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Silhouetted within the doorway was a group of street children drawn there by the pulsing music of the church’s young musicians and dancers. The sight of the children saddened me because they reminded me of the countless numbers of children I saw roaming the streets of Bunia and the countryside—victims of a corrupt government system that was robbing them of a proper education that could lift them out of their country’s poverty.

Watching them in that doorway, I wondered if there was any hope for the children of Bunia to have a better life.

By the time our mission trip ended, two things gave me hope.

The first is the way in which God is using the Bunia Francophone Evangelical Church and other churches in the area to bring healing, reconciliation, and positive change to the people in the region through evangelism, discipleship, education, and in challenging leaders in politics, business, and the armed forces to serve with justice and mercy. Transformation is happening, many people are coming to Christ, and the swelling ranks of children, teenagers, and young adults in the services and youth groups are strong indicators that lives are being changed.

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One of the many youth groups at the Bunia Francophone Evangelical Church

The second is the amazing story of one of our team members, Neema Paininye Banga, who started life in a tiny, remote Congolese village to very poor parents, yet, by the grace of God, she grew up to earn a Masters degree in psychology at an American university, and returns to the Congo each year to minister to the people of her village.

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Neemah Paininye Banga

Neema’s story began when her own mother, Julienne, was a child in the village of Gwane, and an American couple came to the neighboring village of Assa, and established a mission church where they taught the people to sew and crochet, and shared the Gospel. Curious about them, Julienne went to meet them in Assa and heard the stories of Jesus. Julienne accepted Jesus as her savior, then brought her mother, Ziana to hear the Gospel stories. She, too, became a Christian.

Ziana, who was one of the wives of the Gwane village chief, was ostracized by the chief and his other wives for converting to Christianity and forsaking their witchcraft practices and worship of dead ancestors. So she and Julienne fled to Assa and took refuge in the mission, where they stayed for many years, learning the various crafts of needlework. It was there at the mission that Julienne met and married one of the young men, Jean-Christophe. They had seven children, of which five survived, Neema being the fourth.

However, Jean-Christophe died of a lung disease when Neema was one year old, so Julienne stayed in the mission to mentor the other widows of Assa. To earn a living, she worked the fields of a farmer. The missionaries gave Neema and her sister school uniforms and allowed them to attended the mission school for free. After school, the sisters walked several miles to help their mother work on the farm until dark, after which they would return home to gather wood and fetch water before doing their homework. Neema was five years old at this point.

Neema’s 13-year-old sister, Eugenie, was sent to Bunia to stay with a family and attend high school. She finished high school and started college, but dropped out to marry Idi Taban, a business owner.

When Neema was ready for high school, Eugenie sent for her to come and live with her family in Bunia. Neema babysat, cooked, and did other household chores for the family, and Idi paid for her high school tuition.

In 1997, as the civil war was about to break out, Idi moved his entire family, including Neema, to Nairobi, Kenya. He paid for Neema to attend an English school, and she did so well in her studies there that he later paid for her to attend a Christian university in Nairobi.

Neema became close friends with her American roommate who was there on a study-abroad program. When the roommate returned to America, she persuaded Neema to transfer with her to the same university—Eastern University in Pennsylvania. Again, Idi paid for her travel, tuition, and board to attend Eastern University.

Still, Neema worked in the student cafeteria and as a nanny to earn extra money while carrying a full credit load, and earned a bachelor degree in psychology. She then enrolled at the University of Georgia in Atlanta to pursue a Master’s degree in psychology. It was there that she met and married Dhego Banga, a man from Bunia who was working on his Ph.D. Neema subsequently dropped out of her graduate program to have the first of their two children.

When Dhego finished his Ph.D., he moved the family to San Francisco to start a new job. Once they were settled, Neema resumed her studies and earned a Master’s degree in psychology at San Jose State University.

In 2013, Neema was burdened for the people of the Congo, especially those in the village of Ango where Julienne and many of the villagers had fled when rebels invaded Assa during the civil war. Neema realized that the necessities of life—clean water, affordable health care, and good nutrition—do not exist for the villagers of Ango, who live hopeless, helpless lives, and wake up in the morning not knowing when they will have their next meal.

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Neema traveling by canoe on her 4-day journey to Ango

So once or twice each year, she leaves San Francisco and flies to Bunia with basic supplies such as hygiene products, clothes, and nonperishable nutritional foods. She then travels for four days by bus, truck, and “budda-budda” taxi bikes over bone-wrenching dirt roads and in dug-out river canoes to reach Ango.

