Friday, May 29, 2020

Prayer List - May 2020

Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly
and be glorified, just as it is with you...
2 Thessalonians 3:1 (NKJV)

Bangladesh – Cyclone Amphan, that ravished northeast India before hitting the southern coast of Bangladesh about a week ago had devastating effects on several Bangladesh Lutheran Church Mission congregations in the Jessore and Sathkhira districts. BLCM church buildings, schools, and homes of our brothers and sisters in Christ have been severely damaged or destroyed. There has been no loss of life among the members of the BLCM, but many have sustained injuries and are still in need of medical care. All of this is happening while the people are struggling to feed and care for their families during the coronavirus lockdown. CLC Project Kinship has sent emergency disaster relief funds to the BLCM to provide for basic needs and shelter. Praise the Lord that no lives were lost among our brothers and sisters in Christ. Ask for His love and compassion upon those who are suffering and for protection for Pastor Monotosh as he travels to visit the people of the BLCM over the next several days.

Note: Contributions to the CLC Project Kinship general budget have been used to provide for disaster relief and COVID-19 aid.    

Myanmar – The situation with the family of eleven that has been hospitalized and quarantined for several weeks due to the coronavirus is improving. Five family members remain in the hospital, but their health has improved, and they are waiting for their test results to be returned from the government laboratories in Yangon. If the lab results come back negative, they will be able to go home. Take this to the Lord asking that He bless the treatments they have all received according to His mercy that this family will be healed of this disease and be united with each other very soon. Pray also that the Lord will provide for the medical bills that have accumulated during this long hospital stay. 

The Spiritual Welfare of Our Brothers and Sisters Around the World – as much of the world has spent the past several weeks in mandatory coronavirus lockdowns and quarantines, many in developing nations have not had the advantage of the high-speed internet connections that most of us take for granted to provide opportunities for home worship, Bible study, and Christian fellowship. Also, many of the people do not have the financial means to own their own Bibles and/or are unable to read so they depend upon weekly worship and Bible studies to hear, learn, and be strengthened by God’s saving word.

Pastoral training has also come to a halt for those who are training around the world. Options for online classes, correspondence, etc. just are not possible as most of the students have very weak and limited data available on their phones, if at all, and virtually none have internet in their homes. Pray that the Lord will bring a quick end to this pandemic that He people may return to worship and Bible study at their churches. Pray that the Lord will lead and strengthen all of us to be reminded of His great love and the truths of His saving grace that we have learned from His word and rejoice always, even in the midst of such uncertain times.

The Physical Welfare of Our Brothers and Sisters Around the World – Leaders from our sister church bodies in Liberia, Togo, Nigeria, D.R. Congo, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, India, Nepal, Myanmar, and Bangladesh, along with contacts in several other countries, have reported that much of the population in these developing nations is struggling to provide the basic necessities of life. Most of the pastors and those they serve in these nations provide for their families through day-labor. For this type of laborer, you are paid for your work each day. If you do not work, you do not get paid. The coronavirus lockdowns have caused much physical suffering. Pray that the Lord will provide and that He will bless the CLC Project Kinship aid that has been sent that it will go much further than expected in providing for the sheep of His flock who are suffering.

Seminaries Preparing to Re-Open – the Wartburg Lutheran Bible Institute in Tanzania and the Holy Trinity Lutheran Bible Institute in the D.R. Congo are planning to bring students back soon. Pray for the safety of the students and instructors as they travel. Pray for the families of the students as they prepare to have their husbands and fathers gone for the next few months of classes. Pray for the teachers as they prepare lessons for this shortened semester. Pray that there will be no government interference with their plans to continue the work of training pastors for the Church. Ask for God’s blessings on these efforts to train men to be faithful preachers and teachers of His saving word during these strange and uncertain times.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

What Does The Bible Say About Pandemic Diseases/Sicknesses?

There have been lots of things written and shared on the internet and social media about God's role and intentions concerning this pandemic. As God's children, by His grace and through faith in our Savior of Jesus Christ, we will always want to turn to the Bible to find what God has revealed to us. We know that the Bible is God's word (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and thus truthful in every way (John 17:17). We are not so concerned with what mankind conjures up and how he interprets these situations but rather what God reveals to us in the Bible (2 Peter 1:20-21) because God is always faithful and His word will always reveal truth. We pray that the Lord will empty our hearts and minds of false ideas or claims and fill us with the truth of His saving Word!

Concerning this current Covid 19 pandemic, we ask: "What does the Bible say about pandemic diseases/sicknesses?"

