Seat belts…..what seat belt? Beat up seats, close quarters, and
friendly fellow passengers helpful with packages. The van’s sliding door hangs open.
Crossing the wild four+/- lanes of Damascus Highway (Tarik Dmashque) is the most stressful part of the journey. Then with a finger stuck out my hand signals any ‘service’ headed for ‘keneeseh’, where I change to a #4 ‘service’ more or less beat up and packed tighter with passengers. Navigating Beirut from that point to ‘Hamra’ is a sightseer’s paradise, now a familiar route. The huge Hariri Mosque is midway, surrounded by large towered old churches, surrounded by the crenelated buildings of a former era, some of them shot up, and new, modern, elegant creations displaying current wealth investment. Two underpasses and many turns later and suddenly Fransabank appears, “Let me off please”. There are no designated stops or pickups. Watch out for that motorbike.
Safe in the bank, they speak pleasant English and French, take your pick, and the ATM produces USD or LL for a fee. Now to find the nursing home, (turn left at the gas station and walk towards Najjar Hospital, ring the bell at the gate and there we are in a modern extended care facility complete with elevator and very clean bathrooms.
On two occasions, I got in a car that was not a service. One driver turned out to be a Lebanese army officer off duty, and the conversation ran to where he was from, that he can attend university while serving, that his first language is French, since that is the language of his schooling, and that it's safe in the Bakaa, his area. Then the car began to groan and scrape. He got out and shook something, we proceeded aways, and then he said I’d better get out. So I proceeded on foot until a bus approached and took me down to ‘keneeseh’.
The other occasion was a taxi driver from Arlington, TX (!).
The common story, his mother was growing old, and had not seen him in twenty years since he left Lebanon at age 22 and emigrated to the States, so would he please come home. He and his wife and son stayed in Lebanon until his mother passed away, and then heartbreakingly, his wife died of cancer just two months before this Christmas (2017). He is left with his good looking eleven year old son, who also has an American passport, and he intends to return to the States.
He is a committed Christian of the Orthodox tradition.
Life can be excessively difficult.
Pray for the people of Lebanon, our own people, and let us pour our care into the widow(er)s and orphans.
Final Sunday morning. The roosters vocalize the start of the end…for me that is.
I leave Tanzania for Turkey early tomorrow. I need to catch a rather dubious short flight this afternoon to get to Dar es Salaam. Precision Air, the airline that has left Hanneke stranded on a few occasions. If the flight is cancelled, there will be a lot of scrambling. Planned to take the train, and although service is improving, it still is a bit too sketchy. Tanzania is in the process of building a high speed, electrified line across the country, but that will not help me today.
Yesterday I had my last time at the market and visit with Dr. Thomas. Taped some interviews and then enjoyed homemade pizza together and a movie.
Now to prepare myself for a radical culture and climate change. Currently I am looking for my socks for my new-used shoes I got from the market for $10.
I pack light—only a backpack--so need to compress wisely. Anyway, the amount of love and greetings i have been asked to carry to you from Hanneke and her kids and the people here would be exceed any luggage allotment.
In November, I started a new role with International Justice Mission (IJM). After 20 years of combating human trafficking around the world, they are bringing their staff to Dallas in September. As their Global Travel Coordinator, my team is working to arrange 1000 flights and 700+ visas to the US. I'm thrilled 3 amazing interns are moving to Washington, DC in January and February to join the team!
IJM is a nonprofit organization that combats impunity for international human rights abuses, including human trafficking, forced labor, illegal detention, police abuse, and other crimes. IJM seeks justice for survivors of human rights abuses, provides care and support to survivors, and enacts structural change in international judiciaries.
Thank you for your generous support to our trip to South Africa! My friends Heather, Kari and I traveled to Johannesburg in October to jump in with the amazing staff from the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students from Southern Africa as they hosted their first missions conference for 300 university students from 14 countries. It was an incredible opportunity to hear strongly biblical teaching from top African teachers to other Africans about missions. Talk about dropping truth bombs!
I was invited to give a seminar on mentoring, and discovered that mentoring isn't commonly done. It was also a wonderful reunion with speakers from our IFES family: Dr. Daniel Bourdanne, Dr. Femi Adeleye, Rev. Gideon Para Mallam, Kehinde Ojo, Nicholas Sibanda, Duncan Chiyani, Adriaan Adams, Yuniya Khan and many more!
Here are student responses to the challenge of missions:
* 13 became followers of Jesus
* 21 rededicated their lives to Christ
* 46 were called to pray for missions
* 48 committed to be an agent of transformation in church & society
* 10 committed to short-term missions
* 10 committed to mid-term missions (1-2 years)
* 48 committed to long-term missions (2+ years)
FOOD FOR THE HUNGRY, CANADA
Every 3 years, the Canadian board for Food for the Hungry visits our partnering communities. We head off early February to visit our communities in Uganda, as well as a South Sudanese refugee camp in Northern Uganda. Please pray for us, as I anticipate this will be an intense learning experience. [www.fhcanada.org]
Many years ago, the residents in Marare, Uganda suffered from scarcity of water. School aged children, especially girls, would sacrifice class time to fetch water 2-3km away from their homes. In 2017, FH Uganda with FH Canada funding, drilled a deep borehole to provide water. Fatuma, treasurer of the water user committee, expressed her gratitude, “I am thankful to God for this gift of the borehole in our village. Our children no longer suffer from water related diseases now that the borehole carrying safe drinking water has been drilled and can attend school without fetching water from long distances."