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Neema meeting with Ango villagers

Once there, she meets with family members and villagers, provides them with needed supplies, and shares the Gospel with them, leading some to Christ. There is no longer a mission church for the people,  the missionaries having had to return to America when the civil war started. With no one left to carry on the ministry, the villagers slipped back into the old ways and beliefs in witchcraft and worshiping dead ancestors.

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Neema with some of the widows of Ango

So Neema fights back the darkness by teaching the villagers about Jesus, healthy living, and by starting a charity in America to benefit the people of Ango and the region of Bas-Uele. She knows that hers is presently a one-woman struggle to sow the seeds of progress in Ango, but she believes that this is a task that God has entrusted to her and that the harvest is in God’s hands and timing.

The image of the six silhouetted children is fixed in my mind, not with the sadness that I initially felt when I took pictures of them, but now I view them with hope—hope nurtured in prayer that, like Neema, God will lead them on their own redemptive journey in which they will grow up to serve his Kingdom and bring change to the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Please visit Neema’s website at www.achearts.com and support her ministry to bring relief to the people of her village. Thank you.

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BY ALLI NEWELL

Allí Newell holding one of the youngest members of the Bunia Evangelical Francophone Church

Allí Newell holding one of the youngest members of the Bunia Evangelical Francophone Church

August 10, 2015

As I sit here at home, getting ready to start my first week back at professional development for school, my heart is wrecked. Literally wrecked. As in, I just starting tearing as I made coffee, like really, really good coffee.

Being back just a week, it feels as though I am just now readjusting to the reality I was witness of in the Congo.

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Alli speaking to educators

To process the stories I heard of war-torn communities, incessant rape and sexual abuse, lack of education, lack of access to clean water, the stories of pain can go on. YET, the deep sense of Hope and Joy is alive in Bunia. People worship freely and loudly. Their laughter is contagious and their smiles are healing. Their eyes are on fixed on today, but see the horizon of tomorrow.

Teachers are craving change and more education, children have hope for the future, students want better schools, women want help out of abusive relationships, police and politicians want to lead without corruption, leaders aim to rise up other just leaders.

So when I get the good intended question of, “How was Africa?”, I respond with “amazing, life-changing, incredible.” But my response should really be, “How much time do you have?” Because the stories I have need to be heard, but will probably wreck your heart, too.

Alli with the children of Bunia

Children seeing their images in Alli’s smartphone

But isn’t that what we are called to do? To share our stories? And not just the filtered, life-is-awesome, Instagram photos, but also the hurting, sad, or conflicted stories we are witnesses to or walked ourselves. Isn’t our call to have our hearts hurt for those who are hurting, to feed the hungry, to heal the hurting, YET at the same time fully rejoice with the hope and promise of Christ. Yes! I think so.

So, I have stories to share. Stories that have changed me, wrecked me, inspired me, and allowed my eyes to see Hope differently.

Thank you, Africa.

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BY JORDAN COOPER LEE

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Jordan speaking at a gathering of police officers in Bunia, DRC

In the twelve years since the civil war ended in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the country has been seeking to rebuild itself. And for the past six years, The Bunia Evangelical Francophone Church has been partnering with Bel Air Presbyterian Church to put on personal development conferences to help transform the country. As a member of Bel Air Pres and a Los Angeles Police officer serving in South Central Los Angeles, I was invited to join the 2015 mission team to speak to the Congolese military and police.

In the year spent preparing for this trip, I felt woefully unqualified for the task. But biblically speaking, that is exactly who God uses. He equips the called. By the time I got to the Congo, I realized that God has been developing me and giving me a foundation of training and experience in military leadership, sociology, poverty alleviation, at-risk-youth development, police community relations, gender violence, and ministry. I was able to synthesize all of these to come alongside the Congolese church and aid them in their quest for restoration of their country.

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Jordan with the police chaplain and senior officers

Police: After spending a week talking with Congolese police officers, learning what issues face them, and studying the city up close, I was able to speak about the corruption that was keeping their country in poverty and how it was up to them to break the cycle of corruption. At one point, I thought I was going to get arrested for my boldness, but God paved the way and they were completely receptive to the ideas of integrity in all things, respect for all people, and how to gain trust in the community they serve. They asked me for copies of my talk and asked me to return next year.