Various outbreaks of pandemic diseases, such as this current strain of the coronavirus known as Covid 19, have prompted many to ask why God allows, or even causes, pandemic diseases and whether such illnesses are a sign of the end times. The Bible, particularly the Old Testament, describes numerous occasions when God brought plagues and diseases on His people and on His enemies “to make you see my power” (Exodus 9:1416). He used plagues on Egypt to force Pharaoh to free the Israelites from bondage, while sparing His own chosen people from being affected by them (Exodus12:1315:26), thus revealing His almighty power and control over diseases and other afflictions.

God also warned His people of the consequences of disobedience, including plagues (Leviticus 26:21, 25). On two occasions, God destroyed 14,700 people and 24,000 people for various acts of disobedience (Numbers 16:49 and 25:9). After giving the Mosaic Law, God commanded the people to obey it or suffer many evils, “The Lord will strike you with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation . . . which will plague you until you perish” (Deuteronomy 28:22). These are just a few examples of many plagues and diseases God caused or allowed to happen.

It’s sometimes hard to imagine our loving and merciful God displaying such wrath and anger. But God’s wrath always has the goal of repentance and restoration. In 2 Chronicles 7:13–14, God said to Solomon, “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” Here we see God using a disaster to draw His people to Himself, to bring about repentance and the desire to come to Him as children to their heavenly Father.

In the New Testament, Jesus healed “every disease and every sickness,” as well as plagues in the areas He visited (Matthew 9:35Mark 3:10). Just as God chose to use plagues and disease to show His power to the Israelites, Jesus healed diseases and sicknesses to demonstrate His power and to verify that He was truly the Son of God. He gave the same healing power to those first Apostles to verify their ministry (Luke 9:1, Matthew 10:1). God still allows sickness for His own good and righteous purposes, but sometimes disease, even worldwide pandemics, are simply the result of living in a sinful fallen world. There is no way to determine whether or not a pandemic has a specific spiritual cause, but we do know that God has power and control over all things (Romans11:36) and will work all things together for the good of those whom He has called to be His very own, to those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

The spread of sicknesses, such as this strain of the coronavirus, is a foretaste of pandemics that are a be part of the end times. Jesus referred to plagues that are associated with the last days (Luke 21:11). Revelation reveals that in these ends times the two witnesses will “...strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want” (Revelation 11:6). Seven angels will wield seven plagues in a series of severe judgments described in Revelation 16. This pandemic, like so many other plagues and troubles that we witness on this sinful and fallen world, should remind us of the sure and certain promise of the coming Judgment Day and keep us focused on promises of God as we stay ready for our Savior's return! 

The appearance of pandemic diseases may or may not be tied to God’s specific judgment of sin. It could also simply be the result of living in a fallen world. Since no one knows the time of Jesus’ return, we must be careful about saying too much concerning any specific pandemic or disaster as proof that Judgment Day is imminent. For those who do not know Jesus Christ as Savior, this disease should be a reminder that life on this earth is uncertain and can be lost at any moment. As bad as pandemics are, hell will be worse. The Christian, however, has the assurance of salvation and the hope of eternity because of the blood of Christ shed on the cross for us (Isaiah 53:52 Corinthians 5:21Hebrews 9:28).

How should Christians respond to pandemic diseases? 
  • First, do not panic. God is in control and has demonstrated His love for all sinners (Romans 5:8) on the cross as He sacrificed His only Son Jesus to pay for our sins  (1 John 4:10). Our forgiveness and salvation are secure! When Jesus died on the cross, He said: "it is finished." With those words, He was declaring that the work of paying for our sins and the sins of the whole world was complete! So there is nothing in this world that can threaten our forgiveness (Romans 8:31-39). Our Savior Jesus paid for our sin and thus provided full and complete forgiveness on the cross and His resurrection from the dead proves that fact. These are the promises that God makes to us and God is always faithful and He has kept and will keep every promise. 
  • Second, be wise. Take reasonable steps to avoid exposure to the disease and to protect and provide for your family.  As Christians, we have the love of Christ in our hearts (Ephesians 3:14-21). We love others because God first loved us (1 John 4:19).  We take steps to prevent contracting the virus out of love for God because He gave us life and this life is a precious gift that we should protect. We also take steps to prevent this virus out of love for our neighbor because we don't want to unknowingly infect someone else and cause sickness or even death to another individual. This is also true in all areas of our lives. We should always take care of the bodies and life that God gave to us and we should always conduct ourselves in ways that will keep those around us safe and healthy. We do all of this because the love of God is in us through faith in Jesus Christ.
  • Third, rejoice in the opportunity as an ambassador for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20) to share the message of reconciliation between God and sinful mankind through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). In the midst of all of this suffering and uncertainty, we have the privilege of sharing promises of God's love, protection, provision, compassion, forgiveness, and salvation that are all made sure and certain in our Savior Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). Often when people are fearful for their lives, they are more willing to have conversations about eternity. Be bold and compassionate in your sharing of the Gospel, as you speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

