Tuesday, September 18, 2018

In the News ... "Grace Presbyterian partnering with The Attic for clothing drive"


• Helping eliminate the orphan crisis in Midland, Odessa and the surrounding area

MIDLAND, TEXAS - Grace Presbyterian Church, 2801 N. Garfield Street in Midland, Texas, will be collecting "Beginning of the School Year" clothes for the Attic Foster Network during the month of September.

Please try to purchase xolorful clothes with characters, socks (no long white tube socks), underwear, and pajamas. All sizes for elementary-age children will be needed.

Place your donations in the basket, on the table next to the church office.

Everyone is welcome to help!

C.S. Lewis Daily - Today's Reading

Presented by Bible Gateway
Today's Reading

On Freedom (and Predestination)

Heaven will solve our problems, but not, I think, by showing us subtle reconciliations between all our apparently contradictory notions. The notions will all be knocked from under our feet. We shall see that there never was any problem.

From A Grief Observed
Compiled in Words to Live By

Today in the PC-USA Mission Yearbook


The Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study is a daily devotional with 365 inspiring mission stories that come from next door and all across the globe. It inspires thousands of Presbyterians daily as they uphold the mission of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in intercessory prayer.

Courtesy Photo
Today in the Mission Yearbook: September 18, 2018

REV. DR. KATIE GENEVA CANNON - The Presbyterian Mission Agency has created a scholarship fund to honor the name and legacy of the late Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon, a pioneer and legend in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Dr. Cannon succumbed to leukemia Aug. 8 ...

CLICK HERE to read more.

Monday, September 17, 2018

From @chinaaid : "Catholic church faces demolition for arbitrary zoning plans"

The China Aid Association is a non-profit Christian organization - based in Midland, Texas - with a mission to uncover and reveal the truth about religious persecution in China, focusing especially on the unofficial church. They do this, they explain in their website, by exposing the abuses, encouraging the abused and equipping the saints to advance the kingdom of God throughout China.

ChinaAid Photo
Catholic church faces demolition for arbitrary zoning plans
Distributed by ChinaAid, July, 2018 ...

JINAN, SHANDONG – About 70 government agents and police officers demolished a state-run Catholic church Wednesday after insisting it must be relocated to make way for a new neighborhood and railway station, despite previous negotiations, according to an AsiaNews report ...

...

more on this story from China Aid


Invitation to Prayer from Faces of Children ... Wednesday


Faces of Children is an ecumenical prayer ministry under the auspices of First Presbyterian Church of Midland, Texas. Their mission is to initiate ministries of prayer for children in churches, communities, and neighborhoods. In doing so, they seek to provide an opportunity for people of God to join together, learn about children and their needs throughout the world, and celebrate Christ's love (especially as it relates to children).

Invitation to Prayer ... Wednesday

Hi Friends,

Please join us in lifting up the needs of vulnerable children around the world. Faces Of Children will be meeting at 11:00 (not 11:30) this Wednesday, August 29 for prayer. We are now meeting in the prayer closet at First Presbyterian Church of Midland, Texas, instead of in the gym conference room. The prayer closet is near the library and reception desk of the church. I hope you can join them to pray together for children in our community and around the world!

Warmly,

Carrie



Dear Intercessors,

As I write this, Hurricane Florence is bearing down on the Carolina coast.

CNN Photo
By the time you read this email, the aftermath of Florence will be growing more apparent. Undoubtedly there will be victims who loose their lives, property, and livelihoods from this storm.

Please join me in praying for those affected, especially the children who may not have a say in whether or not they stayed or left. Let's pray for the schools, hospitals, and community shelters as they seek to provide safe harbor for those impacted by the storm.

Reuters Photo by Mike Blake
SOUTHWEST USA // Detention of Migrant Children Has Skyrocketed to Highest Levels Ever

Population levels at federally contracted shelters for migrant children have quietly shot up more than fivefold since last summer, according to data obtained by The New York Times, reaching a total of 12,800 this month. There were 2,400 such children in custody in May 2017. The huge increases, which have placed the federal shelter system near capacity, are due not to an influx of children entering the country, but a reduction in the number being released to live with families and other sponsors, the data collected by the Department of Health and Human Services suggests. Some of those who work in the migrant shelter network say the bottleneck is straining both the children and the system that cares for them. Most of the children crossed the border alone, without their parents. Many are teenagers from Central America, and they are housed in a system of more than 100 shelters across the United States, with the highest concentration near the southwest border."     Keep Reading ...

Please continue to pray for these unaccompanied children in shelters. It's so easy for children to slip through the cracks in institutional settings... all politics aside, it's impossible for a group home to provide the safety and nurture children need to thrive and grow and develop in healthy ways, especially when they are overflowing with youth.

Reuters Photo by Gopal Sharma
NEPAL // Stop, check and call: How Nepal's women 'human interceptors' catch traffickers

"As a canopied horse-drawn carriage emerged from a mushroom of dust at the Nepal-India border, Kavita Yadav's policing instincts kicked in and she stopped it to chat with the couple. Yadav checked their IDs and handed the woman a form to fill out: name, address, relationship with co-passenger, family contact details, purpose of visit to India and destination. She only let them go after calling the young woman's mother to verify the information. Yadav is not a police officer or a border guard. She is one of Nepal's dozens of "human interceptors" - local women who scour the 1,751-km (1,094 miles) open border to stop traffickers smuggling young women and girls into India and abroad."       Keep Reading ...

Praise God for these women who are intervening and saving girls from situations where they would be trafficked! And for those women who are victims, praise God there are domestic organizations responding with support to help women get back on their feet, including shelter and vocational training. In a world where we often hear only of the traffickers, it's encouraging to see the brave and bold people on the front lines of God's defense and restoration.

Praying with you,

Carrie

Carrie J. McKean
Faces of Children Director
First Presbyterian Church of Midland, Texas
(432) 684-7821 x153

C.S. Lewis Daily - Today's Reading

Presented by Bible Gateway
Today's Reading

TO MRS. RAY GARRETT: On the real program of the spiritual life—living in the present moment.

