Taking Haiti’s kids back to school – Living Out Compassion

Taking Haiti’s kids back to school | Overseas CouncilTwo years after the 2010 earthquake, Haiti continues to rebuild. Over 200,000 people lost their lives. 300,000 were injured. More than one million were left homeless. Homes and buildings were destroyed, the country’s infrastructure and economy suffered a heavy blow, and a devastating cholera epidemic broke out. Consequently, many children were unable to attend school. Parents and leaders in the community requested the seminary’s help with this problem. Thus the Evangelical Theological Seminary of Port-au-Prince (STEP) began an initiative to help 100 children go back to school. The project is executed in two phases: first, helping 30 children complete the current school year; and second, helping 70 children begin the next school year. The goal is for the children to advance a grade level.

The project is transformational in several ways: it alleviates a significant issue in the community; it allows STEP to demonstrate Christ’s love to the families and share the Gospel; and it aids local churches in their fight against gang recruitment of children who are not in school. Jean Dorlus, STEP President, hopes students, now equipped with a model for community action, will implement similar programs at their churches on a smaller scale. He says the project is possibly a step toward supporting or operating a school for poor children in the future. The seminary intends to repeat this project every year as long as the need exists and funding is available. Overseas Council’s Community Outreach funding covers school fees for 100 children as well as the project’s operations.

Bringing hope to cancer children: “Their smiles mean a lot to us” – Living Out Compassion

“They come out of their rooms with a smile on their faces, one by one, and greet us together. Their smiles mean a lot to us,” says the team of students from the College of Theology and Education (CTE) in Moldova as they visit the pediatric hematology department of the local oncology hospital twice a week. The team gathers the children in the playroom for art therapy. “It helps them forget about their disease.” The team has formed a real bond and closeness with the children’s mothers and grandmothers as well. One mother says, “When Thursday comes, my daughter, Liuda, asks when you’re coming. I see that she really likes to be with you. I’ve also begun waiting for you because I notice that we, the parents, feel the need to tell someone that we are grieving. Communicating with you brings us relief.” The group talks about different topics: children, family and their journeys through medical treatment. “Sometimes it is very difficult to talk about a loving God in a hospital where children have severe cancer diseases, but God always gives us wisdom and words of comfort and encouragement.”

The team had a Christmas celebration for the children. They bought a tree for the children to decorate and explained the meaning of Christmas through a drama. “The children’s joy was unlimited.” They also distributed gifts to each family. For one boy, it was the last gift and joy in his life. “When we entered his room with a gift, he opened his eyes, held out his hand and smiled. A few hours later, he was gone to where there is no more suffering or tears. His parents were very thankful to us, and we took part in his funeral….His father said, ‘If not for God, we would have gone crazy [during this journey].’” A student on the team says, “We have such a boundless love for these kids….I am glad I can be a part of the team….We see many miracles in reaching the hearts of children and their parents.” Another says, “They can see that we are not indifferent to their needs and difficulties, and through this, they can come to Jesus.” Overseas Council’s Community Outreach funding provided for art therapy materials, a summer camp for 30 children and 40 parents, and 300 food packages for families who couldn’t afford to buy the food that the doctors prescribe; children going through chemotherapy need very nutritious food as their antioxidant and micronutrient levels are down.

“God healed my wounds….He brought joy to every place where there was sorrow” – Scholarships for the Shepherds

“I [want to] help women who are victims as well,” Renee* says. She can relate. She’s a victim of rape and psychological abuse by a relative. Feeling the call to educate herself more in that area, she enrolled in the Evangelical Theological Seminary (ETS) in Croatia. “God really healed me, so I can have compassion with others,” she says. “All that happened [to me], I can [use for] good and help other young girls who go through that while struggling with addiction.” Renee was a heroin addict during that traumatic time. She says her whole world collapsed when her father died. “I stayed lost in my pain….Soon I started using various drugs which led me to heroin.” Her life had no meaning without it. “All of my security was in it. I destroyed myself so quickly.” That’s when the abuse started, and she blamed herself for it. Her joy and will to live were gone, so she attempted suicide. “But God didn’t allow me to die.” Near death, her mother found and took her to a Christian drug rehab program. “That’s where I saw for the first time the life and truth in people that used to be drug addicts.” She felt understood and loved by them. They talked to her about God, and she read the Bible and many books about Him while there. “I saw that this was something different….I had tried everything in my life, and [none of it] brought me any good, but these people testified that God had changed their lives and that they were free….I decided to try God,….[and] He set me free and changed me.” She resolved to focus on ministry to abuse victims and drug addicts. “My life and example could save someone else’s.”

