June encouragement and news
There is no doubt that 2020 will be remembered for years to come – and quite likely go down in history for the first worldwide pandemic of the Covid-19 virus. As I was reading updated statistics recently for all countries around the world, I suddenly realized just how incredible it is that virtually every nation, island and people (no matter how remote or in the most obscure parts of the earth!) has reported cases. In some areas, such as India, infections appear to be rising rapidly. In other countries, statistics record only a few hundred cases – although we can easily imagine that the majority of the inhabitants are unable to get to see a doctor, let alone get an actual test for Covid! There is no way to know the true situation.
Here in the USA, where we have arguably the best “chance” of handling and treating the virus, it appears the only thing we know for sure is that it’s not likely to go away anything like as quickly as many originally hoped! Adding in the repercussions of the stay-at-home orders, financial losses and psychological upheavals, it is no surprise that the “enemy” is quick to exploit the fear and frustration felt by so many. Yet it is saddening to see how quickly whole areas of our country are falling into near-anarchy, and the very fabric of our society seems to be being torn apart.
As followers of Jesus Christ we must remember who our “enemy” actually is. In Ephesians 6:12, Paul reminds us: “ Our fight is not against people on earth. We are fighting against the rulers and authorities and the powers of this world’s darkness. We are fighting against the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly places.” (ERV) Earlier,
Verse 10 tells us to “…be strong in the Lord [draw your strength from Him and be empowered through your union with Him] and in the power of His [boundless] might.” (AMP).
Here in the USA in particular, where so much emphasis is put on freedom, I often think the passage preceding this is often overlooked since slavery is so abhorred (and rightly so). But in New Testament times slavery was well-understood by all and yet Paul did not write to challenge slavery or even pity those suffering from it! Instead he chose to challenge even slaves to “go the extra mile” as a way for them to show their love for Christ.
Ephesians 6: 5-7 say “ Slaves, obey your masters here on earth with fear and respect. And do this with a heart that is true, just as you obey Christ. You must do this not just to please your masters while they are watching, but all the time. Since you are really slaves of Christ, you must do with all your heart what God wants. Do your work, and be happy to do it. Work as though it is the Lord you are serving, not just an earthly master.” (ERV) I hope we can all choose to focus on serving and treating others as we would the Lord, rather than getting caught up by our human emotions and political arguments. May all we say and do show our love for Christ and lead others to Him also. Blessings, Shirley
Pastor Sika in Togo recently sent out another detailed newsletter with lots of great photos. With cases of Covid-19 still increasing there, they are still under lockdown and unable to travel far, and churches are closed. Thankfully, with the help of Pastor Sika’s 3 sons who are all attending university, he has been able to post online preaching and encouragement through social media (Whatsapp) for his congregation and has also reached new people.
After waiting for 2 weeks he was finally granted a special permit to travel across country to visit the Joseph Project Orphanage, and was able to take his whole family, which made it a really memorable occasion for everyone involved! Thankfully he found everyone at the orphanage doing well, with the exception of Afi, who continues her battle with HIV complications. However she is determined not to give up hope for her future and has decided she would like to start an apprenticeship program, along with another young girl there, Chantal. (Both pictured below). We pray God will soon open the way for them to connect with the right people and also that He will provide the funding needed to start this next exciting phase of their lives.
Pastor Sika also shared another very special prayer request for a young girl called Dede, seen here in Pastor Sika’s home. She is 21 and in her second year of law school. She is a faithful servant of the Lord in the “Bethania Baptist Church” in Lomé, and had to run away from home because her father has been planning to sell her into sex trafficking. He changed her identity with forged documents in preparation to send her to the USA, which now puts her in a very dangerous and complicated situation. After helping her for several months, it was discovered that she has cancer in both breasts, so Pastor Sika and Lucie decided it would be safest for her to come live in their home, while also trying to seek treatment. Sadly her father has become both spiritually and physically menacing and rejects any negotiation. They ask for prayers for the spiritual and physical protection of the girl as well as for the treatment of her cancer of both breasts, growing fast. They also pray for protection of their own family because of threats of kidnappings and spiritual attacks aimed to sully the reputation of the church by false accusation.
With increasing fears of Covid-19, more and more people are tempted to turn to fetish priests and idolatry. Pastor Sika continues to reach out and confront these spiritual leaders as he believes Jesus loves them and wants to deliver both them and those they are leading astray. Many are very proud of their satanic practices and do not want to give up the money they are making. These photos show a female fetish priest with her idols, and a house built specially for idols at her home.
Pastor Honoré in C.A.R. wrote a few days ago saying that they have been undergoing TERRIBLE spiritual warfare there the past few weeks, and both he and Clarisse have had really bad fevers and are in bed. As the Covid-19 virus is spreading more there still, we pray for their swift and complete healing. Thankfully the CEERCA ministry center team is faithful to carry on the work as best they can under these difficult circumstances.
Michael in Kenya continues his “new” ministry of children’s services each Sunday, broadcast via Facebook. In addition he has been able to spend much more time with his family, including going out hiking and visiting beautiful places nearby in the hills. He recently took a small group of youth (all with masks) for a fun day playing in waterfalls. Along the way he took the opportunity to visit a very special child (below right) who was the recipient of a wheelchair in one of the recent visits from the UK team that Mike helps periodically.
He has just sent us photos showing the result of heavy rains in the area, including the one below of a neighbor’s outhouse badly damaged by the rains. The typical mud houses (as was Mike’s before the recent rebuilding) often collapse under such rains. The severe flooding also means no clean water, and many more mosquitoes bringing malaria and other serious diseases. As we remember them in our prayers, it is another reminder for us all to count our blessings despite present troubles! Both Mike and the twins (now 12!!) celebrated birthdays in the last couple of weeks, and shared some zany pictures on Facebook. We send them belated birthday greetings and pray for many more years of health and blessings as they continue to serve the Lord.