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By Rev. Arthur Miskin, referenced in Summer 2011

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction. (James 1:27)
Why do Christians do mission work, especially when volunteering in foreign fields of labor? To build up a good résumé? To take an exciting field trip abroad? To visit foreign countries and meet other people?
James tells us why Christians should ever consider doing any form of volunteer work: In so doing we bear resemblance to our heavenly Father. There is a saying that goes, “Like father, like son.” This means that we bear a strong resemblance to those who are of our own family. As we bear likeness to our parents, in whatever good or bad we receive from them, so too God’s children, those who have been reborn into His family, are to resemble Him in their behavior. In a spiritual sense then, like Father, like son. If He is truly our Father, then we will seek out to do only those things that are pleasing to Him.
True religion that most clearly demonstrates our resemblance to our Heavenly Father is this: Caring for the poor and defenseless members of our society, whom James groups together as widows and orphans.
As the children of God, we are called to care for the downtrodden and vulnerable for several reasons:
First, kindness shown to them is pure and undefiled, because it expects nothing in return. We freely give of our time, expertise and money, knowing we will not be repaid. How could an orphan or widow ever repay us? As Christians we are to lend and not expect repayment, because we know that God has given us the priceless gift of His Son. What more could He give? How then can we ever repay God? Hear what Jesus says on the matter: “…do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Lk.6:35, ESV). Do you see the family connection?  Selfless help of this kind doesn't even expect a word of thanks, because our kind and merciful God is daily faced with the base ingratitude of mankind.
Second, in caring for the poor and needy, we show the character of God to others: “[A] father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation…”(Ps. 68:5). If this is God’s attitude towards the outcasts of this world, should it not also be the attitude of His family members?
Last, we care for orphans because we recognize that we once were and still are poor. Jesus found us when we were spiritually bankrupt and adopted us into His family. Daily, we confess and realize our spiritual emptiness and poverty before Him: “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” So, as poor and needy people, we seek out the orphans and widows, to adopt them into the true and caring family of God.
Whatever missionary endeavour you may be planning, please make sure that your first motive is one of pure and undefiled religion, stepping out in obedience to your heavenly Father, because this is what He would have you, as His child, to do.
Dr. Arthur Miskin is a missionary minister of the Heritage Reformed Congregations of North America serving in South Africa. He is a theological instructor at the Mukhanyo Theological College, a minister in a reformed church plant in Pretoria and with his wife, Sonja, is involved in ministry to terminal HIV/AIDS patients.

 

By Rick Postma

Volunteers make the world go round. If there isn’t a song based on those words, then perhaps there should be. As Word & Deed staff, we constantly thank the Lord for the many volunteers who generously give of their time and talent to support the work we do in the developing world.

During 2011 there will be numerous groups of volunteers organizing softball tournaments, dinners, bike-a-thons, choir concerts, hunger awareness campaigns, and plant sales. We have volunteers editing and contributing articles to this magazine and working on our website. 

So I’d like to extend a very grateful thank-you on behalf of the Word & Deed staff and board to all our volunteers. Your efforts are making a world of difference in the lives of thousands of people. 

Word & Deed is always looking for more volunteers to join our ambassador program. The work is not heavy. In fact, usually there is one event per year that you would be involved in. One goal is to involve at least one person from each of the supporting churches. This automatically facilitates the promotion work, and many hands do make light work. Here is a way for you to work together with members of local supporting churches to bring hope to the needy in the developing world. Here is a way for you to bring help to the widow and the orphan in distant parts of the world via Word & Deed partners, who become our hands and feet in bringing them hope for this world and for the world to come.

In this issue of the magazine, we profile several of our volunteers and bring you project updates from several countries. We are delighted to begin work on a small project with Rev. Bill Green in Costa Rica and we celebrate the launch of a new Christian School building in Guatemala.  Read about the fascinating trip Project Director Bernie Pennings recently made to Myanmar, as well as how the money donated for flood waters in Pakistan is being used to bring the Gospel to families in that conflicted country. Good progress is being made with building projects in Malawi and South Africa. May the Lord continue to bless our combined efforts to bring help for both body and soul to many, even while we recognize that we too are sinners in need of His daily grace. May you have a God-glorifying summer together with your families. 

