"Ye Have the Poor Always With You"
by feature editor
From our earliest experiences in Lithuania we have been confronted with the extreme poverty of many people there. While things have slowly improved over the years it is clear that the changes of the early 1990's came too late for many Lithuanians. This is likely also the case in other East European countries. The majority of the people above the ages of 40-45 have found it difficult to adapt to life in a market economy. Pensions and social help pay the barest minimum. Work opportunities are scarce. Further, opportunities are certainly not abundant for those of a more marketable age. Meanwhile, all face the normal expenses life brings upon one. One sees many beggars on the streets. Also, street work, such as we do there, brings one into contact with all classes of people, including beggars. If there has ever been a visit there where I have not helped some poor person(s) financially it escapes me at this time. I always bring some of my own money (as apart from the money I raise from churches to pay my expenses) along when I go there with this in mind and helped several poor people during my most recent time there. Hopefully, the above lines have turned the reader's mind to a subject that cannot help but trouble those who contemplate it - and that from several aspects. It is our purpose in this article to discuss different Bible texts and some facts relevant to the poor and the Christian's responsibility to them in the mission field.
Our Responsibility to be Benevolent
God has always shown a peculiar interest in the needy and helpless (Deut. 10:17-18; Jer. 7:6; Mk. 12:40). His people must be like him. Paul commands those in possession of wealth (which certainly speaks to most Americans) to be "rich in good works, that they be ready to distribute, willing to communicate" (1 Tim. 6:18). Jesus gave the example of the Good Samaritan as one who behaved as a neighbor toward one in need. This Samaritan acted on behalf of the wounded man, caring for him and seeing to his needs. With regards to this man's example Jesus said that we should "Go, and do…likewise" (Lk. 10:37). General benevolence is the responsibility of all Christians (Gal. 6:10; 1 Tim. 5:10; Jas. 1:27). It is one thing that we can do to lay up treasure in heaven (1 Tim. 6:19). These responsibilities must be weighed against other truths and other responsibilities given to us by God.
Some Helpful Principles to Remember Concerning the Poor
1. We will never eradicate poverty. Our title, taken from Jesus' words in Matthew 26:11, states an inescapable truth. Charitable organizations, founded in western countries to relieve the suffering of the poor in third world countries, have been operating for years. When we add to these the various efforts made to raise money for those in poverty - such as telethons, ad campaigns, promises of companies to donate a portion of the prices of their goods to the poor, the U.S. and other governments' sponsored famine relief and welfare programs, etc. - one fact has become very clear: There is not enough wealth in all the world's more prosperous countries combined to even begin to bring those in poorer nations out of poverty. Millions of people in this world will live and die impoverished regardless of all our best intentions and efforts to help. What Jesus said so long ago has been proven to be true (if anyone ever doubted it). This truth must be remembered by the foreign worker when confronted with the many sad scenes and stories of the destitute.
2. The poor find ways to survive. One reason we will always have them with us is that, in spite of their pitiful state, many of the poor live long lives. There are beggars in Lithuania that we have seen for many years now. Some are obviously advanced in age. Though they seem to be in apparent danger when sitting or kneeling on the sidewalk in below-freezing temperatures, their lives go on from year to year. While their state is pitiable, many seem to not suffer the ill effects from it that we naturally fear. I have given a good number of them money and will continue to do so. However, I will never give them enough money to get them off the streets. Further, I believe there is a good possibility that many of them actually have gotten used to their life and even like it.
3. We must remember our mission in foreign fields. Our compassion can easily be stirred by that poor old beggar lady we meet on the street. However, unless we are involved in an effort similar to that of Paul in Romans 15:25-29, the poor are not why we are in the mission field anymore than they are the reason that we work with local churches in America. Our mission is a spiritual one. We are to save lost souls and build up those who have come to Christ (Matt. 28:19-20). Benevolent efforts can turn us aside from more important things. Bible examples teach us that we should not just be content with good use of our time and money; we should seek the best use of it. Mary's use of the ointment to anoint Jesus was better than her selling it and giving it to the poor (Matt. 26:6-13). In the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42, Mary made the better of two good choices. With regards to the good work of ministering to the poor widows at the church in Jerusalem, the apostles said, "It is not fit that we should forsake the word of God, and serve tables" (Acts 6:2). Many times since our starting to work in Lithuania one of us has told a beggar that we are not there to do social work. Were we to help everyone who came to us we would be flooded with such people! Discretion must be used which generally discourages people from looking at us like a source of social help. Much of what we say under this point applies to the work local churches in the U.S. Many churches have adopted policies similar to what we advocate herein with regards to those seeking benevolent aid. It may give us a good feeling to help poor people, but it is simply not why Jesus gave the great commission (Matt. 28:19-20; Mk. 16:15-16). This brings us to our next point.
