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One in mission | Linda Valentine

How great is our love?

New Presbyterian World Mission initiative sets out to educate 100,001 children by 2020.

Linda Valentine is executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency

On a mission trip I took to the Philippines, my then 15-year-old daughter Jackie and I visited with people living on the Payatas dumpsite. One woman—who made her home amid the scrap materials and her living at sorting and selling glass and plastic—invited us to sit and talk. With her four-year-old daughter in her lap, she spoke about her life, her business, and her faith in God. Then she told us about her three other children, whom she had sent away so that they could go to a better school and live in a cleaner place.
Here was a woman who—like all of us who are parents, grandparents, aunts, or uncles—wanted her children to go to a good school, live in safety, and have an opportunity at a decent life. She worked hard and let them go away because she loved them that much—and understood the value of education.

Education is at the very heart of the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s initiative in poverty alleviation—one of the three critical global issues being addressed by Presbyterian World Mission. The goal is to educate 100,001 children by 2020.
“Education promotes human development, and basic literacy is a gateway skill that empowers the poor to emerge from poverty,” says Frank Dimmock, poverty alleviation catalyst for World Mission. But Robert Lupton, author of Toxic Charity, notes that such plans work only through partnerships with those being served.

Not only are such partnerships already under way, but they are making a significant impact, particularly across the continent of Africa.
“Education equips people to care for themselves and their families better and to enjoy richer, deeper relationships with God and with their neighbors,” says Doug Tilton, regional liaison for Southern Africa.
In the rural community of Dembi Dollo—where Thomas Lambie established the first Presbyterian mission in Ethiopia nearly a century ago—the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus and the PC(USA) have worked together to establish two preschools. Partnering with Susquehanna Valley Presbytery, they offer instruction in the local Oromo language to about 200 children. The preschools have since become a model for early childhood development for neighboring Bethel synods.

Okello Obang

Okello Obang, project director of early childhood development for West Gambella Bethel Synod (of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus), shows a class plan for the preschool—a plan that might map a way out of poverty.

In a similar vein, the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian Synod of Zambia (CCAP Zambia) operates 30 community schools in poor Lusaka compounds and remote rural communities. Together the schools serve nearly 4,000 students. Most of the students live in extreme poverty and are not members of CCAP Zambia congregations but live in the communities where the congregations are located. The effort is a great example of “communities of mission practice,” an essential element of World Mission’s new strategy to address the root causes of poverty.

“Without the CCAP Zambia community schools, the future of these children would be defined by their poverty and illiteracy,” says Nancy Collins, regional liaison for East Central Africa. “The children learn skills, information, and ways of accessing resources that empower them and contribute to a future with greater possibilities. For some children, their enrollment at a CCAP community school may be also their introduction to church, to worship, and to learning about the love of Jesus Christ.”

As the collective energy of such partnerships begins to have a measurable impact, we can already envision the day when families around the world—like the family I met at the Payatas dumpsite—will be freed from poverty’s grip and people everywhere will come to know the good news of God’s intention for a realm of peace and justice. And we, too, will be changed by coming together to live out our faith—convicted to act not only on behalf of God’s children across the ocean but also God’s children in our own communities who lack access to quality education and a pathway out of poverty.


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