Monday, March 30, 2020

CLC Mission Opportunities Prayer List - MAR 2020

Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly
and be glorified, just as it is with you...
2 Thessalonians 3:1 (NKJV)

Pray for All those Affected by the Coronavirus Crisis – I have an acquaintance who works with and consults for humanitarian organizations around the world. He has first-hand experience with these types of situations having worked in the Ebola-affected areas of the D.R. Congo in the past. He is very concerned about the spread and catastrophic potential of Covid 19 if it begins to take hold in developing nations. There is much to pray for concerning the world's most impoverished and thus vulnerable populations in the world. He sent the following summary of an email he received from a doctor in India. What this man shared relates to so many of the places and people we are privileged to work with around the world in places like India, Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Mexico, Liberia, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, DR Congo, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda. Pray for God’s mercy and protection.
“Social distancing is a privilege. It means you own a house in a place that it is large enough and has enough space between neighbors to actually practice it. Hand washing and hand-sanitizers are a privilege too. It means you have access to running water and have money to buy soap and other such luxuries. Stockpiling food is a privilege. It means you have enough money to plan beyond your next meal. It also means you have electricity and a refrigerator to keep perishable food. The irony in this situation is that this virus was spread around the world by those who could afford to travel beyond walking distance of where they live and work and it has the potential to kill millions among the world’s poorest who seldom travel beyond a few kilometers of where they live. All of us who are practicing social distancing and are ‘enduring’ imposed lockdowns need to appreciate how fortunate we are. Many in the world don’t have the financial means to do any of this.”

Myanmar – Pastor Kham has requested urgent prayers for a family he and the CLC-Myanmar serve. This family lives in the western part of Myanmar and attend a CLC-Myanmar congregation. They have tested positive by the government for Covid 19. This family of eleven has been admitted to the hospital for treatment and isolation. Pray for this family and the doctors and staff that are treating them. Pray also for Pastors Kham and Thang as they find ways to bring the Gospel to this family and those who are in need of God’s comfort and encouragement in the community.

Times of Need and Uncertainty – CLC Missionaries have heard from several of those we work with overseas concerning the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ. For many, perhaps most, of our brothers and sisters overseas there is a daily struggle to provide for their families when there is no crisis. The coronavirus pandemic has only made things much worse. The economic struggles of the world, shortages of basic supplies, and inflation are only exaggerated in third-world and developing nations. Pray for the Lord’s mercy and provision. Pray that the Lord will use these times of uncertainly to lead many to find true comfort and encouragement in His sure and certain love and deliverance. Pray that the Lord would move the hearts of those who have so much to share with those who have so little. Pray that God’s great love and compassion will be reflected in the hearts of His children throughout the world that others may see these good works and glorify our Father in Heaven.

Pastoral Training, Worship, and Evangelism – Several Bible Institutes and Seminaries that we support have been temporarily closed. Evangelism efforts and worship services have also been severely curtailed. Internet access for streaming is not available to most. Pray that the Lord will bring a quick end to this pandemic so that training and evangelism can begin again soon! Pray that the Lord will provide opportunities for followers to proclaim the Good News in the midst of all of this uncertainty. Pray that our Savior's love, as demonstrated on the Cross and revealed in His Word, will keep all believers strong in the faith!

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”...For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,Romans 8:31-32, 38

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The Lord Faithfully Provides the DR Congo (FEB_2020)

I’m not sure why, but I continue to be surprised in how the Lord so faithfully provides for the work of His Kingdom. I’m not much of a worrier but I do sometimes look at situations and wonder how all of this is going to work out and often find myself thinking that things just aren’t going to work. And then, the Lord shows me again that He is faithful and that He has a plan and I just need to follow along. I think this is so much more evident for me in the foreign mission fields because so much of what goes on over here is so far out of my control. At home, I know what to expect and, for the most part, how things are going to unfold. Here, I don’t speak the language, I don’t always know how things work or get done, and I find myself relying on others to make the plans. This puts me way outside of my comfort zone. And I am beginning to realize that this is a good place to be because it teaches me to trust the Lord instead of myself!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; 
In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. 
Proverbs 3:5–6

The Lord Faithfully Provides a Way to Manono in Tanganyika Province, DRC...

Not long before I was scheduled to depart for the DRC I received a text message from Pastor Yumba letting me know that the local airline for our flights from Lubumbashi to Tanganyika Province for the graduation/ordination service in Manono had canceled service to Manono.

