Saturday, December 29, 2007

Check out Schierkolk's Christmas Newsletter

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 (ESV)

Dear family and friends, Boarder Crossings

Feliz Navidad from Mexico! We hope your Christmas is filled with all the joy and light and hope that God intended for this season from the time it began. Those first wise men probably didn’t know it but the King they went looking for as they followed the light of that star over Bethlehem was the Light of the world Himself. Even today Jesus is still working to bring any who so desire, out of the darkness into the warm light of His love and grace. . .

To see the Schierkolk's entire Christmas Newsletter click here.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Chmiel's Christmas Newsletter

Year 2007 was the year when it happened—we moved to Ukraine!!

After many years of prayer and preparations we are here! It has not been without difficulties and cultural adjustments, but we are very happy to be here! We already told you about the first half of
our year in our summer newsletter. But here is something like “The Year 2007 in Pictures”

To read the entire newsletter in PDF format click here.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Paul Abel's Christmas Greeting

The year 2007 was a special year for us to celebrate with family. The boys were home for the first half of the year, both sets of parents visited us, Christina was married, we welcomed Sarah Christina into our family on October 12, and Matthew is coming home for Christmas! We also rejoice in the special church family God has given us here in Brazil. In addition to our activities with our churches and camp, we have had opportunities to travel to other congregations and to be involved with our Bible School and seminary in Campo Mourão. The world is full of wonderful people! Yet, we often see the results of sin in our world and the “not-so-wonderful” side of life. We are committed to pointing the way to Jesus, the only One who can transform people for now and eternity. We hope you have experienced this new life in Christ. May you have a special Christmas with family and friends!

Read the Abel's complete December newsletter by clicking here.

Christmas Greetings from Jesse Long - Tanzania

Dear friends and family,

Minutes after sending my last update, I received word that a dear friend, who was also one of my most faithful prayer warriors, had suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. Leaving a very big void here on earth with those she loved, Sandy Andrie doubtlessly received a champion’s welcome when she arrived at Jesus’ side on November 30th, 2007, and heard the words we all look forward to hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

What a powerful reminder this has been to me to praise God for the many people He has placed around me who, just like Sandy, have had an eternal impact on my life and its direction. Thank you for your part!! Furthermore, it is difficult to receive news of the death of a loved one (especially as we come to the end of 2007) without being challenged to re-evaluate one’s focus in life and goals for the year ahead. God help us all live with a focus on eternity like these heroes of the faith!

I would like to use most of this update to praise God for the many ways He has showed Himself faithful in my life and in this ministry over the past 12 months.

  • Praise God for preserving the life of my new brother-in-law, Dary, when he was shot in Iraq on March 5th and God’s continued hand of healing on his body since that time.
  • Praise God for Dary and my sister, Anna’s, wedding which took place in Washington, D.C. on April 7th.
  • Praise God for my opportunity to be back in the States and re-unite with family and friends over the summer.
  • Praise God for the opportunity my brother, Joe, has to study at the Bible School in Minneapolis this year.
  • Praise God for the estimated 12,500 people in Tanzania and 8,000 people in Uganda who have seen the Jesus Film in 2007 alone.
  • Praise God for over 300 Bibles that have been given away this year. (This is also a huge tribute to the generosity of many of you!)
  • Praise God for the 90+ students who have had opportunity to study here at Waama over the past 12 months.
  • Praise God for His abundant provision (through many of you) which has enabled all of these things to become a reality and has now also allowed Ben and me to return here to Tanzania for a second year.
  • Praise God for the Schierkolk family who blessed us with a visit shortly after our return in September.
  • Praise God for all His spiritual blessings in our lives over the past year.
  • Praise God for the champions of the faith (including many of you) who, like Sandy Andrie, He has raised up to be examples and role models for me and my generation.

I could go on but I think you get the idea. Furthermore, I am sure you could make lists of your own. I would like to close with a quote from Elisabeth Elliot’s book titled God’s Guidance – A Slow and Certain Light. As I recently read this book, I found myself very much relating to these words:

“It has usually happened that a place God has put me has proved to be (sometimes quite in contrast to my expectation) a place of contentment. I have looked at others and said, ‘How do they stand it?’ and then, finding myself in a similar place, in the will of God, I had the answer. It is a great thing to know you are where you belong.”