12 September 1960

The whole lesson of my life has been that no ‘methods of stimulation’ are of any lasting use. They are indeed like drugs—a stronger dose is needed each time and soon no possible dose is effective. We must not bother about thrills at all. Do the present duty—bear the present pain—enjoy the present pleasure—and leave emotions and ‘experiences’ to look after themselves.

That’s the programme, isn’t it?

From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis
Compiled in Yours, Jack

Today in the PC-USA Mission Yearbook


The Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study is a daily devotional with 365 inspiring mission stories that come from next door and all across the globe. It inspires thousands of Presbyterians daily as they uphold the mission of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in intercessory prayer.

WCC Photo by Paul Jeffrey
Today in the Mission Yearbook: September 17, 2018

AIDS-FREE GENERATION - Faith-based organizations have been at the forefront of calls to accelerate HIV testing and treatment for children and adolescents. As gaps in infection and treatment between adults and children have become more apparent, there are now efforts to “super fast-track” services for children. But will they be enough? ...

CLICK HERE to read more.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Today in the PC-USA Mission Yearbook


The Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study is a daily devotional with 365 inspiring mission stories that come from next door and all across the globe. It inspires thousands of Presbyterians daily as they uphold the mission of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in intercessory prayer.

Courtesy Photo
Today in the Mission Yearbook: September 16, 2018

THEOLOGICAL EDUCATION/SEMINARIES SUNDAY - The Rev. Emily Zeig Lindsey, a colleague, Pennsylvania pastor and friend, summed up the importance of theological education beautifully in a video that the Theological Education Fund shared in late 2017 ...

CLICK HERE to read more.

C.S. Lewis Daily - Today's Reading

Presented by Bible Gateway
Today's Reading

I admit that some writers have told me for the first time of heavens and hells I never met before; but many, equally great or greater, have told me only of those we all have to bear whether we choose to call them “unbearable” or not. What hells can be harder to bear than those in which many of our unpoetic fellow creatures live? What man, after forty years in the world, has not experienced enough (if that were all that was needed) to be raw material for all the tragedies of Shakespeare? Once again, the view I am fighting depends on a gross under-estimation of common things and common men. “To be a man,” as Professor Tolkien recently reminded us, “is tragedy enough.” Yes, and comedy enough too. The Naturalistic doctrine is a mere assumption, first made by the arrogance of poets and since accepted by the misdirected humility of an irreligious age.

From The Personal Heresy

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Today in the PC-USA Mission Yearbook


The Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study is a daily devotional with 365 inspiring mission stories that come from next door and all across the globe. It inspires thousands of Presbyterians daily as they uphold the mission of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in intercessory prayer.


Today in the Mission Yearbook: September 15, 2018

CONGREGATIONAL VITALITY REPORT - Only 33 percent of members and 22 percent of ministers strongly agree that their church is spiritually vital and alive, according to a recently released research report by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). But what does it mean for a congregation to be vital and alive? ...

CLICK HERE to read more.

C.S. Lewis Daily - Today's Reading

Presented by Bible Gateway
Today's Reading

He sat perfectly still. After seeing him, I think I shall never describe anyone in our own time as ‘perfectly still’ again. His stillness was not like that of a man asleep, nor like that of an artist’s model: it was the stillness of a corpse. And oddly enough, it had the curious effect of making one think that it must have begun suddenly – as if something had come down like the blade of a guillotine and cut short the Man’s whole history at a moment. But for what followed, we should have thought that he was dead or that he was waxwork. His eyes were open, but the face had no expression, or none that we could interpret.

From The Dark Tower

Friday, September 14, 2018

From ServLife International ... "Get to know Heather and Rachel"

ServLife International is a movement defined by values of God’s kingdom, not programs built around human efforts and activities. The reign and rule of God should be made apparent to every person on the planet, despite their religion, race or socioeconomic status. We believe that issues of justice are inseparable from the good news that Jesus Christ came to proclaim. ServLife exists to take the gospel of Christ and the hope of a better, more just, world to the lives of people we touch. This happens through individual contributions of time, creativity, resources and dreams.



ServLife Photo
Get to know Heather and Rachel

Rachel Moss has been on ServLife’s USA staff the longest, at 8 years, and serves as our Office Manager. Heather Reid has been a volunteer, intern, part time staff and this August has become our Donor Relations Assistant. They sat down and interviewed each other about their jobs, hobbies and global destinations ...

CLICK HERE to read the rest of this post from ServLife ...



Adam Nevins 
From Adam Nevins
Executive Director
ServLife International Inc.


Join Our Mission

ServLife International propels reconciliation and justice by building global community to plant churches, care for children and fight poverty. Compelled by the message, life and love of Jesus Christ, we seek to care for the spiritual, physical, social, and economic areas of life in northern India and Nepal.  Learn more about our latest news, featured stories, and how to get involved at servlife.org

Support a Pastor

Our church planters spread
the love of Christ in some of the most difficult
environments in the world.
Support Them ... 

Sponsor a Child

For only $30 per month you can help give a child food, education, care and, most importantly, hope.
Sponsor Now ... 

Fight Poverty

The HOPE Fund, our micro-finance program, provides start-up funds for a small business, paving a way out of poverty for families in need.
Learn More ...



ServLife International, Inc.
P.O. Box 20596
Indianapolis, IN 46220
USA


From @FWMission ...Friday Story: "Follow-Up with a Sports Fan"

Founded in 2001, Free Wheelchair Mission is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to providing wheelchairs for the impoverished disabled in developing nations. Headquartered in Irvine, California, FWM works around the world in partnership with a vast network of humanitarian, faith-based and government organizations, sending wheelchairs to hundreds of thousands of disabled people, providing not only the gift of mobility, but of dignity, independence, and hope.




Friday Story: "Follow-Up with a Sports Fan"

Thirteen-year-old Juan lives with his mother Paola, father Diego, and brothers David, Brian, and Abril in Alta Gracia, a beautiful small town of about 48,000 inhabitants just 24 miles outside of Córdoba Capital in Argentina.

