Special Christmas encouragement and news
This past year has been difficult and challenging for everyone all around the world. I still keep in touch with friends in various parts of Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas, and I try to read news of what is happening around the world. The Covid-19 pandemic is still affecting everyone – we have all lost friends or loved ones to this new virus, and are affected by government restrictions and shortages. Life here on earth is changing whether we like it or not. There are terrible national disasters like fires, hurricanes and earthquakes, and there is corruption and violence everywhere that is trying to tear apart the very fabric of society.
We could all be dragged down by worry, disappointment and hopelessness….. But in spite of all this darkness, let’s remember that over 2,000 years ago, in the middle of one dark, cold, lonely night, the heavens suddenly split open!! Brilliantly shining angels sang glory to God and announced that God had reached down from Heaven to give us hope through his own son, Jesus Christ!
Then, those amazed shepherds who witnessed that awesome, unforgettable sight, were suddenly plunged back into the cold darkness as the angels disappeared. Everything was once again “back to normal” – the bitter wind, the lonely silence…. But NOW it was different!! God had given every one of them an opportunity: to hope for a better future; to believe God cares and has a plan! The shepherds must have discussed the amazing event, wondering, questioning, even doubting. Yet as they CHOSE to accept the opportunity, they followed the angels’ directions and discovered that the Savior had indeed been born!
Since in fact another 30 years would pass before Jesus visited that area again in his ministry, it is likely that some of those shepherds never did see Jesus again! Probably life around them didn’t change at all, yet I believe every one of their lives had been changed because that hope and that faith had also given them a peace, love and joy they had never had before. Just ONE encounter with God changes us forever!
We may not be able to see much positive change going on around us at times as the struggles continue day after day, but because God sent Jesus, we now have an opportunity EVERY DAY to hope for things to get better, and to believe that God loves and cares for us and has a plan for our lives. We can make a difference as we share that opportunity with those we meet every day. May this Christmas bring you peace and joy, and a new hope as we go into the new year of 2022. Merry Christmas, from Gerald and Shirley.
Romans 15:13 – I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. (NLT)
Galatians 6:10 – When we have the opportunity to do good to anyone, we should do it. But we should give special attention to those who are in the family of believers.
Pastor Honore in CAR – We were unable to hear from him for over a month, apparently due to major problems with the cell phone network there. Then we learned that he has been ill again in bed for the past month or so. Thankfully he seems to be improving at last and is able to take short walks between his house and the church in the CEERCA compound. Thankfully the ministry continues, and since he is on site, he can continue to be in touch and give advice. It will be a year ago on December 23rd that he and the family moved into their almost-finished new house there, which is a great blessing after years of uncertainty in rented houses. This photo shows Clarisse with their youngest daughter, Blessing, who just celebrated her 4th birthday. We pray they will all be able to enjoy better health and happiness over the Christmas season and throughout 2021.
Irene in Kenya – She returned home safely from her recent graduation in Mombasa, and then made a trip to Uganda, where she did some children’s ministry and attended the graduation of some church friends from Kenya. With just one year since Mike’s sudden passing, no doubt this Christmas will be difficult for her and the family, so we keep them all in our prayers especially during the holidays.
Pastor Sika in Togo – He will be holding a special Christmas celebration at the Joseph Project orphanage on December 18th for the staff and orphans. It will be the 10th Christmas for the orphanage, and as we look back at all the past years, we remember the struggles and catastrophes – such as when curses were put on Pastor Sika and there was much local resistance to the project; when bad storms destroyed the bathrooms; the time 100 newly planted trees were stolen, and when crops were lost to flooding. Yet we can also remember the wonderful testimonies of how God provided for the building of the church, new bathrooms and better dormitories; inspiring testimonies of local witchdoctors and idol worshippers renouncing all to accept Christ; and the blessing of JP orphans moving into apprenticeship training for future employment. The celebration will also be a special evangelistic outreach as every orphan and church member is encouraged to invite 5 unsaved people. Let’s pray that God continues to provide for the many needs of the Joseph Project and allow it to impact that area and draw many people to Christ. This photo shows the staff, orphans and helpers at the Joseph Project orphanage recently.