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Posts Tagged ‘India’

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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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