Christmas. A season of giving. At this time of year there is something stirred within us to want to give something of significance to those we care for. We want to give a gift that will make a loved one smile, make them feel valued. Perhaps a gift to take their breath away and a card that speaks what our words can not always express.
Or maybe you are looking for a gift to let someone know you appreciate them — maybe for a job well done, or for kindness shown to you, or because you want to reciprocate for what they have given you in the past. There are many types of gifts and reasons to give them.
I have heard it said that Christians give gifts at Christmas time because it is at this season we remember the gift that was given to us through the coming of Jesus to this earth. He gave freely to us the ultimate gift of Himself, forgiveness and freedom. There is nothing that will ever compare to that gift. When I look again at the reasons I give gifts I can not help but see a discrepancy between my gift giving as opposed to how God gave. Do the people you bestow gifts on love you back? Do they make you feel important, have they done something for you in the past, or by just being themselves make you believe that they merit your generosity? How very UNLIKE the way God gave to us. While we were yet sinners, having done nothing to merit good standing in God’s eyes, even then He chose to present us with the greatest of gifts.
What would our community look like if we chose to look at people the way God does? To bestow upon them gifts of love, compassion and our presence the way God has given these to us? What if when we gave these gifts people saw Jesus through us?
God calls us to hard things. To love others, both the friend and the enemy, the well-off and those living in poverty. He calls us to make room around the table for our family, friends and the stranger. He calls us to lay aside our own ambitions and to lend a hand to those who struggle. He calls us to forgive — again and again and again. He asks us to do hard things with messy people in difficult situations. Just as He did.
God did not gift us from heaven — He gifted us Jesus who lived among us, in the mess and brokenness, in our humanity and sinfulness. And now we the church, the redeemed but still struggling with selfishness and brokenness are to carry this gift of hope to the rest of the world as we live with them in the midst of their “stuff.”
Sometimes our world seems beyond hope, sometimes people seem beyond loving. Most times it will not be easy to walk alongside our neighbour, set a place at the table for the hungry and homeless, and forgive again. Sometimes it will not be easy to believe that this is really what we are called to do. But it is and we should not settle for lesser calls on us.
Christmas means that God was willing to come into a dark place and bring the light of salvation. Because of Him, salvation is available to all of us. Because of you and me following His example and call, the greatest gift of all can be given to our neighbours.
Here are a few ways that you can give a gift to our community this season. The gift of your time and your presence and the opportunity to be amongst those that we are called to share the greatest gift with.
Dec 18th. Hope Mission’s Kids in Action Christmas Dinner 4:30 – 7:30pm. Serving dinner and visiting with kids and their family member. This is a celebration evening!
Dec 22. Christmas at the Dawe 5:30 – 7:30pm. Come and spend some time with Dawe students and Staff . We will be helping students create a Christmas keepsake and be a part of their Christmas party.
Please contact myself LaurieW@CrossRoadsChurch.ca if you are able to participate in either of the above events. These are great opportunities for families, friends and small groups to serve together.
The Mustard Seed Red Deer TheSeed.ca/Red Deer offers opportunities to be a part of their Christmas blessings to those in our city who are in need of encouragement and relationship as well.
Merry Christmas. May the eyes of our hearts be opened this season to the people around us and our hearts give freely of the gifts that matter most.
Looking towards 2017, we as the Global Compassion Committee are excited to see what God has in store for us as the body of CrossRoads Church, as well as around the world. God has been good to us over the past 9 years and looking back at our history as the Global Compassion Committee, we are amazed at where God has brought us! Our 3 fantastic partners in Haiti, Uganda and Rwanda, are all engaging in the call to advocate and assist the lost, the last, the least, the little and the nearly dead, which is a call we at CrossRoads Church hold dear to our own hearts. Looking back we see the many challenges we have faced over the years. Through these challenges, we have seen many miracles and moments of celebration as God graciously moved through, in and around us. In these moments we hold high the work of our partners around the world, and thank the Lord for bringing us into partnership with them!
You will read stories in the upcoming Compassion Christmas booklet and may wonder what’s next? You may ask and wonder why we bring our partners half way around the world to Red Deer in the dead of winter to participate in the Christmas GCC Campaign? Because we want you to know two things:
1) Our partners are committed Men and Women of God, who are serving selflessly in these amazing countries and,
2) We want to give YOU, the body of CrossRoads Church, every opportunity to hear Gods voice through our partners, calling us to a deeper level of commitment and service in His world.
