The First Reformed Church of Bethlehem supports three missions. Two are in Oman: 1) Rev. Aaro Rytkonen, executive director of the Al Amana Centre and 2) Rev. Joshua Bode, pastor of the Protestant Church in Oman. The third mission we support is Kekeli, Inc. which was started by a member of our congregation and works with marginalized children and adults in Ghana, West Africa.
Josh Bode and his family lived just down the road from us when he was pastor at Woodstock Reformed Church in Woodstock, NY. Prior to serving there, he worked at Albany Medical Center in the chaplaincy program with our former pastor, Rev. Harlan Ratmeyer, and sometimes preached at our church. We knew Josh---and we were excited when he was called to serve in Oman. His role is pastor of the English speaking Protestant churches in Oman. The Protestant Church in Oman is comprised of numerous denominations from more than a hundred countries that meet in Muscat, the capital. Josh expressed his passion for this ministry by saying, “I have a heart for missional ministries of presence, not where I come to fix you but where we encounter each other in relationship and together discover how the Holy Spirit is creating both of us through our engagement, even across deep differences and conflict.”
Josh and Erica and their children had the option of returning to the US when COVID-19 broke out but decided to stay in Oman for a number of reasons. He reports that they are all doing well and staying healthy.
For more information, Google rca.org and search “Protestant Church in Oman.”
Carrie Brown grew up in our church, having attended since she started coming with her parents at the age of six. As she went through school, her great joy was in her art classes, especially photography. During studies for her master’s of art degree, she had the opportunity to do an internship in Ghana, West Africa where she spent six months documenting life in a fishing village. She fell in love with the country and the people and was determined to return. After graduating from Savannah College of Art and Design, she worked and saved to go back and volunteer, teaching photography in three schools. It was there that she met some students with special needs. She realized the stigma that these children and their families faced every day, and she felt drawn to working with them.
In 2008, she started the nonprofit Kekeli, Inc. and went back to Ghana. Over the past twelve years, her mission has grown and changed from teaching photography to helping marginalized children and their families learn about their rights and advocate for them. Her dream is to establish a model inclusive school where disabled children can learn along with their non disabled peers.
The first step in achieving that dream occurred on February 14, 2019, with the commissioning of the Resource and Assessment Centre where children can be assessed for their physical and cognitive needs and receive speech therapy, physical and occupational therapy, and other forms of assistance. Plans are being made for two more buildings: one for nursery-kindergarten and a second for grades 1-6.
Many of you will remember that two years ago, Kekeli, Inc. (Carrie Brown’s organization that works with disabled children in Ghana) received a grant from the Australian Commission to build a resource and assessment center that would be the first phase of an inclusive school. This building has been used to assess the learning needs of children who have some disabilities and to provide services, such as speech and language therapy, to many of the children. Carrie’s GOOD NEWS is that once again the Australian Commission has awarded them a grant. This grant is for the construction of a Nursery-Kindergarten building, the second building in this inclusive school being developed. The ground has been broken, and the foundation has been started. It won’t be too long before these youngest school children will have classrooms where they can be taught.