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CUBA UPDATE

DSCF0022Called the “Cuban Thaw,” agreements between President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro has led to a “warming” of US/Cuba relations.  While this may seem good for the Cuban people, it’s only after years of persecution and restrictions on the church in Cuba. During the Revolution, many churches and their properties were seized and taken over by the government.  I spent three days visiting the  Methodist seminary in Havana last year. See my blog posts “Reflections from Cuba Part 1 and Part 2. That seminary, started in 1920, was seized during the Revolution, and finally given back to the church in 2004 in a dilapidated condition, and has been undergoing reconstruction to get it functioning again as an institute of higher Christian education.
EPC Pastor Tom Masterson (Hope EPC, San Antonio), who visits Cuba on a regular basis, is sensitive to the attack of the Cuban government on the church in Cuba, and knows the “warming” is for pure political posturing and ignores many past offenses. Tom doesn’t pull punches, “The normalizing of US relations with the Castro regime is a heinous insult to the millions of Christians who have been persecuted by these criminals over the past 6 decades.  We need to adopt a policy that will hold evil accountable, not ignore offenses and reward hatred.”
DSC02924Despite the persecution and oppression the church did manage to grow during these dark years of Communism.  Then as the Cuban government was forced to back off from its previous tactics because it no longer had the financial backing of the Soviet Union, the church began to explode with growth.   The Cuban constitution was changed in 1992 to prohibit any discrimination against Christians. With the lifting of some of the more harsh restrictions, we have seen some unparalleled growth in evangelical churches in Cuba. Tom Masterson wrote, “The growth of the Cuban church in recent decades is explosive!  The miracle is that evangelical churches actually doubled in size during the 30 years of active persecution.  They have more than doubled again since 1992.  It would be hard to find a place in the world where the church is growing faster than it is in Cuba.”
In their April, 2015 newsletter Overseas Council (OC), who has an active ministry in multiple seminaries in Cuba, cited three statements from an Operations World report: the church has multiplied at impressive rates since the 1990’s; Cuba’s challenging environment has refined the church; and church leadership remains an urgent need.
OC goes on to state, “as the government tried to stifle Christian growth by making it nearly impossible to build new churches, the resulting house church movement has proved even more fruitful.” OC also reports that many church leaders fled the country or were expelled following the Revolution and the church is in great need of rebuilding leadership.
Seminaries and seminary students are now playing a great part in church planting and church expansion in Cuba.  In many of the seminaries, students are becoming home church pastors even before they graduate. When they do graduate, they are shepherding churches, planting new churches and training protégé pastors.  OC reported that, “The Methodist denomination has experienced renewal. Its 125 congregations meet in church buildings built before the revolution, but since building permits for new churches are not obtainable, congregations start in homes, now numbering 300. Add in 800 smaller home meetings (less than 25 in size), and you’ll see how the Church has grown by 10% annually in 10 years.”DSCF0077
IMG_4349It’s not just the Methodists that are making strides. When I was in Cuba, I also visited the reformed campus of New Pines Evangelical Seminary in Placetas which has had similar success in its graduating students’ planting churches and growing the Cuban evangelical church. Founded in 1924 the school was also ravished during the Revolution by having school property seized. But since 1992, the school has regained some of the lost property. A new property purchased has given room for a farm to produce the school’s need for food, making it more self-sustaining. With over 800 graduates, the seminary has planted several other seminaries in Cuba.  I was able to spend a day and night at one of these seminaries in Matanzas and had the privilege of meeting some great people at their home on Sunday morning. Planted and run by K and E (names withheld for security), both graduates of New Pines, this couple has great plans. They have purchased a large section of land in the center of town where they have started to build a new and much larger home that will accommodate a number of guests.

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Posted by on July 16, 2015 in Travels, World Christianity

 

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NEPAL: QUAKE AID IS NEEDED

NEPAL: QUAKE AID IS NEEDED

I interrupt my Historical Church series to bring you an urgent story for TODAY’s GLOBAL CHURCH needs.

2015_Nepal_earthquake_ShakeMap_version_6As you must know, Nepal has suffered an earthquake that has killed thousands, injured many more and destroyed entire villages and communities, including Christian churches. According to the latest Wikipedia report, the 2015 Nepal earthquake occurred at 11:56 NST on April 25, with a magnitude of 7.8 or 8.1 and a maximum Mercalli Intensity (see graph to right) of IX which is violent. Its epicenter was the village of Barpak, Gorkha district, and its hypocenter was at a depth of approximately 9.3 mi. The quake was the most powerful disaster to strike Nepal since the 1934 Nepal-Bihar earthquake.

Continued aftershocks occurred throughout Nepal within 15-20 minute intervals, with one shock reaching a magnitude of 6.7 on April 26 at 12:54 NST. The country also has a continued risk of landslides.

LIVES HAVE BEEN LOST

In Nepal the earthquake killed more than 7,500 and injured more than twice as many, as of 1 May 2015. Nepal’s Prime Minister, Sushil Koirala, has said that the number could reach 10,000. The rural death toll may have been lower than it could have been as villagers were outdoors working when the quake hit.

