Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Spreading the Word in SE Asia
Pt. 1: Words

Deadly cyclones and repressive governments notwithstanding, our friends in mission based in southeast Asia continue to spread the love of Jesus Christ, not only through their actions, but through the written Word of God. Following is an update we received from Mark and Astrid of the Christian Far East Ministry. We met with them both, learned from them and contributed to their efforts during our Thailand Mission, earlier this year. Their work extends beyond the borders of Thailand into other southeast Asian countries ... as the following post will tell you.
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Pt. 1: Words

Christian Far East Ministry reports, "below are stories from refugees and Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs) of Burma. Think about these very sobering words. Meditate on them. Contemplate them. Imagine if this was happening to you and your family. People are starving, people are displaced, and people are dying, because of the treatment of the Burmese government against them. We are amazed by the strength of faith of these persecuted people."

A young girl in a village of internally displaced people (IDPs) was eating her fourth plate of food after we had brought food to her village. She said, “I’m full, but want to keep eating, because today (unlike most days) we have a good meal!”

Pastor Gideon prayed after the Christmas meeting, “This is an amazing day for us today. And we pray that from this Christmas 2008 until Christmas 2009, that we will survive.”

In one IDP camp, they built shelters to take in about 200 children from the Hurricane Nargis affected area, but they were too slow to get any children. Many children were orphaned by the Hurricane. The Burmese government did nothing to help the people, and they actively kept aid away from them. Many adults starved to death, leaving their children orphaned. The Burmese government then rounded up the orphans and drove them hundreds of miles away to the border areas. They dumped the children in towns where whoever wanted the children could just take them. Many of the children were taken and sold into the sex trade business. Could there be anything more horrifying for a child then to witness their parents’ deaths, to be alone, to be ripped from their homes, and then brutally forced into the horribly, abusive sex slave industry? There are no words to properly describe this catastrophic crime against humanity. Please pray for these children and for peace and freedom in Burma.

“Remember them … that suffer adversity …" Hebrews 13:3

Tomorrow evening, "Part 2: Pictures"

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

FBR Report: A Christmas Story

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. Ethnic pro-democracy 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.

A Christmas Story
We walked into the hiding place after four days spent looking at Burma Army camps. The people in this hiding place site were all displaced earlier this year by one of the new camps we just photographed. The people here had been fleeing since the Burma Army first started their attacks in this area of Western Karen State in 1972. Since then, they have fled attacks many times. One 62 year old man told us he thought he had fled 500 times in his lifetime.

There were 17 families hiding here in a small ravine in a bamboo thicket. Their homes are small shacks made of bamboo and grass, some covered in tarps that our teams had given them earlier. There are two small water points where pieces of bamboo channeled the small flow of a little stream. Here the families can collect water and bathe. As we walked into the site, there was a plastic tarp spread on the ground, with children sitting on it, as one of the team led them in songs and games. Mothers and fathers stood behind, holding babies, smiling and laughing with their small huts right behind them. As we got closer, the team handed out presents for the children, and then the whole team sang a blessing song. It was a very moving melody, with powerful words about God being with us at all times. I felt very sad that the people had to live like this, but at the same time, I felt the more powerful emotion of love, hope and joy, as the team and the families bonded together. I thought, ' this is wonderful and the Burma Army probably wouldn't believe it if they saw it'. Here are people that they are chasing who have lost so much, who are still smiling and singing and who haven't given up.

I looked around the cluster of small huts, and smiling and happy people. I looked as the medics began to prepare for treatment and I thought, 'this is a wonderful thing'. I felt satisfied. Not satisfied with the situation and the people in hiding, but satisfied that all of us at this site were happy together and that on this day, we would all eat well and sleep well. Later that same night other Karen from different displaced villages came to sing carols at the hide site. They went to every family's house and sang. As we looked up at the stars and listened to the singing, I thought, "This really is Christmas."

I want to thank all of you who pray for, love, and help these people, and all of you who help us here.

God bless you and Merry Christmas,
A relief team leader
Western Karen State, Burma

Coming to the Tall City

"In just short of a decade," Jackie Chapman wrote in this article for ChristianMusicToday.com, "the David Crowder Band has amassed a loyal following through their uniquely textured alternative worship music."

West Texans will have a chance to hear and enjoy the music and the message for themselves January 14, when
David Crowder*Band - a 6-piece Christian electronic rock and worship band from Waco, Texas - takes the stage at Midland Center. Tickets for the concert are $20 each, and can be purchased at First Presbyterian Church of Midland, 800 W. Texas Avenue (on the west edge of downtown Midland); and Mardel Book Store, 5214 W. Wadley Avenue (in northwest Midland). For more information, call First Prez-Midland at 684-7821.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Midland Group: Chinese Government Launches Attacks Against Christians During Christmas Season

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.

Issued by ChinaAid, December, 2008 ...

Chinese Government Launches Attacks Against Christians During Christmas Season
HENAN, CHINA – An eyewitness informed ChinaAid that at about 11 a.m. on Christmas Eve, a group of Public Security Bureau (PSB) officers raided a house church Christmas party in Yucheng county, Henan province and detained nine Christian women. The house church Christians were reenacting the nativity on the street, and police charged the women with “organizing illegal religious activities.” The nine women, including Mrs. Yue Zengyun who led the group, are currently being held at Detention Center of Yucheng County. The PSB officers demanded the family members pay a fine in order for the women to be released.

XINJIANG, CHINA – On December 21, a house church in Yili city, Xinjiang Autonomous Region, was banned. Pastor Xie Xianhua, who leads the church, was warned he could face arrest if he continued his house church service. ChinaAid will publish more information on this incident as details are available.

ANHUI, CHINA – At 5 p.m. on December 22, 2008, officials conducted a joint raid on a Shepherd Fellowship Bible training class affiliated with a house church in Dianlong village, Yanghu township in Dongzhi county. The government offices conducting the raid included: the Domestic Defense Protection Squad Branch of Chizhou Municipal Public Security Bureau of Anhui Province, the Domestic Defense Protection Squad of Dongzhi County Public Security Bureau, the Yanghu Township Police Station and the Dongzhi County Bureau of Religion.

The Bible training class of 19 students was jointly founded by pastors from house churches in several local counties to train young Christians. More than 10 uniformed police raided the training class and searched its facilities for two hours. Officials showed only their police identification certificates and did not present a search warrant when they searched the rooms. Officers seized two account books and two other books, but did not give the Christians a receipt for the confiscated objects.

