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Participatory Education: Fostering a Spirit of Change

A letter from Luta and Jeremy Garbat-Welch, serving in Malawi

August 2017

Write: Jeremy Garbat-Welch
Write: Luta Garbat-Welch

Individuals: Give online to E200515 for Jeremy and Luta Garbat-Welch’s sending and support

Congregations: Give to D507577 for Jeremy and Luta Garbat-Welch’s sending and support

Churches are asked to send donations through your congregation’s normal receiving site (this is usually your presbytery).


Dear Friends,

On a recent trip to Ethiopia, one of the Community Health Evangelism (CHE) Committee members of the Gambella Presbytery, a part of West Gambella Bethel Synod (WGBS) of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, said to me “We really appreciate Rachel; if she is not with us, we cannot open our eyes bright to see what we don’t know.” Rachel Weller is a fellow PC(USA) mission co-worker working with CHE in Gambella, Ethiopia.

Ariet Philip, CHE Coordinator for EGBS and Rachel Weller, PC(USA) mission co-worker, laugh together as they work on the strategic plan for CHE.

When I share about the importance of community ownership and community initiative in CHE, I often hear comments such as, “But some communities won’t know what to do; they won’t ever change unless you tell them.” People wonder how communities know the changes that need to happen in order for them to live whole lives.

CHE training uses a participatory model of education. Participatory education “is an educational model in which students are given as much of a voice as their instructors or leaders in determining curriculum and activities. All participants are active in defining their own needs as well as their own desires” (Teachers Without Borders). CHE uses the acronym LePSAS as a reminder to trainers of what participatory education entails. LePSAS stands for:

• Learner-centered – Creating a learning environment that focuses on the learner versus the teacher.
• Problem-posing – Using interactive tools such as stories or skits to highlight a problem and stimulate thinking.
• Self-discovery – Using group dialogue to prompt the revelation of truth.
• Action-oriented – Resolving the problem posed and applying it to community life through group discussion.
• Spirit-guided – Being responsive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in all interactions, ensuring that the dignity of participants is maintained.

A CHE Training will involve stories, song, lots of discussion, and everyone sitting together in a circle, including the trainer. The trainer’s role is to facilitate the discussion, asking questions that assist participants in discovering the answers for themselves rather than passively receiving the answers. This participatory education creates the foundation for community ownership and change. When we’re engaged in an activity, we are much more likely to remember it. When we can discover ourselves how the lessons apply to our lives, we are more likely to engage. Individuals and communities discover the truths through a facilitation process, thus owning what they have learned and making it real and immediately applicable to their lives.

WGBS CHE Trainers and CHE Committee Members meeting together.

In Akobo Presbytery, a part of WGBS, agricultural extension workers from the government had been trying for several years to encourage irrigation of home gardens to address issues of food security, but without success. It was only after CHE was introduced to the community that people began irrigating gardens. Several women have produced enough to sell and are bringing in additional income to their homes. The community has identified CHE as the reason that things are happening and change is coming to their area. I believe that this is probably the result of the CHE lessons that engage people in the learning, fostering that spirit of change.

It is with bitter sweetness that I share that this visit to Ethiopia was my last visit for the time being. For a while now, we as a family have struggled with balancing the needs of our family of young kids, the work with which I have been engaged, and our continued sense of call to ministry in Africa. Over the last several months, we have been in discussion with PC(USA) World Mission and the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) General Assembly about the possibility of changing the focus of our team appointment. This reconfiguration of our team ministry appointment has officially been approved, and we are free to share with you our next steps. Effective September 1, I will be transitioning to a part-time role, focusing on supporting the CHE work in Malawi and Zambia under the CCAP General Assembly. I will continue to offer my expertise in public health to the PC(USA) in a more advisory role as the need occurs.

Jeremy will begin a full-time role as the facilitator for chaplain training with the CCAP General Assembly. The purpose of Jeremy’s new position is to create a training program for pastors and lay leaders of the CCAP that will enhance their pastoral care skills for chaplaincy, particularly in hospital and prison environments. He expects that the first year will primarily consist of learning more about what programs already exist in the five synods of the CCAP, and what the goals are for the chaplaincy departments. He will also interview and shadow existing chaplains so that he can learn what their work looks like, understand how the Malawi and CCAP cultures impact chaplaincy, and develop strong working relationships with them. We had always hoped and planned that Jeremy would use his chaplaincy skills and training, so we are excited about this switch for us. We think it will allow me to be more present with our boys, allow Jeremy to use his skills in an area of need, and allow us to continue building community where we are, especially as our location and ministry become more defined by our work with CCAP.

It was a joy to be with the leaders of East Gambella Bethel Synod (EGBS), WGBS, and the Wellers. It was a joy to hear the work that has taken root, the vision that will take them further, and their love for God’s people. It was a joy to work together with them to think through the next steps of CHE, how to facilitate continued growth in breadth and depth. EGBS states that one of its goals for the CHE program is “to teach and empower volunteer church members to live, through the power of the Holy Spirit, an over-flowing abundant life that reflects God’s love and the fullness of his grace through Jesus Christ.” The first time I read this, I was struck by the abundance in the goal itself – over-flowing, abundant, fullness. What a goal! I pray that this vision, a vision that I believe God has for us, also captures your heart to live and serve where God has placed you.

With thanks to you for your continued support.



Please read this important message from Jose Luis Casal, Director, Presbyterian World Mission

Dear Friend of Presbyterian Mission,

What a joy to send this letter! As Presbyterian World Mission’s new director, I thank God for your faithful support of our mission co-workers. The enclosed newsletter celebrates the work you made possible by your prayers, engagement, and generous financial gifts. We can’t thank you enough.

After I began in April, I met with mission co-workers and global partners and was blessed to see firsthand the mighty ways God is working through them! Our global partners are asking us to help them move forward with life-changing ministries. Because of your support, we can say “yes” to these creative and exciting initiatives.

I write to invite you to make an even deeper commitment to this work. First, would you make a year-end gift for the sending and support of our mission co-workers? We need your gifts to end the year strong. With your help, we filled two new mission co-worker positions and plan to recruit for others. The needs in the world are great, and World Mission is poised to answer the call to serve.

Second, would you ask your session to add our mission co-workers to your congregation’s mission budget for 2018 and beyond? Our mission co-workers serve three-year or four-year terms. Your multi-year commitment will encourage them greatly.

Our mission co-workers are funded entirely from the special gifts of individuals and congregations like yours. Now more than ever, we need your financial support.

In faith, our mission co-workers accepted a call to mission service. In faith, World Mission sent them to work with our global partners. In faith, will you also commit to support this work with your prayers and financial gifts?

With gratitude,

Jose Luis Casal

P.S. Your gift will help meet critical needs of our global partners. Thank you!

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