The Himalayan Times reported that as many as 20,000 foreign nationals may have been visiting Nepal at the time of the earthquake, although reports of foreign deaths were relatively low. Hundreds of people are still considered missing and more than 450,000 are displaced.

A total of 78 deaths were reported in India – 58 in Bihar, 16 in Uttar Pradesh, 3 in West Bengal and 1 in Rajasthan.

Some casualties were also reported in the adjoining areas of China, and Bangladesh.

AVALANCHES ON MOUNT EVEREST

This earthquake caused many avalanches on Mount Everest. At least 19 climbers died, with others injured or missing, making it the deadliest day on the mountain in history. It triggered another huge avalanche in Langtang valley, where 250 were reported missing.

CITIES AND VILLAGES DESTROYED

Hundreds of thousands of houses were destroyed across many districts of the country, with entire villages flattened, especially those near the epicenter. The Tribhuvan International Airport serving Kathmandu was closed immediately after the quake, but was re-opened later in the day for relief operations and, later, for some commercial flights. It subsequently shut down operations sporadically due to aftershocks, and on May 3 was closed temporarily to the largest planes for fear of runway damage. Many workers were not at their posts, either from becoming earthquake casualties or because they were dealing with its after effects. Flights resumed from Pokhara, to the west of the epicenter, on April 27.

Reports from Christian websites reported that some church buildings fell onto the heads of congregations while they were praying, leaving at least 500 Christians dead. Several of the 400 churches in the Kathmandu valley were wiped out.

Hundreds of thousands of people were made homeless with entire villages flattened, across many districts of the country. Centuries-old buildings were destroyed in the Kathmandu Valley, including some at the Kathmandu Durbar Square, the Patan Durbar Square and the Bhaktapur Durbar Square.

ECONOMIC EFFECTS

Concern was expressed that harvests could be reduced or lost this season as people affected by the earthquake would have only a short time to plant crops before the onset of the Monsoon rains.

Nepal, with a total Gross Domestic Product of USD$19.921 billion (according to a 2012 estimate), is one of Asia’s poorest countries, and has little ability to fund a major reconstruction effort on its own. The U.S. Geological Survey initially estimated economic losses from the temblor at 9 percent to 50 percent of gross domestic product, with a best guess of 35 percent. “It’s too hard for now to tell the extent of the damage and the effect on Nepal’s GDP”, according to Hun Kim, an Asian Development Bank (ADB) official.

FROM OUR FRIENDS ON THE GROUND

Friends in Southeast Asia that, for security reasons, need to be unnamed, have sent a couple of recent reports about what they are hearing and seeing.

“Friends,

We don’t live far from Nepal. Our city is about 200 kilometers south of Kathmandu. You undoubtedly know about the recent destruction in Kathmandu due to the earthquakes that happened there this past weekend.

We’ve felt those tremors and aftershocks here. Many people in our city have been terrified and run outside when things start shaking. Quite a few people have even chosen to sleep in the huge central square of our city. Other than a couple of cracks in the outside of our mall (and a few little ones in our office), we aren’t aware of any damage in our city. In the northern part of our state, closer to the Nepal border, there have been quite a number of deaths and reports of some damage. But none of this compares to the pictures that we are seeing in our newspapers and on TV news of the damage in Kathmandu and other parts of Nepal.

Our organization has had folks working in Nepal for a number of years. In fact, just last week, two Nepali guys were here in our city to lead some training in using ethnic music styles as a way to communicate in oral cultures. Those guys, S and D, are reporting on great needs in their home areas in Nepal.”

And again on May 1, 2015, they wrote:

 “Dear Friends,

We’ll catch up on some of what has been going on here. This past weekend was interesting. We’re about 200 miles due south of Kathmandu. Of course, Kathmandu has been featured in global news lately. The earthquakes that have happened up there and destroyed much of that city, have been felt here…there was a big one and a number of aftershocks. The fact that the first big earthquake came when the weather was unusually stormy for this time of year…dark clouds, heavy winds, and some rain… that gave the whole day a rather apocalyptic feeling. The earthquake occurred when M and J were on their way home after dropping friends at the airport. Seeing everyone out on the street, some running, many looking up to the sky, made J check as well to see if Jesus was coming with a shout…. We can’t imagine what it has been like 200 miles north of here, except for what we see on the news, but knowing how frightened people have been here the last few days and how unsettled we’ve felt, gives us some insights. Fortunately, our state was spared major destruction. There have been dozens of deaths in our state but, of course, the real story has been in Nepal.”

We also have friends in South Asia, J and M. On 5/1/16 they wrote of their experience:

“As many of you must have heard, there was a terrifying earthquake in Nepal. We are less than 200 miles from Kathmandu and felt it strongly on Saturday. I was sitting in our 3rd floor apartment building when I felt the couch jiggling. After a couple of seconds I realized our entire building was swaying. I ran out into the hallway barefooted and fled down the stairs with other neighbors. Others were running up the stairs screaming for their children with terror on their faces. I was picturing our concrete building crumbling down, but it wasn’t bad enough for that to happen. About one minute after gathering outside, a lightning thunderstorm with dark clouds passed over and soaked us. It felt like, ‘wow, our lives seem completely out of our control’. I experienced dizziness and being off-balance the rest of the day. Superstition was strong among our neighbors and our landlord: they believed the moon had turned upside down and had moved from one part of the sky to another.