4. The warm, fuzzy feeling is not the best indicator of what is most needful. Like all preachers, I have sometimes had people come to me for counseling in the mission field. While this is never advertised or offered since it is not why we go to such places, some people have come to me with their problems and I have not turned them away. More than once the person has either cried or been on the verge of tears in thanking me for helping them. I remember thinking on one such occasion, "How easy it would be to do such work. In most cases, all I have to do is sit and patiently listen, offer a few words of advice and encouragement - and I get such a good feeling when it's over and the person is thanking me, like I've really done something." In truth, I have seen little or nothing come from such efforts with regards to my true mission of gospel preaching, except in cases where I have helped Christians. I only get a good feeling. Similarly, I can remember nothing of any lasting good (in a temporal sense) that has resulted from my financially helping a single lost person! Yes, it gives me a good feeling to think I have helped someone (like the time I saw a poor old lady that looked a lot like my mother shivering in the cold and stuffed a substantial amount of money into her hand). And, yes, as our first point shows, it is part of my service to God. However, it is not my mission in Lithuania.
5. What form should benevolence take? Generally, the wisest form of benevolence consists of actually obtaining the goods or services needed by the supplicant. Of course, this is not always possible, especially when one has a full schedule. However, we ought to consider the power for good or evil that we put into a person's hands when we give them money (Jno. 12:4-6; 2 Cor. 8:18-21).
6. The proper place for giving help in benevolence. We have realized a real danger that benevolent work poses to our efforts in Lithuania. If the literature stand on the street or the assemblies of the church become known as sources of general benevolent help, it sends the wrong signal with regards to our work there. Many times I have told a person, whom I had decided to help, to meet me at a certain place after we take the literature stand down. (It is surprising how many have failed to keep such appointments!)
Because the poor will always be with us, we will come into contact with them from time to time. Good judgment should govern our conduct towards them. If it does not, there is a very real danger that any given preaching effort might be detoured away from its true purpose. Hopefully, this article will help good judgment to prevail when brethren deal with the poor in mission fields.
This issue's field reports:
Edward Pagan email@example.com
I must apologize for the long delay in getting this report out to you. We had hoped that we would be settled into a new job and our own house by this time, but this has not happened as we planned. Due to many factors, which I will partly describe in this report, we are still living with relatives.
We were scheduled to leave Sofia to return to the US on March 24. As I mentioned in my previous report, we had a flurry of activity leading up to that momentous day. We were finally able to determine the exact amount of income tax that we owed in Bulgaria and arranged the payment of that our final week. It seemed that so few foreigners want to pay their taxes that the local authorities needed to get a ruling from the federal tax
officials on how to pay the tax. We also were making final arrangements to change the
status of our foundation to show that Bisser Peshev was the sole director to remain in Bulgaria. But, most importantly, we had several Bible classes with Evgeni Ivanov,
who had recently shown more interest in spiritual matters. I had the final class in the series with him on the Thursday before our move. When I asked him if he was ready to commit himself to the Lord, he told me that he needed more time to consider whether he was ready for the commitment. I told him to take the time he needed because it was a commitment to change his eternaldestiny, but not avoid making a decision. I told him he could call me at any time, even the middle of the night. On Saturday evening, I was
having a class with Richard Walker when the telephone rang. It was Evgeni telling me
he was ready to give his life to Jesus. So we gave him directions on how to come to our apartment. He met Bisser and the two of them arrived shortly. Bisser, Richard, Rita, and Savela Stoyanova, who also came when we told her of Evgeni's desire, all witnessed his new birth into the body of Christ.
On Sunday, after the church met early to accommodate our travel plans, nearly everyone went with us to the airport to see us off. It was a bittersweet time, as we alternated between sadness at ending our four years of service in Sofia, and the joy of having a new brother among the saints there. Finally, the time came for us to pass through passport control where we could no longer see our dear friends and we all hugged and held back
our tears. Our flights to Prague, New York, Cincinnati, and Louisville were uneventful. We got to spend some time at the airport in Prague with Mike and Tatiana Morrow, who have promised to visit the brethren in Sofia when they can to encourage the brethren. Some of my family met us at the airport in Louisville late Monday night with a large poster and patriotic music. I suppose it must have been a sight for the few people left in the terminal at that hour, but it was quite wonderful for us.
We had been hoping to find a church in the Louisville area with which to work, since Rita's mother was quite ill and we wanted to stay close to help in her care. The Eastland church in Louisville offered me a try-out, but they decided not to offer me the job. The brethren there were kind enough to recognize the difficult situation we had in returning to the US without any guarantee of work and they promised to use me to preach whenever
possible until they made an arrangement with another man.
We spent most of our time in April shuttling back and forth between Owensboro, KY, where my maternal grandmother was in the final stages of bone and brain cancer, and the Louisville area to be with Rita's mother, who was suffering from terminal liver failure. Rita's mother was admitted to the hospital the day after we arrived. After a short stay, she returned to the nursing home and we traveled to Owensboro. My grandmother was still able to get around for short trips and I took her for one of her final radiation treatments. She was also able to meet with the Westside church in Owensboro to hear me preach, although they are members of another church in Owensboro. That turned out to be the final occasion that she was able to worship with the saints anywhere. After a few days, we returned to Louisville, just in time for Rita's mother to be readmitted to the hospital with a bad reaction to pain medication. After the medication left her system, she rallied and was able to travel about some, even going out to dinner with one of her other daughters. We decided to return to Owensboro, where my grandmother was finally succumbing to her cancer. She died a week later and I helped conduct her funeral. The next day after the funeral, we got a telephone call that Rita's mother had been readmitted to the hospital the day before, when they found her on the floor at the nursing home. We rushed back to Louisville the next day and spent the remainder of the month
alternating with Rita's siblings to care for her round the clock. Because of the
intensive demand on our time, we decided not to actively look for a church
outside the Louisville area during April and the early part of May.