Juan loves watching boxing and soccer and is a fan of the Boca and Belgrano teams. He dreams of going to see a game in person, but his mobility is limited by a moderate paralysis that he was born wit ...

read the rest of this story ...

Today in the PC-USA Mission Yearbook


The Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study is a daily devotional with 365 inspiring mission stories that come from next door and all across the globe. It inspires thousands of Presbyterians daily as they uphold the mission of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in intercessory prayer.

PPC Photo
Today in the Mission Yearbook: September 14, 2018

HUNGER ACTION CONGREGATION - For members of Pleasantville Presbyterian Church in New York state, helping people in need is what they do. It has become a part of their DNA. Certified as a Hunger Action Congregation by the Presbyterian Hunger Program in 2017, the church has taken numerous steps over the years to reach out to a community that struggles to find enough foo ...

CLICK HERE to read more.

C.S. Lewis Daily - Today's Reading

Presented by Bible Gateway
Today's Reading

This signature on each soul may be a product of heredity and environment, but that only means that heredity and environment are among the instruments whereby God creates a soul. I am considering not how, but why, He makes each soul unique. If He had no use for all these differences, I do not see why He should have created more souls than one. Be sure that the ins and outs of your individuality are no mystery to Him; and one day they will no longer be a mystery to you. The mould in which a key is made would be a strange thing, if you had never seen a key: and the key itself a strange thing if you had never seen a lock. Your soul has a curious shape because it is a hollow made to fit a particular swelling in the infinite contours of the Divine substance, or a key to unlock one of the doors in the house with many mansions. For it is not humanity in the abstract that is to be saved, but you—you, the individual reader, John Stubbs or Janet Smith. Blessed and fortunate creature, your eyes shall behold Him and not another’s. All that you are, sins apart, is destined, if you will let God have His good way, to utter satisfaction. The Brocken spectre ‘looked to every man like his first love’, because she was a cheat. But God will look to every soul like its first love because He is its first love. Your place in heaven will seem to be made for you and you alone, because you were made for it—made for it stitch by stitch as a glove is made for a hand.

From The Problem of Pain
Compiled in A Year with C.S. Lewis

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Reaching Out with Outreach in Cuba, Day 8

Over ten days in September, I shall be part of a mission team serving in Cuba. The team includes members from multiple states, including pastors and elders of various Presbyterian churches, and representative of the Outreach Foundation - a Presbyterian global agency - which organized this trip.

This a short-term ‘vision team,’ with a focus upon introduction, education and connection, and a goal of discerning God’s call to global engagement, and partnership development.



Day 8

The accommodations at Iglesia Presbyteriana Reformada de Luyano provided a good night’s rest, a good breakfast, and a good start to our first full day in the Havana Presbytery.

Following breakfast, we meet with , and .

Our first view of Iglesia Presbyteriana-Reformada de San Antonio de los Banos is a line of people on the sidewalk, waiting to enter the front door of the church. All are carrying one type of water jug or another. It is a service of the church (in partnership with Living Waters of the World), providing potable water to the surrounding community.

Upon arrival, we are introduced to elders and members of the church family, and treated to coffee, cookies and fresh fruit juices before a presentation about the church, its history, and its mission.

Created 116 years ago (the first Protestant church founded in SAdlB), the history of this particular church is the history of the Protestant church, with missionaries arriving in Cuba in the wake of the Spanish-American War, 1898-1902.

Many pastors have served the church here over that time ... some were short-term, others served longer - but were not residential pastors or were circuit-pastors. Among the church’s pastors was Rev. Daniel Izquiero (our host in Luyano), who once served as a church elder with pastoral duties. In a way, we are told, this was a good thing for the IPRC, because it forced the church to empower laity and elders.

We are greeted by elders of the church, who tell us about the church’s services to the surrounding community, including the aforementioned water service. Elder Julio is responsible for the aforementioned water system that serves an estimated 120 families, 60 in the morning, 60 in the afternoon, daily Monday-Friday. Maintenance and needs (current and anticipated) of the system are addressed during annual visits of the church’s partner ... but sometimes they need to be creative.

Elder stresses the importance of having the ‘human resources’ to provide this and other services. During the 1960s, church membership declined to 3 people, and the presbytery considered closing the church ... a move that was averted, in part by university students (some lost 10 miles away), who came to SAdB to worship and serve.

Outreach to the elderly is an important part of the church’s services ... daily activities/classes/meals (the last at the church, and delivered to homes), monthly home visits, and Christmas activities. The number of elderly served has grown from12 to 30. There are also visits to nursing homes ... the elders comment that their reward includes the look on faces of elderly who have no family, and normally would receive no visitors.

An elder points out that one of the challenges in in some parts of Cuba these days is transportation, especially for the elderly who must travel great distances to reach a church. Prayer houses help address this issue, where people are invited to ecumenical gathering in outlying neighborhoods, to share a comfortable setting for faith and fellowship, in private homes (with support from neighbors).

The services of the church are available to all, and it is noted that some of those served later step forward to join the church because of its work.

We, in turn, told them about ourselves, about our churches, about past experiences/contacts - if any - with Cuba, and about the Outreach Foundation and its mission. We also have an opportunity to answer THEIR questions about US.

This followed by a short walk to the central plaza of San Antonio de los Banos for a part of our daily routine - the ‘internet break.’ Internet access in Cuba is MUCH more limited, compared to the access to which we have become accustomed in the United States. Each day of our trip has included a visit to a spot in the community where there is access, usually the town’s central plaza. There, along with the community as a whole, we are able to access the internet with Empressa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba, S.A. (ETECSA), using access cards we purchased at the start of our trip. With this access, we are able to touch-base with folks back at home ... and, lately, follow the progress of Tropical Storm Florence as it heads for the southeastern United States, perhaps disrupting our plans to return home.