THE LAUSANNE MOVEMENT: YOUNGER LEADERS GENERATION
Our team is ready to launch our informal theological training opportunities this January with a solid list of webinars for the 1000 younger leaders that attended the gathering in Jakarta in August 2016. [www.lausanne.org/ylgen]
* January: Indigenous Fundraising (30 people registered from 14 countries)
* February: Conversation with Ajith Fernando (Sri Lanka)
* March: Peacemaking / Relational Wisdom
* May: Building a Leadership Team
* July: Strategic Planning
* Plus many more to come
Mbale, Uganda: Food for the Hungry Canada Board Visit
Washington, DC: IJM Staff Retreat
Vancouver: FH Canada Board Meetings
Urbana15 launched #Hack4Missions, its first technology + faith hackathon and it was considered a huge success by participants and mentors alike! Organizations built technical solutions to missions issues together during Urbana like never before.
The team went global last October and this year with #HACK, hosting hackathons over the same weekend in 56 cities/24 countries. I was a part of the Toronto #HACK planning team and it was inspiring! Here are some fun photos (https://photos.app.goo.gl/g9YWGtaviaRTJRu43) . [www.indigitous.org/hack]
A Gathering of Friends
I was asked to help plan A Rocha, Ontario's annual fundraiser this past November in a barn! We started planning when I returned from South Africa and it came together quite beautifully. Live music by Glen Soderholm, stories from Brian Walsh and of course, a wonderful evening learning about the work of A Rocha flourishing in Ontario.
A Rocha is an international Christian organization which, inspired by God’s love, engages in scientific research, environmental education, community-based conservation projects and sustainable agriculture.
Cooler temperatures and a gentle rain falls on this first day of 2018.
Yesterday I got a deeper understanding of the backbreaking work of the rice farmer. Mfaume and I trekked for over a one km through the rice paddies on the edge of Tabora. The dykes that separate the 5 m square flooded paddies are built of rock and baked clay. They keep the water in until the rice has established itself. You walk zigzag atop these walls for a long distance. The farmers mire themselves deep into the slithery soil to plant then transplant their rice. Too often in the baking sun, usually hoeing by hand, or if wealthier, they use oxen.
New Year’s Eve welcomed in 2018, eight hours head of most of you. We toasted each other with sodas and spent time praying together as a family. We became a touch whimsical dreaming of what God might do in the lives of the eight of us gathered by the light of the Christmas tree.
December 31, 2017
Dear and precious God,
Christmas has come and gone already. 2017 is gradually expiring and 2018 is rapidly approaching. I just want to thank You for bringing me, my family and friends this far.
If you decide not to take me any further, I am satisfied. Thank You! This year -2017 I have had my share of ups and downs, but one thing about You has been right there with me each and every time, remaining faithful, and most importantly loving.
There were times when I didn’t have anyone but You brought people my way, family and friends. I want to thank You God for them, please continue to watch over them.
Thank You for your Son, Jesus Christ. Father, I don’t know what the coming year holds, better yet I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I know You do.
God, on behalf of all my friends and family, I ask You help us as we enter *2018*, we ask that You guide our decisions and turn our heart to desire You above all else. We ask that You will open doors needing to be opened, and close the ones needing to be shut tightly.
We ask for Your wisdom, for Your strength, and the power to constantly be in Your presence, we pray that You will keep us far from the traps of temptations, that You will whisper in our ears when to run, and whisper in our heart when we need to stand our ground.
Forgive us for letting worry control our minds, and forgive us for trying so hard to control our lives and sometimes not follow your ways.
We confess our needs for You, that You make all things new in this coming Year-2018, new in our heart, our minds and in our lives.
We ask that You refresh us all over, and know You are always by our sides, help us to focus on what is pure and right, we ask for Your grace and favor, that You never forsake us, but always have mercy on us.
God help us to be generous and kind. May You shine Your light in us, through us ad over us to be all that You need us to be.
So our trust and faith belongs to You and honoring You in this New Year and forever. Thank You again and I thank You for all of these things in blessed name of Jesus. Amen
Your beloved son,
Margaret Jean McDermid was called to be with her Lord and Saviour on December 13, 2017 in her 95th year. An only child, Jean cared for her mother at home for a lengthy period. She now will be deeply missed by her cousins David, Blake (Roxieanne), Paul (Bernace) and Rosemary Walker, her former next door neighbour and lifelong helper Marcel St. Jean (Helen), and her many friends. Jean's many interests included gardening, tennis, golfing, and bowling. Her years of responsibilities with the Ontario Government were spent mainly with the Ontario Housing Corporation, concluding with eleven years as secretary to the Assistant Deputy Minister. She also was active in Forward Baptist Church, Toronto, where she served for many years, and at Knox Presbyterian Church.
It’s been super to connect--to hear from you via e-newsletters, Facebook posts, or mailed Christmas cards. I send you my love and greetings, as the cherry on top of a full and wonderful December that included a staff conference, three Christmas celebrations hosted at our home, as well as Christmas Day itself. I am thankful for a life lived where friendship ties and community make sharing what God is like as natural as breathing air, deeply and joyfully.