How true! And this is one of the things I praise God for the most as I look back on this past year.

Let me say again what a blessing each of you have been to me. Thank you so much for your part in my life and in this work here in Tanzania through your thoughts, prayers, words of encouragement, and support. Have a blessed Christmas and may God richly bless each one of you in 2008!

With much love and gratefulness,

Jesse Long
Mbulu, Tanzania

I am also hoping to have some new pictures on the blog very soon. Be sure to stop by when you get a chance!!

Christmas Greetings from the Steve Kvales

Note: The Steve Kvales are members of the AFLC Church in Pipestone, Minnesota. They have have been accepted as AFLC Missionaries on loan to Wycliffe Bible Translators.

Dear AFLC Family,

From our heart to yours we send our love, Merry Christmas and wish for you a blessed 2008!

Our hope is in the Lord. Our peace is known in Christ. He is the author of our faith.

Whether you are grieving, healing, or celebrating this Christmas, His unfailing love and promises are yours. Isaiah 55:12 "For you will go out with joy, and be led forth with peace, the mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands."

What wonderful things are in His Word! Personally from God who cares about every detail of our lives. May His Word one day reach every people, every land and every language.

We are thankful for you!

Love and Prayers,
The Kvales

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Miriam Chmiel out of the Hospital

Thank you so much to all of you who wrote to us after you received our November prayer update. It means a lot to us to know that so many of you care. THANK YOU!!!

After the hard month of November, we somehow thought that December would be a little easier. We were slowly starting to get better and we were actually starting to look forward to Christmas. Little did we know that this year’s trials were not yet to be over. Yes, we got to experience something we had always said we would never do—we got to spend a week in a Ukrainian hospital!

In the past (especially after we saw a Ukrainian hospital when pani Maria was there), we always said that if we ever needed to go to a hospital, we would go to Poland or another EU country. But last Saturday it all happened so quickly that there was not time for going anywhere else. Miriam started having severe abdominal pain and when we went to a private clinic to see what was wrong, they said we had to go to a hospital immediately. They told us which hospital to go to, so we did. We really did not know what else to do. It was a “regional hospital” and it seemed like it was a hospital that was free for Ukrainians and could not refuse anyone.

When we got there, it was obvious that this hospital would be very different from what we know from the States or the Czech Republic. But most of the doctors and nurses were nice and friendly even though they had to work in really hard conditions. God blessed us with a doctor who was pretty patient with our questions and concerns. In Ukraine, most doctors are not used to explaining things to their patients. They are doctors, they know everything and who are you to ask… But we were not willing to let the doctors do anything without us understanding what exactly was happening. So it was a little bit of a cross-cultural experience for both sides.

We were able to get a small private room where Tomasz could sleep on the floor. It was comforting to Miriam to know that she did not have to go through all this alone. Otherwise the whole experience was pretty scary—Miriam was in a lot of pain, she did not know how much of the doctors’ medical judgment she could trust, everyone spoke a language she did not 100% understand, they were giving her shots and running tests without telling her what they were doing…

It is hard to describe the whole experience in a way that would help you picture what it was like. There were some things that we could not believe at first but then we realized that indeed that was the reality. There was no hot water anywhere in the hospital so it was impossible for the patients to shower or to even really wash. (We did not really want to know where the doctors and nurses washed their hands…) There was no water at all from about 10pm till 5am so if you got sick at night, well… tough luck… Some days there was no water even during the day and when we mentioned something about how hard it was, our doctor was trying to be sympathetic but at the same time it was obvious that not being able to shower was really a minor detail compared to the doctors’ not knowing how many more surgeries they had water for. There was no ultrasound at the gynecology ward and many other things were… let’s say “different”.

In Ukrainian hospitals, you buy your own medication, syringes, needles and everything else. Your doctor tells you what to get, you go to a pharmacy, get what you need, bring it back and then they give you your shots, IVs or whatever you need. Tomasz made quite a few trips to the hospital pharmacy this past week .

One thing we did not really get to experience was hospital food. Thanks to our friends and fellow missionaries, Josh and Kelsie, we had a homemade meal every day. Well, Tomasz did… :) Miriam was not able to eat much for the first three or four days but then she too was thankful for Kelsie’s cooking. Also when Josh and Kelsie heard that we needed to go to the hospital last Saturday, Josh came right away to help us with any language problems we might have (his Ukrainian is great!!!). What a blessing to have friends like that!

