Posts in Important News
Relief Efforts in Southern Africa - Cyclone Idai Update

Cyclone Idai has destroyed homes and devastated crops, infrastructure and livelihoods throughout southern Africa. This storm exacerbated the humanitarian needs caused by flooding throughout Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe that has affected families since the beginning of March. Having lost homes and possessions, many families are sleeping on the ground with no protection from the elements. Many farmers have lost their crops.

Thankfully, our partners in Tete Province, Mozambique, are not reporting severe effects from the storm in their area, but we continue to seek more information about their situation.

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Tumekutana Call to Prayer

We received the following prayer requests for the Tumekutana gathering of Presbyterian women leaders, which is being held in Africa this week:

Beloved friends,

Tumekutana is coming up this week, and the pressure is on for all the final details to come together. We ask humbly for you to fast and pray with us this Wednesday as each woman makes travel arrangements. There are issues arising with visas, airfare, and personal emergencies that are coming up in the last moments and we need desperate and consistent prayer against the spiritual warfare that is taking place this week attempting to hinder each of these outstanding women from attending. As you are praying, here are some specific requests we ask you to take before the Lord:

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Rev. John Tong Puk 1956-2018

Bob and Kristi Rice shared sad news about Rev. John Tong Puk at Nile Theological College in South Sudan. Please keep Rev. Puk's family, Nile Theological College and the Rices in your prayers.

"If the Lord Does Not Come"

As I nestled into the large outdoor couch overlooking the majestic African valley deep in Murchison Falls National Park during the early evening hours, I took out our iPad and quickly glanced at a few personal emails. One message grabbed my immediate attention and kept it. News had come from Khartoum that morning, Wednesday, June 13th, that Rev. John Tong Puk, a close colleague and friend, a leader in the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SSPEC) and Dean of Studies at Nile Theological College (NTC), where I teach, had died that morning. I read the message over and over in disbelief. I had just been with him and greeted him before his journey to Khartoum to see family. Could it be? It was like a dream. For the next twenty-four hours I kept saying to myself, “John Tong Puk is dead,” a statement of sheer disbelief and quiet quandary. 

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Syria Appeal - May 2018

In April, I was able to take a small team into Syria to meet with three of the congregations of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon, which your generous gifts have sustained and encouraged. I cannot but be enormously grateful for those who chose to defy all of the possible “no’s” to come on this journey and be present to our sisters and brothers there: 
Rev. Tom and Joy Boone, Julie Burgess, Rev. Jim Wood and Brian Collins. The fact that their families and congregations (Bethel Presbyterian Church, Cornelius, NC; West Hills Church, Omaha; First Presbyterian Church Norfolk, VA) sent them off with their (somewhat anxious?) blessing confirms their discernment that God’s YES preceded our journey. What follows is part of our daily trip blog, this one written by Julie Burgess while we were in Aleppo in April.
–Marilyn Borst, Associate Director for Partnership Development

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

The Outreach Foundation celebrates your continuing generosity to our Refugee/IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) Appeal. Your gifts have allowed us to undergird the ministry of our partners in the Middle East as they work to renew hope and healing in Christ’s name. The following story was written by Julie Burgess, a member of West Hills Presbyterian Church in Omaha, who has traveled often with The Outreach Foundation to the Middle East.

The Gift of Grace

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 1:3)

We know that grace is a gift of God and it comes through Jesus, as Paul so aptly reminds us when he begins his letters. 

Grace to you

There is a ministry in Beirut, Lebanon, where those words are not only lived out, but they are lived out literally by a woman named Grace, who is a gift of God to the thousands of refugees who have found their way from the war zones of Iraq and Syria to Our Lady Dispensary. Our Lady Dispensary is housed in a nondescript building supplied by the Syrian Orthodox Church whose bishop is in the church across the street. It is one of those places where the phrase, “you can’t judge a book by its cover” comes to mind. 

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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).”

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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”?

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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.

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Syria Appeal - October 2016 Update

From Marilyn Borst, Associate Director for Partnership Development: For the past year, your gifts to the Syria Appeal have made it possible for the Presbyterian Church in Homs, Syria to offer a life-giving ministry of reconciliation entitled “Space for Hope” to young people in its war-ravaged neighborhood. Recently, the World Communion of Reformed Churches (www.wcrc.ch) posted an article about this ministry, which we share here with the blessing of its author, Phil Tanis. 