Renee says God brought her “a wonderful husband that loves God and is ready to go wherever God sends him.” They study at ETS together while leading youth group in their church. Renee is part of the worship team, leads a Sunday school class and is a home group coordinator, in addition to her work at the rehab center. She says she didn’t come to ETS just to earn a degree. “I came to get an education that I could use in my further work with people….The experience we get here is truly priceless.” The Overseas Council scholarship she received was a blessing. “It gives us the chance to be here, live, study and get trained for the ministry….I study what I really love.” Their future ministry may be in helping people who are completing the rehab program. “After that, they need someone to support them while they are readjusting to their surroundings….There is a great need, and we see ourselves helping there.” Renee continues to be thankful for God’s transforming power in her life. “God healed my wounds, taught me how to love myself and to give all the love He showed me to others….He brought joy to every place where there was sorrow….He has given me a new life that I want to live in gratitude.”

*Name has been changed for security purposes.

Finding Christ behind bars – Train a Leader

Dmitri Dukhovenko began drinking as a teenager. By 19 years old, he was a drug addict. The next 11 years were a nightmare. At 30, he was in jail for the possession and sale of narcotics. During the trial, he attempted suicide by cutting his throat, but God marvelously preserved his life. He was sentenced to 27 months in prison. While there, believers visited and conducted services for the inmates; most of the believers were former convicts themselves. Dmitri decided to attend the services, and in a short time, he received Christ as his Lord and Savior. His life was changed. After his release, he started attending a church and was baptized. In 2006, he enrolled at the Zaporozhye Bible College and Seminary (ZBCS) in Ukraine and joined the prison ministry that had visited him. It was a poignant moment in his life when he made his first ministry visit to the prison where he had been physically and spiritually imprisoned to preach the Gospel. His testimony was astounding to both the security guards and the prisoners, especially those who remembered him as a prisoner. Now he has a Bachelor of Church Ministry degree and leads a weekly preaching ministry in the maximum-security prison. Many prisoners have heard about Christ and turned to Him. A new believers’ group has been formed; they in turn will emerge to freedom as Christians like Dmitri.

Fifteen years ago, Sergei Reus was invited to participate in a church service in one of Odessa’s prisons. Deeply inspired, he continued attending. “The more I was there, the more God was opening me up for what He wanted me to do: to carry out a ministry among the people staying in institutions of confinement.” Feeling he lacked enough biblical knowledge for the task, he attended a one year missionary training program at the Odessa Theological Seminary (OTS) in Ukraine. “The program was just [what I needed]. What I learned in the seminary is still a very good knowledge base for my ministry.” In 2000, Sergei was ordained for pastoral ministry among prisoners. “I always felt that I had to do something for people staying inside [the prisons].” Today, a team of Christians from several churches assist Sergei in his ministry. They regularly visit men’s and women’s prisons and investigative isolation wards. “I have seen many inmates accepting Jesus into their hearts, and after being discharged, [they] become members of local churches, start families and raise children.” Some of the former inmates are even working on the team now. “As we do our ministry, we trust that God would bring…many more people who are now in the slavery of sin.

“…This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained.” 2 Timothy 2:8b-9

Women and children first: ministering in India – Train a Leader

In India, women and children suffer disproportionately. Women and girls are affected by lower literacy and education rates, the dowry tradition, widespread domestic abuse and the tradition of temple prostitution. In addition, up to 35 million children are orphans; 11 million are abandoned; three million live on the street. Child labor, physical abuse, sexual abuse and prostitution affect millions as well.1

During her studies at the Allahabad Bible Seminary (ABSI), Vanlalruati Sailo’s ministry to women and children began. She led a team that shared Bible stories and the Gospel with children at a nearby school, and she was on the weekend ministry team at a nearby church, helping to conduct service and Sunday school. At her own church, Vanlalruati’s pastor asked her to minister among women and children as well. She visited every woman in the congregation and invited them to a Bible study and prayer time; more than 58 women came. She taught Sunday school, helped organize a youth program and taught a few subjects to students at the church’s Hindi Bible school. “I not only had the privilege of teaching them but also shared, counseled and built them up in their faith.”