At 7 p.m., the 19 students and two house church leaders, Zhu Jianguo and Cheng Donglai, were taken to the Public Security Bureau for investigation where they were forcibly photographed and videotaped. Officials also recorded the Christians’ personal information. During the interrogation, the Public Security cadres pounded on the desk to scare the Christians and lectured the students with political propaganda in an effort to force the students to say that the church lured them to participate in the study. At about 10 p.m., the students were released, but the two church leaders were not released until about 12 a.m.

The next day, December 23, 2008, the Public Security Bureau called the church leaders and warned them to send the students home before government officials arrived at the site of the training. Having no alternative, the church sent the 19 students home. Later that morning, officials from the Municipal Public Security Bureau, the County Public Security Bureau, Bureau of Religion and the police station returned to the site of the Bible training. They photographed and videotaped all materials at the site and threatened the church members that anyone touching the materials would be in punished. The County Bureau of Religion posted sealing tape to shut off the house church building. Officials then read the seizure decision statement of the government in which they claimed they were notified that Cheng Donglai illegally ran a school, then pronounced the school abolished. Government officials also announced that they would demolish or sell the building used for the Bible training.

At press time, the incident has not been resolved. Zhu Jianguo and Cheng Donglai, the two church leaders involved in this incident, expect officials to summon them at any time for further investigation.

Chinese Christians in Hubei Province Missing
HUBEI, CHINA – Four Christians are missing and many more have been persecuted in Hubei province during the month of November 2008 according to the South China Church house church network. ChinaAid recently received a detailed report from South China Church leaders detailing the arrests, beatings and disappearances of Christians in their house churches in Jingmen city and Xiangfan city areas.

According to church leaders, the four missing believers include: Mr. Yi Peng, Mr. Zhu Yongping, Ms. Wang Ke and one other Christian man. They were all last seen being forcibly taken away by Bureau of State Security officials in separate incidents at the beginning of November. None have been heard from since.

Other Christians have been beaten publically by plainclothes officials; their Bibles, personal property and money taken. In one incident on November 1, house church Christians Li Duojia, Qiu Xiangying and one other Christian were getting ready to get on a train at Jingmen Train Station, when they were beaten by seven or eight plainclothes officials from the Bureau of State Security and investigation team on the train platform. They were handcuffed and detained at a hotel across the street. The authorities took away their Bibles, saying: “We persecute you, confiscate your Bibles and our purpose is not to allow you to believe in Jesus. … This persecution of you is to thoroughly destroy your church, get rid of the missionaries and disband you believers.” During the interrogation, authorities grabbed the Christians by the hair and took photos of them by force from all sides, and then forcibly took prints of their hands and the soles of their feet.

South China Church contacts stated, “Many missionaries and believers are so chased that they cannot go back to their own homes, till their fields, take care of their parents or raise their own children. … We also call on peace-loving people of righteousness from all walks of life to show their concern for South China Church and Chinese believers being persecuted by the authorities.”

There's a New Blog in Town

In conjunction with a new addition to Midland's Christian community, comes a new addition to Midland's corner of the blogosphere.

"Since September a group called the New Worship Service Design Team has been meeting and hammering out all the details for the new service," Dolce J writes in
this post at Into the West Texas Sun. "The new service will be called The Bridge and it will start up at 11 am on January 25th, 2009."

This "new" blog has actually been up-and-running for four months.

"In August of 2008 my wife and I moved from Fort Collins, Colorado, to the comparative isolation of West Texas," Dolce J writes in
his profile. "My job is to help build a contemporary worship service in a new space in a traditional Protestant church. God help them and me!"

That church, by the way, is
First Presbyterian Church of Midland, located at the corner of A and Texas streets, on the west edge of downtown Midland. The blog provides plenty of photos and text describing the rennovations done to the church's old chapel in preparation for its new mission.
I hope you'll consider adding Into the West Texas Sun to your blogroll. Also, begining January 25, feel free to stop by First Prez-Midland on Sunday mornings at eleven, and say 'hello' and 'welcome' to the actual person ... you can call him 'John.'

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Partners Blogcast: "Christmas in Burma"

Steve and Oddny Gumaer started Partners Relief & Development in response to the needs of refugees and displaced people from Burma. This blog is meant to be a more personal stream of conversation than newsletters allow for. The opinions expressed here may not be those of Partners Relief & Development.


Christmas in Burma


By Oddny Gumaer - "The evening sky was like black velvet sprinkled with gold sparkles. I pulled my hat down over my ears and was thankful for my wool sweater. Holding a cup of hot tea kept my hands warm.


I was deep in Burma's jungle, and it was December 1. All around me, Karen people were welcoming the Christmas month together. The Karen call this night "Sweet December."

We were in a field, and a fire was burning. People who had walked from the villages close by to attend the big event stood close to the flames, enjoying the warmth. Many of them were barefoot; most of them were poorly dressed. Several children around me wore only a ripped t-shirt. I shivered in the cold.

All night they sang Christmas songs. Songs reminding them of the birth of Jesus and the freedom he came to give.

A couple of miles away were the Burma Army soldiers. It did not seem to matter on this starlit evening. Or maybe it did. I couldn't tell.

Later all the guests got a present-a bar of soap and sweets for the children. In spite of the cold weather there was warmth in the air. Their celebration was a simple act of gratitude, love and joy.

A country at war. Children with hungry stomachs. Weather that was almost freezing, but no shoes. Diseases that spread faster and got worse because of the cold, but no doctors or medicines. And still, they chose to sing!

The freedom, the warmth, the safety, the wrapped presents and the yummy food that we take for granted, is but a dream for them. But the ability to enjoy small pleasures-a warm fire, songs that have been sung for generations, or even a bar of soap-is something they can teach us a lot about.

I was touched and thankful to be able to celebrate together with a people who have suffered for so many generations. As we celebrate Christmas, remember the 1.5 million people who are hiding in the jungles of Burma-on the run from an enemy who wants them gone- right now. Remember them in your thoughts, prayers, and gatherings.

At Partners, we want to wish you a blessed Christmas, a time filled with joy and love. May some of the simplicity of the celebration among Karen Christians in Burma remind us of the true reason for the season.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Midland Group: Chinese Christians in Earthquake Disaster Areas Raided by Police on Christmas Eve

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.

