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In recent times we have provided Marriage Seminars for churches. One was there (Huntingdon, England) and one here (Jacksonville, Florida).
Strengthening The Church: Marriage Seminar – We recently had the privilege of providing a Marriage Seminar for Christ Church Huntingdon in England. This church is an Anglican Church-plant originating from Cambridge. It is less than a year old and growing! Pastor Charlie Newcombe along with his wife Emma, recognize that the spiritual health of a church is directly related to the spiritual health of the family. We were excited to provide a seminar with a focus of keeping marriages not only healthy but vibrant, exciting and growing! We addressed topics including; the transformation of the heart, expectations, “hearing” the real message!, going deeper and much more! We were more than pleased with the response and the feedback. In fact Pastor Charlie made incredibly detailed notes during the seminar and sent them to every member of the church! We feel a heart connection with Charlie, Emma and the church and look forward to future times together
RiverTown Church – Beginning in mid-January and finishing early February we had the privilege of providing a 4 part seminar on strengthening marriages. It was great to get to know Pastor Dan Adams, his lovely wife Amber and the fine people that attended the seminar. Rivertown is a church on the move! It was great to spend time with a group of people who are strengthening their community as well as reaching out to the world around them!
While I was in the Republic of Georgia (See below) I was invited to teach a group of missionary interns from Bethany University. These young and amazing students were spending 16 months in the Field in preparation for completing their college degrees. After graduation many will launch into careers in ministry and a number will become full time missionaries. My topic was “Longevity in the Mission Field”. My true focus of the teaching was “maintaining passion in the midst of ministry”. It was a joy for me to engage with these students who carried zealous hearts and bright eyes! My goal was to plant seeds that the Holy Spirit will water and nurture until one day, many years from now, they will be able to say with Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course and I have kept the faith”. (2 Timothy 4:7)
A Grief Observed – After we had our community gathering where I spoke on grief and opened up space for grieving one of the young interns penned these words:
I am in mourning and I am in grieving. It’s not a place that I necessarily want to be in but this is where I am. This world is not easy but I have HOPE. Jesus died on Friday. There was despair. On Sunday He rose! But no one talks about Saturday. Why?
Does this day have any significance?
We talk about the hard days.
We talk about the joys of life.
But rarely do we talk about the struggle.
As a follower of Christ I know that hard times will come but rest assured I also know that hope will come.
But what must I do in the waiting? I’ve got to tell you that I wrestle with God. I pray and am real with him. I tell him how hurt, angry and confused I am. And I wait. And I cry. And somewhere along the way He answers me.
And the hope that I was waiting for and longing for and searching for meets me in my distress.
He will never leave me abandoned. He will never leave me fending for myself. He will never leave me lacking because he will provide my every need because…He is God. There is no one like him.
He’s my father and my friend. He’s all I need…but for some reason he provides so much more than all I could ever ask.
If you are reading this I want to encourage you to seek him. He welcomes you, me and all of his children with open arms. He wants to be with you in the struggle just as much as he wants to be near you in times of victory. He wants to help you. Don’t push him away when he just wants to be with you.
This is my life right now. It’s a struggle but it’s so worth living when my God answers. It’s so worth it when I hear from Him and he speaks to me! I have a purpose and a reason to wake up every day. I have assured hope and not only do I have the rest of my life with God to look forward to but the rest of eternity.
I flew to the Republic of Georgia on September 29th. I was there to provide grief counseling in the wake of the tragic and violent deaths of the Smith family, Americans serving there as missionaries. My time was spent between gathering together in groups as well as meeting with individuals. I spent time with missionaries and with immigrants of Azerbaijan (a Muslim nation) known as the Azeris people. We prayed, we wept, we looked at the reality of grief expressed in the Psalms, we talked about personal loss – and we prayed again. The missionaries were happily amazed at how many Azeris people attended our gathering. They were also amazed at how many Azeris people met with me one-on-one and one family even inviting me into their home. It was a difficult time for those who knew and loved the Smith family but I believe the Lord met each one in a special and unique way and brought a measure of much needed heart-comfort.
The Gathering! – We have freshly returned from our time in Italy working with the mission organization Adventive Cross Cultural Initiatives (ACCI). I love this organization! Their staff and administration carry an amazing heart in caring for their missionaries. We found ACCI and S2S Ministries share a very similar philosophy of ministry. I taught in the morning and evening sessions and Patty and I, as well as a few others led small groups. In the afternoon Patty and I met privately with individuals and couples for debriefing and counseling. We felt honored to be trusted to bring a voice to missionaries and ministry leaders living and working on the front-lines.
We met many amazing people. One person we met was a remarkable African man from the Republic of Burundi, eastern Africa. Burundi is home to the infamous Hutu and Tutsi tribes. He had actually made his way out of Burundi to live in South Africa but eventually the Lord called him back to his home to serve Him. One of the sessions I taught was on forgiveness. He later shared a testimony with the entire group of how the Lord used that teaching to help him forgive some people who had done him much harm. The Lord goes to amazing lengths to encourage, bless, heal and free His children. We look forward to future connections with ACCI and their missionaries!
We had the privilege of working with Saint Stephen’s Society, the 50 year ministry of founder and director Jackie Pullinger. Jackie is the author of the heart-impacting book, Chasing The Dragon. This humble and successful ministry is primarily focused on those ensnared in addictions, but also extends to others trapped in various forms of poverty, pain and hopelessness. We worked alongside “the brothers” (those living in the facility) sharing meals and hearing their stories of redemption and hope. It was also wonderful to work with “the helpers” (the staff) and hear their amazing stories of how the Lord called and led them to such a joyful-yet-costly work.
Many stories were shared as we worked alongside “the brothers”. Over lunch, one man I will call Bai, who happened to be my age, shared with me his story. As a young man he worked on cargo ships that traveled the world. Because of his entry into international ports he developed a fairly prosperous drug trade. But, as his drug habit grew, his health began to fail and he ended up back in Hong Kong, sick, severely addicted, jobless and broke. His young wife let him know he was not welcomed home. Bai came across a friend who he had formally shared needles with. Bai told me his friend’s face was bright and full of life! He asked him “what happened”? Bai’s friend had given his life to the Lord and with the help of Saint Stephen’s Society was clean of his drug habit. That very day Bai’s friend took him to meet Jackie Pullinger who welcomed him into the Home. Bai gave his life to the Lord and a new addiction-less, hope-filled life began! He was later reunited with his family. Bai, with his amazing Chinese smile, took my hand, looked me in the eye and said all of his children were Christians and also college graduates! His joy and gratitude were uncontainable! Bai now has a job “on the outside” but returns often to “give back” to those who are seeking the freedom that he knows only the Lord can provide!
The 7 times 70 Approach – The primary focus of Saint Stephen’s is to bring the addicted first into a relationship with Jesus and then, through the power of the Holy Spirit walk them through breaking addictions. But this is not a straight path! It is not unusual for a brother to run away, sometimes several times. Their heart approach is ALWAYS to welcome the brother back, celebrate his return and to once again start with him the journey to freedom. The parable of the Prodigal Son is enfleshed on their bones!
This was my sixth trip to Italy. It was a great combination of working with old friends and making new. It was wonderful to reconnect with Luke and Dawn Mann of Adventive Cross Cultural Initiatives. Working with the Mann’s and their organization
was my primary focus for this trip. It was also wonderful to reconnect with Elim’s Smile. You may remember from last year this fledgling organization was birthed in the hearts of an amazing group of Italians, both young and old, to reach the poor and needy. They present the Gospel in and word and deed
and they are making an impact. The Lord is blessing their work and it continues to grow.