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“GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD” (Matthew 6:11)

By Rev. Cornelis Pronk as referenced in Winter 2011

Saving sinners is Christ's greatest concern. But it is not His only concern. He is not only interested in the well-being of our souls, but also of our bodies. When a great crowd followed Jesus because they had seen Him perform miracles of healing, the Savior, realizing it was getting late, asked, “Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” (John 6:5). Knowing that their ultimate need was to feed their souls with the Bread from heaven, He understood that their immediate need was to get some bread for their bodies. That is why the Lord's Prayer also includes the petition: “Give us this day our daily bread.”

Bread here means not only food, but stands for all the needs of our body. We pray for food and clothes, for work and health, and all things on which the preservation of our life depends. All “bread” in this comprehensive sense comes from God.

Yet, how slow we are to learn this lesson, especially in this modern age! We still call upon the Lord to supply our spiritual needs, or so we claim. But do we also go to Him with our physical needs? When we are sick, we see a doctor. When we are in financial trouble there is a government “safety net” we might choose to rely on. Not that these things are wrong, of course not. But it is wrong if we put our trust in them. That is sin. When the Holy Spirit shows us who we are, namely miserable sinners, we will begin to see the wonder of God's daily care for us. Then every crumb of bread becomes a gift of God, earned for us by the Lord Jesus Christ. The more we see our own unworthiness, the more we will appreciate the blessings which flow from God via the cross of Calvary.

“Give us this day our daily bread.” The prayer for bread also teaches us the right use of our earthly goods. Whatever the Lord gives us, He wants us to use for His glory and for the welfare of others. Notice the pronouns in this petition. It is not give me this day my daily bread but give us this day our daily bread. We are taught here to think not only of ourselves, but also of others.

The early Church put this into practice. Beginning at Pentecost “all that believed were together and had all things in common” (Acts 2:44). The New Testament lays upon us a social consciousness. Every day God gives us our bread, to be used and enjoyed by us certainly, but not selfishly. We are to share our abundance with others in word and deed, not only with members of the local church family, but with needy Christians around the world and even with those “outside” the family in order to bring them in. “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?”(1 John 3:17).

Pastor Cornelis (Neil) Pronk is an emeritus pastor for the Free Reformed Church of North America, and lives in Brantford, Ontario.

By Rick Postma as referenced in Winter 2011

It doesn’t seem that long ago that news headlines highlighted an embattled Martha Stewart defending her brand from ethical challenges as media types wrestled with a slow day at the office. Fast forward to the present and the headlines are tripping over themselves – Famine in East Africa; Libya’s Gaddafi and loyalists executed; Tunisian Islamists claim victory; Syria attacks dissidents; Economy falters in the USA; Looming Greece bankruptcy threatens the EU; Steve Jobs dies.

 What we don’t hear or read about much is the Kingdom of God and the biblical worldview that accompanies it unless it is in a derogatory fashion including numerous insults. In fact violent Islamists appear to be getting an easier ride than Christians on the whole. The pretence of religious neutrality in our western secular societies is wearing thin. Christianity is under attack on numerous fronts. Are we holding fast in our churches, schools, businesses and families? A businessman, who is a member of a United Reformed Church in Ontario, is doing just that. Ed Kikkert is getting a rough ride for asking transgendered booth operators to leave the fruit and vegetable market he has been operating for many years. When presented with a petition by 30 demonstrators with 4,000 signatures, he said he had a petition with one signature that carried more weight. When asked whose signature that was, Kikkert replied, “Jesus Christ.”

 Secular thinking is permeating humanitarian aid organizations as well. Many organizations founded on Christian principles have fallen to the allure of big dollars and the pressure of being accepted among those most influential on the humanitarian aid stage. It is chic to employ the latest methods and buzz words. Who likes to be mocked and laughed at? At Word & Deed we recognize that we will never become large while we maintain a commitment to biblical methods and a vision for extending God’s Kingdom. What both the board and staff at Word & Deed do commit to you, dear reader, is that we will continue to do what is right before God as we struggle to address a poverty that is rooted in sin – sin against God, our neighbor, ourselves and creation. Yes, that definition makes us all poor and humbles us as we come alongside precious humans in the developing world with the wonderful news that God sent His beloved Son into the world to die for sinners. Now that is headline news!

 In this issue we highlight projects in South Africa, Ecuador and Malawi as well as our response to the famine in East Africa. We also learn more about the child sponsorship program. Do you sponsor a child? If not, why not touch the life of some precious child today?

