February news and encouragement
Thankfully it appears that we are past the worse with the Covid-19 pandemic, although we continue to move through this new year with challenges and sad reports. It is with great sadness that we share the news of the passing of John Merrill – a beloved friend and faithful partner of IMOF for many years. He and his dear wife, Micki, served on our board of directors and played a major part in helping our African partners through the years, in addition to helping other ministries. John’s earthly body was unable to overcome the ravages of the virus, but we have no doubt that he is rejoicing now with Jesus as he meets up with family and friends – including some such as Mike whom he was never able to meet in person here on earth. Our love and prayers go out to Micki as she enters this new season without him.
2 Corinthians 4:8-9 “We are hedged in (pressed) on every side [troubled and oppressed in every way], but not cramped or crushed; we suffer embarrassments and are perplexed and unable to find a way out, but not driven to despair; We are pursued (persecuted and hard driven), but not deserted [to stand alone]; we are struck down to the ground, but never struck out and destroyed;” AMPC
This past year has brought many changes to the lives and ministries of us all. Personally, I have only been able to interact with a very few people directly, but the Lord has opened a new door for me to be part of a team at our local church writing short online devotionals each week. The above bible passage was our theme last week, and I want to share some encouraging thoughts that I hope will bless you as you face the challenges that come each week.
What is it that leads us to admire someone? Perhaps their beauty or talent or accomplishments? Yet I believe there is another quality that can touch us deeply and inspire admiration and respect in us – and it can be found in even the most “insignificant” people. It comes when we learn how someone has overcome huge obstacles, suffering or tragedy and yet never given up. No matter who we are, we all find we must confront such situations from time to time in life when we are pushed to our very limits. The above verses put it so bluntly. We feel totally overwhelmed and helpless in the midst of an impossible situation, and we are desperately trying to hang on to our faith! We are so aware of our weakness and failings and, as Christians, we may be desperately hoping that no-one else knows of how we are barely hanging on! But we can be assured Our Heavenly Father knows EXACTLY how we are feeling and is right there in the middle of it with us! He WILL get us through it and His strength upholding us will also bless and encourage others. Blessings, Shirley.
Pastor Sika in Togo reports that the government there is using the excuse of the pandemic to greatly limit churches. Thankfully the virus has only infected a relatively small number of people, despite very poor medical resources and the need for people to go out to market each day. Yet church services are limited to just one hour, with evangelical gatherings of only 15 people! In addition, churches that do not comply have been closed indefinitely by the government. However the ministry continues. Pastor Sika’s son, Gillis, held a week long children’s outreach recently where around 150 kids enjoyed bible games and teaching (see pictures), resulting in more than 30 accepting Christ! Gillis is hoping to begin classes for his master’s degree in March, and is praying for God to provide the $1100 needed for the two-year class.
The 1st photo below shows the orphans at the Joseph Project Orphanage enjoying a special Christmas meal. Pastor Sika tells of 4 year old twins (2nd photo) who were abandoned by their mother in the village after their father died. He was able to find a family in the village to take in the twins (as they needed too much care for the orphanage to provide at present), however he needs to provide funds for food for them to ensure they will be adequately cared for. We pray God will provide extra for this. He also asks more prayer for Dede, the young law student living with Pastor Sika’s family. She suffers from anxiety and depression because of the complex situation resulting from her father trying to sell her as a sex slave. Please pray for God to resolve all the issues and supply the finances for her to continue with her studies soon.
Pastor Honoré in Central African Republic sent a wonderful praise report stating that the rebels have all left the area without causing damage! Obviously the political situation remains unstable, but Pastor Honoré continues to spend hours each day counseling and ministering to traumatized people of all denominations. The 1st photo shows a visit from his church deacons when they were all able to reassemble and praise God for answering their prayers. He says the church is growing each week and he was planning a week to train and teach the congregation how to share the Gospel with the unreached people or the people in their neighborhood. It is the first seminar planned for the year. The school has also reopened, as seen in the second photo. He thanks us all for our fervent prayers and asks for us to remember his daughter, Divine who has been suffering from stomach pain for over a month. We pray God will heal her soon.
Mike’s wife and family in Kenya continue to post Sunday children’s ministry videos on Youtube and Facebook as they carry on his ministry. You may recall that a large part of Mike’s ministry has always been in schools, and in fact I was able to minister in several different schools there when I visited him. I heartily recommend you to watch the documentary series “The Most Dangerous Ways to School” on Amazon Prime or free on YouTube via this link. The first episode of Season 1 shows some of the dangers that face children walking to school in Kenya. Other episodes show what other children all around the world have to face just to get a very basic, minimal education – and it all brought tears to my eyes! For those of us who have followed and supported Mike’s ministry, this first episode is particularly enlightening.
On my visit with Mike in 2006, I visited a number of schools with him, and can immediately confirm that the schools depicted in the documentary are identical to what I saw. Rural schools in Kenya (as in many parts of the world) can only provide the bare minimum of an education – a blackboard, cramped desks and virtually no textbooks! The children must learn by repetition, with few illustrations and far less fun! The film shows the extremely difficult journey many of the children have just to get to school, and yet all the children are happy and eager for the opportunity to learn! Here’s a picture of when I visited with Mike. We pray for Mike’s team as they continue this important ministry.