If I’ve learned anything from this journey of becoming a Christian writer, it’s that sometimes God breaks your heart. It is in the breaking that He leads us to discover His desire for us. When we submit to Him, we allow God to use us for His purpose and not our own. It happened to me shortly after 3am this morning.
I had my “CHRISTmas blog” planned, and partially written for over a month. My plans were to do a final read through, minor editing, and it’s published in less than five minutes. My original post was full of whimsy and encouragement, building upon a well-known CHRISTmas classic, the animated movie “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer”. I swear I could faintly hear Burl Ives singing as I read the post.
Almost all of us remember the storyline. After battling a fierce storm, Yukon Cornelius, Hermey the misfit elf, and Rudolph found themselves on the Island of Misfit Toys. A sad little place where trains with square wheels, boats that couldn’t float, and horses that went “Oink” were discarded and forgotten. My post was focused on how the church Jesus Christ established was meant to be such a place. A place where those of us who are broken, sad, alone, and discarded by the world could go to find peace, joy, and a sense of belonging. Christ’s church is where His words of Luke 5:31-32 are supposed to be lived out.
Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who
are well have no need of a physician, but those
who are sick. I have not come to call the
righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
(Luke 5:31-32, NKJV)
I went on to remind folks that the church is not the building, but the people within it; and that we are all misfits in one way or another. It isn’t our fault, but we were each born with a sin nature and in many cases, we’ve only added to our troubles since then. Yet, if we Christian people will truly embrace the character of Christ, we can be that island of solace and peace to other misfits among us. Those who are discarded by society, alone, lost, afraid, and uncertain can find a welcome and inviting place to rest and be made whole. I reminded us that the church is not the building, but the people in it should remember who we are and who we represent.The church is not the building, but a band of misfit people who worship, learn, grow, and welcome others into it; together as one body of Christ. Click To Tweet
Then a string of powerful tornados hit the Midwestern United States (Kentucky most severely) and super typhoon Odette arrived in the Philippines over the weekend. What we in the US would call a Category 5 hurricane, Odette’s fury was released against the island of Mindanao (in Cebu province). These natural disasters, seemingly arriving more often and with more intensity, has left many of us reeling as we near the CHRISTmas holiday. Our hearts are broken, and minds overwhelmed by the grief and suffering of so many.
In the Philippines, the powerful storm appears to have hit Surigao City and its Sabang, Mabua, and Lipata neighborhoods directly. This was especially impactful to me because three churches, part of the Fruitful Harvest International Ministries group I support, were impacted. While the devastation there is widespread, my grieving heart can’t move from three dear friends and their families that mean so much.
- New Hope Baptist Church, Lipata, Surigao City, Philippines
- Led by Pastor Orland Ungang, a young man of God who struggles each day to care for and guide his flock; serving as a dedicated under-shepherd as he works tirelessly to evangelize his small part of the world.
- New Life Baptist Church, Mabua, Surigao City, Philippines
- Led by Pastor Adriano Balbarona and his wife Ms. Annetta, both devoted Bible teachers with a heart for serving children through feeding programs, etc.
- New Beginnings Fellowship Baptist Church, Sabang, Surigao City, Philippines
- Led by Pastor Russel Piang and his wife Ms. Jessica (currently with child). The Lighthouse campus houses an orphanage/school and a Bible school for young Christians to learn to become church leaders in their communities throughout the Philippines. Their Child Feeding Program ensures hundreds of children get a hot meal and hear the word of God.
While I’m praising God that none of these dear families suffered loss of life (as of this writing), I’m praying for God’s protection and provision for everyone impacted by this devastating disaster. May God comfort and lead each of these men of God as they work to rebuild the lives and communities around them and their facilities.
I messaged briefly with my young friend, Pastor Orland (someone I’ve been praying with for nearly three years now) on Tuesday morning. Once he returned and assessed the damage, I could feel the pain inside him. The destruction is so widespread it’s difficult to even determine where to start. He expressed how he was overwhelmed with so many needs, placing those of his family and the community over his own.
As I communicated with Pastor Orland, he told me of his desire to help his church members and community, but the need is so great he cannot get his mind around the situation. He shared with me how many members of his tiny church are sleeping among the ruins of their homes and in the streets. Pastor Orland added, “I don’t know what to do and how to start praying for the financial needs of so many sir. Please pray for us.” As he shared, God broke my heart just a bit more and tears flowed. In responding to him, I offered the following, which I share with you.
I am relieved to hear from you and know that you and all the members are still alive. I want to remind you that the building was not New Hope Church. The people are. And now more than ever, they will look to see how real Christ is in your life my friend. Will you stand in prayer and trust God for His provision and protection, or will you surrender to despair? Your people will be watching. Remember the building was but a central gathering place. Yes, the Holy Spirit would often come and meet with you and your church members in that building, but the Holy Spirit did not live there. He lives in the heart of every Christian. We are His home. So, I praise God with you that His worldly homes (His people) are all safe and well. Afraid, unsure, unsettled, and without buildings perhaps, but alive and host to the greatest power in the universe. Remember the name given the Christ child? Immanuel, God with us. Not God in the building, but God with us.
I humbly ask that each of you please remember this also and request your prayers for all those impacted (both here in the US and abroad) by these most recent natural disasters. As this world continues to march toward Christ’s impending return, we will see more devastation and loss of life. How we as Christians handle it does matter. The world is watching.When adversity happens, it becomes an opportunity for Christians. Click To Tweet
In speaking with my friends at Fruitful Harvest International Ministries here in Texas I’ve learned how they too are overwhelmed by all the damage and the immense need for help. In total, Fruitful Harvest has planted over 30 churches in the Philippines and has helped perhaps thousands of Filipino people find salvation through Christ Jesus. Along the way, they’ve improved life and living conditions in every area they’ve touched. I can’t tell you at this writing how many other churches and communities have been destroyed as communications is still almost non-existent. I’m told that right now, it’s even unclear if Fruitful Harvest can electronically transfer funds to help the island ministries.
What I am certain of is that a great need exists. A need for both financial and spiritual support as our brothers and sisters in Christ work to rebuild their lives and communities. I have never asked for money, and never will for my Christian writing ministry, but if you are moved to help, then you can send a tax-deductible donation (please designate for Typhoon Odette relief) to Fruitful Harvest International Ministries via PayPal or mail to:
Fruitful Harvest International Ministries
PO Box 1130
Sulphur Springs, TX 75483
As CHRISTmas arrives in just a few days, I leave you with a prayer that you find the peace, comfort, and joy only a true relationship with God can bring. It is available only through your acceptance of the greatest gift mankind will ever receive (John 3:16). Remember that we are all misfits in one way or another and no one is an island unto themselves. Instead, we are a united “family of faith”, the body of Christ.
God’s blessings and Merry CHRISTmas,
Please join me each Thursday evening at 9:30 Eastern as host Coach Mark Prasek and I take a trip Around the Cross-Dubya on PJNET TV. We discuss this week’s blog post, offer insight about the lessons learned, and enjoy the fellowship of friends in the live chat room.