Walk to Salvation

Mahmadu Koroma is a quiet, determined eleventh grader who walks 4 hours round trip every day between the Mokpangumba Riverbank and Ngolala Junction to attend Mallory Jansen Memorial Senior Secondary School. Mahmadu is from a Muslim background, but no longer a Muslim because of the good works of Children of the Nations (COTN) in this primarily Muslim area. Today, he thanks God for COTN and staff, like Mr. Ngoneh, who helped his parents to allow him to attend church. When asked about his present life, this is what he had to say:

“I, Mahmadu Koroma, will always be thankful to God for using COTN to help me when I fell in a hole a few years back while walking home in the dark after working on a farm.

Because we are poor, I didn’t tell my parents for three days for fear of what they might say or do. Then I got to a point that I could no longer hide the pain and suffering anymore. COTN heard about it and had me treated at the Italian Emergency Hospital where they deal with bone accidents. COTN provided accommodations and meals for me for 3 months while I recuperated at COTN housing in Marjay Town. Sadly, it made me see and feel the big difference between Christians and Muslims in need.  Neither of my parents came to give the support I needed – just my brother sometimes, and my COTN brothers and sisters came by while I was there.

As a Muslim, I was taught to look to Allah for everything – I never saw any help and I was disappointed. Had it not been for COTN, I would have lost one leg. I am very thankful to God that I have both legs, although one seems longer than the other when I walk.

Today, I am thankful that I have come to know God through the Christian fellowship conducted in school and church services.  The daily meals at COTN’s feeding program and the shoe distribution have been a blessing to us who cannot afford good, solid shoes.  Those, who are from a Muslim background, wonder why our parents don’t talk much about Jesus.

My prayer for everyone, including children, is that God keeps you and bless you because of your faith.  Thank you for giving us hope for a better tomorrow. Thank you.”

 

BelPres Meal Packing Marathon helps support the COTN feeding program in Mokpangumba, where Mahmadu and many other children like him get their daily nourishment. Your participation and your prayers are the most important ways you support this event.

This year, our goal is to pack 150,000 meals for our brothers and sisters in Mokpangumba.  BelPres Mission+Serve will cover the first $20,000. We still need to raise additional funds since the registration fee does not cover the cost of food, material, and shipping.    If you would like to make a donation, you may give by credit card at Belpres.org – specify “other gift” as Meal Packing. 

Stars in Her Eyes

Estrella means “star” in Spanish and her eyes reflect that as they sparkle with joy. But this wasn’t always the case for the young Dominican girl. I would get teased a lot, says Estrella of her life before Children of the Nations (COTN). “People would tell my mom not to let me look at them because they didn’t like the way I looked.” Estrella’s esotropia (condition of which one or both eyes turns inward) made it difficult for her to see. Her poor eyesight caused her to struggle in school and she was teased for her appearance. Her family struggled to afford food and clothing so paying expensive medical bills was out of the question.

Fortunately, visiting medical Venture teams from COTN treated Estrella and subsequently, she was able to have eye surgery.  “It has changed my life forever!” Estrella declares. “My total disposition changed after my surgeries. I have self-confidence and I am happy.”

Today, through COTN, Estrella attends school and enjoys nutritious meals. She receives important follow-up care through their medical clinic including prescription glasses that continue to correct her vision. Her surgery and continued care have helped her grow up a happy and confident young woman. None of this would have been possible without the generosity of medical Venture teams, the clinic staff, and partners who supported the clinic and children like Estrella.

The COTN clinic plays a crucial role in keeping children healthy and by offering lower cost medical care to the community of Barahona in pediatrics, gynecology, surgical procedures, and dentistry. Last year, thanks to the generosity and tireless work of COTN partners and volunteers, the clinic doubled in size.

Barb Kjose, a nurse and Venture team member, recalls the early days of the clinic: “We would come in the morning and there would be a line out way past the clinic. And we’d feel bad because we could not see all those who came.”  And now a second story has been added to the building, creating more space for surgery, dental care, and processing patients. The expansion has also moved the clinic’s laundry room and kitchen from an old shack to a more hygienic space within the building.

Estrella wants to be a pediatrician when she grows up. To everyone who supported the clinic, she says, “Thank you. . . Without the clinic, we would not have medical help. More people would suffer and have bad health, and I would still be suffering physically and emotionally with my crossed eyes.”

Thank you for helping children like Estrella ‘see’ their way to a healthier future.

 

If you would like to find out how you can go on a Medical Mission with COTN or other organizations, please come to the Global Outreach Talk on Medical Missions, Sunday, April 8, 12:15pm in S-140.

Alice’s Story

As the car rolled up to the large gated entrance of Malawi’s statehouse, Alice stared out of the window. She, along with Children of the Nations (COTN) Founders Chris and Debbie Clark (and several others from COTN), were meeting Malawi’s First Lady, Gertrude Mutharika. To herself, Alice thought, “How has this happened? Why out of all the children in Children of the Nations, did they pick me?” Alice recalls. “I couldn’t find answers, but in my heart, I said ‘thank you to God’ for helping me reach this far. I never dreamt of this happening.”

Alice had never experienced anything like this before. The guards greeted them by name, they walked through security and Alice did something she’d never done before—ride in an elevator. “I got in the elevator the wrong way,” Alice says laughing. Every moment of their visit was scheduled and full of formalities. When the First Lady arrived, they addressed her as, “Madam, your Excellency.” Alice was here to share her story with the First Lady.

After her parents died, Alice was sent to Mtsiliza to live with her grandparents, in a deeply impoverished village on the outskirts of Lilongwe. They couldn’t provide for her and the other six children living in their one-room mud-walled hut. Alice explained how she was often sick as a child. There was no money for doctors or medicine. She couldn’t go to school. She was always the last child to eat in the family. Her grandparents told her she could never hope to become anything.

