An Update from West Africa

Alliance News Feed – An Update from West Africa

In the article, “Don’t Give Up on Praying for the Lost,” I described how I was encouraged after years of sharing Jesus with a young West African friend of mine, Sam*. Here’s a quick update to that story.

The night Sam decided to pray in Jesus’ name, which I’d challenged him to do, he had a dream in which a man—bright as light—appeared to him and told him to stand up. In his dream, Sam stood up, and at that very moment, he awoke.

The dream was troubling, because Sam didn’t understand its significance. During a brief visit, I was able to encourage him. I recounted testimonies from the Bible and from other believers who have had visions and dreams in which Jesus has appeared as light.

Please pray that Jesus will continue to reveal Himself to Sam and that he will be emboldened to follow His Savior.

*Name changed


Source: Alliance News Feed – An Update from West Africa

Celebrating Our Ministry Leaders

Alliance News Feed – Celebrating Our Ministry Leaders

This month—and especially Sunday, October 14—we honor our church leaders for their tireless investment.

Ephesians 4:11 reminds us that you are among Christ’s gifts to the Church. We are grateful for the many ways you shepherd the church by leading, caring for, and protecting the flock. We thank God that you teach His Word and enable others to grow in their faith. We appreciate that you help to equip those in your local church to use their gifts and abilities to actively serve in ways that edify others in the Body and expand Christ’s Kingdom.

Vocational ministry has its ups and downs. One week, it can be exhilarating and fulfilling, while the next week it can be exhausting and frustrating. However, you persevere through it all because you are unconditionally committed to following Jesus and answering His call.

For several years in my most difficult pastorate, I had Galatians 6:9 taped to my desk so that I wouldn’t forget it. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. This verse echoes the words of the psalmist: Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying their sheaves with them (Psalm 126:5–6).

My dear ministry colleagues, don’t give up. Be encouraged by the promises of God and the faithfulness of the Lord of the Church. Keep sowing—even if you’re sowing in tears. Rest assured the harvest is coming!

Keep the faith!

Terry D. Smith

Vice President for Church Ministries


Source: Alliance News Feed – Celebrating Our Ministry Leaders

Update: The Alliance Response to Indonesia’s Recent Disasters

Alliance News Feed – Update: The Alliance Response to Indonesia’s Recent Disasters

“Our Alliance founder, A. B. Simpson, would be proud of our efforts together to meet the physical and spiritual needs of the earthquake victims in Lombok and earthquake and tsunami victims in Palu-Sulawesi,” says Eric, an Alliance international worker in Indonesia.“We thank you for your outpouring of love, prayers, and generous financial support!”

Eric’s report on current Alliance relief efforts in these two devastated locations follows.

Lombok

  • A small team of Tents of Compassion workers (Indonesia’ national church relief team) remains on the ground, partnering with the GKII’s (The Alliance in Indonesia) district leaders to daily distribute clean water and tools to rebuild homes. They are attempting to obtain more water filters and hope to supply subsidized building materials soon. Two new volunteers from Java and Sumatra will join them this weekend; a short-term team of students from the Alliance-affiliated Jaffray Theological Seminary in Makassar, Indonesia, is arriving soon.
  • Doors remain open in a previously closed area of north Lombok.

Palu

The damaged Alliance church in Palu
  • A small Tents of Compassion team, led by Rev. Nehemiah, arrived in Palu after a grueling three-day trip overland by truck. They brought essential supplies, including tarps, water and rice, which were immediately distributed to members and neighbors of an Alliance church that was destroyed by the September 28 disaster.
  • On Tuesday, five Tents of Compassion workers and an Alliance international staffer caught a Missionary Aviation Fellowship flight to Palu. They immediately began cleaning up the church, readying it to become a distribution center. Tarps have replaced the caved-in roof.
  • CAMA worker Buzz M. has obtained a truckload of desperately needed supplies sent by boat from Surabaya, and a GKII doctor in East Kalimantan loaded up a boat of materials purchased with funds from CAMA Services. Both shipments have arrived, and the team on the ground has filled the newly prepared distribution center (church) with the supplies, preparing to visit the most needy areas.
  • CAMA Zending (Dutch Alliance) worker Peter D. is leading a team of students and staff in Makassar, who are filling a truck with more supplies—tarps, food, tools, and diapers—that will leave October 12 for the two-day journey to Palu.
  • “After two successful days of distribution and a trial run assisting 43 families,” an Alliance international worker reports, “our survey teams located three significant outlying areas about one hour outside of Palu, which will be the focus of our distributions. We are providing basic supplies for 433 families. In one of these areas, people were found sleeping under trees, since they had not yet received assistance.”
The banner on the rehabilitated church in Palu reads, “Tents of Compassion.”

