Category Archives: Global Movement

“In All Things” podcast episode 26 explores confluence of student ministry and missions mobilization with Shawn Stewart

 

Episode 26 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things,” features Shawn Stewart, Mobilization Coordinator for EPC World Outreach. This week, host Dean Weaver and Stewart discuss what mobilization is and how he serves the denomination in his role. Stewart also describes some challenges related to finding those whom God has called for service, and how World Outreach is ministering among refugees in the U.S. and around the world. In addition, he reflects on his early days in student ministry, including how he integrated the concept of “holy sweat: the blessing of sweating and serving” into the student groups he worked with.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

International Disaster Relief Fund receives $437,000 to date

 

As of Thursday, May 5, $437,481 has been donated to the EPC’s International Disaster Relief Fund. This amount includes two separate gifts of $50,000 each and nine additional donations of $10,000 or more.

“I should never be surprised at the generosity of the EPC when people are in need,” said Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk. “Our churches and church members have demonstrated God’s love over and over again when the need is the greatest.”

The fund was launched on March 1 in response to the crisis in Ukraine, with contributions to the fund currently being sent to EPC partners in Eastern Europe that are helping with refugee efforts.

Bruce Anderson, Director of the International Theological Education Network of EPC World Outreach, said donations are meeting humanitarian needs, including “tons and tons of food supplies for people who are running out of food. They have no access and are even running out of water.”

He added that some of the money was used to distribute Bibles, Christian literature, trauma kits and medicine, as well as purchasing two vehicles being used for evacuation efforts.

Bruce Anderson

“Our friends have distributed 1 million prayer, Scripture, and gospel booklets that were printed up in the Ukrainian language and distributed inside Ukraine for people who are broken and crying out to God,” he said. “Many of them are not yet followers of the Lord but are turning toward Him.”

Anderson reported that $115,000 in donations recently wired arrived “just in time.”

“Our partner in Poland sent me a text message in which he told me that they had 20 tons of food, medicine, and essential items ready for shipping, but another partner had not sent them the money for the transportation cost. They feel the urgency, right? They know people are dying and are being traumatized, and they are going to send the supplies without having money,” Anderson said.

“So his text says, ‘we prayed this morning about funds NOW—N.O.W. capitals—for this transportation. After the prayer, I opened the account and received the EPC gift for Ukraine. God is great! Praise the Lord for His timing!’”

Anderson noted that donations are not only helping provide material assistance, but also arrived in “God’s time” for those ministry partners “to know, as he said to me, that God is with us and the EPC is with us and we are not alone.”

Click here to donate to the International Disaster Relief Fund.

The purpose of the Fund is to help relieve suffering when needs arise round the world that are outside the scope of the domestic EPC Emergency Relief Fund, which is used for situations in North America.

“In All Things” podcast episode 22 describes EPC Ukraine relief efforts with Bruce Anderson

 

Episode 22 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things,” features Bruce Anderson, Founder and Coordinator of the International Theological Education Network (ITEN) of EPC World Outreach. This week, host Dean Weaver and Anderson discuss how relationships built over more than two decades of ministry in Eastern Europe are providing avenues for donations to the EPC’s International Disaster Relief Fund to be put to immediate use helping people suffering in the war in Ukraine.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

“In All Things” podcast episode 16 examines loving Muslims with Timothy Harris

 

Episode 16 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things,” features Timothy Harris, longtime EPC Teaching Elder. Host Dean Weaver and Harris discuss Harris’ life in ministry, including his recent book, Loving Your Muslim Neighbor: Stories of God using an Unlikely Couple to Love Muslim People, and How He Might Use You to Do the Same. The book is available at www.lovingyourmuslimneighbor.com.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

EPC World Outreach to hold weekly virtual prayer meetings for Ukraine

 

In response to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine and eastern Europe, EPC World Outreach is hosting virtual prayer gatherings at 11:00 a.m. (Eastern) each Thursday in March. The meetings will be held via Zoom and are available to all with registration required.

Gabriel de Guia

“We held a virtual prayer gathering on short notice last Thursday, and more than 100 people registered,” said Gabriel de Guia, Executive Director of World Outreach. “It was a powerful time of intercession, as well as an opportunity to hear reports from the field—glimpses of what God’s people are doing in this crisis to meet the needs of many in Ukraine, Poland, Czech Republic, and Russia.”

In addition, de Guia said opportunities for assistance were “talked about and prayed over.”

“We have many opportunities to come alongside this gospel work and how the EPC International Disaster Relief Fund will be used in sending resources to those engaged on the front lines,” de Guia explained. He said World Outreach is focusing on three strategic locations to deploy donations to the EPC’s International Disaster Relief Fund:

1. Poland. Bruce Anderson, Director of World Outreach’s International Theological Education Network (ITEN), is coordinating with a long-time trusted ministry partner in Lublin, Poland. Donations would support threefold efforts:

  1. Assisting Christian chaplains in Ukraine who bring medicines, medical supplies, other personal supplies, and gospel ministry to soldiers throughout Ukraine. These chaplains do not carry weapons but need helmets and vests.
  2. Help evacuate disadvantaged people in Ukraine who are at particular risk.
  3. Help provide food, clothing, housing arrangements, and other necessities of Ukrainian refugees coming to Lublin.

2. Hungary. World Outreach global workers who live in Hungary are already housing two families who have fled Ukraine. Opportunities to help other families increase by the moment.

3. Czech Republic. A ministry partner of Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tenn., is involved with ministry to refugees in Prague. He is in Prague now, assessing the situation firsthand. Ministry teams are responding to an absence of any organization as busloads of Ukrainians are dropped off at stations with nowhere to go to provide shelter and basic needs.

“There’s constant flux in this chaotic moment and other opportunities will arise,” de Guia said. “But for now, these are the clearest ones for us to engage in based on trusted relationships.”

Click here to register for the prayer gathering. Click here to donate to the International Disaster Relief Fund.

International Disaster Relief Fund launched as Ukraine crisis widens

 

The EPC has launched an international disaster relief fund to help relieve suffering when needs arise round the world that are outside the scope of the domestic EPC Emergency Relief Fund, used for situations in North America.