Issued by ChinaAid, December, 2008 ...

Chinese Government Launches Attacks Against Christians During Christmas Season
SICHUAN, CHINA – ChinaAid contacts issued the following report of police raids on four households in the Sichuan earthquake disaster area on Christmas Eve. The households were raided because of the help they received from Christians:

The construction sites of four households for disaster victims: Deng Zonghua, Li Baohua, Huang Tinggui and Li Baotong located in Group 2, Jingjia village, Quchuan township, Beichuan county of Sichuan province, were illegally raided by more than 40 policemen on December 24. The reason for the raid is that they received the help of Christian volunteers from outside the area.

At about 3 p.m. on the afternoon of December 24, as the earthquake victims and the Christian volunteers for the construction of a building were taking a rest on the construction site, more than 40 policemen and an estimated 10 police vehicles led by Deng Changda, Chief of Security Section of the County Public Security Bureau, illegally raided the site. The policemen, untidy, badly dressed and reeking with strong smells of alcohol were vicious in their attack. They beat, swore at and insulted the people at the scene without apparent reasons except to fight illegal Christian gatherings. They threatened to demolish the house, newly built by the earthquake victims. Finally, the police took away Li Zenggui, a local earthquake victim, and Christian volunteers Cao Gang, Brother Yang, as well as others . They also seized Bibles, hymnals, televisions, motorcycles and many other items owned by the Christians. During the raid, the police refused to present documents to prove their actions were legal.

Quchuan township in Beichuan county of Sichuan province, is an area that was hard-hit from the last earthquake in Sichuan. Due to its remote location, it is hard for the area to receive assistance from the government and official relief agencies. Most of the earthquake victims in this area are still living in simple and crude shacks. In cold weather, where the temperature is 4-5 degrees below zero Celsius and where it snows from time to time, it is extremely difficult for the disaster victims to make it through the cold winter without care and assistance from the outside. After the earthquake, Christian volunteers have continuously provided assistance to the local earthquake victims and have won approval and praises from the local earthquake victims.

The raid by the police is extremely unpopular among the local earthquake victims. They want to hold the police liable for their illegal conduct. The consensus among them is that receiving assistance from Christian volunteers and accepting Christian beliefs are their rights as citizens and that it is very unreasonable for the government to attack them and punish them for helping themselves while the government is not able or willing to provide any assistance.

Brother Xing Guichang, leader of the local Christian volunteers, is a missionary from a house church in Taihe county, Anhui province. He came to the disaster area of Beichuan county only seven days after the earthquake and has been working there up to the present. With a good knowledge of the overall effects of the disaster in the local areas, Brother Xing has deep sympathy for the disaster victims. He has also won the trust of the local quake victims. Since he was not at the scene during the raid, he was not arrested by the police. He cannot make sense of the government’s conduct in attacking Christian volunteers for their assistance to the quake victims. Brother Xing has a great burden for the dilemma currently facing the quake victims. He calls on all Christians and those in the international community with a sense of righteousness to express their concern for the quake victims in Sichuan.

Phone number of Brother Xing Guichang: (86)15182405277.

December 25 is Christmas Day which is celebrated the world over. The world calls for freedom, peace and love. The gift the Chinese officials gave to the quake victims and the Christian relief workers this holiday is still “persecution!”

Friday, December 26, 2008

Askren Family Newsletter: "Discipleship With Yo"

The Askren Family has set out in obedience to God's word and have become the house parents of the Mae Ka Chan Children's Home in Northern Thailand. They invite you to join their ministry to the children of Thailand - through prayer, action and giving.

Discipleship with Yo
by James Askren
Some months ago, a young man named Yo volunteered to work at the Children's Home as a translator. Besides helping greatly to open communication with the Thai staff, he has also become a friend. Now on Wednesdays and Fridays, Yo and I study the Bible.

CLICK HERE to read the rest of James' report from Thailand

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Partners Blogcast: "Christmas Refelections on Value"

Steve and Oddny Gumaer started Partners Relief & Development in response to the needs of refugees and displaced people from Burma. This blog is meant to be a more personal stream of conversation than newsletters allow for. The opinions expressed here may not be those of Partners Relief & Development.

Christmas Reflections on Value

By Sarah Lapa - "My personal feeling is that the value of a person's life is not determined by an individual's degree of wealth. Some people feel that their life has value when they own a house and a car. My feeling is that the person who assists the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the refugee - that person's life is of great value, because he/she lifts up those who need help.”

Faces of Children: Prayer Requests

Faces of Children is an ecumenical prayer ministry under the auspices of First Presbyterian Church of Midland, Texas. Our mission is to initiate ministries of prayer for children in churches, communities, and neighborhoods. In doing so, we 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).

Prayer Concerns for the week of 12/25/08

Somalia, Kenya
• Please be in prayer for the children and people of Somalia as violence shatters the fabric of their country. Over 16,000 civilians have been killed in the last two years, according to a local human rights group in Mogadishu.
• Pray for aid workers who risk kidnapping or death to help the people of Somalia. A human rights organization says this nation is the most dangerous place on earth for aid workers.
• Pray for the estimated one million refugees who have fled the increasing violence and escalating attacks, assassinations and kidnappings. Almost two-thirds of the residents of Mogadishu, 870,000 people, have fled the city in the last two years. Pray for peace in this struggling nation.
• Pray for the 220,000 Somali refugees in the Dadaab camps in Kenya. Human Rights Watch calls this the largest concentration of refugees in the world. Pray for the safety and wellbeing of children living in these camps.
A report from alertnet.org
Another report from alertnet.org

Kenya
(CURE International –www.helpcurenow.org)
• Pray for the disabled children receiving treatment at the CURE International Hospital in Kenya and especially for two girls: 11-year-old Emily and 12-year-old Everline.

Sudan
• Pray for the children of Sudan who continue to be affected by more than five years of mass murder and violence in their country. The government of Sudan continues attack populated areas says a recent joint report by 15 human rights organizations
.
• Pray for those living in refugee camps and for those who have had their homes and villages destroyed. An estimated 2.7 million children, women and men have been left homeless because of this conflict.
• Pray for children who have had their parents murdered or beaten; who have lost loved ones and friends The UN estimates that 300,000 people have died in the fighting between rebels and the Sudanese army and government-backed militia.

