Each week Fellowship President, Steve Jones, encourages and challenges those within The Fellowship through his weekly emails. We are pleased to be able to make these available online.
We trust you, too, will be encouraged and challenged by what Steve shares.
Steve here… We all know 2017 marks a very important anniversary. This autumn, we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. In light of this, we are seeking to encourage our Fellowship family to participate in a couple of related opportunities. Both highlight the importance of God’s Word in initiating the Reformation and the transformation of lives.
SOWING the SEED Project (May — August 2017)
While the Bible is more accessible than ever before, some people groups have little access to God’s Word. Two main groups are Muslim and Francophone peoples. The Sowing the Seed project aims to provide Bibles for these two people groups in their native tongues, giving them personal access to the living Word of God.
The goal of this project is to raise $60,000 to provide Bibles to four locations:
Of this total, $25,000 will support the Sindhi translation of the New Testament which is being spear-headed by Fellowship International missionary Mark Naylor. These funds will go towards the ongoing translation, printing and distribution of the New Testament in Sindhi.
Ottawa/Gatineau area, Ontario
Through FEB Central church planter, Richard Raya, and the ministry of Jesus Light of the World Arabic Evangelical Church in Ottawa, Bibles will be distributed to some of the 38,000 Arabic-speaking people in the Ottawa/Gatineau area. Many of these are Syrian refugee families.
With a poverty rate of 77 %, Haiti is the poorest country in the world. Many cannot afford food, water, shelter or education let alone the funds necessary to purchase a Bible. Through this project $10,000 will be made available to purchase French Bibles for those living in Dondon, Haiti.
Did you know that some pastors in D.R. Congo serve churches that don’t have even one Bible available in their church? This project will provide $10,000 with which to purchase and distribute Bibles in regions of D.R. Congo served by our Fellowship International missionaries.
We hope you and your church will consider a gift toward the Sowing the Seed project. You can learn more and find promotional materials by clicking HERE.
#TheGreatestBook Bible Engagement Project
I’d also like to take this opportunity to encourage you to consider joining other Fellowship Baptist Churches from November 5-19, 2017 in our Nation-wide Bible Engagement project.
All resources and promotional materials (video, poster, inserts) needed during this event are available on the Fellowship’s website (HERE). There is a 14-day devotional, age-appropriate lesson plans for small groups or Sunday school — there are even some sample sermons for the three Sundays between November 5th and 19th. All these resources have been written by brothers and sisters within our Fellowship family.
As you participate in this special event, we encourage you to share your reflections and comments about what God is saying to you over your preferred social media venue, and use the hashtag #TheGreatestBook. Then check out what God is saying to others.
I hope you’ll begin the Reformation celebration on Sunday November 5th and finish with us on the Fellowship Day of Prayer – November 19th.
I look forward to hearing stories of God’s blessing because of these two opportunities.
Steve here… Study after study indicate that “church-goers” are happier, healthier and more satisfied with life. I’ve been reading these studies and articles since the 1980s.
An American Medical Association study (May 2016) discovered those who regularly attend church services have a better chance of living longer.
Isn’t that what the Bible says?
“My child, never forget the things I have taught you. Store my commands in your heart. If you do this, you will live many years and your life will be satisfying.”
—Proverbs 3: 2, 16 (NLT)
The following is a commentary on the study from the Washington Post:
Over a 20-year span, the study surveyed a group of more than 76,000 female nurses, most of whom were Catholic and Protestant. At the end of 20 years, more than 13,000 of them had died. The women who went to religious services more than once a week, it turned out, were 33 percent less likely to be in that group who died, compared to those who never attended services.
Tyler VanderWeele, a researcher at Harvard J.H. Chan School of Public Health who co-wrote the study, said the effect diminished as the study participants decreased their service attendance. Those who attended services once a week saw their odds of dying go down 26 percent. For those who attended less than weekly, the odds of dying decreased 13 percent, VanderWeele said.