Several buildings were damaged in our city but nothing too terrible. Our office has several large cracks. There were a few dozen reported deaths in our state to the north of us, but obviously Nepal is where the real horror is. We have several connections there through ministry partners: Many people will be suffering for a long time from this. We pray for the light of the glory of God to shine through the wounds.”

AID THROUGH THE EPC AND FRIENDS

In the wake of the devastating earthquake, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church is recommending World Relief and One Challenge (OC International Ministries) as relief agencies to which donations can be sent. OC International has been a co-op agency with the EPC for many years and has a significant presence in Nepal. Jeff Jeremiah, Stated Clerk expressed:

“It is hard to comprehend the level of destruction and need. Ministries in Nepal—like One Challenge—that desperately want to minister to their neighbors are themselves suffering from the destruction and lack of basic resources.”

GIVING BY WEB

Churches and individuals can donate via websites to relief efforts in any of three ways:

Donate directly to World Relief

Give directly to One Challenge

Give to World Relief via the EPC

GIVING BY MAIL

You can also help by sending a check payable to Evangelical Presbyterian Church and designated World Relief; send to:

Evangelical Presbyterian Church   •   17197 N. Laurel Park Dr., Suite 567   •   Livonia, MI 48152

WON’T YOU PLEASE HELP?

There are thousands (including fellow Christians) in need and we can’t leave it to the secular world or governments to do our calling as Christians. You certainly don’t have to be a part of the EPC to help through these channels!

And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful. Titus 3:14

We need to show Jesus to the people of Nepal and to the world.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:36

Blessings, Dan

Photo: “2015 Nepal depremi (3)” by Hilmi Hacaloğlu – http://www.amerikaninsesi.com/media/photogallery/2739517.html. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2015_Nepal_depremi_(3).jpg#/media/File:2015_Nepal_depremi_(3).jpg

@WorldRelief   @OneChallengeInt @EPChurch #NepalEarthquake #NepalQuake

 

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SILER PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH NEAR CHARLOTTE, NC

SILER PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH NEAR CHARLOTTE, NC

Continuing my trail of Evangelical Presbyterian Churches introduced in Discoveries of the Past on March 11, I come to a church just outside of Charlotte, NC. This stop along the way during that “EPC church tour” was Siler Presbyterian Church (EPC) in Wesley Chapel, NC. My wife and I had a nice Italian dinner with Pastor Bruce Powell and his wife, Carrie, on Saturday night, and then worshipped with the congregation on Sunday morning. Bruce has been serving SPC for almost 23 years as their shepherd and pastor. It was obvious during our visit that he is well-loved by the congregation. It was indeed a pleasure to worship in this historic church which has an active membership of around 450 members. On Sunday morning, Bruce gave me a few minutes to bring greetings to the congregation and give a brief explanation about our new ministry. I received a lot of encouragement from members after the service. Pastor Bruce shared a message from Genesis 50:15-26 entitled “God Meant Good.” This sermon was the first of a series of characters in the Bible, first pointing to Moses. Bruce preached with conviction, not shying away from naming sin as sin, but also giving God the praise to be able to use evil for good in His Kingdom work. He is a real gift, not only to his church but also to the EPC. Before worship service we attended a Sunday school class and after worship we were invited to a church lunch to celebrate the new members of the church. Altogether, we had a wonderful visit with Bruce, Carrie and all of the SPC congregation.CAM00271

The church is committed to reaching the local community as they send and support many community activities. Achievement of this is measured by their ability to 1) reach the community, 2) provide hands-on experience to the members of the congregation including families and youth, and 3) provide board members to local organizations when appropriate. The church is involved in a range of activities from food and clothing collections, the Angel Tree Ministry, blood drives, Habitat for Humanity, Scouts …the list goes on!

I was also happy to learn that the Siler congregation is active in world missions, supporting several families who serve the Lord internationally, with both prayer and monetary support. Among the missionaries they support is one of our EPC World Outreach missionary teams that is serving in Central Asia. They also regularly send church mission teams to Guatemala and the Philippines.

A LONG HISTORY

Siler EPC was organized in Sandy Ridge Township, Union County, North Carolina, on October 29, 1895. Rev. J. W. Siler, Pastor of Providence Church, had been holding regular preaching services under an improvised arbor for two years prior to the organization.

By the request of Rev. Siler and several families in the community, the Presbytery gave permission for the organization of a church and appointed Rev. Siler, Rev. H. M. Dixon and Rev. M. C. Arrowood as organizing ministers. The church began with twenty-nine members. Land for the church building and grounds was donated by M. E. Plyler and his wife. A building was started near the present cemetery. Rev. Siler remained pastor until 1897.

Siler BellIn 1915 the church enjoyed a period of growth and began to outgrow the building. The decision was made to move the building a quarter of a mile down the road and erect a new building. Horse power was used to move the building on logs placed one after another in front of the building. This task took longer than expected and was not completed by the next Sunday. That did not deter the congregation. They simply worshiped in their sanctuary where it sat along the road. The land was donated by J. N. Price and the Belk family donated the bricks for the new building which was completed and dedicated in 1919. Within the year, the front wall of the church cracked. It was decided to remove the bell from the tower as it was determined to be unsafe. The bell was moved out into the yard, and only rung for important occasions.

