Anglican Alliance launches Freedom Year, a global focus on anti-slavery initiatives

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The Anglican Alliance, which helps coordinate Anglican churches and agencies to work for a world free of poverty and injustice, has launched Freedom Year, a year-long focus on anti-slavery initiatives.

“Human trafficking is a grave crime against humanity,” Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby reminds us.”It is a form of modern-day slavery and a profound violation of the intrinsic dignity of human beings. This outrage should concern each one of us, because what affects one part of humanity affects us all.

“If we are to combat this evil then we must work together to prevent the crime, support the survivors and prosecute the criminals. The knowledge that churches have of their local communities puts them on the frontline in this campaign.”

It happens abroad we know, and even in many communities close to home. We must pray for change, learn more about human trafficking and modern slavery in the world today, and take action to end it.

A Freedom Year booklet, available here, contains monthly themes and activities to “help us to take action, and encourage us join the fight against human trafficking and modern slavery, both locally and globally,” the Alliance says.

Jesus rescues Christians AND Muslims: an astonishing tale from the Middle East straight from the book of Acts

Little did the Bibles for Mideast organization know of all the coming connected miracles when they published a story on the Arabian Sea baptism of 24 new believers early last October (you can read that here).  

The fact 24 Muslims had converted to Christianity at the risk of their and their families’ lives alone attests to a miracle-working God. As the baptismal service ended, the new converts and workers—50 in all—boarded a bus to return to their house church for worship and communion. 

A small convoy of militants suddenly appeared behind them and opened fire. All they knew to do was pray to the Lord for protection as they sped away, the gunmen in hot pursuit.

When a massive dust storm formed behind them, they now feared being trapped in the dark, churning grime and becoming easy prey for their pursuers. 

Then, just as suddenly, Jesus materialized in the storm clouds and dust.

“He appeared as a mighty and wonderful man showing his protecting and lovely hands towards us with a sweet smile,’ exulted newly-baptized Rizwan. “Jesus saved us! He himself blocked the road of militants in the form of a dust storm.”

The gunfire slowed and stopped, enabling the bus to drive safely back to the church.

Two months later, the same mission organization released a story of how an Arab woman from a prominent Muslim family (her father a top religious authority in the region) found herself near death after being bitten by a highly poisonous Saharan snake. While her sharp-shooting brother Haroon (not his real name) managed to kill the viper, it nearly killed her (that story in full here).

Hajira (not her real name) spent the next four days near death in a coma. In a few minutes of wakefulness, she heard doctors discussing the renal failure and increasing fibrinolysis certain to take her life. Losing hope, she turned to the wall, weeping, and tried to prepare herself for death.  She fell asleep hoping to never wake up.

As she slept, an angel appeared before her. “Call on Jesus, the son of the Most High, who was crucified for you, died and rose from the dead.”

“Prophet Jesus, the son of Mary?” she asked with irritation. “He was not crucified; and he was not greater than my prophet.”

“You are wrong,” the angel replied.  “Jesus is the Lord of the prophets. He is the true saviour. He can heal you from all sickness and save you from sin and death. Call on him with your heart and mouth.”

The angel disappeared. She awoke to see her brother Haroon standing beside her. “Were you dreaming?” he inquired. “I heard you say something about the prophet Jesus.”

She dreaded his anger as she told him about the angel and what he’d said. To her amazement, Haroon then related his own experience in a dust storm several months earlier. Yes, THAT dust storm!

He’d received information at dawn one morning that a Christian group planned a baptismal service in the Arabian Sea that day. Alerting his wing of 18 armed militants, the gang rushed to the seashore. Planning to kill everyone in the sea during the service, they aimed to terrify the world into realizing death awaited any Christians attempting to evangelize in their region.

But the service had already ended when they arrived.  Seeing a bus leaving the scene, they opened fire and the chase began. As they fired away, he explained that within seconds a giant dust storm formed directly in front of their vehicles. Unable to see or move forward, they climbed from their cars and kept shooting into the dust.

To their astonishment, the angry face of Jesus appeared in the swirling sand, eyes ablaze. “Why are you persecuting me?” his voice thundered. “It’s hard for you to kick against the pricks.” Jesus’ voice literally blew the fighters over and sent their guns flying.  Haroon explained they somehow managed to get themselves back on their feet, but couldn’t utter a word. 