That led the study's authors to a striking recommendation: "Religion and spirituality may be an underappreciated resource that physicians could explore with their patients, as appropriate," they wrote. "Our results do not imply that health care professionals should prescribe attendance at religious services, but for those who already hold religious beliefs, attendance at services could be encouraged as a form of meaningful social participation."
VanderWeele said that other studies have suggested a similar link between service attendance and decreased mortality, but his team aimed to prove that service attendance actually causes the better health outcomes. Because the nurses answered questionnaires periodically over a long time frame, he said, the researchers were able to look at whether a change in service attendance led to a change in health.
They found numerous benefits associated with attending services. Women who started going to services then became more likely to quit smoking and less likely to show signs of depression, for instance — even when the researchers controlled for a long list of other variables, from age and exercise habits to income and other non-religious social engagement.
The effect of religious attendance, they found, was stronger than that of any other form of participation in a social group like a book club or a volunteer organization.
"We were a bit surprised, initially, by the magnitude of the findings," VanderWeele said. He said they found a long list of positive effects: "Service attendance is increasing social support. Through social norms, it's also decreasing the likelihood of smoking. Perhaps through some of the messages of hope, it's decreasing depressive symptoms. Perhaps self-discipline, a sense of meaning or purpose in life — it's not just one pathway."
He continued, "I don't think it's one single reason that this effect is emerging. I think it's that service attendance affects so many different aspects of life."
More Resources on Living Longer, Healthier, Satisfying Lives
I have to thank Pastor Terry Ciona of our Pleasant Valley Church in Brantford, ON. He recently sent me a list of resources on why studies show believers live longer, healthier and more satisfying lives. Take a look at a few of the following studies and newspaper articles:
Benefits of Church
- Church going is connected with better health: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2006/10/23/churchgoing-correlated-with-better-health-a/
- Church-goers live longer:
- Church-goers have lower risks of depression:
- Churches contribute positively in many ways to the community: financially, socially, spiritually:
- Church-goers are happier:
- Church-goers have stronger marriages:
- Church-goers have stronger families:
So make sure you gather with your church family this Sunday… and here’s to a long, healthy life together!
Steve here… This coming weekend we celebrate and honour the mothers and mother figures that God has placed in our lives.
While we may think of Mother’s Day as being a North American celebration, I was surprised to learn that there are 109 countries worldwide that have a day set aside to celebrate mothers. As I pondered that stat I was reminded of those serving with the Fellowship cross-culturally who have a unique ministry to mothers and women in other countries in particular. Let me share just a few:
Fellowship International missionary, Dr. Rachel Bright and the team at the Sarobidy Maternity Centre provide medical care and nutrition education to expectant mothers and, in January 2017, a feeding program was launched to ensure mothers remain healthy long after delivering their babies.
A medical team comprised of missionaries and nationals provide care to women and children. The hospital is well-respected within the region for the quality care they provide. As one concerned father at the hospital said recently as he witnessed the delicate care provided to his malnourished baby, “…these Christians are good people. They have shown us so much love.”
In a country gripped by civil war, many Congolese women and girls find themselves caught in the crosshairs of tribal fighting and experience brutal attacks involving rape. Fellowship International missionaries Apollo and Lois Midigo are gifted counselors with a unique perspective of the African tribal history having been born and raised in nearby Kenya. In addition to counseling women, they are training other Christian leaders so that they can come alongside similar victims and provide much-needed counseling. A skills-training program has also been launched to assist these women in earning an income with which to support themselves and their families.
Life for women in rural Cambodia where the extremely impoverished live, is challenging as they seek to provide for their families. Many relocate to larger centers in search of employment only to find themselves caught up in the sex-trade industry. In Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, Fellowship International missionary, Allison Montgomery works alongside the Precious Women ministry in reaching out to women who work in beer gardens and karaoke lounges, by providing counselling, vocational training and education, health checks, and temporary housing in order to help these women leave the sex-trade industry.