CONTINUED CHURCH GROWTH

In 1964, the first educational building was added, named in honor of Dr. Q. N. Huneycutt who served as pastor from 1932-1938 and 1951-1964 when he retired. This building houses the current nursery. A Fellowship Hall was completed in 1974 which is the current church office. The manse was also completed in 1974 and a call was extended to Rev. Vernon H. Dodd who became the first full-time minister and served until 1990.

The current two-story educational building was completed in 1988 which was named in honor of Rev. Dodd. In 1992 a call was extended to Rev. Bruce M. Powell who serves as the pastor today. A new Fellowship Hall, with kitchen and large classrooms, was completed in 2002. (History from the Siler website.)

STANDING FOR THE TRUTH IN TODAY’S TIME

CAM00270On September 30, 2012, Siler Presbyterian voted to dismiss from the PCUSA denomination with a 99% vote and join the Evangelical Presbyterian Church denomination with a 98% vote. Decisions for these types of changes are never easy but the session of Siler Presbyterian was more interested in aligning their church with the truth of the Gospel then staying in a long traditional comfort zone. In a 11/8/11 letter to their congregation, the session wrote, “With a great sense of sadness, the Session has concluded that our denomination, the PCUSA, has departed from Scripture, from our Reformed (Presbyterian) heritage, from the holy will of God, and from us at Siler, a congregation of Christians seeking to be faithful to our Lord.” They went on to express, “We believe the PCUSA’s departure is not just an innocent edging away from our Lord’s revealed will in Scripture on minor issues, but they have willfully and knowingly broken with Truth on substantial issues of faith and life.”

Of course, the EPC is excited and blessed to have Siler Presbyterian as part of the family of churches of the EPC. If you are in south Charlotte on any given Sunday, it is well worth the 15 minute drive to visit with the fine folks at Siler EPC. The church is located at 6301 Weddington-Monroe Rd, Wesley Chapel, NC. As mentioned, my wife and I immensely enjoyed our visit to Siler and look forward to a future visit when next in the area.

 

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2015 in Historical Places, Travels

 

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DISCOVERIES OF THE PAST

DISCOVERIES OF THE PAST

During the month of January, my wife and I traveled through the Southeast U.S. to visit some of the Evangelical Presbyterian Churches to share our World Outreach ministry needs and objectives. In three weeks we drove 3200 miles through 7 states and had meetings in over a dozen cities. Generally when we travel we especially love to take time to visit historical sites, historical districts in old cities and history museums along our route. Sometimes we will even go out-of-our-way to seek historical and informative sites to visit. This trip was no exception.

I LOVE TO VISIT HISTORY

Tonto Ruins 1

Tonto National Monument – Arizona

Over the years our travels have taken us to a variety of places marking Native American dwellings, early settlers to America, Revolutionary War sites, Civil War sites and a number of museums and sites commemorating past events. We’ve been known to stop at every historical marker in Natchez Trace 2route turning a two hour drive into three or four hours! One of our favorite drives is along the Natchez Trace, a 444-mile drive from Nashville, TN to Natchez, MS through exceptional scenery and 10,000 years of North American history. Travels west have taken us to ancient Indian dwellings in Arizona and New Mexico, legendary places like Tombstone (yes, there really is a boot hill cemetery) and abandoned ghost towns in California, Arizona and New Mexico. In Eastern ventures we have loved walking the streets of older cities like Williamsburg, Savannah or Charleston and reading the markers on the notable homes and buildings. We have toured Revolutionary War locations like Kings Mountain, Cowpens and Yorktown. We have visited Civil War sites such as Shiloh, Vicksburg, Kennesaw Mountain, and Appomattox. Even in many small towns across America, we have often parked in the town square and simply walked around the square to read the various signs and markers and discover the unique history of the community. One such small town was Covington, TN where they do indeed still have a statue of the Ten Commandments in front of the courthouse!

JANUARY TRIPBoot Hill Sign

During our January trip, we managed to visit a couple of new places for us:

A visit with Myrtle Grove Presbyterian Church (EPC) took us to Wilmington, NC.

“As pleasant and delectable to behold, as is possible to imagine…” is how Giovanni da Verrazano described the Cape Fear region to the French King Francis I after he reportedly became the first European to explore the region back in 1524.

The port city of Wilmington, NC, located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Cape Fear River, was settled in the 1720s. Wilmington’s commercial importance as a major port afforded it a critical role in opposition to the British in the years leading up to the Revolution. Additionally, the city was home to outspoken political leaders who influenced and led the resistance movement in North Carolina. The foremost of these was Wilmington resident Cornelius Harnett, who served in the General Assembly at the time, where he rallied opposition to the Sugar Act in 1764. When the British Parliament passed the Stamp Act the following year, designed to raise revenue for the King with another tax, Wilmington was the center of a series of demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience against it, ultimately resulting in the repeal of the Stamp Act by Parliament in 1766.

