God's kindness leads us to repentanceÃ‚Â Ã‚Â Romans 2:4
Grace and peace, family!
As many of you may recall, it was January of 2008 when I was denied entrance into Russia while at the airport in Moscow. Much has taken place since then, and over the past several months I've been contemplating and thinking over many things. Though it's taken two years (hey, I'm a slow learner at times!), I feel that God has placed it on my heart to begin stepping out more in missions "“ but this time, here in my own country, state, city, culture, and language. God "“ all to His glory and praise "“ has opened numerous doors of ministry here; and after seeing Him allow the door into Russia to shut, as well as not provide for another opportunity I had pursued, it seems abundantly clear that the place where He wants me for this season is right here in Pittsburgh. And in all honesty, I have great peace and contentment in this field in which He has placed me. I'm still "tent-making" here by tutoring English to foreign students, but have been feeling more and more lead to begin stepping out more in missions "“ only this time, right here in my own "˜Jerusalem.' Lord willing, I will be sending more frequent updates about the ministry here "“ if any of you would no longer like to receive these updates, or if you have other family and friends who would like to start receiving them, please just let me know.
As our Lord Himself said, there’s a plentiful harvest, but so few workers "“ let’s ask Him to send more! Please keep me in prayer as well as I serve Him here in Pittsburgh. I’ve already begun to step back some from my English tutoring business in order to have more time for ministry, and will do so more and more as He provides. Below is a summary of some recent things in which our Good Lord has blessed me to be involved, and I’m so jazzed to see what He will do in the days ahead!
- Phone calls "“ Recently spoke with Mairbek, a boy who survived the terrorist attack but lost his mom there. God has blessed me to have also talked a few times with Irina "“ Irina is a strong believing mother who survived the attack with one of her sons, but lost another one of hers there. I’ve been able to speak with other friends there as well, and though it’s somewhat hard to convey, they are so very happy to have phone calls and be reminded that they’re not forgotten. We talk about different things "“ life, school, work, family "“ joke with one another, and also talk about The Lord when there are opportunities. One of Irina’s sons, Alan, wanted to talk with me the other day when I called; among other conversation, Alan said that the next time I come to Beslan, they’re going to keep me locked in a room so I can’t escape! God blessed me to encourage Irina about the hope of Heaven that we have, and she affirmed that’s what keeps her going "“ that she’ll see her deceased son again in Heaven. She added that the pain still remains, but she knows The Lord has kept her and will do so.
- Internet contact "“ Many youth in Russia have an internet page on a very popular Russian website, similar to our Facebook or Myspace, and so I’m able to keep in touch with friends online too. It’s great! We can post photos, write each other messages, and have been able to encourage some of them in pursuing The Lord.
- Gifts "“ Periodically I send candy and other gifts to some of the people there, as some of you have given money towards ministry in Beslan. A few months back I was able to send a bunch of candy for the kids at the Beslan Baptist church, and they were so happy to receive it and one brother e-mailed me some photos of the kids smiling with the candy"¦ praise God, it made my day! Many times the brothers and sisters and other friends there tell me to pass on their greetings, and so greetings to you and thank you for remembering them!
- Would like to hold a "˜make a card / write a letter’ night at my apt. for all who want to come and send their love and thoughts to Beslan.
- Community Night "“ Each month, our fellowship partners with another local fellowship and we host an evening of community, food, and fun for the many refugees who live right here in our neighborhood.