United States
• Please pray for girls in Washington state, some as young as 12 and 13 years old, who have been coerced into prostitution by pimps.
   ○ Pray for girls who are vulnerable to the tactics used by pimps. Girls are often befriended and courted for weeks by pimps. The girls are groomed for prostitution—pimps buy them expensive presents and tell them they are beautiful, then rape and beat them into submission. The girls (and their families) are threatened with bodily harm if they try to escape.
   ○ Pray for an increase in law enforcement personnel and aftercare facilities to help these exploited young victims who are often trafficked across state lines. Pray for justice and healing for these prostituted girls.
   ○ Pray for community awareness about issues relating to the prostitution of children. Pray that men and women of God will rise up in outrage against the commercial sexual abuse of God’s precious children.
• Please pray for children from low income families in the U.S. and around the world who will go without meals during this holiday season.
   ○ Pray for children, whose only meals are through school feeding programs, as they face empty cupboards at home during school holidays. Pray that supplemental food programs will be available to them.
   ○ Pray for all children out of school this holiday season—for those with too little and those with too much.
• Please keep Jack in prayer as he recovers from a recent surgery and as he deals with the discomfort of a full cast from his waist down. Pray for his complete healing.

Faces of Children
• Please continue to pray that more churches and individuals will join with the ministry of Faces of Children in spreading awareness about children in crisis and inviting more people to pray for children at risk.

Advent Reflections: December 25

John 1:1-14 BibleGateway.com

When all is said and done, the news of Christmas Day fairly begs to be sung. At Christmas, our best theological constructions, our best arguments for the incarnation, finally melt away; and they can hardly stand up unless we sing them!

So it is that John the gospel-writer wrote this hymn, really. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God … and the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory … full of grace and truth.” That’s not just theology. That’s music.

How can we not sing at Christmas, or, for that matter, at any season of the year when, whatever your circumstances, you are in touch with some evidence of God’s breathtaking initiative to come and dwell with us? I’m remembering a Seminary trip that my family and I took to Zambia eighteen months ago. We went with a faculty-led study group of students, and were guests of our sister seminary there. One day, the Synod Moderator came to take us to a nearby Presbyterian church for a visit (I thought it was just going to be a low-key tour of the building, a look at some of its mission programs). When we pulled up in front, I was blown away by the sight that awaited us. In the middle of a weekday, more than two hundred people, members of that church, were stretched out across the front of that church and waiting to welcome us! When we got out of the car, they began singing, and they sang us down the center aisle of that church and up into the chancel, and for the next hour and a half it was vibrant, joyous singing. The stout texts of stately European hymns from the missionary period had now been set to their own breathtaking African melodies, and I had never heard such harmonies. These were people with nothing — except a song. It was music that people just naturally make when, in large ways or small, they endeavor to respond to the Good News that God has given us.

And now, at Christmas, One long awaited is here to save us, and to be our companion as we seek to follow Him. He is the Word-made-flesh that is dwelling among us, full of grace and truth. He is the One, as Barbara Taylor has said, “who is made out of the same stuff we are and who is made out of the same stuff God is and who will not let either of us go.” He brings Good News which, by the grace of God and to the glory of God, we can forever applaud, and believe, and (maybe most importantly) sing.

All glory to you, great God, for the gift of your Son, whom you sent to save us. With singing angels, we will praise your name, and tell the earth his story! Amen

Theodore J. Wardlaw, President and Seminary Ambassador
Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary


For the glory of God and to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary is a seminary in the Presbyterian-Reformed tradition whose mission is to educate and equip individuals for the ordained Christian ministry and other forms of Christian service and leadership; to employ its resources in the service of the church; to promote and engage in critical theological thought and research; and to be a winsome and exemplary community of God's people.
CLICK HERE to learn how you can support the mission of Austin Seminary

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Partners Blogcast: "Waiting for Over 62 Years"

Steve and Oddny Gumaer started Partners Relief & Development in response to the needs of refugees and displaced people from Burma. This blog is meant to be a more personal stream of conversation than newsletters allow for. The opinions expressed here may not be those of Partners Relief & Development.

Waiting for Over 62 Years

By Marv Kahn - "As I ponder what the Christmas season means to me I often think of the stories of the IDP’s and how they live their lives, having very little, waiting patiently for the next time when they will eat, drink, have medical care and shelter."

"Patience is a God given virtue and they practice it often. To wait on man and to wait on the Lord has it’s similarities but to wait on the Lord is a time honored practice that has been going on for thousands of years. They have been waiting for over 62 years for the end of a time where there faith has been tested many times. Christmas is a time to reflect on Gods goodness and to practice patience. We have an awesome God that loves us dearly, but holds us loosely. He is patient and waits on us. I pray that I can demonstrate a little of the patience that the IDP’s all seem to have.”

Advent Reflections: December 24

Luke 2:1-20 BibleGateway.com

Luke 2:1-20 is replete with sights, sounds, smells, scenery, and sensations–a governor’s decree, a long journey, pregnant Mary bumping along on a dusty donkey, no room in the inn, stunned shepherds, a heavenly host proclaiming Good News and peace, a crescendo of divine light andWord piercing the darkness, the Messiah has arrived!

Verse 19 haunts me: “But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” What, precisely, didMary “ponder in her heart?” Surely she wondered what to make of all this, and what would one day become of Jesus. She must have wondered: “Why me?”

A baby brings both peace and upheaval – it turns our world upside down. Holding our newborn children, I was upside down with wonder, awe, joy, and trepidation. You ponder what will become of your children. Who will they become? Where will life take them? Mary could not envision the degree to which Jesus would turn the world upside down.

I often pondered why our Savior came as an infant–until I had children, that is—now I think I understand. The greatest paradox of our Christian faith is this: 2000 years ago Holy God, Emmanuel, took on human flesh in the form of a baby to pierce the darkness and turn our world upside down. And when we make room for Him in the inn of our hearts he does it again … and again.

O Lord, pierce our darkness with your light and turn our worlds upside down with prophetic peace. Amen

David Lee Jones, Director of Doctor of Ministry Program
Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary


For the glory of God and to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary is a seminary in the Presbyterian-Reformed tradition whose mission is to educate and equip individuals for the ordained Christian ministry and other forms of Christian service and leadership; to employ its resources in the service of the church; to promote and engage in critical theological thought and research; and to be a winsome and exemplary community of God's people.
CLICK HERE to learn how you can support the mission of Austin Seminary

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Midland Group: Chinese Court Declines 'Church House' Case

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.