Alice’s life changed dramatically the day she moved into COTN’s Children’s Homes.

But when COTN learned of the conditions she was living in, Alice was invited to live in COTN’s Children’s Home. Her life changed dramatically. Suddenly, she was part of a loving family and was given the physical, spiritual, emotional, and educational care she so desperately needed:  she had food daily; she went to school and became the first in her family to graduate from secondary school. Soon afterward, she graduated from university.

“You can list goals or accomplishments,” says Debbie Clark, “but when a child tells the depth of their story and where they’ve come from, that’s what brought so much life and what touched [the First Lady’s] heart.”

Alice explained that she looked up to the First Lady for her leadership and generous heart. When Alice finished, the First Lady stood up and gave her a hug. “The meeting felt so formal, except when Alice and Francisco (from COTN) began to share,” says Debbie. “It went from being so formal, to real.”

“Malawi’s First Lady is someone who is not easy to touch.,” says Alice. “She didn’t know much about COTN before this. She thought we just came from a nice place. When I mentioned my village, she said, ‘How can that happen? You don’t look like someone who has come from there. Wow, Children of the Nations is really doing a great job.”

“Alice did an incredible job,” Debbie says. “She was eloquent, but real and personable.”

To everyone’s surprise, the First Lady had one more request for Alice—she asked her to share her story again at a nationwide girls’ education event. Alice shared her story again in front of 300 girls, the President, the First Lady and the Chinese ambassador. Alice encouraged the girls to work hard and gave glory to God for her own success.

Alice is grateful and overwhelmed for these amazing opportunities to share her story. “This gave validity to her journey,” Chris Clark says. “Sometimes when you come from that background, you think you’ll never overcome.”

“I think God is showing me His greatness and how He makes good things from hard things,” says Alice. “I’m learning to trust Him.”

This summer, Alice Williams interned at CRISTA Camps as a camp counselor along with a fellow COTN Malawi University program graduate, Ndaona Chauluka. Alice and Ndaona are keynote speakers at COTN events throughout the USA until they return to Malawi in November.

Ebola Response

BelPres Ebola Response
Highlighted Global Ministry: Children of the Nations
Highlighted BelPres Member: Lynn Pelton, Greatest Goal Ministries
Becky Gonzalez
BelPres Director of Global Outreach

The 2014 Ebola epidemic is the largest in history, affecting mostly several countries in West Africa. As of February 2015, 9,019 people have died from the disease in six countries; Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, the US and Mali. When it comes to global crisis like Ebola it feels like there is nothing that we can do. Yet, BelPres is a church that is actively responding to crisis around the world in various ways.

Our own member and Greatest Goal Ministries co-founder, Lynn Pelton is currently serving in Sierra Leone as an Ebola Nurse with Partners In Health. Learn more about what her daily life is like serving in Sierra Leone by reading a blog here written by another Ebola nurse. Also follow Lynn’s personal and ministry blog here.

300 of you participated last week packing 70,000 meals for villages in Sierra Leone where Children of the Nations is working. One of the special projects they are working on is caring for Ebola Orphans. Learn more here.

Thank you for joining us in prayer for these ministry efforts and for being a part of the Mission Movement of BelPres that is extending reach to communities who need the love and power of God most.

Dominican Republic Impact Team – Recap

I am returning from The Dominican Republic with a full heart and spirit of deep thankfulness and gratitude.  Our team spent the week in relationship with 25 – 30 of the boys that are currently enrolled in the I Love Baseball program in Barahona.  We had the opportunity to teach baseball clinics to some of the younger boys in the outlying communities, to play baseball with the older boys, and spend lots of time just talking with the boys and getting to know their life story.  There are several boys that live with a family member because their parents are no longer around.  There are several more that participate in the program, then go to school, then go to work because they are the sole provider for their family at home.  All of them are becoming leaders in their communities and trying to make a change in their families for generations to come, thanks to the servant hearts of the people of I Love Baseball and Children of the Nations.

I have seen impoverished countries before, but none of them have ever struck me as much as these boys did.  After spending a week with them and truly getting to know them, it touched my heart in a way that I’ve never felt before.

DR_Juan Isael
Juan Isael

Because of that, I decided to sponsor one of the boys that is enrolled in the ILB program.  His name is Juan Isael Cueva Feliz   He is 15 and has been part of the program for a few years.  It became very evident to me that he will truly be given a much greater chance to graduate high school and grow closer to God through my small donation and the relationship that I could provide.  If you are interested in this, let me know and I could tell you about the boys!

One of the things we did was bring a bunch of paper, markers, and stickers to make signs for each of the boys on the day that they played their game.  We started to bring the signs out to cheer and the boys flocked to us, asking us if they could use the markers and stickers to decorate their signs.  I’ve never seen high school boys get so excited to decorate a sign with their name on it.  We ended up completely interrupting the game and spent an hour and a half decorating signs, taking pictures, and laughing a lot.  I apologized to the coach for the interruption and he quickly stopped me and thanked me for the light we were bringing to the boys through the simple gesture of just being with them.  He said it had been some time that he had seen the boys this excited.

 

Here in America, I am constantly trying to fill my day with activities and tasks and find it a great accomplishment to check things off of my list to show progress.  In the DR, they thrive on living in community with one another and you will often find them just sitting in front of their homes, chatting with neighbors and watching the kids play.  This was a huge reminder for me to slow down, pay attention to what God has in store for my life, listen, be in relationship with those around me, and eliminate distractions.

Thank you for being on this journey with me, your prayers and support were appreciated beyond expectation and I am grateful!

Nic Shackleton
nicholausjames@yahoo.com