A GREAT CLOUD OF WITNESSES

Paul and Rhonda Stockard, Coordinators of Specialized Outreach/Africa, had a great previous year, albeit, a busy one … a year of ups and downs, victories and struggles.

Paul states, “The leaders and pastors on the African continent are some of the most sacrificial ministers I have seen anywhere—men like Charles Karangwa, superintendent for Central Africa (which includes some challenging areas of ministry), who still grieves the loss of his dear wife. I have never felt as privileged as I do to work alongside such strong, dedicated, and faithful men and women of God.

“Others from the African ministry field have also finished their race and are a part of a great cloud of witnesses awaiting us in glory. The best way to honor them is to move ahead, confronting giants that are guarding strongholds yet to be conquered by the church.”

Around 50 percent of the world’s conflicts today occur on the African continent, and it’s an open door for ministry to seriously needy people, ranging from military to refugees, who are now calling for help. Thousands of people have been displaced from their homes by civil war.

Paul has been training workers in areas of specialized outreach and ministry in Nigeria, Chad, Togo, Zambia, and Uganda. In Nigeria, there is an interdenominational group of chaplains who are recognized by the government, yet have no formal training.

The fields are ripe unto harvest, but the laborers are few (Matthew 9:37).

Give online support to Paul and Rhonda Stockard – Project #060-0073

PRAGUE: FILLED WITH INDIFFERENCE AND SKEPTICISM

When I first moved to Prague, Czech Republic, many stateside supporters had heard little about it; however, that did not last long. After hitting multiple top-10 lists for best places to visit in Europe or most beautiful cities in the world, Prague has become a major tourist destination. In less than three decades after the fall of the Iron Curtain, it has developed into an extremely modern, cosmopolitan, and increasingly affluent city.

This could deceptively lead one to assume that there are few challenges to life and ministry here. Even though its skyline is formed by cathedral spires and its streets filled with religious art and sculptures, Prague is regarded as the most atheistic city in Europe and one of the least-believing in the world.[1]

Czechs are among the most educated and well-read in Europe[2]. The average one you meet is likely to have some historical knowledge of Christianity, but unlikely to have had any significant encounter with a believing Christian.

While there is no longer state-sponsored persecution of religion, there persists a large degree of indifference or skepticism towards it.

Unfortunately, in centuries prior to communism, the soil of Prague was bloodied in religious feuds and holy wars. One student worded her view this way, “Organized religion is a man-made invention that has always been used to control others.” This heartbreaking view of the church is one I have heard echoed time and again here.

So, how does one effectively minister in this context? How do we operate as a lighthouse in such a spiritually dark environment? While it is a question we continually ask ourselves, and remain open to learning more, our team has experienced some ways that are more effective in allowing God’s love and light to shine through us here.

One very important way is partnering with the local church. The Church of God has existed in Czech Republic for nearly seven years. Our local congregation is pastored by national bishop, Jerry Lillard, and recently adopted the name “Life Church[3]” due to its mission to bring God’s life into the community. The mission statement is to “Love God, love people, and live a life that truly matters.” It operates a “Life Center,” or community center, directed by Ulli Lillard, which reaches out in culturally relevant ways, including summer English camps and weekly after-school clubs.

Our missions team consists of three full-time missionaries, all of whom have a Master’s degree in counseling, including one Licensed Professional Counselor, Kelly Myers, and one trained Art Therapist, Michelle Saint-Loth. We each counsel individuals weekly, from within and outside the church, but also have partnered with the Life Center to respond to felt needs in the community. These include offering workshops for teachers and children in local schools on topics like bullying, healthy emotions, self-esteem, and suicide prevention. We also hosted art therapy groups for mothers in a local shelter, helped lead “Celebrate Recovery[4]” groups, parenting seminars, and are working towards cancer support groups. These are opportunities to build bridges between the church and community and will, prayerfully, help redefine the church in the eyes of society as a redemptive force for good.

We seek to offer services that are truly life-giving and can only do so through operating in, and bearing witness to, the true Source of Life. The goal is that the light of God’s love for the people here will be evident and proclaimed in both word and deed. Please pray for us and for the city of Prague to be a lighthouse in this region!

