Archive for the ‘Naz Compassionate Ministries’ Category

Ministry to Individuals With Special Needs

Here is a good article about what a church is doing for the people with special needs in their community and how the Church of the Nazarene was originally interested in reaching out to the poor, addicted and marginalized in the world.


Can Anything Good Come from Nazareth?

by Julie Keith


I am a transplant into the Church of the Nazarene.  While growing-up, and even as a young adult, I heard about the Church of the Nazarene but never really knew much about its beliefs or history.  I came to the church through a variety of circumstances, the most recent being an interview for the special needs pastor position at First Church of the Nazarene of Pasadena, California (PazNaz).

Since high school, I have been involved in some kind of ministry to individuals with special needs, as well as with their families.  Prior to coming to PazNaz, I was serving at a church experiencing financial problems.  I believe God used this set of circumstances for me to discover the church I now call home.

Pastor Scott Daniels shared the history of the church during my initial interview.  He shared how Phineas F. Bresee, the first general superintendent in the Church of the Nazarene, wanted to do more for the poor, the addicted, and the marginalized in society.  Of course, individuals with special needs are still marginalized in the world.  As I listened and learned how we obtained our denomination’s name I knew the position was a natural fit and I had come home.

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee.  He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’  Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.  Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”  Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’  Philip said to him, ‘Come and see” (John 1:43-46 NRSV).

Can anything good come from Nazareth?  These words were the foundation for the name, Church of the Nazarene.  Nazarenes are named after Jesus the Nazarene.  Our church has its core the belief that something good can come from “Nazareth.”  Nazareth was considered the pit of the earth (my definition).  No one believed anything good could come from Nazareth.  The same is often said about children, youth, and adults who have varying kinds of disabilities and special needs.

The majority of the people in our world do not truly believe anything good can come from individuals who have special needs.  While there are more programs and services becoming available in the U.S., individuals in other places around the world with special needs are kept hidden.  They are not allowed in schools and typically not in places of worship.  The work that is being done to make an impact in the lives of the countless girls, boys, men, and women is largely being done by the community of faith.

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to go to Romania on a mission trip to provide training and education to local churches and Christian organizations to better equip them to reach those with special needs for Christ.  The second part of this trip was to go into the orphanages and provide training and encouragement to the staff who wee providing care for orphans, many who had severe disabilities.

One particular day stands out in my mind as we were visiting a state-funded orphanage.  None of the orphans had anything that belonged to them.  On community outing days, the staff would go to the store closet and pull out clothes that were appropriate for the children to wear on outings to the community.

The next day we saw some of the exact same clothes on different children.  We then had the privilege of visiting an orphanage that was funded by a local church.  The contrast was amazing.  In this orphanage there was a row of  wheelchairs.  Each child had his or her own wheelchair.  It was nap time so most of the children were sleeping.  The facility was clean and attractive.  Children who were there had been rescued from some of the orphanages because if they had not been moved to this facility they would have most likely died.

After that visit, I was impressed with what happens when the people of God truly live into god’s kingdom and reach out and believe that something good can come from Nazareth.

This past June, at the Los Angeles District Assembly, we were reminded again of the call God has placed on us as the Church of the Nazarene.  It is our call to reach those from whom the world thinks nothing good can come.

Who are the children, teens, and adults in your life who have special needs?  What is God calling you to do?  What can your church do to begin to dream and plan to show God’s love and compassion to these individuals?  Begin to seek God’s face about how to reach out to those who are marginalized in most societies.

No matter where you live, there is at least one child or teen or adult and their family who need to know something good can come from them.



Julie Keith is special needs pastor at Pasadena, California, First Church of the Nazarene. This article first appeared in the November/December 2012 issue of Holiness Today.  You can follow Julie Keith’s blog at JulieKeithsReflections.


Nazarene Compassionate Ministries in the Middle East

Ramping Up the Compassion Factor

by Rod Green

Recently, someone asked, “How are the Nazarenes doing in the Middle East?” The answer varies from country to country. Nazarenes in Baghdad face the dangers of explosions in the market; Egyptians live in uncertainty with a drastically weakened economy and a newly-elected government; Syrians are exhausted from civil war and ministering to hundreds of displaced families; Jordanians are coping with thousands of refugees; and people in Israel and the West Bank continue on with occupation and violence.

