FINISH CHALLENGE: ISRAEL UPDATE

FINISH CHALLENGE: ISRAEL, formerly known as Israel Initiative, is in full swing and ministry in the Homeland is producing much fruit! The needs in Israel are still great; however, our Church of God team is making significant strides. Holly and I are honored to serve alongside such dedicated and talented souls who are giving everything to serve all the people in the land of Israel.

Shawn & Holly Baker

Israel’s first Christian Arabic-speaking station

Our current Missions overseer for the state of Israel, Gary Hull, is now operating as station manager of Israel’s first Christian Arabic-speaking station on AM1287 called: “Voice of Hope for the Middle East.” We praise God for this amazing endeavor already impacting Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus, and Jordan. In addition, the station is reaching into Turkey and Egypt during the night hours.

Congregation in Lod

Our Arab congregation in Lod, Israel, is expanding and needing financial support to accommodate this growing faith community. Pastor Abdallah Khuri stepped out on faith to support the growing spiritual needs for the body of Christ in Lod, and is currently dedicated to full-time ministry. You can support his efforts by your donation to COGWM, referencing project #499-9034-005.

Journey Home Tour

June 14-24, the Israel Initiative is leading a Journey Home Tour, where we will be visiting a plethora of biblical sites and several of our projects on the ground. Travelers making the pilgrimage are coming from as far away as Hawaii, Ohio, Kentucky, and Illinois.

Mount of Olives Ministry Center

In addition, our Church of God Ministry Center is now ready to host missions teams who may be seeking to impact the people of Israel with the love of Yeshua. If you have a team of 8-12 individuals and would like to serve in the land of Israel, consider utilizing our beautiful Mount of Olives complex for your housing needs. The center is equipped with a beautiful chapel, kitchen, and wonderful living spaces for your team … not to mention, it overlooks the Temple Mount!

Aboud Christian Academy

Lastly, we would like to invite you to support a life-giving miracle birthed by Missionary Margaret Gaines and is currently being led by Head of School, Suhaila El Khoury. The Aboud Christian Academy is a vehicle of hope for the Middle East. Christ-centered education is the only way to ensure long-term and lasting peace. Through the Christ-centered education offered at Aboud Christian Academy, hearts and minds are being captured by the love of Christ. Please consider becoming a partner, and may you be blessed by this quick two-minute video on the COG Aboud Christian Academy.

(Click here to view a short Video)

Bishop Shawn Baker

Senior Representative

Church of God’s Israel Initiative

A NEW REALITY

Long-time Career Missionary Sam Stallings (ELIC since 1996) had a mild heart attack. Flown to Rapid City, and returned to Bowman, South Dakota, he is recovering and processing his new normal with coronary artery disease.

At the time of his attack, Sam was mowing the yard and felt tight pain in the middle of his chest, along with difficulty breathing. He went inside the house, and Patty suggested going to the emergency room. Since he felt somewhat better, he returned outside to finish the yard mowing.

Before long, Sam was back inside with the pain more intense. He and Patty proceeded to the ER. Sam was cheerful with the ER staff, and wasn’t too alarmed, because he didn’t fit the standard heart attack risk factors. But, his blood work changed all that … the doctor wanted him to remain in the hospital while they monitored the levels.

From “let’s keep a close watch” to “you are being airlifted to Rapid City” with nitroglycerin under his tongue, heparin, morphine in his veins, and oxygen in his nose, it all happened in one swift movement. After a barrage of tests, the angiogram showed small narrowed arteries, but too small in diameter to stent. The medical profession had found the problem, but they could not fix it.

With mountains of information, instructions, and five prescriptions, Sam was sent back to Bowman. He will continually carry a vial of nitroglycerin in his pocket. Reality has set in, and Sam affirms: “Although I have some unknowns to wade through, this is what I do know … no matter what, God is good and His love endures forever.”

To give online, please click here: 065-0041

MOVE TO ZAMBIA CLOSER

Rodney and Carol Friend, veteran career missionaries recently appointed to Zambia, are continuing to raise funds, working on obtaining Zambian work visas, getting vaccinations, arranging a shipment to Zambia, considering the purchase of a vehicle there, and waiting on housing availability to finalize in Zambia. Many things need to come together yet, but it is happening by God’s help as they move forward. As any missionary will relate … flexibility and patience are needed in missions work!

In the meantime, itineration is at the forefront, as they travel to various churches to hold missions services and raise funds. The Friends recently met with Africa Field Director Peter Thomas who gave them good news regarding three building projects currently underway at Bethel. The library floor is tiled, and the new dormitories that will house 28 students are progressing well.

