MESSAGE. In Titus chapter 2 apostle Paul helps us see our higher calling. He writes: “waiting for the blessed hope and manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who did give Himself for us, that He might ransom us from all lawlessness, and might purify to Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” Christ “did give Himself” so that we would live to do good to others. This “zealousness” for good works will be the defining trait of Christ’s “peculiar people.” This broken world needs more of our compassionate spirit. I invite you to spend every day of the New Year doing good to those people who the Lord sends your way. They may not be worthy of our goodness; they may be upsetting and annoying; they may differ from us in their religious or political views… Keep doing good to them. This is what being a follower of Christ is all about.
MINISTRY. The Christmas worship services at our church last Sabbath were exceptionally wonderful. Songs and music lifted our hearts to heaven. After Larry Otto’s testimony we all knew that God Himself was behind every piece of the program planned for that Sabbath. Mary Wilcox shared with the church a miracle of answered prayers about His Orchestra musicians. In spite of all the challenges of the previous weeks both Sabbath services were uplifting, joyful and spirit-filled. I felt grateful to God for our loving church family.
While I was in Siberia I received a text message and a photo from the Loves family. They were grateful for the singers from our church who stopped by their home to sign Christmas Carols. Here is what they wrote: “What a wonderful heart warming surprise from our Ooltewah SDA church tonight. Their voices blended beautifully with the Christmas carols they sang. It touched our hearts. Thank you, David and Nita Love.”
That night several groups of singers were visiting our church members and sharing the joy of Christmas. Thank you, Lucas Patterson, for putting this program together.
Lupina shared with me the the following report and photos: “We had a very merry and delightful Christmas gathering for Season of Change widows. Barbara Smith did the cranberry salad (for over 60) and it was delicious. We had Shepherd’s Pie with Sister Schubert’s rolls followed by assorted deserts. Of course prizes were awarded to the glittery glitzy ugly sweater winners. The kitchen angels all wore their finest headgear along with their beautiful smiles and spirits.”
Men’s Ministry had a successful year of service. Here is an update from Edymar Penagos: “Another year is almost behind us and as I reflect over the previous 12 months, I am overwhelmed by all of God’s blessings. One such blessing is all of YOU. THANK YOU, MEN! Because of your time and/or resources, we were able to serve our church and the community around us. Your fellowship, support and dedication to the Ooltewah men’s group has been such a blessing to so many of our brothers and sisters. You all embodied what “church” is all about. You have been men of honor and sacrifice, men of vision and action, men of service and leadership. The two photos attached have a wonderful story behind them. It’s a story that you helped create simply by following God’s vision for our lives and providing love in action. These two pictures demonstrate so much of what the previous year has been about and I, for one, cannot wait to see what God has in store for us in 2020. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. May you be abundantly blessed as we begin the start of another year in service to our Lord, Father and Friend, Jesus our King. “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth”. 1 John 3:18 “
Special Christmas Offering. Rita Rogers keeps updating me on your loving support of the Student Aid fund. As a church we agreed that this December the Student Aid fund would receive our special attention. Do you know that your faithful contributions to this account help dozens of families send their students to OAKS and Adventist Academies in this conference? This school year the account needs over $120,000. I’m confident that we’ll not let our students down.
PRAYERS. Barbara Kraner fell right before Christmas. She was admitted to Erlanger hospital for tests. She is still there as of this morning. Prayers for Barbara’s recovery is very much appreciated.
Betty Chastain is back at home after the hospital and rehab. Prayers of Praise!
LIGHT OF HOPE MINISTRY.
Oh how I wish I could take you all to Siberia! It was not as cold as it is usually there in December. The power of the Holy Spirit, mild weather and hard work of the local church made these meetings a wonderful experience. Every night of the seminar was well attended by church members and visitors. To help you get the right perspective I’ll say that the territory of the West Siberian Mission is exactly half the size of the continental USA. There are only two thousand Seventh-day Adventists on that vast territory. Challenges for the Gospel proclamation are immense! Religious liberty limitations and active media defamation of the SDAs makes it really hard to bring new people into our churches. In spite of all the hardships a solid group of those visiting during the seminar joined the baptismal class. Ten of them got baptized on December 14. Many more are preparing for baptism in the coming weeks. Praise God for each one of them! Your generous support allowed us to help many needy families with warm clothes and food. I invite you to keep them all in your daily prayers.
FROM MY HEART. This Christmas brought our whole family together. Two tiny angel-babies were added to our family in 2019. Praise God for the blessings of this past year. Tomorrow morning during the first service our oldest daughter Stacey and her husband Javan will seek God’s blessing upon their second son, Caspian. Below are a few family photos from this past week. 🙂