During these challenging times, Seekers Church continues to support many missions and ministries in the United States and other countries. Once again, this year the amount budgeted for international giving is almost 20% of what we expect to receive in offerings over the course of the year.
Once our overall budget for the year was approved, and the overall amount available for international giving had been determined by the Stewards of Seekers Church, all Seekers were invited to request support for missions or ministries where they are personally involved. After worship on February 18th the community met to determine how our international giving will be distributed. At that community meeting we affirmed support for 12 international missions and ministries listed here. For easy access to more information on each group, the name of each organization is linked to its website.
Philakade Care Home – South Africa
Asociacion Iglesia Luterana Costaricense – Costa Rica
Nectandra Institute – Costa Rica
Reconciliamar – Mexico
San Lucas Toliman Reforestation Project – Guatemala
Here is a brief description of each organization and the connection to Seekers Church. To visit their web sites, click on the name of the organization.
The mission of New Story Leadership is to equip a new generation of Palestinian and Israeli change agents with the leadership tools needed to create social, economic and political change in the region. It seeks to inspire a new story of possibility for the Middle East by bringing outstanding Israeli and Palestinian students to Washington DC to experience American culture, history and democracy. Delegates live in Palestinian-Israeli pairs with American host families in Washington, DC for 7 weeks each summer. They have work-placements in the offices of Representatives and Senators and in other high-level organizations.
NSL delegates use the Narrative Method to craft their personal stories of struggle and hope. Delegates share their stories at speaking engagements on Capitol Hill and across DC. The delegates participate in strategic meetings with organizations like the United States Institute of Peace, J Street, AIPAC, the United Nations Development Program, and the Swedish Embassy, and with various US Congressmen and Senators, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Tim Kaine, and Rep. Joe Kennedy.
Each delegate arrives in Washington, DC with a proposed Project for Change (PFC). Working together in Palestinian-Israeli teams, they collaborate on joint social impact project. Delegates return to the region after the summer prepared to implement their PFCs. PFCs become eligible for startup seed funding and receive technical support from the Alumni Network.
Through living, learning, and working together, these future leaders come to respect difference, not to fear it, and to view the conflict with new eyes. Before, during and after the program, NSL strives to support all its graduates as they return home with a new hope about building a better future together.
During the Coronavirus pandemic, NSL’s creative and energetic staff organized a virtual summer experience for the delegates, maintaining something close to their regular in-person activities but accomplished through Zoom events.
NSL’s work is in keeping with Seekers’ commitment to work to send all war, violence and discord. Seekers is pleased to be hosting the US office of NSL in our facility. The Seekers Eyes to See Ears to Hear Peace Prayer Mission Group has, for more than ten years, maintained an active partnership with NSL and currently has two of its members serving on the NSL board of directors.
Bokamoso Youth Foundation – Winterveldt, Gauteng, South Africa
The Bokamoso Youth Foundation provides financial support, mentoring, and guidance to the staff and young people of the Bokamoso Life Centre in Winterveldt, South Africa. The Bokamoso Life Centre is an independent registered Non-Profit Organization (NPO). It provides educational and social service support to young men and women ages 17-25 living in the Winterveldt area. The Centre is a safe haven that offers opportunities for the youth to attend classes, receive counseling, use the computers, practice music, dance and drama, and receive nutritious meals.
Together, the Foundation and the Centre form a successful partnership that has helped more than 1,300 youth graduate from Bokamoso’s Youth Development Program; provided some 270 youth the opportunity to visit the United States through the Bokamoso Cultural Exchange and Performing Arts Program; and awarded more than 400 scholarships benefiting some 235 Winterveldt youth who otherwise would not have had the chance for post-secondary education and vocational training. Bokamoso graduates have obtained employment in nursing, education, social work, banking, skilled trades, youth work, computer technology, business and industry.
Seekers Church has had a connection with Bokamoso that goes back many years, supporting development of the Centre in Winterveldt, and Bokamoso Youth Foundation here to coordinate support. The Foundation grew out of a decade of support within Seekers for the emerging partnership with Bokamoso, and many Seekers are actively involved with Bokamoso. During the annual visit from Bokamoso, which was suspended in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, Seekers Church sponsors a career workshop, to help Bokamoso members plan for future employment, and to support Bokamoso staff as they plan for the long-term viability of their program. Bokamoso is another way we can help support the commitment of Seekers Church to being creative and inclusive as we work for peace and justice. Roy Barber and Elese Sizemore have been central links in the long-term relationship.
Philakade Care Home – South Africa
The Philakade Care Home, near Durban, Kwa-Zulu Natal, seeks to care for and empower vulnerable and marginalized people from the community, especially the elderly and those with mental or physical disabilities who are homeless or who have been abandoned. Philakade offers physical, emotional, and spiritual fulfilment through its chronic nursing care as well as a safe and stimulating day care facility. The community includes patients, staff and volunteers of all faiths working side by side.
