Judy's Update from Goma

Judy Kee continues her travels in Congo and send the update below. We pray for her and look forward to her return this coming week.

We arrived here safely with no delays at the Beni airport and Dr. Jo met us at the Goma airport. What a busy city full of people, motorcycles, minibuses, and pedestrians: one million population and growing. The traffic was heavy at 5 p.m. through town getting to his home lakeside. I found that the grief over the loss of Lyn’s presence here overwhelmed me as we walked into their familiar yard and her rose garden. She is mentioned here often, and their shared vision for Heal Africa continues to be Jo’s inspiration. That eased my heart. Sleep was difficult for me as the pillow was unyielding and the dreams and thoughts were many.

Today we went to Heal Africa for morning Friday prayers in the Tabernacle (church) for an especially long worship service complete with a sermon: dual preaching in English and Swahili. We toured the hospital and saw the construction on going here. Two of our former students from the Baptist church came to see Nancy and me. “We are here because you are here, Madame."

Thursday, after we left the Beni airport, there was a conflict that occurred with our further details. The need to be courageous and persist in the work at CME Beni is a constant need with this continued civil unrest.

On Thursday morning, the young doctor who is medical director, Dr. Baraka, told us his dreams for leadership development that he is using currently. He is a very wise young man guided by God in so many ways.  I recorded a testimony from him in English for you all to hear.

The passages of Scripture we have been reading daily have greatly aided my prayers, like forgiveness, deliverance from evil, loving our neighbors, etc., all fall into the realm of prayer needs here. I realize that there are no safe places in the world. Safe meaning security that is sure. There is always conflict, stealing, murder, deception as part of the kingdom of the principalities and powers over which Jesus declared victory. Joshua 1:7-9 certainly applies in all those confrontations with the GIANTS  around us. Thanks for praying.

This is now rest time.  Perhaps there will be more folks coming here to see us. Three things will last forever - faith, hope and love - and the greatest of these is LOVE.

Reflections after Charlottesville

He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes. 1 John 2:10–11

As I reflect on the events that happened in Charlottesville, Virginia, I am saddened by the radical exhibit of deep-seated, sinful hatred that was so viciously displayed and caused the death of a young woman who was a supporter of social equality and promoted anti-racism. We all know that racism has always been a part of the legacy of America, and it started long before the theft and enslavement of Africans.

Hate groups such as the KKK, neo-Nazis, and “alt-right” nationalists promote ethnic cleansing and the annihilation of human beings. Fear and loathing of marginalized people, along with the negative portrait of certain culturally ethnic communities, are major tools of oppression, and this lays a foundation that becomes a breeding ground for the ideology of white supremacy. These people do not know God because they walk in darkness. If they knew God, they would know that there is no master race; there is no superior race; there is only the human race. God created it and the only one that is superior in this entire universe is Him.

Although my heart hurts because of Charlottesville and the casualties that happened there, I find myself saying that the entire United States of America has been awakened by the political and social alarm of racism and white supremacy. Americans have wiped the scales from their eyes and are no longer blind to the realities of bigotry. The voice of Americans is being heard, and it is shouting loud and clear: not again! Hate can no longer be tolerated, and we will stand strong against those who live in the dark world of human oppression, discrimination, and racial inferiority. As an Alabamian who saw the civil rights movement up close, I cried a heartfelt cry that we are here again. As a pastor, I prayed long and hard for our people, our country, and asked Christ to give me the strength to stand and not waver in these dark, turbulent times. God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of sound judgment.

So, here I stand, yet again, in the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ and the biblical sword of truth in my hand, with prayer in my heart and a voice that speaks out against the dark cowardice voice of racism.

Will you stand with me?

Rev. Doris Hooks

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Starts January 18

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is an international initiative where Christians worldwide are reminded of Jesus’ prayer for his disciples that “they may be one so that the world may believe” (John 17:21). Locally, UniteBoston is coordinating seven consecutive evening gatherings of prayer and worship from January 18-25.

On the occasion of the 500th anniversary year of the beginnings of the Reformation, the theme “Reconciliation – The Love of Christ Compels Us” (2 Corinthians 5:14-20) has been chosen by the World Council of Churches.

Here is a schedule of local gatherings. Please join in as you are able!

Wednesday, January 18, 7:00 pm at River of Life Church, 440 Centre Street, Boston MA 02130: Jamaica Plain Churches, including River of Life Church, Heart Change Fellowship, Bethel AME Church, and the Community of St. Egidio

Thursday, January 19, 7:00 pm at St. Mary Orthodox Church, 8 Inman Street, Cambridge MA 02139: Orthodox Churches, including the Coptic Orthodox Church of Boston and St. Mary’s Orthodox Church

Friday, January 20, 7:00 pm at Congregation Lion of Judah, 20 Reed Street, Boston MA 02128: Pabellon de la Fe Church, and churches involved with Bless the City Boston

Saturday, January 21, 12:00-4:00 pm at Holy Name Church, 1689 Centre Street, West Roxbury MA 02132: Theme: Joint Ecumenical Gathering, hosted by the Archdiocese of Boston and many local partners – Facebook event link

Sunday, January 22, 8:00 pm at MIT Chapel, 48 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge MA 02139: Taize prayer in the MIT Chapel, including MIT Lutheran/Episcopal Ministry

