Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On May 24, Randy Bloom, who was visiting Germany for a leadership conference, along with Santiago and Elke Lange and I, met in Worms, Germany, with Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher, Chairman of the Theological Committee of the World Evangelical Alliance. Dr. Schirrmacher has been familiar with our denomination since the 1970s. He published a paper in 2000 about our doctrinal changes, and his material was instrumental in opening new doors for our church in Germany.
In 1998, Dr. Schirrmacher, who at that time was the Chairman of the Evangelical Alliance in Bonn, spoke in our Bonn congregation. Shortly after that, we were invited to join the Evangelical Alliance in Bonn.
Dr. Schirrmacher has spoken several times in our churches and has presented workshops and given lectures at our annual festival and in our national ministerial conferences. Dr. Christine Schirrmacher, Thomas’ wife, has also contributed to our leadership conferences. Christine is one of Germany’s top experts in Islamic Studies and serves as an advisor to German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.
We rejoice in being able to call Dr. Schirrmacher a good friend and supporter of our denomination who has continued to stretch out the hand of fellowship to us.
Last week, I met with Gary Moore in Montreal for our Canadian Board of Directors annual meeting. The English and French-speaking congregations in Montreal combined for church services. It was a treat to hear our brothers and sisters sing in both languages together. Andre Marineau was ordained as an elder to serve the French-speaking congregation.
From Rod Matthews:
After visiting Myanmar [see last week’s Update], Malaysian pastor Wong Mein Kong and I flew to Thailand to visit our pastor and congregation of Karen people in a refugee camp near the Myanmar border. This camp is one of seven along the border holding approximately 140,000 refugees. Many are political refugees, fleeing the conflict between the Burmese army and the Karen across the border in Myanmar.
In recent years, the United Nations has worked at resettling many refugee families in new homes overseas, but those leaving the camps have been replaced by others arriving, many of whom are economic refugees. You can’t blame people for wishing for a better life for their families and children, but it does complicate the process for the UN in determining priorities.
Pastor Lah Shi met us and we drove for 40 minutes along the border road to the camp (if you can call a settlement of about 40,000 people a camp). Although it was a weekday, we were able to meet with many members of our congregation and have a worship service. Mein Kong and I gave shorter messages, this time translated into the Karen language by Lah Shi. There were a large number of children present who sang for us, accompanied by a young man on the guitar who helps out with our children’s program. I discovered that a number of the children attending are not those of member families but come from the homes packed in around our church building, and who want to be involved in the children’s program especially for the music.
Several Karen member families have been resettled in Australia and the United States, and several others who were refused visas for Australia are re-applying to other countries. The children know of no other world than that of the camp, so education is important to prepare them for a world beyond the camp whenever they might be permitted to access it.
The Australian members provide monthly financial support to the Karen congregation to enable the camp-bound members to have access to supplemental food supplies, cover urgent house repairs after storms, meet medical expenses for conditions beyond what can be handled by the camp’s first-aid station, pay for higher education for the children, and provide pastoral support, including maintaining the church building (right).
When visiting the camp with Wong Mein Kong, I can think of no other more vivid reminder that Christ came to “set the prisoners free.” I can leave the camp any time, but they can’t. I can choose where to live, where and when to travel, and have access to all types of social benefits. They are essentially stateless, the victims of a war decided on by men in distant cities, who are themselves protected by armies and largely isolated from the poverty, disruption and squalor of the innocent people caught in the middle. We leave these brothers and sisters and children in Christ with such encouragement as we can, pointing them to their only Savior, Jesus Christ, and his words of acceptance, comfort and love in the full knowledge that he knows what they are enduring, and will rescue them.
Hector and Paulina Barerro sent this report about their classes for couples:
Our current main project in Bogota has to do with working with couples. This is the third class we are presenting. Each class is four months long. Last year we graduated about 20 couples after the first semester and then 17 after the second semester. This semester we are working with 22 couples in five small groups. The class is composed of 12 lessons, which means 12 weeks, and includes homework, readings outside the class and short workshops during the classes.
There has been much fruit. Couples who were near divorce are now doing well. Others have come to Christ during the course. Others have started attending church services, and others have returned to their churches after not attending for quite a long while. It has been a very positive experience.
The last of our activities was held May 29, when couples who are taking the class were able to bring friends who might want to take the class next semester. We had a total of 53 couples in attendance that day. We discussed the topic of transparency in marriage, and then we celebrated with food and music.
Some of these couples also start attending our small groups discipleship class. We introduce them to our doctrines and invite them to attend church. Some couples come from other churches just to take the class and some decide to stay with us and join our congregation. The pictures are from the May 29 meeting.
Prayer Requests and Updates
Dave Fiedler let us know that after three weeks, his second attempt at surgery for a detached retina seems to be healing successfully. His sees the doctor again next Tuesday. Dave wrote: “The artificial lens I previously had in that eye had to be removed for the surgery, so I have no sight in the eye while it heals. If everything proceeds as we hope, it will be about three months before I can have a new lens put in. Please thank everyone for their prayers (and please keep them up till I’m out of the woods on this).”
GCI board member Frank Guice and his wife, Cora, let us know that their son, Steven, who was injured in a work related fall, transferred from ICU to a regular room on Saturday evening and has now been released from the hospital. Cora said that Steven’s appetite is good, that he is sleeping much better, and that he has taken some good walks, although he is still dealing with pain. The Guices thank everyone for their love and concern.
Doug and Betty Johannson sent this update about their daughter, Dana, whose water broke too early for her baby to be safely born. Betty is at the Naval Hospital in Bethesda with Dana. Here’s the latest report:
She has passed 24 weeks now, so that means things are a bit better for the baby, but still no amniotic fluid or just a tiny amount. The baby is active and the heartbeat is good.
An NICU doctor stopped in this morning. The doctor said that each day that she stays pregnant usually means two less days the baby will need to stay in NICU after being born. The odds of survival are now 50 percent, which is up from zero percent on May 19, and then from five percent during the first few days they were in the hospital. They won’t really know about the lungs until the baby is born, but the odds are better than they could have been, because the amniotic sac did not rupture before the 20th week. At 26 weeks (she is now at 24 weeks and three days), the odds jump dramatically to the positive for the baby. The approach is still to hold off delivery for as long as possible. They plan to deliver the baby at 32 weeks because of the risk of complications to Dana’s health if they wait, and because at that point the baby has a good probability of a positive outcome.
Thanks for your prayers; and it is also comforting to know that Jesus is praying about this for us, too.
Remember that prayer is the battleground where we fight the good fight of faith. Let’s encourage everyone to join together in prayer, for we belong to Christ, and by the Spirit it is in Christ that we pray. Prayer and other spiritual activities help keep our hearts in tune with God and remind us of who we are in Christ. He is our all in all, and in him we are eternally beloved of the Father and blessed to share his good news with others.
Love from my family to yours,