“The crisis in Ukraine is dire, and we are called to help as we are able,” said Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk. “Our existing relief fund is not set up for this type of need. This new fund will provide a way for people to give when disaster strikes in areas where we work but where we don’t have EPC churches.”

Weaver noted that donations to the fund will be forwarded to EPC World Outreach workers “on the ground” in affected areas, international ministry partners, or to appropriate other agencies and organizations at the discretion of EPC leadership.

“The need right now is almost unfathomable with the mass migration of displaced people fleeing Ukraine,” said Gabriel de Guia, Executive Director of EPC World Outreach. “Women and children are leaving the country with little more than the clothes on their backs, while the men are required to stay behind and fight. It’s heartbreaking to think that for some of them it is their last goodbye.”

Click here to donate to the International Disaster Relief Fund.

Contributions are tax-deductible, and donations that exceed directly related disbursements will be held for other international humanitarian disaster relief situations.

Thank you for providing help to those in need.

World Outreach offers prayer suggestions for Ukraine

 

But the Lord sits enthroned forever; He has established His throne for justice, and He judges the world with righteousness; He judges the peoples with uprightness. The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you. —Psalm 9:7-10

Scripture continually reminds us that the Lord is enthroned forever; He is in control, establishing His throne for justice. The Kingdom of God has come, despite the chaos and darkness around us. He promises to always be with His people and that “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Would you please pray with us for peace in the region, and even more that all those people would know the name of our living Lord and put their trust in Him!

  • Pray for all involved in the region to know the name of our Lord and put their trust in Him. People often turn to the Lord in crises.
  • Pray for peace in the region and wisdom as leaders work toward that peace.
  • Pray for our ministry partners in the region. Some are in the middle of the situation; others are out of immediate harm’s way, but sanctions have closed the movement of funds and ongoing ministry in the area.
  • Pray for all the ministries located in countries bordering Ukraine that are taking in thousands of refugees. These refugees are women, children, and older men (younger men, age 18-60, have been required to remain in Ukraine and be available to fight). Approximately 120,000 Ukrainians have fled to other countries, including Poland, Moldova, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and Czechia (the Czech Republic). This number is expected to swell greatly.

Additional Resources

These articles offer context and additional prayer needs for Ukraine:

Prayer requested for Ukraine

 

The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), of which the EPC is a member, joins the European Evangelical Alliance (EEA) in condemning the violation of international law by Russia and calling for an immediate end to the attacks on Ukraine. WEA and EEA also call upon churches around the world to pray for restoration of peace.

“We join our brothers and sisters around the world in prayer for peace in Ukraine,” said Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk. “May God grant peace and safety to those in harm’s way. We pray that God would use this tragic situation for His ultimate glory, and that Ukrainians and Russians alike will come to know the Lord Jesus as their Savior in the midst of this crisis.”

Thomas Schirrmacher, WEA Secretary General Bishop, said, “We are gravely concerned to yet again witness armed conflict that will inevitably lead to tragic loss of human lives, including innocent civilians who only desire to live in peace. We call for an end to the hostilities, an immediate ceasefire, and respect for Ukrainian territorial integrity. We also call on the global Christian community to pray for peace in Ukraine. Europe has witnessed the horrors of war in the past and has learned that armed conflict and military occupation only bring suffering and devastating.”

The European Evangelical Alliance released the following statement:

“The European Evangelical Alliance condemns all attacks upon Ukraine. General Secretary Thomas Bucher said, ‘We see no justification for these actions and are deeply distressed by the death, destruction, chaos, and misery that will result.’ The EEA calls upon Christians to pray for all who suffer and for those who have the power to save lives and bring humanitarian aid and protection. And let us pray for all those with the power to stop the war and to bring about long-term peace.”

Formed in 1846, the WEA seeks to strengthen local churches through national alliances, supporting and coordinating grassroots leadership and seeking practical ways of showing the unity of the body of Christ. For more information, see www.worldea.org.

The EEA exists to foster unity and evangelical identity and provide a voice and platform to evangelical Christians. Seeking empowerment by the Holy Spirit, it extends the Kingdom of God by proclamation of the gospel to all nations and by Christ-centered transformation within society. For more information, see www.europeanea.org.

Collaboration Team seeks to grow inter-department discussion, ministry efforts

 

Led by Michael Davis, the EPC’s Chief Collaboration Officer, representatives from a variety of EPC ministries and committees met via video conference on February 10 to cultivate and enhance ministry efforts. The goal of the monthly meetings is to enhance alignment between the Office of the General Assembly, EPC World Outreach, the Next Generation Ministries Council, the Revelation 7:9 Task Force, and other permanent and interim committees of the denomination.

“God has always made sure that we had a redemptive plan, not just for the here-and-now, but for the generations to come,” Davis said. “In our mission, vision, and every component in which we do our ministry, it’s not just to think about what we are doing now but how it will affect generations down the road.”

He emphasized that the next generation of leaders in the EPC—whether they serve in the local church, on the mission field, or in denominational staff roles—are affected “by what we do now. We are not just seeking to be effective and efficient in aligning the strategic priorities for strategy’s sake. We want to align so we look like a puzzle that’s all together and not separated into our parts.”

Davis also noted the strategic priorities of Multiplication (church planting), Transformation (church health), Global Movement, and Effective Biblical Leadership “are not just a good idea. We are setting the landscape and the trajectory to teach our children, and hopefully their children’s children, how to effectively win people for the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The group discussed ways to identify and enhance alignment, as well as some tactics for collaborating across the various committees and ministry areas.

Joining Davis were Gabriel de Guia, Executive Director of EPC World Outreach; Jason Dunn, Associate Director of World Outreach; Greg Aydt, Chairman of the Next Generation Ministries Council; Andrew Smith, Co-Chairman of the Revelation 7:9 Task Force; Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk; Jerry Iamurri, EPC Assistant Stated Clerk; Brian Smith, EPC Director of Communications and Digital Strategies; and Vanessa Mullendore, Strategic Priorities Administrative Assistant.