InterVarsity Canada’s National Staff Conference was wonderful! The theme was “Shaped by the Word.” We studied texts from John’s Gospel, to learn what ministry looks like, when marked by Jesus’ extraordinary love issued forth as a fusion of 100% truth and 100% grace. Speakers Greg Jao, Lindsay Olesberg, and Joanna Morrison spoke powerfully from the Word, in the context of their personal lives as well as pivotal tipping points in InterVarsity’s history of student ministry. The Holy Spirit was present, and I was not alone among the 240 gathered staff and guests who was re-vitalized and strengthened in Jesus’ love and ministry calling!
Come Discover Jesus – InterVarsity. I’m sending you this YouTube video for you to watch! As InterVarsity Canada heads into its 90th year of ministry, we're celebrating all that God has done and is doing in and through youth and students across Canada. Rejoice with me! It’s16 years now that I’ve been working in Inter-Varsity Canada.
Here’s another gift for you—electronic! Go to: http://thestory.scriptureunion.ca/author/ddong/. I had the opportunity to study and write ten reflections on the Book of Esther. They are copyrighted and produced in TheStory, which is a daily Bible-reading plan that Scripture Union of Canada puts out electronically. This was such a labour of love! I realize afresh that I am a Bible teacher at heart. I love to help people discover God as they search the scriptures for meaning! Tell me if you don’t find Esther to be an awesome contemporary book for our times!
I wish you all a peaceful twelve days of Christmas and a blessed year to come. I am grateful to God that you are in my circle of belonging and care and support the ministry of Discovering Jesus to youth and students!
These are the best of times and the worst of times. I will be computer less for the next three weeks until returning to Canada. So updates will be less frequent.
It has been fun to share some experiences and try to bring you along. The lush maize are towering green with rice paddies flooded. Rains have stopped their daily pounding, but we need a few rains to keep those crops healthy. The maize [corn] has not produced tassels yet so it needs some rain and the cotton is still in its early stages.
It remains an outstanding experience and am enjoying everything--the heat and noise are on the lower end of my enjoyment scale. We ate out tonight for dinner to celebrate Mahona who will be on the bus early in the morning to return to Mwanza and university to university. He has a lot of work to do.
As I listen to the rythmic clatter of the morning train from Dodoma, it makes me realize how pleasant it is to welcome a train arriving in the station full of eager faces than to stand on the platform and watch one leaving, often tearing families apart--I guess this is the beginning of a number of painful goodbyes. I am mindful that divinding people is Satan's joy but the anticiapation of an eternal and perfect reunion is the Christian's greatst hope.
Sending you all very merry belated Christmas- It has been almost three months since I got accepted into the university. This step in life is something that has kept me a bit busier not to write you so often. I am home for few days, just to give you a glimpse of life right now.
My first few days at the university were hard, I was very homesick but within a couple of days I got friends, they love me and I love them, we have become great friends! Our lecturers are wonderful, every class starts and ends with prayer.
I continually think about the life that I would be living if I had never decided to live a life of obedience to Christ. Honestly I don’t know why my mind wonders over there so much but it is sure does. I have definitely seen myself go through these thoughts and reflect in thankfulness, joy and heartbreak.
The past couple weeks has been days in which Jesus has blown me away. I have been feeling so much different emotional confusion, stress and doubt over my classes but the main one is excitement. I have many classes to attend in a week; I have to read a number of books, lots of presentation and assignments something that has never happened before in my life but the Lord is using each and every one of you to keep me going and I am so thankful to God for you.
Thank you to all of you for praying for, and encouraging me every day and for continued to give faithfully, even when time get tough, thank you for being zealous giver and for relentless support. You have kept me going many times when I want to give up. I don’t know where I would be without constant and faithful prayers.
We continue to have a wonderful time with Don for spending Christmas with you in our home and family is a blessings and we are all thankful to God for you.
Knox church in Canada- You has no idea how thankful I am to have you who love Jesus, people and support missions. I am blessed and humbled to have you in my life, you have been the backbone of my life and of all of us at Hanneke's... I –we- love you so much and pray with you in all that you do
Thank you to my friends and lecturers at Saint Augustine University for good times, you all know who you are. I love you all. Thank you for building me up, loving me and doing life with me, you are rock stars!
Thank you to Jesus! For good health, friends, and family and for helping me to see that your plans are much bigger than mine.
Wishing you all a very merry Christmas, may the New Year be filled with good health, happiness, hope success and full of nice wonders from God!
With lots of love from all of us at Hanneke's,
We had a wonderful Christmas day, attending church and then enjoying eating and being together. Hanneke cooked an amazing meal with a special multilayered cake. Naomi was of course was part of the family. It was very special, arranging the family photo was a lot of fun too and the kids were able to show off all their new Christmas clothes.
When I was ready for bed, I found another surprise. I lifted the mosquito net and a six inch lizard skimmed past my head and landed plop on the floor then scurried up the wall. I was worried that if I got up in the night I might step on him, but we slumbered in total harmony.
The dark, overwhelming destructiveness of the East African rains during rainy season are hard to describe.
Wednesday evening, distant lightening began to smudge the inky sky. The rumbling of a passing train soon gave way to the crashing of thunder. Lightening crept closer and its charge could be felt as it ripped the blackness. The immediate applause of thunder shook the earth. Torrents lashed everything. Violent wind from an unusual direction drove the sheets of water almost horizontal. The house soon became engulfed by the wind and drenched by the driven torrents. The road to the new clinic was totally washed out and now impassible except on foot, bicycle or oxcart.