Even though the hospital was definitely not up to the US or EU standards, we still expected to be charged for the week-long stay, all the medical attention, our private room, a lot of blood tests etc… Tomasz went to the ATM machine to be ready to pay our hospital bill when the doctor came and told us that we owed $7! We thought we did not understand her correctly, but we did. Yes, the bill was $7!!! We do have insurance that should reimburse us for our medical expenses while in Ukraine, but with bills like these, we’d have to be in a Ukrainian hospital for almost a year to even meet our deductible.

Well, we could probably tell you more but if you’d like to see more, visit our picture gallery at

Thank you again for all your prayers!!!

Blessings, Tomasz and Miriam

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” - Romans 8:28

December Update from Dan Giles Jr.

Hello friends and family,

Thank you so much for your prayer support. We really appreciate you!!!

About a month ago we were thinking that it was time to go back to the United States and start again with our life. We wanted to provide some stability for our two daughters. At the same time we received a called from Pastor Todd Shierkolk to stay and help with the youth. After praying for a long time we felt God's direction to stay and serve the Lord here in Jerez.

We agreed to stay for another two years. Please pray that the Lord will use us in those two years. We have many ideas of things we would like to do.

We want to start a young mom's ministry, Vacation Bible School in the summer and one night of prayer and worship in the church during the week.

Since we are staying for two more years, we need our own place to live. We have been living with Dan and Debbie because we never thought that we were going to stay more than a few months, but since we are staying, we would need our own place. That means that we have to start all over again, but we trust that God will provide everything that we need. We would like to be able to bring our things here since most of our belongings are in Wisconsin, so please pray that God would provide our financial needs.

Prayer requests:

  • That God would provide all of our financial needs according to His will.
  • A home for our family.
  • That we can bring our things to Jerez.
  • That God will use us these two years.
  • Health and happiness for our family.


  • A young lady from the church (Nena) repented from living in sin with a man, and came back to Christ and to the church. Pray for her faith and her 4 children.
  • Abril and Cesar (a young couple from our church) are growing spiritually greatly. Cesar is encouraging the family every day to read the Bible and pray.
  • Bety (a young mom from the church) is really opening up to the Lord and to us, for the first time ever in 5 years.
  • Almost the whole youth group comes on Sundays to church. Before they weren't even allowed to come to the youth group, and now they come to everything. The youth group now is in charge of cleaning the church every Saturday. We are so exited to see them grow. Praise the Lord.

We believe that we will soon have a revival in the church, and that God is about to save more people in Jerez. Please pray that we can listen to God's voice when He talks to us.

Thank you so much for your prayer support.

In Him,

Dan, Marcela, Ari, and Andy Giles
P.S. See more updates at

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Update from Darwin Jacksons

"All is windy about us now,
but the wind will not last always.
The waves beat into our boat;
but when the Lord says,
Peace, be still, they will lie down.
Let all your prayer for us be
that we may rest in the will of God
while the wind lasts."

Amy Carmichael

Were just about done preparing Mary Ann's moms house to sell. I'm down to having only the kitchen left. It'll be good to have this year behind us. It was good to visit so many of you, even though I didn't have my girls with me. It was tough watching Mary Ann's mom deteriorate and die. As I write my brothers wife Pam is having emergency surgery done on her eyes. She had a terrible headache a couple of days ago. After three visits to the hospital, a spinal tap, Cat scan, and numerous other tests they found after she went blind in one eye that it's glaucoma. So they're trying to save the other eye. Please pray for her, and my brother Lenny, that both of them wouldn't resist the Lord any longer and call out to Him.

It looks like I'll be making a trip, Lord willing, to Mazatlan near the end of January to show a new missionary couple around. It looks like we may have a place to live there in Nogales, we'll know for sure in another week or so.

Gracie's second surgery went well and she is now running around like normal only after a couple of weeks. The picture is Gracie and her friend from Church and school Vanessa at Gracie's Birthday.

Oh, "the waves beat into our boat; but when the Lord says, Peace, be still, they will lie down." May the Prince of Christmas Peace keep you all in His joy this Christmas.