- English for Iraqis (4-5PM on Sundays) "“ The Lord opened up a door for me to tutor a few of the Iraqi refugees, and it’s been going well. I think there are four Iraqi refugee families now in the community altogether, and this class now has five people in it thus far, representing three of the four families. The students are Bethany, an agriculturalist, and her son, Zechariah, Fawn "“ a younger mom, and Nathan and his wife, Suzanna. (I have changed all of the Iraqi’s names so as to protect their real identities.) It’s been interesting to me to find out that I don’t think any of the Iraqi families here are actually very religious Muslims. There are definitely Muslims things around "“ a Koran, or Bethany’s computer-timed Muslim call to prayer that sounds forth from her computer (eerie sounding! those who’ve been to the Middle East know what I’m talking about) "“ but there’s sufficient evidence to show these are not very devout Muslims. For example, the other week Bethany showed me a picture of Jesus she had hanging on her wall! She also has a friend who is a Christian, and in the past gave her a Bible. I’ve also asked three of the four families if they were religious Muslims, and their answers clearly showed they aren’t passionate Wahabi-ists or anything"¦ which is very good! At the end of each lesson, I ask them to "˜help me improve my Arabic pronunciation’ as we read a verse from my Arabic Bible. God’s word will indeed go forth, and may it pierce their hearts! This past week, Bethany asked if I could get her a Bible in Arabic since hers was left back in Iraq"¦ I think we can arrange that. J
- Home visits "“ So far, I’ve only done a couple of home visits, but they’ve been wonderful! I recently visited one of the Iraqi families "“ Abbie (an architect) and her two daughters, Zina (14) and Ashley (4). It was the most fun I’ve had in a long time! The two girls are so full of energy, and especially little Ashley is one of the funniest and cutest in the world. I initially went at about 7:30 to drop off a few English learning materials and thought I might be there for a short visit or so"¦ I don’t think I came back to my apartment until close to 10! We talked a lot about different things, and little Ashley all through the night was doing funny things like showing me her toys and stuff "“ she even brought out her electric kids’ toothbrush to show me how one should brush their teeth! To God’s praise, Abbie was laughing so much at how Ashley was acting "˜cos she said Ashley doesn’t normally act that way around people she doesn’t know"¦ I think it’s Christ in me and from past experiences He’s blessed me with. Additionally, I think the girls probably are missing their dad a lot; Abbie said that they separated 7 months ago, and he now has his own apartment; Abbie said she misses her big family in Iraq, especially now that her husband and her aren’t living together, and she works full-time plus has to take care of the girls. Abbie showed me the Arabic-English Bible she was also was given, and she told me that she grew up around mostly Christians, so although she’s Muslim, she still puts up a Christmas tree and so forth (definitely not a radical Muslim’s behavior!)
- Visited Nathan and his wife and two daughters "“ they just arrived in Pittsburgh, and have many struggles ahead in adjusting to life here. God has already given me great favor in their eyes, and so am looking forward to God opening more doors. Nathan’s wife, Suzanna, asked me a very piercing question: "˜Do the American people love the Iraqi people?’ By the grace of God, may He enable us to show them in countless ways that yes we do! And not simply because we are "˜nice Americans,’ but because we are followers of The God Who teaches us to love aliens (Deuteronomy 10:18-19).
- Would like to do more home visits! As I’ve already seen, I think such visits would begin opening up many doors into these people’s lives and hearts. I think that many of the refugees are grateful for being here, and for the many groups that have helped them, but I think a lot of them still probably feel so much struggle and loneliness here. Last month I asked a friend who works with some of the refugees about their needs and so forth; he admitted that an assessment needs to be done, but that he and others have been so busy with school and things that they haven’t done so. I feel that for the refugees, they may have case workers who do and sometimes don’t help them with things, but I don’t know of the families having many/any people they might actually term "˜friends’ who visit them. It’s sad, because I believe there is such a huge opportunity there, not only to befriend them and try to be a comfort and things, but to share Jesus with them as He opens more such opportunities. For one reason or another, Bethany, one of the Iraqi English students, said she basically never leaves her house "“ and she’s here only with her high school aged son. If The Lord directs and provides, I hope to step back more from my tutoring business and be able to do more home visits on a more regular basis.
