Category Archives: Our story

Cries for help

We received two cries for help this past week: one from our bishop friend in Liberia, and one from missionaries in Burma.

Guinea-Liberia-Sierra Leone

In Liberia they are experiencing a food shortage-money simply goes to supply basic needs. The ebola outbreak, civil wars, conflicts, skirmishes and perhaps corruption deny services to many. We send our small contribution in the hopes of alleviating suffering and helping our brothers and sisters as we are mandated to do.

While struggling with drought in California, it’s hard to imagine floods across the globe in Southeast Asia. As our lawns wither, we find such a deluge a bit inconceivable, yet the stark reality comes home when one views the photos of mass destruction from flooding.

Christians, alongside other relief organizations, work feverishly to rescue trapped victims and bring food, water, sanitation, and other necessities to the ravaged land.

So what’s the point here? Only that weekly we take an offering for the poor during our Bible study gathering. Such small amounts accumulate and we have been able to help out a bit through the years to many requests for help. We have purchased presents for needy families at Christmas, helped many folks in difficult circumstances and contributed to the “needs of the saints.”

We were able to help support a Washington D.C. church’s jobs ministry for many years, sending a small monthly offering. For this insignificant act, we were treated as heroes when we went there to visit our brothers and sisters.

This week we were pleasantly surprised to find that a thousand dollars had accumulated in our offering, and we were able to send help to those in urgent need. Consistent acts, even seemingly paltry efforts can make a difference.

Faithfulness is measured moment by moment. We hardly consider this sufficient effort; however, we believe Jesus when he says that being faithful in a little will help make us to be faithful in a lot. God multiplies our loaves and fishes in amazing ways. Hallelujah!

Photo credit: Morguefile

More reflections on the lost art of writing…

Old style letterMy Family History class recently compiled a small anthology of our writings. We were giddy with excitement upon seeing the final product entitled “Our Memories.” I was slightly cross-eyed from editing this slim volume, but it was well worth it; the stories are priceless.

A young girl’s passage to America and adulthood, an idyllic Mexican vacation gone wrong, mopping the front porch to help mom, remembering a favorite cat. Now these stories are immortalized, the poems and photos will be enjoyed for many years to come.

In Letters to An American Lady, C.S. Lewis reveals much of his character in his one-sided correspondence with said lady. I do not suppose that he expected these letters to ever be published, yet they were. Remembering that Lewis hated writing, yet he faithfully responded to all who wrote him, one passage becomes all the more poignant. Dated 15 July 1960 it reads: “Dear Mary, I’ve just got your letter of the 12th. Joy{his wife} died on the 13th. I can’t describe the apparent unreality of my life since then. She received absolution and died at peace with God. I will try to write again when I have more command of myself. I’m like a sleep-walker at the moment. God bless. Yours Jack.”

It’s hard to capture the full impact of such a letter written at such a time. Lewis had once described the happy life as “that a man would have almost no mail and never dread the postman’s knock.” In spite of his letter-writing antipathy, C.S. Lewis believed that taking time to encourage other Christians was an act of humility (using one’s talents in such a seemingly insignificant way), and as much a work of the Holy Spirit as producing a book.

Small glimpses into Lewis’ life are illuminated in his letters, things such as his fear of heights, love of cats and dogs, doing his daily chores, and his shared dread of poverty. The posthumous revelation that Lewis had given away 2/3 of his income is all the more impressive when his fear has been disclosed in his letters. So much more could be said on this topic, but suffice it to say that I am convicted by this example of faithfulness by one of my favorite authors, indeed, one of my favorite people.

As I was exhorted last night by a brother to take time and discipline to edify and encourage the brothers and sisters through writing, do I have any acceptable reason not to do so? After all, C.S. Lewis responded faithfully two days after his wife’s death. No excuses!

 

Photo credit: sw_PenOnManuscript_ncp9648.jpg on Morguefile.com

Dear friend

Photo of letters and cards

We write letters. I know that’s a bit strange in this age of e-mail, text messages, Snapchat and the like, but it’s true. Perhaps we are just old-fashioned, passé, and out of date (like the Oxford comma), but there’s something special about a hand-written missive.