Prayer requested for Kazakhstan in wake of January riots

 

In the aftermath of January riots in Kazakhstan, leaders of the Presbyterian Church of Kazakhstan have requested prayer for the Lord to restore peace and stability in the country.

Between January 2-6, citizens across the Central Asian nation took to the streets to express dissatisfaction with a spike in gas prices. Some of the protests escalated into violence. The Kazakh government reported 227 deaths and nearly 10,000 arrests, but unofficial reports have put the death toll as high as 2,000.

“No one from our church and Presbytery was hurt or injured,” one of the EPC’s ministry partners in Kazakhstan reported by email. “Churches continue to be online at this time due to Omicron-spreading issues, but after January 31 we think we should be allowed to meet in our buildings. Could you please lift up in prayers our country, our people, and the Church in Kazakhstan? Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”

EPC Stated Clerk Dean Weaver is asking all EPC congregations to pray.

“We have had a long-time fraternal relationship with The Presbyterian Church of Kazakhstan,” Weaver said. “They are wonderful followers of Jesus and great partners in the gospel. In Galatians 6:2, the Bible calls us to share one another’s burdens. I hope each of our congregations will do that in prayer.”

In this video from The Telegraph, protesters in Kazakhstan’s largest city stormed the presidential residence and the mayor’s office on January 5 and set both on fire as demonstrations sparked by a rise in fuel prices escalated sharply in the Central Asian nation.

“In All Things” podcast episode 3 highlights EPC World Outreach with Gabriel de Guia

 

Episode 3 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things,” features Gabriel de Guia, Executive Director of EPC World Outreach. This week, host Dean Weaver and Gabriel discuss Gabriel’s journey to faith in Christ, more than 20 years serving with Cru, and now leading the global missions arm of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

Presbytery of the Alleghenies golf tournament raises $42,000 for EduNations

 

Thanks to the sponsorship and participation of the Presbytery of the Alleghenies, EduNations hosted its third annual golf outing in September at Avalon Golf and Country Club in Sharon, Pa.

Motivated by compassion for “the least of these,” EduNations gives forgotten children tangible reasons to hope. More than teaching ABCs, EduNations creates schools in Sierra Leone, West Africa, that become beacons of growth and learning. In addition to providing education to children during the week, these schools function as the center for their communities’ development by providing clean water, health education, AIDS prevention, adult education, future vocational training, and community empowerment. Through partnership with the EPC, many first-generation believers have been born in the six remote villages where EduNations has schools. As part of the Engage 2025 initiative of EPC World Outreach, the Presbytery of the Alleghenies has adopted two of these remote villages—Rokassa and Fintonia.

With the support of the Presbytery of the Alleghenies, EduNations held its first golf outing fundraiser in 2019 to support the construction of its first boarding high school, which officially opened in January 2021. This two-story school building in Rokassa enables EduNations students from all six remote communities to receive a high school education, focusing in either Science, Commercial Business, or Liberal Arts. In addition, students live in dormitories with the other boarding students and receive three meals each day. In 2020, funds raised at EduNations’ golf outing supported room and board expenses for the first class of 130 high school students who started attending the Senior Secondary School in January 2021.

The goal of this year’s golf outing was to “Send More to School” and provide room and board for EduNations’ second class of students entering the Senior Secondary Boarding School in Rokassa. The boarding school is a big step for EduNations because prior to this, students who had passed the national Basic Certificate Exams after junior secondary school (the equivalent of middle school in the U.S.) simply had nowhere to go to further their education. Now, students from all villages will have the chance to complete an undergraduate education in a Christian environment. This opportunity to directly impact students’ spiritual lives is invaluable, as all of them are entering an age where they can really make their faith their own.

Thanks to the Presbytery of the Alleghenies and all who supported and participated in this year’s golf outing, EduNations raised $42,000—an increase of $10,000 over the 2020 fundraiser. This year, about 260 students are attending EduNations Senior Secondary Boarding School in Rokassa. We are looking forward to seeing how these students, who are for the first time in their lives removed from the Islamic beliefs and practices of their parents, will be impacted spiritually as they are exposed to the gospel and discipled in their young and growing faith. Thank you!

by Sarah Pietryga
Development Coordinator, EduNations

With the support of the Presbytery of the Alleghenies, EduNations golf outing fundraisers have helped support the construction of its first boarding high school, which officially opened in January 2021. This two-story school building in Rokassa, Sierra Leone, enables EduNations students from all six remote communities to receive a high school education, focusing in either Science, Commercial Business, or Liberal Arts. In addition, students live in dormitories with the other boarding students and receive three meals each day.

World Outreach webinar to address Afghanistan crisis, opportunity

 

In response to the crisis in Afghanistan, EPC World Outreach is hosting a free webinar on Wednesday, August 25, at 3:30 p.m. (Eastern). “Afghanistan Crisis and Opportunity: How Your Church Can Respond” will provide answers to the questions of how followers of Jesus can respond to the Afghan crisis and refugees coming to the U.S.

“We will talk about God’s heart for the refugees, how to be in prayer for Afghanistan and God’s Kingdom there, and how we in the EPC can reach out in practical ways to Afghan refugees that are coming to the U.S.” said Gabriel de Guia, Executive Director of World Outreach.

To register for the webinar, go to www.epc.org/afghanistancrisisopportunity

“We want to give specific ways for people to be praying for the situation in Afghanistan,” de Guia added. “One of our workers who is intimately involved in that region and among those people sent us the prayer points below. All of us in World Outreach encourage our EPC brothers and sisters to join us in prayer in the coming days and weeks for God’s glory to be revealed in Afghanistan and among the Afghan refugees.”