Military: In an audience of military commanders, General Kaseekiela and the head magistrate of the region spoke on war crimes, genocide, and the rules of engagement. When it was my turn at the podium, I challenged the commanders to see their profession and leadership as a calling from God to serve the people, and I spoke of how a country can only develop when there is a foundation of security. I explained that the Congolese church’s efforts to help the people in business development, education, and health care would be fruitless if people are not safe and cannot trust their government. Many of their business leaders are weary of importing products into the country because of the many levels of graft and extortion they must pay, and many young women won’t go to school out of fear of sexual assault while walking there.

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Security guard trainees meet with Jordan

Security Trainees: The Bunia church puts on vocational classes for young men (many of them former child soldiers) to become certified as private security guards so they can find employment in the city. Some of these “security boys,” as I called them, guarded the compound in which we stayed, and I quickly befriended them. They asked me if I could come speak to their class. I expected six of them. Forty-two showed up with pen and paper. We ended up meeting three times and had discussions on why and how to live a moral life amidst an untrustworthy government.

Youth: Along with one of the other Bel Air Pres high school volunteer leaders, and Maddie, the high school member on our team, I spoke at a youth conference for about three hundred 16-28 year-olds. Using my experience in youth ministry and working with at-risk youth and inner-city Los Angeles gangs, I discussed issues of faith, morality, and choices. I also spoke on the theology of respecting women and used my love for my sister as the foundational narrative for the talk.

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Jordan with some of the orphans

Orphans: We also worked with “House of Grace,” an orphanage the Congolese church supports. I really had no idea what to say to young boys who have lost their parents in the civil war, who don’t have beds, or a toilet, or light once the sun goes down. Maddie, who had raised funds back home to buy beds for them, presented the first of these beds to them, and I briefly spoke on the concept that we can’t choose the circumstances we’re born into, but we can choose how we treat each other.

Women: My favorite part of the entire trip was not planned at all. One morning, I awoke thinking about a talk I had given on female safety to the high school girls at my church. In a country where about 90% of the women are victims of domestic violence and about 80% are victims of sexual assault, I thought this Bunia church is the place that needs that information, so I pitched it to Pastor James.

Women gather with Jordan to share their stories of abuse

Women gather with Jordan to share their stories of abuse

Less than twenty-four hours later, I was speaking to a room of about hundred women on how to use their instincts to recognize danger, and how to protect themselves from domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking in a society where they cannot rely on law enforcement. We also talked about the need for them to remove their sense of shame as victims, because shame and secrecy are the tools predators use to remain at large to continue their evil. Women began speaking of their traumatic experiences to the group, and it was such a powerful experience for them, they asked me to come back the next morning to answer more questions.

Throughout this mission trip, God used me in ways I never knew were possible. I’ve been serving in Third World countries for a decade now, much of it in the medical field, but this trip was unique. A dear friend described it as filled with “Moses moments” in which God calls you to a task that is so overwhelming and unprecedented you don’t know how to process it. That is where I find myself.

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Entebbe, Uganda: Team members from left: Will Bredberg, Scott Prewett, Dr. Emmanuel Bellon, Jordan Cooper Lee, Stephanie Seim, Maddie Reasner, Alli Newell, Buck Rea, Jonathan (our Mission Aviation Fellowship pilot), and Derrick Coy

Our eight-member team left Los Angeles in July to visit the city of Bunia in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where we joined four African team members to speak at a conference on transformational living.

Sponsored by the Bunia Francophone Church, the conference was designed to help people gain new skills with which to climb out of poverty and to encourage reconciliation and transformation among the inhabitants of a city and region struggling to recover from civil war, rebel invasions, and tribal genocide, and in which 40 percent are unemployed and 80 percent underemployed.

Our team divided up into smaller teams of two and threes, with members bringing their expertise and skills to share in seminars and workshops with over a thousand attendees.

