Malawi - Special Report

Special Report by Sandra Skene (Malawi)

There has been a real need for a feeding programme to be established in Malawi, where malnutrition and it's subsequent problems create many unnecessary infant deaths and childhood ailments. Sandra Skene, the ActionOverseas resident missionary in the country, felt compelled to act, here is her story.

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The feeding programme which we run in Malawi for malnourished children under the age of 5 years has been in place for almost 11 years. My colleague, Anne Davies and I would travel throughout Malawi with our husbands on church visitation and we would come home and share about the children looking hungry and with so many minor skin conditions/childhood ailments. After doing this for a few weeks we looked at each other and said "Well, either we do something about it or we shut up!" We decided to do something!!! We started by looking at other projects to see if we thought we could manage  and then set about finding funding. We identified a village in the Lower Shire and God quickly supplied the necessary funding - it was all systems go!

In Malawi the problems are so big it is easy to become overwhelmed and do nothing or you can do the little bit you can do and make a difference to some. We decided we could cope with 20 - 25 children on the project - over the years the project has grown and at present we have 45 children on our books! My colleague left after a couple of years and I was unsure if I would be able to continue this project alone - but how can you stop feeding children? So I prayed that if God would continue to send the funding, I would continue to run the programme! And up to this present day, God has been faithful and the funding has come. I thank God for the people who have been obedient to His prompting to support this programme.

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When we go to the project our truck is loaded up with everything we need the pots and pans, the baby cereal - even the water for cooking and clearing up! When we arrive we weigh the children while the mothers cook the porridge and while it is cooking we take the chance to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Once everyone has eaten and the mums have cleared up they are given a supply of cereal to give the child one meal a day until we return in two weeks. We used to go on a weekly basis but as some of the mums were walking up to 2 hours to reach us we agreed to give double supplies and come once a fortnight.

It is a joy to see the children grow and develop and although they should be discharged at the age of 5 years, many are kept on longer if that is


Burma - Special Report

Special Report by Carol Jenkins. (Burma)

It was such a great privilege to be given the opportunity to travel with ActionOverseas to visit the Children's Homes in Burma. I have now visited twice, but the trip has had far reaching impact on many people other than myself.

I run a dance school in Dover and when my pastor invited me on the team, I thought it would be wonderful if the school could be involved in some way. The staff and children really supported the fund raising efforts. Since 2010, the school has raised well over £5,000, which has been used to buy many things for the home, including a TV and DVD, transformers to boost the homes electricity, minibus hire to take the children to church and some teaching for the students. We have performed three shows at my local church, The Ark; each time completely selling out of tickets and also filled over 200 ActionOverseas Pigs with money. I believe God places you in positions where you can use gifts and talents to help others, who maybe do not have all the blessings that we take for granted.

Raising money for Burma has also enabled a strong link between The Ark and my school to develop, a real outreach to people who previously had no link with a local church. It has been a wonderful journey and God has really blessed the step of faith taken.

Travelling to Burma and visiting the 'ActionOverseas Village,' and the Bible School, was a fantastic privilege. On the first visit the home had no light, no running water, no furniture and yet they were so happy. My friend Rachel and myself taught them fun dances, played games and gave them presents bought by children from my school.

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The second year it was great to see the home now much better equipped, each child proudly showed us their bunk beds, complete with mattress and pillow, they had a cupboard and a few sets of clothes. A big improvement on the previous year. Each child received an individually wrapped present from a child at my dance school and once again, we spent time with them, this time at the local zoo.....definitely an experience. It was sad to leave, but I am sure I was see them again.

Part of both trips was spent visiting a Bible School. It was wonderful to see the work that God was doing in the lives of these young people and the real commitment in their faith. In a country where they could so easily be arrested and imprisoned they were bold, showing great courage in a nation where Christians are not favoured. We presented some teaching sessions and also had fun days with them dancing and playing games. It was a bit of a surreal experience doing the Okey Cokey, Music Man and other party songs with the students. The teaching days they seemed so quiet and reserved, but the party day was filled with lively vibrant students who simply loved taking part, it was a brand new experience for them and in fact the following year when we went back, the dancing was the first thing they asked to do.