Syrian Christians Create Space for Hope

In war-torn Syria, hope is fading for many. After five years of civil war, there are few who have not lost family members or close friends, but life needs to go on for those who are alive, for those who have stayed. They struggle to continue with their lives every day, to study and work, although jobs have become scarce, and to maintain as much normalcy as possible amidst the war and the ever-present threat of attacks, while dreaming about a better future and peace.

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Refugee/IDP Appeal - October 2016 Update

Beauty for Ashes

In a bustling, lower middle-class and predominantly Christian suburb of Beirut, thousands of “brokenhearted” refugees from Iraq and Syria are being “bound up” by ministries which The Outreach Foundation – because of your generous gifts – has helped to support. At the Our Lady Dispensary (OLD), a social service outreach center of the Middle East Council of Churches, social worker Grace Boustani and her small team are impacting the lives of 1,200 families. They come not only for food and medical care, but to participate in educational seminars as well as summer and holiday programs for themselves and their children which offer hope through a reminder that there is abundant life beyond their traumatic circumstances. 

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Stories of Hope

There is much in the news about the vulnerability of the Church around the world, where it finds itself persecuted and oppressed in the midst of war and other enormous challenges. It is inspiring and convicting to see how the Body of Christ witnesses to the Good News despite their circumstances. This is the Church of which Paul wrote, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9) Suffering in God’s name is nothing new. It’s been happening for 2,000 years. Our Lord Jesus, even before he went to the cross for the ultimate in suffering, warned us of persecution. 

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Refugee/Internally Displaced Persons Appeal - August 2016 Update

In a small, aluminum prefab classroom, baking under the relentless summer sun that nurtures the lush vegetable crops for which the nearby Beqaa Valley in Lebanon is famous, hope is being incubated. 40 young Syrian Muslim women, mostly refugees from Aleppo and some of them mothers and widows, are learning to sew. Izdihar Kassis, a local pastor’s wife and a dynamo for Christ’s Kingdom, has run several faith-based non-profits and has now created Together for the Family to address the refugee crisis.

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Refugee/IDP Appeal - July 2016 Update

by Marilyn Borst

In the midst of multiple crises unfolding in the Middle East, The Outreach Foundation has used your generous gifts to strengthen the hands of Christian partners in the region. They are the face of Christ to many who have lost everything…
JORDAN
Siham and Jeries Abd Rabbo are a Palestinian couple from Bethlehem who are serving Muslim refugees on behalf of the Shepherd Society – the mission outreach of Bethlehem Bible College. 

 

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Iraq Appeal/Refugee Crisis-June 2016 Update

Although the tragic events in Iraq from the summer of 2014 have mostly faded from our daily news cycles, the past is very much present for Rev. Haitham Jazrawi and his congregation at the Presbyterian Church in Kirkuk. It began with a persistent knocking at the church’s gate late one night. It was soon inescapably evident in the streets around town as entire families stood dazed and bewildered, clutching small parcels and, for the fortunate ones, a suitcase containing a few changes of clothing and their important documents. And then the reports soon reached their ears of entire congregations of the Syrian Orthodox Church seeking haven in safer villages not far from Kirkuk….

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Syria Appeal/Refugee Crisis - March 2016 Update

Located just 20 miles due east of Beirut, the Bekaa Valley stretches for 75 miles and lays claim to the richest agricultural land in the country where wheat, corn, cotton and an array of vegetables flourish. Its vineyards have given rise to a wine industry that is now world renowned. The Bekaa is also now home to over 370,000 of the 1.1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, many of whom have been living in tents in dismal camps for years – and most of them are children. In a country of only four million, the Lebanese public schools are able to accommodate only a fraction of these Syrian refugee children. 

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Refugee/IDP Appeal - February 2016

As this new year begins, The Outreach Foundation celebrates your generosity in responding to our Refugee/IDP (Internally Displaced Person) Appeal. Your gifts of over $99,000 have allowed us to undergird the ministry of our partners in the Middle East as they work to renew hope and healing in Christ’s name, such as the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC). The following story was shared by Ms. Wafa Gassous, Director of MECC in Jordan…

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Iraq Appeal/Refugee Crisis - December 2015 Update

In late January of 2014, a native of Mosul was consecrated as the Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk-Sulimaniya. Barely six months later, ISIS would invade his hometown resulting in thousands of Christian families seeking shelter in and help from the churches under his watch. In March of this year, I and a small team from The Outreach Foundation met in Iraq with His Grace Yousif Thomas Mirkis. We were introduced to him by the Rev. Haitham Jazrawi, who pastors the Presbyterian Church in Kirkuk. Both share the common burden of ministering to those whose lives were shattered when their homes, livelihoods and churches – not to mention their peace and security – were violently taken from them. 

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