We also started the long process of starting a new life here in the US. The first step was to purchase a minivan for transportation. My parents loaned us a car for as long as we needed, but we did not want to take advantage of their generosity any more than necessary.
I will report on our activities during the months of May and June, including the passing of Rita's mother, in my next report. Again, I want to thank you for your support, both financial and spiritual, in our work. Some of you have continued to send the support until we are able to find regular work here and I also appreciate that. This should be sufficient, since I am able to preach on occasion and get some support from that. Also our living
expenses are low, since we are living with relatives. We solicit your prayers in helping us to find the service that God has for us here.
Edward and Rita Pagan
Arrigo Corazza: firstname.lastname@example.org
SECOND 2002 REPORT (April 29)
Dear brethren in Christ,
It's certainly a pleasure to be back to you with this report of mine concerning my activities in the Kingdom of God since last January 9.
Before going on with the details, I wish to express my love and gratitude to all of your for your kind support. May God bless you richly.
PREACHING THE GOSPEL IN PISA
Our Free Bible School goes well. We have four non-Christians attending (all of them were unknown to us; they got in touch with us through a deep work of publicity of our Bible School). So far we have completed the general introduction to the Bible; next lesson we'll start the Scheme of Redemption. Three of the four contact attending are very interested. One of them, a lady over fifty years old, began attending with her 26 years old daughter (who never attended our Bible School) also our Sunday Bible classes. But, so far, they never attended any worship service. Hope they can stop one day. The two women seem very interested in what we are studying. In this particular time, I'm teaching a motivating class on Satan.
I want you to know that it is very rare that in our country somebody stops for Bible studies, so we recognize as a good result to study every week the Bible with somebody that has never heard the Gospel before.
Religious problems here in Italy have very little impact for most of the people. Just to give you an example, in the media very barely is being said about the American priests involved in sexual illegal activities (I know that on the contrary in America is a big topic right now).
Beside the lady I talked about above, the others attending are a student at the Law faculty here in Pisa, a worker in the surgery room at the Hospital and, finally, a math professor in high school (he seems to be less interested than the others; he's a kind of strange guy).
On March 1 and 2 we held a Gospel meeting in a rented conference hall downtown Pisa. We gave notice to the people in Pisa through papers, big posters on the city walls, personal free distribution of thousands ads. Brother Valerio Marchi, preacher in Udine, held the Gospel meeting. It was a pretty good success, because we had all the people attending our Free Bible School plus five other unknown persons. The preaching was sound and efficient. The whole Church did help out in the work of preaching and this makes me happy. We are scheduling other Gospel meetings for 2002 to bring the Gospel to non-Christians. All we can do according to our forces, especially the economical ones, we will do.
PREACHING AND TEACHING AMONG THE BRETHREN
I have done an extensive work of preaching and teaching. We have just finished to study Romans on Thursdays evening. We are going to study Philemon, a short but important letter written by Paul. On Sundays mornings I have taught lessons on the spiritual panoply of the Christian (Ephesians 6). As said above, we are currently studying the figure, role and activity of Satan, our enemy. We need to be prepared in facing him, because his devices are evil (2Corinthians 2:11: «Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices»). I have, moreover, preached on the principal topics concerning the spiritual life of the believers. The brethren here seem to be very encouraged and this makes me happy, since we, as Gospel preachers, have very little satisfaction, and to know that our work is being appreciated by others is a great reward.
THE BRETHREN IN PISA
We are going to have back the Church in her totality: a young couple, that moved recently up in the North of Italy for working, is back; Daniel, a young brother in Christ (who is also my nephew), will be back in the first decade of May from Germany, where he moved for a while to study at the University (Heidelberg). I'm glad he could attend with the good brethren in Mainz (the Church of Christ in Mainz, Germany, is a supporting source of mine). Daniel told me he was treated royally by them and we are grateful to the brethren in Mainz for their kindness.
For three months we had a young American girl attending the Church in Pisa. Her name is Teresa Lind. She is from Chilton, Wisconsin. Teresa was in Florence to study. So she attended every Sunday, taking the train to worship with us. Teresa has been a great example for us. We really miss her. Hope she can come to visit us again and again.
Attendance is very good on Sundays and the contribution is constantly adequate for what we are trying to accomplish as of a group of less than 20 baptized people.
