February news and comments
Last Sunday I had another mission booth in our church foyer to promote cross-cultural awareness. After all 3 services, we stamped kids’ “passports”; handed out interesting fact sheets; and offered a tasty traditional snack. This month the focus was on Mexico and I was blessed to be helped by a new friend from Brazil, who is spending a year in this area as a nanny in order to learn English. (It’s wonderful what opportunities can arise for cross-cultural ministry even if we cannot travel far from home!).
As I researched life in Mexico today, I realized that it’s almost 20 years since Gerald and I returned from living in Mexico. Wow!! So much has happened in those 20 years! We no longer have to pay expensive dial-up fees to connect with the internet! We don’t have to wait for a store to develop prints from the film in our camera! We can literally talk to and see live video of friends in other countries on slim-line cellphones! We have instant access to news (real or fake!) from around the world!…. and much of this is available to people in towns and cities all over Mexico and other countries.
I also realized that of the 126 million people in Mexico today, over 55 million are still living in poverty (defined as having a monthly income of under $111 in rural areas and $170 in cities), and almost 11 million are living in extreme poverty ($63-88 monthly)! This amazed me because while we were living in Mexico, the pay for a day’s manual labor in our rural area was only $5. So, despite all the changes in modern technology, life really hasn’t changed much for those living in poverty in Mexico!
This photo of a typical rural adobe home that we visited in Veracruz, was taken in 1997: no water or electricity; a few cooking pots and sacks of beans and rice hanging in the outdoor kitchen porch; one bedroom for the family with a hammock for the baby over the bed; and a pig and chickens running freely through the house….. No doubt, we could see very similar homes there still today! Personally I believe in implementing immigration laws and controlling our borders. However my heart still goes out to those people living in such poverty to our South, who cannot help but be lured by the bright sparkling lights on their horizons. Yet I believe that the answer is not a specific location, government or culture.
Blessing, freedom, justice and true prosperity can be experienced in any nation when we put our focus on loving and serving Jesus Christ. Psalm 37:3 says “Trust in the LORD and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.” (NLT) Psalm 37:4-5 says “Enjoy serving the Lord. And he will give you what you want. Depend on the Lord. Trust him, and he will take care of you.” (ICB) And finally, we are promised in Philippians 4:19: “My God will richly fill your every need in a glorious way through Christ Jesus.” (GW) As more people respond to the Gospel and start following Jesus, it can impact not just those around them but even their nation! We pray our neighbors will experience a true Gospel revival that brings about lasting change in their nation. Blessings, Shirley.
Pastor Sika in Togo – Every year at this time, Pastor Sika is usually very busy organizing the distribution of the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes – including training the large team there (as seen in the photo below); arranging to unload and move the boxes in multiple containers at the Port of Lome; and actually dividing them up for distribution across Togo. Unfortunately this year there is a huge problem because the government of Togo has refused to waive the import taxes on the containers (thousands of dollars). As a result, OCC leaders in the USA have no choice but to send the shoeboxes on elsewhere. This just shows the ridiculous lack of logic of greedy government officials who would rather turn down huge blessings for thousands of needy children than waive fees that they will not be able to collect anyway! There will be a final meeting to discuss the issue with the president of Togo’s cabinet on Wednesday, so we pray that God will somehow cause them to have a change of heart. The second photo shows Pastor Sika with the OCC director from the USA who visited recently to give encouragement as the team in Togo has been experiencing persecution of late.
In other areas of the ministry, Pastor Sika recently was given over 1,000 bibles to be used in ministry in different villages where his team is planting churches. The bibles make a huge difference in the evangelization and discipleship of new believers who mainly come from backgrounds of idol worship or Islam. His oldest son, Gilles, (who greatly favors his father, as seen in this photo doing children’s ministry) is a great asset, and also helps with the management of the agricultural project at the Joseph Project orphanage. Once again it is time for plowing and planting there. Thanks to a faithful couple in the US who send funds each year for this, most of the costs are covered, although during later months there is still a need to pay for weeding and fertilizer over the fields. We pray for good harvests again this year (but no flooding!).
Pastor Honore in C.A.R. – He reports a great answer to prayer regarding his daughter, Divine, who has been battling serious throat problems for over a year, and was about to undergo a second surgery. Another doctor attended the church service at the CEERCA church recently and was able to assess her medically. He prescribed new medications which were purchased, and the swelling and pain in her throat are already beginning to disappear! Praise the Lord! Divine is now eating well and is back to school this week. Also, the doctor has decided to attend the church regularly!
Pastor Honore, himself, has been very ill for the past 2-3 weeks and feels it was likely Covid-19 Delta virus, but he is now fully recovered and back to his regular duties. The church is growing each day, and they just had the first meeting to plant a new church in a new area – as seen in these two photos. He asks prayers for this new venture.
They also would like to build independent classrooms this year, to separate the school from the church, but lack the required funds. We pray God will send in the funds necessary for both these projects to move ahead soon. You can see the classroom desks used for the school in the background of this interior picture of the CEERCA church.
Irene in Kenya – She writes that she is planning events for children’s ministry for when the schools are closed for two months in March and April, and is believing God will provide all that is needed. She is still waiting for paperwork on land she bought, which has tied up her assets. We pray God will soon resolve that situation.