During the Civil War, Wilmington was one of the most important points of entry for supplies for the entire Confederate States. Its port traded cotton and tobacco in exchange for foreign goods, such as munitions, clothing and foodstuffs. These cargoes were transferred to railroad cars and sent from the city throughout the Confederacy. This nourished both the southern states in general and specifically General Robert E. Lee’s forces in Virginia. The trade was dependent on the British smugglers and their blockade runner ships, called so because they had to avoid the Union’s imposed maritime barricade. After three small engagements (see Fort Anderson below) along the Cape Fear River, Wilmington was captured by Union forces in the Battle of Wilmington in February 1865, cutting off a valuable resource for Confederate supplies.

WilmingtonWilmington is also the permanent home of the WWII battleship USS North Carolina. We could see her birthed across the river from our motel room. Just outside the motel back door, we could access the one-mile long Riverwalk that runs along the river with lots of historical markers, eateries and the Coast Guard port for the USCGC cutter Diligence. One block off the river was the historic downtown area where we saw a number of old homes, enjoyed a couple of adult beverages and ate dinner.

Before leaving the Wilmington area we stopped for a short visit at the old Brunswick Town Historical District.

St Phillips Church Ruins

St. Philip’s Church: Construction began in 1754, but was not completed until 1768. It took only one day to be destroyed by the British army.

The Brunswick Town Historic District contains the ruins of 18th-century commercial and residential colonial homes, the St. Philip’s Church Ruins, Fort Anderson, and Russellborough, the former governor’s mansion. Brunswick Town, settled in 1726, was a major pre-Revolutionary port razed by British troops in 1776 and never rebuilt.

During the Civil War, Fort Anderson was constructed atop the old town site, and served as part of the Cape Fear River defenses below Wilmington. An anonymous artilleryman of Company E, 36th North Carolina Regiment gave the following report for The Wilmington Journal on May28, 1863:

“We have at length, by the sweat of our brows, and the power of our Fort Andersonbone and muscle, completed one of the most formidable batteries in the Southern Confederacy. Guided and sustained by the energy and perseverance of Major [John J.] Hedrick, commanding (who is a good commander and a gentleman to boot), we have put up a work which will compare favorably with any work of its kind in the county, and now only want certain additions to our armament to feel confident of being able to defy all Yankeedom to reach Wilmington by this route. We have, up to this time, done our full duty in building fortifications for the defense of Wilmington, as well as for the protection of our homes and firesides, our wives and children, and of most of all near and dear to us. If the enemy should ever approach us here, we intend to give him a warm reception. With the help of God, we intend to stand by our guns until the last man falls, or gain the victory.”

Well, after all that confidence, in February 1865, Union forces positioned to attack Fort Anderson. Federals attacked from the land and river. After three days of fighting, the Confederates evacuated the fort in the cover of night. The union forces attacked the next day to find the fort abandoned. So much for all the “until the last man falls” bragging!

During our January trip we also had the chance to revisit Savannah, GA, Charleston, SC, Corinth, MS and Vicksburg, MS. It’s always a treat to visit these historic cities where we seem to always discover something interesting every time we are there.

A HISTORICAL CHURCH TOUR WAS UNEXPECTED

What we did not anticipate on this trip was the number of churches that we visited that turned out to be historical testimonials as well as the home of our EPC congregations. While many of the churches we visited have colorful histories, I particularly want to share the stories of five of the churches.Rockville 08

Now I am NOT a historian in any fashion but I do like to share stories. Over the next weeks or so, I will add to Reflections several individual stories of EPC churches in or near Charleston, SC; Charlotte, NC; Huntsville, AL; Corinth, MS; and Vicksburg, MS. I found the accounts of these churches fascinating for not only the historical content but also for the resolve and devotion of the churches. Most of the church history is from the church websites sprinkled with some area history that I have researched and blended into the telling. I will also include photos that I have taken as well as some historical images. I hope you will come back to Reflections and read along and learn not just about the church’s history but also a little about the area where they reside. some of the stories will be on the longer side. In fact, one of them will be in two parts. They will be laced with links to interesting sites and stories that I hope you will want to follow to get deeper into the stories. If you are part of the EPC I think you will enjoy learning about other churches in our denomination. If you are not a part of the EPC, I hope you will enjoy simply learning about history and the life and times of people of the past.

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2015 in Historical Places, Travels

 

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THIS MISSION TRIP COULD HAVE BEEN HIS LAST

THIS MISSION TRIP COULD HAVE BEEN HIS LAST

“During this time of intense prayer I did not ask that Carroll’s life or my life be spared, but that I would have the strength and courage to be faithful to the end, whatever that might be.” These words reflect a desperate prayer from Shirley as her husband, Carroll, was being attacked by a group of robbers when they broke into their temporary home, wielding machetes.