Sabrina “Sunny” Evans is a long-time missionary to the city of Prague, one of the Lighthouse Cities. She will play an intregal part in training ministers and helping plant churches there.

[1] The Washington Post. “Map: These Are the World’s Least Religious Countries,” by Rick Noack. April 14, 2015.

[2] “Which Country Reads the Most?” by Jason English. Source: World Culture Score Index @Amazing Maps, 2014

[3] www.lifechurch.cz

[4] Celebrate Recovery is a Christ-Centered 12-Step recovery program, www.celebraterecovery.com

To give online, click here: cogwm.org/prague

 

FIRST COG MISSIONARY TO KENYA, CLAUDE THAYER,  PASSES AWAY

Claude Thayer, first Church of God missionary to Kenya, Africa, passed away on May 10, 2017, in Cass City, Michigan. His wife, Frances, preceded him in death in 2011. Together, they established the Church of God in Oxford, Michigan.

Kenya Overseer David Bwire presents a plaque to the first Missionary Overseer of Kenya, Claude Thayer in July 2016.

As residents of the United States, Claude and Frances sensed a clear and definite calling to Kenya. During the Thayers’ schooling at Vennard College in University Park, Iowa (which has since closed), they became acquainted with a couple from Nairobi, Kenya, Geoffrey and Rachel Chepkwony. The Chepkwonys stayed with the Thayers while Geoffrey completed his education. The Africans were well-acquainted with the vice president of Kenya. When they returned to Kenya, they influenced the vice president to invite the Thayers to Kenya.

The Thayers arrived in 1977. Two days after they were in-country, the first Church of God was organized in Nairobi by Superintendent A.W. Brummett with 11 members. A second church was established in Karatina with 36 charter members. The third church was located in Matharini and started with 12 members.

Claude served as overseer of Kenya from 1977 to 1978.

JUNE IS “SEND LIGHT TO DISASTER” MONTH

Disaster relief has become all too familiar. No matter what direction you may look, tragedy and natural disasters are occurring every day. People’s lives have been turned upside down, with little assurance from the distress. Disaster will happen.

During the month of June, you can help Church of God World Missions be ready to help comfort those whose hope has been taken away by disaster.

Ken Anderson, long-time missionary, knows all too well how devastating a natural disaster affects untold numbers of individuals caught in the crossfire. A life lesson Ken learned from a former mentor is: “Never say ‘God bless you’ unless you are willing to be an instrument of that blessing.”

Church of God World Missions has provided humanitarian aid since the early days of her history. The denomination is known for going above and beyond to help the unfortunate, no matter where they exist. Disaster relief has positively affected our global Great Commission mandate … not just talking, but also acting.

Disaster relief covers an extensive arena—poverty, natural disasters, and civil wars. The most common disasters, earthquakes and hurricanes, take untold lives, and have lengthy recoveries. Often, before hurricane winds had ceased, or earthquakes had completely come to an end, the family of the Church of God through World Missions and its partnerships began sending assistance to the constituency and churches devastated by flooding and mudslides.

The ultimate result of our humanitarian efforts is that closed governments and those resistant to the Gospel become open to the message of salvation and Christ’s love. Compassion goes a long way to convince people someone genuinely cares.

No one individual, organization, or country can totally carry the load when it comes to humanitarian aid. Everyone is needed to do his/her part. World Missions has never hesitated its duty to help nor failed to show mercy. During the month of June, we can focus our efforts to be prepared to minister to those whose hearts were formerly closed.

Your participation with the entire family of faith brings about relief and adds new souls to the Kingdom of God.

Relief Fund Project Number 765-0036

To give online go to: cogwm.org/disaster

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FORMER OVERSEER OF SCOTLAND GOES TO HIS REWARD

Paul Melvyn Berry McLaughlan passed away on May 18, 2017, in Inverness, Scotland, following a massive stroke.

Paul and his wife, Sheila, were a powerful force for God’s Kingdom work in a country that needed a great witness. For many years, they worked with the homeless, addicted, and abandoned (mainly teenagers, many of whom they raised in their home, supporting a total of 19 children—including five of their own). The McLaughlans began a work among the bereaved, the prisoners, and eventually became active with Victim Support Scotland. They served the Church of God in Scotland/Ireland from 1984 until 1993.