Issued by ChinaAid, December, 2008 ...

HENAN, CHINA – In Taoling village, Pushan town, Nanyang city, Henan, more than 40 Christians were detained at a Christian leaders’ gathering on December 16, 2008. Officials told them they must pay a 1,000 to 2,000 yuan fine to be released. Some Christians were released after paying the fine. However, 16 Christians were sentenced to 10 to 15 days administrative detention for engaging in an "illegal religious gathering.” Mr. Yan Linshan, the host of the meeting received 10 days of administrative detention and a 1,000 yuan fine.
Read the Full Story

Police Forcibly Escort Pastor “Bike” Out of Beijing

BEIJING, CHINA – Pastor “Bike” Zhang Mingxuan called ChinaAid from the back of a police car where he was being forcibly escorted from Beijing to Hubei province by three Public Security Bureau (PSB) officers. The PSB officers dropped off Pastor Bike at a hotel in Hubei with 20 yuan to pay for a room. This is the second time in two weeks Pastor Bike has been forcibly escorted out of Beijing.

During the call, PSB officers raised the volume of the car radio to try and drown out the conversation, but Pastor Bike was able to communicate to ChinaAid some of the details of the incident. Around 11:15 p.m. Pastor Bike, president of the Chinese House Church Alliance house church network, was staying with Pastor Hua Huiqi at his home when three PSB officers pounded on the door. According to Pastor Bike, two of the officers, Officer Yang and Officer Qin, were from the Beijing PSB, and they had been ordered by a higher government authority to force Pastor Bike to leave Beijing. The other officer was from the district PSB. Pastor Bike says he thinks he has been secretly followed and watched since he was forced out of Beijing on December 9.

On December 9, Pastor Bike was staying with Pastor Hua Huiqi when police broke into the home around 11: 30 p.m. This incident happened on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the UN’s “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” and on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the signing of “International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” by the Chinese government

Radio Free Asia interviewed Pastor Bike and Pastor Hua a day after the incident. According to Radio Free Asia, Pastor Hua shared, “Zhang Mingxuan let me read the document of abolishing the alliance. Then, we had a dinner in the evening. At 11:30, the police broke in when my door was not locked. Wang Xiaoyi from Fengtai District Bureau of Religion and some agents in charge of religious affairs from Fengtai District Domestic Defense Protection Squad and several police officers dragged and pushed me into another room, claiming that they wanted to talk to me. I told them I had a guest in my home and they shouldn’t tell me that my guest couldn’t stay here. He [Pastor Bike] and I hadn’t seen each other for quite some time. The police blocked me in that room and wouldn’t let me go to the other room, saying, ‘We don’t allow you to receive him as a guest.’ … It was 10 minutes to 12 o’clock when Pastor Zhang Mingxuan was escorted by force to a police vehicle. He and I are personal friends. Since he came to Beijing, we have been very good friends. We are also very good brothers in Christ and there is nothing wrong in receiving him as a guest.”

Police harassed Pastor Hua, as well, trying to convince him to cooperate. Pastor Hua’s mother, Shuang Shuying, 78, is currently in prison. She is serving a two-year sentence for “intentional damage of properties” in February 2007. Pastor Hua said, “The Municipal Public Security Bureau has been telling me that as long as I cooperate with them, I can, first of all, make a fortune and then I can also get my mother out.” Pastor Hua says the requirements for “cooperation” include spying on other Christians and not helping those who are persecuted. Pastor Hua regularly hosts persecuted Christians in his home and helps them pursue legal cases.

West Texas Mission Opportunities:
Upward Basketball & Cheerleading

There are some for whom the word "mission" conjures up images of travels to the far side of the world for extended periods of time ... but that is NOT always the case. There are opportunities going on in your community - right here, right now - that have a genuine need for someone with exactly your skills, and exactly your schedule.

One is Upward Basketball & Cheerleading, which kicks-off its 2009 season in West Texas, in just a couple of weeks. Upward introduces children to Jesus Christ by creating opportunities to serve through sports. Upward is a fun, reliable, passionate and encouraging sports experience for boys and girls, in K5 through sixth grade. Upward provides first class, organized and detailed sports programming. Unique aspects of Upward include an evaluation system that promotes equal and competitive teams as well as a substitution system which allows for equal playing time for all participants.Through Upward, children are exposed to quality coaching and sport development. Upward emphasizes character and integrity instead of a “win at all costs” mentality associated with today’s sports world.

And, NO, you don't have to be a member of a church in order to participate!

There are all kinds of ways you can help the Upward program in your community ... all kinds of ways you can become a West Texas Missioner. You can be a coach, or an assistant, a referee or a timekeeper. You may also choose to present a brief devotional to the audience during the halftimes, while the teams are resting and getting ready for the next round of play. Your focus can be current events, a piece of Scripture from the Bible, or sports. You can compose your own, or work from guidelines that participating churches will provide you.

You can also help by signing-up your child, then heading to the game and cheering for everyone on the floor!

In Midland, there are programs at
First Baptist Church and First Presbyterian Church.

In Odessa, there are programs at
Sherwood Baptist Church, First Baptist Church, Second Baptist Church and Faith Church of the Nazarene.

And in Lamesa, there is a program at
First Baptist Church.

In the weeks ahead, we will present more "West Texas Mission Opportunities" on this site.

Coming to the Tall City

"In just short of a decade," Jackie Chapman wrote in this article for ChristianMusicToday.com, "the David Crowder Band has amassed a loyal following through their uniquely textured alternative worship music."

West Texans will have a chance to hear and enjoy the music and the message for themselves January 14, when
David Crowder*Band - a 6-piece Christian electronic rock and worship band from Waco, Texas - takes the stage at Midland Center. Tickets for the concert are $20 each, and can be purchased at First Presbyterian Church of Midland, 800 W. Texas Avenue (on the west edge of downtown Midland); and Mardel Book Store, 5214 W. Wadley Avenue (in northwest Midland). For more information, call First Prez-Midland at 684-7821.