Recent happenings include representing World Missions at the Smoky Mountain Jubilee held in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, where they met many wonderful people who were interested in missions. Rodney also ministered at one of the North Cleveland Church of God’s missions services.

While attending the graduation in Cleveland, Tenn., of the Pentecostal Theological Seminary, the Friends were greatly encouraged to see two of their former students from the European Theological Seminary receive higher degrees; Florentin Ghita from Romania (Doctors) and Emina Stevanovic (Masters) from Serbia.

To support the Friends online, click here: Project #060-0016

CONSIDERATIONS IN PLANTING CHURCHES GLOBALLY

As missionary/church planters on four different continents for more than two decades, we consider certain aspects to be important when establishing a new work in a foreign field. Reflecting on the experience of the early church in Acts 11:19-30, we would like to share the following aspects to be considered when beginning a work in a foreign land.

Transcultural Experience (v20):

Transcultural experience is indispensable for success on a foreign field. We must know that many things will be different upon our arrival to a foreign country. The particular culture has been in place for many years and has its own way of thinking. For this reason, the first few months must be spent getting to know the new culture. Many times, we make the mistake of trying to understand a new culture by how we operate in ours. Misunderstandings and frictions may surface with respect to the culture when we do not take time to submerge ourselves in it. Seeking to make ourselves part of the culture will help us think as they think and will fine-tune communication. This will improve our understanding so we can better achieve our goals. For example, a greeting in Cambodia is very different from one in Albania. In most of Asia, a greeting will demonstrate respect for age and status while never touching. In contrast, up to four kisses on both cheeks are customary when the parties are well-acquainted and want to demonstrate endearment in Albania. This will include men greeting men and women greeting other women. We must also keep in mind that when we reach our missionary destination, we have been accepted by its authorities to live in that country and in turn, must work to be accepted by its citizens. Therefore, we owe respect to culture and value the roots that form it. In this way, we will come to appreciate the people to whom we have been sent. The fact that there is a specific strategy for evangelism and church planting dependent on culture should be our prime motivation for immersing ourselves in the culture.

Good Testimony (v24):

When we go to live in another culture we must also understand that we will be under constant observation. This is typical, because as foreigners, we will probably be different. Our conduct and outward appearance will likely produce curiosity. The way we act and dress will probably attract attention. We will be under scrutiny from the moment we leave our rooms (in cases where we have help from locals in our home) until the time we return to our private dwelling. The first message we send is taken by the way we behave with our own family. We may not know the language of the new culture, but our actions will speak louder than any word we can utter. We saw this in Albania when a large group of neighbors rallied to our defense when the electric company tried to overcharge us for being foreigners. Though we had never spoken to most of them, they insisted that we were good people. Making a good impression on the people around us will afford opportunities for building relationships and consequently facilitate our evangelistic work. In places where Christians have been good examples, the door is open for a more effective work of discipleship.

Discipleship and Preparation of New Leaders (v25-26):

It is common for missionaries to be placed in positions of leadership and charged with the task of Christian formation. This is due to the fact that most of the places where missionaries are needed lack qualified workers for this task. It is imperative we be intentional in our efforts of training local workers to take over the work. If we hold onto these positions for too long, we run the risk of sending the wrong message. The idea that these positions are exclusive to certain individuals may be erroneously adopted, thus impairing our Gospel message. It is important to work intently in the Christian formation of local believers so as to empower them to assume the responsibility of forming others themselves. In this way, we will be more effective in the evangelization of our particular field of service.

Missions Mindset (v27-30):

Another aspect to approach from the beginning, is to create a missions mindset. Works are often established and maintained by external agencies without involving the efforts of the locals in order to achieve certain goals. This runs the risk of creating a dependent mentality and hinders the nationals’ ability to grow and resolve issues when external help is no longer available. That is why it is important to teach the people we are serving, so they too are called to help others. They must set national and international goals for growth while using their own resources. This missions mindset will be transmitted more effectively in the measure that we actively involve locals to participate in the efforts and decision-making at hand.

As we humbly endeavor to serve those to whom we are called, missionaries must consider the example given by the early church. We must be sensitive to culture, of good testimony, and mindful of preparing local leaders to assume the responsibility of reaching others.

 

—Israel and Debbie Minay

Missionaries to Chile

Click here to support the Missionary work of Israel and Debbie Minay: Project 060-0096

 

 

PENTECOST IN A CLOSED AREA

The miracle of Pentecost Sunday was not only felt across the United States, but it was also experienced globally.

The Church of God was established in this area in 1977 and it is known as “Land of the Pure.” Muslims adherents comprise 97 percent of the population, so the growth of Christianity is slow and arduous.