Greatly involved in the community, Paul and Sheila worked tirelessly amidst hostility to Pentecost, and especially to a woman preacher. Together, they stood strong.

Paul’s father’s name was Gallagher, and he changed his name to his mother’s maiden name (McLaughlan) to protect him from Jesuit priests and his father after his conversion in 1954. His father did not speak to him for 31 years, but finally in 1986 communication was reestablished.

In his earlier years, Paul was a youth pastor for a small church in England, and in 1960 worked with the Assemblies of God as Sunday school teacher, music minister, and also conducted street and bar ministries. In 1974, he founded Spring Bank Youth Outreach, and had over 200 conversions in four years from schools and colleges. The McLaughlans came into the Church of God in 1980, because they were so impressed with the heart for missions of the denomination.

The life of this great warrior for Christ would fill volumes; in addition, he was full of life and full of the Holy Ghost. A delight to be around, he loved a good prank, and his laughter was contagious.

In a letter written by Paul in 1990, he states: “We appreciate our donors greatly and are conscious of their prayers. We need prayer support more than anything else. Even with all the money in the world, one cannot defeat the enemy … but with prayer and supplication our requests are met!”

Funeral arrangements are:

11 AM, Tuesday, May 30, 2017

William T. Fraser and Son Funeral Home

Culduthel Road, Inverness, Scotland IV2 6AB

For those desiring to honor Paul McLaughlan, a memorial church planting fund (Paul McLaughlan, Sr. Church Planting Memorial Fund, Project Number 132-9213) has been established.

Click here to give online to this fund: Project 132-9213.

 

 

CRUCIAL ASPECT OF MISSIONARY WORK

At a time in the Church of God when great emphasis is being placed on education and training disciples, Missionary Vance Massengill is stepping up his activities.

The Massengills have been in missions for 22 years. Although often unrealized, one of the most crucial aspects of missionary work is the training of national pastors, leaders, and missionaries. Recently, Vance spent time teaching some great men and women whom God is calling for His purposes. While they come from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, speak many different languages, and have diverse religious histories, they all have one thing in common … they know Jesus Christ and desire to make Him known.

Vance states: “The ministry God has given us in the Middle East involves many tasks. From sharing our ‘life’ with those in the region, to mobilizing the many immigrant churches in the area for the work of the Great Commission, to working with the local churches. Of the many things God has blessed us to do in this region, one of my favorite is the training and development of young ministers. In a region where born-again Christians in most countries make up less than 1 percent of the population and only 2 percent of where the global mission force works, future laborers for the harvest are essential!”

A couple of months ago, Vance had the joy of credentialing and commissioning three young men that he has been working with on a weekly basis. He has peace that the future work in the fields of the Middle East will continue long after they are gone because of these dedicated workers for the Kingdom.

To give online, click here.

“WORLD MISSIONS HAS BEEN A PART OF OUR LIVES FOR MANY YEARS”

Director Dr. David Griffis and Assistant Director Dr. M. Thomas Propes received correspondence from donors in Alabama, Tom and Betty Neely, who related how important missions is, and how they have been involved for many years.

The Neelys enjoy reading globalCONNECT, a monthly insert in the Church of God EVANGEL that gives valuable information and updates on World Missions activities.

Over 50 years ago, Betty taught a group of Junior girls in Sunday School at their church in Cincinnati, Ohio. A missionary spoke at their church, and the girls wanted to do something for missions. The class contacted someone who sent the missionary’s name to the class from Mexico—Thomas Chevez. Over time, the SS class members brought extra nickels, dimes, or quarters until they finally had enough money to send to the missionary. Thomas purchased a horse to get around in the mountains to minister, and Sister Chevez sent the class a photo of her on the horse.

The impact of that missions giving produced a missionary from the Neely family … a great niece, Lily, who feels the call to missions with a Spanish emphasis. The Neelys sent her the letters and pictures kept all these years of Thomas Chevez. One of the girls in the SS class married a cousin of the Neelys and she still remembers the “Missions Horse Project.”