My friend Carroll stands just over 5 feet tall. He is in his 80’s now. He is a very gentle man of God. Talking to him one is immediately put at ease as he shares about his mission in life since retirement. No one would suspect the near death experience he endured that would have turned many people away from the call of taking the Word to remote parts of the globe. He had retired as a professor at the University of Tennessee to become associated with Worldwide Discipleship Association as a missionary. Even in his seventies, Carroll felt the desire and calling of God to reach out to unknown places and give hope and rest to unknown people. In recent years he and his wife have taken a number of short-term mission trips, some with their church, Cedar Springs EPC in Knoxville, to places such as Tanzania, Malawi, Kenya, Romania, Tuva (Russia), Myanmar and Peru. One of those trips to Tanzania in 2006 was nearly the last trip Carroll would take. Not because of getting older, but because of a vicious attack.

THEIR STORY

Carroll and Shirley had arrived in Tanzania safely and had met with some mission friends already on the ground. They had had meetings during the day and were resting comfortably at the mission compound, serving as their temporary home, that evening after dinner. The compound is surrounded by high walls and considered a safe-haven from such attacks. After dinner Shirley retreated to the bathroom area, where the lighting was the best, to read her book. Carroll went to the bedroom to rest. Suddenly, Shirley was shockingly distracted from her book when she heard a rough voice demand, “Give me your money!” She heard Carroll yell her name in a panicked voice as the assault on him began. Rather than rushing to his aid, which probably would have resulted in her being attacked as well, she turned to the Lord in frantic prayer. As she hid herself in a bathroom stall, she cried out to Jesus with prayers, “Jesus…Jesus…Jesus” and “Please help Carroll” and for herself, “Make me faithful to the end.” She thought for sure that after the attackers were finished with Carroll, she would be next.

As three men had broken into the dormitory, a table had turned over blocking direct attack from two of the men. The third man began beating Carroll on his head and shoulders with the side of a machete, demanding money. One swipe of the machete came full force with the blade. Carroll’s arm was sliced open on the underside from wrist to elbow. After his arm was cut, the attacker told Carroll to kneel. Holding his arm to staunch to flow of blood, Carroll looked in to the eyes of his attacker and proclaimed, “Jesus” with a command, “In the name of Jesus, I command you to leave.” One of the attackers cried, “Let’s get out of here.” Carroll felt the presence of the Holy Spirit fill the room and caused the three men to become frightened and flee. If Carroll had gone to his knees at the robbers demand, he probably would have suffered much worse. As it was he was bleeding profusely from his arm wound and was close to death from loss of blood. Meanwhile, Shirley had continued to pray and proclaiming Jesus as the victor and protector of their lives in time of trouble.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me.
Psalm 138:7

The thieves had left with no money and only a small tape recorder with, ironically, a worship tape inside.

Carroll was guided to their friend’s house in the compound by what he felt was “an angle on each side of him.” Upon hearing of the attack, several staff members went to the dormitory and rescued Shirley. A tourniquet was applied to Carroll’s arm but much too loosely so he had to continually hold his arm tightly to try to slow the bleeding. They stopped at the police station on the way to the hospital to report the attack. Seeing that the bleeding was not slowing, Shirley hurried the group on to the hospital. She saw that Carroll was getting weaker and closer to death and they filled out paperwork. As it turned out, a police accident report had to be presented to the hospital for treatment. She prayed words of life over Carroll all the way to the hospital.

When they arrived at the hospital, Shirley ran from the vehicle into the hospital and called for a doctor as loud as she could yell. He came immediately and followed her to the car where Carroll was still bleeding liberally and near to passing out completely. Carroll had blood all over him and the car and no one knew just how badly he was beaten or the extent of his injuries. The doctor did not begin treatment immediately but kept watching him. The nurse could not get an IV into Carroll’s vein and it took the doctor to get it inserted. He estimated that Carroll had lost about forty percent of his blood. His blood pressure was zero over zero, and it remained that way for several hours. The doctor stitched his arm but failed to repair the cut artery. During two days at the hospital, Christian friends brought meals to Carroll and Shirley since the hospital did not provide them. The hospital did what they could with limited supplies and resources. After leaving the hospital they arranged to immediately fly home arriving in Knoxville the next day. They immediately went to the University of Tennessee Hospital emergency room. They checked-out Carroll and seemed to think all was well and sent him home. A week later, he was back at the hospital with severe pain. They were going to send him home again except their daughter, a registered nurse, suspected something else was wrong and insisted they do some more tests. When a vascular surgeon saw the test results, he sent Carroll to surgery immediately. After cutting open his arm open from wrist to elbow and repairing the slashed artery, he stated that Carroll had compartment syndrome and came within two hours of losing his hand. Blood had been pooling in his arm with no place to go.

Carroll stayed in the hospital for eight more days with two more surgeries. Today, Carroll still has a little pain in his arm. When I talked with him he was upbeat, humorous and more than willing to share his story as well as show me the 12” scar that goes from wrist to elbow. Shirley concluded her testimony, “We are thankful that we are both alive and can continue to serve our Savior in Tanzania and other parts of the world as we follow the Lord’s leading for our lives.”