Outside Tabora one family felt some protection from the relentless torrents. The father recently installed a corrugated metal roof and now it was keeping them dry as he and his wife and young son lay on their bed, sleepless but protected from the violence. Although the metal roof kept the torrents at bay, the pounding was deafening. Then another bolt of lightning sizzled directly toward the small mud block home with the steel roof. It tore through the molten steel and struck the family lying below. The home blazed with an inferno of light. The father felt his seared flesh, the intense burning pain ripped across he legs. He was numb. He reached for the solar light and as horrified to discover that his wife and son who seconds ago were a family, were no longer alive.
Life and death have and uneven rhythm here. At this special time of year it forces us to realize how vulnerable we are and mindful for another day of grace from God.
From Knox World Mission "Phase II" friends this Christmas:
As promised, here is that circular Christmas letter, though not quite at the promised time. Just in these few letters, sorrow and joy, healing and home-going.
"...God remains. He is the strength of my heart. He is mine forever."
A young friend from Northern Ireland tells me that every morning when she wakes up, her first thought is one of commitment to God and His will, and she prays, "Your day. Your way." May the peace of Christ surround us all this Christmas. And daily strength and blessing as we follow Him throughout 2018. Amen!
Love, Norine Love (for Knox World Mission)
Wishing everyone a blessed Christmas season and Peace which Christ alone can give, in the turmoil of today's world.
[Later].... A sad update. I got a phone call yesterday morning [21st] with the news that John had passed away suddenly in the early morning. They said he had a good night, but when the nurse checkd him around 7:30 he was gone. It is a shock to all of us, as he had been doing well, and Wednesday afternoon he was singing with his quartet buddies. Now he is singing with the heavenly choir. God has given me His peace. I know our times are in God's hands, but we don't always understand God's timing.
The obituary and funeral arrangements are posted at kitchingsteepeandludwig.com.
Our big family gathering is at Dave's on the 30th and I'll probably go there on Christmas day as well.
I am working on a history of the development of the TEAM related churches on the south coast. I'd appreciate prayer for this project.
Merry Christmas and a wonderful 2018!
(Also see letter attached.)
Glenn and Fern Byerly
....We have snow now so it seems more like Christmas.
Wishing all of you a Wonderful Christmas as we celebrate His love coming to pay the penalty for our sin. Absolutely awesome.
...I am very rarely able to get out to sewing so just do what I can at home for the Shoe Boxes. I have not been able to work out there for the past couple of years. The last time I tried after my stroke was not really successful. My hands have more neuropathy now and I can’t knit but I was able to do a bunch of crocheting so was pleased with that. I have decided the current mission field is the PSWs that come. A number are regulars and now open up and share. Some have needs and questions and they all need encouragement.
Wishing you and all the good folks at Knox, a very blessed and joyous Christmas, celebrating the birth of our Saviour.
Jim Mason and the Bowens have sent along updates for their Knox website profiles. Jim has just come through heart surgery, and daughter Heather sent along the following a month ago:
"My Dad, Jim Mason, had successful open heart surgery yesterday (Monday, November 20th). Two heart valves were repaired – with neither having to be replaced in the end. ... Dad, and all the family, want to thank you so much for all the thoughts, prayers, e-mail messages and other love we have been showered with. May God bless you richly....?”
Beth Huddleston and Gladys Linthicum receive e-mails only through their residence offices these days, but they will hear from you eventually.
Don't forget your other friends who have not had time to e-mail this time around, though some sent Christmas cards through the post. We will aim for another circular letter at Easter, and I'll give you lots of warning!
John and Deborah Bowen, Wycliffe College and Redeemer University College
John and Deborah came to Canada from Britain in 1977 to work with IVCF. For five years they worked on the U of T campus, and became members of Knox. When they were moved by IVCF to Ottawa in 1982, they continued to be Knox missionaries. In the 1990s, John spoke at university missions on campuses around North America, and in 1996, Deborah became an English professor at Redeemer University College, and they moved to Hamilton.
Deborah has published two books which bear witness to Christ in the academic world of English, “The Strategic Smorgasbord of Postmodernity” (2007), and “Stories of the Middle Space” (2009). John has published five books, all seeking to encourage the church's witness: “Evangelism for Normal People” (2002), “The Spirituality of Narnia” (2007), and “Growing up Christian” (2010). He also edited “The Missionary Letters of Vincent Donovan 1957-1973” (2011) and “Green Shoots out of Dry Ground: Growing a New Future for the Church in Canada” (2013).
Both are now retired but continue to be active, Deborah in teaching part-time at Redeemer, and John in various ministries of preaching, teaching, writing, and mentoring young leaders. They also enjoy having time for their four grandchildren!
Many of you have been asking for updates on Anne and Eleanor. I've been waiting for some specific news before providing an update, and we now have that information to share.
On November 30, our granddaughter, Eleanor (not quite 3 yet) had surgery to remove some "pre-cancerous lesions" from her scalp. Doctors were concerned at the appearance and growth rate, and felt they needed to be removed. The analysis has come back indicating there is no sign of malignancy, and the margin taken by the doctors is sufficient for them to believe they have removed everything of concern. We are giving thanks to God both for sustaining Eleanor and everyone else through this process, and for the very positive results!