Vanlalruati graduated with her Bachelor of Divinity degree in 2008 and was appointed as a missionary in her home state of Mizoram in Northeast India. She started working among the Hindi-speaking community there, women and children first. She began a worship service and visited residents regularly, sharing the Gospel. As a result of her efforts, a church has been established, and she baptized 78 new Christians recently. Now she is planning a vocational training program for women. “If you had not come into my life, I would not have had this opportunity to study His Word and prepare myself for this ministry. Thank you very much for your faithfulness,” she says. “I thank God for sending me to ABSI….God has opened my eyes to see the vast need for training young men and women for the ministry.” Training Christian leaders is an important need that is urgent and essential in the long term. The life and health of the Church depend on the proper development of pastors, teachers, evangelists and missionaries.1

Love your enemies: “I serve the people that I hated before” – Scholarships for the Shepherds


As a soldier in the Philippine Armed Forces, John* spent many years fighting Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines.
When he left the military life to become a pastor, God put the love for Muslims in his heart. “From that point on, my desire was to bring Muslims into a closer relationship with God,” he says. He and his family relocated to work in Muslim communities for five years. “As a missionary, I served the people that I hated as enemies before, but I [came to] love them as friends.”

Today John is working on his Master of Divinity degree at the Asian Theological Seminary (ATS) in Quezon City, Philippines. Having been married for nearly 20 years, John and his wife are leading a Marriage Enrichment project in an urban poor Muslim community. He says the couples are thankful to learn how to strengthen their marriages. “The participants, especially the husbands, find the discussion topics very interesting and enlightening….The changed lives and good example of family relationships displayed by the participants continues to impact the community. As a result, eight more couples have joined the group.”

John says through the marriage seminars and other family-related teachings, “we endeavor for the Muslims to understand God’s love through Jesus Christ whom God sent to reconcile the world to Him.” His biggest challenge is discussing with them who Jesus really is. “Please pray that I can continue doing it with courage, wisdom and cultural sensitivity.”

Much work awaits John. Many Muslim families need counseling, so he is looking into the possibility of helping other communities. “Muslim friends in Metro Manila have been inviting me to extend the Marriage Enrichment project in their communities,” he says. “My ministry has really improved a lot through [my training]….There is no way I could finish my degree if not for this scholarship….I know that behind this scholarship are people who sacrificed a lot of their time and money just to help others like me to be equipped for more effective ministry….May God bless you all tremendously.”

*Name has been changed for security purposes.

Helping women help themselves – Living Out Compassion


India has more human need than any other nation
– largely by virtue of its massive population but also due to many areas of suffering that must be addressed through sustained action and prayer. Lower literacy and education rates are one such need for women.1 With Overseas Council’s Community Outreach funding, New Theological College (NTC) is reaching out to these women with two projects.

They are empowering 25-30 illiterate women through their Adult Literacy Program. The women are very receptive and active, having requested the program themselves. “[It encourages] the women for further development in their lives and also opens doors for reaching out to them with the Gospel,” NTC says. Once they are confident in their reading and writing abilities, NTC will help them partner with government agencies and other organizations, so they can use their skills to generate income. By becoming self-sufficient, their improved economic and social status will greatly impact their families. Overseas Council’s Community Outreach funding provided for teaching materials, a classroom and facilitator.

They are equipping 8-10 women in sewing skills through their Tailoring Center. “The women in this area are very interested in learning new skills and would like to earn a livelihood, so they can become financially secure and stand on their own two feet,” NTC says. The women desire to contribute to the economic and social improvement of their families and the community. The college hopes the Tailoring Center will be a means of blessing for the women and a place where they can come together to share ideas and interact. “It is our hope that through the village women, we would also be able to reach [each of their] homes and share the Gospel with [their families].” Overseas Council’s Community Outreach funding provided for five sewing machines, one interlock machine, supplies and a trainer.

“It made my dream of furthering my education come true” – Scholarships for the Shepherds


Fatuma came from a Muslim background before receiving Christ at 13 years old.
While she was teaching and ministering to children within a Muslim dominated area of Nairobi, God called her into full-time ministry. She wanted to go back to school for additional training for 10 years but couldn’t until she received a scholarship from Overseas Council to attend the Nairobi International School of Theology (NIST) in Kenya. “It made my dream of furthering my education come true.”