These are just some of the ministries that touch the lives of women of all ages. They make a significant contribution into the lives of women, often changing the trajectory of their lives for eternity as the Gospel is shared and practical help is provided.
This Mother’s Day as you remember the women in your life who have made a profound impact on your life, I encourage you to prayerfully remember our workers who are investing themselves into the lives of women around the world.
Steve here… A big thank you to many within the Fellowship family who recently sent a gift to our latest FAIR (Fellowship Aid and International Relief) appeal, Rebuilding Innocence. This project focused on providing aftercare to children rescued from cybersex trafficking in the Philippines. Your generosity has overwhelmed our FAIR department and our partner organization, International Justice Mission, with whom FAIR collaborated for this project. As of today, we have received $35,746 generously sent by our churches and donors.
These gifts will fund a two-year pilot project that ensures rescued children will be placed in loving foster homes where they can recover and be children again.
Additional FAIR Updates
In February, FAIR Director, Dan Shurr, attended the 60th Anniversary Gathering of Operation Mobilization (OM) ministry leaders in Bangkok, Thailand. The FAIR department often partners with OM in response to emergency relief needs and Dan was able to personally meet with some of the leaders who were “on the ground” during three of these crises. I’ve asked him to share some of the encouraging stories he heard from his visit.
Hurricane Matthew Relief:
Henry Janowski is the enthusiastic Caribbean Field leader for OM. He has been instrumental in seeing recovery and rehabilitation take place in Haiti in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.
Henry expressed gratitude for FAIR’s part in providing funding for this emergency. Their main areas of focus in Haiti were:
- Rebuilding a school
- Rebuilding an orphanage
- Pastor training
Henry (pictured here) is holding in his hand something called a “messenger”. The size of a credit card; it holds 50 of Dr. Charles Stanley’s messages and the entire Bible in Creole.
Robert Van Sterk (Netherlands) talked about refugees moving through Europe. FAIR has partnered with OM to alleviate some of the suffering refugees are experiencing.
Robert stood on the shores of Lesbos Greece and helped refugees land safely. One of them was Mohammad. Here is his story...
Mohammad was given a Bible back in Syria when he was younger and he read it with interest. But his older brother discovered the Bible, destroyed it and tortured him by laying a fire-heated spoon on his arm. He still carries the scars. So he agreed to follow the teachings of Islam.
The Syrian Civil War was terrible and Mohammad tried to escape. He jumped into a small, overcrowded boat with other refugees headed for the Greek island of Lesbos. During their voyage, a terrible storm caused the boat to nearly capsize, and was swamped with waves, making Mohammad fearful for his life. He recalled reading the story from the Bible of Jesus and the disciples on the Sea of Galilee during a tremendous storm. So he prayed, “if you are the One who calmed that storm will you calm this storm and rescue us?” The storm subsided and they were able to make it to shore at Lesbos.
Mohammad was greeted by OM worker Robert Van Sterk. He shared the love of Christ with Mohammad and his fellow travelers by giving them food and water, a shelter kit, a hygiene kit and a Bible! Over time, Robert was able to lead Mohammad to faith in Christ. Mainly due to the compassion shown to him by Christians. And Jesus had answered his prayer!
Nepal Earthquake relief:
Ben Hepner is the field leader for Nepal and is based in Katmandu. He expressed tremendous gratitude for the funds FAIR raised following the devastating earthquake in Nepal. The focus of their rebuild is in the rural area of Lang Tang. There is frustration with the slow pace of government in providing permits for rebuilding. The initial funding was used to buy every family a mule which is necessary to bring building materials across the rugged terrain. Even though it’s about 100 kilometers from where Ben lives to Lang Tang it would take two days of hard travel to get there. His team consists of many teens and young adults who sacrifice much to live and work there. The government allowed them to work with locals to build demonstration homes to teach the local people the building process and which materials to use. The demonstration home would be gifted to a deserving family, decided on by local leaders.