In an unlikely place, a Church of God pastor conducted an outreach that took two and one-half hours to reach. Visiting an unreached people group, the pastor preached to them the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Many gave their hearts to Jesus and accepted Him as a personal Savior. Following their profession of faith, a water baptismal service was held in a canal. Now, their need is for a church building!

At another outreach, the pastor reported many were filled by the power of the Holy Spirit, and others also gave their lives to Jesus Christ. Extending God’s hand of love, the new believers were served food before the baptismal service.

The pastor states: “The Great Commission is our mission!”

Click here to give online support: Project #102-4046-004

 

Identities are obscured for reasons of personal safety.

“God is the Father who is always home”

“God is the Father who is always home.” – Unknown

Fathers worry, protect, promote, and get it done! As men, they hunt for the best job, the best house, and the best activities for the family within the budget they have at their disposal. A fathers’ hunting instinct is to provide, but in “hunting,” they are usually away from their families part of the day or night, driven to do the best job they can.

Perhaps, you have memories of your Father taking you somewhere or giving you a part in the task he was doing (and supervising closely). Maybe, you remember him urging you on a little harder than you wanted. Some may remember waiting in trepidation for Dad to get home and administer correction. Most remember his quiet confidence in us when Mom was too anxious about our growing up.

And even if he did not say “I love you” often, you were aware he loved you deeply.

However, wars, natural disasters, disease, and just plain sin have robbed many children of the presence of a father in the home. The idea of being good because of Dad’s presence, the satisfaction of a full stomach because Dad “brought home the bacon,” or the peaceful sleep that comes from the presence of Dad, was not part of growing up.

But no one, anywhere, has grown up without God, the heavenly Father, watching over them. His presence is there to instruct us of how to please Him, and of ways to avoid danger. God’s Word rings in truth and resonates in hearts and minds even if He feels far away.

Father God invites us to live in peace in the middle of trouble. And, like the prodigal son’s father, He stands waiting when we realize, it is we who wandered away from right living. How much better it is in the Father’s house!

The Father has prepared a place for us to live eternally, He has provided a light for us to walk when the dark of night comes, and He has provided a table of sustenance before us. God’s promises to us have never been broken. His arm of help is extended and His eyes are always watching us.

No matter what your relationship status is with an earthly father, you have a Father whose love allows you to live in His house, wear a righteous garment and speak in the authority of His Name.

You have a Father who defeated death.

You have a Father who is as close as the mention of His Name.

You have a Father who is always home.

Call Him.

THEY HAVE WILLINGLY SHARED

The Bible is filled with stories about wonderful and talented women whom God used to bless and increase His divine ministerial purposes. These women were willing to serve, to bless, and to sacrifice of themselves, their resources, and abilities for Him. Paul highlights three such women in Romans 16.

“I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchreae: that you may receive her in the Lord, in a manner worthy of the saints … ”

Paul compared her work to those of saints. A saint is one who is recognized as being very holy because of the way he or she lives. A person who is very good, kind, or patient is often considered “saintly.”

“… and assist her in whatever business she has need of you: for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also.”

Phoebe must have been an extraordinary helper to have been noted in such a lauded way. A helper, an aide, and a blessing she was personally to the great Apostle Paul, but also to the church in which she served. What a commendation to her!

Missionary ladies, missionary wives, and missions workers, you are not only great blessings to the ministries of the region and countries where you labor, but to the Church of God, as well. You are the “saintly” feet and hands carrying the Great Commission.

“Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus: who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise, greet the church that is in their house.”

Apparently this couple, of whom Paul writes, were in danger and risked their lives for the Gospel. Many of our missionary women also face peril every day in the areas where they minister and live. May they be assured that the World Missions family, and their brothers and sisters in Christ, pray greatly for their daily protection and safety. May God continually build a wall of defense around them and their families.

Priscilla and Aquila also had a church in their home. How many of our missionary women have opened their private homes and places of abode to minister to those in need? Whether feeding the poor, or feeding souls, they have willingly shared their home with others. May God bless their endeavors to reach those nearest to them.

“Greet Mary, who labored much for us.”

Women on the missionary fields of labor: Thank you for “laboring much,” knowing that “your labor is not in vain,” as the Lord says in His Holy Word. You are appreciated and loved. Whether you are planting seeds to be reaped later, or laboring and gathering the present-day harvest, may God bless your labor.

As I have had the opportunity to travel with my husband sometimes, I have personally seen the sacrifice and passion our missionary women have for the ministry. Everywhere I go, I meet “Phoebes,” “Pricillas,” and “Marys.” You inspire and compel me personally to endeavor to do more than ever for the sake of the Kingdom. Thank you for your labor of love. It does not go unnoticed.