Since this year’s rainy season had started early and was lasting longer than usual and due to record flooding between Lubumbashi and Manono, it didn’t seem as if driving was going to be possible. And there is no bus service operating now either.

But, it was the Lord’s will to get us to Manono. And so, He provided a man who was willing to make the 395-mile trip. Sounds like no big deal, right? Just get in the car and drive for seven hours or so. Well, that 395-mile trip took over thirty-seven (37+) hours on the worst muddy, water-soaked, flooded, destroyed, non-existent, “roads” I have ever seen in my life. And I have seen some bad roads traveling in several different countries for the past twenty-three years. The pictures below just don’t do justice to the “road” conditions I’m going to describe.

The man that the Lord provided, Ilunga Kanonga, was born and raised in Manono but now lives in Lubumbashi. Over the years he has traveled this route often. He is the owner of a transportation business with eight Toyota Land Cruisers and two large lorries (trucks). He employs twelve drivers and their assistants. Yumba said this was the only man he could find who was willing to drive us to Manono. He wouldn’t send us with one of his drivers, instead, he said he would only drive us himself. This man was a gift from the Lord. Not only was he extremely humble and dedicated to his task, but he was very well connected. He and his company drive for the World Health Organization (WHO) and he is known by, seemingly, everyone. Every village we went through someone came out to greet him. At every Army check-point we came to the soldiers simply smiled to greet him and waved us through. Even the toll-booths simply waved us through after seeing him. You have no idea what a big deal this is when you are a light-skinned visitor in a culture that is very accustomed to expecting and receiving a gift (bribe) in such situations. The Lord Provides!!!

Let me back up a bit before I go on. From 2016-2019, I tried (unsuccessfully) three different times to obtain a visa to visit the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Apparently, this was because of the presidential elections taking place after President Joseph Kabila had agreed to step down after holding the position for several years. I even went to the DRC Embassy in Zambia and tried to apply there. With advice I found online and through a visa agency in the U.S., I took a trip to Washington, DC last Fall and was issued a visa in just two days. The Lord Provides!!!

So, last October I traveled to the DRC and was met by Missionary Evensen who was able to get a visa in Togo since he has a special non-resident, West Africa Stay card that will allow him to get visas in Africa much more easily. The Lord continues to provide! We spent a little over two weeks visiting and teaching and seeing everything that has been accomplished since the last CLC missionary visit in 2013 when Missionary Ude was able to visit for the last time.

Pastor Yumba Lumbala is the man who started the CCLC along with a couple of other pastors about twelve years ago. It has been their goal to start a Bible Training Institute to train more men to be faithful preachers and teachers of God’s saving word. Missionary Ude had begun to assist these men with their planning. The Lord provided a portion of land. Building plans were drawn up and funding from the CLC Mission Development Fund had been approved. Even in the absence of regular yearly visits from CLC missionaries, the work had begun, and men have been trained even as the building plans stalled. About a year ago construction began on the Holy Trinity Lutheran Bible Institute and while it is still a long way away from completion, it is finished enough to begin classes in April! The Lord Provides!!!!!

Missionary Evensen and I were able to offer a pastoral training seminar at the new facility when we visited in October. At that time, Pastor Yumba asked if I could return to be on hand for the graduation/ordination services for the seven men who had successfully completed the three years of course work and who were currently a one-year practicum. I told him that I could return, but it would need to be before March 24th when my six-month DRC visa would expire. He said that would work well since the next cohort of fifteen new students were scheduled to begin classes in April.

Yumba also expressed a desire to have me visit the Tanganyika province where most of the graduating Bible Institute students were from since I hadn’t had the opportunity to visit there yet. Missionary Matt Ude had once planned a visit there but that visit was cut short for a variety of unavoidable circumstances. So, with Yumba’s blessing and encouragement, I scheduled another trip to the DRC before my visa expiration date. The Lord Provides!!!

Early in March, as I have since found out and experienced, is not the best time of year to visit the DRC. The months of February and March are typically the end of the rainy season. This means that forests and the jungle and hills and mountains are as beautiful and lush and green and dense as I have ever witnessed anywhere on this earth. 37+ hours of travel over the worst roads I have ever seen is anything but comfortable and fun, but the Lord compensated and blessed me with some of the most beautiful scenery, sunsets, and kind and helpful people I have ever had the pleasure to encounter. The Lord Provides!!!!!

But traveling in early March after one of the wettest rainy seasons on record, also means that the roads are in the worst condition you will ever find. In some places the roads were non-existent. In other places, they were mud-pits, ponds, or simply washed away. There were several times as we ventured into a large muddy pit when I didn’t think there was any way we would make it to the other side. And yet, the Land Cruiser just kept on chugging along. We got stuck, really stuck, six different times. Twice we had to be pulled out by a large truck the other four times we spent hours digging and jacking and digging some more with the eager help of local villagers. In the end, the Lord provided, and we made it safely there and back. The Lord Provides!!!