Lunch, prepared and served by the staff and elders of Iglesia Presbyteriana-Reformada de San Antonio de los Banos, is wonderful and very much offers us el savor de Cuba ... this has been the case time-and-time-again, with no exceptions, to all of the meals prepared for us in the course of our trip.

Following lunch, there is a tour of another part of the church campus, and a glimpse into future plans for the church. For now, the series of connected rooms provide some rudimentary accommodations, lounge space and storage for a variety of articles, including auto body parts ... but it might do so much more. With renovations, it could provide comfortable guest lodgings, and a manse ... which in turn could make the church more attractive for a pastor to come and settle in this community, and serve as a residence pastor in this church.

What might renovations to all these rooms cost? For that, we turn to Rev. Daniel Izquiero, current pastor of Iglesia Presbyteriana Reformada de Luyano, former pastor of Iglesia Presbyteriana-Reformada de San Antonio de los Banos, former general secretary of the Presbyterian Church of Cuba ... and an architect, who has studied the rooms, and estimated total cost of renovations would be only $4,000 (US).

Just $4,000 ... this is another illustration of the differences that exist between our nations ... what a difference $4,000 could make in building renovations to a string of rooms, and to the life of this church! It is also a POSSIBLE opportunity to help our brothers and sisters in Christ here, in Cuba ... BUT NOT YET ... at this point, it is just an idea, which must be submitted to the various levels of the church, and approved at those levels, before the idea can become a proposal.

The Outreach Foundation will be following the progress of this idea in Cuba. Once it becomes a proposal, we shall hear from them. When I do, I plan to support this idea, and I will urge my church family at Grace Presbyterian-Midland, Texas to do the same. How about you and your church family?

FBR Report: "Burma Army Tortures and Kills Six Female Medics, Continues Campaign Against Civilians"

The Free Burma Rangers (FBR) is a multi-ethnic humanitarian service movement. They bring help, hope and love to people in the war zones of Burma (Myanmar) and the Middle East. Groups send teams to be trained, supplied and sent into the areas under attack to provide emergency assistance and human rights documentation. Together with other groups, the teams work to serve people in need.



Burma Army Tortures and Kills Six Female Medics, Continues Campaign Against Civilians

According to a Kachin Independence Army (KIA) report, the Burma Army captured, tortured, raped, and killed six Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) female medics on July 11 after the Burma Army ambushed vehicles carrying the medics ...

CLICK HERE to read the rest of this FBR Report ...

CLICK HERE to learn how YOU can get involved in FBR and its mission ...



Free Burma Ranger, the film ...

This film, currently in production, chronicles the journey of an American family bringing aid to hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people caught in Burma's war zones, a bloody conflict that is one of the longest-running civil war's in the world.

Learn more about the film, and hour YOUR donation can help complete its production ...

Today in the PC-USA Mission Yearbook


The Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study is a daily devotional with 365 inspiring mission stories that come from next door and all across the globe. It inspires thousands of Presbyterians daily as they uphold the mission of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in intercessory prayer.

IPC Photo
Today in the Mission Yearbook: September 13, 2018

PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF COLOMBIA - The Presbyterian Church of Colombia is working for a just and lasting peace in a nation plagued by generations of politically and ideologically motivated violence. Since the Colombian government signed historic peace accords with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a guerrilla group, in 2016, steps toward reconciliation and transformation have been taking place, although more must be done if peace is to be firmly rooted and allowed to flourish for all Colombians. ...

CLICK HERE to read more.

C.S. Lewis Daily - Today's Reading

Presented by Bible Gateway
Today's Reading

No man can be an exile if he remembers that all the world is one city.

From Till We Have Daces

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Reaching Out with Outreach in Cuba, Day 7

Over ten days in September, I shall be part of a mission team serving in Cuba. The team includes members from multiple states, including pastors and elders of various Presbyterian churches, and representative of the Outreach Foundation - a Presbyterian global agency - which organized this trip.

This a short-term ‘vision team,’ with a focus upon introduction, education and connection, and a goal of discerning God’s call to global engagement, and partnership development.




Day 7

It’s hard to imagine a better start to the day than watching the first colors of morning and the sunrise over Matanzas Bay. The east end of the Seminario Evangelico de Teologia (SET) campus in Matanzas (which sits on a hill overlooking the city and the bay) offers a perfect view.

This morning is a little busier as we put the final touches on packing. Following breakfast, we shall be back on the road, heading for Havana, the center of another presbytery in the Presbyterian Reformed Church in Cuba, and the final stage of our mission trip.

At breakfast, and all mealtimes, “El Comedor” is a center for the campus community as students and faculty, staff and guests gather for food and fellowship. It is a pleasant time of interaction among all members of the seminary family. Following our farewells to our SET friends and family, we were on our way.

We quite literally ‘took the high road’ on our way from Matanzas to Havana, on a highway that followed a mountain ridge between the two cities, and afforded wonderful views on both sides. To the north is Matanzas Bay and the channel that connects it to the sea, then the sea itself. To the south are lush valleys, and another range of mountains ... A REMARKABLE ACHIEVEMENT - we actually left early today, which gave us time to stop for photos and refreshments at a very popular overlook at Mirador de Bacuyanaga. In addition to wonderful views in all directions there is a large selection of postcards and souvenir t-shirts, arts and crafts, a snack bar, live music, and cold beverages ... including cocktails served in hollowed-out pineapples. Following that stop, the highway descends to sea level and we follow the island’s northern coastline to Havana, where we get glimpses of the island’s resort industry, as well as the oil/gas industry of the state-operated CuPet.

As explained in a previous post, our presence in Cuba is not only devoted to learning about the body of Christ at work in this island nation, but also a better understanding of the nation itself, the setting within which our brothers and sisters in Christ are at work, sharing His love through word and deed.