My prayer for all our women serving in missions’ ministries is that of Paul’s in Romans 15:13 … “May the God of hope fill you with all JOY and PEACE as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Judy Cochran Griffis is the wife of World Missions Director, Dr. David M. Griffis. She is a published author, has a Masters of Arts in Elementary Education, and has served as a public school teacher.

THE NIGHTMARE CONTINUES

A mere three years ago, world headlines were dominated by the military conflict in Eastern Ukraine—first, the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula by Russia, and the takeover of major areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts in the east (known as the Donbas region). During the first months of the conflict, there was an enormous amount of insecurity, as the borders of the conflict were changing daily.

But, the world’s attention to Ukraine was short-lived as other major world events unfolded throughout the year: the disappearance of a Malaysian Airlines flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, the Ebola epidemic in Africa, the rise of Isis in Syria and Iraq, and domestically the Ferguson, Missouri, riots. To this day, fighting continues in the Donbas region in Eastern Ukraine, claiming almost 10,000 fatalities and trapping over six million people in the contested area.

The war destroys not only thousands of houses, but millions of destinies. Innocent children play in streets and on playgrounds without suspecting the impending danger of a mortar shelling. Even if they survive the explosion, they have been robbed their childhood. The elderly are especially impacted, since they often do not have the financial means to travel or relocate to a safer location.

The Church of God had nine congregations located inside the area controlled by the pro-Russian separatists. (Two of the congregations have since been closed.) However, the nearby churches that are outside the warzone have risen to the occasion to provide for the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of those strongly affected by the military conflict. Also, the Church of God has introduced its own chaplains into the Ukrainian army, giving pastoral care to the soldiers in their units.

Church of God World Missions, along with local ministers and humanitarian aid teams, have been actively evacuating refugees from the war and supplying food, water, blankets, clothing, and medical supplies to those living along the demarcation line. To date, we have 27 feeding stations that also serve as centers for counseling and worship services. Hundreds of people have accepted Christ as a result of the humanitarian aid efforts throughout the region. Some of the feeding stations have even developed into fully-organized congregations.

Unfortunately, there is no end in sight to the fighting in Eastern Ukraine, despite the Minsk Agreement. Daily, there are attacks along the demarcation line between the Ukrainian army and the pro-Russian separatists’ forces. Food and water, clothing, and blankets will continue to be in short supply as long as the war continues.

Continually aware of disasters around the world, Church of God World Missions is on the scene immediately, offering funds, support, and prayer. To meet the needs of disasters when they happen, World Missions is emphasizing Disaster Relief during the month of June. Your participation is not only essential, but deeply appreciated.

Project #765-0036

CHOOSE TO BE A PART OF PREPARING FOR THE INEVITABLE

April 16, 2016, Ecuador suffered a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake that claimed 672 lives, caused 6,300 injuries, and displaced over 30,000 people. In just a few seconds, buildings were leveled and roads completely destroyed in the widespread devastation. As one would imagine, a natural disaster like this created immediate chaos and desperation. People were digging through the rubble with their bare hands in an attempt to rescue their loved ones. Communities were completely cut off from any resources or help. A sense of hopelessness and confusion engulfed the region in moments.

Within hours, Church of God World Missions was at ground zero to help those who were suffering. Even though the roads to ground zero were treacherous and the threat of the shipments being hijacked in transit was very high, the World Missions family rallied together to receive, organize, transport, and distribute emergency food, water, and supplies to those in need. Also near the epicenter, water filtration and purification systems were installed in area churches and became sources of hope and life in a time of great despair and darkness, as they provided safe, clean drinking water to their communities.

As the infrastructure improved and government agencies provided the basic needs of the victims, World Missions shifted its focus towards the enormous task of rebuilding what was lost and giving long-term care to the survivors. Dozens of churches and parsonages were either partially or completely destroyed. Equally, if not more, devastating was the psychological and emotional trauma endured by the survivors. While trying to grieve the loss of family members, friends, and neighbors, over 26,000 people were relocated to shelters, and still experiencing hundreds of powerful aftershocks. The mental and emotional well-being of the people was as shaky as the land they tried to stand upon.

