Trusting in God’s Surprises

A Letter from Inge and Larry Sthreshley, serving in Congo

October 2018

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Dear Friends,
We were recently in the USA for our daughter Lisa’s marriage to the delightful Mr. Hugh Green, whom she met at Emory University in Atlanta while working on her master’s degree in public health. It was a beautiful time of celebration with family and friends from near and far. As I thought about what I would say at the toast at the rehearsal dinner, I reflected on the fact that many years ago we had lived at Mission Haven in Atlanta while on furlough, when Lisa was in fifth grade, and I never would have dreamed then that we would be back in Atlanta 18 years later for her wedding, that Lisa would be making Atlanta her home. God has a way of surprising us in how he weaves people and places back into our lives. That reflection has reminded me to trust that God has many more good surprises in store for us.

I need to remember that, because this past year in Congo has not been an easy time. The uncertainty regarding the elections and political situation in Congo has created ongoing tension. Currently, elections are to be held on 23 December 2018. We’ll see …. A management problem with one of our previous consortium partners in the ASSP project had a significant “domino effect” on other aspects of the project. (ASSP stands for Access to Primary Health Care and is funded by UKAID). The humanitarian crisis in the Grand Kasai due to the violence created by the Kamwina Nsapu situation has been heartbreaking. For those of us who like to work in capacity-building in health and agriculture, it is very discouraging to have to return to crisis humanitarian assistance activities. Some days I think, “We could walk away from all this,” but I am reminded that so many people here in Congo have nowhere to “walk away to” in order to escape the chaos. The only option is to “walk through it.”

So we stay and “walk through” with our Congolese colleagues and friends, as best we know how. For Larry, that means continuing to take on activities that strengthen the health care system in the country and improve access and quality of care, at the same time providing the crisis assistance desperately needed by the most vulnerable. By the grace of God, we received a one-year extension to the ASSP program, which continues to build capacity and support health care delivery to 9 million people. We now have a really good website for the ASSP project, for those who are interested in knowing more.

Regarding the humanitarian crisis in the Kasai, we just completed a six-month OFDA grant (Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance) that provided free health care at 125 health centers to 900,000 people who were most affected by the violence. We are now on a second OFDA grant that will continue to provide free health care for one year to over a million women and children through 221 health centers in the regions of the Kasai and Kasai Central. This second OFDA grant also includes a food security component and will be assisting 9,000 families with seeds, tools, and training to help them with planting fields and getting re-established.

There is a lot of hunger in the Kasai. The number of malnourished children has skyrocketed! I spent several months in the late spring and early summer working on a proposal to UNICEF to get Plumpy Nut (a ready-to-use therapeutic food) for approximately 16,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition in the Grand Kasai. These children are literally wasting away and have a 40-50% greater chance of dying than well-nourished children. The program is now underway in 375 health centers and 21 hospitals.

In the East, the Tushindi project was awarded by USAID for five years and continues to deliver medical and legal services and psychosocial care to survivors of gender and sexual violence. We are just starting two Global Fund projects in North Kivu and North Ubangi that provide insecticide-treated nets and treatment for malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis for a population of 10 million people. Ebola has broken out for a second time this year, this time in Eastern Congo. The health information team has been helping the government with monitoring this outbreak using the DHIS system (District Health Information System). Larry and team have put in a proposal to facilitate prevention of Ebola by working with health facilities and churches in the area to increase communication and Ebola awareness.

Needless to say, Larry is busy trying to keep all these projects on track. We are thankful for a great group of people to work with and their tenacity during a very challenging time. Hopefully, blue waters are ahead. I’m grateful that we can hold onto the knowledge that God is always at work. Just as he weaves people and places back into our lives in a way that surprises us, he can take challenging times and bring good things from them further down the road of life.

Thank you for your financial and prayer support, for “walking through” this time with us. Thousands of people here in Congo, particularly women and children who have very few resources, have received health care because of your generosity and commitment. Thank you! We ask for your continued financial support that enables us to be here in Congo and for your prayers.

Inge Sthreshley
“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you, O Lord.” Psalm 143:8

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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