That is why, as we approached Havana, we stopped in the neighborhood of San Francisco de Paola, municipality of San Miguel del Padron, city of Havana, for a visit to the Ernest Hemingway Museum, in what was once “Papa’s” home in Cuba. This island was a part of Hemingway’s life, both before and after the revolution of the 1950’s, and the people and the culture here provided the inspiration for a number of his works. In addition to providing a glimpse of his life, the museum also offers souvenir shops with copies of his books (in English and Spanish), live music, and beverages that include a locally-distilled rum produced especially for him, and in his memory.

Continuing into Havana, our next stop is the Iglesia Presbyteriana Reformada de Luyano (Luyano is a district of Havana), which will also be our home for the remainder of our stay in Cuba. After being shown to our rooms, we had lunch in the church’s fellowship hall, where met our host, Rev. Daniel Izquiero, a former general secretary of the Presbyterian Church of Cuba.

Another cultural stop, on the way to our next church visit, is Revolutionary Square, one of the hearts of this city, where monuments and buildings honor Jose Marti, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. This large square is gathering place of special significance ... for example, the past three Popes have come here during their visits to Cuba, and were greeted by large and enthusiastic crowds.

Our next church visit for the day was Primera Iglesia Presbyteriana-Reformada of Havana. Esther, an elder and longtime member of this church family, greeted us on behalf of Rev. Liudmilla Hernandez, who was away from the church today ... in fact, Rev. Hernandez was at the seminary in Matanzas, where we met her over breakfast this morning!

‘1st Havana’ has a long history, tied closely to the history of this country, we learned. Built in 1906, it was the first Protestant church in Havana, and the focus of many ‘firsts’ in the history of Cuba’s faith community - the formation of the first presbytery, the establishment/development of the Presbyterian Reformed Church, and inter-denominational assemblies. In 1998, when Pope John Paul II made his historic visit to Cuba, the 1st Havana pulpit was transported to the Plaza of the Revolution, where the Pope used it while conducting mass.

1st Havana is the largest Cuban church we have visited, with 300 active member, and others who are tied in some way to the church. Like so many churches in cuba, they’re was a need - and prayers - for a pastor here ... those prayers were answered when Rev. Hernandez received her call, less than a year ago.

Monday through Friday, a medical doctor is - literally - on-call at the church. They also have a prayer house open to all, every Tuesday. Also on Tuesdays is a weekly school for the elderly. Monday-Wednesday-Friday mornings, they have tai chi. On Thursday evening’s it’s Bible study led by the pastor. The church’s library is open all day, and open to all.

They are looking to expand their services, with more opportunities for youth in the community. Already they are finding ways to serve children affected in some way by drug abuse, domestic violence and inadequate housing.

Among those attending 1st Havana are students from Africa, visiting Cuba for medical studies. These students also helped create a choral program, in partnership with the church’s choir.

Following Esther’s presentation, we toured the 1st Havana campus, its classrooms and service areas, its offices and residences. From the roof top, where the laundry is hung to dry, we got a good view of the surrounding neighborhood.

We have heard before of how Christian people were persecuted in this country, and the was true here, as well ... during Q&A following the tour, we learn that at one point, the church only had 30-40 active members, and now has 300. At one point, it was forbidden to bring Bibles into the country ... but in the 1960s, as the country moved toward increased literacy, there were those who learned to read with the Bible.

More history and culture after our church visit, we drove by many of Havana’s landmarks on our way to the Square of St. Francis, while walking around this area and the nearby Plaza Vieja, we learned about the culture of the community, its history, its art, its characters, and so much more. We saw a LOT of construction work taking place in this area as renovations prepare for the city’s upcoming anniversary celebration. This promises to be a VERY busy area next year during that celebration, as visitors include those embarking from cruise ships, just two blocks away from the square.

Following this walking tour, our team returned to Luyano, ending the day with dinner and fellowship. Dinner is at a restaurant called La Catedral. Established in 2013, it is an example of what is called a ‘private restaurant’ and is not operated or managed by the state, but rather by private individuals. These individuals are responsible for management of the restaurant, its menu, its staff, its services and its supplies, as well as state fees and taxes. We care told that they are becoming popular, and are adding a new dimension to dining in Cuba ... and another example of the changes taking place in Cuban society (like the hostels noted in an earlier post).

Today in the PC-USA Mission Yearbook


The Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study is a daily devotional with 365 inspiring mission stories that come from next door and all across the globe. It inspires thousands of Presbyterians daily as they uphold the mission of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in intercessory prayer.

Photo by Kay Day
Today in the Mission Yearbook: September 12, 2018

RWANDA - “All of Rwandan identity and history is divided into pre-genocide and post-genocide,” mission co-worker Kay Day said at the 2018 New Wilmington Mission Conference at Westminster College ...

CLICK HERE to read more.

C.S. Lewis Daily - Today's Reading

Presented by Bible Gateway
Today's Reading

But between them and the foot of the sky there was something so white on the green grass that even with their eagles’ eyes they could hardly look at it. They came on and saw that it was a Lamb.

“Come and have breakfast,” said the Lamb in its sweet milky voice.

Then they noticed for the first time that there was a fire lit on the grass and fish roasting on it. They sat down and ate the fish, hungry now for the first time for many days. And it was the most delicious food they had ever tasted.

“Please, Lamb,” said Lucy, “is this the way to Aslan’s country?”

“Not for you,” said the Lamb. “For you the door into Aslan’s country is from your own world.”

“What!” said Edmund. “Is there a way into Aslan’s country from our world too?”

“There is a way into my country from all the worlds,” said the Lamb; but as he spoke, his snowy white flushed into tawny gold and his size changed and he was Aslan himself, towering above them and scattering light from his mane.

“Oh, Aslan,” said Lucy. “Will you tell us how to get into your country from our world?”

“I shall be telling you all the time,” said Aslan. “But I will not tell you how long or short the way will be; only that it lies across a river. But do not fear that, for I am the great Bridge Builder. And now come; I will open the door in the sky and send you to your own land.”

From The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Compiled in A Year with Aslan

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Reaching Out with Outreach in Cuba, Day 6

Over ten days in September, I shall be part of a mission team serving in Cuba. The team includes members from multiple states, including pastors and elders of various Presbyterian churches, and representative of the Outreach Foundation - a Presbyterian global agency - which organized this trip.