Advent Reflections: December 23

Isaiah 9:2-7 BibleGateway.com

We have a cottage in northwestern Lower Michigan, far from the nearest town and its streetlights. The sun doesn’t set in summer till ten o’clock, and when the night falls it’s usually well-lit by the moon hanging over the lake or a sea of generous stars. But on overcast nights, the unlit two-rut road that leads to our place is darker than dark. When we walk to a neighboring cottage for an evening, we carry a flashlight for the midnight walk back. But occasionally we’ve forgotten that flashlight or discovered its batteries gone when we flipped it on. This, then, is what it is to “walk in darkness.” This, for a moment, is what it is to live in a “land of deep darkness.” It’s utterly disorienting. Perception of distance and sense of direction dissolve. You feel your way slowly with tiny, cautious steps. My wife and I always hold hands. She quips that we do this so that if one of us stumbles, we’ll both be sure to fall down. Actually, it’s vaguely frightening. But then we round a twist in the road, and the porch light we left burning flickers through the trees. It’s still very dark, but now there’s a point of reference, a destination, and you can see, just enough. Suddenly we’re oriented again. We step faster, fearlessly. A light has shined on us, and it’s home.

Tune our eyes to the Advent dim, O God, that we may see even the faintest glimmers of your light in the darkness around us. May we step boldly toward you, our destination, our home, our light. Fill us with wisdom, Wonderful Counselor. Empower us, Mighty God. Save us, Everlasting Father. Grant us peace, Prince of Peace. Amen

Michael L. Lindvall, Senior Pastor, Brick Presbyterian Church, New York City
Seminary Ambassador and Trustee
Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary


For the glory of God and to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary is a seminary in the Presbyterian-Reformed tradition whose mission is to educate and equip individuals for the ordained Christian ministry and other forms of Christian service and leadership; to employ its resources in the service of the church; to promote and engage in critical theological thought and research; and to be a winsome and exemplary community of God's people.
CLICK HERE to learn how you can support the mission of Austin Seminary

Monday, December 22, 2008

Midland Group Urges International Attention for Three Imprisoned Chinese Christians

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.

Issued by ChinaAid, December, 2008 ...

XINJIANG, CHINA – ChinaAid issues an urgent call to the international press, government leaders and concerned individuals around the world to intercede on behalf of Christian prisoners in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region: Alimujiang Yimiti, Wusiman Yiming and Lou Yuanqi. ChinaAid has learned from an anonymous government insider who is sympathetic with the Christians that international pressure is critical now. The source says the Xinjiang Authority is deliberating whether to release these three prisoners.

Alimujiang, Wusiman and Lou have been shown great injustice by the Xinjiang government in delayed trials, mistreatment in prison and blatant violation of legal rights.

Mr. Alimujiang Yimiti, a Christian from the Uyghur minority, has been in detention for since January 12, 2008 for preaching Christianity. On May 27, his case was tried in court and the verdict was that it should be returned to the local Public Security Bureau (PSB) prosecutors because of “insufficient evidence” against him. Sources report that Alimujiang is highly respected in the prison and is praised by people there. He insists on his innocence and adheres to his Christian beliefs. Yet, the local government in Kashi has not responded to inquiries and it appears the case is being delayed indefinitely.

ChinaAid contacts report that since Alimujiang’s imprisonment, his wife, Guli Nuer, has been taking care of their two young sons and negotiating with the relevant government agencies in the hope that the government will handle this case impartially, expediently and in accordance with the law. Alimujiang’s mother is also traveling and working hard for the release of her son. Guli told friends of ChinaAid that in this tribulation she has learned how to be joyful and brave and to take care of the people around her by depending on Jesus Christ. She says that she hopes her husband can be acquitted and released. Guli also wishes to thank all the people who are concerned about Alimujiang’s case.

Another Uyghur Christian, Wusiman Yiming was sentenced to two years of re-education through labor in September 2007 for “revealing state secrets” and “illegal proselytizing.” Sources say that the real reason he was sentenced was because of his boldness as a Christian and a leader in the Uyghur church. Initially, officials planned to sentence him for 10 to 15 years, but after international media attention they sentenced him to two years in the labor camp. Sources report that he has aged dramatically in the labor camp and his health is deteriorating due to harsh conditions. When Wusiman’s lawyer appealed his sentence in June 2008, court authorities insisted on a closed hearing, then turned down the appeal and refused to explain.
They denied Wusiman proper access to his lawyer, which violated normal court procedure.
The most recent of the three cases in Xinjiang is that of Lou Yuanqi. Lou stood trial on December 15, 2008 on charges of “utilizing superstition to undermine the law.” Sources say the real reason for the charge was to stop Lou’s house church from meeting in his home. After Lou’s trial, his daughter Lou Tiantian, 18, was beaten by court police when she tried to speak with her father as he was being put into a police car. Lou Tiantian was taken to the hospital where she received medical treatment, then was released the same night. Judges have still not delivered a verdict on Pastor Lou’s case.

During Lou’s trial, the presiding judge acknowledged the persecution in Xinjiang. However, contacts reported that the judge stated, “’If the Christians have more religious freedom in areas outside Xinjiang, they should consider leaving Xinjiang because Xinjiang is special.”

Bob Fu, president of ChinaAid, strongly denounces the conduct of the government of Xinjiang and calls on the international community to show concern regarding the cases of Alimujiang, Wusiman and Lou and to urge the Chinese government to improve the status of the human rights of house church Christians and ethnic minorities in China.

Contact the following Chinese government offices to express your concern for the three Christian prisoners:

The People's Procurate of Xinjiang Autonomous Region
Tel: +86-991-2642000

The Supreme People's Court of Xinjiang
Tel: +86-991-5959301 or +86-991-5959480

The Office of Inspector General for Law Enforcement of China
Tel: +86-10-62251925 Fax: +86-10-62254181

The Petition Office of the Supreme People's Court of China
Tel: +86-10-63036424 or +86-10-83102103

God Issues Today: "A Benediction I'll Never Forget"

Author, educator and commentator Dr. James Denison has been pastor of Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas since June, 1998. Prior to that, he was pastor at churches in Atlanta, Georgia, as well as Midland (at First Baptist!) and Mansfield, Texas.

"Whenever I wonder if God loves me, I need only go to Bethlehem and Calvary. If he would give his Son for me, he must love me beyond all comprehension," Dr. Denison writes in today's post at God Issues.