Media tools keep us updated on the unfolding events, but real people, Nazarenes and their neighbors, are living under this canopy of hurt and threat and strive for normalcy as best they can while the world rages in their own backyards.
Twenty Nazarenes just finished the second of a three-part training program in lay counseling in Beirut, Lebanon. The purpose is to equip parishioners, who have skills in attentive listening, to be effective in bringing healing and empowerment to people in distress. Next year, a number of the participants will graduate as trainers so that the program will multiply over time.
Three years before the lay counseling program started, Marlene Mashantaf was wondering where she could get training in counseling. Marlene lived through the Lebanese civil war of the 70s and 80s in which she and her neighbors lost family members to the conflict and were themselves traumatized by living in crowded bomb shelters.
Once, the fighting in their neighborhood turned so intense that for an entire month 2,000 people shared a single bathroom in the shelter. If you can get Marlene to tell her story, it is short with very few details, and you know she is protecting herself from the memories that still sting even after decades have passed.
Marlene is the principal at the Beirut Nazarene School, which serves 170 children of low-income families in grades K-9. An increasing part of her role at the school is spending time with the mothers of her students. She listens to them as they share their stress, which has roots in the past and nourishment in the present. Marlene always wanted training in counseling that would enable her to help parents and students. “I started asking God where I could get training in counseling so I could help others, and out of the circumstances happening to us three years ago we got the opportunity to have a lay counseling program. Now I can see that God is answering my prayers!”
The circumstance to which Marlene referred was the death of her pastor, Raja Nwaisser. At the age of 40, he suffered a heart attack while he was baptizing new believers in Beirut. Nazarene Compassionate Ministries sponsored a grief seminar led by Rand and Phyllis Michael, university educators from Portland, Oregon, with the help of Tom and Karen Gray, missionaries in the Middle East. The seminar helped Raja’s wife and the church grieve in healthy ways.

Rand and Phyllis shared with us about the concept of lay counseling and how they were experiencing success with students in Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe. We started thinking of Nazarenes in the Middle East who at the time were facing their own crises:

  • Teachers in the Damascus church were asking for advice on how to attend to the emotional needs of adolescent Iraqi refugees in an after-school program, whose behaviors were reflecting the trauma of war.
  • Israelis and Palestinians were at their peak of tension after the bombardment of Gaza in retaliation for mortars fired by a militant wing of the Hamas.
  • Jordanians were exhausted and stressed from relief work for the thousands of Iraqi refugees who were living in their neighborhoods (not to mention the stress and uncertainty of the Iraqis who were now homeless and vulnerable).

As they sipped hot tea together following the grief seminar, someone spoke for the group by saying, “We wish we could have more training in counseling so that we can help our neighbors and friends who are going through difficult times.” Rand and Phyllis set their tea cups on the table and replied, “We can help with that.”

Beirut from the air. (Photo Credit: Rand Michael)

Beirut from the air. (Photo Credit: Rand Michael)

By the late summer of 2011, the Michaels and the Grays started teaching 20 students from Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt in basic counseling skills. The second phase of the training finished in the summer of 2012, and part three is scheduled for July of 2013. “The really exciting part is that we have identified seven students we feel will be good trainers so that this ministry can expand in the churches,” says Rand.

A stipulation of the course is that participants must practice their newly-acquired skills throughout the year. Some hang out with their college friends, some lead small discipleship groups, and one young man, Mukhlous Halasa, taught the concepts he learned in year one to people in his college fellowship group at his church. “My aim is that in Jordan we will go to the churches and train others,” explains Halasa. “The students were amazed when we began to compare our culture with values in the kingdom of God. We then began to practice listening to each other and we found that it was really helping us to experience peace.”

This year the students have expressed interest in visiting the refugee camps set up in Lebanon and Jordan for hundreds of thousands of Syrians fleeing from civil war. Nazarenes are delivering food, medicine, and cooking aids, and the lay counseling students want to train the Nazarenes who take part to understand the healing power of listening with love and care.

Because someone asked, this is a glimpse into what Nazarenes are doing in the Middle East.


.Rod Green is Nazarene Compassionate Ministries coordinator for the Eastern Mediterranean (Middle East) Field.  This article first appeared in Holiness Today, September/October 2012.  It can currently be found at Holiness Today online.