- Would like to begin a "˜Refuge (meaning God) for Refugees’ local mission-outreach group. This would not be a just kind of "˜come and help out with stuff’ group, but rather, a group of committed believers longing to see the refugees come to faith in Christ. They would be screened, go through a detailed application process (like The Lord blessed me to help with at For Zion’s Sake), and go through specific cultural training sessions first. Small group teams would then be matched up with specific families, doing home visits and what-have-you "“ all with the main aim being to do mission work among foreigners, all from our very own city, and in our very own language. Those selected to be part of this group would be trained and expected to learn very simple things in the native languages of the families they’re matched with; not that I intend to be some harsh taskmaster with a missions group, but rather know from experience two things "“ all that is necessary for language learning is praying for wisdom, repetition, the desire to learn, mistakes, and time "“ and further, learning basic things in their language will open their hearts to you like a bazillion times more when they realize you really are interested in them, their language, and their culture. This mission group would not be elitist, but it would indeed be a group of selected and approved people serious about their walk with Christ, and committed to reaching these refugees for Jesus. I am convinced that Jesus’ model so far outweighs the normal ones we try to employ "“ meaning that He took a very small number of men, and three "˜inner circle’ ones even from among them, and then through them, revolutionized the entire world. I would rather have a faithful few than 50 people semi committed to their own walk yet alone really endeavoring to share Jesus with these precious and lost people.
- Would like to start an English Bible study at my apartment for the refugees; maybe one for everyone, and one specifically for those who are already believers.
- Would also like to learn their languages "“ I can say for sure that beyond the Iraqi families who are helping me with Arabic, any of the refugee families would be more than happy to try and teach people their languages. I don’t know what the future holds, but if we have all these refugees here, maybe in the future The Lord would open up some mission opportunities back to their own nation "“ and what better way to prepare physically speaking then to start learning their own languages?
- Friday evening Bible study "“ we will begin Acts next week, and I’m excited for all that The Lord will teach us through this great Book!
- Rotating Saturday evenings, we have our youth Bible study, and God has been blessing.
- Started a New Testament Class, 1-3PM on Sundays (except for the first Sunday of month) at our fellowship (Calvary Chapel Pittsburgh). We’ve had a low turnout thus far, but The Lord has been teaching us in our time together.
- Started helping tutor some friends in our new Biblical Hebrew for Beginners Class, 6-7PM Sundays. This is proving to be quite enjoyable, and I hope to be able to continue encouraging them to keep on truckin’ "“ languages are certainly hard, but with diligence and wisdom from God, everything is possible.
- Bible Reading, 7PM Sundays "“ we’re reading through Mark’s Gospel.
- One Saturday evening a month, our Master has blessed me to hold a Bible study at my apartment called, "The Sharpening Process" (name based on Proverbs 27:17). We’ve met three times, and to His praise it’s been wonderful! We’re going through 1 Peter.
- Would like to encourage / help a brother here with ministry for the persecuted church. This has long been something near to my heart, and having seen it so heavily on my friend’s heart, I’d like to encourage and come alongside him in praying for / advocating the persecuted church. Would like to suggest & encourage him to plan a night at the church or something "“ show a DVD on what’s going on/where, pray, and discuss writing letters to prisoners.
- Truth Proclamation "“ my independent music project combining rap, rock, etc. Two newer songs finished, posted at truthproclamation.org under the "˜new songs 1’ link.
- Viable "“ working on CD music project with Dan Evans, a brother in The Lord; project is mainly dealing with end times topics and so forth.
- shackled no more "“ a new music project I’d like to begin as God provides more time; the vision is for original modern-sounding praise and worship songs.
- Will be working on music for the Christian animation show my dad and I are trying to do
Lastly, please keep the D’Amico family in prayer as they lost their dad recently to cancer (he was a believer, and his family are saints also). And please pray for my friend Kelli’s dad, who is apparently in the final stages of pancreatic cancer. Kelli is a strong believer but has said that she’s 99% sure her father isn’t saved. Pray that Jesus will convict him and help him to soften his heart - that he will repent and turn to Jesus "¦and if it’s God’s will, that He would also display His mercy and heal him.
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