The Lord Faithfully Provides a Way to Communicate the Truths of His Saving Word...

One of the challenges of working in the DRC is the fact that they were once a Belgium colony and so the official language is French. This is also true in other African nations where we are working like Togo, Benin, and Burundi. Thankfully, the Lord has provided Missionary Peter Evensen who is fluent in French to live and work in Togo and to conduct Online Theological Studies with a few French speakers in other African countries. The Lord Provides!!!

But the Lord has also provided a very capable local translator in the DRC that CLC missionaries have been working with for several years. His name is Jhon Monga. His secular employment is working as a translator for several large mining companies in the Lubumbashi area. Mining is the main industry in this part of the DRC. He has had the opportunity to hone his skills by doing this kind of work for several years. Because of the expectations of his work with the mining companies, he is very professional and prompt and takes his work seriously. He is truly a gift from the Lord. His secular work is not a regular hourly position but instead, he works by contract to translate documents and at meetings for high-ranking company executives. Apparently, because of his skills and professionalism, he is highly sought after. And yet, he eagerly agrees to schedule time away from his secular work to translate for us because he considers this his service to the Lord and His kingdom. The Lord Provides!!!

Translator Jhon Monga

The Lord Provides Nine Willing and Well-Trained Men to Proclaim His Saving Word...

In an area of the world where it is commonplace for charismatic individuals to use the name of our Savior, through smooth words and flattering speech, to build kingdoms for themselves, it is so encouraging to work with humble Christians who are dedicated to preaching the truth of God’s saving word for the purpose of calling sinners to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior! The Lord Provides!!!!!

Not that many years ago, it seemed as if our work in the DRC was coming to a close when a disagreement arose between some of the men we were working with. But the Lord Provided a peaceful and God-pleasing resolution to those issues. Some of the men we were working with are no longer with us, but the few that stuck around and remained dedicated to proclaiming God’s word for the right reasons...not for personal gain or prestige, have served the Lord faithfully. From the beginning, it had been their goal to train men to proclaim the truth of God’s word. Even when financial funding seemed unlikely and missionary visits became more and more sporadic and uncertain, these few men pushed forward with their plans to start the Holy Trinity Lutheran Bible Institute. The Lord Provides!!!

Pastor Yumba and his wife
CCLC Church and Pastor Yumba's Home in Katuba (Lubumbashi)
 And now, seven men have completed three years of classroom instruction and one year of practicum and have been ordained as pastors of the CCL-Congo. These men left their livelihood and families for seven months of each of those three years to attend classes at a temporary, make-shift facility. Many of them traveled the roads described above to do so. They received a small stipend through CLC Project Kinship sponsors to assist their families while they were away attending classes. But most of their needs were supplied by the work and farming they did during the five months when they were not at the school. The Lord Provides!!!

Graduates and Instructors...Pastor Lubaba (L) Pastor Yumba (R)

With the graduation and ordination of these men, the CCLC now has eleven trained and ordained pastors serving thirty-six congregations. It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that there is still a need for more men to be trained.  And so, we should not be surprised that The Lord Provides!!! The first week of April, fifteen men are scheduled to arrive in Lubumbashi to spend two weeks working on the new Holy Trinity Lutheran Bible Institute building project to get things ready for the start of classes on April 15th. These two weeks or work are important for a couple of reasons. First of all, there is a lot of work that still needs to be done to get ready for the start of classes. Not only is there construction and cleaning to be done, but large plots of forest have been clear-cut for farming and gardens to provide food for the students while they are attending classes. It is up to the students to get the crops in the ground and to tend to the vegetable gardens to provide for themselves. There is no water well on the property yet, so this means daily trips down through the forest to the river to bring all the water needed for the crops, cooking, and bathing. While the students do not pay tuition and they receive a small stipend to send back to their families, they certainly will have plenty of sweat equity invested in their education by the time they complete their three years of classroom instruction with no promise or expectation of earthly gain upon completion. Who would commit to something like this? The Lord Provides!!!
A new batch of bricks being fired at the Bible Institute Building Project
Garden Plot at Holy Trinity Lutheran Bible Institute
Future garden plot
Holy Trinity Lutheran Bible Institute
Front View...Holy Trinity Lutheran Bible Institute
Holy Trinity Lutheran Bible Institute...latrines to the right
Next building phase...instructor accommodations and office
Next building phase...instructor accommodations and office
Making Bricks...