Advent Reflections: December 22

Luke 1:26-28 BibleGateway.com

The Lord is with you.” What comforting words in such a perplexing time. I wonder if Mary knew what was about to come, just from these words of Gabriel. I wonder if she had any inclination that she was about to be given the most incredible news the world had ever heard. No matter what she thought, felt, or wondered, Mary knew one thing for sure…the Lord was indeed with her. Gabriel didn’t say, “The Lord was with you in the past,” or “The Lord will be with you in the future.” Gabriel told Mary that the Lord was with her.

This is the first hint we get as readers to the unexpected and extraordinary thing that is about to happen: the incarnation of God. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was preparing to enter the world as an infant, to be with us in the most intimate way possible. These five little words, “The Lord is with you,” are the most amazing words the world has ever heard. Just as these words brought hope and comfort to Mary, these words continue to be our hope and our comfort.

As we come closer to the celebration of the birth of our Lord, let us be reminded of the beauty and wonder of the incarnation. Let us stand in awe of the extraordinary love that has been lavished upon us, and let us sincerely ponder what it means for the Lord to be with us.

Gracious and Loving God, thank you for loving us so much that you came to be with us. We ask that you would give us the courage, comfort, and strength to live a life that is worthy of our calling. Let us be witnesses to the wonder and glory of your incarnation, living with the confidence that you are with us. Amen

Melissa R. Koerner, Senior Student, President of Student Senate
Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary


For the glory of God and to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary is a seminary in the Presbyterian-Reformed tradition whose mission is to educate and equip individuals for the ordained Christian ministry and other forms of Christian service and leadership; to employ its resources in the service of the church; to promote and engage in critical theological thought and research; and to be a winsome and exemplary community of God's people.
CLICK HERE to learn how you can support the mission of Austin Seminary

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Advent Reflections: December 21

Titus 2:11-14 BibleGateway.com

This rich passage places us in the powers of grace within which we wait with hope for God’s glory. We live within the interplay of grace and hope. We respond to the enticements of hope, not by looking to the horizons of the future, but, by focusing on our mundane and grace-filled lives of the present.

The wonders of Jesus’ death and the unspeakable and unknowable blessings of God’s final kingdom all enable us to live our ordinary lives in righteous and holy ways. Jesus “gave himself for us” so that we would be “zealous for good deeds.” We hope for God’s final revelation by living “lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly.” The wonders of the heavens, the imponderable mysteries of God’s glory, live in the simple deeds of our lives.

Thus, we turn this day to the wonders of this day. We live the simple Christian (and human) virtues. We pursue love and kindness and generosity. We flee selfishness and violence and hate. We give ourselves and our lives, as Jesus did, to others. We live convinced that righteousness and love will be victorious.We live convinced that the graces we enjoy in our own lives will one day bless the lives of everyone, even the world itself. The confusions of tomorrow are held in God’s hand, while the wonders of this day fall to us and our awkward deeds of love. Drinking the beauty of this day, pursuing the righteousness and justice within it, is a good way to wait for God’s glory.

God of today’s grace and tomorrow’s hope, we praise you for the beauty and opportunities of this good day. Pour your grace upon us so that we may live righteous, loving, and godly lives, this very day. Amen

Lewis Donelson, Ruth A. Campbell Professor of New Testament
Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary


For the glory of God and to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary is a seminary in the Presbyterian-Reformed tradition whose mission is to educate and equip individuals for the ordained Christian ministry and other forms of Christian service and leadership; to employ its resources in the service of the church; to promote and engage in critical theological thought and research; and to be a winsome and exemplary community of God's people.
CLICK HERE to learn how you can support the mission of Austin Seminary

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Midland Group: Chinese Court Declines 'Church House' Case

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.

Issued by ChinaAid, December, 2008 ...

BEIJING, CHINA – On December 4, 2008 Pastor “Bike” Zhang Mingxuan attempted to file an “Administrative Statement of Complaint” against the government decision to abolish the Chinese House Church Alliance, but the court refused to accept the case. In support of the Chinese House Church Alliance, 15 Chinese Christian legal professionals and intellectuals have issued a formal solemn declaration against the actions of the Ministry of Civil Affairs, stating in part, “If this order of abolishment continues to be used in other expanded areas, this could well cause the abolishment of all the Christian house churches.” The actions of Pastor Bike and the legal professionals are in protest of the Ministry of Civil Affairs “Decision Statement on Abolishment” of the Chinese House Church Alliance announced on November 28. The same morning the abolishment was announced, officers arrested 17 Christians and an American reporter who were holding a prayer meeting in the residence of Pastor Bike.

Friends of ChinaAid Visit Family of Christian Prisoner

BEIJING, CHINA – Recently friends of ChinaAid visited Christian prisoner Shi Weihan’s family and reported to ChinaAid about the family’s situation and ongoing persecution by the Chinese government. Christian bookstore owner and house church leader, Shi Weihan, has been imprisoned in Beijing Haidian District Detention Center since March 19, 2008 for printing and distributing Bibles and other Christian literature. No charges have ever been filed against Shi Weihan. He is being held under "administrative detention" and could be held up to three years without any charges. Shi Weihan’s wife is bearing much of the burden for their family. Authorities continue to pressure the family. It is reported that Shi Weihan’s brother has been beaten by police for his involvement with Shi Weihan’s Christian bookstore.

Advent Reflections: December 20

Psalm 96 BibleGateway.com

The Psalmist speaks of singing and rejoicing, and Advent is a time when these activities seem to be happening all around us. Christmas music is everywhere, playing in every store and on the radio. Ads tell us we should be celebrating the season and spreading joy by buying things to give as presents. Advent reminds us that we are singing to the Lord with praise and adoration because we have already received the most precious gift of all.

This season is captured most in my memories of Christmas Eve midnight services, when I have returned home to the church in which I grew up. Families have gathered, and it is a time to renew old acquaintances. We gather to sing to the Lord and rejoice and worship. When the lights are turned off near the end of the service, I wait in the darkness in anticipation of the light I know is coming. The first notes of “Silent Night” sound, and the first candle is lit. When my own candle is lit, it does not do much other than to illuminate the page of my hymnal. But as each person lights the candle held by the person next to them, the sanctuary is gradually filled with a warm flickering glow. By the end of the song, each face is illuminated by the golden light of the candles. Once again, the darkness has been chased away, and the light has returned.