WRITING A PAPER PUBLISHED IN THE USA
I was very happy to contribute to the book in honor of Brother Ferrell Jenkins (God so loved. Studies in the Gospel of John. A Tribute to Ferrell Jenkins, Florida College Press, 2002). I was asked by the editor, Brother Daniel W. Petty, to write on The New Birth (pp. 128-142). I was the only non-American invited to write in the book. I love Brother Jenkins very much: I have known him for almost thirty years and he has been an example to me, as teacher and as a believer.
My support is adequate for my present necessities. The exchange with the Euro is good. I'm grateful to God and to you all for it, because I'm very happy in preaching and teaching the Gospel full time.
Everybody is doing fine. Deborah (22 years old) is studying at the University to be a medical doctor. She is doing fine with the exams. Simona (almost 18) still attends the High School. Simona is not yet baptized, but she is speaking about it. This makes Patrizia and myself very happy.
This is all for the time being. More news ahead.
In Him yours,
Arrigo, Patrizia, Deborah and Simona
Via P. Aretino 60
56010 Arena Metato
Valerio Marchi - Via Colugna 127/1 - 33100 Udine (Italy) - email@example.com
June 11, 2002
I hope and pray that this report finds all of you doing well, and that you are prospering in God and in His work. All three of us are fine here in Udine. Arianna Vera and Patrizia salute you. Arianna has just finished her first school year.
A very good news: bro. George's wife (Esther) was baptized for the remission of her sins last month; as I told you in my last report, she was "baptized" several years ago by a charismatic group in Ghana, so we have studied conversion, baptism, Holy Spirit and NT Church. Thanking God, she understood that she was never baptized into Jesus Christ.
Sister Mercy, who was restored on march 31, worships and studies the Bible regularly.
About three months ago, two christians (husband and wife) coming from Africa (Ghana) and settled in Udine, began to attend our congregation: their names are Nicholas and Doris; last Sunday, they asked to place their membership in Udine; we have studied the Bible together several times and they have shown a sound biblical background.
At present, Udine Church counts 33 members (+ 9 minor children).
Last month, we published a special (and expensive!) advertisement on a local newspaper, inviting everybody to visit our web site (www.xnet.it/vangelo) and we have been contacted by several persons.
We are keeping on with our Radio broadcastings and other activities in order to spread the Good News, especially delivering many fliers all around this region.
On may 18, we held a lecture in a very well-known hall in the center of Udine; the topic was "The problem of suffering: a biblical perspective" (I'm also preparing a new tract on the same subject). We are happy because 27 visitors attended that lecture; of course, we
hope that at least one of them will begin to study the Bible with us.
As far as Sunday's and Thursday's Bible classes are concerned, I've started a series of lessons on Job, while bro. Andrea is teaching on prophets.
Okonkwo, with whom we are studying the Bible in prison, has not yet obtained from the judge a special permission for being baptized as he needs, and we are very sorry and worried about that. The other Nigerian man in prison (Eddie) is also continuing to study the Bible weekly with bro. Andrea and me.
Last April, I was invited by the Church in Alessandria (North-West of Italy) and I preached for them on a week-end; we've been glad to know that a couple of weeks later a young woman was baptized and added to the congregation there. The Christians in Alessandria have no preacher working with them at present, but a preacher coming from Argentina (whose name is Carlos Gatti) is going to visit them soon and there are good chances for him to remain there and preach in that city (he can speak Italian).
I also visited the Church of Christ in Poggiomarino (close to Naples) on June 1st (the last time I met the brethren there was in 1994, so I have been very happy to see their faces again!).
We are planning works in our new apartment for next month and we hope to move in it within september.
There are no news concerning the school; I'm still teaching eight hours per week in a public school as a substitute teacher, and the Government does not want to take other people as permanent workers yet.
Brethren, I express my continual thanks to you for your interest in and support of the Lord's work here in this part of Italy. Please continue to pray for us, the Christians here and the Lord's work. In His love and service,
Via Colugna, 127/1
Steve Wallace firstname.lastname@example.org
This writer returned at the end of April from a three week effort in Kaunas, Lithuania (April 1-21). It is the first time I have been to that country since the Fall of 2000, my longest absence since starting to work there. I was the guest of Lee Fenner, who preaches for the church there, and his wife, Sondra. It was a busy time and much was accomplished.
One thing which I was determined to do was to try to resurrect the lectures. In recent years they have not drawn the numbers they once did. Since most of our converts in that country have come from the lectures it was worth trying to revive them. We ended up having the highest numbers at the lectures that we have had in years. Interest was also better. The last Sunday I was there the question and answer period following the lecture lasted about 1 hour and 15 minutes (this made the total lecture period 2 and ½ hours!). It was the best such session I can ever remember. Questions were relevant and interest in answers was good. Four people have who came to the lectures have since obeyed the Gospel. Inasmuch as I was asked to what I attributed this increase in attendance, here are my thoughts:
1. We heavily advertised. Lee's computer is of a more up-to-date variety than the one we have been using in the work there in the past. We were able to produce attention-getting invitations (to hand out on the street) and ads for the news paper complete with pictures. A goodly portion of the support I raised for my effort there went towards putting large ads in one of the local papers. An ad was run twice in the week before each lecture.