Termite Mound being used for brick materials

And my God shall supply all your need
according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. 
Philippians 4:19

“The Lord upholds all who fall, And raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look expectantly to You, And You give them their food in due season. You open Your hand And satisfy the desire of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in all His ways, Gracious in all His works. The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them.” 
Psalm 145:14–19

The Lord Provides Forgiveness, Salvation, and Eternal Life...

We are just a few weeks away from Good Friday and Easter when we will remember with thankful hearts the sacrificial suffering of our Savior on the cross as He offered His perfect life as payment for the sins of the world on the cross. And we will gather together on Easter morning to rejoice in His resurrection knowing by faith that because He lives we shall live also. All of this would mean nothing if we had never heard this Good News and been led by the Holy Spirit to trust in His promises of forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life. It was our Lord and Savior who provided salvation. It was the Holy Spirit who provided us with these truths as He literally breathed God’s word into the writers of the Bible. And it was the Holy Spirit who provided us with the very faith that clings to these truths and trusts in every saving promise of God fulfilled in our Savior Jesus Christ. The Lord Provides!!!

Our Savior continues to provide for the salvation of sinners through the Gospel in Word and Sacrament! While in the DRC I had the privilege of administering the “washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit” through the water and word of Baptism on two different occasions. I had the privilege of teaching four days of pastoral training classes in two different locations to twenty-eight men. And I had the opportunity to preach five times. What a privilege! The Lord Provides!!!

Proclaiming the Truths of God's Saving Word
Pastoral Training Classes in Manono
On our way back to Lubumbashi we were able to reach a newly formed CCLC congregation in an integrated-pygmy village for a short worship service. The Pygmy tribes have traditionally been very wary of outside influence. This village is referred to as integrated because they have been somewhat integrated into society and have inter-married. It was a short service because it was beginning to rain and they have no church building and their homes are very small and with no windows or electricity. We sang a couple of songs and I preached a short sermon. The hope and prayer is that they will be able to provide evangelism training for some of the young men in this congregation who will then be able to take the Gospel to non-integrated villages that are deeper into the forests and mostly unreached. The Lord Provides!!!  

Proclaiming the Gospel at an integrated Pygmy village
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
John 3:16

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
Matthew 28:18–20

For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?...So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
Romans 10:13-15a, 17

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Sent to the Democratic Republic of Congo...FEB 2020

I'm just a few hours away from my departing flight that will take me from St. Louis to Chicago. After a long layover in Chicago, I will hop on a 16+ hour flight to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and then one last flight to Lubumbashi, DRC where I am scheduled to arrive around 2:00 pm on Tuesday. After a quick afternoon and night of rest I'll head north to the central part of DRC to Manono. According to Pastor Yumba this will require two days of travel in a Land Rover 4X4 because the roads we will be traveling require a four-wheel-drive vehicle. While in Manono, we'll have a pastoral training seminar for CCLC pastors, elders, and evangelists that live and work in this part of DRC. We'll also have a graduation and ordination service for seven men who have completed Theological training at the Holy Trinity Lutheran Bible Institute.

We will also conduct a Christian marriage ceremony for these men and their wives. The DRC government requires a legal/government/secular marriage but doesn't recognize a Christian/church wedding. So, for many in the DRC, a Christian wedding ceremony is not even a thought that crosses their minds. The leaders of the CCLC want to encourage those souls that are entrusted to their care to begin thinking of the importance of having the Lord included in their wedding and in their marriage. So, as a way of setting an example, the leadership of the CCLC thought it important for these men and their wives to publically make their vows before God in a Christian worship service. This promises to be a joyful and exciting day that I am honored to be a part of.

The graduation and ordination service for these men will also be an exciting and God-honoring worship service. This first class of graduates is a long time coming. Since we first began working with Pastor Yumba and the CCLC we have been encouraging and helping them to establish a formal training program to prepare pastors and teachers and evangelists to faithfully proclaim the truths of God's saving word. Due to a variety of reasons this effort was slow in getting started. Finally, Pastor Yumba decided to just get started. They had no permanent meeting place and plans to build a facility were delayed and the instability of the former government made it extremely difficult for the CLC-USA to help. With nothing but the Bible and study materials provided by CLC missionaries in hand and seven men who were willing to leave their jobs and family and homes for months at a time to study, classes began. After some time the CLC Project Kinship began to sponsor the students to allow them to continue their training. Fast-forward about five years and here we are, ready to celebrate God's grace and mercy in providing seven faithful preachers and teachers of His word for the CCLC!

Following the seminar, wedding service, graduation/ordination service and two full days of visiting congregations and pastors in their home villages, I'll begin the long trip back to Lubumbashi where we'll basically do the same thing all over again (less the wedding service) with three pastors who live and work in this area. The seminar and graduation/ordination service will be held a the new CCLC headquarters and Bible Institute in Ntondo where I visited back in October and November. It will be great to see the progress that has been made over the past few months.