Because of these efforts in Indonesia, Eric concludes,“God is pleased that ‘people are seeing our good works and praising our Father in heaven (see Matthew 5:16).’”

Please continue to intercede for the thousands who have been affected by these disasters. Pray also that many more will turn to Christ for comfort amid these tragedies.


Source: Alliance News Feed – Update: The Alliance Response to Indonesia’s Recent Disasters

Two C&MA Districts Assess Initial Damage from Hurricane Michael

Alliance News Feed – Two C&MA Districts Assess Initial Damage from Hurricane Michael

From Alfredo Gutierrez, superintendent-elect of the Alliance Southeast District:

“Chris and Cindy Greaves, pastoral couple of Piedmont Park Alliance Church in Tallahassee, Florida, said they are fine but are without power and have weak cell phone reception. Chris reported from the church property that branches are down and there’s a sketchy cell signal and no power.  The elders are reaching out to their congregation, and some people have damage.

“Pastors in North Florida are reporting little to no damage. Pastors on St. George Island, Florida, have reported some damage. Please keep praying as we assess the damages and how to help them best.”

From Phil Hagar, superintendent of the Southern District:

“As far as we know as of Wednesday night, our two churches in Panama City (which was in the bulls-eye of Hurricane Michael when it came ashore) sustained only minor damages. Heritage Bible Church suffered several broken windows, awnings that were blown off, minor roof damage, downed trees and branches, etc. The Historic St. Andrews Church also suffered minor wind damage but little or no water damage. Many of the streets are impassable, and it has not been possible to get to the church building yet to assess damages.

“Many of the church people in both congregations were not as fortunate. Richard and Karen Duncan’s home (Richard pastors the Historic Saint Andrews Church) incurred minor water and roof damage, but their yard suffered notable destruction.

“Brian and Rachel Rice (Brian pastors Heritage Bible Church) sustained significant damage to their home. Their screened-in pool enclosure was decimated, as was their kids’ backyard playhouse and fencing around their property, which was completely blown away. Additionally, a portion of their roof was blown off and is now completely open to the outdoors. Several in the Heritage Bible Church congregation have lost huge portions of their roofs, while others closer to the Gulf have homes that, in all likelihood, are under water.

“It will be a day or two before anyone is allowed back into many of the neighborhoods/areas where significant damage has occurred. Both Brian and Richard say the entire area looks like a ‘war zone!’

“The good news is that I have received no reports of injuries, for which we are thankful.

“Please pray for God’s protection and safety upon the pastors and families of the five Alliance churches in Hurricane Michael’s path. Also, pray for all of the people who are facing the uncertainty and apprehension of this natural disaster.”

CAMA Services has been in contact with both districts and is prepared to offer assistance as needed. Please join us in prayer for our pastors and staff as they assess the damage and seek to share the love and compassion of Christ with those who have been affected by this disaster.


Source: Alliance News Feed – Two C&MA Districts Assess Initial Damage from Hurricane Michael

Thunderstorms, Street Boys, and Sacred Wounds

Alliance News Feed – Thunderstorms, Street Boys, and Sacred Wounds

by an Alliance medical worker serving in Senegal

The hot rainy season has arrived in West Africa. Hurricanes that hit the U.S. East Coast often begin as tiny thunderstorms here in Senegal. Although the storms here are small by comparison, the damages they cause in our community can be devastating.

A 20-minute rain shower in our sea-level city can produce major flooding, leaving many streets impassable for months—until the mud dries up and returns to sand. Sewage mixes with flood waters, increasing the spread of flies, illnesses, and infections.

Heartbreak

These conditions are hardest on the street boys in our city. During our outreach to them this week, my heart—which can be easily calloused to these kids, who are everywhere, always begging, always in need—broke a little.

When they’re at the center, the boys can be kids again. (Photo courtesy of an Alliance international worker)

Two of the smallest boys, who are about six years old and regularly play with and try to steal my medical supplies, walked in and slunk into the chairs, obviously ill. We first sent them to shower (one of the kids’ favorite parts of coming to our center) and gave them some Tylenol®.

We then arranged a place for the two boys to rest on a mattress under a fan, where they slept soundly until lunchtime. This was such a small thing but just what those little bodies needed—rest.

As a nurse, I am often overwhelmed by the wounds I cannot effectively treat, since we see these boys just twice a month on Thursdays, when they don’t have religious training.

Deep cuts, puncture wounds, abscesses, infections, scabies, parasites, fungus—all are the result of conditions these boys are forced to endure while studying the majority religion in our city.

A Beacon of Hope

No matter how many wounds I clean or Band-Aids® I stick on, I can never heal these kids. No matter how much my heart breaks for them, I can never imagine how it feels to walk in their wounded, shoeless feet.