Your fellow workers,
Darwin, Mary Ann and Gracie Jackson

"But God demonstrates His own love toward us,
in that while we were still sinners,
Christ died for us."
Romans 5:8

Friday, December 14, 2007

Greeting's from Chmeils

We wanted to use this opportunity to thank you for your support in the year of 2007. God used you this past year to make it possible for us to leave Minnesota and start a new home and ministry here in Ukraine. We have seen God at work so many times this past year:
  • when finishing our fundraising
  • when moving to Ukraine
  • when looking for an apartment
  • when starting our language studies
  • when learning to interact with Ukrainian people.

Thank you so much for standing behind us this past year! We would not be able to take these big steps in our lives without your prayers and support. If you would like to see more of our Ukrainian life, visit Or write us at – we would love to hear from you!

Thank you and God bless you,
Pastor Tomasz and Miriam Chmiel,

Christmas Greetings from Tim Hinrichs

It’s only been a month since our last newsletter but so much has happened since September … The Bible school year started. We opened a new branch in central Poland. As of today, we have 63 students total in Bible school. This has exceeded all of our expectations as we see the blessing of the Lord! Yes, when it rains it pours… And we’re opening up a new ministry in downtown Kraków, presenting an evangelistic service utilizing the young people who will help us lead the singing. In some ways this outreach has a “street ministry” flavor. You just never know who can be impacted or touched.

Please continue to pray for us as we lead this new effort … We pray that the word would get out among university students as well as foreigners living in the city.

Blessings in Christ,
The Hinrichs

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Miriam Chmiel in Hospital

Please pray for Tomasz and Miriam Chmiel, AFLC missionaries on loan to East European Missions Network, who are now serving in Ukraine. Miriam has been hospitalized with severe abdominal pain since Saturday. Miriam also miscarried a baby a few weeks ago. Pray for a correct diagnosis and treatment and healing for Miriam and God's peace and protection over the Chmiels.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Prayer Update from Ingrid Giles

Dear Friends,

We had a very blessed Thanksgiving this year. And God blessed the Sunday of that weekend, by filling the church with 49 people – that's more than we've had in a long time, and it was just a normal Sunday!

It is pretty cold in the morning now – typically around 40 degrees when I get up. Last night we got our first delivery of firewood, so we lit a fire for warmth this morning. It was wonderful!

I'd like to remind you all that I have a website where I sometimes post news at: My parents have just started a blog as well, where their prayer supporters can keep up with their news. The address is . I haven't had a chance to post the pictures of the Tabasco flood relief project online yet, but they have two pictures of it on their blog, if you want to see them.

Please keep praying for Claudia and Amilcar Gamboa and their four kids. The whole family needs prayer, but the one I'd like to focus on now is two-year-old Alan. He is one unhappy little boy, and he cries for his daddy every night. Claudia and Karen (the oldest girl) are both growing spiritually very much.

Nena had stopped coming for a long time, although she continued to send her three sons to church. Last Sunday she showed up, and she told me she is making a new start! Please pray for her. She has gotten herself into some very hard situations, and needs a miracle to get her life straightened out. Pray for her safety and the safety of her children, and pray that this "new start" would be real.

Please pray for me as I consider some life-changing decisions. I'm sure that God intends for me to remain where I am, doing the work I am doing (at least for now). He is blessing it. With that in mind, I have started the application process for a resident visa. My two strong desires are 1) to change my status from short-term assistant to full-term missionary with the AFLC and 2) to adopt a child. This is not a sudden decision; it is something I've been thinking about for years and now I think it's time to begin prayerfully pursuing it. Both of these desires seem to be in line with God's call on my life and I don't feel a check about either one; so unless God closes a door, I am planning to pursue both. Please pray for God's guidance and my discernment of His will as I take each step. (If all goes normally, both adopting a child and becoming a full-term missionary are lengthy processes.) I am meeting with the AFLC World Missions Committee in Minnesota on Saturday, December 8 th, , to talk about the possibility of applying. Please pray that God would direct that meeting.

