“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Buon Natale / Feliz Navidad / Feliz Natal /
Vesel božič / God jul
Joyeux Noël / Crăciun fericit / Boldog Karácsonyt
I generally work in these languages. In fact, my Facebook friendships are almost meaningless due to the fact that most of the entries I can’t read or understand. I am blessed! I would never have imagined that my life would have gone as it has. I have so much to be thankful for. “This was the LORD’s doing: It is marvelous in our eyes.” PSALM 118:23
Both of us are now on the edge of retirement when Jeanne may be more free to travel with me. We are thinking how we might spend the remaining years of our lives. More invitations continue to come our way and so we think we may go to Norway for two months with side trips to Italy and England in the spring. In Norway, I will teach in two Bible colleges and do evangelism in Pentecostal and Lutheran churches. In Italy and England, I will continue to do leadership development and evangelism. Jeanne is considering being the speaker at a women’s conference.
Our church in Parma, Italy continues to prosper under the leadership of Aldo and Mariela Cerasino as does our other missionary work there. We are seeing souls saved with the church now nearing two-hundred and may be one of the largest evangelical congregations in all of Italy. We have also established a missionary training center there, Progetto Achippo under ACCI leader Francesco Arbortivi.
Relationships with pastors in Slovenia and England continue to grow with frequent visits there as well.
Who could have imagined that a farm kid from Oklahoma born to disabled parents would have such an adventurous life with the dearest of friendships in Canada, Minneapolis, the Carolinas and twenty countries of Europe, not to mention a thousand former students, missionaries and pastors spread throughout the globe. Isn’t the Christian life boring? Didn’t the Lord Jesus promise just such a life?
Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.” MARK 10:28-30
The truth is, we have not made a single sacrifice for the sake of the gospel. We end this year and face the next with an overflowing sense of hope and joy!
Jeanne has finished her cancer treatments and after recently going through every MRI and scan imaginable has been given good news that there is nothing of particular concern. She continues to work at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in the Creative Services Department and in her spare time writes the devotional, “Adventuring with God” as well as occasionally proofreading Bethany House books.
SKY, ANGIE, JUSTIN and ALYSHA
We are thankful for the amazing work the Lord has done in the lives of Sky, Angie, Justin and Alysha. For the time being, they still live in Thunder Bay, Ontario where they have worked with First Nations and disadvantaged people for almost six years after completing studies at Bethany College of Missions. They now look to move to Cornwall, Ontario in the summer where they hope to work with Mohawks. Justin has turned eighteen and now has a driver’s license which allows him to drive back and forth from a very attractive girl’s house in the Grand Marais, Minnesota area. He has enrolled at Bethany Wesleyan College in Sussex, New Brunswick for the fall of 2011. Alysha is suddenly older than she should be and working at a Safeway store as a cashier. Perhaps all of those years of tagging along with her mother to work at The Quality Market in the early morning hours paid off.
JEREMY, RACHEL, JESSE and DYLAN
Since I teach at Bethany College of Missions in Minneapolis about three times a year, I have the privilege of periodically checking in with the Greenhouses. I just saw them less than two weeks ago and happy to say they all appear at the peak of health and all busy with work, sports, music – it’s enough to make my head spin. Jeremy continues his way forward in environmental law through his practice, Greenhouse and Graham Law. He still leads the popular Celtic band, “The Sweet Colleens.”
It was fun for Matthew and I to go downtown Minneapolis and have a sushi lunch with Mr. Greenhouse. As I sat there in Origami, I smiled to myself thinking how favored I have been to have such great adult kids and their spouses. My children and their respective husbands and wives have become my closest and most trusted friends. This is the grace of God and I secretly wondered how things might have turned out if we had not met the Lord of Life in that little room in Merrickville, Ontario some thirty-five years ago. Sometimes, when I am in the area, I may go miles out of my way just to drive by that little house on St. Lawrence Street in Merrickville. On those occasions, I just want to refresh my memory about what happened there so many years ago and how that event has brought me all of this abundance. I never want to forget where this life has its roots.
Then there is Rachel who has her fingers in everything and manages hundreds of projects and relationships all at the same time. Her home business, a non-profit marketing firm, continues to grow. Through her work she helps all sorts of charities, ministries and businesses and makes a good living doing it.
