Thursday, December 27, 2007

Missionary Spotlight ~ Ed & Stefanie Dunnington, Virginia

Ed has served as campus minister for Reformed University Fellowship at the University of Washington, in Seattle, for the past eight years. He attended Virginia Military Institute and was an Army Field Artillery officer for several years. In 1994, after sensing God’s call, he left Ft. Lewis, WA to attend Covenant Theological Seminary. Ed now serves as the organizing pastor for Christ the King Presbyterian Church in Roanoke, VA. He and his wife, Stephanie, have three children: Patrick, Hunter, and Lainey.

Prayer Requests:
(1) Pray for the new members.
(2) Pray for the new Sermon Series on the gospel of Mark.
(3) Pray for the Music Ministry Leaders.
(4) Pray for financial provisions for the ministry.
(5) Pray for Youth and College Bible Studies.


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Merry Christmas Indeed

“When I think of Christmas Eve, Christmas feasts, Christmas songs, and Christmas stories, I know that they do not represent a short and transient gladness. Instead, they speak of a joy unspeakable and full of glory. God loves the world and sent His Son. Whosoever believed in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life. That is Christmas joy. That is the Christmas spirit.”—Corrie ten Boom

“Infinite and an infant. Eternal, yet born of a woman. Almighty, and yet hanging on a woman’s breast. Supporting a universe, and yet needing to be carried in a mother’s arms. King of angels, and yet the reputed son of Joseph. Heir of all things, and yet the carpenter’s despised son. Oh, the wonder of Christmas.”—Charles Haddon Spurgeon

“Jesus, Lord, we look to thee,
On this day of thine own Nativity;
Show thyself the Prince of Peace;
Bid our jarring conflicts cease.
Let us for each other care,
Each the other burden bear,
To thy church the pattern give,
Show how true believes live.
Make us one of heart and mind,
Courteous, pitiful, and kind,
Lowly, meek in thought and word,
Altogether like our Lord.”—Charles Wesley

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas: A Special Time, Like All Others

“It ought to be the business of every day to prepare for Christ’s return.”—Matthew Henry

We live between the comings of Christ, after His incarnation but before His return. This unique, in-between period of redemptive history is what originally prompted the early church to adopt the language of “Advent” in their celebration of the incarnation. Far from being a season of busy party-going and merry-making, Advent was marked by solemn remembrance of Christ and patient preparation for Him. During the observance of Advent, Christians readied themselves for Christ’s return by spending much time in reflection on God’s faithfulness to His promises in the incarnation and by giving themselves to self-examination, fasting, prayer, confession, repentance, reconciliation and other such spiritual disciplines.

In this way, the discipline of Advent prompted Christians to look back and forward. It was a time to give thanks for what God had accomplished in Christ at the incarnation and a time to express hopefulness for what God will advent-ually do through Christ in His return.

So, in a very real sense, Christmas is a “special time” just like all other times. The truths we contemplate at Christmas are not exclusively reserved for the days running between Thanksgiving and Dec.25th, but are the truths every Christian is called to contemplate everyday of the year! Our whole life, if you will, is Advent—a remembrance of what God has done for us in Christ and a patient preparation for Christ’s return.

May the Christmas season at FPC be marked by such remembrance and preparation, and may the spirit of this season extend throughout the year, into all our days and moments together as a church.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Missionary Spotlight ~ Jim & Caty Tate, Ecuador

Jim has been involved in Mission to the World church plants and other mission work in Quito and Guayaquil, Ecuador since 1989. He works full time with Rose of Sharon Presbyterian Church, Guayaquil. He is also presently working with a national pastor in a church plant, Eternal Grace Presbyterian Church in the marginal area of Guayaquil. Caty is a native of Quito, and she received training in crisis pregnancy counseling in the US. She is director of Showers of Grace Crisis Pregnancy Center, the first in that country. They have two children Philip and Eliana.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Luci Shaw on the Incarnation

Four years ago at a used bookstore in Nashville, TN, I happened upon a gently worn copy of the Green Earth: Poems of Creation (Eerdmans, 2002) by Luci Shaw. Having never read her before, but being vaguely familiar with the book, I thumbed the pages with interest. Intrigued by the title of one of the poems I paused and read these lines:

When a tree is topped
for the power lines,
the emptiness afterwards is
inhabited by a green
throb of leaves

Like the vividness we feel about
someone just dead,
the gap,
shivers with presence.

