Greetings to our friends, supporters, and prayer partners, and welcome to this first update for 2021. Once again, my thanks for your support and encouragement in many ways.
Thank you especially for praying – God continues to answer your prayers in wonderful ways, and although Covid-19, with its lockdowns and restrictions and effects on day to day living, continues to significantly affect their activities, the Advent Christian ministries we support in Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, India and the Philippines are continuing to do all they are able to do and are continuing to touch lives for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thank you too to those who send donations to our treasurer - your gifts are greatly appreciated by our trust board here in NZ – it is wonderful to have funds available to help our brothers and sisters overseas, particularly in times of crisis, and the folk who receive assistance are always incredibly grateful. Our general policy is to ensure that funds do not stay in our bank account for very long, but we do keep some on hand for urgent situations.
Covid-19 continues to have effects on most of the ministries that we support, in respect to their fellowship and meetings and other ministry activities and for the members of their congregations. In some of our countries the level of cases in the community remains high and government restrictions still prevent many members from working, and this causes severe economic hardship for families. This of course is reflected in offerings to the churches and many of our pastors and their families also face financial hardship.
Please thank the Lord for some reductions in restrictions and pressures but continue to pray that God’s people will know the peace of His presence and His provision for their needs.
INDIA | Yesuway Jeevan Mission
Covid-19 continues to have serious effects in India - on Monday 15 February, there were 11,649 new cases reported throughout the country. That is much reduced from the peak of 76,551 on 11 September 2020 but is obviously still very worrying. For the entire country there have been 10.9 million cases registered, with 2.41 million deaths reported since the beginning of the pandemic! That places them at second place in the world for deaths. Some states are faring much worse than others.
Tamil Nadu State, where most of the Advent Christian churches are situated, still continues to be affected although new case numbers have reduced considerably – the state’s statistics as of Monday 15 February were a total number of cases recorded as 845,000 with a total of 12,419 deaths. On Sunday 14 February 470 new cases were recorded in the state with 140 of that number in Chennai.
We need to continue to pray for India as although the track of the graph of new Covid cases daily continues to move downwards, the numbers are still frightening.
Please pray regularly for Yesuway Jeevan Mission’s ministry partners who serve the Lord so well in their particular areas of ministry. Many of them are involved with caring for, educating, and encouraging children, many of them orphans or disadvantaged. Some of them, realising the extra needs that the Covid pandemic has brought to their communities, continue to use funds YJM is able to send them to distribute food and clothing and encouragement to those in need – all in the Name of Jesus Christ. Pray especially for their leaders and the members of their staff and congregations who assist with these ministries.
Mission Manager Immanuel is continuing to try to open the mandated new foreign currency bank account at the designated government-controlled bank but is finding that task very frustrating and the deadline of March 31st looms large. Please pray for wisdom and patience for Immanuel regarding this very important matter, and for him, and local professionals in the financial arena, and the officers of the International Missions Department at ACGC’s Charlotte office as they grapple with what will be the very difficult, ongoing situation of how they can continue to financially assist their ministry partners and the Fellowship of Blessed Hope Churches as they have done for many years.
Pastor Paul Gantham, who leads the Advent Christian Church at Adda Road in Andhra Pradesh State, and his son Pastor Victor Abraham have continued to minister, both at their home church, where the congregation continues to slowly increase again since restrictions were eased, and at their Calvary Healing Mount site nearby.
Praise the Lord for the faithful ministry of these two brothers and pray that all of their large congregation may soon be fellowshipping together again. Pastor Paul Gantham and his team have been very busy already this year, and have sent details of the following recent ministries…
They had a very successful “New Year Special Blessing Prayer Service.” at Calvary Healing Mount at Kanagiri on 14 January, following which they provided a meal for all who attended, many of whom were very poor.
On 26 January, India celebrated its annual Republic Day and the Adda Road AC church held a celebratory service at Calvary Healing Mount, and again, after the meeting provided a meal for those attending and handed out gifts of clothing to the needy. Pastor Paul Gantham described Republic Day as “…a celebration of unity and it urges everyone to spread the harmony all over the country – no caste, no creed, rather it is the joy of humanity.”
On Sunday 31 January, the congregation had the joy of witnessing a young man being baptised and becoming a member of their church and of the great, worldwide family of God after publicly accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as his Saviour and Lord. Please pray for this brother and for several others in the congregation who are currently preparing to take this step of baptism.
On Saturday evening, the 13th of February, a group from the church visited a remote village in their area. They did not share the Gospel at this village on this occasion but went primarily to “reach the unreached with the love of Christ for all humanity.” They showed this love by distributing bed sheets to 15 villagers and providing “mini-meals” for them.