Our teams met with:

• Pastors from a variety of denominations to teach, train, and encourage them in their very difficult ministries of growing their churches

• Politicians gearing up for upcoming elections, and challenged them to reject corruption and to uphold justice. Many of the politicians publicly made the decision to follow Christ at the end of our meeting

• Top-ranking officers from the army and police forces, and challenged them to be “peace guardians” who serve justly. Many of them answered the call to commit their lives to Christ

• Established business owners seeking to grow their businesses, and men and women seeking to start and build their own small businesses

• Youth groups from surrounding areas, and from a boys orphanage, all eager to hear from our younger team members

• Teachers, principals, and administrators from public schools struggling to teach within a broken educational system

• Professors and administrators from universities and higher education institutions with limited resources to help students prepare for a modern labor force and globalized economy

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Teachers from Bunia and surrounding areas

As a member of the education team, I spoke to schoolteachers and administrators from around the region. Acknowledging the challenges that continue to face them in the DRC—an education system devastated by war, school buildings destroyed, thousands of children slaughtered along with their families, many children forced to become soldiers, entrenched corruption throughout their government and education system, teachers not getting paid for months, and seventy percent of secondary students absent from school on any given day—I reminded them that:

• They have one of the most important roles to play in the rebuilding of their nation—that of educating their youth and adolescents who will determine the future of their nation

• They are not alone in their struggles, for together as educators, and together with churches like the Bunia Francophone Church and others throughout the DRC, they can become a unified voice of hundreds of thousands of educators working together to bring about change and improve the education system

A public school classroom in Bunia

A public school classroom in Bunia

• They must find ways to work together beyond the lonely confines of their classrooms—encouraging and supporting each other, mentoring the newer and inexperienced teachers, and developing strategies to change the education machinery within their city, their province, and across the nation

• With most of them having only “O” and “A” level school-leaving certificates as their highest qualification to teach, they need to keep learning and striving to earn higher qualifications and degrees—no matter their ages

• Teaching is a holy calling, citing Jesus as the supreme teacher who called his disciples and many of his followers to be teachers (Eph. 4:11-12; Rom. 12:6-7; Titus 2:7), and citing from the Bible fifteen characteristics of transformational leaders and teachers

I also reminded them of the words of the apostle James that “we who teach will be judged more strictly,” and I called on the male teachers to stop the abusive practice of demanding sex from students in exchange for higher grades.

I also spoke to university professors and administrators, and introduced them to a program of transformational partnerships between African and U.S. universities and institutions of higher education—a program sponsored and funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), in association with Carnegie Corporation of New York, Higher Education for Development (HED), and the Association of Public Land Grant Universities (APLU).

The program is designed to help universities and institutions:

• Improve the professional development of faculty and staff

• Strengthen their capacity to prepare students for the realities of a modern global labor market

• Strengthen the use of technology in learning

• Develop sustainable revenue streams

Several faculty and administrators expressed interest in forming such partnerships, and have been communicating with me since my return home as they begin the process of applying to the agencies.

The highlights of our time spent in Bunia include:

One of many choirs, bands, and dancers celebrating during worship

One of many choirs, bands, and dancers celebrating during worship

• The exuberant and joyful worship of God by the congregation and its many choirs, dancers, worship bands throughout the week and culminating in three services on Sunday

• The many decisions made for Christ throughout the week and at the end of the Sunday services

• The warm hospitality and care shown to our team by members of the church

• Pastor James Byensi treating our team to a trip out to the countryside to see the beauty of the land

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Finally, I wish to thank all those of you who contributed financially and prayerfully to make this trip possible. Grace and peace to you all.

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Following is a reflection by the youngest member of our team:

My name is Maddie Reasner, and I am a 17-year-old high school student in Los Angeles, California. This was my second time to Bunia in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Last time I went I was 13 years old, and I worked to set up a computer center in the church so that people in the city could learn how to be computer literate for free. This time back, I worked with the House of Grace Boy Orphanage, and I brought an additional 10 computers to add to the Bunia Young Technology Center.

Maddie speaking to an audience through an interpreter

Maddie speaking to an audience through an interpreter

I’ve been back from the Congo for over two weeks now, and it has been hard to get back into the every day. I wish that by now I had a simple and clean answer to the question, “How was Africa?” but I don’t, and I don’t know if there will ever be a concise answer that is true to the experience I had. Being back in the U.S., it is easier to just pretend like the world of the Congo—the corruption, the pain, the grief, the suffering—does not exist…BUT IT DOES! And I am called to be a witness; I’m called to testify to what I saw. I’m called to testify to all that God is doing, and to testify to all of the hurt and helplessness felt by the Congolese people.