Since the Neelys’ initial donation in 1985, they have given over tens of thousands to the cause of world evangelization. Truly, they have lived missions giving a large part of their lives.

GLOBAL FIRE ADVANCE: REPORT

A small team recently traveled to Bangladesh, India, kicking off what would be a whirlwind week in Asia.

In Kolkutta, India

47 New Believers in Only an Hour

The first training location was Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh. This was the first Global Fire Advance training to be launched in this country, which has a population of approximately 170 million. The 50 men and women who attended were clearly passionate to see a change in their neighborhoods, their city, and their nation—which is one of the most densely populated in the world. Over the two days of training, participants learned about and practiced with the Heart of Man chart, as well as the hub church-planting model. Although the country is 99 percent Muslim or Hindu, these church planters shared the Gospel with 100 people in only an hour and welcomed 47 new believers into the family of God!

Next Stop Kolkata

After a swift and exciting two days in Dhaka, the team flew to Kolkata, the fifth largest city in India. An astounding 250 men and women were in attendance to launch the fifth Global Fire Advance training site in the country. Although India is 94 percent Hindu and Muslim, and many states have “anti-conversion laws,” the energy and passion were intense through the two-day training. Many of those in training have existing ministries; some work in the slums. Stories were shared of experiences with the anti-conversion laws in their states and how the church is growing even more in the midst of this incredibly tumultuous time for Indian Christians.

No doubt! God is on the move in India. Those in training are excited to be part of His plan for their country.

**Global Fire Advance is an extension of the Firewall Project AFRICA

THE MIRACLE WITHIN THE BOX

Bread of Life Orphanage and Feeding Centers in Romania reports on the outcome of Operation Shoebox. Their team went to the houses of the children who attend the feeding programs to personally hand them boxes and share Jesus with the entire family. Many more children in the poor communities of rural parts of Romania also received the shoeboxes and Bibles. It would be difficult to describe in words the excitement on the children’s faces as they received the gifts. Close to 2,500 shoeboxes were distributed to children throughout Romania. To these children, it is a miracle and clear sign someone loves them.

On the outskirts of Bucharest, at a huge abandoned concrete platform is an old guard booth. A family with seven children finds shelter there. BOL regularly gives them food, clothing, and blankets. Among the children in the family is Gheorge, a four-year-old who was born deaf and dumb. As the team was giving them the shoeboxes, the top of his box fell off, and he immediately began to smile the biggest smile! He was happy! The world stood still for a few moments at Gheorge’s spontaneous reaction.

But Jesus said, Suffer the little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me; for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14).

Click here to give online in partnership with Bread of Life Ministries in Romania: Project #102-4021

 

 

 

 

 

BENSON AND CATHY VAUGHAN UPDATE

Symbolic Soup

Cultural food on the mission field is another experience missionaries must adapt. The Vaughans who are serving as missionary educators at SEMISUD in South America, feasted on a meal called “Fanesca,” which is only served during Holy Week. The rich soup contains 12 special grains with a pumpkin (zapallo) base, and includes chochos (lupines), habas (fava beans), lentils, peas, corn, and others, along with bacalao (salted cod) cooked in milk. The meal is garnished with hardboiled eggs, fried plantains, herbs, parsley, and empanadas. The twelve beans used in the meal represent the 12 apostles of Jesus, and the bacalao is symbolic of Jesus.

Called Into Ministry

In Benson’s final Pentecostalism class, five women and men responded to a first-time “call into ministry,” and the five women and men were baptized in the Holy Spirit! PTL! When the class started at the beginning of the semester, the Vaughans felt compelled to begin praying for a special visitation of the Holy Spirit, and were elated when His presence was made known. These are precious life-changing events.

The Johns Minister at SEMISUD

Dr. Jackie Johns and his wife, Cheryl, were recently on campus for a week at SEMISUD where Dr. Jackie taught in the Doctor of Ministry program. Cheryl spoke in a chapel service celebrating the women of SEMISUD.

Click here to partner in ministry with the Vaughans: Project #065-0138