At present the Bible School is housed in tiny premises near to the city, the conditions were pretty bad when we visited, with cramped dormitories, poor cooking facilities and small, hot stuffy lecture rooms. This is soon to change however as a new Bible School is currently being built, located in a rural area which will be so much safer for the students and with great new facilities. The plans for the new school were drawn up by an elder from my church, Steve Green.

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I am so grateful to ActionOverseas for the opportunity to travel to Burma, we were prayed for as a team before we went on the first trip, and I was given a prophetic word that it would be a life changing experience.......that it certainly has been in a majorly impacting way. I am hoping to visit again in 2013


Pakistan - Special Report

Special Report on The Lotus School (Pakistan)

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa previously (NWFP- North West Frontier Province) has seen many conquerors, traders and settlers from times immemorial who entered the Indian subcontinent through the historic Khyber Pass. A true gateway to the East, the pass has echoed with the advance of such great adventurers as Alexander the Great, Mehmood Ghaznavi, Muhammad Ghory and Babar. Stretching from the Hindukush mountains in the northwest to the Derajat Basin in the south, the mainly rocky terrain gives way to unexpected belts of green valleys. Some of the most breathtaking scenery is to be enjoyed in the valleys of Swat, Gilgit, Kalash and Hunza. It's hard to imagine that this area of outstanding beauty only makes the news as the most troubled place on the planet.

However, in 2010 monsoon floods devastated vast areas of Pakistan. 1500 people were killed and some 25 million people lost their homes. A state of emergency was declared, the hardest hit were the poor who lived in the flood prone areas, the nation was facing unprecedented levels of human suffering, International aid agencies struggled to cope in its aftermath.

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ActionOverseas responded to the disaster using its Emergency Relief Fund, consultation was made with the people of the country who cried out to rescue the children. This desperate plea resulted in the launch of  'Operation Lotus,' a bold plan to provide education for 100 children living in the flood affected city of Charsadda (City of Lotus). The project was immensely risky given that the area suffered from high levels of terrorism from Islamic fundamentalists and a widespread hostility to anything Christian.

Operation Lotus began without a school building, school teachers or any adequate resources. Pastor Andrew Jenkins secured the help of a head teacher from Faisalabad. Initially, three teachers were recruited along with non teaching staff. A building was secured and flyers distributed within a local
community. The children started to arrive and in September 2011 the school was in full swing.  The school runs with continued training, support and a planned curriculum. Reports are sent every three  months to monitor progress, review plans and provide an excellent standard of education for the children, Pastor Andrew heads up this vital connection.

Since that epic beginning the school has now transferred to a new site (in March 2012), which offers much better facilities. A further two teachers have also been employed, one of whom has to teach Islamic Studies to comply with National Law. The short term aims of the Lotus School are to gain Government Registration, introduce a school uniform and secure funds that can take it forward beyond the initial 5 year plan which ActionOverseas, along with the French and Belgium Apostolic Church initially agreed to fund. The area would be described as 'dirt poor' and most of the parents cannot not afford to educate their children so future funding is important to keep the Lotus School in operation.

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ActionOverseas places a high priority on this mission and is under no illusion regarding the daily risks the children, staff and school building face from the Taliban. The economy of Pakistan is in meltdown and electricity in Charsadda can be off for days on end. In a recent visit Andrew purchased and fitted a powerful generator to ensure the lights stay on in this dark area.

The fact that this school exists and continues to exist is nothing short of a miracle, however one of the characteristics of the Lotus flower is its ability to strive through difficulties and show beauty and light from the murky darkness at the bottom of the pond. It's stem is virtually unbreakable. The school it seems is aptly named.

Your prayers however are still needed for the children and staff along with the team Pastor Andrew leads that supports them. Specific prayers for the school to make good progress and that the parents see the benefit and begin to contribute financially to its existence are particularly needed. The benefits extend far beyond education, in that the children are taught Biblical values from committed Christian teachers.

It is interesting to note that six years ago mission work abroad focused on work through resident missionaries, today there is a children's home and a school both within the same continent extending the message of the Gospel.


Eastern Europe - Special Report

Andrew Jenkins is currently the longest standing member of the ActionOverseas Board having served for 10 years now.

He has a huge heart for world mission and holds a special role on the ActionOverseas Team.

Prior to entering church ministry he trained in structural and mining engineering where he worked in the industry for 18 years, 14 of them underground. God had his hand on his life even then as the Lord knew his future 'mining career,' would be searching and finding treasure in the many underground churches throughout the world.