Prayers from a World Outreach global worker

  1. Peace of heart. Too many people are crowding the airport and making rash decisions, including believers—albeit they have reason for concern. God is in control and has higher authority than the Taliban.
  2. Relief to internally displaced people. Thousands of Afghans fled their homes to flock to Kabul, only to get caught there now but they are without much food, water, or money. No one is there to help them that we know about.
  3. Civil government. God ordains rulers and kings. The new rulers have the task of running a civil government and society that is stable and peaceful. Even if it is along lines we do not prefer, such laws have not stopped the Church in the past nor will it now.
  4. Protection from fear and boldness of believers. Evacuation is not the best route for every believer nor all Afghans. Looking to the West has become an idol. God is able to protect them and make the Good News to those around them now and protect them even unto death.
  5. Opportunity for Christian workers to Afghanistan. Once there is order there will be a huge need for humanitarian/Christian aid organizations to return. We worked under them before and will likely do so again.
  6. God’s Kingdom to come to Afghanistan. There are no human solutions. Not armies, nor money, nor training, etc. have been able to change their hearts, the real root of the problem. Only God can do that through Jesus.

2021 Leadership Institute: The Israel of God

 

In the 2021 Leadership Institute seminar The Israel of God, Mike Kuhn examined an array of passages from both the Old and New Testaments in light of the question, “how we should understand ‘Israel’ biblically?” He also considered three implications regarding the current state of Israel:

First, the identity boundaries of Israel were never ethnic but covenantal.

“The sign of the covenant was the identity marker,” he said.

Second, the Old Testament anticipates what the New Testament teaches—an expansion of those boundaries in terms of both land and people.

Third, all nations are included in the Israel of God—people—and the promised land is a renewal of all creation.

“Jesus, in word and action, gave sufficient indication that the true people of God are those people who believe the testimony about Him and join themselves to him to become one with Him,” Kuhn said. “Jesus is the spiritual progenitor of a new people, a new nation consisting of both Jews and Gentiles.”

Kuhn emphasized that this new nation is the inclusive and expansive continuation of Old Testament Israel.

“The difference is that now the anointed prophet, priest, and king has appeared—God’s eternal purpose for His people is fulfilled in Christ,” he said. “To use the language of Hebrews, the shadow has now given way to the reality. In Christ, God’s purposes are not merely proclaimed, but achieved. Christ is the Israel of God.”

Kuhn serves as Missional Theology Specialist for EPC World Outreach’s International Theological Education Network (ITEN). For more than 28 years, he lived in three different Arab countries: Morocco, Egypt, and Lebanon, where he served as Professor of Biblical Theology and Discipleship at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Beirut from 2012-2018.

The Leadership Institute is an equipping component of the annual General Assembly meeting.

#epc2021ga

Phil Linton reflects on seven years as Director of World Outreach

 

Phil Linton

At the end of this month, I will step down after seven years as Director of World Outreach. I want to reflect here on four developments I’ve seen in our work during that time.

Internationalized Church-planting Teams

The EPC World Outreach global workers we send out from North America almost always end up teaming with spiritual brothers and sisters sent out from Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Europe. These relationships are rarely orchestrated from denominational or mission agency headquarters, but rather are organic partnerships that grow as disciple-makers from very different cultures discover each other working on the same task directed by the same Spirit.

Second-generation EPC WO Global Workers

By Presbyterian standards EPC World Outreach is relatively young, having sent out its first workers in 1985. But in recent years we have seen adult children (Jackie, Peter, and Josh) from three different EPC WO families return with the EPC into full-cycle church planting among people with least access to the gospel. With these folks we build on the foundation of decades of the very best preparation for cross-cultural ministry.

Repatriated Immigrant Global Workers

The dream of escape to America—the Land of Opportunity—is still very much alive throughout much of the world. Few who have achieved that dream give it up and return to the lands of their birth, but we in EPC World Outreach have several families where at least one spouse fits that description. These families have unusual credibility with neighbors who recognize they are animated by a power greater than material success. Coupling that credibility with a deep understanding of local culture to share the gospel has had a major impact in many cases.

National Church Missional Leaders

As World Outreach Director, I receive several requests each week from Christians around the world, asking for “partnership.” Of course, partnership may have many different meanings, but usually these appeals are for funds to carry out ministry in their communities. As important as these ministries are, I routinely turn down such requests to focus our resources and energies on a different kind of partnership.

World Outreach has developed close relationships with church leaders in Asia and Africa whose eyes are always on the frontiers of their communities. They look beyond where their churches are, to the neighborhoods, villages, and towns where no churches are. They pray for those places; they go to those places; they train and send people to those places; and EPC WO comes alongside to help them. Our efforts here become magnified and multiplied for a hundred-fold effect.

One final note: these developments in World Outreach have been gifts from God through the labors of people other than me. It has been the labors of loving missionary parents which have borne sweet fruit in the lives of our World Outreach MKs. It has been the faithful service of elders in our presbyteries who nurtured relationships with national church missional leaders in places like Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Albania, and Russia. It has been EPC pastors who welcomed and befriended immigrant Christians in their congregations, and then encouraged and guided them to be sent back by EPC World Outreach. And it has been our WO global workers who have recognized “God’s team” in the faces of El Salvadoran, Brazilian, Singaporean, Indonesian, Albanian, etc. brothers and sisters and reached out hands to work together. To all of you, I say thank you for your service to Christ, and for making my work as WO Director a joy.

Grace and peace,

Phil Linton
Director, EPC World Outreach

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk models Revelation 7:9 with local outreach efforts

 

A beacon of hope and light sits on the top of a hill in Nassau, Bahamas. St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk is a church with a rich history and tradition. It was established in 1810 to bring the rites and traditions of the Church of Scotland to Scottish immigrants—some of whom were “loyalists” banished to the Bahamas following the American Revolution nearly 30 years earlier. But the picturesque, inviting structure houses a congregation that looks very different today than it once did.

“When I arrived at the church in 2010,” said Pastor Bryn MacPhail, “There were about 40 persons attending worship and only two or three children.” He added that the congregation was predominantly white in a country where 90 percent of the population is Black.

“I really believed our church should reflect the diversity of the community around us,” he noted. “I found an orphanage nearby called Ranfurly Home for Children and started volunteering there once a week so I could build a relationship with them.”

Bryn MacPhail

MacPhail also discovered that the church bordered the poorest and most crime-ridden neighborhood in the city, known as Bain and Grant’s Town. He began volunteering in a local community center, the Urban Renewal Center, and soon was bringing others from the church with him to play sports, provide tutoring, and take kids to lunch.