IF WE CAN JUST BE LIKE THEM

I reflect on this story not to cause alarm or fear from the tragedy of the events, but for the joy of the ongoing story. What an inspiration to meet a couple that have gone through so much yet joyfully risk it again to continue with their calling around the globe! I admire those that have taken up their cross in dangerous places and face persecution and possibly death every day. It’s not work one takes lightly or without reason. As written in my last blog, A New Mission Has Begun, my wife and I recently took vows while being commissioned as missionaries for World Outreach of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC). The last vow to which we said “I do,” was one of being willing to suffer and possibly die for the sake of the mission. While we are not going off to live in a remote part of the world, part of our ministry is to visit those places where EPC World Outreach missionaries are living and working. Some of those places are dangerous. I pray that we never have to face any physical peril in the mission field. But I also pray if we do have to face the danger we can meet the challenges with the faith, strength and tenacity that our friends Carroll and Shirley displayed in their time of trial as well as the many that have gone before us facing persecution and enduring all the inflictions for the cause of Christ. As Shirley proclaimed, I hope to “have the strength and courage to be faithful to the end, whatever that might be.”

“Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him…” 
2 Timothy 2:10-11

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2014 in Mission

 

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A NEW MISSION HAS BEGUN

As mentioned in my previous post, Changes Are in the Wind, changes have indeed taken place in my life. My wife and I were officially commissioned as World Outreach missionaries on June 19, 2014 and I have started a part-time business. The commissioning occurred during the Thursday evening worship service of the General Assembly of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC). That was a very busy week for us as we attended various gatherings for World Outreach and I also served as an assembly commissioner representing my church, Christ EPC in Houston.
Prior to and after the assembly we visited a number of churches to begin our campaign to raise funding for the work. We made several good stops in Jackson, MS, Chattanooga, TN, Corinth, MS, and Memphis, TN that have resulted in some support commitments and some maybe. We drove about 2300 miles during the two-week trip. Along the way we also played a little by hiking at Cloudland Canyon, a beautiful state park in north Georgia.

A MINISTRY FOR ALL

As the incredible World Outreach missionaries around the globe, and other servants that I meet, hear about and read about, spread the Word among the unreached, the Christian community needs to hear of the importance of the work, the stories of struggles and salvation, and the impact that they are making in His kingdom. It is our ministry to be an avenue that will connect the work of the missionaries to the ears and hearts of not only the EPC but to all believers that know the importance of the great commission. We will also be helping and relating the stories of the International Theological Education Network (ITEN) in efforts to develop and encourage indigenous leadership through partnerships with global seminaries. While I know that many of my readers are not of the EPC denomination, I do believe that the stories I will collect and relate will be of great interest to all, especially if you have a heart for international missions.
Our ministry amenities will include e-blast missionary stories, prayer e-blasts, speaking engagements, mission meeting presentations, mission gatherings, social media, this blog, a radio blog-talk program and whatever else needed to help connect interested people to missionaries in the field. And you don’t have to be a member of the EPC to be a part of the ministry. If you want to receive the material or participate in any of the gatherings, just let me know, you’re more than welcome! I will also serve on what is called the Mobilization Team; a team of individuals that are dedicated to serving our missionaries with consultation, care and encouragement, and help guide the efforts of World Outreach.

YOUR HELP IS NEEDED

But before we can begin this new work funding needs to be raised. As Jerry Reed sang in Smoky and the Bandit, “We have a long way to go and a short time to get there.” If you are so inclined to support us in our new venture, your help is needed and very much appreciated. We hope to begin our ministry work by September, 2014 but we cannot start until all of the funding is in place in actual cash and/or pledges. We are praying for a few larger donors in the $5000 – $10,000 range with the balance of the needs made by $85 to $100 monthly pledges from churches and individuals. Of course, any amount either one-time or monthly is greatly appreciated and helpful to the overall effort. Our “account” with World Outreach will receive all funds and distribute to us as needed for ministry expenses and eventually a regular paycheck with taxes, Social Security, insurance, etc. deducted.
Gifting can be done by check or online and are fully tax-deductible. Gifts by check can be made to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) and designated for Dan & Helen Tidwell, fund #327, and mailed to the EPC office at 17197 N. Laurel Park Dr., Suite 567, Lavonia, MI 48152. Online giving is easy to do and available at www.epc.org. 1) Click GIVING. 2) Click on MISSIONARY SUPPORT. 3) Click on the DONATE TODAY button. 4) Click on the drop-down menu and choose MISSIONARY BY NAME. Second drop-down field will appear. 5) Click on the second drop-down field and find TIDWELL, Dan and Helen (327). 6) Fill-in amount of gift to right of drop-down menus and click ADD. 7) Fill-in your personal information. 8) Check if this is one-time or recurring gift and date to start. 9) Indicate method of payment, fill-in appropriate account information and authorize payment. When payment is processed you will see a transaction ID# and receive a receipt via email.

Rev. Dr. Greg Livingstone, World Outreach Senior Associate and Founder of Frontiers was kind to write about our work…

“The EPC family of churches is growing exponentially! So is our mission agency, World Outreach…both in sending teachers to strategic theological colleges in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America, and in our number of teams pioneering church planting among UNengaged Muslims from Siberia to Syria to Sumatra!
That translates into more staff needed to see that every one of those Bible colleges and church planting teams has sufficient missionaries and support. …and that demands a huge amount of communication! Thus the Lord raised up, in answer to our cries, wonderfully experienced and gifted, Dan Tidwell.  Please take three minutes to absorb the challenge we’ve given him.”