[Note the similarities to the story from Acts 26:14, where Jesus appears to murderous Saul—equally intent on killing Christians and eventually to be the Apostle Paul—with the same plea and the same results.]

Jesus' voice thundered again. “I came to the world not to destroy anyone, but to save you. Go in peace.” He then vanished, the dust storm disappearing with him.

Haroon tried to explain the dreadful fear, yet abundant peace, they all felt simultaneously—nothing like anything he or they had ever known.

When their voices returned, all but two of the men praised and thanked God. The two argued it couldn’t have been from God, and all left the place confounded.

Haroon shared the story with their father, who warned him not to tell others. His own band of militants, however, laid down their arms. "This all happened a few days before you were bitten!" he shared with Hajira. Overwhelmed and overjoyed, brother and sister joined hands in prayer. 

“Lord Jesus, if you are the true saviour, show us the way,” prayed Haroon. “Jesus, if you are the true saviour, forgive our sins. Jesus, if you are the true saviour, heal both our physical and mental sickness. Jesus, if you are the true saviour, send someone to us for further guidance. Amen”.

The siblings wept in joy and gratitude. A couple of hours later, Hajira still at his sister’s side, two strangers arrived in her room unexpectedly. While neither had seen them before, the elder man addressed each by name. 

“The Lord Jesus heard your prayers which you both prayed together,” he began. “The angel who visited you appeared before me also, and asked me to visit you, guide you to salvation, and pray for you. So I left my house at once to come see you.”

He introduced himself as Pastor Paul of the Bibles for Mideast organization, and then explained to them who Jesus is, and why he was crucified and died. 

Hajira and Haroom repented of their sins and accepted Jesus as Lord and saviour. As Pastor Paul put his hands on Hajira’s head and prayed for her deliverance and healing, tremendous power flowed through her body. She rose, completely healed.

Hospital tests proved her healing, and doctors could not help but acknowledge a miracle had happened. Neither could the siblings’ family, who soon all came to Christ. They now ask our prayers for protection and strength to survive the persecution sure to come.
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You can visit Bibles for Mideast here and read more remarkable stories of rescue and salvation. They work secretly in highly restrictive areas, evangelizing, distributing bibles (free of charge), and establishing house churches. Many on their teams have converted from Islam.

Update on the Way family and their mission in Zimbabwe

After spending the last eight months living and working at Eden Children’s Village in Zimbabwe, Jeff and Carole Way remain as convinced as ever of their call to serve God among the orphans and villagers there. They have been doing tremendous work serving, building, re-building (when fires destroyed several buildings), teaching, and simply being powerful Christian witnesses. Carole, now trained as a midwife, assists at the birth of many babies in the area. Their two young daughters live and go to the school with the locals.

Early this year, the family returned to Canada as part of their continuing attempts to satisfy the Zimbabwean authorities’ demands for acquiring long-term visas. The only one available is a Business Investor Visa, so on their last stay in Zimbabwe and with the help of their  Dutch and Shona partners, they worked hard and successfully to have their business licensed and approved by the various government authorities. 
 
They now need to prove they have US$100,000 in assets.  That amount can be in funds or goods for their business and home and are their own—not a fee to be given to the Zimbabwean government.  

Can you help by providing any of the following? Needs range from large vehicles to office, shop and home supplies. Once these are collected, an American charity has pledged to send a shipping container for them. When they reach their goal, the Ways will apply for the visa from here and, once granted , will return to Eden Children's Village

Pickup truck; dump truck; tractor; backhoe; ATV/four-wheeler, six-wheeler
Gas-powered cement mixer, gas-powered compactor, gas-powered cement saw, gas-powered cement floor finisher, table saw, mitre saw
Chisels, hand saws, hammers, socket sets, pouches, screwdrivers, cordless tools, angle grinders, scaffolding, ladders, trowels, wheel barrows, tool boxes, auger drill bits, wood lathe and chisels, spoke shaves, wood planes, metric tape measures, levels, squares, mallets, air nailers and nails, plumbing tools, shovels, picks, rebar bender, pipe bender, hydraulic jacks, chain, wrenches, vises, woodworking vises, carving chisels, sand paper, chain saw, drill bits, router bits, paint brushes
Welder and equipment
Generator
Office furniture: chairs, computer, printer, white board and markers, filing cabinet, 
Propane fridge, stove, freezer
Solar-power equipment, solar hot water heater
Sofas, dining room set, bed frames, dressers, rugs, desks, curtain material, duvets, blankets.