“It took a while for people to warm up to us,” MacPhail recalled. “But we kept going, week after week. That went on for a couple of years. Eventually the director of the center told me that most of these kids did not go to church. She suggested that maybe we could find a way to get them there.”

So St. Andrew’s hired a bus and driver, which cost $60 a week. They began driving around the neighborhoods of the inner city, inviting kids to come to church. In the first year and a half, they averaged two to four kids per week on the bus.

Their persistence paid off—eventually the bus filled up with kids from the city, and a second bus was added to bring youth from the Ranfurly Home. On any given Sunday, as many as 50-60 children and youth came for Sunday worship.

MacPhail soon realized that the influx of young people was more than the church could handle, so he asked a local missionary, Bob Mastin, to become the church’s ministry partner. In addition, a St. Andrew’s deacon who had served as Assistant Commissioner of Police stepped in as the point person to help with logistics and to make local connections.

Luncheons for area residents are just one of many ways St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk blesses its neighbors in Nassau.

Mastin, who serves with Bahamas Youth Network, already had a strong rapport with the youth and ran a parallel ministry in Nassau. He had moved to the island in 2017 after several years of visiting on short-term mission trips. As a coach and teacher, his love for youth and passion for sports were natural connection points for helping him relate to inner-city kids.

“My heart is in working with underprivileged kids,” Mastin said. “When I arrived, I was the only white guy in my neighborhood. One day I was out canvassing the streets when the police pulled me over and asked for my ID. They thought I was lost and warned me that I was in a dangerous area. I told them that this is where God had called me and my wife, and we were here to stay because we wanted to help the community in whatever way we could.”

Mastin agreed to partner with St. Andrews while maintaining his commitment to Bahamas Youth Network—which keeps him busy visiting local high schools, coaching soccer, and teaching family life classes.

“We’re all doing this together, and it really is making a huge difference and having an impact,” Mastin noted. “I recently had lunch with two guys who I have built a relationship with. One of them is schizophrenic and has been in the mental hospital 12 times trying to kick a drug habit. He told me that since I came down and brought the gospel, he has found meaning and purpose for his life. I told him that it’s not me, it’s the Lord. And he said, ‘But you are the vessel God used in my life.’”

The partnership between Mastin and St. Andrew’s is bearing fruit in the form of a Thursday night discipleship group with eight boys between the ages of 12 and 18, which started in January.

“We’re studying a curriculum that invites them to talk about painful moments in their lives,” MacPhail said. “One 14-year-old boy shared about how on his sixth birthday he watched the police come and arrest his Dad and take him away. The stories we hear are horrific.”

St. Andrew’s has a long-standing partnership with McDonald’s to provide backpacks and school supplies to children in several neighborhoods near the church in downtown Nassau. The backpacks were filled with books, pens, pencils, and other supplies. Children who received the backpacks attend the St. Andrew’s Sunday School and Big Harvest Community Sunday School.

Mastin believes that growing up in a tough environment has made them more resilient.

“They really are great kids,” he said. “You can see that they are hungry for something different, and they are growing in their faith and seeking after the Lord.”

A few of the youth have chosen to be baptized, and some of them serve on St. Andrew’s audio/visual team.

“I can’t wait to watch their stories unfold,” MacPhail said. “We told them that we will invest in them every week, and our hope is that they will grow in their faith and become deacons and leaders in the church someday. We even promised them that if any one of them feels called to be a pastor we will help with their education.”

The group already has an inspiring role model who is one of their own—Jude Vilma.

“Jude was born in Nassau and grew up in a Haitian Creole community on the island of Abaco, about 100 miles north of here),” MacPhail said. “Through a variety of influences he graduated from high school, received a scholarship to work with Bahamas Youth Network, and started attending college.”

It was around that time that Vilma—who currently is studying at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando—met MacPhail and got connected with St. Andrew’s.

“God called me to full-time ministry, and I served as a Youth Coordinator with the Bahamas Youth Network and also a pastoral intern with St. Andrew’s Kirk,” Vilma noted. “This partnership enabled me to serve in the church and work with this community organization that is big on discipleship. I was also eager to take theology classes online because of my love for God’s Word and for learning.”

Jude Vilma

MacPhail said his dream is that Vilma will one day return to the Bahamas and become the Senior Pastor at St. Andrew’s.

“God’s been gracious to me and has blessed this ministry, but a white foreigner can only do so much,” said MacPhail, who hails from Canada. “Most of our inner-city kids are from a Haitian background, and many of the adults do not even speak English. I believe the church would absolutely explode in size if Jude took over. He can speak to them in a way that I can’t.”

Vilma said that he plans to return to the Bahamas once he has completed his education and as the Lord leads.

“My hope for the church in the Bahamas,” he said, “is that there would be more pastors and leaders who proclaim sound doctrine, that there would be unity among believers, and that Christianity would be seen as a lifestyle—not just a religion or something you do on a Sunday.”

Until Vilma’s hope is realized, MacPhail said St. Andrew’s will continue to faithfully serve their neighbors in Bain and Grant’s Town, even though the pandemic has not made it easy. He said they have been unable to visit the orphanage in 13 months, and they started operating a food pantry out of MacPhail’s office just to try and meet all the needs. He reported that in the past year alone they distributed more than $50,000 worth of food.

“People occasionally ask me what the secret is, and how we have been able to succeed in the face of adversity,” MacPhail said. “I tell them one thing: Just keep showing up.”

by Kiki Schleiff Cherry
EPConnection correspondent

Puerto Rico churches gather for virtual prayer summit

 

On January 21, the Sessions of the EPC’s three churches in Puerto Rico gathered virtually for a time of prayer and thanksgiving. Nearly 30 individuals participated in the video conference.

The congregations are Iglesia Presbiteriana Westminster (Westminster Presbyterian Church) in Bayamón, Iglesia Presbiteriana Evangélica Mayagüez (Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Mayagüez), and Iglesia Presbiteriana Evangélica en Añasco (Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Añasco). All are members of the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean.