Although we are doing the best we can within the limited context we are given to care for these boys, it seldom feels like it will ever be enough—until I look around the center.

I see the very boys who everyday go house to house with their tin cans, faces downcast, asking for anything—a sugar cube or a spoon of rice or a small coin. They are often required to take these meager donations straight back to their religious teachers.

Kids Again

But on Thursdays, these same boys’ countenances are completely different. They run in the front door of the center, putting down their tin cans as well as the heaviness that comes with their hard lives. Faces beaming, they become kids again.

“Patched up wounds, a generous lunch, kind faces—all are extraordinary gifts to these boys,” says author. (Photo courtesy of an Alliance international worker)

Clean bodies, clean clothes, patched up wounds, a game of soccer, a generous lunch, and kind faces—all things that we take for granted—are extraordinary gifts to these boys. We pray that they remember the sense of peace and freedom they have experienced here whenever they encounter followers of Jesus in the future.

And may their hearts always be drawn to His love—the One who has taken up their pain and borne their suffering—a Healer who has felt their pain and who longs to give them rest, who loves them deeply.

Recently these words from Isaiah 53 coursed through my mind as I prayed for Him to care of these boys in all the ways that I cannot.

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised. . . . Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Learn More

Thank You for Loving Us” is an encouraging report on how six followers of a West African country’s majority religion are embracing the good news of Jesus.


Source: Alliance News Feed – Thunderstorms, Street Boys, and Sacred Wounds

How to Raise a Pack of “Mama Bears”

Alliance News Feed – How to Raise a Pack of “Mama Bears”

Based on a report by Becky, who serves in West Africa with CAMA Services (a.k.a. Compassion and Mercy Associates)

Hands of Honor staff share a Bible story with the girls. (Photo courtesy of a CAMA worker)

West Africa’s girls endure multiple injustices. When a baby girl is born in this region, she faces the specter of child labor, early marriage, female genital mutilation, and gender inequality that leads to little opportunity of getting an education.

Our team partnered with the local Alliance church to start Hands of Honor in 2014. Our mission: aid in the plight of female child laborers in this region.

Yet during those early years of ministry, I was often frustrated with how the women in the Christian community couldn’t see that what these girls faced were true injustices.

Cringe-Worthy Encounters

Many of these girls’ impoverished families send them to our city to find work. They often arrive alone, frightened, and without friends. Each year, many get pregnant out of wedlock, usually because of sugar daddy–type relationships with older men. Once a girl becomes pregnant, she is typically abandoned.

Rather than respond in love to these girls, some of the church staff would shame them. And I would cringe at their responses.

My teammate and I tried to address the harshness in culturally appropriate ways, but we realized it was best to focus on modeling how to love and care for the girls who came through our doors.

Cultural Blinders Removed

The girls are also provided training in literacy, good health practices, and life/job skills. (Photo courtesy of a CAMA worker)

While debriefing recently with our Hands of Honor church staff about last year’s program, you can imagine my joy when I realized cultural blinders had slowly been removed. These women were now seeing our girls through the eyes of Jesus.

I asked them to talk about some of the more challenging scenarios they’d dealt with over the past year. As they took turns sharing, many shed tears as they told about particularly difficult situations in the girls’ lives.

There were stories of runaways and how the staff had helped those girls to reconnect with their worried families. There were girls who became pregnant and quit coming to class, and now the women had sought them out—not to shame them but to offer help.

Deep Compassion

At one point, our staff became quite vocal, even heated, as they discussed the need to be more proactive with parents about discouraging child marriages. I felt as if I were sitting in a room full of mama bears defending and protecting their cubs!

My heart was stirred to see the deep compassion they felt for these girls who were entrusted into their care.

For many of the girls who come to us, these staff members are some of the first to ever express concern or defend them against injustice. Often, these women are also the first Christ followers the girls have ever met. It’s been amazing to see their hearts respond to the gospel as they are introduced to Jesus through hearing Bible stories and tangibly seeing His love in action.

A New Family Member

Eve was one of two girls enrolled in Hands of Honor this past year, who made the bold decision to leave the majority religion here and become a follower of Jesus. Remarkably, she received permission from her employer to begin attending a local Alliance church.

She’s grown in her faith but still faces a difficult road ahead. Recently, her father called her, telling her to come home because he’d arranged a marriage for her.

Pray for God to intervene and give boldness to our staff as they seek to persuade her parents to allow her a different option for her future.

God has raised up these incredible women and given them eyes to see and hearts to respond to the hurts and needs of the vulnerable in their own community. May He continue to use His people to see lives transformed—from the inside out!


Source: Alliance News Feed – How to Raise a Pack of “Mama Bears”

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