You can read our original story on the Way family here: Love in action: the Way family's adventures at Eden Children's Village, Zimbabwe.

A challenge for your Christmas letter

By the Reverend Canon Anne Moore

For a while I used to receive Christmas letters from various friends; sometimes I sent my own news. I am sure you have received some of these and, possibly, written some before e-mails and high postage costs. Basically they are good news—bragging of all that the children have been doing, trips you have taken, the year’s activities and achievements. I hear that that is what Facebook is about: putting your best face forward.

Rarely do I read a letter that describes a family’s witness, or outreach, or ministries—even when I know they are involved in them. Is that being politically correct?

“Oh, the letter goes to all my friends so I don’t include my church involvement. I wouldn’t want to offend anyone.” But aren’t we supposed to be ‘salt’ and ‘light’ in the world? How can we create a thirst for Jesus among our friends ifIf we have accepted Christ as Lord; if we are allowing the Holy Spirit to live through us and transform us into the likeness of Jesus, why are we reluctant to let others know? Maybe if we reminded ourselves that God receives all our out-going mail, we might edit the boastful bits and add the ‘loving the less fortunate’ bits, or ‘how God helped me this year’ bits.

If Jesus wrote a Christmas letter to us, it might sound like this:

“Beloved, I pray this season finds you well. I just want to share some of the highlights from this year. Thanks to many of your brothers and sisters, thousands of people have come to faith in me. Please pray for those who have gone astray, that they might find their way back. Many of your brothers and sisters in Africa, Asia, and elsewhere have lost their lives because they chose to follow me. Rest assured, they will be with me in Paradise. Many more of your siblings have reached out to those who are poor, homeless, hungry, sick and in prison. I am sure next year will be equally busy.
With all my love,
Your Saviour and Lord, 
Jesus”
(This idea comes from Faith Writers Magazine)

I wonder if it’s time that Christmas letters from us got some attention for Him, along with our other, personal, good news. I wonder if that could be another way of sharing the real meaning of Christ’s birth on earth.

May you have a blessed Christmas season.

Killing Christians: Living the Faith where it's not safe to believe

Book review by Anne Moore

 I recently read another gripping book which challenged and educated me: Killing ChristiansLiving the Faith Where It's Not Safe to Believe (2015) by Tom Doyle. The book describes the lives of eight believers living in various Muslim countries, all converts to Christianity. They are our brothers and sisters, our family. Their lives are brutal but represent what goes on, daily, in other parts of our world.

The stories tell how the individuals came to be followers of Jesus, what happened to them immediately after their commitment, and what they are doing now. All look forward to the day when their persecution will end and they will enjoy life in heaven. For some, that may already have happened.

The book challenges my pitiful, little faith, and leaves me questioning if I am even a real follower. 

Some quotes from the book:

“What I thought was sacrifice was actually just inconvenience.”

“There is remarkable freedom in having no expectations, no plans for tomorrow [because I might die before then].”

“How could I leave the religion I had so faithfully studied and taught with passion all those years? .... I followed Jesus because he is the only one who could fill my empty soul. I may have been a religious zealot, but I ached to know God and could not find Him even though I had searched all my life.”

Bless you as you read this demanding volume.

Could YOU retain your faith even if it meant losing your life? Your family’s lives?  [Further insight from the book’s introduction--Ed,]

To many Christians in the Middle East today, a 'momentary, light affliction' means enduring only torture instead of martyrdom. The depth of oppression Jesus' followers suffer is unimaginable to most Western Christians. Yet, it is an everyday reality for those who choose faith over survival in Syria, Iran, Egypt, Lebanon, and other countries hostile to the Gospel of Christ. In Killing Christians, Tom Doyle takes readers to the secret meetings, the torture rooms, the grim prisons, and even the executions that are the 'calling' of countless Muslims-turned-Christians.