Please pray regularly for the ministries of the Adda Road Advent Christian Church and thank the Lord for their enthusiasm and commitment to share the Gospel with their people. Pray especially for Pastors Paul Gantham and Victor Abraham and the members of their congregation who work with them in these outreach ministries. Pray for good health and strength, wisdom and safety as they serve the Lord so faithfully.
In neighbouring Telengana State, Pastor Balu Nayak continued his church’s ministry of reaching out, in Christian love and compassion, to the poor, homeless and needy of their city – Mahabubabad. Many of those to whom he ministers are from the people group to which he belongs – the Banjara, who are categorised as an “unreached group”. There are about 6.1 million Banjara in India – only about four in every thousand are Christians.
On 21 January he and his team of helpers provided food at the Mahabubabad Railway Station “…for the poor, orphans, beggars, physically challenged persons and widows ….”
THAILAND | CHRISTIAN MISSION NARATCHAKWAI
On 26 December, Christian Mission took their Soup of Love to the residents of Prompan-pattana village, and because it was the day after Christmas, they took some special love for the children – as well as the soup they handed out toys as presents for them!
On Sunday 28 December they celebrated the birth of our Saviour – Christmas!
The posting on their Facebook page read… “Thank you God for the Christmas Celebration at our church today. And thank you for Noi, Maeo's brother, that he accepted God to be his savior.”
What a wonderful day of celebration! Thank you to those who have prayed for Noi’s salvation. Your prayers were answered!
Please continue to pray for the team at Christian Mission – from left - Guitar, Lita, GungGing, Job, Maeo, Parn and Ploy. Pray especially for Ploy who leads the team of young ladies.
Not in this Christmas picture were Pastor Boontaa, Dtee (Driver) and Kaopun
Thank the Lord for the time and effort they put into planning and supervising every aspect of the ministry, including the English lessons.
Ask the Lord to help the girls balance their service for Him with their studies at High School and University.
After the first Sunday service for the year on 3 January, government restrictions re-imposed because of an outbreak of Covid-19 meant that no further services were held until Sunday 6 February. Their Facebook post for that service read…
“Hello everybody. This is the first Sunday service after our church had closed because of Covid-19. Thank-you God that we meet each other again with the big smiles on our faces! “
After celebrating Valentines’ Day on Sunday 14 February –
“Happy Valentine's Day. Thank-you God, for sending love to all of us. ”, on Monday 15 they took the Soup of Love and their monthly Food Packages to some of the needy and elderly folks in their own village – Naratchakwai.
Please pray regularly for the ministry team at Christian Mission Naratchakwai, that the Lord will use their enthusiastic service for Him to bring many in their area to faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour.
22 million Isan people live in Northeast Thailand. The Isan region has the fewest missionaries in Thailand. Only four of every 1,000 Isan are Christians – the rest are Buddhists. They are an unreached people group, and Christian Mission and the other six churches of the Christ for All People Church Association are doing what they can, in the Lord’s strength, to reach out to them with the Gospel.
MALAYSIA | Kluang Advent Christian Group
Sister Ruth advised us that on December 14, 2020, they had a Christmas Get-together for pastors and their spouses at the residence of the Chairman of the Indian Pastors Fellowship in Kluang. She and her husband Wilfred sang the song 'How Great Thou Art, with piano accompaniment at this event. She also shared a word of encouragement for the pastors and spouses. She spoke in English, and the message was translated into Tamil by the Chairman of the Indian Pastors Fellowship.
Please continue to pray for Sister Ruth, Brother Wilfred, their family and members of their small group of faithful, Advent Christian believers who have for some time been unable to gather together weekly on Sundays for worship in Ruth and Wilfred’s home in Kluang or in members’ homes for Bible study and communion during the week. Christian ministry is not easy or without danger in Malaysia, but Ruth and Wilfred faithfully continue, where they can within the regulations, their one-on-one ministries of friendship, practical assistance and counsel to friends, neighbours and other contacts.
MYANMAR | Advent Christian Conference of Myanmar
As you will probably be aware, the army in Myanmar recently overthrew the democratically elected government after just two five-year terms and three elections, and the country is under martial law at present, with a statement from the army that they will hold democratic elections in a year. Recent news items indicate that there is a strong military presence throughout the major cities, including the capital Naypyitaw, in Mandalay and in Yangon, where all the ministries of the ACCM are based.
The ACCM President wrote early on the morning of the coup “Myanmar is under control of military from 3:00 am Mon 1 Feb. Please pray for Myanmar.” He later indicated that his concern was that prices, particularly for food, would rise quickly and that has been the case as he has subsequently reported that food prices have already jumped by 10 percent since the military takeover. This is especially difficult in an economy already hit hard by the COVID pandemic. This will be a substantial burden for the four leader pastors of the conference, who between them are caring for 282 children.