The group, which included pastors Juan Rivera (Bayamón), Abraham Montes (Añasco), and Ariel Toro (Mayagüez) convened the prayer time to give thanks for the blessings received during 2020, and pray in the same spirit for the church, its projects, the sick, Puerto Rico, and the United States. Enid Flores, Ruling Elder for Westminster Presbyterian Church and current Moderator of the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean also participated.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to pray together, using the best tool that we have in our hands to entrust our life, our projects, and serve the island of Puerto Rico,” Enid said. “To God and God alone be the glory!

________________________

Comenzando el año 2021 las tres iglesias del Presbiterio de la Florida y el Caribe de la EPC ubicadas en Puerto Rico que son la Iglesia Presbiteriana Westminster (IPW), la Iglesia Presbiteriana en Mayaguez (IPEM) y la Iglesia Presbiteriana de Añasco (IPEA) se unieron, en un solo espíritu, en un tiempo de oración para la gloria de nuestro Señor.

Los tres Consistorios, con sus pastores, Pastor Juan Rivera, Pastor Abraham Montes y Pastor Ariel Toro lideraron el tiempo de oración con el fin de dar gracias por las bendiciones recibidas durante el 2020 y orar juntos en un mismo espíritu, por la iglesia, sus proyectos, los enfermos, Puerto Rico y los Estados Unidos en los momentos que estamos viviendo.  Los acompañó como invitada la Moderadora del Presbiterio de Florida y el Caribe, la Anc. Enid D. Flores.

Damos gracias por la oportunidad de orar juntos, utilizando la mejor herramienta que tenemos en nuestras manos para encomendar nuestra vida, nuestros proyectos, y con ello servirle a la isla. ¡A Dios y solo a Dios sea la gloria!

EPC Home Missionary John Bueno releases December newsletter 

 

John Bueno, EPC Home Missionary serving with Latins United Christian Ministries (LUCM), invites you to read his December 2020 newsletter, in which he recaps some of his ministry efforts in 2020.

Click here to download the December 2020 edition in PDF format.

For more information about LUCM, contact Bueno at johnbknox@yahoo.com or 402-350-3815.

Ministry paths converge in Orlando for Bahamas, Pennsylvania ordination candidates

 

FROM THERE; GOING THERE: Carrie and Barrett Hendrickson (left) greeted Jude and Keitra Vilma after a recent worship service at First Presbyterian Church of Orlando. Jude grew up in Marsh Harbor and now serves as a pastoral resident at FPCO. The Hendricksons arrived in Marsh Harbor on November 4 to serve with the EPC’s Kirk of the Pines under the auspices of the Caribbean Youth Network.

What do Pittsburgh, Orlando, and Marsh Harbor in the Bahamas have in common? For two EPC ordination candidates and their families, Orlando is the middle link in a chain that stretches more than 1,000 miles across two countries.

On September 3, Jude and Keitra Vilma arrived in Orlando from Nassau, where he had served as a pastoral intern for St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk. He grew up in a Haitian Creole community in Marsh Harbor, has been a youth worker with the Bahamas Youth Network, and now is a pastoral resident at First Presbyterian Church in Orlando while pursuing a Master of Divinity degree from Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS).

Meanwhile in Pittsburgh, Barrett Hendrickson was in the process of transferring his status as Candidate Under Care from the Presbytery of the Alleghenies to the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean. A May 2020 RTS graduate, he and his wife, Carrie, had joined the Caribbean Youth Network (CYN) to serve with EPC Teaching Elder Gabe Swing at the Kirk of the Pines in Marsh Harbor in the Bahamas. The church is a mission of the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean.

The Hendricksons staged in Florida for several months while they waited for pandemic-related restrictions in the Bahamas to be lifted. On November 4, they arrived in Marsh Harbor, which was devastated by Hurricane Dorian in 2019.

“We are extremely excited to welcome the Hendrickson family to Abaco,” Swing said. “They will provide needed support for relief efforts and help us re-engage the community through outreach and worship opportunities.”

Hendrickson said that when he was young, one of the ways his youth pastor mentored him was through preforming manual labor, such as mowing the lawns of older church members.

“I wanted to be able to do that here,” he said. “Of course sharing Jesus and discipling people, but also by providing tangible, physical needs.”

Swing said conditions in Marsh Harbor continue to be “very difficult” for residents, with many still without adequate housing, electricity, and running water.

“The reconstruction moves at a snail’s pace, and many residents have to acquire drinking water from Water Mission distribution sites,” he said. “The pandemic has frustrated recovery efforts, and food security has become a major problem. Thousands of people are relying on free food distribution from the government and NGOs.”

In the wake of Hurricane Dorian, approximately $175,000 has been disbursed to Kirk of the Pines from the EPC Emergency Relief Fund.

Swing noted that “regular giving has all but vanished” since so many church members have been displaced to other islands in the Bahamas, as well as the U.S. He said the Emergency Relief Fund donations have been used to purchase a truck to distribute relief supplies; provide food and housing for several displaced families; assist with living expenses for he and his wife, Jan; and fund pastoral visits to members of the congregation.

‘Raising up the next generation of pastoral leaders’

While Orlando was a stopping point in the Hendrickson’s journey to the Bahamas, the Vilmas are adjusting to life at FPCO and RTS. He is the recipient of the Andrew Jumper Scholarship, which is named for one of the EPC’s founders and awarded by RTS to a full-time MDiv student who demonstrates “exemplary Christian character and potential for ministry.”

David Swanson, FPCO Senior Pastor, said the Vilmas are “settling into the FPCO family beautifully” as the congregation has resumed in-person worship.

“Our commitment is to take an active role in raising up the next generation of pastoral leaders with a special eye towards greater diversity,” he said. “The Vilmas are the perfect fit for a mutually beneficial partnership. Jude is already leading in worship and will be meeting with each member of the pastoral team on a regular basis as the meat of his pastoral residency program. He will be exposed to every dimension of church life, including finance and administration, with the goal of helping him be ready theologically and practically for a fruitful future pastorate.”

Vilma said that he did not expect to be awarded the Jumper Scholarship, and when he received the news he knew he and his wife would be moving to Florida.

