During this past month I have been encouraged in a few ways, I experienced seeing the fruit of the Calvary Chapel ministries in Nigeria with Nigerian pastors who have been serving for 10 years and longer in such a difficult place and I also experienced the blessing of attending the Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa Men's Conference. During the men's conference various pastors from different backgrounds shared both to strength the men in attendance and also to glorify God for what God has done in and through them. Dr. Tony Evans shared with such passion and power about being active in God's plan to see God bring His kingdom to our families and communities. His website states, "Dr. Evans holds the honor of writing and publishing the first full-Bible commentary and Study Bible by an African American." Tony Evans is a leader in many areas of Christianity in the U.S. but also he is living in such a way that his children are all following and serving the Lord. We all need to follow God in such a way that others are impacted and encouraged to live for Jesus in such a way that our communities are transformed by God.
Having recently returned from Nigeria and having the ever present reality of the state of dysfunction in each realm of society there, I have both contemplated and experienced many of the truths shared at the men's conference. One truth is that it takes a man surrendered to God to influence his family for God, and that family can in turn influence the church, which brings change to society.
I visited both Lagos and Abuja in my time in Nigeria, both cities have a huge percentage of people who are struggling to survive due to poor infrastructure, a horrible supply of electricity and water, the daily risk of malaria and other diseases, and society where corruption has become predominate. Many poor people have abandoned the hope of experiencing change and the rich are often so corrupted that they do not desire to change or see any need to repent. However, in the midst of those enormous problems I can see how Pastor Prince Lawrence and his family and Pastor Kefas Momoh and his family are being used by God to be channels of truth and examples of how living for God's kingdom slowly brings change to those around you. I stayed in the homes of both pastors and witnessed their godly influence at many levels. Pastor Kefas and his wife Tina normally do not have electricity and when I arrived they were cooking for a family of four on a single gas burner on top of a propane cylinder. They often awake about 5:30 am, as they get up from under the mosquito net it is still dark, they use a flashlight to have family devotions and learn scripture memory verse, then they get the two little children dressed for school. Tina is singing praise songs out loud as she makes the kids a small breakfast and puts lunch in containers to take to their preschools. In Abuja, Pastor Prince and his wife Florence also have early morning family devotions and their children sing praise songs as they take baths and get ready for school. Their youngest boy Daniel is only 2 years old and he has entire praise songs memorized and walks about the house singing them. Outside of their homes they are immersed in stresses and broken aspects of society but they know that God is stronger than the struggles they experience. After having lived in Nigeria for 10 months in 2009 when both pastors were still single and then seeing how they and their families are slowly being used in the transformation process that God is doing in those who attend their churches I can say that the difficulties they live with is not diminishing the impact they are bringing. May we all mature enough that we make sacrifices in the physical realm to see advances in the spiritual realm, may we press on through the difficulties instead of being depressed by the difficulties.
We want to share with you that Pastor Jed Gourley and his wife Renee have asked us to come and serve in Tbilisi, Georgia where they have started a Calvary Chapel. We will travel June 9th and be there teaching through August 12th as Jed and his family travel to spend time with their family in the U.S. Their oldest daughter Anna is in university and the next daughter Lizzy is doing her last year of high school in the U.S. before entering university. As we travel to the country of Georgia I will teach on Sundays so their ministry will continue as they are traveling. We look forward to being there as we served with Jed and Renee and with Renee's "Markey family" members for 7 years when we lived in Ukraine. Marta and I have never visited Tbilisi so it will be a new adventure of faith for us.
From Tbilisi we travel directly to Israel to serve for 3 weeks with Helping Hand Coalition and with Bruce Becker in distributing free eyeglasses to Holocaust survivors and to those who speak Arabic in Israel. We return to California on September 5th and we will be here for a month or two until we travel around the end of October or beginning of November to assist in distributing handmade quilts to Holocaust survivors and also as we help coordinate concerts with professional musicians from Germany that will perform in free concerts for Holocaust survivors.
Jamie is awaiting an arthroscopic shoulder surgery which is on May 10th. We will assist her after that surgery and then travel to the country of Georgia on June 9th.
We appreciate your prayers, we appreciate those that help us, we believe that God is faithful to transform each of us more into the likeness of Jesus and through us He will slowly transform the lives of those around us.
Pray for Jamie and her shoulder surgery as she has had this injury for 2 1/2 years. Pray for her recovery.
Pray for us as we prepare and as we travel to the country, Georgia.
Pray for inspiration in the teachings that I will be sharing.
Pray for open hearts in Georgia and in Israel.
Pray for Jed and Renee to experience continued blessings as they pioneer the first Calvary Chapel in the country of Georgia.
Pray for the five Calvary Chapel churches in Nigeria and for the pastors and their families to stay strong in the Spirit.
Pray for protection for the believers in Nigeria and in Israel.