The boys, Jesse (13) and Dylan (6) are really something and take after their parents by doing everything and being almost everywhere at once. Jesse is entirely too smart about almost anything in the universe from sports scores to music, shopping and computers. I have occasionally asked him to help me with a technical computer question. Fortunately, he seems to have a pretty good handle on God stuff as well. They are both a delight to be with and Dylan continues to be the cuddler in the family (at least for a little while yet).
JOHN, AMY, JOHN DAVID, JAKE and JOEL
I have to be careful here. I must speak for myself. Until recently, the Haleys lived across the street. This was one of the compelling reasons for moving down here in the first place. It was always nice to walk across the street to get a cup of sugar or two eggs. It was also nice to simply walk across for a birthday and then back home when it was all over, the candles blown out, cake eaten and packages opened. About a month ago all of this changed when the Haleys decided that it made sense to get closer to the school where the boys attend in Rock Hill some twelve minutes away on a good day and two hours away on a bad one. It made sense to get off of the road as all of the boys were involved in something extra-curricular and this could be early in the day or the middle of the night.
Now we agree that this is a practical idea but still not an enjoyable one as it was always gratifying to look across the street and see the lights on and know they live this close. In my view, however, it is all the better. We (well, I) have adjusted to the idea and like where they live and because we (I) have to stay awhile when we (I) go. Since it takes more out of us (me) to get there, we (I) just don’t jump up and rush off so visits turn out to be much longer.
The boys play both instruments and sports (football, soccer and swimming) so we have lots of events to go to. It seems to be getting easier for the boys to practice passing or dribbling than playing the scales.
John continues to be involved in his business ventures of church building and law while leading the Adventive Mission Society. He and Amy attend the same church as we, so we see them most every Sunday except when I am traveling or preaching in some local church here in the Charlotte area. John has been involved in teaching a Bible class and enjoying it while Amy uses her gifts to hosts missionaries in their home. She and Jeanne cooperate on a non-denominational neighborhood women’s Bible study that meets once a week here in Tega Cay.
MATT, NOEMI, ADRIAH, LEYTON and CLARA
Now in my unbiased opinion, if you want to hear one good preacher, go to bethanytc.org and listen to Matt wail. He is no user friendly guy and lays it out straight. I am proud of his keen intellect, clear theology and fearlessness in presenting the uncompromising truth. About three years ago Matt made it clear that he wasn’t going to be a people pleaser, simply doing whatever it took to grow a big Mega church. As lead pastor, he made the decision to go for deep rather than popular or big and it has paid off. Bethany is a strong family church of about five hundred in Minneapolis. Matt is also on the Board of Directors of the Greater Minnesota Evangelical Association.
Matt married right when he got Noemi. Noemi is a very accomplished and successful photographer. When she said that she thought she might go into photography, I was skeptical as I knew of the thousand who call themselves photographers while working at Home Depot. Well, that was about five years ago and I have my belly full of humble pie. If you take one look at her website you will see how wrong I can be. Just go to noemiphotography.com and there see some of the most gorgeous wedding and family photography you’ll likely see anywhere.
Besides being extremely clever and talented, Noemi has managed to produce three rather cute and intelligent children. Adriah is now almost six and in kindergarten. She has a younger, but extremely strong brother who intends to play football with the Nebraska Cornhuskers. He is named Leyton, though we call him Bubba and for good reason. He is learning to string together some interesting sentences and turns out to be a slow talker as was his father. Matt has turned into a rather fast talker so there appears to be some hope for the boy.
Finally, there is Clara who hasn’t quite made a year yet but has learned to watch and ponder everything.
Sylvia, Jeanne’s mom, turned ninety-four in September and lives near us only minutes away in a memory care facility. Though she grows more feeble, she remains healthy and on many days alert and cognizant. She continues to recognize us when we visit and carry on suitable conversations. We are happy to have her close by and Jeanne manages to stop in to see her several times a week.
Should you read this today, Christmas Eve, we do hope you have a terrific day tomorrow and that you are enormously blessed in the year to come. We pray that you will remain “steadfast unto the end.”
Finally, thanks so much for being our friends and fellow bondservants. We love you all.