Another of the ACCM leaders wrote recently “After military coup we [do] not hear about the covid-19. The demonstration is worse and worse day by day. Curfew is from 8 pm to 4 am. But the Church worship is open and allowed by General Min Aung Hlaing. But [all] offices are now closed including banks.”
A recent news item indicated that the army had cut off access by the population to the internet, both directly and through the mobile phone networks.
There appears to be a strong element of protest from the people of the country with one report indicating that about three quarters of the country’s civil servants have walked away from their jobs, indicating that they will not work for the army, and civil disobedience and street protests are occurring – all this under the shadow of the military’s history of gunning down pro-democracy demonstrators in 1988 and 2007.
Please pray for the country and its people, and especially for the Christians - Open Doors indicate that there are about 4.3 million Christians in the country, about 8% of the population. Pray especially for the leaders, members and families of the ACCM and the orphans and underprivileged children who they care for.
Prior to the coup the restrictions because of Covid-19 had been eased somewhat and meetings and services were allowed, with proper precautions, and Pastor K sent some information concerning their services and ministries at Christmas time and early in the year – this information reminds us that the Holy Spirit continues to work despite viruses and military coups! His group, Gospel for Myanmar, held a special thanksgiving service on Christmas Day, and he sent the following highlights…
“This woman was seriously sick for two years. She went to hospital many times and her condition was very bad. But God answered our prayers and she is healed. On the Christmas day she came to the church and shared with us her testimony. We all praise God for what He has done for this woman.”
(Apologies for the quality of the picture.)
“This woman is one of our new converts from Buddhist background and took water baptism last year. She shared her testimony today on our Church worship service.”
He also sent a video of the orphans he and his wife Eunice care for – they call them the Salem Family Children - reciting Scripture at the worship service the following Sunday morning. They are remarkable – during a visit I made some years ago they recited two chapters from the Book of Romans, I think it was!
I asked Pastor K for items to pray about and he wrote as follows…
“1. Eunice is still coughing - since November 2020.
2. We do our house fence since last week but due to financial lack we cannot finish yet.
3. For our house rent. It was paid for six months from January to June but we are really worried for July to December. Our house rent is the biggest difficulty in our missions. The house is used for our Church worship and our Bible School class. At the same time it is used for dormitory for our students, boys and girls. Therefore, this house rent is the most important in the mission work.”
I asked about his fish farm and his children’s clothing manufacturing project – he replied as follows…
“Fish is now selling but the price is very less than we expect. We can get 200 kg and one kg is 2000 kyats only. [NZ$1 = 960 kyats. 2,000 kyats = NZ$2 approx!!] We are now preparing to continue Thai Fish. But the investment is more expensive.
Our clothing factory is still closed. We cannot have the materials. Thank you very much for your prayers for us.”
PHILIPPINES |Advent Christian Movement | Manila
Pastor Roy Rocha wrote earlier this week…
“We had our 1st New Life in Christ Youth Fellowship (NLCYF) activity yesterday Feb.14, 2021. It has been a long while that the youth didn't have any fellowship like this. It has a theme "RUHAMMA" - the ones I love (HOSEA 2). The program was only limited to and exclusive for our church youth only. 42 youth came. Protocols were implemented. The youth got excited as some of them showcase their talents in musical instruments and singing. It was a blessed and meaningful moment of our youths.”
“I took this photo last Feb. 7, 2021. From 30 worshippers, we have 55 worshippers in past 3 Sundays already. Chairs at 1 meter apart so
some were sat outside
“This photo was taken 1st Sunday of January 2021. We had our youth leaders’ prayer and planning held at the rooftop of our house.”
“As you may see in the photos, we really thank God that ministry activities are slowly coming back again. We held worship practices in church at nighttime that we were not able to do for 9 months. Church members are always excited to attend worship services.
I am so thankful for all your prayers and support most specially during the heavy lockdown.
Our prayer for now:
- Hopefully children's ministry be open again.
- Some of our church members may find new work as some of them were cut from work due to the crisis. Companies were closed.
- Safety, health and protection from Covid as most of my members are on public transportation, as of now 44 has been confirmed cases of Corona UK Variant.
- The bridge may be completely finished soon so me and Llerma will not go around farther to be in church.”
Roy and his family – 14 Feb 2021
Once again, my sincere thanks for your partnership in the Lord’s ministries in South East Asia.
Thank you for your prayers and encouragement to and financial support for our brothers and sisters in the LORD.
Please continue to pray for the leaders and members of the Advent Christian ministries we support in India, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia and the Philippines – pray that they will know the leading, guiding and blessing of the Holy Spirit as they present the message of God’s love for their people and His plan of salvation in Jesus Christ our Lord.
In His love and service with you,