Here is my prayer list:

Please (requests):

  • Ask God to continue to provide for my financial needs.
  • Pray for my continued health. The cold weather affects my lungs a little.
  • Please pray also for Dan and Marcela's financial needs. Like me, they do not receive a regular salary but depend on donations from people. Unlike me, they have two kids (therefore greater need of money).
  • Pray for my meeting with the Mission Board in Minnesota on December 8th.
  • Please continue to pray for the Gamboa family (Claudia and Amilcar and kids), especially Alan.
  • Pray for our youth, including Oscar and Abran.
  • Pray that God would give me the words and phrases necessary to do the best possible job of translating this Sunday School material so that it will be clear to children from all over the Spanish speaking world. Pray that God would use these lessons to speak to the children and teachers who use them.
  • We've been having technical difficulties with posting the lessons I'm translating onto the website. Please pray that that would get straightened out and we'd be able to post them easily again.
  • Pray that I'd do a good job as Sunday School teacher and superintendent.
  • Please pray also that God would help me to prioritize my time – there are so many real needs that sometimes it is hard to know what to say "no" to so that I can say "yes" to something else.
  • Pray for Nena.

Thank you (praise):

  • Abran (one of our teenage boys) has been coming to church again for the last few weeks.
  • The entire youth group has been coming to church for several weeks! (Some of these kids have not been allowed to come in the past.)
  • God has been taking care of my financial needs.
  • Claudia Gamboa is growing in the Lord, and her daughter Karen is also strong.
  • Oscar has been coming to church and youth group.
  • My brother and his family have decided to remain in Jerez for two years! The whole team is happy about that, because they really fill a gap.
  • God blessed our family with a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration this year.
  • Thank God that Nena is turning back to the Lord!


Ingrid Giles

New Newsletters Available

Current newsletters from Connely Dyrud and Todd Schierkolk have just been posted on the AFLC World Missions website. Click on the picture to the right and you will go to the site.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Prayer Request from Todd Schierkolk

Dear praying friends,

This was almost laughable but it was a good reminder of how God can use anything to glorify His name and extend His kingdom . . . Just before we left for deputation last summer we had a flood in the bathroom downstairs which we assumed was caused by a bad leak in the upstairs shower pipes. We stopped using that shower for the couple of days before we left. When we returned home in November we noticed that there was another leak and it seemed to be connected to the upstairs toilet which was leaking into the downstairs bathroom. We finally contacted our landlord who sent over a plumber who works in the city water department. It was concluded that they would have to tear up the floor of the upstairs bathroom to find the leak. They spent several days working on this in the afternoons. The bathroom happens to be right next to the garage and while they were working upstairs on Thursday evening a couple weeks ago we had our joyful (and apparently loud) Kid’s Club going on in the garage. When the plumber finished up that evening he asked me about the “party” we had going on. When he found out it that we were teaching kids the Bible he asked if he could bring his own kids to the Club the next week. Well, the week went by and we wondered if he was really going to show up. Sure enough, on Thursday evening, a half hour before the Club started he knocked on the door to come and do some more work on the bathroom. As we went upstairs he told me his kids were waiting in the car. When he finished up his work he came out with a very happy expression on his face as he saw his kids working on a Christmas craft we were doing. As they got in the car to leave he said, “We’ll see you next week.” So please pray for Ramiro, the plumber, and his family. And praise God for the way He uses our troubles, however frustrating, to bring people into our lives who are hungry for the truth.

Would you please pray for the dad of a couple kids in the Tuesday club? Omar and Rubis’ dad is a construction worker who has been out of a job for over a month now. Pray for a job for him and also that this circumstance would create a hunger for spiritual things in their family.

In Christ,

Todd and Barb Schierkolk

Jerez, Zacatecas, MEXICO

World Relief - Kenya Report

AFLC World Missions partners with World Relief. Donations for World Relief can be sent to AFLC World Missions at 3110 East Medicine Lake Blvd. Minneapolis, MN 55441.

* * * * * *

In Nairobi, Kenya, four children between the ages of 14 years and two months stood by the graveside of their last surviving parent who had recently died of AIDS. After the service, Paul, the oldest boy asks his aunt, “What is going to happen to us?” She said that she would take his eight year old sister home with her. The boy was left to return to his former parent’s home with his three other siblings. He wondered how they were going to survive, especially when after a few days the neighbors stole the family’s two goats.