“I knew I was coming to Orlando,” Vilma said. “First Pres was very generous to us coming here with their love and support, so it’s really great for us. I hope to continue to grow under David Swanson, Case Thorp, and the other pastors here, and eventually to serve within the EPC itself.”

FPCO has partnered with the EPC congregations in the Bahamas “in extremely meaningful ways,” said Bryn MacPhail, Senior Pastor of St. Andrew’s Kirk. “No individual congregation has contributed more to the health and progress of St. Andrew’s and Kirk of the Pines than First Pres Orlando.”

Hendrickson said Vilma is “our great success story” from CYN.

“When we came down last August before Hurricane Dorian hit to see the opportunity with Gabe and CYN, Jude walked us through Marsh Harbor and the Haitian neighborhood where he grew up,” he said. “So to connect with him and Keitra in Orlando was wonderful. To recognize how God raised him up here—and now bringing us to Abaco—it was like God was saying to us, ‘there is opportunity to raise up more.’ That’s our long-term goal: to raise Bahamian pastors.”

 

Emergency fund launched for Beirut explosion relief

 

BeirutExplosionReliefFundThe EPC has launched an emergency relief fund to help relieve suffering caused by a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, on August 4. The blast killed more than 180 people and injured an additional 6,000. An estimated 300,000 people were left homeless.

Donations to the fund will be sent to the Church of the Nazarene in Beirut and other key ministry partners of EPC World Outreach.

“The Nazarene Church in Lebanon has a long history of work among Lebanon’s poor and refugees, and is very well-positioned to provide emergency help in Christ’s name to victims of the blast,” said Phil Linton, Director of World Outreach. “Many of our Nazarene brothers and sisters there were sharing their meager resources with refugees even before the explosion. Our gifts will be a great encouragement to their faithful and generous outreach, as well as our other partners in Lebanon.”

Click here to donate to the Beirut Explosion Relief Fund. Thank you for providing help to those in need.

World Outreach Philemon Project GROW Center preschool damaged in Beirut explosion

 

Security camera footage captures the moments that the shock wave from the August 5, 2020, explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, hit the Philemon Project GROW Center.

The Philemon Project GROW Center, an early childhood development center and adult mentoring program in Beirut, Lebanon, was heavily damaged by the explosion that rocked the city on August 5. The center is located approximately two miles from Beirut’s port, where the blast occurred.

The GROW Center is a project of EPC World Outreach and is led by Robert Hamd, a Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of the Central South. Hamd reported by email late August 5 that none of the center’s staff were seriously injured, but one employee’s home was destroyed.

“Our house is completely gone,” said Azig, an Early Development Specialist at the GROW Center. “We gathered clothes, money, and important papers as much as we can. My family will go to my brother’s fiancee’s house. Please mention us in your prayers, I don’t know how we will overcome this.”

Hand reported that “not much is salvageable” at the GROW Center.

RobertHamd

Robert Hamd

“The building has structural damage, stuff is strewn everywhere, windows are broken,” Hamd said. “Thank God no one was in the building when it happened.”

He added that the staff is “traumatized.”

“They’re weeping,” he said. “One told me she cried for three hours straight until she collapsed from exhaustion.”

As of August 6, no major injuries have been reported among the families the GROW Center serves.

“We grieve with the long-suffering people of Beirut in the aftermath of this terrible shaking,” said Phil Linton, Director of World Outreach. “We pray God will comfort them and, through people like the GROW Center staff, give them a foundation that can never be shaken.”

PhilemonGrowCenterDamageA

The blast shattered windows and left the facility littered with broken drywall and other debris.

More than 135 people are confirmed dead from the explosion, with more than 5,000 injured and as many as 300,000 homeless. Officials have said those numbers are likely to climb. Marwan Abboud, Beirut’s Governor, said half the buildings in Beirut are damaged. The explosion was reportedly caused by 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate, which had been stored in a warehouse at the port since 2013.

“Please pray for our work and witness,” Hamd said. “This is a catastrophe of epic proportions.”

The GROW Center provides early childhood development opportunities for at-risk and underserved Lebanese, Syrian refugee, and migrant children and their families in a Christian environment. For more information about the Philemon Project GROW Center, see www.thephilemonproject.org.

To donate to the center’s recovery, go to www.epcwo.org/supportphilemongrow. Hamd noted that all donations given in the near future will go toward “repairing the building, replacing books, toys, kitchen items—basically everything.”

EPC Home Missionary John Bueno releases Spring 2020 newsletter 

 

LatinsUnited202001John Bueno, EPC Home Missionary serving with Latins United Christian Ministries (LUCM), has published his Spring 2020 newsletter, in which he discusses Latin cross-cultural ministries in the EPC. Among the highlights are challenges faced by churches in Colombia due to the coronavirus pandemic, a variety of reports on ministry efforts in 2019, and a significant praise report on an ongoing personal health issue.

Click here to download the Spring 2020 edition in PDF format.

For more information about LUCM, contact Bueno at johnbknox@yahoo.com or 402-350-3815.

World Outreach global workers minister, monitor coronavirus locally

 
PhilLinton

Phil Linton

by Phil Linton
Director, EPC World Outreach

As WWII drew to a close, a young Russian soldier-mathematician was arrested and condemned to imprisonment and permanent exile for privately criticizing Stalin. Imprisoned in a Siberian labor camp, later suffering from cancer and given just weeks to live, it seemed that all the plans, hopes, and dreams of his life were shattered. But what Stalin meant for evil, God used for good, and the arrest changed the course of Aleksankr Solzhenitsyn’s life so that the soldier-mathematician became one of the greatest writers of the 20th century.

The COVID-19 pandemic is shattering many of our plans and dreams, but how is it affecting EPC World Outreach? It is causing us, like you, to be on heightened alert. We are talking with and listening to government sources, other mission agencies, and our own colleagues around the world to try to keep up with changing situations. But, above all else, we keep in mind that God is in control, and there is no virus that can do anything without God using it for His good purposes.