When we encounter God in a “mountain top” experience, we are called to come back into our everyday. In 1 Kings 19:15, after Elijah had experienced God’s power through the wind, the earthquake, and the fire on the mountain, God said to Elijah, “Go back the way you came through the desert.” God says to go back to the everyday, to the foot of the mountain where a large crowd waits (Matthew 17:14).

I have to tell the stories of the Congo no matter how heartbreaking and gut wrenching they may be, because that is why God had me there. God had me in Bunia, not only for the work that I would do there, but also so that I would have the opportunity to be a witness back in America, and that I would be able to share the heartbreak that needs healing, and the victory that needs celebrating in the lives of my friends in the Congo.

Boys from the orphanage

Boys from the orphanage

One story I want to share is when we visited the orphanage. When we arrived at House of Grace, the sun had set and the sky was getting darker, we heard the boys joyfully singing all together, but we couldn’t see any of their faces. The lack of electricity was one resource they weren’t at all concerned with. We sat around and answered their questions, and we asked them questions. When asked what is the most beautiful thing, one seven-year-old boy answered, “That Jesus loves me and saved me,” while another young boy answered that the most beautiful thing he will ever see is “a family telling [him] to come home.”

We enjoyed a whole evening getting to know the boys without even being able to see their faces. Many of these boys were child soldiers; others had lost their parents and all family members in the civil war. While they had every right to be solemn and depressed, instead they were filled with joy, an extraordinary joy that they recognized came from their Heavenly Father.

It was hard to leave…the American in me says that I failed, I did not complete my project, I did not “FIX” all the problems in the Congo. But God says no, just be a witness to his goodness in the midst of this evil, and see him move and change people’s hearts, which in turn can change the country.

God is stirring in the country. We witnessed a joyful, on-fire worship and praise among the Congolese—people who have nothing, but give every ounce of their selves to glorify God. We saw 150 people give their lives to Christ. Additionally, one of our team members, Jordan Cooper had the opportunity to be the first outsider, EVER, to speak to men of the Congolese Military about serving God while serving his people. We also saw 90% of a room full of politicians give their lives to Christ. Moreover, in the next year Bunia will have an election for their first governor, an opportunity to put someone they trust in power. There is hope beginning to rise up in Bunia.

Maddie with pastor James Byensi

Maddie with pastor James Byensi

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As I write this, I was supposed to be on a United Airline flight from Los Angeles to Montreal, with connections to Brussels, and finally to Entebbe, Uganda. There I was to join the rest of my team on medical aviation flights to two cities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Instead, I am here in Los Angeles, along with most of our team, all deeply disappointed that our mission trip was postponed at the last moment because of terrorist threats aimed at the Entebbe International Airport and nearby areas bordering the Congo.

Sixteen of us from our church were scheduled to join Congolese church leaders at a major two-week conference in two cities to speak to groups of women, youth and religious leaders, business owners, entrepreneurs, civil servants, army and police officers, and educators. The goal was to help them to rebuild their communities and bring about reconciliation among Congolese whose lives, families, and communities were shattered by war and the loss of over six million of their men, women, and children.

The decision by our California church leaders to postpone the trip was made out of concern and responsibility for the safety of our members, but it meant that our Congolese co-leaders—who had spent months mobilizing churches, business owners, military and police officers, teachers, taxi drivers, and other groups, along with arranging air and ground transportation in two cities within their state—faced disastrous consequences if they were to cancel the conference.

So they decided to proceed with the conference with the hope of bringing in additional Congolese speakers, along with four of our team members who were already in transit from European layovers to Entebbe.

In the midst of our deep disappointment at the postponement, a few of us in Los Angeles briefly considered getting on our scheduled flights and continuing on the trip. But we nixed that thought, deciding that it was more important to abide by and respect the combined wisdom and decision of our church’s leadership.

So we consoled ourselves with Paul’s words in Romans 8:28,

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (NLT)

God willing, we will be in the Congo at a later date to continue our mission with our Congolese Christian brothers and sisters with whom we have been working over the past five years.

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To understand the ongoing crisis in the Congo, please watch the following video:

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And now for an update on Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, the 27-year-old Sudanese Christian woman who was sentenced to die after refusing to renounce Christianity:

In late June, an appeals court in Sudan ruled that a lower court’s judgment against her was “faulty” and released her after much international pressure. Thank you to those of you who were among the more than one million people who signed the petition to release her. I am convinced that your prayers and social media petitions played a part in her release.