This a short-term ‘vision team,’ with a focus upon introduction, education and connection, and a goal of discerning God’s call to global engagement, and partnership development.



Day 6

The focus of a recent post in the PC(USA) Mission Yearbook was the fact that churches never seem to get ‘too small’ in Cuba, that they remain active even while congregations may number in the low double-digits, or even single-digits. This idea has been reinforced for us by several church visits over the course of our mission to Cuba, and we were told it would be reinforced once again, in today’s first visit.

Following breakfast, we head out of Matanzas, to the rural village Sabanilla. Our guide for this part of the day is Diana , a recent graduate of Seminario Evangelico de Teologia (SET) in Matanzas who is playing a growing role at the church, presbytery and synod levels. Working at Central Presbyterian Church of Matanzas, she also works at mission stations in the surrounding ding area, managed by the church.

“As you can see, we are not large church - we are a small church. Josue Montego, who was once an ordained Presbyterian pastor, left to serve in the Baptist Church, and who is now back with Presbyterian Church, an elder of the church and looking forward to returning one day to pastoral service in the Presbyterian Church. “Essentially, we are working with children and young adults. We are also providing food service for the low income and the elderly.”

With support - both local, and from the United States, the Church of Sabanilla has acquired a small property next-door that - among other things - will allow for expanded utilities, such as potable water (in partnership with Living Waters). It will also provide space for a Sunday school. SOMETHING WE HAVE HEARD BEFORE ... they have resources to cover renovations, but access to construction materials can be problematic.

They have also acquired a manse nearby, for the pastor. And as the church grows, so will the outreach and service of that church to the community.

“Impact not only inside the walls of the church, but reaching out into the community.”

Elder Santa Maria “Mercedes” Hernandez is introduced, along with other members of the church family. We, in turn, told them about ourselves, about our churches, about past experiences/contacts - if any - with Cuba, and about the Outreach Foundation and its mission.

Hernandez is responsible for many activities at the church, including food service for the elderly, and for children of low-income families - for that, they have the support of many churches overseas, including the United States. Others step forward - some longtime members and others who are new members ... some elders, some moving towards ordainment as elders - who share their responsibilities/services to various parts of the community, young and old.

There is a break in the presentation, and refreshments are served, cookies and TuKola (soda) ... this is followed by small cups of strong Cuba coffee (one of my favorite Cuban traditions). We then walk around town, see the manse property, and the town square.

Back to the church, where Mercedes tells us the history of the church, which is closely tied to her personal history, with connections established in her early years that would persist over many, may years. She tells us about the church’s early years ... the good years and the bad, the times of growth and decline, and the times of renewal ... the times closure, and the times of restoration - in Mercedes’ house.

Which is the reason the name for this church is Iglesia Presbyteryana Reforma de Sabanilla - “The Resurrection”

Our hosts all shared their hopes and beliefs that there is a brighter future ahead for the church in Cuba, where it is needed. They note that church must step-up and have a role in that future ... promoting moral and ethical values, bringing people closer to God, to strengthen the Word with children (the future), helping more people to say - openly and without fear - “I believe in God.”

“We have a future,” said Montego, summing up the church’s hope, “... and a LOT of work!”

We returned to the SET campus for lunch. The afternoon was devoted to an excursion around the city of Matanzas. As explained in a previous post, our presence in Cuba is not only devoted to learning about the body of Christ at work in this island nation, but also a better understanding of the nation itself, the setting within which our brothers and sisters in Christ are at work, sharing His love through word and deed.

Our afternoon excursion around this city gave us an opportunity to do just that.
At Ediciones Vigia, we meet the producers of limited-editions books ... where the creative process does not end with the writing and submission of the words, but is carried over into the next phase, where the design and creation of a binding for those words is itself a fine craft.
St. Peter’s Catholic Church is a national historic site ... an early house of faith in the history of Matanzas and Cuba, and a center for the Roman Catholic faith in this part of the island.
A hilltop park overlooks the city of Matanzas and a substantial part of Matanzas Bay on one side, and a river valley of palm trees and cultivated fields on the other side, and more hills beyond. This was once the site of a church ... the church building is still there, but is now a concert venue ... part of a popular public gathering place with a restaurant, picnic areas and an amusement park nearby.

Back at the SET campus, it’s ‘team time’ devotional and discussion, followed by Q&A with a group of seminary students. Introductions provide insight into the seminary’s student body, its diversity (different communities, nations and denominations, different levels of experience in the church) and its potential ... a marvelous group. A variety of topics are covered ... what has surprised you in your studies ... what are your goals ... how many have already served in the church, and in what capacity ... on the basis of your experience, what are you finding might be the hardest part of being a pastor ... have you found something you need to ‘unlearn’ ... is there a passage of Scripture that is important to you, giving you inspiration and encouragement? And it’s an exchange, as the team finds itself answering questions from the students. In addition to questions and answers, encouragements are also exchanged.

We ended the day with packing. Following breakfast, we shall be back on the road, heading for Havana, the center of another presbytery in the Presbyterian Reformed Church in Cuba, and the final stage of our mission trip.

Partners Blog: "Inspired by World Changers"

Steve and Oddny Gumaer started Partners Relief and Development in response to the needs of refugees and displaced people from Burma, and now in the Middle East, as well. Their mission is to demonstrate, through holistic action, God’s love to children and communities made vulnerable by war in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and other conflict zones.

PR&D Photo
Inspired by World Changers

Two nights of every week I teach an english class of around 10 students. And two nights of every week I am inspired by my amazing students. I teach the 2a class, just one level above beginners. These students know the alphabet and can understand the basics such as simple greetings and introductions. My first few classes with them were filled with awkward pauses, and looks that clearly said “our teacher’s crazy!” And lots of laughter as we got to know one another and worked out communication ...

read the rest of this post ...