The EPC World Outreach staff in Orlando is doing the same things that many of you are—working from our homes, canceling all but essential travel, postponing events, and changing meetings to video conferences. We have stepped up text, audio, and video calls to stay in even closer communication with our global workers to pray with them and help them think through their responses.

World Outreach is neither requiring nor forbidding any of our workers to return to the States. We believe these decisions are best made at a team level by those most aware of local situations. Two of our workers, in exceptional circumstances, have returned to the States in the past week. The rest are heeding local medical advice, postponing travel, and adopting social practices to inhibit spreading the disease. As they have long prayed for spiritual breakthroughs in their communities, they are now waiting in hope for opportunities to be God’s ambassadors to neighbors in need.

The message that our global workers tell their neighbors is the same message they tell themselves: in a global pandemic the only safe place to flee to is the arms of God.

Thank you for remembering our missionaries even as you face your own challenges. Thank you for praying for them as you pray for your own families; thank you for giving to support them, even as you deal with your own financial reverses. Please continue to pray.

  • Pray for our missionaries’ health and stamina, especially for those working with the poor and providing health care in difficult settings.
  • Pray for World Outreach leaders to be full of grace and truth as we respond to our colleagues’ questions and needs.
  • Pray for all of us to be radiant ambassadors of the Kingdom of God, sharing the good news that brings life to the dying.

Looking back at the surprising course of his life, Solzhenitsyn wrote this prayer:

How easy for me to live with you, Lord!
How easy to believe in you!
When my mind casts about
or flags in bewilderment,
when the cleverest among us
cannot see past the present evening,
not knowing what to do tomorrow—
you send me the clarity to know
that you exist
and will take care
that not all paths of goodness should be barred.
At the crest of earthly fame
I look back in wonderment
at the journey beyond hope — to this place,
from which I was able to send mankind
a reflection of your rays.
And however long the time
that I must yet reflect them
you will give it me.
And whatever I fail to accomplish
you surely have allotted unto others.

Let us live these days of the COVID-19 pandemic so that, when it has passed, you and I will look back at it in wonderment as a time where God’s glory was most radiant.

World Outreach receives $50,000 gift for Lebanon early childhood development center ministry

 

Nearly 70 at-risk children in Lebanon and their families will benefit from a $50,000 donation to the Philemon Project Grow Center, a ministry headed by a World Outreach global worker in the region. The online donation was submitted in January and is the second major gift received by World Outreach in the past six weeks.

“The Grow Center is a vibrant ministry that shares Jesus’ love with children of migrant workers and Syrian refugees, as well as other at-risk children in Lebanon,” said Phil Linton, Director of World Outreach. “The Center also works to help break the cycle of disfunction by offering mentoring programs to the parents. The work they are doing is quite amazing.”

The Philemon Project was started to provide migrant workers in Beirut with high-quality, reasonably priced childcare. The organization has developed into a non-governmental organization (NGO) and is under the auspices of Resurrection Church Beirut. The Grow Center is a Christian-led early childhood development center and adult mentoring program. It welcomes underserved children and families from all ethnicities and religious backgrounds and provides a healthy place for children ages one to four to grow physically, cognitively, socially, and spiritually. The Center’s adult mentoring program helps parents develop skills to create lasting, healthy, and active relationships with their children.

For more information on giving to the EPC or EPC World Outreach, go to www.epc.org/donate or www.epcwo.org/support, respectively.

Redeemer Presbyterian Church (Erie, Pa.) launches ministry relationship in Monterrey, Mexico

 

Through the EPC’s fraternal relationship with the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico (INPM), Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Erie, Pa., has formed a ministry relationship with Iglesia Nacional Presbiteriana El Buen Pastor (Good Shepherd National Presbyterian Church) in Monterrey, Mexico. The northeastern Mexican city of more than 4.5 million residents is about 200 miles west of Brownsville, Texas.

The seeds of the relationship were planted in November 2018, when Redeemer Pastor Douglas Kortyna and his wife, Sara, were visiting Monterrey.

“We wanted to worship with fellow Presbyterians while we were down there visiting family,” Douglas said. “We found El Buen Pastor and connected with their pastor, David Cruz.”

RedeemerPresMonterrey

From left, Douglas Kortyna (Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Erie, Pa.), David Cruz (Pastor of Iglesia Nacional Presbiteriana El Buen Pastor in Monterrey, Mexico), and Jim Moelk (retired Presbyterian pastor from Erie, Pa.). 

Through their new-found friendship with Cruz, the Kortynas began a dialogue about potential future mission trips to Mexico. After discussing a variety of possible ministry opportunities, the pastors agreed that the best fit for a first mission trip would be theological education.

“It is a universal truth that Presbyterians throughout the world love their theological education!” Douglas exclaimed.

In November 2019, the Kortynas and a retired Presbyterian pastor from the Erie area, Jim Moelk, and his wife, Jaye, traveled to Monterrey and taught on a variety of topics.

“I taught on trinitarian worship and Reformed sacraments,” Douglas said. “Jim taught through the pastoral epistles with special attention to ‘guarding your conscience,’ while Sara taught the woman’s group at El Buen Pastor on the topic of trinitarian prayer.”

In addition, the group from Redeemer learned how their Mexican counterparts were engaged in church planting.

“The church has started what they call ‘five in five,’” Douglas said. “They are working toward planting five churches within a five-year time period.”

Cruz led the Pennsylvania contigent on tours of three of the Monterrey congregation’s five current church plants.

“We were blown away,” Douglas said. “What church plants five churches in five years? Yet every time El Buen Pastor hits a certain threshold of members, they plant a church, commission the team they establish, and commit to supporting them financially.”

He explained that the El Buen Pastor congregation has “a Kingdom focus and is not interested in just building up one congregation. I couldn’t help but think we should host pastors from Mexico to help teach future EPC church planters some of their strategies!”

Kortyna hopes the November trip is just the start of a fruitful partnership.

“We would love to host a team from El Buen Pastor,” he said. “There is much to learn from our Mexican brothers and sisters in Christ while mutually serving one another, and I firmly believe we should participate with them in the missional work of church planting in Monterrey. Anyone interested in joining us is welcome to contact me at pastor_kortyna@rpcerie.org.”