Fatuma’s work with children continues while she’s training. “My main ministry is teaching in a Christian school where more than 80% of the children are from a Muslim background,” she says. She runs children’s Bible clubs as well as Sunday school at the church where she and her husband, Matthew, attend. “I thank God for the chance to also minister to the mothers of street children,” she says. The majority of Kenyans are children, so children and youth ministries are of utmost importance. Fatuma and Matthew both have a passion for youth and are involved in high school ministry, evangelism and discipleship programs to youth. She says her training is teaching her the importance of the right educational programs for different groups of people in the Church. “Pray for us to always grow in our knowledge of God and to be in His purposes and provision as we serve.” She hopes to graduate this year with her Master’s degree in Biblical and Theological Studies and then get a PhD in Education. “I would love to keep teaching in different forums…[and] equip God’s people.”

Bridge builder: Uniting faith and medicine to fight AIDS – Train a Leader

 

Around 500 HIV/AIDS sufferers die every day in Kenya, despite the halting of the infection rate.1 When combating the pandemic, sometimes doctors and pastors work at cross-purposes instead of as allies. Dr. Peter Okaalet bridged the gap by going to seminary, the Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology (NEGST), where he earned Master’s degrees in both Divinity and Theology. As the Senior Director for Health and HIV/AIDS Policy at MAP International, a global Christian health organization, Dr. Okaalet spent 15 years working with pastors and their congregations to redefine their response and attitude toward the disease and those who suffer from it. Having lost three brothers to AIDS himself, Dr. Okaalet says providing accurate information helps people in their response to the crisis, breaking the stigma and feelings of condemnation. His work has included establishing seminars, curriculum and Master’s degree programs in pastoral care and HIV/AIDS at 14 seminaries and Bible colleges throughout Africa.

Why pastors? “People forget that churches also have hospitals in Africa,” Dr. Okaalet says. “Most of the mission-based hospitals are in the rural areas where governments cannot reach. Where the road for the four-wheel drive stops, the pastor gets on his bicycle. Where the bike path stops, the pastor lays it aside and goes on foot.” Dr. Okaalet’s work was recognized globally in 2005 when he was named one of TIME magazine’s “Global Health Heroes” for leading the way for faith communities to join in the battle against HIV/AIDS. “For a long time, the Church was very quiet,” he says. “We are beginning to respond, but we have to do more.” His life continues to be devoted to fighting HIV/AIDS and helping others: he is a Member of the Global Council of MAP; Dr. and Senior Director of Okaalet & Associates Limited (which includes HIV/AIDS ministry and leadership development); a faculty member and part-time lecturer; author; and serves on several HIV/AIDS committees including UNAIDS.

 

Diminishing the effects of malaria – Living Out Compassion

Diminishing the effects of malaria
Located between sewer ponds and a stream, the Justo Mwale Theological College (JMTC) in Zambia is in a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Several outbreaks of malaria have occurred in the surrounding community and on campus, disrupting students’ learning and the college’s operations. Treatment can be received from nearby government health centers, but it is expensive and has not decreased occurrences. Malaria kills about twice as many people as AIDS and tuberculosis combined. The cost of widespread prevention (largely through mosquito nets) adds up to a mere fraction of the $12 billion+ lost in output each year, yet less than 5% of Africa’s children sleep under nets. Treatment-resistant strains of malaria are emerging, making prevention all the more vital.1

Through Overseas Council’s Community Outreach funding, JMTC established a First Aid Unit on campus, staffed by a nurse and volunteers, for treating the first stages of malaria for campus and community residents; conducted indoor spraying (to continue on a quarterly basis); and distributed treated mosquito nets to their staff, students and neighbors. “As a result, day by day, there is a reduction in incidents of malaria in our community,” says Dr. Edwin Zulu, Rector. Other plans include spraying outdoor areas; carrying out an advocacy campaign in the community on prevention, care, treatment and the importance of hygienically clean surroundings to reduce mosquito breeding places; regular maintenance of mosquito nets with anti-malaria treatment; encouraging people to take preventive anti-malaria medication; and providing nutrition supplements to affected people. “It is having a great impact on the college and surrounding community,” he says. “We sincerely thank you for the support and for blessing us with this project…[as] we endeavor to meet the spiritual and physical needs of humanity.”