Thank you for your commitment to reaching out with the love of Christ to those who are suffering. It is a privilege for the FAIR department to serve you in meeting relief and development needs around the world.
Steve here… I’ve just returned from a trip to Lebanon where two Fellowship International missionary families are serving. Let me share about this recent visit.
I traveled with a team from Canada hosted by Fellowship International missionary Bechara Karkafi. The team included Pastor Rick Buck (Emmanuel, Barrie, ON), Dr. Kent Anderson (Northwest Baptist Seminary, BC), Richard McGowan (Emmanuel International) and Fredhi Choueir.
We had the joy of visiting Karim and Rita Anayssi, Fellowship International missionaries in Beirut, Lebanon. The Anayssis, sent by Willowdale Baptist (Toronto, ON) in 2012, serve as Executive Director of Cedar Home, an orphanage for girls. Currently, they’re caring for the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of 26 girls between the ages of 4-14. Along with their two daughters, they live as a family with the Cedar Home girls and a small staff. The home is located in a four-storey building in a safe area in Beirut. Upon arrival in 2012 only 1.5 stories of the building were complete. However, with support through our FAIR ministry and other outside help, three-stories are now complete with only one remaining to be finished. Cedar Home is looking for partner churches to come alongside the ministry to complete this construction and send short-term ministry teams to minister with the girls.
Many of the girls are from Muslim backgrounds with a recent influx of Syrian refugee orphans. The home’s program includes spiritual training and weekly involvement in a local church. Karim reported some of their girls have come to Christ. What a wonderful opportunity for Fellowship churches to partner with Karim and Rita as they care for orphans by sending either construction or ministry teams.
Our group travelled within Beirut and through the North and Eastern regions of the country observing different ministries. Our visit to three ministries to Syrian refugees was a highlight.
In Beirut we visited the Clementia Learning Centre (CLC) operating out of the Adonis Baptist Church. They teach, feed and share Christ with Syrian refugee children whose families live in the area—in cramped apartments, tents and even under stairwells. I’m looking forward to FAIR’s Fall appeal which will support this ministry to Syrian refugee children.
To the North of Lebanon, in Adre, we visited Pastor Michel Sowan and the Word and Deed Christian Centre. This relief ministry is operated by six Baptist churches that care for the needs (food, dental, medical, vocational training and ESL) of hundreds of Syrian refugee families. Our team visited on-site with five refugee families: bringing care packages, sharing the Gospel and praying for them.
We traveled east, close to the Syrian border, to visit a relief ministry run by a Baptist church that cares for 650 Syrian children. One couple who serves in this ministry is currently in process to come to Canada to serve on staff with one of our Fellowship churches. We hope to see more Fellowship churches welcome church planting couples to plant Arab-speaking churches in cities and towns throughout Canada. For more information, contact Bechara Karkafi at email@example.com.
Our team hosted a conference attended by 50 denominational leaders, where we met new friends and discussed potential future partnerships. We visited Dr. Basem, a Member of Parliament in Lebanon who had great insight into the geo-political struggles of Lebanon and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
We visited a relief centre in Beirut where the Gospel was shared to Syrian and Iraqi refugees with 18 individuals coming forward to receive Christ! Two of our team members visited with two “secret cell” groups of Christians and Muslim-seekers where they shared the Gospel and prayed for the members. There are 18 of these cell groups which were formed in recent months and are rapidly multiplying under the leadership of two individuals. The spiritual hunger is clearly evident all around!
Please Pray for the Fellowship Ministry to the Arab World
Fellowship International desires to help our churches send missionaries and develop ministry partnerships within this spiritually needy region. Bechara is serving as our “ambassador” to this region, seeking to connect us in partnership with like-minded disciple-making movements. He hopes to take other interested pastors and Christian leaders on brief tours to help Fellowship churches and potential missionaries connect with countries in the MENA region.
Contact Bechara (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Fellowship International Director Dave Marttunen (email@example.com) if you desire more information.