Each survivor longs to share with brothers and sisters ‘on the outside’ what Christ has taught them. Killing Christians is their message to readers who still enjoy freedom to practice their faith. None would wish their pain and suffering on those who do not have to brave such misery, but the richness gained through their remarkable trials are delivered—often in their own words—through this book. The stories are breathtaking, the lessons soul-stirring and renewing. Killing Christians presents the dead serious work of expanding and maintaining the Faith.

Sizzling Summer Service 9: Hallelujah Haliburton!

Since beginning to work on her message for the annual Service in the Park, Anne confessed to having had an old song scrolling around her brain. “I’m a stranger here” by the Five-Man Electrical Band, first appeared on their album  ‘Sweet Paradise’.

lakeside baptist church musicians and singers

lakeside baptist church musicians and singers

She read its first verse:

“Well, I'm a stranger here in this place called Earth
And I was sent down here to discover the worth
Of your little blue planet, third from the sun
Come on and show me what you've done.”

The song goes on to lament how earth’s residents had roundly messed up their ‘paradise’. The words led perfectly into an elaboration on the verses from Ephesians read earlier in the service (Eph. 2:1-22) by David Lloyd of the Lighthouse Church.

There, the apostle Paul points out to the church in Ephesus their once messy, sinful lives. Then, including himself, he wrote:  “We tried to satisfy what our sinful nature wanted to do. We followed its longings and thoughts” (v.3).

In fact, the whole Bible tells the story, over and over, of humanity tending to pull back when God reaches out. We do our own thing, run away, miss the mark.  “But God loves us deeply. He is full of mercy. So He gave us new life because of what Christ has done” (v. 4-5).

 "One way!"   bev hicks and anne moore lead the kids in their charge to the crowd

 "One way!"   bev hicks and anne moore lead the kids in their charge to the crowd

As Bev Hicks of Northland Faith Church had the children remind us earlier, “God's grace has saved you because of your faith in Christ. Your salvation doesn't come from anything you do. It is God's gift” (v. 8). 

 “So then, you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are members of God’s family,” verse 19 goes on to triumphantly remind us.

This brought to mind for many of us the family of Syrian refugees we’re ready and waiting for. Will we be able to help them feel like members of our community, help them heal from the hurts and fears of feeling unwanted and alien in their own country? We all pray we can share the love of Christ effectively with them.

lakeside Baptist church holds several baptisms in the lake after the service!

lakeside Baptist church holds several baptisms in the lake after the service!

The ‘I’m a stranger here’ song ends with these words:

"We got the rivers and the mountains and the valleys and the trees
We got the birds in the sky and the fish in the sea
We got the ―
Oh, you crazy fools!
Don't you know you had it made?
You were living in paradise
                                                          [photo credit: Elaine Figueroa]

                                                          [photo credit: Elaine Figueroa]

But take it from one who knows
Who knows the gates of Heaven can close
I only pray that you take my advice
'Cause paradise won't come twice"

Finding peace with God, only possible by becoming a friend and follower of Jesus, is beyond remarkably easy. Have  a simple conversation with God (that’s prayer). First, tell Him you’re sorry for the things you’ve thought and done wrong. Ask for His forgiveness. Then thank Him, and ask that His Holy Spirit would live in you forever.

Welcome to the family!

The enduring mystery, wonder and JOY of Christmas

by the Reverend Canon Anne Moore

I came across this quotation recently. So many of my senses are involved in reading it that I found it quite delightful.

"Late on a sleepy, star-spangled night, those angels peeled back the sky just like you would tear open a sparkling Christmas present. Then, with light and joy pouring out of Heaven like water through a broken dam, they began to shout and sing the message that baby Jesus had been born. The world had a Saviour! The angels called it ‘Good News,’ and it was.”  (Larry Libby, "The Angels Called it Good News" in Christmas Stories for the Heart)

I think I like it because it reminds me of the King James Version of the Christmas story as Luke records it:

"And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:9-11)

Our little human brains can’t describe that night in the kind of precise adjectives that our computer-obsessed society is comfortable with. This is mysterious stuff! So we have to resort to pictures that aren’t as well defined. That shouldn’t be so surprising. After all we are dealing with a once-in-a-lifetime event—the birth of the Saviour of a world gone wrong. Those unschooled, illiterate shepherds did a fine job of getting their story across. I think it was more in the joy on their faces than in the communication through their words. Each time they told the story, to their families, to their friends, to anyone who would listen, that joy must have looked like a bonfire, rays of hope radiating from their whole beings. Good News! Sing it out!

