I pray you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are enjoying the Christmas celebrations. No matter how much we try to avoid it, this time of the year always seems to be so busy – both with ministry and family. Here in the U.S. it’s hard to not plan extra special activities to make full use of the Christmas season and remind everyone (especially children) of the true meaning of Christmas. Yet it seems that every year there is less focus on Jesus and more on worldly fun, new decorations, parties and spending money! We can only pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit to stay focused and do our part for the Lord.
I’m involved in several projects at church this month, but am really hoping to participate in one in particular early on Christmas Eve morning. Every year a group from our church drives to Washington, DC where they set up in a downtown park to minister to the street people and homeless. Tables are set up loaded with warm clothes, coats, blankets and other needed items free for the taking. A hot meal and drinks are also offered, along with cheery faces willing to encourage and pray for all who come. I have to admit that I’m as much looking forward to helping there this year as I am looking forward to celebrating Christmas with our family and excited 4 year old twin grandchildren!
Surely that IS the very essence of the Christmas spirit – to reach out and share the love of God and the joy of knowing his son, Jesus, with those who are alone, sad and neglected by others. I can just imagine the excitement in Heaven when, after thousands of years of prophecies and preparation, the day came at last when Heaven opened up for God to send Jesus! No wonder the skies burst apart with the glory of God and the shouts of angels singing!! God was literally reaching down to touch Mankind and give the greatest gift of all time!
And God showed his love for us by sending his only Son into the world, so that we might have life through him. This is what love is: it is not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the means by which our sins are forgiven. 1 John 4:9-10 (GNT)
Now it’s up to us to pass that gift on until the skies are split apart again, and the final part of the Promise is fulfilled – when Jesus comes back to take us all back to Heaven with Him forever! As we each do our part, I pray we will remember to pray for and support our African partners as they faithfully carry out their part – but in reality, under much harsher conditions than we have! Merry Christmas to you all, Shirley.
Mike in Kenya is exceptionally busy during December as usual. He is currently holding the annual Christmas bible camps for kids and youth, attended by many hundreds of children. The first photo below shows a similar kids camp that he ministered at in November, and the second shows him ministering recently at a special weekend for teens in Kisumu (some 4 hours drive away).
He is still working on finishing the new house, and while he is gone so much, Irene takes care of the children as well as working in her little store next door. For several years now, she has sold food, drinks and other items to many of the passers-by on that busy road. But sadly a few weeks ago, her store was robbed and almost all the merchandise taken! We pray God will quickly provide the funds to replace what was taken so she can continue her business which helps provide for the family. We pray Mike and all his family will be able to enjoy a wonderfully blessed Christmas and year ahead. Here is a recent photo of him and Irene.
Pastor Sika in Togo has also been preparing for the massive annual Operation Christmas Child shoebox distribution which will begin in a month or so. This photo shows him teaching a training workshop for pastors and leaders of schools and organizations where the shoeboxes will be distributed. It must be well-planned if the shoeboxes are to be used for maximum benefits – including sharing the Gospel with both children and families and leading them to Christ, then planting churches for further ministry and discipleship.
The second photo shows him with a group of pastors who attended another of his leadership seminars in Lomé, to help them stay focused on evangelism and discipleship – to reach both adults and children. The photo below shows the ongoing children’s ministry at his church in Lomé, Bethany Baptist Church, where giving a good meal is included whenever possible. The final picture shows the orphans enjoying a meal at the Joseph Project Orphanage, celebrating after the floods receded. Pastor Sika is presently visiting there to celebrate Christmas with them all. School has resumed (although funds are still needed to pay the school fees for this year). It is also hoped that the crops will not have been affected by the flooding.