Monday, January 23, 7:00 pm at Symphony Church, 971 Commonwealth Ave (3rd floor), Boston MA 02215: Brookline/Brighton churches, including Symphony Church, City Church, and Abundant Grace Church

Tuesday, January 24, 7:00 pm at the Paulist Center, 5 Park Street, Boston MA 02108: Catholic/Lutheran joint gathering, including the Paulist Center and University Lutheran

Wednesday, January 25, 5:45pm at Trinity Church, 206 Clarendon Street, Boston MA 02116: Episcopal Boston/Cambridge Mission Hub gathering, including Trinity Church

Prepare a Shoebox of Gifts for a Child

ICC will be part of Operation Christmas Child this year, preparing shoeboxes filled with gifts that will be distributed to children in more than 100 countries, where they will be distributed by pastors and community leaders who want to share the gospel and bless children.

The ICC community will prepare shoeboxes and will also serve as a drop-off location for others in the community who want to participate. 

Here are some suggestions for preparing a box.

Include a "wow” item

Start with a medium to large item that will capture the child’s attention the instant he or she opens the box. Ideas include: soccer ball with pump, stuffed animal, toys (puppets, trucks, etc.), doll, musical instrument, outfit, or shoes. 

Other suggestions

Toys: Include items that children will immediately embrace such as toy cars, yo-yos, jump ropes, balls, toys that light up and make noise (with extra batteries), etc.

School Supplies: pens, pencils and sharpeners, crayons, markers, notebooks, paper, solar calculators, coloring and picture books, etc.

Non-liquid Hygiene Items: toothbrushes, bar soap, combs, washcloths, etc.

Accessories: T-shirts, socks, hats, sunglasses, hair clips, jewelry, watches, flashlights (with extra batteries), etc.

Crafts: Make your own items such as hair bows, finger puppets, and friendship bracelets. Download instructions here.

A Personal Note: You may enclose a note to the child and a photo of yourself, your family, or group. If you include your name and an address, the child may be able to write back.

Do not include

Used or damaged items; war-related items such as toy guns, knives, or military figures; chocolate or food; out-of-date candy; fruit rolls or other fruit snacks; drink mixes (powdered or liquid); liquids or lotions; medications or vitamins; breakable items such as snow globes or glass containers; aerosol cans.

Candy specifications: During 2016, the following types of candy can be included in shoebox gifts: hard candy, gummy bears, caramels, taffy, and gum—as long as its expiration date is at least six months after National Collection Week: Nov. 14-21, 2016. Starting in 2017, no type of candy can be included in shoebox gifts.

Toothpaste specifications: Toothpaste can be included this year as long as its expiration date is at least six months after National Collection Week: Nov. 14-21, 2016. Starting in 2017, toothpaste cannot be included in shoebox gifts, but a child’s oral hygiene can still be improved by regular use of a toothbrush alone.

Missions Update from Burkina Faso

Joel and Karen Gray, ICC-supported missionaries in Burkina Faso, report that they had a close call with violence. Several terrorist attacks resulted in missionaries being killed or kidnapped. They report:

"Yesterday evening about 25 SIM missionaries went out to dinner together at the invitation of friends from Messiah College. As we finished our meal several people received phone messages describing a terrorist attack happening on the same street about 7 blocks away. We quickly exited the restaurant and hurried home. Men used car bombs and machine guns to to take over a hotel and a restaurant often frequented by Westerners. Many people died, including apparently, a missionary friend of ours who serves with another organisation.

"Earlier that same day another attack occurred in a small town to the north. Again several people were killed. A third incident the same day involved the kidnapping of an elder missionary couple: Dr. Ken and Jocelyn Elliot who have served in northern Burkina for many many years." Read more

Difficult Fight, Easy Fight

David Jun preached today on the well-known story of David and Goliath from 1 Samuel 17. Here is an excerpt:

I don't mean that there are two kinds of fights, some easy and some difficult. What I mean is that each fight has two parts: a difficult part and an easy part. The difficult part requires you to put in a lot of effort. The easy part is easy as long as you have won the first, difficult part.

The main point is this: God is my stronghold. If I am in the stronghold, I am already fighting the easy fight. But for this, first, I should occupy the stronghold. This is the difficult part. Why? Because the stronghold is at a very strategic and impregnable point, almost impossible to subdue. Where is it? It is my heart.

It is extremely difficult to occupy my heart and give it to God so that he may be my stronghold. This is the difficult fight. But, once I have won this battle and my heart is steady in God, the stronghold, then the rest is easy.

God is with you

When you dedicated your life to Christ, spiritual warfare starts and the attacks are nonstop. These attacks are designed to make us feel powerless and out of control. Defeat and failure become our outlook on life. Satan catches you when you are unaware, when you are vulnerable, when you have doubt.

I want you to have unshakable faith—and I want you to understand that, even through you may experience failures in your lives, you are not a casualty of war. That’s because the battle is not yours—it’s the Lord’s.

I don’t want you to begin to think that God is not with you. He has not left you powerless and unprotected. God has left you with power and has given you his protection. He has given you the armor you need to protect you from the forces of evil and hatred.

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,  and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Ephesians 6:14–18)

Pastor Doris Hooks