by Spencer Sweeting Pastor, North Springs Alliance Church Colorado Springs, CO
Recently, we’ve seen the images and heard the stories coming out of Afghanistan as the Taliban seized control of the country. We’ve been reminded of the devastation of massive storms hitting Haiti and our country’s coasts. We’re seeing a resurgence of COVID-19, and with it, increasing socio-political divisiveness that seems to permeate our society, both inside and outside the church. Everywhere we turn, we’re confronted by pain, disease, injustice, and other forms of the world’s brokenness on vivid display. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by it all, and powerless to make a difference.
But not one of us who is in Christ and has His Holy Spirit is without power. We have the power of God and the privilege of prayer.
In Luke 11, we encounter Jesus’ teaching on prayer. Though most of us have the Matthew 6 version of the Lord’s Prayer committed to memory, we see the same core components of prayer here, too:
When these elements are present in our prayers, we can be assured that our will and desires in prayer will be aligned to the will and desires of Jesus.
But Jesus goes further in shaping our prayers through one of His most amusing parables:
He also said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I don’t have anything to offer him.’ Then he will answer from inside and say, ‘Don’t bother me! The door is already locked, and my children and I have gone to bed. I can’t get up to give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he won’t get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his friend’s shameless boldness, he will get up and give him as much as he needs. (Luke 11:5–8, CSB)
What provokes the friend’s abundant provision? The audacity of the one who asks. This is the very basis of Jesus’ encouragement for His disciples to ask, seek, and knock. When it comes to prayer, Jesus is giving us permission to engage with God in persistent petition. This is the heart of intercessory prayer.
The apostle Paul draws a connection between the intercession of the Church for all people and the delight of God (1 Timothy 2:1–4). In other words—ask! Petition! Intercede for everyone! Why? Because it is good and pleasing to God. He loves to respond to our shameless boldness—not because of anything we’ve done, but according to His abundant compassion (Daniel 9:18). What’s more, God has given us His Spirit to empower us in prayer, helping us petition Him from the depths of our souls even when we’re at a loss for words (Romans 8:26).
The primary way we join with God to see His Kingdom advance on earth is through prayer. This isn’t just lofty language, but has been lived out in The Alliance from the very beginning of our movement. Why do we believe this? Scripture repeatedly teaches us that prayer is a powerful means for effecting change.
Skye Jethani puts it this way:
We are not merely passive set pieces in a prearranged cosmic drama, but we are active participants with God in the writing, directing, design, and action that unfolds. Prayer, therefore, is much more than asking God for this or that outcome. It is drawing into communion with him and there taking up our privileged role as his people. In prayer, we are invited to join him in directing the course of his world.
In the moments when we feel the most overwhelmed by the brokenness of our world, may we have the audacity to intercede before God:
For His provision.
For His intervention.
For His salvation.
Let us pray like Jesus did with the persistence that Jesus urged. This is how we’ve been invited to participate in God’s renewal of our world.
Start off 2022 by joining us in 40 Days of Prayer. Look out for registration, which opens at the end of October!
Photo courtesy of Samuel Martins from Unsplash
Chaplain (Colonel) Dave Bowlus, an Alliance chaplain, is currently serving as the U.S. Army Special Operations Command Chaplain. Over the 9/11 weekend, Chaplain Bowlus was with the Fire Department of New York City’s (FDNY) Engine Companies helping conduct a ceremony of remembrance at the Horse Soldier Statue. This statue, officially titled America’s Response Monument, is located at Ground Zero and honors Task Force Dagger, which was part of the United States’ initial response to the terrorist attack on 9/11. The task force included a Special Operations team who rode horses into combat against the Taliban in Afghanistan.
America’s Response Monument is a 16-foot bronze sculpture which overlooks the site of the World Trade Center attack and commemorates the little-known story of the first Americans in more than 50 years to ride horses into combat during the winter of 2001-2002 in Afghanistan.
Remarkably, only two members of the Special Operations team had any horse-riding experience. These soldiers spent 30 days in the saddle assisting allied forces, the Northern Alliance, in attacking Taliban militants through some of the most daunting, isolated mountain terrain in the world.
Another Alliance chaplain, Chaplain (Lieutenant Colonel) Erik Gramling, was able to meet up with Chaplain Bowlus to spend a meaningful 9/11 in New York City. Chaplain Gramling decided to become a chaplain because of the impact that the attack on 9/11 had on him, making him consider military chaplaincy as the Lord’s calling for his life’s vocation.
At the ceremony, Chaplain Bowlus led the nearly 150 attendees in prayer and read passages of Scripture to remind them of God’s presence and protection. We are thankful to Dave and Erik for their service, and honor those who have served our nation.
Excerpted from an interview with Rev. Ko by Charles Morris of Haven Radio.
Charles Morris (CM): Rev. Ko, this week marks the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Being a Pastor a New York Chinese Alliance Church in Downtown Manhattan, where were you that day?
Stephen Ko (SK): I was in a condominium in New Jersey overlooking the Hudson River and Lower Manhattan on that fateful day. I remember hearing sirens and commotion, which prodded me to gaze out my window to see billowing clouds of smoke hover over one of the twin towers—the other uncharacteristically missing.
As I tuned in to live TV coverage, it was surreal to see what was happening on the big screen with my own eyes. As the newscasters reported on the heartbreaking scene, I kept scanning back and forth through the windows. Then, in an instant, the second Tower fell. It was a sickening feeling to consider all the people who had perished.
CM: What will you preach on the 20th anniversary weekend? What will you say to people who lived through it and parishioners who weren’t even born and are attending NYU.
SK: Charles, we’ve been preaching through the book of Nehemiah this year. This weekend, we’ll conclude on chapter 13. It’s no coincidence that God ordained this passage for our church on the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
As I reflect on the words of the prophet Nehemiah, there are several parallels between the events in that book and those of 9/11. Both the Temple and the Twin Towers were destroyed. The Israelites were called from the Babylonian exile to rebuild the House of God, while New Yorkers eventually returned to lower Manhattan to construct the Freedom Tower. And though the Temple was rebuilt and the Freedom Tower now stands, it was as easy for Israelites to forget God and fall into sin as it is for Americans today.
But, Charles, what happened after 9/11 in NYC was awe inspiring. New Yorkers came together in solidarity and rebuilt the Tower just as the Israelites rebuilt the Temple of God. It was a time marked by humility, so contrary to the typical demeanor of Wall Street.
New York Chinese Alliance Church became a place of refuge for Christians and non-Christians. Strangers would stop by and ask if they could pray in our sanctuary. Everyone wanted to commune with God.
Police officers and firefighters became kindred spirits. New Yorkers took every opportunity to thank them for their sacrifice and service. Random acts of kindness and generosity characterized a city known more for selfishness and greed.
Secondarily, the tragedy cultivated a desire for fellowship among all New Yorkers. Everyone was convicted to spend more time with family, friends, and neighbors—sometimes complete strangers. Congregants at NYCAC cherished their time together, devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the breaking of bread, and prayer. There was a keen desire to share the love of Christ with everyone, both near and far. I suppose that’s what happens in the face of acute tragedy.
In the book of Nehemiah & Ezra, the Israelites were called back to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple of God. It’s a story about rebuilding the House of God, but more importantly about rebuilding the spiritual lives of the Jewish people—that they would follow the laws of Yahweh while worshipping Him in Spirit and Truth.
But, what we see at the end in Nehemiah Chapter 13 are the Jewish people backsliding into sin. Even though they have reconstructed the Temple and its walls to worship God, the Israelites desecrate the Temple and defile worship on the Sabbath.
In many ways, Nehemiah serves as a mirror to 9/11. After twenty years, it’s not hard to forget what happened to many that day. It’s even easier to fall back into selfishness, egocentricity, and pride. The tragedy of 9/11 arguably brought out the best of humanity. Over time, we have reverted to our old ways. It’s a cautionary tale of the power of sin.
We are still vulnerable, not just to the dangers of the physical world but to that of the spiritual realm. It’s not necessarily what our physical eyes see, but what our spiritual eyes are missing.
It’s a reminder of just how much we need Jesus daily.
CM: Islamic jihadism isn’t over. Just look at ISIS and Afghanistan. How should a Christian think and act related to terrorism that seeks to stamp out Christianity?
SK: Charles, given the first name of Stephen, I often wonder how the Lord will call me home. Just before the martyr Stephen was stoned, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father. Afterward, a great persecution began for the church in Jerusalem with the scattering of many throughout Judea and Samaria.
But, what happens next is extraordinary. Those that were scattered went everywhere preaching the Word. Multitudes heard the gospel and witnessed miracles. Unclean spirits were cast out, and the paralyzed and lame were healed. Great joy erupted as Christianity flourished in the face of persecution.
As sickening as terrorism is, Christianity has always flourished in the face of persecution. Just as that oppression led to the scattering of the seeds for missions in Acts 8, modern-day persecution has led to the silent conversion of many Muslims to Christianity. In his book, “A Wind in the House of Islam,” David Garrison researched large movements of Muslim conversion to the Christian faith. By the end of his survey in 2013, he identified 69 full-blown movements globally.
They are occurring because of increased prayer, intentional evangelism, an increase in Bible translations to colloquial languages of Muslims, and greater access to the internet, satellite TV, and radio. But one common theme throughout his interviews was the trauma that former Muslims felt from the violence that so plagued their recent religious history. The shock of 9/11 was often cited.
See, just like times of persecution in antiquity, Christianity flourishes with suffering even in the present. So often, great calamity brings us closer to God.
Twenty years ago, on September 11, Rev. Daniel Leung, our senior pastor at the time, checked on everyone in the church to make sure they were safe. He was relieved that everyone he contacted, even congregants working in the Towers that day, got out safely. But, later that evening, he got a call from the parents of the one female congregant he had forgotten about. Unfortunately, she did not make it.
Daniel quickly drove to their home, sitting with them late into the evening to console their hearts.
They had only one question for him, was their daughter saved? The week before, she was in a baptismal class with Rev. Leung, and he asked her if she was sure of her salvation while teaching from the book of John. With a joyful heart she affirmed her belief in Jesus. She was a child of God.
It reminds us that even in the face of immense persecution and unbearable suffering, the most important thing in our lives is knowing Jesus.
Lord, we give thanks for our time together—for there is a time for everything and season for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to weep and a time to laugh. A time to tear down and a time to sew. As we think upon the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we remember those who sacrificed their lives for the sake of others. We mourn for those who lost loved ones on that day and other days until now. They are your children, your beloved.
We trust that you are sovereign, for by you all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through you and for you.
Father, we’ve heard it said that ‘you should love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But Jesus says to us, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.”
We confess that it’s exceedingly difficult to love those that hate us. Unfortunately, the self-righteous parts of our hearts want only to justify our words and actions against them.
Help us to do the impossible, to love our enemies while praying for their salvation. Soften our hearts to see that they too are children of God, created in your image. Your deepest desire is for each of them to know you intimately, to love you fully, and to embrace the sacrifice of your Son for all.
May we reflect His glory in all that we say and all that we do.
In the name of Christ, Amen.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 8, 2021
COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO. The building housing the National Office of The Christian and Missionary Alliance (The Alliance) has been sold to Rocky Mountain Health Care Services (RMHCS). The 59,000+ sq. ft. building is located on the southeast corner of Research Parkway and Explorer Drive in the Briargate Business Campus.
On Thursday, August 19, the Colorado Springs Planning Commission approved RMHCS’s zoning use variance application, which will enable the health care provider to support and expand its program of all-inclusive care for the elderly (PACE Program).
“We are thrilled that the building that has housed our ministry over the past 31 years will be used to serve the needs of the elderly in the community,” notes Alliance President John Stumbo. “From the start, we have been praying for buyers who would have the means and motives to serve this wonderful city—and it looks like the pieces are falling into place for RMHCS to broaden its impact from a building well suited for the care it offers.”
The Alliance recently purchased a 9-acre campus in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, where it will build a multi-use site to serve not only its national and global ministries but also the needs of the greater Columbus community, with an event center and a hospitable space for people to gather. The Ohio location also places the Alliance National Office in closer proximity to most of its 2,000 U.S. churches and a top-100 airport that will offer local, national, and global staff greater accessibility to and from the office that serves them and their ministries.
President Stumbo adds, “We are grateful to the Colorado Springs community for enabling us to expand the reach of our ministries from such a beautiful and hospitable setting over the past three decades.”
The Alliance was birthed in 1887 from a vision of Pastor A. B. Simpson in New York City, who became heartbroken over the plight of the homeless, the immigrant, and the marginalized. Today, we share his passion to offer tangible help and lasting hope to the world’s neediest people. Through 2,000 churches in the United States and 700 workers in 70 countries, we pay forward the love of Jesus to suffering and overlooked people in our communities and throughout the world through a wide variety of developmental and compassionate care ministries and initiatives.
The Office of Media Relations
The Christian and Missionary Alliance
On Sunday, September 5, Guinean special forces seized power in a coup, arresting president Alpha Conde and promising to change the political makeup of the West African country, according to the Al Jazeera news network and other global media sources.
There is relative peace in Conakry, the country’s capital, as citizens await the announcement of a new government.
The Alliance currently has approximately 15 U.S. personnel in country. All are reported to be safe as they lay low and await outcomes during newly imposed curfews.
On Saturday, August 28, a demolition team began knocking down the vacant K-Mart building on the corner of Brice and Main in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, to make way for a multi-use site being constructed for the new Alliance National Office, which is in the process of relocating from Colorado Springs, Colorado. The site in Ohio will serve not only the Alliance National Office but also the greater Reynoldsburg community.
To mark the occasion, The Alliance invited the greater Reynoldsburg community to the demolition kickoff event, which included
Hundreds of people from the Reynoldsburg community and from Alliance churches throughout Ohio and beyond attended the event.
Prior to the demolition, Reynoldsburg Mayor Joe Begeny addressed the hundreds who gathered from the Reynoldsburg community and from Alliance churches from throughout (and beyond) Ohio who attended the event.
“Reynoldsburg is a town of stories,” begins the mayor. “Our story typically starts with Alexander Livingston and the tomato—a story that we’ve had to explain about how Reynoldsburg became the home of the tomato. Well, we’re much more varied than that, just like the varieties of tomatoes out there. We are the most diverse city in central Ohio—and we embrace that. When [The Alliance] came here, that’s what they wanted. They wanted to become part of a community that was diverse. They didn’t want to go somewhere where they would be locked away in an office. They wanted to be, as they said, “the living room of Reynoldsburg.” And so right here, what you’re seeing is the very first step in a long journey to revitalize not only this part of Reynoldsburg but all of Reynoldsburg. It starts here, it starts with The Alliance. This is what it’s all about—bringing things together with their different stories. We appreciate the diversity of thought in this city; we appreciate the diversity of our community, and most especially, [President Stumbo], I appreciate how you have welcomed everyone into our community here with The Alliance.”
As the refugee crisis continues to unfold with the evacuation of American personnel and internally displaced people from Afghanistan, The Alliance is preparing to engage in resettlement efforts here in the States.
Many U.S. Alliance churches are actively involved in helping immigrants and refugees get established in their new communities. The expected influx of Afghan refugees will create new opportunities for the U.S. Alliance family to further engage in these vital ministries. Alliance people in Salem, Sacramento, and other parts of the country are preparing to initiate or expand their efforts to care for Afghans who may be resettling in their communities. Salem for Refugees, for instance, is currently helping to prepare for the arrival of an Afghan family of 10 by collecting gift cards and “Restart Kits” of household items. It is also assembling people to greet the family when they arrive at the airport.
In addition, Alliance military chaplains have been uniquely equipped and strategically placed to help coordinate these resettlement efforts in Fort Lee, New Jersey, and elsewhere. “The Alliance has always been a people with a heart for the overlooked and displaced,” notes Alliance President John Stumbo,” and once again we’ll find ways to respond to this critical need.”
How can you get involved?
CAMA and the Alliance Refugee And Immigration Network (RAIN) are joining together to help resource churches who want to engage in the resettlement of Afghan refugees. RAIN and Crown College are inviting you to a three-part Refugee Crises Webinar Series aimed at raising awareness, catalyzing churches, and providing resources and training opportunities. We would like to encourage and assist in sharing Christ’s love and compassion to refugee families as they resettle in local U.S. communities. Weekly webinar topics are as follows:
Register here for the webinar series.
Below is a link to an FAQ document prepared by The Alliance and World Relief that answers questions about the status of refugees, how to find out if they will be settled in or near your community, and how to minister effectively to their needs.
There are several point people within the Alliance who have experience with refugee resettlement and will be happy to offer advice and expertise for any church or individual wanting to get involved. Below is a link to their contact info.
During the past few months, the Taliban has advanced in Afghanistan, once again taking control of many cities and urban areas. On Sunday, August 15, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani retreated from the presidential palace and Taliban militants overtook Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city. While this coup by the Taliban was expected, it happened far more abruptly than many had thought possible. Due to the Taliban’s historically extreme interpretation of Islamic law, those who have worked with the U.S. military, allied forces, or news agencies in Afghanistan fear retribution from the Taliban and have been desperate to get out of the country.
As soldiers and other service members redeploy to provide stability and security to the Kabul airport, chaplains will accompany them to provide valuable ministry among their troops. Chaplains also serve as first responders, welcoming refugees and immigrants into the U.S. at various military installations, providing ministry and helping to meet the needs of these incoming Afghan families. Among these chaplains are some of the 60 Alliance military chaplains who serve in every branch of the U.S. military. Alliance air force chaplains are ministering to crews on flights in and out of Kabul who are airlifting Afghan refugees as quickly as possible. Our chaplains on a senior level are also overseeing these missions from strategic and global perspectives.
Fort Lee, Virginia, is the first designated welcoming center for incoming Afghan families, many of whom served as translators and key support personnel to U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan over these past two decades. Other welcome sites will likely include Fort Bliss, Texas, and Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. So far, about 3,000 Afghans have transitioned through Fort Lee. It is suspected that the need will only increase with the rapid fall of Afghanistan and tens of thousands of refugees fleeing to places like Turkey.
Most of these Afghan families arrive with only what they can carry in several suitcases. This presents greater opportunities for chaplains to assist in humanitarian efforts and in religious and practical support. Aligning with historical precedent, chaplains will seek to coordinate with support agencies, international aid organizations, chapels, and churches as the U.S. State Department screens the Afghan interpreters and their families as part of an expedited visa process.
Amongst the agencies contacted is the C&MA’s Compassion and Mercy Associates (CAMA), along with other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like The International Rescue Committee, which is already a primary NGO connected to the effort. These organizations can provide connections in the various states and cities where these Afghan families will be relocated, and these connections will provide significant support for the refugees.
Over the past several decades, U.S. Alliance churches have been heavily involved in helping immigrants and refugees resettle in U.S. communities. The expected influx of Afghan families to the U.S. in the coming year will open new opportunities to continue in these important works of ministry and outreach.
In times of global trouble, military chaplains step up to serve. Chaplains are essential not only in ministering to our military personnel but also in providing humanitarian aid. Now, with the abrupt withdrawal of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, we are seeing a familiar trend—our chaplains are rising to the occasion by providing spiritual and practical support to incoming Afghans to the U.S. at Fort Lee, Virginia.
C&MA family, join us in lifting these concerns up in prayer:
Photo courtesy of Mohammad Rahmani from Unsplash.
In a small village in north and central Asia, a desperate father—concerned for his migrant daughter trapped in a dangerous domestic situation—reached out to an organization for help. His daughter was rescued and brought to a safe place. That safe place is a maternity home in Eastern Europe Alliance workers helped launch in 2019 for migrant women who come to the city to find work. Through a variety of crisis situations, they often end up pregnant and alone.
Full of shame, separated from their support systems, and sometimes unable to speak the local language, these women often abort or abandon their babies. The maternity home is there to provide migrant mothers with temporary housing, counseling, mentoring, access to medical and legal assistance, and supportive relationships with believers who share the hope of Christ.
Alliance people have been vitally involved at each stage of this ministry. Small groups have sewn baby hats and collected newborn clothing. VBS groups have raised awareness and funds. Churches and individuals have faithfully prayed, encouraged, and provided financial support. A short-term team helped prepare the apartment for residents and provided trauma-informed care training.
Plans are underway to open a larger facility where up to 10 women and their children can stay at a time. This home would include a yard where kids can play and a large gathering space where residents can be trained in job skills.
A little over a year ago, CAMA international workers Seby and Jeana de Vroome asked supporters to help them start a farm for the women in a Senegalese village. The response was immediate. Within a couple weeks, the de Vroomes had all they needed to make the farm a reality. Even though Covid put the brakes on their plans for a time, they pushed on. During their last visit to the village, the de Vroomes were filled with joy, as a group of 10 ladies got to transplant tomato plants into their new farm. They will also grow lettuce, bissap, and other weekly-harvest crops. They laugh with one another as they prepare the soil, plant, water, and wait on God for the fruits of their labor.
This women’s farm supports 10 families in this village, ensuring the women are able to provide healthy food for their families. Due to its success, farms will also be offered to women from other villages in Senegal.