God laid a special burden on Missionaries Bobby and Tamitha Lynch to lead a special initiative—Project M:25 GIVE Care (World Missions Project #102-9249-55)—to focus on helping the children who experienced this great trauma. They heard heartbreaking story-after-story of young boys and girls who had their lost homes, parents, and siblings during the earthquake. Many children were unable to sleep due to nightmares and were terrified at the slightest breeze of wind. Tamitha Lynch reached out to Dr. Heather Quagliana, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Lee University, for some advice on how she could help the Ecuadorian children deal with, and heal from, the distress. Immediately, God sparked a passion in Dr. Quagliana to put the entire efforts of her department behind this task. She and her husband, Dr. David Quagliana, who is also a professor of psychology at Lee University, assembled a team to quickly write a manual on how to address this issue. Just four weeks after the earthquake, a team from Lee University arrived in Ecuador to work with the Lynches and their team of seminary students from SEMISUD (the Church of God World Missions seminary located in Ecuador). Within hours, a combined World Missions team of 25 people from seven countries were trained and deployed to ground zero of the earthquake’s devastation.

The team arrived to find an overwhelming scene of devastation. Rubble was piled everywhere and people were living in deplorable conditions. The stench from the bodies buried beneath the debris was an ever-present reminder of the horrific upheaval that had occurred. Immediately, the team went to work and conducted training sessions with hundreds of pastors, teachers, and other community leaders. They were equipped to help the children process their emotions and trauma. The team also worked directly with the children offering a light-hearted Gospel-centered program designed to help the boys and girls process their feelings in a healthy manner. Trauma care packages, specifically designed with psychological and emotional healing in mind, were distributed to thousands of children.

In the midst of this great tragedy and overwhelming despair, God used Church of God World Missions to offer hope and healing. Victims of this devastating earthquake received emergency food, water, and supplies. Churches and parsonages are being rebuilt. Also, the Project M:25 GIVE Care initiative helped calm children’s fears and boys and girls to cope with their losses and shock. Through World Mission’s immediate and long-term responses, the light of God’s love shined brightly and He was glorified.

We hope you would choose to be a part of preparing for inevitable disaster. We can choose now to save some, sustain others, and provide hope and love for all God sends our way.

—Bobby Lynch

WHY CRUSADES ARE EFFECTIVE IN AFRICA

Shamia Maitha* was hearing voices telling her to kill herself. As a single mother without a job, she faced the daunting task of providing for her child in Likoni, a slum area just across the water by ferry from the old town of Mombasa on the Kenyan coast. Shamia could hear music from our Crusade as we celebrated Jesus in an area surrounded by ten mosques. She walked 2 kilometers to the meeting and came forward during the altar call. While I prayed for the crowd of people in the name of Jesus, Shamia hit the ground and started rolling around. As I pressed in to pray for her, the evil spirit inside her was shouting (in English), “I’m not going! I’m not gonna’ go!” This was strange, since most people in Likoni speak Swahili. Shamia was delivered, saved, and is still a church member at the Likoni Church of God today.

This true story illustrates several elements of why bringing the Gospel outside the walls of the church “into the highways and hedges and compel people” to enter the Kingdom of God works so well in Africa (Luke 14:23).

First, Africa is an “indoor/outdoor society,” meaning many people spend much of their day outside fellowshipping with friends and neighbors, moving around town doing their jobs, or if they are jobless, idling in town. People tend to return inside their homes only at night. Therefore, with our powerful sound system people report hearing the Gospel even 20 miles away in many venues where we preach. I call it “4-Wheel Drive Preaching,” because we set up in market places, slums, school grounds, open fields, along the roadway—wherever the people gather. Instead of concerning ourselves with what color the carpet will be in church, we deal with roaming chickens, goats, cows, donkeys, street people, drunkards, school children, idle youth, women selling in the market, dust, mud, and blowing trash!

Second, there is an “entertainment factor” to what we do. Most good preaching is entertaining. In Africa, many people are not over-stimulated like those in the developing world. Our Crusades are very entertaining, because we focus much of the time on powerful, energetic praise and worship. We also strive for a level of excellence many here do not attain; thus, our meetings are unique.

The third element of success is found in one of our ministry theme scriptures—a key principle drawn out of the Parable of the Talents: “Faithful with little, ruler over much” (Matthew 25:23 paraphrased). In Africa, we can do a lot with the few resources we have. Team leadership through Eagles’ Wings Gospel Team is key to our evangelism success. Often when we are doing the seven-hour equipment set up, people milling around ask, “So, when are the musicians and preachers coming?” We answer, “You’re looking at ‘em!”

When we arrived in Kenya in 1993, I never imagined we would do evangelism. God often expands our potential. Now, after completing 180 Gospel meetings since 1996, we have seen thousands enter into the Kingdom of God.

Neil and Jennifer Lawrence

Missionary Educators and Evangelists in Kenya

Connect with Neil & Jennifer on: www.YouTube/TVeagleswings   and www.facebook.com/neilstevenlawrence}

*Not her real name.