Partners Relief and Development is a registered charity in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States. "We’re a small, grassroots nonprofit passionate about making a big impact in communities affected by conflict and oppression, demonstrating God’s love to children and giving them the opportunity to live free, full lives." For more information aboput Partners, visit their website at partners.ngo/

In the News ... “Commentary: State of Nonprofits opens discussion on engagement"

MRT Photo by Tim Fischer
“We are blessed to be a blessing.”

By Rich Lopez, Reporter
Midland Reporter-Telegram

MIDLAND, TEXAS - Midland Shared Spaces hosted its first State of the Nonprofits luncheon Wednesday at the Petroleum Club. The event was held not only to discuss the sector and its activities, but also to engage potential donors and businesses. MSS partnered with the Nonprofit Management Center and United Way of Midland to survey nonprofits to discuss the issues at they are currently facing ...

 • read the rest of this MRT report

Today in the PC-USA Mission Yearbook


The Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study is a daily devotional with 365 inspiring mission stories that come from next door and all across the globe. It inspires thousands of Presbyterians daily as they uphold the mission of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in intercessory prayer.

Courtesy Photo
Today in the Mission Yearbook: September 11, 2018

REMEMBERING THE TWIN TOWERS - Seventeen years ago, our nation was stunned by attacks that took place against thousands of innocent souls. People of all economic classes, educational attainment, races, genders, countries of origin, religions and nearly any other discriminator we can identify were senselessly wounded and killed. Our nation has been at war since that day with many millions affected by the aftermath of what we now call 9/11 ...

CLICK HERE to read more.

C.S. Lewis Daily - Today's Reading

Presented by Bible Gateway
Today's Reading

I believe, to be sure, that any man who reaches Heaven will find that what he abandoned (even in plucking out his right eye) has not been lost: that the kernel of what he was really seeking even in his most depraved wishes will be there, beyond expectation, waiting for him in ‘the High Countries’. In that sense it will be true for those who have completed the journey (and for no others) to say that good is every- thing and Heaven everywhere. But we, at this end of the road, must not try to anticipate that retrospective vision. If we do, we are likely to embrace the false and disastrous converse and fancy that everything is good and everywhere is Heaven.

But what, you ask, of earth? Earth, I think, will not be found by anyone to be in the end a very distinct place. I think earth, if chosen instead of Heaven, will turn out to have been, all along, only a region in Hell: and earth, if put second to Heaven, to have been from the beginning a part of Heaven itself.

From The Great Divorce
Compiled in A Year with C.S. Lewis

Monday, September 10, 2018

... AND Day 5!

Over ten days in September, I shall be part of a mission team serving in Cuba. The team includes members from multiple states, including pastors and elders of various Presbyterian churches, and representative of the Outreach Foundation - a Presbyterian global agency - which organized this trip.

This a short-term ‘vision team,’ with a focus upon introduction, education and connection, and a goal of discerning God’s call to global engagement, and partnership development.



... AND Day 5

EDITOR’S NOTE: There are times when internet access in Cuba is difficult, at best. Sometimes, it’s not available at all - as was the case yesterday evening. So, this evening we have one night and two posts, about two days of our mission trip.

A new day, new digs, and a new phase of our mission trip. This morning, we wake-up in dormitory rooms do the Seminario Evangelico de Teologia (SET) in Matanzas, Cuba. This will be our base for the next three days of our trip.

Introductions and welcomes begin over breakfast. Some of our returning teammates, introduce us newbies to friends from past visits. Members of the SET faculty also seek us out, and greet us, sharing their experiences in Cuba ... and in some cases, the United States.

The first half of this day is devoted to an introduction to SET, its history and mission, and a tour of the campus. Elizabeth Gonzalez, Secretary of SET, shares videos about the seminary, then offers statistics about the seminary and its students.

Two new programs this year: Masters in Liturgy; Doctorate in Philosophy Related to Theology
330 students enrolled this year, but that is expected to grow through the yer > Last year, 30 students graduated, and received their degrees. 284 students completed studies and
received various certificates.
The seminary has 39 professors in total.
There are 15 resident students. The rest are non-residential students, seasonal visiting students, or online students.
While SET does not have formal cooperative agreements with other colleges and universities in Cuba, they do share instructors with other colleges and universities, and offer courses in far eastern Cuba, with the approval of a college there.

Rev. Dr. Carlos Ham, Rector of Seminario Evangelico de Teologia Matanzas also, joined the discussion, providing an added dimension and perspective to our introduction to SET, its history and its mission.
In Cuba, youths are required to complete their education through the 9th grade. After that, they may pursue a variety of options, completing high school (12th grade), attending a vocational/technical school, or going into the workforce (or other non-schooling options).

Mindful of the diverse backgrounds from which individuals might apply for admission, SETI is open to considering a variety of credentials for admission ... high school diplomas, certificates of completion, professional certificates, and letters of recommendation, among others. All applicants must also pass an entrance exam for admission to higher education in Cuba.

SET is helped by denominations and churches across the country who - mindful of the seminary’s admission guidelines - will conduct some of the reviews themselves, and provide the seminary with a pool of candidates each year.

The seminary’s annual budget is around $300,000 with about 95% of that being covered from abroad, by denominations, churches, and foundations around the world. This is reflective of the economy here, in general, and has made success, improvement and growth possible.

“Commission and Service”

“Inspiration of Jose Marti”

Seminary activities include not only education in the classroom, but also service in the community ... gardening projects that allow the sale (at reduced cost) of produce; fresh/potable water projects (in partnership with Living Water International); services for the elderly in the community. Students not only get grades for their academics, but also for their works of service.

“Diakonia”

The seminary is involved with a variety of associations, institutions and programs in Matanzas ... commerce and economic development, hospitals, health awareness and support, arts and crafts, and a wide variety of other groups devoted to community, family and individual service, development and improvement.

In response to feedback they have received from churches, SET is offering g introductory education courses that will help prepare Sunday School teachers.

“You only invest in people?”

