

At the beginning of another year, we are trusting God for what 2018 will bring in the U.S., worldwide, and our little Zimbabwe. We are filled with so much HOPE in our God who is our Hope of Glory! We see and hear of his mighty hand at work in so many instances. How blessed and privileged we are to be called his children, heirs to his Kingdom and co-heirs with Christ his Son – no longer called servants but friends who walk and talk with him each day along the way and come boldly before his throne of grace. Praise and bless his mighty and holy Name!

Zimbabwe has a newly appointed president promising to eliminate corruption, force the return of vast sums of stolen money, and restore the country to its potential. Though the mostly peaceful military intervention was mainly to secure the ruling party’s position, the population was grateful for the change of president. The country may benefit from Mnungagwa, who is said to be a born-again Christian. He will have to produce results if he is to be elected fairly later this year. There have been too many broken promises in the past. We are optimistic.

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Small Church Initiative - January 2018 Update


The Presbyterian church in Taguasco, Cuba, is the easternmost church in the Central Presbytery. The church building is literally falling apart. Interior walls are are riddled by a network of cracks. Engineers tell them the deterioration is so bad it would be cheaper to rebuild than to repair, but they are reluctant to spend money on the building when they see such needs around them.

There was a time, following the revolution, when membership in the Taguasco church dwindled to one person who showed up faithfully each Sunday to worship, to open the church doors and remind the surrounding community they worshiped God even when the government declared there was no God. Now there are 30 members, though many of them are old.

Age does not stop them from being the church. Led by a young woman pastor, Dina Izquierdo, the congregation doesn’t just meet for worship on Sunday. They serve meals to seniors two times each week, provide books from the local library and have formed a senior choir. “It is so tempting for the church to focus so much on the young people that they forget the seniors,” one elder told us.

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Shalom Teaching Ministry in Central America - January 2018 Update

2017 was a period of intense activity for Roy Soto, the pastor of Shalom Christian Community in Fraijanes, Costa Rica. The Outreach Foundation partners with Roy in providing learning opportunities to people that God has called to serve as Christian leaders in and around the country. The fact that only around twenty percent of Protestant pastors in the region have had access to formal theological education presents many opportunities for non-traditional ways of engaging and equipping church leaders.

Roy is invited by groups of pastors who long for personal and congregational transformation to come and teach a contextual approach to mission that, centered on the Kingdom of God, grows disciples and releases them to holistically serve their communities in the power of the Holy Spirit. What follows are words that Roy uses to describe the scope and the impact of this collaborative equipping ministry.

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Bob and Kristi Rice - January 2018 Update

Abiding in Christ, Resting in the Lord

While living in Rwanda several years back, Antoine RUTAYISIRE, then team leader of African Evangelistic Enterprise (AEE) Rwanda, and I would spend a week in prayer and fasting as we began the New Year. We enjoyed being refreshed together by God’s presence, earnestly crying out to the Lord about life and ministry issues which lay deep in our hearts. While in seminary at Fuller, each year I would take a few days of retreat at St. Andrew’s Abbey up in the High Desert of Southern California where I would reflect over the past year while seeking God’s presence and will for the year to come. Those were incredibly meaningful times of prayer and silence and enjoying the beauty of God’s creation. 

The day after Christmas, Kristi and I spent several days doing a prayer retreat on the shores of the Nile River here in Juba, South Sudan. It was an enjoyable, restful, and relaxing time of reflection, enjoying nature, and praying over 2018. 

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Keith Vandegrift and Lana Bell - January 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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