In a short while, the infant died. The boy went to find his sister and discovered that she had been enslaved by the uncle and aunt as a household helper with little food provided and poor living conditions. He brought the three of them together and determined to provide for them himself--somehow. Just at the time, volunteers from a nearby church found these children, built them a safe place to live, enrolled them into World Relief’s OVC program (Orphans and Vulnerable Children) and are now watching over this “Orphan Headed Household” (OHH). Among the things that volunteers in World Relief’s OVC program do for orphans is: make sure they are safe and well nourished; attend school; protect their human rights; secure their documents; and visit them daily—in short—envelop them into the community under the protection of the church.

There are 1.4 million orphans in Kenya, which has a population of 33 million people. The rate of HIV infection is 6% and 60% of the population is under 15 years of age. The challenge of orphans is huge and is going to be around for a long time. This is typical sub-Saharan Africa.

It will take many interventions to meet the challenge of OVC’s. While building orphanages, adoption, or some kind of sponsorship may help, it cannot be done on a scale that will meet all the needs of all the kids that will need help. But, churches are ubiquitous in Kenya and can be empowered to find and care for the orphans and envelop them into their communities. In the past 12 months in Kenya, World Relief served 2,838 orphans, 421 volunteers were trained, 30 churches were involved, 150 care groups for OVC’s were formed, and 200,000 people in the surrounding communities were reached through mass media with messages on how to take care of orphans.

At the same time, World Relief is working to prevent the spread of AIDS: 390,000 young people were taught of the dangers of HIV/AIDS, 60,000 youth made pledges of abstinence, and 11,398 teachers and peer educators in school and colleges were trained to present the abstinence and faithfulness curriculum.

Kenya is said to be 80% Christian, and World Relief has formed a partnership with seven major denominations that have thousand of churches spread across the whole country. If we can scale up our present programs, childhood can be restored to many thousands of OVCs. Your prayers and financial contributions will go a long way to making this a reality in 2008. Thank you.

Church led community empowerment is the key to caring for and restoring dignity to AIDS orphans. We would appreciate your help. Go to, for more information.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Christmas Update from Connely Dyrud

Give the Gift That Keeps on Giving

“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” NIV Bible
I Timothy 2:1-2

Christmas is the time to give gifts. Why not give gifts that are useful and long lasting?

Praying for others is a gift that is ongoing throughout the year. Praying for “peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” is good for everyone. Would you make a “prayer list” for 2008 and remember to pray daily for others around the world sharing that gift that keeps on giving.

Thank you so much for praying for me and my family this last year. Would you please continue to pray for each missionary by name as we work in the “Harvest Field” for the Lord and the AFLC.

It was a joy to “share missions to the students during the “J term” (January)” then at the end of January and into February, it was on to Brazil sharing with the “MTI students” and Brazilians. Then in March I flew to Eastern Europe to share with more of our “MTI students” in Slovakia. As the “MTI students” returned to the USA it was a joy to teach them once again at AFLBS as they shared all their experiences.

During the summer and fall, I was traveling for missions both in the USA and teaching in India and back to Brazil, encouraging, counseling and praying with, and for, our church leaders.

While traveling on the airplanes and in airports, it was remarkable how many opportunities opened up to share Jesus, praying for “weary travelers.” Prayer truly is the gift that can be shared with all peoples – It is the gift that keeps on giving.

In closing, think of those millions around the world who have NO ONE to pray for them, this Christmas. Would you be willing to add more to your Christmas list of prayer? Giving the gift that keeps on giving.

Joy in His Service,

CJ Dyrud

News from Ukrain

Dear friends,

We are sorry our November update is coming in December but we went through some difficult days last week so there was no strength left to send out a prayer update. We hope you understand.

Most of you probably did not know but God had blessed us and we were expecting a baby. We were really excited about it!!! We were very much looking forward to celebrating Christmas as a family of three for the first time. God gave this baby to us through a big miracle so we thought that He would also continue to protect the baby until he/she would be born next summer. So it was a big shock to us when we lost the baby. We felt confused as to why God would create this new life in such a miraculous way (after we prayed for this baby for a long time) and then chose to take him/her only couple of weeks later… But we are learning to trust God even when we do not understand His plans… We are doing better this week and we believe that even though it is very hard, even this is a part of God’s bigger plan. But please keep us in your prayers.