God of Light, you are great and greatly to be praised. Illumine our way and bring light to our darkness that we might reflect your light and your glory as we rejoice in remembering the birth of your son and await the coming of your kingdom. Amen

Traci Truly, Senior Student
Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary


For the glory of God and to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary is a seminary in the Presbyterian-Reformed tradition whose mission is to educate and equip individuals for the ordained Christian ministry and other forms of Christian service and leadership; to employ its resources in the service of the church; to promote and engage in critical theological thought and research; and to be a winsome and exemplary community of God's people.
CLICK HERE to learn how you can support the mission of Austin Seminary

Friday, December 19, 2008

Askren Family Newsletter: "Stitch by Stitch"

The Askren Family has set out in obedience to God's word and have become the house parents of the Mae Ka Chan Children's Home in Northern Thailand. They invite you to join their ministry to the children of Thailand - through prayer, action and giving.

Stitch by Stitch
by Katie Askren
When I have a minute, here or there throughout the day, crochet is my running project. One square at a time, I stitch a blanket as an example for a class I'm planning to start-up in the next couple of months. Our goal is for several children to come together to make one blanket. Some we will keep for added warmth, some we will sell to help raise money.

CLICK HERE to read the rest of Katie's report from Thailand

Midland Group Urges Help for Families of Imprisoned Chinese Christians

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.

Issued by ChinaAid, December, 2008 ...

BEIJING, CHINA – Lanlan is a young Chinese girl who will spend this Christmas without her father. Her dad, Pastor Lou Yuanqi is in the midst of a trial which started just days ago. This is the fourth time he has been imprisoned for his faith. From information ChinaAid has received, his sentence will likely be severe.

Lanlan, with her mother, brother and sister wait at home, knowing in just a few days, their lives will be changed by the verdict.

Even at the young age of 16, Lanlan has already paid a price for religious freedom. Police arrested her last February for teaching Sunday school. Police also arrested the 10 children who had gathered with Lanlan and kept them outside in the cold, walled-in courtyard of the police station without even a coat to keep them warm.

With this harsh treatment towards children, Lanlan knows that the treatment her father receives is much worse. This Christmas, would you consider helping Lanlan's family and others like them, by providing support for food, clothing and basic necessities in their hour of trial?

CLICK HERE to learn how you can help

God Issues Today: "Fooling Cyberspace"

Author, educator and commentator Dr. James Denison has been pastor of Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas since June, 1998. Prior to that, he was pastor at churches in Atlanta, Georgia, as well as Midland (at First Baptist!) and Mansfield, Texas.

"When you wonder if your Creator accepts you unconditionally, go to Bethlehem," Dr. Denison writes in today's post at God Issues.

Advent Reflections: December 19

Romans 16:25-27 BibleGateway.com

One of the best parts of these last couple of days before Christmas is the anticipation: of the next person to show up, the next gift to be placed under the tree, or the next warm baked good to be pulled from the oven. But what would life be like without anticipation? We would live our lives with each new day filled with dangers and unexpected pitfalls. We would find no joy in each new day and no hope that anything better is yet to come. Unfortunately, I think we do live our lives that way sometimes; we lose sight of God’s eternal plan and live each day with no joy or hope of Christ’s reign.

In today’s passage Paul summarizes God’s redemptive plan in one final sentence in Romans and praises God for this eternal plan through Jesus Christ. God’s plan is no secret! Jesus Christ is no secret! We have been made a part of this plan and can sit in anticipation of its completion in Christ’s return. Christ has been made known in the prophets, Christ has come and walked among us, Christ died and rose for us, and now we actively wait for Christ to come again. The anticipation makes me want to shake my Bible, like I do my Christmas gifts, looking for some clue as to what is to come.

Eternal and Wise God, you set your plan into action before the waters of creation and continue to build upon your plan in our time. The anticipation of its completion is almost too much to bear, but we give thanks for the joy that comes with the anticipation and ask that you use our anxious energy for your coming kingdom. We pray in the name of the coming Lord. Amen

Matthew L. Thompson, Senior Student
Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary


For the glory of God and to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary is a seminary in the Presbyterian-Reformed tradition whose mission is to educate and equip individuals for the ordained Christian ministry and other forms of Christian service and leadership; to employ its resources in the service of the church; to promote and engage in critical theological thought and research; and to be a winsome and exemplary community of God's people.
CLICK HERE to learn how you can support the mission of Austin Seminary

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Please Make Note for Your Christmas List

Looking for a 'little something' to add to your Christmas gift list? How about a "perfect stocking-stuffer?" Here is a wonderful way to spread the news ... AND spread the WORD. Notecards bearing images created by orphans of the Lulwanda Children's Home of Uganada, are now on sale at First Presbyterian Church of Midland. A packet of eight 51/2" x 3" cards, printed on heavy card stock, with envelopes, costs $10 and all of the proceeds from the sale goes to Lulwanda Children's Home.
All of the images that appear on the cards were created by the children this summer, when they were visited by FPC's 2008 Uganada Mission Team. You can choose from full-color landscapes, black-and white barnyard animals, or variable-color native plants from this region of Uganda. First Presbyterian Church is located on the northwest corner of Texas and A streets, on the west edge of downtown Midland, please use the Texas Street entrance near the intersection. The church office is open Monday through Friday, from eight o'clock in the morning until five o'clock in the afternoon. For more information, please call First Prez-Midland at (432) 684-7821.

Lulwanda Children’s Home opened its doors on December 1, 2004, the first children’s home established by the Grace International Children’s Foundation (GICF). Lulwanda now houses and cares for 90 orphaned or abandoned children between the ages of 3 and 12.

Before coming to Lulwanda Children’s Home, many of these children had no one to care for them, while others were living in desperate conditions with aging and overburdened grandparents. Now the children are thriving in a healthy, nurturing environment. The children not only live at Lulwanda, they also attend primary school on site, learning basic life skills, English, math, and a variety of other subjects. Pre-school, kindergarten, and first through fifth grades are held simultaneously for five hours daily, five days per week. The children receive regular medical care, nutritious meals, and lots of outdoor play time – all in a warm family environment that promotes bonding between the children, their house mothers, and the rest of the staff members

Facilities at the Lulwanda Children’s Home include boys’ and girls’ dormitories and bathhouses, living / dining areas, 6 classrooms, a large playground, a kitchen, laundry room, and a garden which provides some of the food for the Home. A 10 acre farm was recently acquired and food crops are being grown and harvested. The Home Administrator lives on site, as do the four housemothers.

CLICK HERE to view or download a 2 page color tri-fold brochure about Lulwanda, in PDF format.