The reason I am heading back to DR Congo so soon is because I was issued a six-month, multi-entry visa last fall. That visa was difficult and expensive to get because it required a trip to Washington, DC to apply and be interviewed at the DRC Embassy. I had been denied a visa the last three times I had applied. Since we're not sure that I'll be able to get another visa and considering the expense, we figured it was wise to squeeze in another visit within the six-months that my visa is valid.

If all goes well and according to plans, I will be back home for about five days in mid-March before I head to Myanmar and Nepal.

Your prayers are requested and much appreciated!

Thursday, February 13, 2020

February 2020 - CLC Mission Opportunities Prayer List...

·         D.R. Congo – On February 23rd and March 1st graduation and ordination services will be held for the men who have completed theological training through the CCLC Holy Trinity Lutheran Bible Institute. These men will serve as pastors and evangelists of the Congregation Confessionnelle Lutheranienne Du Congo (CCLC). Give thanks to the Lord for providing for the training these men have received through the support of CLC Project Kinship. Ask the Lord to continue to bless their labors that many may be led to repent of their sins and to rejoice with us in the salvation that Jesus won for all people on the cross. 

·         Nepal – The Himalayan CLC of Nepal has purchased a small piece of land in a rural area west of Kathmandu with the intention of constructing a multi-purpose building that will serve as a home, HCLCN office, Bible Institute, library, and worship facility. The CLC Board of Missions has approved funding assistance for this project through the Mission Development Fund. Pray that our Lord will bless this project so that this facility will serve His kingdom for years to come as a place where many will be trained to be faithful preachers and teachers of His saving word! Pray also that God will move the hearts of His children here in the U.S. and also in Nepal to support this project with offerings of time, talent, and treasure.

·         Bangladesh and India Visitation – Pastor David Reim and Missionary Ohlmann have both returned home safely. Following a successful visit to Bangladesh, Missionary Ohlmann had his Indian visa revoked, was denied entry, and was deported at the airport in Chennai, India. Pastor Reim, who was traveling on a temporary visa, was allowed to enter India and spent three weeks attending the Joint Asia Pastoral Conference and working with the two church bodies that we are in fellowship with.  Thank the Lord for these opportunities to proclaim the Gospel. Pray for the political situation in India that is bringing hardship and persecution to Christians. Ask the Lord to protect His children in India and to give them strength and boldness to proclaim His word in the face of persecution. Petition the Lord, according to His will, to clear the way for Missionary Ohlmann to get a new visa that will allow him to begin visiting our brothers and sisters in India again. Pray for the many, many souls in India who do not yet believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior that they may hear and believe God’s saving word.

·         Tanzania – Pastor Godson Mshana was recently involved in a motorcycle accident. His leg was injured and will spend the next couple of months at his son’s house in Arusha while he goes through rehab. Pray that the Lord will grant quick and complete healing so that Pastor Mshana will be able to return to his teaching duties at the Wartburg Lutheran Seminary.

·         Tanzania – The second year of classes have begun at the Wartburg Lutheran Seminary of the CLC-Tanzania. Six students from three districts of the CLC-Tanzania are attending classes through CLC Project Kinship sponsors. Pray that the Lord will bless these men and their families with everything needed as they spend their time preparing to be faithful preachers and teachers of God’s saving word. Pray also for the teachers and staff that the Lord will continue to give them the wisdom, strength, and guidance needed for the work they have been given.

·         Missionary Travels – Missionary Ohlmann will be leaving for several weeks of travel on Sunday, February 16th. He will spend three weeks in the D.R. Congo, two weeks in Myanmar, and two weeks in Nepal. Ask the Lord to grant safe and uneventful travels, good health, wisdom, patience, and love as he attends and preaches at two seminary graduation services, two ordination services, several churches, teaches and encourages several pastors and students, and conducts pastoral training and Gospel outreach seminars.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Change in Plans...

Unfortunately, upon arrival at the airport in Chennai a couple of days ago, my ten-year Visa was revoked and I was denied entrance to India. After several hours of being detained by India immigration I was deported on the first flight out at 3am and then spent several hours in Sri Lanka trying to locate my baggage and arranging flights home. I'm now safely in London waiting for a flight to Dallas and then home. If all goes as planned, I should be home late Thursday night. 

