September encouragement and news
With school restarting in most places in one form or another, and some lovely Fall weather here locally, one can’t help but realize this year is quickly passing – and what a year 2020 will be for the history books! Although the pandemic continues to affect almost everyone around the world, it seems we are settling into a “new norm” of life and most people are moving on – albeit with masks and social distancing! The weather has brought additional problems in many areas – causing floods, hurricane damage, and the unprecedented wildfires in the western USA where literally millions of acres have already burned and many tens of thousands of people are fleeing for their lives. Our prayers go out to those who are forced to deal with these terrifying situations.
Our news continues to be dominated by the upcoming presidential election here in the USA and it seems that the country is more divided than ever before – the future seems incredibly uncertain! But we, as followers and believers in Jesus Christ, can and MUST rise above the human tendency to enter into depressing discussions focusing on gloom and doom, and instead speak forth hope and encouragement to all around us. I pray that we can each consciously be ready every day to boldly share God’s promises, both with our families and others that we meet up with. Our Heavenly Father knows what lies ahead and promises to guide us through it all. Remember such encouraging verses as:
“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 (NLT)
“ I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]” John 16:33 (AMPC)
Be blessed, Shirley.
Pastor Sika in Togo sent out a wonderful report on the celebration of life and ministry that he held about a month ago (see photo). Some of you may have already seen the report, but I want to share just a few of the photos and brief testimonies, particularly concerning those whom I met on my visit there in 2008. In the years since then we have shared SO many difficult (even desperate!) situations experienced by Pastor Sika and those involved with the Joseph Project Orphanage. Pastor Sika still battles constant pain in his body from accidents and hard travel on the very poor roads there, and continues to challenge witchdoctors and pagan threats as he boldly shares the Gospel both in the city and remote areas. But these testimonies that were shared prove none of it is in vain!
This photo shows Pastor Sika’s mother, Josephine. Just a few weeks earlier she had been in hospital in a coma, yet God had raised her up so that she could share a very unexpected testimony. I remember her as a wonderful, kind woman who was always willing to help children in the village. Like Pastor Sika, I had thought she was a Christian. However, at the celebration she shared that although outwardly she had appeared to accept Christ, she had still held on to belief in the devil in her heart. Despite years of hearing the Gospel, she had not given her life to Jesus, but had joyfully done so during the celebration! Pastor Sika’s mother-in-law, Regine, also shared that although she was saved and a believer in Christ for years, she had always been afraid to go and evangelize the many people enslaved to witchcraft and idol worship. After hearing the many testimonies of how God has protected, saved and helped Pastor Sika despite sufferings and spiritual/physical attacks, her faith was greatly strengthened and she became determined to start sharing the Gospel with the lost pagan people around her. She also wants to start helping provide food when she can for the orphans.
In this photo, Donald is sharing. He was the young man who was my interpreter during my visit both in Lomé and in the villages. We became good friends and we have kept in touch periodically since. He saw Pastor Sika as his mentor and has become especially involved in developing children’s ministries, in addition to becoming a teacher. It was a great blessing to me to learn that through our time together as we ministered in Togo and Benin, he understood the importance of reaching out to children with the Gospel also as a way to draw in their parents and families to Jesus. He has since gone on to put that into practice including with his wife, as they minister to children in different areas.
Pastor Honoré in Central African Republic shares that he spent two weeks recovering from his motor cycle accident last month, but praises God that he was not killed. They have had a lot of flooding, bringing disease and sickness to one after another in the family. His rented house was very flooded and he hopes to soon be able to build a small house at the CEERCA site for his family (something he has wanted to do for years). During this difficult time of being at home, he has remained busy doing translation work which is very time-consuming. Despite the pandemic, the church continues to grow and the ministries include a feeding program for the children whenever possible (see photo), and recently a 2nd seminar on Biblical healing where many were blessed and gave testimony.
The school is also going very well and this photo shows him with the school staff. The students have been in competition with other schools this week and the other pictures show the students who represented the CEERCA school. We just learned that they won first place in the school competition!
Mike in Kenya recently recovered from a bad bout of malaria and also typhoid! Seeing his ever-smiling face on Facebook, it’s hard to imagine he’s ever sick, but thankfully God has blessed him with a strong body and quick recovery. He’s posted many lovely photos of his local hikes with groups of teens, and although children have finally been allowed to return to church services in Kenya, he still continues his weekly kids service online from home via Facebook and also now YouTube. This first photo shows a kids bible study in his home, and the final photo shows his family helping assemble a new puppet stage in the backyard.