A Letter from Inge and Larry Sthreshley, serving in Congo
Individuals: Give online to E200412 for Larry and Inge Sthreshley’s sending and support
Congregations: Give to D505045 for Larry and Inge Sthreshley’s sending and support
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2018 is drawing to a close, and so is the ASSP project that started six years ago. For those of you who have been supporting us since the beginning of this journey, thank you for your prayers and financial support through all these years. For those who are new to our newsletters, ASSP stands for Access to Primary Health Care (in French) and is a project that is funded by UKAID to increase access and improve health care for a population of 9 million people in Congo. We are now in the final four months of the project.
As I reflect on time gone by, so much has happened in our family during those six years. Our daughter, Lisa, started and finished graduate school and got launched in her own career. Our son, Michael, started and finished college and is finishing up grad school this December. I grieved my father’s passing in 2015. Larry’s mother entered assisted living. Lisa got married this past September, and our family got larger. We gained a son, Hugh Green, who came to Congo two weeks before the wedding to work on the ebola response and visited Beni with the director of the CDC. (I thought to myself, “this guy is half crazy,” and then I realized he fits in just fine with the Sthreshley family.) Time moves on, and we are reminded to count our blessings and cherish the journey.
I could go into all the statistics and changes that the ASSP project brought to Congo over the past six years, but they are better described in the wonderful pictures, great graphs and stories on the ASSP website. But I do want to highlight the new health centers that were built over the past six years because they have had a huge impact on service utilization. Most villages and towns in remote places have seen so little new investment from the public and private sectors, so to have a new health center, and one built primarily by the local community, is a source of pride, joy and hope in an otherwise not-so-hopeful environment.
I enjoy seeing the “before and after” pictures of what the community used to have for a health center and what they own now. I love good and smart design, and that’s what these health centers reveal. A lot of thought went into how people use the space and how they need to move through the building. Doctors, nurses, and women and men from the community were consulted during the design phase. The women said, “When we come to a health center to give birth, we are not sick. We are just giving birth.” They wanted their own entrance to come and go without having to walk through a waiting room of sick people. They got their own entrance. These health centers all have a lot of natural light and air movement. They are made primarily with local materials, using compressed clay bricks.
We didn’t get as many built as we had hoped, and to be honest, the construction component of the ASSP project was the biggest managerial and accounting headache for Larry. But, they are an important part of the health system in Congo and have had a large impact on health care utilization. Utilization of the health facilities has increased 130%.
In addition to the health center, these facilities are built with an outdoor covered terrace for health education, well-baby clinics and meetings. They also have water cisterns and water catchment systems to supply water to the health center. One of the features most appreciated by the community is the solar system installed on the roof. The solar systems power the refrigerators that keep vaccines and medicines cool, and the staff is able to charge phones and laptops. At night, there are lights in the rooms that assist greatly with providing care. The staff does not have to find fuel and run costly generators in the middle of the night when they must do emergency procedures.
We also learned that because the health centers have lights at night, they become the center for the community. Committees hold their meetings at the health center — because there is light. High school students come to study at the health center – because there is light. The health centers become a place to gather — because there is light. The solar systems transform life for these communities that used to live and make do in the darkness.
When I see lighted advent candles and Christmas lights now, I think of those communities that used to try to function in physical darkness. The symbolism is more poignant, reminding me of the spiritual light that came into the world, the Word that lived among us, “the lamp to our feet and light to our path,” the light that transforms us and our lives.
The Word was the source of life, and this life brought light to people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out. John 1:4-6
We wish you and your loved ones a Light-filled Christmas season and New Year. Thank you again for your financial and prayer support. We ask that you continue your support and journey with us on the path God reveals in 2019.
Please read this important message from José Luis Casal, Director, Presbyterian World Mission
Dear partners in God’s mission,
We near the close of 2018 inspired by the hope of Christ. God is transforming the world, and you are helping to make it happen.
Thank you very much for your support of our mission co-workers. The prayers and financial gifts of people like you enable them to work alongside global partners to address poverty, hopelessness, violence and other pressing problems in the name of Jesus Christ.
Every day, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission co-workers are blessed to be able to walk alongside their brothers and sisters across the globe. Listening to each other in faith and in friendship, they learn from each other how to work towards a world in which everyone flourishes. Acting upon what they discover together, PC(USA) mission co-workers and our global partners strengthen the body of Christ.
Because you are an integral part of God’s mission, I invite you to become more deeply committed to Presbyterian World Mission. First, would you make a year-end gift for the sending and support of our mission co-workers? The needs in the world are great, and World Mission is poised to answer God’s call to serve others.
I also invite you to ask your session to add our mission co-workers to your congregation’s prayer list and mission budget for 2019 and beyond. Your multi-year commitment will make a great difference in our involvement with our partners. The majority of our mission co-workers’ funding comes from the special gifts of individuals and congregations like yours, for God’s mission is a responsibility of the whole church, not a particular area of the church. Now more than ever, we need your financial support!
In faith, our mission co-workers accept a call to mission service. In faith, World Mission, representing the whole church and you, sends them to work with our global partners. In faith, will you also commit to support this work with your prayers and financial gifts? With hope and faith, I await your positive response!
At God’s service and at your service!
José Luis Casal
P.S. Your gift will help meet critical needs of our global partners. Thank you!
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Tags: Larry and Inge Sthreshley
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