Regardless of financial support, we do ask for your prayers as we endeavor to follow this calling. Please pray that we can trust and live in the words of 2 Corinthians 9:8.

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

A NEW BUSINESSTentmaker Business card

Until we are fully funded, I need to create income in some fashion. So I am falling back on my talents and experience by resurrecting a part-time graphic design business. The business, Tentmaker Graphic Design, will hopefully supply for our needs until ministry funding is raised and we begin collecting a salary again. Afterwards, it will help meet ministry needs that are unfunded. The business name, Tentmaker, is a reference from the Bible in Acts 18:1-3 about Paul’s desire to work as a tentmaker, along with Aquila and Priscilla, to support himself, as he could, while he proclaimed the Gospel. Likewise in 1 Thessalonians 2:9 and 2 Thessalonians 3:9 & 12, Paul wrote that his labor and toil were because he desired not be a burden to anyone and he encouraged people to work quietly and earn their own living.

So if you or your church/business has a need for some graphic design, or you know someone who does, please keep me in mind. Your needs will be met with expertise at a reasonable price and you will be supporting our ministry at the same time.
But enough about me.  My next post, which I have already finished, will bring me back to my purpose of this blog.  It is a moving story from a friend that shared it with me during the General Assembly. Be looking for it very soon.

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2014 in Mission

 

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Changes Are In The Wind!

As much as I have loved serving the ministry of Overseas Council (OC) for the past six years, I have loved my church denomination, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) even longer.  So while I am sad to soon be leaving the daily workings of OC, I am thrilled to be called to God’s work with World Outreach of the EPC.

On April 15, Dr. David Baer, president of OC, made this announcement, in part…

“Dan Tidwell, our Southern US Regional Director with OC’s Advancement Team, and his wife Helen, have accepted a call from the Evangelical Presbyterian Church as World Outreach missionaries.   Dan will continue to work in his current role with OC through May, 2014. I want to thank Dan and Helen for all they have done for OC since April, 2008, and I’m sure my voice is just one of many in the OC family that does so. We wish the Tidwells all the best in their new endeavor.  It will be exciting to serve as observers and cheerleaders of the things that will be accomplished for Christ’s Kingdom through Dan’s and Helen’s faithful service with World Outreach.”

I thank David for his kind words and depart OC and my many friends there, with love, to venture into a new ministry.

ON TO NEW BEGINNINGS

I am happy to report that I and my wife are now “on the rolls” of World Outreach as missionaries, working stateside! We will be officially installed at the EPC General Assembly in June in Knoxville.

I will have a split role with half of my time serving as the Communication Coordinator for WO and the other half of my time as an Associate with the International Theological Education Network (ITEN).

  • World Outreach Communications Coordinator: I will be responsible for communicating and marketing the programs and mission efforts of World Outreach (WO) to the individuals, pastors and congregations of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC). The WO communications will be in the form of written communication, social media communication, multi-media presentations, website, public presentation and personal contact. The position will serve the EPC and WO in various capacities including church liaison, marketing, publications coordinator and WO ministry spokesman.
  • International Theological Education Network Associate: I will be speaking about ITEN to individuals, churches, and presbytery mission leaders , developing materials that promote ITEN, developing website information for ITEN, contacting foundations, churches, and individuals for development of financial support for the ITEN ministry. ITEN is a ministry track of EPC’s World Outreach focused on theological education and leadership training for nationals. Simply put, the purpose of ITEN is: ‘…to develop teachers among unreached peoples who will develop teachers among other unreached peoples.’ ITEN works in tandem with our track for church planting among unreached peoples, particularly Muslims.

I am excited about this opportunity and I have received some great endorsements and encouragement from those already serving World Outreach. Don Elliot, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Corinth, MS, and World Outreach Committee member said,

“Dan Tidwell is going to give World Outreach in the EPC something it has not had before: the opportunity to tell the stories of our missionaries to every person in the pew. God is moving in World Outreach and Dan will help us see His work more clearly.”

George Carey, World Outreach Director, had these kind words to say, in part,

“I could not be more thrilled to endorse Dan as our new Communications Coordinator. I have known Dan for several years since being in my current position and have seen his consistent enthusiasm for communicating the truth that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. He and Helen were unanimously, with great joy, approved by the EPC World Outreach Committee to become missionaries to help tell this awesome story that World Outreach has been entrusted with to spread around the world.”

BUT THE STORY CONTINUES

While the plans are made, I cannot officially embark on this venture until my ministry self-funding iWO Photo Cards complete.  So, I hope to be able to launch this ministry fully by September.  (If you’re moved to help in this endeavor your kindness would be most appreciated!)  It is with great joy that Helen and I embark on this ministry journey and we hope you will join us with prayer and blog reading as we follow God’s call in His kingdom work.  I will continue my blog but now with a new perspective as I travel both nationally and internationally for World Outreach. I will continue to tell the story of the global church with more opportunities to reflect on the people I meet, places I see and things that I hear.

EPC note: If you are a member of an EPC church, please pass this blog to others in
your church. I would love to visit your church and tell you more about WO and ITEN.

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2014 in Mission, World Christianity

 

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