 Meanwhile, let us commit to continue to boldly live out the truths of God’s Word in all areas of our lives – including how we spend our money. Have you considered leaving some of your money to a Christian charity like Word & Deed? Please see the article, “A Living Legacy”. May God bless you and your loved ones in the Christmas season.

 Rick Postma is Director of Public Relations for Word & Deed Ministries.


By John Otten as referenced in Winter2011

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Since news that eastern Africa was facing a crisis reached North America, the response has been tremendous. Word & Deed alone received over $300,000 from our faithful and concerned supporters, $270,000 of which qualified for Canadian International Development Agency(CIDA) fund matching. We have chosen to send part of these funds to Word & Deed Holland, who is partnering with MedAir in Somaliland. (The remainder of the funds will be used once we have received a proposal that focuses more heavily on development.)
Although much media attention has been given to Kenya, Ethiopia and southern Somalia, Somaliland (northern Somalia) is in a critical situation. Successive years of drought are affecting the region, and after the failure of rains in the fall of 2010, 40% of Somaliland’s 3.5 million inhabitants are facing severe drought. Because many Somalilanders are pastoralists and live as nomads, it is difficult to estimate the exact number of affected people.
In this area, Word & Deed Holland is working directly with MedAir, an international Christian relief organization with much experience in Somaliland. They have worked there since 2008 to improve access to lifesaving food supplies and to provide basic healthcare, clean water and sanitation. MedAir was also chosen because it is in a position to respond rapidly to the crisis.  To combat the current crisis, MedAir has prepared a nine month program which focuses on the Nugal Valley, the Sool Plateau and the Togdheer region.
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This emergency aid will focus largely on health and sanitation. Proper nutrition will be provided for those in the targeted areas and improvements in health and sanitation conditions will contribute to food security. Malnourished young children will be treated with special care and those with special medical needs will have access to medicine. Steps will also be taken to prevent diarrhea, infections and waterborne diseases; to this end, a vaccination campaign will be launched. Volunteers will be trained and health workers will receive additional training regarding food security in order to implement these programs.
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These initial steps are crucial and necessary, but we know that these efforts alone do not equal a long-term solution. The Gospel is the center of all real change, because only change that results from a relationship with Christ and the indwelling of His Spirit is lasting. Some Christian NGOs (non-governmental organizations) do not publicize their Christian focus or they would have no entrance to the very countries that need both physical and spiritual aid. Although the presence of the Gospel must be discreet in Somaliland (an almost exclusively Muslim nation), this is no indication that it is absent from the project. In fact, it is their hope in Christ that makes many mission workers willing to risk their lives to enter and serve here. It is our prayer that through these projects our hope will also become the hope of the people in Somaliland.
John Otten is the Director of Administration at Word & Deed Ministries.

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By Dr. A. J. deVisser as referenced in Fall 2011

Cush shall hasten to stretch out her hands to God. (Psalm 68:31b)