I was hooked in no time flat! Shaw's capacity for noticing prophetic murmerings in the fallen world, even in the unsightly nubs left by the power line company, exceeded all my expectations. For me, cutting tree limbs to make space for power lines was a kind of "necessary evil," but for Shaw, it was a moment to contemplate the "shoot" that arises from the "stump of Jesse" (Isaiah 11). It is such spiritual attentiveness to the going-ons around her that has made Shaw one of the premier Christian poets of our age.

During the holiday season, I’ve revisited one of Shaw’s older works, Widening Light: Poems on the Incarnation (Harold Shaw, 1984) and received tremendous spiritual benefit from it. Here’s a snippet from “Mary’s Song,” a poem that captures some sense of the mystery we call the Incarnation.

Quiet he lies,
whose vigor hurled
a universe. He sleeps
whose eyelids have not closed before.
His breath (so slight it seems
no breath at all) once ruffled the dark deeps
to sprout a world…

Breath, mouth, ears, eyes
he is curtailed
who overflowed all skies,
all years.
Older than eternity, now he
is new. Now native to the earth as I am, nailed
to my poor planet, caught that I might be free,
blind in my womb to know my darkness ended,
brought to this birth
for me to be new-born,
and for him to see me mended
I must see him torn.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Missionary Spotlight ~ Ron & Peg Smith, Florida

Ron and Peg met at a Bible study in Washington, DC in 1981 when Ron moved there to work at a local radio station. They married in 1983 and lived in Arlington, Virginia until 1992.

Being unsuccessful at starting a family, Ron and Peg pursued an international adoption, culminating in a six-week trip to South America in 1990, where they adopted their son, Benjamin Ramón. Ten months later, Peg gave birth to Allison Maria!

The Lord opened their eyes and hearts to overseas missions on that adoption trip, so they left their careers in 1992 and moved to Jackson, MS to attend Reformed Theological Seminary.

Following seminary and Ron's ordination, the Smiths joined MTW's Guayaquil, Ecuador Church Planting Team, where they served from 1996 to 2005. Ron and Peg began English conversation clubs and classes, children's ministries, women's Bible studies and couples' ministries -- all with an evangelistic thrust. Peg taught Sunday school and trained others to teach, while Ron was involved in discipling and counseling, as well as planting and pastoring San Agustín Presbyterian Church.

In 2005 San Agustín and another church plant combined to form a congregation with an Ecuadorian pastor. With their ministry coming to an end, the Smiths returned to the U.S. to see where the Lord might lead them next.

They have been asked by Mission To the World to open new fields of mission opportunity in the English-speaking Caribbean. Their efforts include training pastors and church planters, along with mentoring, challenging and encouraging leaders as they develop strategies for communicating the Gospel and growing the church.

In the States, they hope to develop church partnerships, encourage churches to send their pastors to teach, and find some who will want to join ministry teams.

The Smiths have two children: Benjamin (12-7-89) and Allison (10-5-91).


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Missionary Spotlight ~ John & Kathy Lesondak, Slovakia

The Lesondaks are Mission to the World missionaries in Trnava, Slovakia. Their work began in 1997 when they arrived at Trnava University to oversee Covenant College’s studies abroad program. It was a real pioneering ministry. The mission work began with English classes, children’s clubs, Bible studies, and eventually, at their ministry center known as 'The Building', a church was born. Previously they served with MTW in Seychelles Islands, in Kenya, and in Prague, Czechoslovakia. John and Kathy have six children, with the youngest about to graduate from high school.

Prayer requests:
(1) Due to the devaluation of the dollar they need to raise over $2,000 more a month before they can return to the field.
(2) Pray that the plans to expand their work in Slovakia would go forward.
(3) Pray for personnel and funds to match the vision for the ministry.