The Seekers Church contribution will be used to help complete Phase II construction, including an expanded kitchen/dining/activity area, enabling Philakade to admit its full complement of 112 patients. This will set it on a clear path to sustainability, through patient grants from the South African Social Security Agency. South Africa has been hit hard by the COVID 19 pandemic and lock-down, but Philakade is working through the challenges to get construction, finances and operations back on track.
Philakade was envisioned and started by Mary Ann and Steve Carpenter. Gifted and committed health care professionals both, they provided Seekers first connection to South Africa and also were the founders of the Bokamoso Life Centre. Philakade’s Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/philakadecarehome/. Sallie and Paul Holmes, Roy Barber and Elese Sizemore maintain contact from Seekers.
Programme Nutrition & Eye Care (PRONEC) is a nonprofit organization based in Uganda that provides meals, nutritional supplements and education to improve the health of malnourished children in Uganda. They also provide support and medical treatment for the visually impaired people to remain independent and safe in their homes, with a focus on those unable to earn a living.
PRONEC rose out of the gap for lack of optical, dental, nutritional services in the health facilities of surrounding areas and communities. Private clinics were and are still too expensive for ordinary people to afford. Eye care, dental services, and nutrition education are not addressed as a priority in the formal health settings provided for the public such as hospitals and government clinics. This lack of resources predominantly affects poor people, who cannot afford to travel to the town centers in order to access the services they require. PRONEC provides:
- Vision exams and eyesight tests
• Affordable optical services
• Outreach screening for eye defects
• Nutrition Education
• HIV/AIDS education and services
Damalie Mirembie is a contact person here in the United States, having known them for over 15 years for their work and support to deserving low income people.
Asociacion Iglesia Luterana Costaricense – Costa Rica
A group from Seekers Church, the Costa Rica Pilgrimage team, is working with the Lutheran Church of Costa Rica (Iglesia Luterana Costaricense (ILCO), incorporated in Costa Rica as “Asociacion Iglesia Luterana Costaricense” (civic association)) to support refugees from Nicaragua who have fled to Costa Rica. Seekers International giving funds will help provide food, clothing, and other necessities directly to Nicaraguan refugees, and help maintain and improve the two-story building which temporarily houses 30+ refugee families. The building that houses refugees needs maintenance and improvements, Will and Teresa Ramsey, Oswaldo Montoya, and Rosa Campos are organizing a work pilgrimage from Seekers to support this effort. If requested by refugees and ILCO, and depending on the resources we gather, we may support refugees’ income generating efforts as well.
During 2020, with the advent of the pandemic, representatives from Seekers were unable to travel to Costa Rica in working service; but hope to do so in the coming year. We did provide the money from Seekers to the Costa Rican Lutheran Church which was used for improvements to the refugee house and for the delivery of food and hygiene packages to the Nicaraguan refugee communities in Costa Rica. We maintain our active relationship with our partners at the Iglesia Luterana Costaricense through video calls and electronic correspondence. We are planning additional video calls this year to maintain and deepen our connection and commitment with the group.
Our work relates to the call of Seekers Church in giving, service, and witness as acts of faith. Our work is part of the call to Christ’s ministry of deliverance from bondage as well as serving to heal wounds of discrimination.
Bachillieres in Puerto Morales is a technical high school for 15-18-year-old youth in a section of Puerto Morelos called Colonia that has great poverty. It trains students in core subjects, including English and computer science that they can use in the tourist industry. It currently has 360 students, divided into 8 groups but with only 6 classrooms.
Seekers visited the school in 2018 and again in 2019, seeing many of the gains from the previous year, including an awning that created an open-air gathering place for students, improved drainage, uniform shirts, and battery back-up for computer data. Funds in 2019 will be used toward building 2 additional classrooms, paving the front entrance from the street, making concrete tables and benches for the lunch area and hard wiring the computer lab to ensure internet connections. Joan and Doug Dodge maintain our connection with the school.
Collegio Miguel Angel Asturias – Quetzaltenango, Guatemala
The Miguel Angel Asturias Academy is a private, non-profit Pre-K through grade 12 school in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. It was founded in 1994 by Jorge Chojolan on the educational principles of Paolo Frieri. All classes are bi-lingual, taught in Spanish and the local indigenous language, Quiche.
Jorge Chojolan was born into a poor indigenous Mayan family. Like many of his students, he confronted Guatemala’s deeply racist and sexist society and seemed destined to complete few, if any, years of formal schooling. When he completed university, Jorge as determined to use his degree to help those “failed by the existing public and private school systems.”
When Jorge opened the Asturias Academy in 1994 he hoped to help the most vulnerable students, placing special emphasis upon poor and indigenous children. The style of teaching is not rote, but lively, engaged and deeply democratic. Since its inception in 1994 with 80 students, the Academy has grown tremendously currently serving approximately 300 students from varying backgrounds: indigenous, non-indigenous, poor, working, and middle class. In 2000, he was awarded with the prestigious Ashoka Fellowship for his work at the Academy, distinguishing him as a “leading social entrepreneur; an extraordinary individual with unprecedented ideas for change in his community.”
