Friday, December 25, 2015

A Christmas To Remember

Two weeks ago, our Alpha topic was about church.  We extended an invitation to anyone who wanted to join us for church to see what is it like.  We made a special effort to promote going to church on Christmas day as most churches would be doing special services.

Xmas 2015One of our Alpha guests expressed an interest in going to church with us on Christmas.  We met him at Go Global this morning and had him follow us to a church in our neighborhood.  Before we left, we had time to talk and get to know him better.  He comes from a family of 25 brothers and sisters!  His father has four wives.  While this is unusual in our culture, it’s quite the norm here in Mali.  We also took the time to share some things to expect in church.  Worship and singing in particular would be a big difference for him as there is no music during services at the mosque.  He was particularly intrigued by the fact that people sing and dance in church.  We also explained how we pray in church, what the offering time is about and that he didn’t need to take part in this.  We also shared that many people would be wearing clothes made out of a special Christmas fabric.  We purposely didn’t have Christmas clothes made this year because we didn’t want him to feel intimidated by not having Christmas clothes of his own.

We arrived at church around 9am just as the service was starting.  Because it is Christmas, there was lot of special music, including musical presentations by several different ethnic groups in the church.  After 2-1/2 hours, the pastor started his message.  It was an excellent message that tied some of the current events in Mali, including the jihadist activities, to end times.  Unfortunately, our friend had another engagement and wasn’t able to stay for the entire message.  He apologized for having to leave early, but said he was very interested in coming back for more.  Please continue to pray for him as the Lord works in his life.

The Christmas service was almost 4 hours long.  But over the years, our perspective of Christmas has changed dramatically.  We no longer see it as family holiday, but rather a day to focus on celebrating the Lord’s birth with activities centered at church.

We did return home and opened a few gifts together and Julie made a beautiful Christmas dinner for the two of us.  Of course we do miss our son Cole and seeing other family during the Holidays.  But as we reflect on all that has happened this week, it has been one of the most meaningful and fulfilling Christmases we’ve had.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Twas The Night Before Christmas

Daniel Tieh, our missionary friend from Liberia, invited us to one of his churches on Christmas Eve to host a kids’ program and do a presentation for local youth in their neighborhood.  His church is only about a mile from our house, so we chose to pack up our things and walk.

Xmas Eve 2015 Kids ProgramJulie took charge of the kids’ program that stared at 4pm.  The room she had to use was much smaller than she had anticipated, but she quickly made adjustments to her plans and activities to match.  She had also been planning for 30 kids.  When the program started, there were about 30 kids in the room.  But as the afternoon went on, the attendance swelled to close to 100 kids.  Many had to observe from outside the door.  With the help of a translator, Julie talked about Jesus being the Good Shepherd. She also recounted the role the shepherds played in the nativity story and explained the symbolism of the candy cane shaped like the shepherds’ staff.

Xmas Eve 2015 Youth Program - JohnAfter the kids program ended, John hosted the youth program.  There were about 60 youth in attendance.  Most of them were not from the church and were not Christian.  John started with an artistic video that built a lot of anticipation and excitement.  He then went on to share about youth being the future, avoiding peer pressure, dealing with sexual temptations, and how to lead a life following God’s direction.  He incorporated small group discussion times to reinforce some of the items he was presenting.  At the end, he showed a Christmas video and explained the significance of Christmas and Jesus.  He closed with an invitation to receive Christ and to come and talk with the pastor or youth director with any additional questions.

Xmas Eve 2015 Youth ProgramThree of our Alpha guests came to the youth program after being invited by one of their Alpha friends.  One young man in particular was called on to lead one of the small groups.  He is not yet a Christian, however, he was eager to share many of the new things he’s learned and discovered in Alpha over the past 12 weeks.  It was exciting to see multiplication in action.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

Alpha GGM Fall 2015Our Alpha Course came to a close tonight.  It was a joyful and sad time combined.  We’ve developed some powerful relationships with our Alpha guests and we have continuing opportunities to walk with them and disciple them even as Alpha draws to a close.  Unfortunately, not everyone could be present for the final class because of a Muslim holiday.  But we did have a chance to share and celebrate with 10 guests who received certificates of completion.

Overall, people were sad that the course is ending, but we’ve created several opportunities to continue meeting and sharing with them.  We’re especially excited that a few have shown interest in going to church with us to find out more about church and Christians.  Please be praying for these men and women to respond to the Lord’s call on their lives.

We’re very grateful to Carina and Dave who served as small group hosts.  Dave has an exciting new ministry starting with some of the men from his small group.  He is going to be meeting regularly with them to go through The Bible miniseries that aired on TV in the States last year.

Anticipation is building for our next Alpha Course which begins at the end of January.  Our guests are eager to share the Alpha Course with their friends.

Tim and MohamadThis morning, we had a visit from Tim and Mohamed.  They are two men who took John’s Alpha Course several years ago.  They shared how valuable it has been to them.  They still have their Alpha books and they continue to share things they learned during Alpha with people they meet.  They are also using it to do regular Bible studies with people in their neighborhood.  Mohamed also shared how the Alpha Course is what brought him to the Lord and how grateful he is for taking it.  What a huge blessing it was to have these two men share their testimony from years ago as we’re getting ready to wrap up this course. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Out With The Old, In With The New

GGM Level 4 Fall 2015John’s English class ended tonight.  His class of thirteen students had a graduation ceremony and party to celebrate.  John is very proud of all of his students who successfully passed the final exam and will be moving up to the next level of English.  John is looking forward to teaching the same class with a new group of students beginning in January.  In addition, he will also be teaching a class on business basics.

He has been honored to work with his students and has developed several relationships as a result.  Many are in influential positions, including a doctor, someone who works at one of the government ministries, and a man who’s finishing his second university Master’s degree.