2. I believe that subject matter also figured in the increase in attendance. It is my conviction that, if we choose subjects of interest, people will come. Of course, the subjects must be such as to allow us to say what these people need to hear. Some such themes are "Errors of the Jehovah's Witnesses," "Visions," "Psychics," "Tongue Speaking," and "Why I am not a Jew, Roman Catholic or Protestant." With regards to the subject of "Tongue Speaking," it was obvious that a number of people came to that lecture to discuss miracles. This gave us much opportunity to deal with Bible basics, as did the lesson, "Why I am not a Jew, Roman Catholic or Protestant."
3. We are now holding our lectures in a better place. The lecture hall at the beautiful Best Western Hotel in the town center can be rented for 40 Litas ($10) an hour. It comes complete with its own overhead projector and screen. It is in a better from the standpoints of location, appeal and comfort. It is much warmer than the lecture hall we rented for years where people came and shivered through some of our speeches.
4. It is obvious that some people have been through various religions in the city and are still searching.
Mike Willis was in Kaunas for two Sundays in late June. One lecture during this time drew 29 people. From these results it seems that the lectures will continue to be a good method of reaching people for the foreseeable future. By contrast, Andy Alexander and Steve Curtis, who were in Vilnius for much of June and part of July (Andy for 6 weeks and Steve for 4) did not experience as good a response. None of us are able to understand the difference between the responses in Vilnius and Kaunas in as much as similar advertising efforts were made.
Traffic at the literature stand was the best it has been in many years. We had a number of days when 20 or more people took literature. While we do have more tracts now and they are more attractive with their different colored covers, I am not sure to what we should attribute this increase in activity. Many people stopped to ask questions and discuss the Bible. The lectures have always been an offshoot of our street work. We use part of our time at the stand to hand out lecture invitations (around 1,200 a week this time).
Contacts for study naturally spin off from the stand and lectures. We had a several studies and some with people with whom we were very impressed. We are very encouraged by this upsurge in interest and hope more men will come and work in Lithuania this year.
We got another tract published, this one a short debate on baptism. Since we have long since ran low on many of our newer tracts we had to produce 7 or 8 titles at copy shops and assemble them ourselves. We are presently working on raising funds to have a substantial number printed by a printer.
Please pray for the combined efforts being made there.
Gert-Jan van Zanten, email@example.com
Greetings from the Netherlands. Thank you for your continued support with the work here in Holland.
1. The church in Roosendaal.
Things have been well here. We continue to come together each Sunday, we always come together at night. That allows me to preach for other groups in the morning and afternoons. In my sermons I have shared a good insight into the Christian walk and life, the meaning of Christ, His word, good works, conviction, the Holy Spirit, determination, commitment, example, brotherly love and discipleship among others. We do not have an official mid-week Bible-study so I try to encourage to come together for a singsong, a prayertime, eating together all these as an effort to come to love, appreciate and know one another. (Acts 2)
2. Camp in Belgium.
As mentioned in my last report, I was asked to help out with a camp in Belgium in the end of July. We have come together for this camp these last months a number of times and we are now all prepared. The camp is for 11-14 year olds. The teaching will be centered around the life of Moses and the Exodus with on the other side Christ the shadow-reality concept.
3. The church in Bladel.
Each month I preach ones for the group in Bladel, if time allows I go there sometimes even two times. Also every other Thursday night I come there to conduct a study. We have read and studied the book of Luke and are now ready for another book or topic. It has been a very rewarding study and the boys have enjoyed it and have learned much. I have been quite impressed with the comprehension level of these four boys; they have so much potential. I have tried to involve them in these studies as much as I can and that have been very beneficial. I usually give them a scripture for which next time they prepare a five-minute talk. For our next studies I am considering a different approach, I have thought about a question and answer sheet with discussion questions.
4. Personal studies.
We have finished our studies on "what does it means to be a Christian", and have had some talks on Roman Catholic doctrine. Also last week and this week I have asked her about her commitment, about baptism and her former marriage. She has been in another marriage, she is now the single mother of 3 children. She is now seriously thinking about marrying the father of her children and from what we have talked about her first marriage was ended because of adultery. In regards to her baptism she explained that she does not feel herself ready and this in regard to her -likely- upcoming marriage.
She feels that she cannot make the commitment to Christ before she knows how the commitment between her and the father of her children will be.
I have tried her to get to see that if she knows that she has sinned and she believes in God and His offer of Christ for the world then nothing should stop her. But in her own mind she has the above picture. This morning I was with her and she explained that she had family coming over for a couple of weeks, the father of her children is coming over (he lives in Aruba) and while he is here he is to have surgery. She asked of we would postpone our studies for two months.
B. In my last report I have mentioned that I study with Ilonka about the character of God.
First we have talked that He is a Shepherd, then we talked about Him being a Rock and now we are talking about His omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence. These studies have been really rich, some of the things that I have found has also been very good for myself. With Ilonka's past it has been quite difficult for her to understand the concept of a True Father, when we studied Ezechiël 34 and John 10 it became very true to her what kinds of Shepherd her Father is. She is growing, but it has been a struggle for her.