A unique passage in the book of Acts is the report about the conversion of the man from Africa (Acts 8:26-40). He was an important official in his country. He was the minister of finance, serving under Candace, the queen of the Ethiopians. Although the man had a powerful position in his home country, he was also a bit of a tragic figure: he was a eunuch, which meant that he was unable to marry and have children. More importantly, however, this man was a worshiper of God. He had come to Jerusalem to worship the God of the Jews (Acts 8:27).
It is impressive to read how the Lord arranged for this man to hear the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. An angel of the Lord told the evangelist Philip to go south to the road between Jerusalem and Gaza (Acts 8:26). When the Ethiopian man passed through in his chariot, the Holy Spirit told Philip to approach him. The Lord had already set things up for the meeting by having the man read a passage from Isaiah 53, a passage which he did not understand. The Lord’s purpose was that this official would enter his Kingdom and that through him the gospel would get a breakthrough in the kingdom of Cush (which is Ethiopia and present day Sudan). By doing this, the Lord fulfilled his promise that “Cush shall hasten to stretch out her hands to God” (Psalm 68:31b).
If we reflect on this remarkable event, we are impressed with at least two things: first, that the Lord is faithful to his promises to the Gentiles; second, that the Lord can use so-called “chance encounters” to work out his plan of redemption. Perhaps there is even a third lesson – that one person can be used as a key person for the conversion of a whole tribe or nation.
There is more to be learned from this event. When the African man was unable to understand the meaning of Isaiah 53, the passage about the servant of the Lord who was led like a sheep to the slaughter, the Lord provided someone who was able to explain the meaning. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked the man. And he admitted, “How can I, unless someone explains it to me?” In what follows, we see a prime example of an evangelistic conversation: the two men read Isaiah’s prophecy, and Philip “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.” (Acts 8:35).
If we reflect on this, there are again important lessons to be learned. First, we know for sure that Isaiah 53 indeed speaks about the suffering of the Lord Jesus Christ. Second, if we are looking for a good approach to do evangelism, we will do well to follow Philip’s example: use the Scriptures, show how the Scriptures talk about Jesus, and show how this is good news for the person whom you are talking to.
The story ends with the Ethiopian eunuch being baptized and going home rejoicing in his new-found salvation. With this event in his life, another prophecy was being fulfilled, the prophecy of foreigners and eunuchs being accepted and included among God’s people (Isaiah 56:3-8).  It is a wonderful story indeed.
Today, as we hear reports about the amazing growth of the church in Africa, let us remember the prophecy of Psalm 68: “Cush shall hasten to stretch out her hands to God.” The Lord started it with the meeting between Philip and the man from Ethiopia. The Lord is still working on the completion of the prophecy today. Indeed, God lets none of his words fall to the ground.
Dr. A. J. de Visser is Professor of Ecclesiology and Diaconiology at Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary in Hamilton, Ontario. Professor de Visser has worked as a missionary in Soshanguve, close to Pretoria (South Africa) from 1989 to 2004. He also worked as a part-time lecturer at Mukhanyo Theological College in KwaNdebele, South Africa from 1997 to 2004.

 

By Rick Postma as referenced in Fall 2011


In normal times, when Somalis meet on the road, they don’t ask each other where they come from but to whom they are related. Allegiance starts with immediate family and then moves to extended family, sub-clans and ultimately to a clan family (there are five clan families in all of Somalia). Children as young as eight years of age are expected to recite the family’s male genealogy at least 10 generations back. But these aren’t normal times.

In the not too distant past, what stood out about Somalis were their common culture, common language and love for camels and poetry. That was before their country was split into five sections by colonial powers, two of which (British Somaliland and Italian Somalia) joined at independence in 1960. After independence the struggle to regain their lost territories from Ethiopia and Kenya, where they had been rather summarily allotted, united the Somali clans. But embarrassing defeats and rivalries turned present day Somalia into an armed camp. Attempts by the UN and the failed intervention of the USA and other supporting countries, aptly summarized by the term “Blackhawk down” referring to the embarrassing defeat of US army Rangers at the hands of a ragtag Somali militia, only made things worse. Armed clans and sub-clans then continued to fight each other for control, leaving a wasted country. Young men either joined armed groups using their power to pillage fellow Somalis or joined pirate groups on the coasts, wreaking havoc on international shipping.

In a country with broken infrastructure, no effective government, and armed gangs where aid organizations understandably fear to send their personnel – knowing they will likely have supplies stolen and held for ransom, and put the lives of their personnel in danger – an extended drought turning to dread famine is almost inevitable.

Today when hungry Somalis meet each other on the road they are likely much more worried about where to find food than what clan they belong to. Many are walking for many days to reach refugee camps in Kenya and Ethopia – ironically enough located in areas that were formerly part of their country. While Word & Deed does not have partners in the suffering areas, Word & Deed Holland is working with several partners there. Funds received will be used to support their projects there. Please see our website for updates on what is being done.

In this issue of the magazine Daniel Pever highlights the progress being made by the Christian schools in Nigeria, John Otten informs us about Colombia, another country which struggles with refugees due to armed conflict, Manuel Kamnkhwani tells us about the important Logos Ministries project in Malawi, Hanna Luong provides a brief update on Malawi, and Pastor Ken Herfst celebrates the completion of a home rebuilding project in Guatemala. In the meditation, Dr. Arjan de Visser underlines God’s prophecy concerning Cush, present day Ethiopia and Sudan. Let us pray that countless Somalis will soon be asking each other whether they have been adopted into the family of God, through Christ, when they meet each other on the road even as we pray for and support efforts to bring relief to those suffering so much from hunger. 

Note: “The Fate of Africa”, by Martin Meredith, loaned to me some time ago by my good friend Pastor Christo Heiberg, provided the background on Somalia above. While thick and rather depressing, the book is recommended for those who want to understand more about the history of African countries in the 50 years since independence.

Rick Postma is Director of Public Relations for Word & Deed Ministries.

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