Christmas greetings and newsletter
At this time of year, we often look back over the past 12 months to remember the key events, unexpected challenges and special happenings. News programs often focus on the most tragic events (looking around the world there is certainly no lack of those!) and if we are honest, we have all had times of sadness or shock this year. But in fact the Christmas story also contains a number of such sad or shocking events – poor Mary, heavily pregnant and riding for days on a donkey, having to deliver her precious baby in a stinky stable because no-one was willing to help and provide a better place (it’s enough to make any mother cry!); King Herod sending out soldiers to kill all the male babies under the age of two! Horrific examples of a basic lack of caring, and unbelievable cruelty born of jealous power!! Yet we CHOOSE not to focus on these, but instead concentrate on the joy and hope that the birth of our Savior brings.
Today sadly there is still all manner of gross darkness in the world – but Jesus still brings the light that makes the darkness flee! In John 8:12 Jesus tells us: “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” (NLT) He goes on to say in Matthew 5:16: “In the same way, you should be a light for other people. Live so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven. (ERV)
This past weekend I organized a special program in the children’s department at our church. It was called “Christmas Around the World”. It was a fun-packed morning (at both services) with fascinating pictures and info of how Christmas is celebrated in various countries. We interviewed several “guests” in costume who told of Christmas celebrations in their home country, and afterwards there were special Christmas games and some festive snacks! You can see more details of this program through this link
As I was researching for it, I was reminded how so many children around the world do NOT celebrate Christmas – and also how so many may do so, but in actual fact only celebrate with man-made traditions and customs that have nothing to do with the REAL meaning of Christmas! Raising six children many years ago, I also battled with how to handle all the Santas, elves and Grinches. I decided to “leave them all out of the equation” and instead focus all my attention on sharing the REAL Christmas story and keeping all the attention on Jesus! Let’s keep our perspective during this busy season and make sure JESUS shines through all we do! May the joy and brightness of Christmas continue to shine in and through you EVERY day of the year! Love and blessings, Shirley
Pastor Sika in Togo – The Zoom conference training for pastors organized in November by Pastor Sika and taught by a French-speaking missionary in the USA was a huge success! 100 pastors attended from many different areas (see first photo) and since another 60 applied but could not attend for lack of room, an extra Zoom conference was held on December 14-16. In February 2023, a further conference is planned with the speakers coming in person from the US. We praise God for these wonderful opportunities, especially as the US ministry is also providing funding to rent the facility and equipment needed!
Pastor Sika reports that his oldest son, Gilles, recently received a Masters degree in agronomy with honors. Gilles also helps with children’s ministry and the ag project at the Joseph Project orphanage. Plans are underway for the Christmas celebrations at the orphanage (see picture of the orphans with their school supplies this year) and at the Lome church. We pray God will continue to bless everyone involved with health, happiness and every need met!
Pastor Honore in C.A.R – He reports that his country is still in a critical situation socially and politically. The cost of items has increased three, four or five times and they are just surviving. Yet amidst all of this they are preaching the Good News of God’s love through Jesus Christ. God is faithful and the church is growing each month. PTL! The school is also a great blessing to so many orphans and vulnerable kids in the area, as they offer free education to 200 children and orphans in need. The Lord has helped them finish the school building and the church is now free for prayers, bible teaching, seminar and Sunday services, although the church building still lacks doors and final details. They are now getting ready for Christmas and are praying for donations to bless the orphans during the coming Christmas celebration. This photo shows Honore and Clarisse with the church leaders and teachers.
We continue to stay in touch with several other native ministry contacts around the world, including Mike’s widow, Irene, in Kenya. Since Mike’s sudden passing two years ago, Irene has studied and received her own accreditation as a minister, and continues the ministry with the help of her children. She recently attended a children’s ministry training seminar and frequently ministers to groups of children or youth. We praise God that the family is carrying on Mike’s work and vision, and pray that God will meet their every need as they move forward with what God has planned for the family.