C. Neighbors. (Ron and Ria)
Each Fridaynight a study is conducted at my house with my next-door neighbors, Ilonka is also a part of these. We are reading and discussing the Gospel of John. The last couple of weeks I have become a little more specific in my questions and we are dealing with some particulars, like attendance, baptism, the completeness of God's word, once saved always saved. Ron and Ria are former members of a Brethren group. Discussions have been good and it seems that they are open to what is right.
D. A few contacts.
A number of other contacts are up. I have an appointment with a couple for next Wednesday but do not know where this is heading yet.
D. I am involved in two e-mail conversations.
One with a man that used to be a member of the COC in Holland, who left because of the premillenial issue among others. Another conversation on Calvinism.
1. Works in process.
A. I am working on a tract for Evangelism.
B. Working on material for a Bible-course.
I have found a good friend (Ruben) willing to help me in this area, we are working on material to present in a class-situation with non-believers.
C. By invitation I am working on material on Calvinism.
D. Different material for classes.
1. Dutch grammar.
As mentioned in my last report, I have been taking some Dutch classes.
The first part of this has now come to an end I will continue with more after the summer-holidays. These classes have been real well. It has helped me a lot in my writing and speaking.
2. Preach at different places.
The last two months besides my regular preaching-scedule I have preached for the church in The Hague.
Over all things have been well. I have the feeling that we are reaching out on different ends with no visible fruit yet. It is somewhat difficult to see little response, but we pray that He will give the increase at His time.
Thank you for your support, e-mails, encouragement and prayers.
Much love from Holland,
Gert-Jan van Zanten.
Terrell Bunting, firstname.lastname@example.org
Norway Newsletter May - June 2002
Greetings from Bergen, Norway! It is hard to believe it is time to be sending out another newsletter. I hope that all is well with you. As for my family and myself we are doing well.
Our website continues to be a good means to contact others. On June 6th we got a request from Jeanette Markussen for one of our Bible correspondence courses. We have had about 60 hits to our Norwegian site since my last report (from 209 to 269) and we have had 316 hits to our English site.
Visitors to our services:
With the onset of spring and summer we have an influx of tourists to Bergen. As a result of this we have been blessed with brethren from other places visiting our services. Being such a small struggling group it is a tremendous help and encouragement to us when brethren come to have fellowship with us. On May 31 Sarah Calvert came to visit us. She arrived on a Friday and stayed with us until Tuesday 7th of June. Sarah has been helping the Maydells in South Africa and I met her while in South Africa in February 2002 and invited her to visit us. Sarah worshipped with us while here. On Sunday June 2nd we had a Christian couple from San Diego, California worship with us. Sunday June 9th and 16th we had Marilyn Morris from Vidar, Texas attend. On June 16th Marilyn brought a visitor with her. It was an elderly Norwegian lady. Her name is Hanna Borsholm and she is 86 years old. Hanna did not speak English and Marilyn did not speak Norwegian so it was VERY impressive that she brought a visitor, put all of us to shame! It turned out that Hanna visited the Church of Christ in the late 1950s early 60s when they assembled on Nattlandsvei, Landås. Her husband was a friend of the Onhstad family, for those who may know of that family, who used to be members of the Church. Brother Pat Swafford from Katy, Texas was in Bergen on business and visited our services on June 9th. He may be back later on business in Bergen. We had a Norwegian man visit services on Sunday May 26th and Sunday June 2nd. He came with some special warnings to the Church, not sure he is actually seeking truth, but we did appreciate him visiting and he took several tracts to read. Our youngest daughter Kristina brought her friend Hilde Holmelid to Sunday services twice the past two months. On Wednesday evening June 19th we had a young Norwegian lady named Birgit drop in. She stopped outside the building, read the bulletin board and heard the singing and stepped inside. She stood at the back for a few minutes and then decided to sit down and join us. She enjoyed the singing she said. She said she would drop in again sometime. We were only 6 present that Wednesday evening as several were out sick or on vacation, such is the case… when one least expects it visitors drop in!
Visit to Oslo:
As I mentioned in my last newsletter I travelled to Oslo on May 2-3 to visit Håvard and Kari Haagensen. We studied from the book of first John and had several interesting discussions.
They are expecting their 3rd child in July. I hope to get back to visit them in the fall for further study and encouragement. They covered my travel expenses to come study with them.
Sermons and Bible Study:
Recent Sermon topics:
Sin unto death…what can this be?
Series on the Holy Spirit:
Who is the Holy Spirit?
The spiritual nature of man.
The creation of the New man. (born again)
The Work of the Holy Spirit in Christians today.
Imparting the Holy Spirit
(Some of these lesson went over 2 Sundays.)
Adult Bible study topic: Romans 1-4
On a positive note, Lisbeth and Fatou Bah has been out to many of the services the past weeks as their health has taken a slight turn for the better. It has been wonderful and very encouraging to have them present. Please continue to pray that God may grant them the health and strength to serve. We still are greatly concerned about our sister Jorun Jacobsen as she has she continues to be absent from services. Our sister Alicia Rockwell and family moved to another home as they needed more space for their family of 5 boys. Attendance has slightly improved recently and I notice how this creates a positive and stimulating atmosphere in our assemblies. All in all things are pretty well with the congregation.
