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a-MAIZE-ing Grace!

A Simple Idea for Saving Lives in Malawi and South Sudan

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is describing the unfolding food shortage in Malawi as critical, urging Presbyterians around the world to pray and support efforts to help people in need. In addition, our partner churches in South Sudan are continuing to deal with the threat of famine stalking the land in the wake of more than eighteen months of civil war and violence. Floods in Malawi have washed away crops and armed conflict in South Sudan has prevented farmers from even sowing their seeds.

"The situation is desperate," said the Rev. Debbie Braaksma, Africa area coordinator, who, along with Nancy Collins, regional liaison for Presbyterian World Mission, traveled throughout Malawi this past month. "As the body of Christ we need to stand by our sisters and brothers to support them as they seek to be the hands and feet of Jesus to respond to the hunger crisis unfolding in their midst." Braaksma and Collins traveled in all three Malawian synods of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian to see and hear about the devastation firsthand. "What we saw and the stories we heard were very sobering," Braaksma said. "Now is the time for Presbyterians to respond through sacrificial giving to prevent a large scale loss of life in Malawi."

According to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, the food security outlook in Malawi for October through December 2015 is in the category of stressed or crisis, especially for poor households.

Meanwhile, in South Sudan, we continue to partner with Presbyterian Relief and Development Agency in providing emergency relief for families in Jonglei State and Malakal affected by the recent violence. The assistance is improving health conditions, increasing the availability of clean drinking water, providing food and non-food necessities, and helping to secure livelihoods. Conflict in South Sudan since December 2013 has killed tens of thousands of people and forced nearly 1.5 million people from their homes. Some 500,000 additional people have become refugees in neighboring nations. Right now, there are 2.5 million facing emergency levels of food insecurity.

In partnership, we are also supporting peace-building initiatives in the country, helping to strengthen and support families and communities as they return home and seek peace. When a team from Pittsburgh Presbytery visited our partners in the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SSPEC) in January 2015, we were shocked to see how dire the situation had become since our initial 2013 visit. Again, to reference the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, "harvesting in Greater Upper Nile is expected to begin in September, one to two months later than normal, due to conflict-related delays in planting, and replanting after early season crop loss. Significant reductions in area cultivated will limit green crop availability in conflict-affected areas."

Severe flooding in January contributed to the current food insecurity crisis in Malawi.   -- Francis Botha, ACT/DCA


A United Nations Protection of Civilians Camp near Juba, home to more than 30,000 displaced persons.   -- Dave Carver, Pittsburh Presbytery
A token representing your gift of $25 to buy a 50 kg bag of maize to feed a family for one month.

The essence of this plan is simple. Individuals and communities will be invited to contribute money for famine relief. Each $25 gift will provide 50 kilograms of maize (corn) or its equivalent, which is enough to supplement a family's diet for one month. Those who make contributions in the USA will receive small tokens shaped like maize bags as reminders that we are blessed to be able to give. Tokens are available at the Presbytery Center or by contacting Jean Shaffers or the Reverend Dave Carver. These hand-made ornaments are designed as alternative holiday gifts, appropriate to hang on a Christmas tree. Contributors will also have the opportunity to sign personal cards that will be distributed along with the maize.

Funds collected will be sent to established ministries in Malawi and South Sudan to equip local pastors and churches to offer food to all in need, regardless of religious affiliation or non-affiliation. We are asking churches and individuals to spread the word and seek contributions.

One of the a-MAIZE-ing things about this project is the fact that a relatively small investment ($25) can help sustain a family for one month. If your church would like to hear from someone who has been to Malawi, or see photos of what these funds can do, please let us know! To arrange for a speaker, contact Vince Veltre or the Reverend Dave Carver.

Individuals may contribute by sending a check made payable to "Pittsburgh Presbytery" with "African Famine Relief" noted on the memo line. Individuals and groups can also donate immediately by using the Pittsburgh Presbytery PayPal account. When prompted, designate the gift for "Famine Relief - account # 11.80121." Congregations may use the Remittance Form for Mission Contributions indicating the amount and "African Famine Relief" under Presbytery Programs on the line for International Partnership Designation. All donations will be directed to the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, which will then be forwarded to our partners in Malawi and South Sudan. Please give generously.


 
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