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Pastor Andrew is married to Joyce and has two married children and a granddaughter. Joyce has certainly been a blessing in Andrew's ministry, as he has benefitted from a very high level of support, which has enabled him to fulfil the varied expectations and frequent periods away from home which his unique ministry has brought.

Although much of the year is spent travelling, Andrew does pastor churches in South Wales and the West Country of England, he is also mentoring 4 young men for future church leadership. He carries the title of Mission Liaison Officer, whose job it is to represent ActionOverseas throughout the UK churches and other organisations. This role is vital as ActionOverseas exists due to the financial giving of churches and church members. Presentations, advertising mission work, planning and enabling exhibitions to take place, and advising on short term mission opportunities are all part of his role.

Along with this Andrew is also the ActionOverseas Special Envoy, facilitating leadership training and structure for the Apostolic Church in Pakistan and Sri Lanka. He is currently exploring new opportunities in Latvia and Romainia and is continually working with international partners in a peace making capacity.

Andrew's passport holds an impressive record of countries he has both involvement with, and positive links for the advancement of the gospel: Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Latvia, Romania, Vietnam, India, Poland, Brazil, and Hungary to name just a few. Many times his work has placed him in situations where he has had to rely on God for protection, his faithfulness and desire to reach into these dark areas, placing him in dangerous situations. Stepping out in faith definitely came with the job description.

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In addition to his specific role with ActionOverseas, Andrew has also experienced working with people and agencies following disasters such as the 2004 Tsunami, the Pakistan earthquake in 2005, and the floods also in Pakistan in 2010. The success of the Lotus School following the floods has partly been due to the support that Andrew has given, in what has become known as the most dangerous place on earth.

In his spare time, not really sure there is much time for that though, Andrew enjoys cycling, rugby and football, although more as a spectator now.

He has a great sense of humour and is able to 'break the ice' in any situation! He has a warm character that brings people together. All qualities that God uses in the ministry which Pastor Andrew has been called to.


Living in Kakuma Camp

The camp serves people from many neighbouring countries who have been forcibly displaced from their homes due to war or persecution,  many are young people whose parents have been killed and have no where else to go. The camp at first seems an answer to their desperate cries for help, providing security, food, shelter and a roof over their heads, but these hopes are short lived, as reality of life in Kakuma soon becomes evident.

The camp itself is based in a challenging environment, temperatures often reaching over 40 degrees Celsius, dust storms, poisonous spiders and scorpions, along with malaria and cholera outbreaks being part of everyday life. The arid, semi desert region giving no means to grow food and little opportunity to earn any income in which it's inhabitants can support themselves.

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Each nationality has an area within the camp to live, not only to make them feel at home but also so conflicts between cultures are minimised. Even then complete protection is not guaranteed as arson attacks, vandalism and theft from buildings are common place. The camp is a dangerous place to live especially for those who are alone. Many are still scarred from the traumas they have suffered in their home countries, so friendships and trust are hard to build.

The refugees live in houses made out of mud which are covered with polythene sheets, these are usually built by the refugees themselves when they are admitted to Kakuma. At the beginning and middle of the month each person collects food from the food distribution sites in the camp, this must last fifteen days but often it does not.

Once admitted to the camp refugees have no freedom, they are not allowed to seek education or employment outside of it. Inside this small city at the edge of the desert, children age into adulthood and hope fades to resignation.

Many agencies work in the camp including United Nations High Commission for Refugees, the World Food Programme, (the only distributor of food in the camp), and many other agencies who work out of a small compound. However with approximately one thousand new refugees arriving at the camp every month demand always exceeds supply.

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The aid taken by ActionOverseas, which was raised during the annual conference, Ablaze 2011 and supplemented by further support from local churches, was received with great appreciation and included maize, beans, rice, sugar, salt, soap, oil, tea and medical supplies. The supplies in total filled a 20 tonne lorry, the sacks of maize alone enough to feed 750 people, 3 meals a day for 6 weeks.....that's 100,000 meals. Although the pastors were unable to personally deliver all food due to camp restrictions, they did take supplies to foster families who were overwhelmed with the quantity of food they were given and found it difficult to comprehend what had been done to achieve the delivery of all the aid.  


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