People regularly tell us how encouraging those letters are, how they came at just the right moment. Friends who were missionaries in Japan often felt isolated and discouraged. Then a brief note from us arrived to cheer and encourage. Just what we had in mind! At least once a month, letters go out all over the world, to places such as: Liberia, Jordan, New Guinea, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

Letter writing has a deep and ancient history. Many biographies are based on extensive records found in correspondences. Here a bit of character is revealed, as well as a glimpse into the times in which they lived. We understand more accurately the person and the context of their lives. We have many great examples. C.S. Lewis answered every letter he received. Hand-written. By him (except on rare occasions of illness or other exigencies.) And he loathed letter writing! This is faithfulness personified. And we are the richer for it as we now have access to his many compilations of letters contained in voluminous correspondence. Considering that some of his letters undoubtedly have been lost, yet we have insights into his thoughts on prayer, children, education, and some merely mundane aspects of life. Treasures at our fingertips, preserved for us and our posterity.

So, not to make too much of a simple act, we connect a bit in our own way to eternity. As our letters go out, we pray that they will arrive at just the right time. In our study of Romans, we are reminded that timing is crucial: “While we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6) Amen!

~ Regan Read, Overseer, Church of the Servant King, Gardena
regan@servant-king.org

A Cloud of Witnesses

Our Celebration of the Faithful was once again a needed reminder of the “cloud of witnesses” who have gone before us and who both inform and help complete our faith. Contrary to the illusion of relentless individualism, we are indeed indebted. Probably more so than we could fathom even if we were to try.
First of all, we are fundamentally indebted to God beginning with the initial breath we take. From this essential element of life, every step we take thereafter (both literally and figuratively) we owe to others. Given this reality, it is incumbent upon us to embrace and celebrate our indebtedness rather than resent or “outgrow” our inherent neediness.
So we purpose to acknowledge the faithful lives of the saints that we might be encouraged to also be faithful witnesses today and for future generations, “Oh, may all who come behind us find us faithful,” is certainly an appropriate song to call us on.
To that end, this year we learned about David Duplessis, the “donkey”, who humbly sought unity in the larger body of Christ. We were reminded of the remarkable transformation and subsequent steadfast witness of Nixon’s “Hatchet Man”, Charles Colson. The short but powerful life of Borden of Yale served as an implicit indictment of our often complacent lives. “No reserve, no retreat, no regrets.”
Samuel Lamb was a frail and weak man made powerful and effective by God to lead the Underground church in China. His 20 years of imprisonment and “re-education” by Chinese communist merely served to strengthen and deepen his cheerful trust in God. We learned that the activism of Cesar Chavez was informed and motivated by his radical faith.
Richard Wurmbrandt reminds us both of the constant presence of the Lord to sustain in unimaginable circumstances as well as the current persecutions and martyrdom today of Christians throughout the world. Isn’t the very least we can do is to be mindful of and pray for our brothers and sisters today?
We were given a “first person” account from Elizabeth Eliot of her courtship and marriage to Jim Eliot, who, along with faithful partners became a martyr in Ecuador. Incredibly, Elizabeth and Rachel Saint (sister of one of the martyrs) went on to live among and minister to those who had murdered their beloved.
This is what faith looks like. It is all the more remarkable therefore, that Hebrews 11 states,…”that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” (RSV) Peterson in The Message translates this truth as, “God had a better plan for us, that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole; their lives of faith not complete apart from ours.” (Heb. 11:40)
So gird up your loins. Joyfully celebrate and embrace your indebtedness in all its glory! And give thanks by living lives of faithfulness and partnership.

Turn and become like children

We just finished our Celebration of the Children and it was brilliant! Thirty some years ago our pastors conceived the idea of a church calendar where sacred events would be celebrated as a church family. We would celebrate the faithful, that “cloud of witnesses” such as the ones listed in Hebrews 11. We would set aside time to “turn and become like children.” The Celebration of Life Together would be time set aside to do just that.

But this week we celebrated God’s gift to us in our children. We usually start with a basic theme for the week, and this year we chose “time travel.” After a wonderful visit to the Dreamworks concert at the Hollywood Bowl, we had our spectacular opening day. Our seven kids became time travelers for the day. After climbing into their time machines they traveled to 6 destinations in history where they were needed to solve problems.