Visit to the USA.
We are making a short visit to the States this summer. Karen and girls left on June 13th . I will be joining them on June 24th. I will be away from the Bergen for only 2 weeks. We will spend 1 week with my parents in Florida and then 1 week in Tennessee. I am limiting my time away from Bergen now as I have 2 gospel meetings planned for this fall. I will be travelling to Pisa and Udine, Italy in mid-September to preach and then to Woodsfield, Ohio at the beginning of November for a Gospel meeting. I am planning on making another missionary/preaching trip to Namibia the first quarter of 2003 so if any of my readers are interested in supporting me in the effort please let me know. I will be trying to raise funds to cover my travel expenses.
A special thanks:
In closing I send a special thanks to all the congregations and individuals who continue to support us in our work here in Bergen. Due to you and your help we are able to serve the Lord here in Norway. We are grateful for your prayers as we greatly need them. God bless you and keep you! We hope to all gather in heavens great courtyard one day!
Brotherly…Terrell Bunting and family
Rody Gumpad, email@example.com
July 03, 2002 2:05 AM
I have good news! We baptized another two precious souls after our worship here at Tuguegarao Church Last Sunday morning. Can you guess who is one of them? Our son Teddy! Tessie and I are very happy in his obedience to the Gospel. The one is his friend, Paul John Panopio. They are both running 12 years old and in grade six now. After baptism, Junior and I went immediately to the City Jail and joined bro. Robert Pader in holding the worship with the Christians inside. I preached an encouragement lesson. Many of them are sick. Maybe it is because they are full-packed like sardines inside their small cells. It is very hot here again as there is no enough rain yet for a long time now! Then in the afternoon, we went to Maguirig. As usual, Junior taught in the Bible Study and I preached. We extended the invitation and six young men came forward and confessed their faith in Christ. We baptized them here at Tuguegarao because there is not much water in the village at this time. This brought now to 76 all baptisms that we have at Maguirig since we started that work last year. However, we purged out a couple recently because they are living in adultery and two more because they are still drunkards and chain smokers (1 Cor.6:9-11). I will close for now and send you more news again next mail.
Rody C. Gumpad & Family
P.O. Box 075,
Tuguegarao City, Cagayan,
(edited by feature editor)
Jerry Falk, Falk, JerryFalk@eresmas.net
*** Visitors in Seville ***
ANGEL, a former member of a large denominational church in Peru (South America) visited with us on Sunday, Mar. 3. He promised to enroll in our correspondence course, but still hasn't done so.
We've also had visits from JUAN ANTONIO, a university student who is working on his doctorate in Psychology. Back in 1996 we studied with Juan for several weeks. Then, after disappearing for almost a year and a half, Juan showed up at the building and expressed his desire to begin meeting with the church on Sundays and Thursdays. He also handed me a list of a twenty to thirty Bible-related topics that he wanted to study with us. Then --to our total disbelief-- he vanished again. His most recent emergence occurred last Jan. or Feb. As in the past, Juan expressed his desire to meet regularly with the church and we haven't seen "hide nor hair" of him since. Now that's pretty strange behavior coming from someone who claims to be a "Psychologist"!
PEPE, a friend of member Paco Del Valle, has been meeting with the church every Sunday. Paco invited him to services several weeks ago and he's been coming ever since.
JAIME and MARGOT have also recently begun meeting with the church
in Seville. Jaime's search for God goes back to when his brother committed suicide some time ago. Margot, Jaime's girlfriend, is originally from Uruguay (South America). They are planning to be married in the near future.
*** A threefold plan ***
We have a new, threefold strategy to reach people in Seville with the gospel.
1) On Wednesdays we post flyers in bus stops and telephone booths announcing our free Bible correspondence course and information about the church.
2) On Fridays we're distributing postage-paid postcards by means of which interested respondents can receive a free Bible. We deliver the Bible personally and try to arrange a time to study.
3) On Saturdays we're handing out our little tract "Words From a Friend". We originally began knocking on doors and talking with people, but now we let the tract do the talking. The first woman that we talked to said something like, "I don't even have time to scratch myself." "I don't have time" is by far the most common excuse in Seville.
Please pray that God will give us more personal studies with non-Christians. We've been in a slump for quite a while and are hoping that God will bless us with stable numerical growth in the near future.
*** My wife's uncle baptized ***
Since our last visit to Tarapoto, Peru in 1995, Maria and I have had several opportunities to correspond with her uncle, Lizardo. As a result, Lizardo began to indicate an interest in spiritual things and started meeting with members of a liberal church of Christ in his hometown that had come out of Adventism. When the preacher of this group passed away, the church in Tarapoto drifted back to its denominational past.
The Lord's Supper was not commemorated every first day of the week, women were
given the opportunity to lead public prayer, foot washing was required before taking the Lord's Supper, etc. In the midst of this confusion, my wife's uncle was led to believe that he was in a saved condition without ever having been baptized. Maria and I wrote him several times, helping him to understand this error, and Lizardo wrote back expressing his desire to be baptized for the forgiveness of his sins.