Anne has continued to struggle with recurring pain, and the challenge that she cannot take most available pain medication (both non-prescription and prescription). She continues to work with her medical team to explore various alternatives that may provide some relief for the longer term. In a given month, she continues to have about one week of feeling quite good, but the remainder of the month is, at times, quite challenging. We continue to pray for strength, stamina, and healing, according to God's plan.
This past week has brought new challenges in the form of some internal bleeding, for which Anne has been in the hospital for a few days. A scope inspection has revealed a new, small, unexpected mass at the site of her surgery (over a year ago). The initial analysis is inconclusive, but did not show any further signs of cancer in the sample. No immediate intervention is planned, and Anne's doctor will likely do a follow-up scope in late January, if the team determines that an additional sample is required. Anne and Coleman are very happy with the support they continue to receive from the medical team at HUP (the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania).
We continue to remain deeply thankful for all the expressions of care and concern, and the throngs of people praying for Anne. In talking to her this week, she reminded me that "God can bring incredible beauty out of ashes." It's our sincere prayer that wherever this journey leads, God will be glorified in and through even these trying circumstances.
May each of you know God's richest blessings anew this Christmas!
For those of you interested in some further details, I've attached our December prayer letter to this update this time around.
Just returned from a tour of 17 villages including the closed tribe. They were hungry for the Word and in all but one village we were received with eagerness. That one village they asked us to go away and never come back.
But it was a very blessed time ministering the Word a couple of baptism and communion.
"I got a phone call yesterday morning with the news that John had passed away suddenly in the early morning. They said he had a good night, but when the nurse checked him around 7:30 he was gone. It is a shock to all of us, as he had been doing well, and Wednesday afternoon he was singing with his quartet buddies. Now he is singing with the heavenly choir. God has given me His peace. I know our times are in God's hands, but we don't always understand God's timing." --Eleanor
Today we wandered around Mwanza, on the shore of Lake Victoria, looking for clothes and shoes , some last minute Christmas needs. The mid-town market is such an African ant-hill of activity. As long as you keep moving you’re okay, but pause and you are either jostled by someone carrying something awkward or some vendor is eager to sell. I got a pair of shoes—my sandals are causing my foot to blister with a hole where my oldest toe is and I will soon experience winter in T.
We were planning to have little Sayed (see below) visit Tabora for Christmas. He is the young orphan boy who fell out a tree and immobilized his body. It was exciting to see a faint smile when we tickled his feet and he could feel something. His eyes are winsome with a touch of sadness. The leaders and workers of the orphanage/school are amazing (click blow for a greeting to Xerggyo from Moses, one of one of the loving workers.) He was rescued as a young boy and has stayed on as a teacher and has a special interest in Sayed. There is no transportation for anyone with severe handicap and not enough staff to travel the 7 hours each way with him, so his Christmas visit to Tabora will have to wait. The staff there also feel that even with a helper this may cause a setback.
Our upscale hotel just outside Mwanza, rest on a secluded inlet of Lake Victoria. …it was quite a challenge to get here, although they said there were lots of signs and the GPS took us over untraveled ruts and then finally said—“Make a U-turn.” Felt like throwing my phone in the lake. It is beautiful here and quiet and we are about the only guests. The food is great.
Last week, I completed my last National Staff Conference as President of InterVarsity. In June, I will complete 16 years of leading InterVarsity Canada as President. The projected date of retirement as President is June 30th.
I can say with certainty that I have loved the privilege and opportunity of leading this ministry. During the National Staff Conference, they celebrated my ministry with InterVarsity. I have never experienced such a well-planned, fun and touching celebration in my ministry life. There were speakers who shared from my time in Colombia, 23 years of ministry in the San Francisco Bay area and here in Canada. I felt loved, blessed and honoured beyond words. In June, the Board will have a retirement party as I complete my role as President.
By the time I complete my tenure as President, I will have completed over 40 years of student ministry. I can honestly say that I love student ministry and the development of young adults into committed followers of Jesus. People are asking me what I will be doing next. I tell folks I am in the process of being “re-purposed for the kingdom”. I will rest during the summer through vacationing at a cottage and traveling for fun.
Currently, I am dialoguing with various International Fellowship of Evangelical Student movements regarding offering coaching for staff leaders in various movements. I plan to complete my DMin thesis as well as life and executive coaching accreditation this fall in addition to taking a rest. I am still energized and passionate about the ministry to youth and young adults. The opportunity to witness a life changed for a lifetime is incredible. People development is what I love and hope to continue while I have energy and am useful. Please pray as I discern God’s will for the next season of ministry.
Canada is a large country. This fall, I have traveled to a number of our ministries. I witnessed extraordinary ministry amongst our campus and camp ministries. Lives are transformed and new life in Jesus is begun from ages 5-26 years old. In a year, there are 33,000 young people that do something in InterVarsity whether at our camps or on our campuses.
On my travels this fall, I encountered a story about a campus student who met Jesus. Jess met Jesus within the first weeks of school as a frosh. She came from an unchurched family with no experience of the love of God. As Jess encountered Jesus through the love and encouragement of our students, she heard the story of Jesus through a student in her residence. She was invited to follow Jesus and she said yes. She is in a Bible study this fall and looking forward to telling her parents about Jesus this Christmas. This is a story that keeps repeating itself across the campuses.
