Christmas Greetings from Pennsylvania:
As this year comes to a close, there is much for which we are thankful. God has continued to bless our family and has given us the joy and privilege of serving Him.
On the family side, my wife Kathy and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary in June. Actually we celebrated a few months earlier by going to Rome, Italy for a week. We were in Paris at the time and it made sense to fly Paris-Rome rather than to wait until we were back in the US. Our stay in Rome was extended by two days due to a strike at Paris airports which shut them down. If you know anything about France, strikes are a common occurrence, an inalienable right. We enjoyed visiting the Vatican Museum in Rome, a number of other museums, the Forum, Coliseum, etc. Our youngest son, Tim, walked at graduation at Clearwater Christian College in May with two courses remaining. He stayed in FL to finish those courses and is working full-time at a healthcare facility and for now wants to stay in warm Florida. Our oldest son Andrew and his wife Melissa are living and working in the Lansdale, PA area so we get to see them which is great. Kathy is doing some temp work and taking classes to brush up on office skills in order to work part-time and still have time for church-related ministry.
Now that we are back in the US there have been special times with family. As you get older you realize that you have many acquaintances but very few close friends with whom you can really spend time and enjoy being together. Of course I’d rather be with my wife and our two sons and daughter-in-law than anyone. However my dad, step-mom and some of my brothers, nieces and nephews are in the area and we have great times together. Along with two of my brothers I have a Harley and we ride together as much as possible. My son Andrew also has a motorcycle (not a Harley but that’s okay), one nephew has a motorcycle and another nephew is getting his license. We did a few two-day Friday and Saturday rides to the Grand Canyon of PA, the Finger Lakes region of NY, and Speculator, NY. In June my two brothers, a nephew and I rode to the Laconia Bike Rally in NH. Well, really we stopped there to see the thousands of bikes but mostly rode, up in the Skowhegan, ME area, on as many winding roads and through as many mountain passes we could find for about 2000 miles. Not only do we have great times together but we also have frequent opportunities to share the gospel with our biker Bible verse shirts.
The picture with two of my brothers (I have five) was taken in front of the house where we grew up in Philadelphia. A police cruiser came down the street and we assumed someone called the cops on us since we were a bit out of place in the neighborhood and our Harleys were parked on the street in front of our old house with someone peeking out the window. I had knocked on the door to assure them of our good intentions but no one answered. I wonder why? The officer pulled up, rolled, down his window and waved. We commented later that that never happened when we were kids. The police always stopped us and told us to “assume the position” (up against the wall with feet spread to be frisked). We also rode by the high school from where John and I had dropped out. Surprisingly our oldest brother Jim (the one with the big white beard) graduated and spent over twenty years in the Air Force. Now we are believers and seeking to live for the Lord. What a difference Christ makes in our lives!
On the ministry side, Kathy and I spent several months in France this year working with two churches and ministering in others occasionally. After doing the back and forth between France and the US for the last couple of years we have decided to return to the status quo where we live in the US and travel (mostly me) to teach in other countries and visit our missionary families. We loved being in France and at one point thought the Lord was leading us back there full-time. In the end, after prayer and counsel, we determined that although we would love to live and minister in France, that perhaps that was not the best investment of our lives. And frankly the two churches we were working with, although we think they would like us to be there, really no longer needed us. We worked with one church in Paris which had an interim pastor who invited us to work with him. The church has since called a full-time pastor so we thought it might be time to move on. Then we had the joy of seeing a new church planted in our town outside of Paris, a town of about 30,000 which had no evangelical witness. It came about as the Lord’s doing. When we went to France we had no intention of planting a new church since we were only in France 6 months a year. However, the Lord allowed us to be the catalyst and founding members of a new church which began as a Bible study with about 20 French people. Most of them were believers attending churches in Paris. They were burdened to have a church in their town and simply needed encouragement and some help with getting it started. The church now has regular Sunday services with about 30 adults plus children. For me personally it was a great eye-opener on how to partner with nationals to plant churches. While in France I had the opportunity to officiate at a bi-lingual wedding between with a young girl from our Bible study and her American fiancé. What a great opportunity to present the gospel to over 100 mostly unsaved French people. Kathy and I also visited Beirut, Lebanon in March. It was her first visit there and a wonderful time of fellowship with Lebanese believers. Then I went to Beirut again in November this time taking my brother John and teaching through the book of Hebrews together. While there we visited Tyre, Baalbek, and Byblos as well as the Jeita Grotto, one of the underground marvels of the world in my opinion.
We don’t know what the New Year holds. One area of great interest to me is church planting so I along with others have been spending some time in Philadelphia looking at areas for church planting and praying for the Lord to direct. I look forward to submitting more articles to SI and appreciate the ministry it has to challenge us in our thinking. The interaction has been great and I look forward to more.
Grace & Peace to the Nations,