In February of this year, Maria and I decided to ask Hernando Motta (a preacher from Ecuador) if he would be willing to go to Tarapoto to teach Lizardo and the other members of his "temple" (as he called it). To our delight, Hernando baptized Lizardo on Mar. 10 and others seemed to recognize the need to abandon their unscriptural practices. The group has dwindled down to only four people, but they apparently have their own
building and lots of room for growth. Please pray for this little church in Tarapoto, Peru.
*** Video project stymied ***
The people from Gospel Services, Inc. have refused do give me permission to use some of their images and text in my video series for non-Christians. I had planned to do a revised version of Jule Miller's "Visualized Bible Study Series" geared to reach Spaniards. I had several objectives in mind. First and foremost, I hoped to create a version that would allow brethren and non-Christians to copy and distribute the
series for free. Secondly, I wanted to eliminate images that are misleading or
outdated and modify some of the wording of the text in favor of wording more commonly used in Spain. Lastly, for every original slide image from Miller's series, I planned to add many more graphical representations to better explain Miller's text and hold the attention of those watching the videos. From a visual point of view, the revised work was already
looking quite different from the original.
Jule Miller died in July of 2000, but the brother who helped him produce the series, Texas Stevens, is now the president of Gospel Services, Inc. In one of his letters to me, Stevens states that the only way for me to make a revision of their material would be for them to "enter into some kind of employee or contractual relationship" with me. After this he says, "...anything you produce becomes the property of the copyright holder
and is subject to his review and approval, with all the production documents, all final masters and distribution rights belonging to the copyright holder." This, of course, will not do, mostly because such an arrangement will prohibit brethren from copying and distributing the videos for free. Gospel Services does have a non-profit corporation, Bible Share, Inc., that would send the series to brethren for free; however, since it is financed
by individuals and churches, I have decided to not participate with them in this work. I am now obligated to re-write the entire text and look for images that are not copyrighted.
I've recently found a website (pdimages.com) that locates public domain images in The Library of Congress and The National Archive for projects. Although they don't sell these images, they do charge you $50.00 per image for their "professional work"... far too steep for my budget! If any of you know of images of Bible scenes that can be used in my videos without running into copyright problems, I'd be very happy to hear from
*** Europe's new currency ***
On January 1 we switched from the Spanish "Peseta" to the "Euro". This new currency can be used in eleven different countries, including Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Holland, and Ireland. One Euro costs about $1.10. It seems like some have been taking advantage of this change to raise their prices. An example of this is my P.O. box. For years they've charged me about $13.50 a year to rent it. Since the arrival of the Euro this price has jumped to about $32.00 a year.
*** More specific info. ***
One of my supporters has requested more specific information regarding the churches that I'm working with and a personal financial statement. I thought that it might be helpful to share some of these things with you.
The church in Seville
Average attendance in March 2002:
Sunday A.M. classes -- 12
Sunday A.M. worship -- 12
Thursday P.M. Bible study -- 8
Contribution in March 2002:
Average weekly -- $81.68
Total contribution for month -- $408.38
Expenses for March 2002:
rent and utilities -- $311.54
Number baptized -- 0
Restored -- 0
Moved in -- 1 (a sister from Florida)
Moved out -- 0
The church in Dos Hermanas
Average attendance in March 2002:
Sunday P.M. classes -- 30
Sunday P.M. worship -- 30
Midweek P.M. Bible study -- 19
Number baptized -- 0
Restored -- 0
Moved in -- 0
Moved out -- 0
My financial situation
Total monthly support as of April 2002: $2,800.
One time support for year 2002: $0
*** Personal ***
My wife, Maria, has been studying English sporadically during the last two years or so. A brother and his wife in Washington suggested that we use their support to send Maria to an English school here, just in case we find ourselves back in the U.S. some day. Most of the time I speak English to Ellie and Jonathan, but tend to speak to Maria in Spanish. It's so much easier for me to speak to her in her native tongue because I know
I'll be understood immediately without having to repeat myself several times. As in other facets of my life, I need more patience and discipline in this matter.
Maria is also trying to get her driver's license, which will be a tremendous help to me. (Taking Ellie to school and picking her up each day --not to mention other errands-- consume a lot of my time.) The manual used to prepare people in Spain for the written test is extremely detailed. It seems much more intense than what we're used to in the U.S. The driving school where Maria is studying requires students to attend classes for two months (three hours a day, five days a week) before taking the exam. During this time they take dozens of computer-generated practice tests. Fortunately, she's already passed the written part. Now she has to take driving lessons. For each lesson (which lasts an hour and a half) they charge about $25.00. I've been told that she'll probably need about
twenty classes. We've already paid about $125.00 in preparation for her written exam and we're looking at another $500.00 for the driving part. No wonder people here want to be driving instructors!
I hope I haven't overwhelmed you with the length of this report. Thanks for your support and prayers.
Jerry T. Falk
41080 - Seville, SPAIN