There are so many Jess stories in our camp and campus ministry. I wish I could come and sit in each of your living rooms to tell the stories. This year, you can look at our website at https://ivcf.ca/category/stories/annual-ministry-report/ you will find stories of youth and students who have changed all because of encountering Jesus.
Prayer Requests for January through March 2018:
1. January 16-18: Executive Leadership Meetings. During this time we will study Scripture and review our commitments to our multiethnic movement.
2. February 8-9: InterVarsity Board of Directors Meeting.
3. March 18- 23: New Staff Orientation.
4. Search for a new CEO and President of InterVarsity Canada.
Today we give special thanks to the Lord as the Aomori Christian Center has been formally designated an OMF International Project (Project Number: P60501). This means that, now, the Canadian friends of the Aomori Christian Center can give donations through OMF Canada towards the building of the new main building. We are praying with all our heart that the Lord will raise up for us the necessary funds, both from within Japan and from around the world, in time to begin construction in late August, 2018. We are currently at a little over 10% of the money needed to repair the access road, build the new multi-purpose refectory, and demolish the old main building.
We have attached to this Prayer Update:
1) the official project description (which we have also copied and pasted below for those who don't like to open attachments)
2) the architect's drawings of the new main building from different angles
3) the floor plan of the new main building.
Thank you so much for praying with us through the journey that has brought us to this exciting moment as we celebrate 50 years of ministry at the Aomori Christian Center and look with excitement to what God has in store for this special place over the next 50 years.
May the Lord bless each of you as you prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior.
Luke & Yuko Elliot, with Grace, Faith, Judah, Josiah, and Johnny
CONTENT OF THE PROJECT DESCRIPTION
The Aomori Christian Center (ACC) is the only Christian camp and retreat center in Aomori Prefecture, an area with a population of over 1.25 million. The purpose of ACC is to strengthen local churches by providing its facilities as a place for evangelism, Bible teaching and Christian fellowship. To achieve this mission, we organize or jointly host a wide variety of camps and other programs. In 2017, OMF took over ownership of ACC's property. ACC is managed by a board of local pastors, lay Christians, and OMF missionaries. Its current director is OMF missionary, Luke Elliot.
This project is phase one of a building project to replace the existing main building which has been deemed unsafe by local authorities. It involves repairing the access road, demolishing the old main building, and building a new multi-purpose refectory with an industrial grade kitchen and two staff bedrooms. This refectory will serve as chapel, dining hall, lecture room, and indoor program facility for worship services, church retreats, Bible school classes and camp programs. It is designed to seat 70 people for meals and to provide overnight accommodation, including bathing and laundry facilities, for 4 workers.
This building will greatly increase the scale and scope of ACC’s current ministry which has been significantly reduced since the closure of the old main building in 2014. Between June 2016 and January 2017 ACC conducted a series of pilot programs using the staff house (where the director’s family lives), ACC’s two cabins, and a portion of the old main building (limited to the chapel and washrooms) which was temporarily reopened by special permission of the local authorities. While successful, these programs stretched ACC’s existing resources to the limit and demonstrated a great potential for growth contingent on the construction of a new building.
I know it has been a while since I sent you an update on Holley’s health. But I figured you all were so patient reading all of the updates, but that you needed a break as we tried to get on with our ‘new normal’ life.
We are still having nurses, a dietician and numerous types of therapists come to the house every week. The scheduling of all these medical people’s appointments and trying to fit them into Holley’s routine is difficult. The physio therapist wants 50 different exercises each done 30 reps, every day. Obviously, we haven’t been able to fit all this in. Then the swallowing therapist wants her to do these swallowing exercises 50 x a day
We were able to get her electric tilt wheelchair into the house. And though she cannot go too far, she can sit at the computer and write an email or play a couple of games or check the weather for us (she has always been our own personal weather reporter). She is having some problems with her eyes still, as they told us this was from laying down for over 4 months.
We did put up a little tree in the living room so that she could see it from her bed – but she only wanted lights on it, no Christmas ornaments.
We made some Christmas cookies and Holley helped decorate them. She wanted the “star in the bright sky” and bells, so we made those.
So thank you for your continuing prayers for Holley to get better. We need her swallowing to improve, so she can eat again and get the strength to be able to stand and exercise, and then I know she will be the independent young woman she was before all this happened
Here’s a video of our missions trip to South Africa, thank you so much for your prayers and contributions.
small beginning turn into great adventure .As I look at your creation, the majestic multi-colored building, bridges, hills and rocks of Mwanza city I am awestruck.
The lime green patches of freshly watered grass from rain interspersed with darker shades in green pastures truly sing Your praises.
The hills and Rockies span the entire horizon, blue from the shadow of the white and grey shaded clouds. The wind tears through the Lake It demands attention. It demands wonder.
The distant giggle of children, harmonize to create a song of praise.
This city is big, yet it never forgotten by you - displays your splendor.
Dear Lord, my sister Margaret and I thank you for every event and person that brought us here. God, bless everyone with every smile and endless happiness!!
This is the rainy season and it rains in short bursts almost daily with long sustained downpours during the night. Amazingly Hanneke still navigates the washed out red clay roads to the clinic at Malumba. Hanneke’s driving over these ruts and gullies impresses.