So briefly, here's what happened. When I handed my passport to the immigration officer at the airport in Chennai, he scanned it, looked at his computer screen, and immediately began jotting down notes. He didn't ask me any questions, he simply asked me to wait there as he took my passport and his notes and walked over to the main immigration office. A few minutes later he and another officer escorted me to the immigration office. They began to ask me questions, to which I gave the typical vague answers. They then called the head immigration office in New Delhi for more information about my visa. A seemingly higher-ranking officer then came over and began a much more specific and pointed line of questioning. From the more specific questions I was asked, it appears that a report must have been filed concerning my last visit to India. During that visit a Police Intelligence officer came to my hotel and questioned me and the pastor I was working with about our activities. The immigration officers in Chennai knew the name of the pastor, the city where I had been questioned, and the acronym of the church body I had been working with. The immigration officers made another phone call, conferenced a bit among themselves, and then informed me that my visa had been revoked, I was denied entrance in to India, and I was being deported immediately. They wouldn't give me any reasons or details. I asked for a photocopy of the documents they had printed out so I could take them to the embassy in the U.S. but they refused to answer any of my questions. They simply told me that I was being deported and I was not to return to India again unless the Indian embassy in the U.S. issued me a new visa. They refused to give me any other information. 

All in all, I'm no worse for the wear, just a bit tired and very frustrated and disappointed that I wasn't able to return to India to proclaim the Good News among my brothers and sisters in Christ and to those who are trapped in the darkness of unbelief in India. I'm also very sad and discouraged that I may never be able to return to India to see and work with my dear brothers and sisters in Christ again. I've been traveling to and working in India on an almost annual basis since 1997. I remember the first time I went to India thinking it was a once in a lifetime thing. And now, having lost count of how many visits I've made, it's hard to accept that I might never be able to set foot in India again. I do hope, and pray, and plan, that the Lord will provide a new visa that will allow me to return at some point. And thankfully, like all things in life, we'll leave this in the hands of our gracious Lord and Savior, knowing and trusting by faith, that His ways and thoughts and love and plans are, much higher than mine!

Pastor David R. was able to get in and is safe as he is now busy carrying out the visiting, teaching, and preaching schedule we had planned. He'll need to scramble a bit to come up with more lessons to teach because he will now need to fill my teaching time slots. So he'll have double duty for the next few weeks. Of course, the Lord will provide! I'm confident that our Savior will keep him safe and bless the truths of His saving word that Pastor David will proclaim. Please pray for Pastor David and his work among the pastors and leaders in India and at the Joint Asia Pastoral Conferencenext week!

Please pray for all Christians in India and especially for all the unbelievers as the Pro-Hindu Nationalist majority (BJP) government continues to pass and further enforce laws intended to eliminate the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! 

It is so good to know by faith, that Jehovah, the one true God, is ultimately in charge of all of this and His love for us is great...great enough to lay down His life for all sinners, that we might have forgiveness, salvation, and an eternal home in Heaven!

Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done...

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Romans 8:31–32 

There are many plans in a man’s heart, Nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand. Proverbs 19:21

Monday, January 20, 2020

Off the Beaten Path in Bangladesh...

Yesterday (20 JAN) was our last full day in Bangladesh. It's been a whirlwind of activity since our arrival six days ago. We had a full day of doctrinal discussions with Pastor Monotosh on the day after our arrival. That evening we were privileged to preach and teach at a local preaching station in Dhaka. Early the next morning we hit the road in a rented van to travel to south-western districts of Bangladesh where most of the Bangladesh Lutheran Church Mission Congregations are located. For the next few days, we were up early and on the road. The congregations are not that far apart from each other, but the roads and paths and trails here in the rural areas do not make for fast travel.

The first congregation and tutoring center that we visited yesterday was well off the beaten path. At least it was off of our definition of a well-beaten path. I suspect the folks that live there wouldn't agree with our assessment since to them this is just home. And what a beautiful place to call home. From the fields and fields of canola blooms to the wide variety of palm trees separated by brick laid paths built on top of levies dividing the low-land water-ways and farmland, there is endless beauty to take in. But the most thing to see in this land that is said to be 95% Muslim and 4% Hindu is the smiling faces of men, women, and children who believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior who gather to hear learn more of the truths of God's saving word from the pastor, evangelists, and deacons of the Bangladesh Lutheran Church Mission. 

What a privilege to be one of the vessels that God has chosen to bring His word to these people on these particular days. It's a bit overwhelming at times.

In about an hour we'll head to the airport for the flights that will take us to India. We'll fly from Dhaka to Colombo, Sri Lanka and then to Chennai, India. We'll be in India for the next three weeks working with the CLCI and the BELC and attending and teaching at the Joint Asia Pastoral Conference in Vijaywada. 

Please enjoy just a few pictures of the time that Pastor Dave Reim and I have spent here in Bangladesh working with and among the sheep of God's BLCM flock.