Each followed a different route to various times in history. They visited Ancient Greece where they trained for the Olympics in archery and javelin throwing and learned how to use their brains and the pulley system. There was a visit to Medieval Times where the children rescued the princess from a dragon lady with the help of a trusty steed and knights. They stopped in to help some cave people interpret their cave drawings and throw some rocks. Pyramid building and hieroglyphics were on the agenda for Ancient Egypt, and their help was required in China’s Ming Dynasty to repair the Great Wall and repel marauders. We all ended up in the Chat N Chew, a 50’s diner where we enjoyed shakes, floats, and burgers and danced at the sock hop.

We swam and played games together at the pool. The rest of the week we took day trips to the zoo, railroad museum, miniature golf, and flew some kites together. At night we gathered to play games, watch movies, and enjoy a crazy mixed-up dinner at the Time Travel Inn. We gave thanks at each gathering, and as the week closed we once again realized the great gifts God has given us in our children. Jesus himself blessed the children and exhorted us to become like them. Once again God teaches us through a Child. We look forward to the rest of our celebrations this year, especially anticipating our Celebration of the Faithful in August.

Loving to the end

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“I will wait. I wait. I will wait.” So sing Mumford and Sons. Their words are literally music to our ears. Everyone longs for happily ever after, to be waited for, to be special, considered, loved.

All too often we regard this as romantic love, but God has a far bigger vision than this. He came to bring together those who are far off a and those who are near, to allow everyone a love lasting and true, offering family to “whosoever will” and save a place at the table for us.

This is the call of the church, to be as Jesus: “Those whom the Lord gave Him, He loved until the end.”

Spring Break

El Segundo Christian Church fireplace

El Segundo Christian Church fireplace

You won’t find this on MTV’s “Spring Break”! Today a busload of teenagers and adults from Texas is arriving in El Segundo, California, donating time off work and school to improve a church building desperately in need of help. New lighting will be installed and new coats of paint will “cover a multitude” of scars, bumps, and bruises. New ramps will be installed for easy wheelchair access.

There will be hauling, scraping, prepping, digging, cleaning, and no doubt some complaining too. But there will be joy and laughter, and probably some drama and tears, as well. This is a far cry from Cabo San Lucas, wet t-shirt contests, and endless drinking competitions! Christians rolling up their sleeves and helping other Christians, and finding joy and purpose in doing so, is just what this me-first world needs to see.

Donating time and energy on behalf of others which in no way benefits oneself is the love of Christ made manifest.  These “girls gone wild” will be outdoing one another in helpfulness and servant-hood. What a concept! And there will be no hangover in the morning.

Angels unaware

“Be ready with a meal or bed when it’s needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it.”

Hebrews 13:1-2 from The Message. For spring break we were blessed to entertain some angels from Concordia University in Irvine. Five college girls partook of our hospitality, building what we hope are lasting memories and relationships.We enjoyed hosting students from as far away as South Africa and South Korea, experiencing the love of Christ reaching around the globe. Midnight doughnut runs, lunch with the homeschool gang, favorite restaurant lunches and dinners, and a trip to the beach were a few of the events planned for our guests.

Of course there was time to sleep in (catching up on the usual college sleep deficit), as well as sharing in our typical events and traditions: Lord’s Supper, Bible study, convalescent home visits and letter writing. We are hoping this will not be their last visit. We do take our hospitality seriously and have had countless priceless encounters as a result. There is never a dull moment, and seldom an empty room, thank God!

We look forward to many more opportunities to entertain angels, giving thanks to the One who welcomed us when we were strangers and gives us the wherewithal to extend hospitality in His name.

Love

“Above all, hold unfailing your love for one another.” It’s Valentine’s Day and the table is laden with gifts: candy, cards, mugs, gift boxes, home-made pictures, bookmarks, and other mementos of the day of “love.” This unfailing tradition of including all on this day typically reserved only for romantic love elevates the occasion. One single young lady remarked, “Thanks for this day. I never enjoyed it before because I didn’t have a boyfriend.” Indeed, isn’t this how Christ loved us-without regard to our “dating status?” Tradition holds that St. Valentine protested the Roman edict against marriages by secretly performing weddings, ultimately paying with his life. In the spirit of this saint, we extend the gifts of love to all in the family which God has given us. Thoughtfulness and encouragement are always needful, perhaps especially on this day when so many feel left out in the romance category. “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” (Philippians 2:1-2)