Now that the government has given approval we can start transitioning operations to the new centre. Dr. Thomas will spend much of his life ministering here and so we want it to be special.
After taking the fundi on the 20 km trip to get proper floor measurements, we head to the hardware to select floor tiles. Similar to a small hardware back home, but with twice the amount of dust covered stock crammed into one quarter the size. Hoes and locks dangle precariously overhead while cement bags act as counters. Light bulbs flicker and often go dark completely and the smell of hard working men permeates. When we chose our tile from the chipped dust covered collection we begin the payment process. The amount is calculated on scraps of paper by hand and cash is the only tender. In total the job, (one room 40 x 40 and a second more cut up area of 20 x 20) will cost a little over 2,000,000 Ts [CDN $650]. We count out 120, 10,000 shilling notes. The tiles will be delivered in the back of a motorcycle-truck affair. Hanneke will pack the five workers, Mfaume and I into her van and follow the delivery pikipiki.
Forty six boxes of made-in-China tiles are very heavy, but the workers are strong without an ounce of fat. They hand mix the cement. The tiles are tapped into ¾ inch of cement on top of cement. Working from the centre out, they continue the work without breaks.
It is now 3 in the afternoon and they wash up in the mixing water which is hauled from a spring 1 km away by a fellow on a bike. We sit and eat—rice, beans and spinach with our fingers. They are very pleased.
We cram back into the van and bounce our way back to Tabora—lots of laughter from some story that I do not understand, but have a feeling they have enjoyed their day and are pleased with their work...Monday.
Bill Fitch December 17
The pic is of Milka Okolo. Let me tell you her story.
Her mother had been house-help and was made pregnant by a relative. Traditionally in Luhya culture, a baby born from incest was put to death, but a local pastor intervened and asked if he could raise her as his own. Milka found out the true facts only when she was in high school, and she developed such a root of bitterness that it affected everything in her life: she said, "I have never seen anything good in myself." She lived a life of total rejection, dropping out of school and leaving her adoptive parents. But when she listened to the first teaching series in our curriculum, Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life, she realized that even if her birth was not intended by her parents it WAS intended by God, and that she was not an accident. This started a process of healing in her spirit and in her family. She blesses the day she chose to enroll.
Stories of deep life-change like Milka's are plentiful among our students. As I've been travelling in Kenya, Tanzania & Uganda over the past 3 months, I've met with hundreds of students who, like Milka, are letting the Word of God work powerfully in their lives through our curriculum. Of the 65 "schools without walls" that we've launched, 21 have graduated and 2 fell off the map; but 42 are even today making a huge difference in their communities - I'm an eyewitness, I visited 29 of them on my recent trip.
This is the impact made possible by your generous gifts in the past. Help us continue to support these 42 schools, the many more in the planning stage, and the hundreds of eager students in them. If you have not yet given an end-of-year gift to Listen to Learn, please consider whether you can help.
Gifts are best given online, at http://listentolearninternational.org/givenow. Pray with us that we can bless many more Milka's in the months to come.
Naomi had a full battery of tests at a competent private cinic in Mwanza. She will need to increase her blood pressure medication and there is a swalowing problem. She tested cancer and TB free and is very happy.
We send our greetings for everyone, may the Lord Bless you.
We continue to ask for your prayer, in a time to have difficult hearing in my left ear,
it is two months now that it is closed.
We follow all the treatment with our doctor, in three different hospitals, but there is no advance in my hearing.
I have suffered unbalance sometimes, also low pressure and temperature.
Winter time is coming, we are ready to wait our second winter here, with many snow.
May the Lord bless you is this wonderful time, Christmas time.
What a wonderful moment to spend together, with fiends and family; to remember our savior, and salvation. Merry Christmas.
Perspectives on the World Christian Movement will be happening February 16-23. Last year, 35 students - a delightful mixture from the U of T and seasoned ministry workers - came together to study the Biblical, historical, cultural and strategic perspectives of the global Christian movement. The early bird deadline for registration is January 15, but there are even more opportunities for bursaries and scholarships before then.
Today I clung on the back of Dr. Thomas' pikipiki, slithering through sand and sticky mud, to deliver essential food to an exceptionally needy family.
The widow has not been able to get her maize to grow since she cannot afford the cost of cow manure needed as fertilizer. I bumped my head on the hollow log hanging near the house, into which she was trying to entice a colony of bees to take up residence and provide sweet honey for money. The log was too close to the activity of the family to be inviting, but further away and someone else would claim it. Her humble two room thatch -roofed mud brick dwelling had holes in the wor out thatching which the sun shone through—the torrential monsoon rains would have less mercy.
Dr. Thomas took time the chat with each of the kids and examined them for any problems. We sat down together to share—they had no food to offer us--then we prayed.
Her dead husband passed along aids to her and now she is declining physically but fighting for her four children. She was so grateful for the small quantity of food and held our hands and smiled as we putted off.
Any dollars would help: Provide new thatch for the roof; cow manure for her over-cropped plot of maize, her sole income; some food for her and the kids; two mosquito nets and a lot of love and prayers delivered on Dr. Thomas white pikipiki.
If you would like to help click below and specify Malumba Widow’s family
Our super birthday party went smashingly—thanks to our dodo piñata!
Hanneke cares for eight kids, so having birthdays all year becomes a big drain on time and resources. As a family they hatched the plan to have one big birthday at the beginning of December—just a few weeks before the world’s most important Birthday.
Neighbour kids and families, mostly missionary workers, were invited. Preparation spread out over the week, involving getting enough sodas for 30 people, baking four cakes of various tastes including a carrot cake with cheesecake icing imported from Holland and a bright blue cake—Kiri’s all-time favourite colour. Everyone would bring extra food. Gifts were provided for all the kids.
Making the piñata was a formidable challenge—we sure could have used Xerggyo’s expertise. Hanneke used balloons and heavy packing paper and paste and waited to see what would emerge. The closest thing that appeared was a bird—rather like a dodo. The only paint was old, orange, shiny and smelly. Hanneke found eyes and fabricated paper feathers. It really did have that extinct apperance.
A treasure hunt for candies hidden all around the outside, an oversized-dice toss game with fun rewards, then time to eat. Then the finale: the piñata! With the first blow, Hanneke’s broomstick was no more when the kid hit the wall a finishing blow. Other stick casualties followed. There seemed to be little that could get through the petrified skin of our famed dodo. Finally one crushing blow landed perfectly and our featherless, eyeless, non-descript bird gave up, spewing candies all over. The kids rushed to their reward.
The day got high ratings, but we do have to give much of the pleasure to some dozy Tanzanian dodo.
Today, the pump that raises water to the upper tank—the one that gives the whole house pressure, no longer does anything. Hanneke called her fundi. He came riding his pikipiki with his assistant and tools on the back. Turns out that the pipe in the well is riddled with rust holes. Now the fundi is digging up 10 metres of pipe and replacing it with new plastic. We are expecting up to 40 people this afternoon for a birthday party—so it would be nice to have some water.
(All houses have a tank, except of the smaller homes that still carry water from a common source and rely on the outhouse.)
Naomi is so happy when we finally turned on the kitchen fawcet and a brownish feeble stream flowed.
The fundi's four hour job including parts for tow guys cost under $30 CDN. They putted off on their pikipiki, dirty and smiling and the first birthday guest has not arrived. This too is African time.
Tabora December 5
I am settling into my new, slower, pace of life. However, never think that crossing a roadway allows you to drop your guard or you do so at your imminent peril. Cars, bodabodas, bikes and huge, soot belching trucks swoop erratically toward the poor pedestrian. So far I have escaped being crushed.
Noises and smells are always changing. Over-driven loudspeakers destroy the tranquility, even in the rural landscape. Some self-ordained pastors feel obliged to preach loud and long into the night No sure what type of witness that is.
Driving from Tabora to Mwanza takes at good 6-8 hours. Although the roads are decent, there are many unexpected cavernous potholes, the legacy of many heavy trucks. Hidden cameras photograph speeders, then you are pulled over further along. Although we were stopped four times, Hanneke was not ticketed. She observes the ever-changing speed limit. The speed is 50 and then 100 and then 50 again, for no reason, changing about every 500 m. This can double the travel time and certainly triples the stress level.
Mahona proudly toured Mfaume and I around his sprawling university campus. Lecture halls are modern and beautiful. His dorm room is typical, tiny, yet adequate. He introduced us to many friends and his roommate—all really nice people. There are 8,000 students.
We visited the hardware to get tiles for the kitchen, bath and storage room floors in Hanneke's house. The shop walls have a haphazard arrangement of tiles, once it was necessary to climb over re-bars to get a closer look. When we decided on a particular pattern, we went to another store and to pay then returned to load the tiles into Hanneke’s van.
Although the new, Knox-supported clinic is completed, paperwork still prevents the actual use of the vital work some 15 km outside Tabora.
A heavy, refreshing rain is washing the landscape.
Crazy, that is what I call myself! Each time I fly I promise never to repeat the ordeal again and then go back on my vow. Here I slump awaiting our outbound flight for Nairobi. My prayers turn to those held captive against their wishes...something they did not inflict on themselves
At YYZ there was a disorganized crush—a menacing indication of a –no spare seats here. As we boarded it felt like stuffing a meat-market sausage, with no room for extra filling. There must have been twenty people in wheelchairs—whether legit or not, boarding first. We left one hour late, but I have a three hour wait in Charles de Gaulle. My seat mate was decent enough, but liked to spread out and fiddle the night long with the inflight torment. One row in front was a poor kid announcing with shrieks that he did not want to leave Canada. Directly behind was another suffering infant who wanted to share her displeasure to immediate neighbours.
Those annoying devices: a lady perched in the lounge is trumpeting into her phone to a friend who is two rows away. Maybe I am just too tired.
I have only finished one leg of my journey—I have three more to go, including a sleep on the airport floor in Dar before I see Hanneke and the kids.
A good friend asked me before I left whether I was eager to go or eager to get home again. He has suffered many long flights, so knew what he meant. Truth is sleeping in my own bed has a magical attraction right now, but I am excited to see my Tanzanian and T amigos so I am content to be in the state I am in , whatever that might be.
Later: It is a sweltering 40C here in the Dar es Salaam airport. Outside is not much better. It is three in the morning, our time, and the departure lounge is crammed full—maybe some are just here to spend the night. Had to give a sad story to get let in three hour before my flight. Considering the 200 or so souls here it is amazingly sombre and heavily burdened travellers wait patiently. Probably the stifling heat acts like an adult pacifier.