The story hasn’t changed. When we tell it, do we express that same joy, wonder, certainty? Remember this joy doesn’t have to be limited to just Christmastime. The overflowing joy of knowing Christ’s presence in our lives was one of the themes of Jesus’ final teaching with his disciples the night before he died on the cross. He told them of his extravagant love for them—that he loved them as the Father loved Him (John 15:9). After sharing what this eternal relationship looks like, Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (v.11). What a promise! Through Jesus Christ our hearts can be filled with joy—real joy!

May you experience real joy this Christmas and always.
 

Love in action: the Way family's adventures at Eden Children's Village, Zimbabwe

UPDATE (Jan. 2017): The Way family have returned to Canada, hopefully briefly, to raise more funds to be able to return to Zimbabwe. Please visit their sites and consider a generous gift to help them continue their amazing work.

Jeff and Carole Way spoke recently at St. George’s on their ministry to orphans in Zimbabwe. With their house, car and most of their belongings sold, they plan to live and serve at Eden Children’s Village in Doma, Mashonaland West, Zimbabwe.

To learn more about the ministry of Eden Children's Village, please click here. To get updates on Jeff and Carole's work, adventures, ministries, and needs in Zimbabwe, please visit their Facebook site, The ZimbabWays

."Right now we are receiving about $800 Canadian a month and we budget for $1200 American," Jeff explains. "With the exchange rate as it is now, we are quite a bit short of what we need.  So whatever you can do to help is great."

You may donate online, or mail a cheque (payable to St. Croix Vineyard) to St. Croix Vineyard, 8 Main St, St. Stephen, NB. E3L 3E2, c/o Lorna Jones. To arrange for a pre-approved debit, contact Lorna at lornajones@ssu.ca. Jeff and Carol may be contacted at thezimbabways@gmail.com.

Open arms and hearts in Haliburton Highlands join in Canada’s welcome to refugees

A refugee sponsorship committee has been put together from members of our community and parish, with plans to sponsor a refugee family some time in the spring.

It is amazing to hear of all the volunteers offering such diverse gifts as driving, advertising, fund-raising, providing help with finding health services, and teaching English. Donations are already coming in.

Justin w refugees.jpg

Outfitted in new winter coats and clutching their yawning 16-month-old daughter in the wee hours of Friday morning, a Syrian refugee family on the first large government flight began their new life in Canada—or, as they call it, ‘paradise.’

"We really would like to thank you for all this hospitality and the warm welcome and all the staff—we felt ourselves at home and we felt ourselves highly respected," Kevork Jamkossian told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. "You are home," Trudeau said. "Welcome home."

from Allison Jones of The Canadian Press

If you would like to donate (eligible for a tax receipt), you can do so online at Canada Helps, or with a cheque made out to St. George’s. Please include “refugee sponsorship” on the memo line.

.To learn more about The Haliburton Refugee Sponsorship Committee’s goals, ways to donate, and upcoming meetings, click on the link above, or here for their Facebook site.

OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD: Haliburton Highlands does it again

Needy children from around the world thank you, Highlands individuals and churches! You filled 600 shoe-boxes, soon on their way to children in Africa, Central America, South America, needy Caribbean countries, and the Ukraine.

               Some of the 600 shoe boxes collected in the highlands, with brenda watson and chief coordinator, kathy burk

               Some of the 600 shoe boxes collected in the highlands, with brenda watson and chief coordinator, kathy burk

A hands-on project of Samaritan’s Purse, Operation Christmas Child has been bringing help, hope and joy to children in the developing world and areas of conflict for years. Each shoe box communicates the simple message of God’s love to the child who receives it. Operation Christmas Child also opens doors for Samaritan’s Purse to provide further assistance to children, their families, and communities.

Here's but one amazing story of how a shoe box gift had a powerful and lasting impact on Lejla, one of the first children ever to receive an Operation Christmas Child gift box: