Many are concerned and inquiring about the welfare of our churches and people in the region. So as we head into the week, let me provide a brief update of what we have learned and been able to confirm thus far.
Communication with/from Gulf Shores, Alabama, and Pensacola, Florida, continues to remain a challenge since Hurricane Sally hit the Western Florida panhandle and Alabama Gulf Coast on Wednesday night. Pastor Shawn Kennedy was able to successfully call out and connect with me yesterday afternoon, but the duration of the connection was short-lived.
All three Alliance churches in the area sustained some wind and water damage to varying degrees. It appears that Genesis Church in Gulf Shores, Alabama sustained the most damage, but Eternal Life Church in Lillian, Alabama, and Ensley Alliance Church in Pensacola, Florida, were not exempt. Hurricane insurance in this area is for the most part cost-prohibitive, making it out of reach for many churches. Genesis Church did have hurricane insurance, but their deductible is $80,000. An insurance adjuster is scheduled to assess the damage at Genesis Church early next week, but pastor Shawn estimates that the damage will likely not exceed the deductible amount, but $50,000 – $60,000 in repairs will likely need to be made. These repairs, along with those at Eternal Life Church and Ensley Alliance Church will have to be financed from these churches’ budgets, which is already stretched as a result of COVID-19. So please pray for God’s provision and enabling.
Almost miraculously, Eternal Life Church (Lillian, Alabama) escaped what could have been catastrophic damage. There are only a few feet between the church building and a house that used to serve as the church’s parsonage. A HUGE tree fell during the storm and landed exactly between the two buildings! It hit the electric wire and pulled the meter box off of the house, but did not hit either building. As mentioned in an earlier communication, however, significant wind and water damage were inflicted upon Pastor Calvin & Sharon Bartl’s home.
Genesis Church has sprung into action to minister to the needs of the Gulf Shores community. Out of a desire to be the hands and feet of Jesus during this time of need, they have opened up their church parking lot and church building to be a staging area for the distribution of essential items that are needed, but inaccessible due to the disaster. They are distributing water, ice, diapers, personal care items, supplies for clean-up, etc., to those in need. Additionally, they have opened up their gymnasium for those requiring shelter and are using the church’s commercial kitchen to feed workers. The church has gone out into the community with chain saws and to assist with clean-up, as well. Pastor Shawn Kennedy sent a text message last evening which read: “I lined up almost 10 yards to clean up today. People were crying … it was a good day!”
We have learned that one family from Genesis Church lost their home completely as a result of storm damage, but countless families have experienced damages to their homes – some significant.
CAMA Services, the relief arm of The Alliance, has stepped in to donate $5,000 to the Southern District to assist Genesis Church with its disaster relief efforts for which we are tremendously grateful and appreciative.
There is still no power or internet and cell phone service is ‘sketchy’ at best. The area looks like a war zone with devastation everywhere.
The national news cycle has already moved on to other things in less than 48 hours after Hurricane Sally made landfall. But for the people who live along this section of the Gulf Coast, it remains an ever-present reality and will remain for some time to come. It will likely be weeks before power is restored and/or life even begins to return to normal. And with the scars left behind upon this beautiful area, it will take years to be restored to its former beauty.
“Four new village churches were planted here recently, in spite of coronavirus restrictions,” reports Alliance international worker Syna Lao, who serves with her husband, Soeuth, in Cambodia. At this writing, “God has added three more to the list! For the past few weeks, we saw 3–5 people pray to receive Christ every week; in just 10 days, 50 people from all 17 Alliance village churches accepted Him as Savior!”
Every week during evening worship or discipleship classes, believers and non-believers have seen God at work. Demon possessed people were set free, and those with chronic illnesses were healed—including a young man severely lame from birth. One boy, aged nine, could barely see for most of his young life because of cloudy particles covering the lining of his eyes. But the church family prayed, and God restored his sight. He began to see blurred images at first, then gradually he could see everything clearly. More than 30 villagers testified to this miraculous healing.
As a result, more and more people have joined the already full classes, saying, “We cannot wait any longer for you to start a new class! We want to study God’s Word now.” In the evenings, every potential emerging church leader guides a small group through Bible studies and prayer meetings at every village church. These leaders diligently study with the Laos once or twice weekly, using their spiritual gifts to lead and teach others during these small group services.
Pray for all the new churches, believers, and leaders as they grow closer to God and bring more people into His Kingdom. “Intercede for us also as we work hard to keep up with the amazing things God is doing!” Syna adds.
Such stories are made possible by your faithful prayers for Alliance ministries and your generous gifts to the Great Commission Fund, which keep workers like Soeuth and Syna on the field. Thank you for partnering with them as they build Christ’s Church in Cambodia!
adapted by an update by Syna Lao
“As I watch the news, I not only see the devastation of the fires burning across the West, I’m also aware that our Alliance family is present in these regions. So that we can better pray for and support our churches, I’ve asked our team to provide for you the following information. May we continue to stand together through fire and flood, COVID and crisis.”
—John Stumbo, President
According to the New York Times, more than 3 million acres in California and 900,000 acres in Oregon have burned in the summer of 2020. Hundreds of thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes and 10 people were killed in the Bear Fire in California.
Many churches in the Alliance Northwest District have been threatened by the fires. A church plant in Central Point, Oregon, partners with a Hispanic church whose pastor lost his home. A few other churches in Clackamas County, Oregon, will potentially be forced to evacuate in the near future.
The pastor of Medford (Oregon) Neighborhood Church, Lee Gregory, and his wife, Doreen, had to evacuate for a couple days, but they were able to return home. Their church is also fine, however, 10–15 families in the church have lost their homes in Talent and Phoenix, Oregon, just outside of Medford.
In an effort to care for their community, Lee has been driving a school bus to take people back to their burned homes, and the Medford Neighborhood Church has set up a relief fund (I C.A.R.E.) to care for those who have lost homes during this disaster. They will be meeting with other churches and local businesses to work together to support these people, and CAMA will be providing funds to help them in their efforts. Read more about Pastor Lee’s efforts to lead through this crisis in this recent New York Times article.
Alliance churches and church members in California have remained unharmed. No churches in the South Pacific District are currently being threatened by fires, and Central Pacific District (CPD) Superintendent Wayne Spriggs reports:
This may be a surprise, but to our knowledge the only impact of the fires in the areas where CPD churches are located is the smoke. Paradise was under a threat of evacuation, but Pastor Josh Gallagher texted me last night to say that no one had to evacuate. Many areas of Northern California have extremely poor air quality. This is further isolating our people, especially in the Bay area, but to our knowledge no church or church members have been impacted by the fires. We praise God for this.
Please keep these communities in your prayers as these fires continue to rage. Also pray for the firefighters who are risking themselves for the lives and livelihoods of others.
By Peter Burgo
Editor/Alliance Life Magazine
If you are an Alliance Life subscriber, you probably just received the September/October issue of the magazine. Among the excellent articles in this issue is an exceptionally timely piece by Matthew Sleeth on page 12 entitled, “Should Christians be Optimists or Pessimists?” I would encourage you to read it. It will stimulate your mind and settle your soul. Just do me one favor when you turn to that page: skip the title.
For some reason—possibly because I had just scheduled an eye appointment (seriously)—we spelled “optimist” with an “o” in place of the first “i” in the print version of the magazine. And we did it in what I believe to be the largest font we’ve used in my 12 years as editor. Go big or go home, as they say.
So, chalk it up to editorial oversight (or the lack thereof). Sometimes we editors overlook the obvious by blowing right past the headline and diving straight into the fine print. I’m sure there are dozens of spiritual applications here; but most likely I just needed to be taken down a few more notches . . . Again, Lord?
I’ve chosen to confess my sin before it fully finds me out; but I’d also like to have a little fun with this—and I’m inviting you to join me. If you’ve made a humdinger of a typo (preferably family-friendly) that you’re willing to fess up to, I’d love to hear about it. In fact, the top 5 best typos we receive, as judged by our admittedly fallible editorial team, will be published in the November/December issue of Alliance Life.
Please email me your entries at email@example.com by Friday, September 18. Don’t delaye!
Please be in prayer for a West African nation where an apparent military takeover of the government took place on Tuesday, August 18. The president and prime minister have stepped down from power, the general assembly is being dissolved, and the situation remains tense and fluid. Please pray for the protection of our national church leaders and staff who work with them in this nation. Pray that during this time they may be the light of Christ in a very dark situation.
Lebanese Alliance ministry leaders in Beirut are asking all of us to pray for Lebanon, reminding us that the situation in the country was extremely fragile even before the blast.
From Beirut, mission partners report that following the horrific explosion Tuesday 4 August, there is a “strange mixture of thankfulness and anger” with many Lebanese people feeling grateful that their lives were spared, yet upset that there was failure by authorities to keep people safe from what many are calling a preventable tragedy.
Another great and probably more pervasive feeling is sadness and brokenness; many people have known violent explosions in the past and have traumatic memories. Feelings are stirred and sometimes difficult to process. The feeling of hopelessness was everywhere before; now it is much greater.
In some ways it is a continuation of the disruption caused by the revolution and COVID-19. The future of the economy was already very bleak. It is possible that this problem is so big that the difficult transformations required in the economy may be allowed to start.
“There are many Christians here and there is much physical work to do—and [untold opportunities] to share God’s words of comfort,” notes one ministry leader. “Pray for churches to work together. People are shaken, and we remind them that there is a greater security to be found in God.”
As for churches, one is raising funds to help people rebuild and find medical support if necessary; they are responsible for around 800 refugee families and are key workers in the community. Another that was empty at the time of the blast suffered a lot of damage. Many windows are broken, the suspended ceiling has come down and equipment has been thrown to the floor. The church has a very strong message of hope and comfort and will be needing to receive mercy and pass it on.
U.S. Alliance President John Stumbo writes,
“Just in the last few years, I’ve walked the very streets that now lie strewn with rubble. I’ve worshiped and preached in our sister Alliance church that has suffered much damage. More significantly, I’ve spent time getting to know the leaders of our Alliance family in Lebanon and have come to respect them deeply. I remind the US Alliance today that this is one of our family members. It is one of our beloved national churches, the fruit of mission sending of decades past. They are now in need of and worthy of our support. Please join me in praying and financially supporting them as their long journey of rebuilding begins.”
Please pray also:
May this catastrophe be a catalyst for change in this land. May God have mercy and may His will be done in Lebanon.
The recent explosion at the Port of Beirut has devastated the Evangelical Christian Alliance Church and the Christian Alliance Institute of Theology (CAIT), which are located one mile from the blast site.
For decades, the Evangelical Christian Alliance Church in Karantina has been at the forefront of gospel presence and proclamation and has coordinated extensive relief efforts in this tumultuous, war-torn country. Sami Dagher, the church’s founding pastor, has been instrumental in establishing the Church and training church leaders throughout the Middle East and beyond. Today, Sami’s nephew, Milad Dagher, oversees the many ministries of the Karantina church.
On the same property is the CAIT, an Alliance Bible college that has trained dozens of pastors who now serve all over the Middle East and North Africa. In addition to pastoring the Karantina church, Milad Dagher is the director of the CAIT.
Ed Mangham, regional leader for Europe and the Middle East, writes,
Many church people’s houses and apartments are damaged. Workers’ apartments have been significantly damaged and are inside the primary blast radius. Shards of glass and metal shot through their house, including their kitchen. A can of corn and a plastic bottle were punctured by flying glass. Flying glass was embedded in the cement wall and in wooden furniture, yet the workers walked out of the debris with very minor cuts and bruises. God protected.
Jura Yanagihara, president of the Alliance World Fellowship, writes,
Our Alliance family in Lebanon and Syria is experiencing the effects of the national crisis that go beyond the pandemic. On top of that, the injuries suffered by church members due to the explosion in Beirut and the loss of Rev. Khoury, one of the pillars of the Alliance in Syria, have brought sorrow to our family in the region. Please pray for our Alliance family there, for comfort to Rev. Khoury’s immediate family and for the recovery of the people, the church, and the city of Beirut.
Please also pray:
CAMA will be working with the churches in Beirut to coordinate relief efforts for those devastated by the explosion. GIVE NOW to support CAMA’s Relief for Lebanon effort.
God has enabled the Alliance family to accomplish AMAZING THINGS together through His Spirit’s empowerment and His people’s generosity.
You’ve heard Alliance leaders and workers express their gratitude—but hear it directly from Alliance co-laborers from other nations who are grateful for the presence and partnership of our international worker teams.
Recently, the C&MA Board of Directors unanimously decided to pursue relocating the National Office from its current location at 8595 Explorer Drive in Colorado Springs, Colorado. There are numerous missional and logistical reasons for considering this change. These considerations will be discussed in detail during President Stumbo’s monthly videoblog on August 12. We trust that you will watch this important communication.
While some cities have been identified for consideration, final locations, office space, and the timeline for relocation remain undecided and will also be discussed as part of the President’s August 12 video blog.
The Board has directed President Stumbo and his leadership team to investigate relocation possibilities and bring recommendations to the Board for future deliberation and approval. The Board and President’s Cabinet acknowledge the degree of disruption this will cause for the National Office staff but remain confident that the prayerful decision to pursue relocation is God-honoring and in the best interest of the mission and future growth of The Alliance.
Please pray for discernment for Alliance leaders as they search for potential locations for the National Office. Pray also for National Office staff and their families in the days ahead as they seek God with a sense of expectancy in this time of probable transition.
God is using the Alliance greatly, and we are thankful for the health and long-term stability of our denomination; yet, we are confident we can use this opportunity to position ourselves for even greater Kingdom advance in the years ahead.
In 1972, a refugee crisis was escalating in Southeast Asia. Compelled by Christ-centered compassion, the C&MA established CAMA to help families displaced by war and struggling to survive.
CAMA staff provided food, clothing, medical care, job training, and faithfully proclaimed the gospel. They worked closely with local believers, the Alliance family on the ground, and other relief organizations. They also pioneered development projects like CAMACrafts, which still exists today in Laos.
In the United States, our staff helped refugees find safety and hope in their resettlement by connecting them with Alliance churches. Because of the love shown both in the camps and in the United States, new Hmong and Vietnamese Alliance churches began to form. Today the Hmong District and Vietnamese District are among the largest of our 27 U.S. districts!
Our work continued. We grew into other parts of Asia, West Africa, the Balkans, and the Middle East. With risk-taking leaders, faith-filled donors, and God’s provision, CAMA has remained in operation for almost five decades.
“One of the greatest developments within The Alliance in the 20th century was CAMA Services. Now that we are well into the 21st century, its impact upon The Alliance and the world has only increased, sharpened, and strengthened.”—John Stumbo
As CAMA starts a new decade, we are launching a fresh look. As of today, we are moving to a new logo, color scheme, and website. Here’s what we hope you’ll remember in our rebrand.
1. We do relief AND community development.
We do both by creating a bridge from one to the other. Many understand the concept of relief, but community development has multiple meanings. To us it’s entering into poverty-affected locations to listen, ask questions, affirm local resources, and implement projects alongside the community. We enter as guests, work as partners, and continue as friends.
As you see the two hands, remember it’s relief and development working together. As you see the new color, remember the hope that comes to communities from this gospel-centered work.
2. We never do our work alone.
From serving refugees in Vietnam to our current COVID-19 global response, our staff join hands with you, the local church, local leaders, and other relief and development organizations.
As you see hands formed together, remember partnering well with others always reflects the Kingdom of God.
3. We are all about people.
Disasters, poverty, and pandemics impact vulnerable people for generations. We are committed to developing the whole person to see lasting change. People once marginalized can move towards becoming all that Christ intended for them.
By keeping the representation of a hand, we promise that this important value will not change.
4. We are Alliance.
We are your relief and development agency. In disasters, we want to help local Alliance churches reach out in their neighborhoods. We are also a specialized structure of Alliance Missions. We long to see suffering communities have gospel access.
In our new brand, you’ll notice the look and color better compliments The Alliance.
5. We are welcoming new workers.
We are looking for a new wave of younger workers who have a calling to serve the poor and marginalized. The needs of refugees, the displaced, and the poor continue to grow.
Can you think of anyone in our Alliance family who would make a good fit to serve with CAMA? Tell them about us. We need more workers to join the team.
There is much more to do. We’re excited to see how God will use us. If you haven’t yet, be sure to visit our new website.