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

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By Rev. Richard Wynia, referenced in Spring 2011
The religion that God our Father accepts as pure and undefiled is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress (James 1:26).
James is warning us to test our religion, our “acts of righteousness,” to make sure that our religion is pure, undefiled, and acceptable to God. He tells us that it’s not only a question of what we do in church, or in our devotions. The religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is to look after orphans and widows in their distress.
Why does James mention just looking after orphans and widows in their distress? God mentions these things again and again in His law. His people had to make sure that they looked after the orphan and the widow. Orphans and widows were vulnerable in those ancient cultures; they had no husband or father to provide or stand up for them. There was no social safety net, no life insurance or widows’ pension or welfare. So God stood up for them; God provided for them.
And that tells us what God is like. God reveals His nature and character in His concern for these people who had no one to look after them. God is telling us that He is a gracious and compassionate God.
Notice that James reminds us here that He is our Father. He had just pointed out, in verse 18, that “He chose to give us birth, through the Word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all He created.”  Do you think about your relationship to God this way? That He is your Father, that He brought you to life? That you were born of God, and you have His life in you?
This is why it’s so important to God that we look after orphans and widows in their distress: because that what God’s children do. That action is their nature; that is their character. Those who have been born of God, those who have God's life in them, are compassionate, and kind, and thoughtful, and generous, with their time and their money and their possessions, because that’s what their Father is like. Like Father, like sons.
So that is the religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless. Religion is not only going to church twice and all the rest. In fact, if that's all there is to our religion, if our acts of piety are not fulfilled by actions that express our compassion, and generosity, and kindness toward those who are vulnerable and in need, our religion is worthless. All of our churchgoing is a waste of time. But God rejoices when He sees our love and thanksgiving expressed, worked out, and displayed, in looking after orphans and widows in their distress. Because then the Father sees Himself in His children.
Rev. Richard Wynia is the pastor of the Vineyard Canadian Reformed Church of Lincoln, Ontario.

By Rick Postma, referenced in Spring 2011
Imagine attending a regular worship service in your church. Your pastor is preaching, you are surrounded with familiar faces – family, friends – when suddenly you hear a series of loud noises all but drowning the pastor’s voice. What is that?  Instinctively you, along with everyone else, peer towards a rapidly growing commotion at the back of the church. Someone runs down the aisle with a gun in his hand shouting at the top of his lungs, shooting in all directions. You grab your children and dive down between the benches. It can’t be, not here!  But with a sickening feeling in the pit of your stomach, you realize that your church is under attack.

For many Christians in places like Iraq, Egypt and Nigeria, attacks like the one imagined above are becoming an increasingly regular occurrence. In many of these places, Christians have lived in peace side by side for hundreds, if not thousands, of years with members of other faiths. But no longer.
During the Middle Ages, the Crusades were launched in response to the Muslim slaughter of Christians in the middle east (a fact often overlooked by Muslim apologists, by the way). Should we once again embark on a crusade in the name of fellow Christians in these countries? Some would argue that the invasion of Iraq was such a crusade, but if that was so, why are the Christians experiencing a much more difficult time now than they did under Saddam Hussein? Even if the Pope could once again whip the “Christian” nations of the West into a frenzy of righteous anger towards the enemies of Christ in the Middle East, would we take part? I’m sure you would agree when I give a resounding “No” to that question. In imitation of Christ, we confess that our battle is not of this world. Instead we are called to come in peace, bringing with us The Book that contains the hope of Salvation for miserable sinners – even those, like Paul, who have viciously persecuted Christ’s followers in the past.
Pray for God’s people who are under violent attack in so many parts of the world. In this issue, Hanna Luong provides a summary of our rapidly growing Christian education program in Nigeria – a country with rising tensions and violence between Muslim and Christians. We read of the sponsorship program in India, a country where we also regularly hear of persecution. Randy Lodder provides an update on the challenging work in Haiti and we also receive updates on disaster recovery work in Guatemala.
The army of God requires faithful soldiers fighting against sin and the devil in their own lives while looking for opportunities to spread the good news, both locally and abroad. Rredemption has been accomplished by the coming of the King and He will one day return in triumph so that no one will ever again fear the attack of the enemy. Have you enlisted?

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

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