Today, the school serves all ages of students in Guatemala and remains the best and most progressive education available to students in Quetzaltenango. The school is currently incubating a second campus in Sololá, Guatemala. Seekers has supported this anti-racist school for a number of years and hosted gatherings when Jorge or one of his four daughters visited Washington, DC. The Banksons maintain contact with the Academy.
Nectandra Institute – Costa Rica
The Nectandra Institute “is a U.S. 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization founded in 1999 and registered in Costa Rica to carry out education, scientific research and community outreach programs to promote the conservation of cloud forests and stewardship of watershed ecosystems in northern Costa Rica.”
Nectandra provides no-interest loans and technical assistance to municipalities that wish to reforest part of their communities; the only “interest” paid by the municipalities is the work undertaken to reforest (and maintain) these lands. This work helps to preserve biodiversity and also helps ensure adequate drinking water supplies for the communities. The Nectandra Institute supports scientific research to inventory the plants, animals, and fungi on the Nectandra Cloud Forest Gardens reserve, and on the physiology and function of organisms on the reserve. The Nectandra Institute also conducts public education on the importance of cloud forests and biodiversity in general, and works with other groups to maintain a “biodiversity corridor” in the region Marcia Sprague and David Novello are volunteering at the reserve to help catalog the fungi.
PAVA (Aid Program for Highland Communities) is a Guatemalan non-governmental organization (NGO) that works closely with rural communities in the Department of Chimaltenango, Guatemala to achieve long-term sustainable development through community-based projects and programs. A small, full-time staff based in Antigua manages PAVA’s programs, providing technical expertise and coordination for community learning centers (comunitecas) that serve as libraries and learning centers in three model highland communities, scholarship programs which allow rural Guatemalan children to finish high school, and a professional development program for teachers to improve the quality of education in primary schools.
PAVA worked with highland Guatemalan village elders to bring primary education to indigenous people as promised by the 1996 Peace Accords after 30 years of civil war.
From 2002 through 2015 Seekers Church supported an annual work pilgrimage Led by Marjory and Peter Bankson, to help sustain the work of PAVA, raising funds and organizing groups of about two dozen people from Seekers Church and across the United States to work with PAVA and residents of 15 different villages. During this time, we helped construct 11 schoolhouses, three libraries and two running water systems. More than 25 Seekers participated in building schools and community libraries.
Now that need has largely been filled. PAVA has shifted its emphasis to scholarships for the most able students to get secondary schooling and, in some cases, support for college. PAVA is celebrating its first student to graduate from college – and she has become the education director for PAVA!
This year’s contribution will support the PAVA scholarship program, part of the current PAVA focus on educational support for graduates of village middle schools. programs. The main objective is to help close the breach in rural children’s enrollment in middle school. The Banksons maintain the link between PAVA and Seekers Church.
Reconciliamar, a missionary-based program in La Paz, Mexico, uses kayaking and diving adventures at sea to transform lives. It is focused on personal transformation that promotes nature/environmental care. Reconciliamar seeks to create in people the love and respect for neighbors that support environmental protection. (Its website is http://reconciliamar.org/. Keith and Brenda Seat maintain a relationship with the program and its founders.
San Lucas Toliman Reforestation Project – Solola, Guatemala
From 2002 through 2015, the Guatemala Pilgrimages led by Marjory and Peter Bankson offered participating pilgrims the opportunity to visit several of the missions and ministries that emerged in San Lucas Toliman while Father Greg Schaffer served as priest at the Catholic Church there. The Reforestation Project, founded and run by Toribio Chajil is one of these ministries.
Through his Reforestation Project Toribio Chajil provides seedlings, insight and encouragement to people throughout the country to help control erosion, encourage environmental sensitivity, and search for healthy responses to the serious effects of climate change on the Guatemalan biosphere. He conducts reforestation activities with children and adolescents and provides environmental education in local schools and shares his experience.
Seekers visited this project regularly during the PAVA pilgrimages. The Banksons maintain our link with the Reforestation Project.
SOIL works in Haiti to design, test, and implement sustainable and cost-effective solutions to the sanitation crisis. It has grown from a pilot project in 2013 to a service reaching nearly 6,000 urban residents with safe and dignified access to household sanitation. It provides households with toilets and weekly collection of wastes for a small monthly fee, safely treating and transforming the wastes into compost using a process that respects World Health Organization standards. Planned additional activities include transition of customers to mobile payments designed to increase convenience and reduce costs, improved management of supply chains, and testing new marketing approaches to reach additional population segments.
Seekers’ contribution enables SOIL to quickly respond to changing conditions on the ground in the communities it serves. Erica Lloyd, who grew up in Seekers Church and is part of the community, serves on SOIL’s leadership team.