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Between 1998 and 2007, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was ravaged by violent conflicts as tribal warlords and invading rebel armies fought over the country’s rich mineral resources needed by international corporations for the manufacturing of electronic products in cellphones, computers, and cars.

Over six million people died from these conflicts and from malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia, and malnutrition brought on by war conditions. Even today there are still some 1.5 million Congolese who have been displaced or are in refugee camps.

The Evangelical Church—co-pastored by Rev. James Byensi who oversees more than 1,400 churches in Central Africa—is at the forefront of efforts to rebuild communities, resolve conflicts, reconcile enemies, train pastors, teachers, and Christian leaders, and teach good governance to business owners and political leaders, especially in fighting corruption and injustice.

In July—thanks to God and generous friends who donated money on my behalf—I’ll be part of a mission team that will travel to the DRC to work with the Evangelical Church to help individuals develop small businesses through training and micro financing, and by providing a variety of local leaders with advanced training in healthcare, nutrition, and K-12 education.

My role will be to use my background in teaching and curriculum development to train and encourage high-school teachers trying to rebuild their school system shattered by civil war. Many of them are not much older than the disinterested pupils they are trying to teach, and some of the teachers and pupils were once forced by warlords to become child soldiers during the war.

Please keep us in your prayers as we join the Evangelical Church to bring about reconciliation and rebuild the communities of Bunia and Butembo in the DRC.

And please click  the following link to view my photo essay on the Congo.

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My son Chris and his friends recently took me skydiving to celebrate my 70th birthday, and it was one of the thrills of my lifetime.

Psalm 90:10 reminds us that “Seventy years are given to us! Some may even reach eighty. But even the best of these years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we are gone.” (NLT)

Having reached that 70th “milestone,” I am grateful and humbled for each additional day that God grants me, and I am careful to not take life for granted.

So as we begin 2014, I give God thanks and praise for the past seven decades and look forward to new avenues of service into which God might be leading me.

I thank God for:

• Rescuing me at age 17 from juvenile delinquency and violence, and opening my heart to respond to his grace, love, and forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

• Calling me into ministry, and surrounding me with the men and women who mentored and supported me through seminary and my early years as a young pastor in Jamaica.

• Watching over me during setbacks and failures in careers and marriages, never forsaking me during my prodigal wanderings in my early thirties.

• Welcoming me back to him and his fold in 1977 when I recommitted my life to serving Christ during an Easter service at Bel Air Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles. O, the joy and peace that a prodigal son or daughter finds upon returning home to a welcoming heavenly father!

• Healing the wounds within our family, and restoring my relationships with ex-wives and adult children. I thank God for blessing me with four grandchildren and with over 26 years of marriage to my present wife, Diana.

• Providing a loving church family at Bel Air Presbyterian Church for the past 37 years, filled with genuine friends with whom I have the opportunity to worship and serve locally, nationally, and worldwide. I am especially thankful for the Chancel Choir with whom I have been serving from that first week in 1977 until now.

• Keeping me connected to a few old friends from my seminary days, who continue to serve as pastors in various parts of the world—Raymond Chin, Winston Lawson, and Wesley Shand—despite the distances that separate us. And for Buck Rea with whom I have been having breakfast every Friday morning for over 23 years as we prayerfully support each other in our careers, marriages, and ministries.

And as we enter 2014, I am thankful for new avenues of service that God has opened for me:

• In January, Bel Air Pres is sponsoring me in a two-year program to be trained as a spiritual director with Christian Formation & Direction Ministries to “help lead others into a renewed love for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit through spiritual formation and the art of spiritual direction.”

• In July, I join a team from Bel Air Pres as we travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to help the Congolese church in their effort to bring about reconciliation between former enemies during the recent decade of civil war and tribal genocide.

• On my way home from the Congo, I will travel to Pithapuran, in the Andhra Pradesh district of India, to speak at a conference of pastors, preach in several churches, and learn about the plight of abandoned children in the region.

Of course, all of this—and future opportunities to serve God in his Kingdom work—is dependent on his will (James 4:13-16) and the remaining time that he grants me with health and life.

And should he bless me with long life—as he continues to do with Diana’s aunt Dot who celebrated her 100th birthday last July—perhaps I will celebrate that milestone with yet another skydive!

Happy new year to all my readers, and may the Lord bless you and your families as you continue to worship and serve him throughout his Kingdom this year.

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View the video of the skydive

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