The good news of November is that we got our Ukrainian one-year religious work visa. We had to travel to the Ukrainian embassy in Prague (Czech Republic) to apply for this visa. We are pretty sure that the Ukrainian embassy in Prague could be easily nominated for the “most unorganized embassy” and maybe even win.

After we successfully got our visa (after a couple different visits to the embassy and couple of weeks of waiting!), it was time to travel back to Ukraine. This time we decided to try a direct train from Prague to L’viv. The trip was ok, but it is still a mystery to us how traveling 560 miles can take 30 hours! Yes, the train takes a long break in Krakow (Poland) but still... But we made it and we are glad to be back in our Ukrainian home. We should be getting back to our Ukrainian lessons either later this week or at the beginning of next week.

Thank you so much for your prayers!!!

Blessings, Tomasz and Miriam

Monday, December 03, 2007

December Update from Tanzania

A blessed December to you all! Can you believe 2007 is already coming to an end?! Ben and I have not yet nailed down our plans for our Christmas/New Year break but trust that wherever any of us may find ourselves, we will be rejoicing in the true reason for the Christmas season – the birth of Jesus Christ here on earth.

Thank you so much for your continuing part in our ministry here in Tanzania. We continue to feel so blessed to have a part in God’s work in this part of the world but know that it is only possible as we work in concert with you and many other people. In fact, a couple weeks ago, I introduced you to the ministry of ILCT (Iraqw Language and Culture Trust). In this email, I thought I would try to briefly introduce you to another ministry – “Here’s Life”, based out of Arusha, Tanzania.

Our formal acquaintance with “Here’s Life” actually began at the beginning of 2007 when Ben and I “just happened” to be in attendance at an international Sunday morning service held at Arusha Community Church. We often enjoy attending ACC when we are in Arusha simply because of the rare opportunity it provides to participate in an English service complete with English songs, etc. Anyway, the church has no paid pastor but is rather run by a board of lay people who take turns preaching and leading the service.

On this particular Sunday, a man by the name of B.F. Khofield from Mobile, Alabama was preaching. I have to admit that Ben and I have not always been overly impressed by the depth of preaching that takes place at this church. This day, however, was different. B.F. spoke very clearly and powerfully on the authority of the Word and how it is foundational to our effectiveness in the world. After the service, Ben and I introduced ourselves to B.F. and his wife, Jane, and let them know how much we appreciated his message. At that time, they expressed an interest in getting together for a meal sometime so that we could become better acquainted.

Unfortunately, it was not until October 18th (almost 7 months later) that we were finally able to coordinate our schedules and have that dinner. Jane and B.F. were hosting an evening meal for some of their other American ministry partners and invited Ben and I to participate, as well. What a blessing to meet this team of people who are working very hard not only here in Tanzania but also in Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Congo, Sudan, and Rwanda!! To date, “Here’s Life” has 44 active teams that host film campaigns, offer follow-up for new Christians, train lay church leaders, and help plant churches where needed. They have a contagious passion for their work and have an unwavering commitment to the Word of God.

As I have said before, it never ceases to amaze us how well God can coordinate the different aspects of His work. We were blessed to hear of the foundational work of “Here’s Life” and they were blessed to learn of the further training that Waama is providing for village church leaders.

All of this has been on my mind especially as we have worked our way through chapter 3 in our Philippians class. Recently, I taught a class using Philippians 3:12 as the foundation verse. It says, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.” What struck me was that this verse was written by someone who had accomplished a lot of ministry in his life. Paul not only authored many New Testament books but also planted numerous churches and was a key leader in the Early Church. We could ask, “What kept him ‘pressing on’?” “Hadn’t he already accomplished enough?” I believe the answer is found in that very same verse – he knew that God had “laid hold of him” for a specific purpose, a purpose that was not yet complete.

It is no different for each of us. I believe that as long as we have life in our body, we can be sure that God still has work for us to do. Furthermore, as someone once said, “We are invincible until God’s work through us is done.” (I have to say, that quote has had special meaning for me recently each time I climb on my motorcycle.) ☺ The question, for each and every day is, “What does God want to accomplish through my life…starting today?” May we all be faithful in pursuing God’s purpose for our life…to the very end!

In His Service,

Jesse Long

Mbulu, Tanzania