That was the stipulation of one donor. But there so many different costs associated with the operation of an institution like SET - costs that might be very pressin g at the moment. ‘No’ to other expenses, like what some call bricks-and-mortar? “So, we teach under a tree,” Ham asked. He shared with us a letter that accompanied a donation, one that stipulated that the funds be spent where thy were most needed. “We appreciate that trust,” said Ham, referring to the confidence the donor had in SET confidence - that the funds would be spent wisely and well in support of the seminary and its mission.

Afterwards comes a visit with Weavers of Hope, a women’s sewi no and kn otting cooperative. They have a wide variety of Han d-made crafts, and gave us a chance to support their. Mi history while purchasing gifts for folks ‘back home.”

This is followed by lunch in the SET cafeteria, where we’ll take most of our meals while we are here. Tables re set, and food and beverage are laid-out by staff and a couple of volunteers. Everyone else waits outside ... except one of our team members who helped with set-up (and later with cleanup), and was rewarded with. Second serving of dessert. A bell is rung to signal everyone com in, join in a musical grace, then sit own to their meal.

Following lunch, it is time to begin visiting churches in the Matanzas Presbytery, which takes us along the northern coast of Cuba, to the city of Cardenas. Along the way, we get glimpses of Cuba’s petroleum production/refining/transport at work. We also get a glimpse of beach resort hotels and accommodations.

Our first stop is Iglesia Presbyterina Reformada Cardenas “Juan G. Hall.” It is a church with a long history, dating back to Cuba’s fight for independence from Spain.

In addition to work at the main church, they also operate mission stations both in-town and in the surrounding rural area.

Services/ministries at the main church include a nursery school; music instruction; lessons in art and recycling; feeding the elderly three times a week; daily exercise and fellowship activities; lectures on nutrition and other health-related topics, craft making and selling (with part of the proceeds supporting the programs). There are also support services for families - especially children - dealing with issues such as domestic violence. Many of these services are possible through financial and in-kind contributions from the community at-large... including teachers, musicians, and medical professionals.

It is pointed out that many of these services tie-in with the government’s encouragement that all people of Cuba use their resources - whatever form they may take - wisely.

At one point during the presentation, a local man comes in with a prayer request for his wife’s well-being. There is no question that discussion be set aside, and we all gather at front of the sanctuary for the laying-on of hands, and a prayer led by Rev. Alison .

The drive to our next church in this presbytery is a short one, in the same town ... “Welcome to 2nd Presbyterian Church of Cardenas,” says Rev. Yamilke Gonzalez, “also known as ‘The Fort’” (referring to a neighborhood feature, ‘El Fuerte’). Cardenas’ two churches have a shared history ... during a low point following the revolution, they were served by a single session ... they have since reverted to two, separate sessions.

In addition to Rev. Yamilka, we also hear from some of the church’s elders, who tell us about the various services and ministries the church provides for the community. As is the case for so many of the churches we have visited, they serve the elderly in the community. As was explained in an earlier post, they have become a more marginalized segment of the community over time, and the church is stepping-in to help, where other segments of society - and even families - may not.

As we have heard again, and again, and again curin g our church visits these last few days ... a commitment to community outreach and community service, at a level of activity much larger than the average American might expect from churches this size.

Back to the seminary for dinner, then ‘team time.’ We ended the evening on a different note ... AND WHAT A NOTE IT WAS! .... a concert but the seminary’s Coro de Camara Matanzas.

Reaching Out with Outreach in Cuba, Day 4 ...

Over ten days in September, I shall be part of a mission team serving in Cuba. The team includes members from multiple states, including pastors and elders of various Presbyterian churches, and representative of the Outreach Foundation - a Presbyterian global agency - which organized this trip.

This a short-term ‘vision team,’ with a focus upon introduction, education and connection, and a goal of discerning God’s call to global engagement, and partnership development.



Day 4

There were some aspects to this day that were part of what has become our routine ... morning walks for some, fellowship over breakfast for all, then gathering to pursue that day’s activities together. Before that last item, however, there was final packing, loading our suitcases into the van, and bidding farewell to our hosts in Remedios for the past three days. Later today, we head for the city of Matanzas, the second stage of our mission trip in Cuba.

Before THAT, however, there is the matter of worship service ... this IS Sunday, after all. The service was held at Presbyterian Reformed Church in Caiberian. The pastor here is Rev. Edelberto Perez, serving at the local, pastoral level the same time he served at the presbytery, synod and church levels.

Our visit make for a full - and fulfilling - morning. It begins with a time for music and inspirational messages for everyone together. We - congregation and visitors alike - then split into age groups for this Sunday’s lessons. Then everyone returns the sanctuary for the service itself.

The service? Again, full and fulfilling. There were prayers and hymns, including “What a Friend We have in Jesus” ... in Spanish ... the more I am here, the more I find we share ... today’s lectionary was from the Book of Mark, picking-up right where I left-off last Sunday at Grace Presbyterian, Midland, Texas. And there is a baptism, as a young boy is welcomed into the church family. Rev. Camille Foster, a member of our mission team, offers the benediction. We close with music, clapping, waving, and even a little dancing ... there is NOTHING “Frozen Chosen” about these Presbyterians!

The church is our host for lunch following the service. Over lunch, Rev. Edelberto shares with us information about the church’s service to the surrounding community.

The doors of the church are open every day, with each day offering one-or-more activities, some geared toward particular age groups ... these include tai chi for the elderly, martial arts for youngsters, arts & crafts for all ages. This last includes the making and selling of arts and crafts in a variety of media ... our mission team cleaned out their inventory of hand-made dream catchers, so that class will need to get back to work! The church also offers support for those in the community with medical conditions, and their families.

And that’s just a sampling of the church’s services.

Then it’s time for farewells to Rev. Edelberto, the family of Presbyterian Reformed Church in Caiberian, and to Central Presbytery as we get back on the road and begin our journey north and west to the city of Matanzas, and the second stage of our mission trip, in Matanzas Presbytery.