As the Global Compassion Committee, we want to open our doors to welcome you into our world of compassionate development and relief partnerships at a deeper level. Starting in 2017 we will be launching the Communities of Compassion: Three midsized groups that will focus around the work and workers in our three partner countries. There may have been limited ways to engage directly with the Global Compassion Committee over the past years but moving forward, we desire that there be an open door for all people who share a passion for the work of God around our world. We will be committed to increasing our own understandings of missions, and culture and partnership together. We will serve as facilitators building understanding and relationship between our international partners, CrossRoads Church and the greater community of Red Deer, continuing to advocate for the vulnerable around us and throughout our world. We will learn together, grow together, pray together …and hopefully go together.
Watch for information on these new groups in the Groups Catalogue starting up in 2017. If you would like more information, contact one of the Global Compassion Committee members or send us an email at email@example.com.
Contributed by Kurtis Kooiker, GCC
At CrossRoads we care deeply for vulnerable youth and the single parent, both within our church body and the local community. We feel called to offer spiritual and practical support to those who parent alone and to mentor youth.
Practical Ways You Can Make a Difference in Family Violence
Submitted by Roy Mitton
November is family violence prevention month in Alberta. A topic not commonly spoken about within the church and because of the “behind closed door” nature of this family dynamic plus the grave and dire misconceptions we have in our society regarding family violence it is very difficult to comprehend how grave the situation is for many families in Central Alberta. In his recent report for the government of Canada, Dr. Gregory Taylor shares that the statistics he collected on family violence are merely “the tip of the iceberg”. In an interview he conducted with CTV he said that 230 Canadians are victims of family violence every day. To see statistics you can log on to www.masqueradeministries.com.
I see the greatest challenge in prevention is that those affected do not recognize what their family is experiencing as family violence because of social myths and stigma. Until we see family violence for what it is and the motive behind it this reality will continue to manifest itself (Jeremiah 6:14). Here are a few “ounces of prevention”, practical ways you can make an impact:
- Look at the word violence the way God does. The Hebrew word we translate into violence in our English bibles is not only an act of physical force. Biblically, violence is any violation in mind, body and spirit. Loved ones affected by family violence seldom report an act of physical force as the most hurtful.
- When a someone reaches out for help never assume. They are not likely to use identify it as family violence. Learn to red flag symptoms of family violence. Treating family violence with methods intended to make relationships better seems logical but will only compound the problem. Family violence is not a relationship problem. It’s a power and control problem.
- God’s true religion is to protect the vulnerable (James 1:27, Isaiah 1:17). If power, control and entitlement are hurting, or jeopardizing the safety of a family member in mind, body or spirit make their safety the priority. Family violence is a deal breaker in God’s design for families. A new pattern of repentance is the responsibility of the one who has broken trust before any hope of true restoration is possible.
- Avoid using labels. Many terms are strife with stigma and will have a better chance of alienating rather than leading to help. Stick to the specific attitudes or behaviors that are at play in the relationship. Be consistent in God’s message that nobody has the right to control how you think, feel or act.
- Learn the basics in family violence. Crossroads church can refer you to a complimentary four hour workshop. A mere four hours of a weekend will provide a framework of understanding in this very misunderstood family dynamic.
- Don’t tell those hurt by family violence what they should do. They already have someone telling them what they should think, say or do and they don’t need to replace that controlling relationship with another.
- If I was to choose one take away for you it would rest in this. To prevent family violence from occurring we need to equip our family leaders in understanding the impact the misuse of power and control has and how to correct their behaviors with long term ministry if it’s occurring. The “ounce of prevention” is helping all leaders in Christian families understand they are asked to lay down their rights to take up their responsibilities. To influence, not manipulate. Just as Christ so lovingly for us, his family. Roy Mitton is the founder and Executive director of Masquerade Ministries, a Central Alberta based society dedicated to freedom from domestic abuse through hope and grace. He has used his own testimony to become a public example of the transformation possible for a man who has hurt the ones he loved, to become the husband and father God created him to be through Jesus Christ.
Ten days ago the team left Red Deer and the comforts of our homes, including endless streams of tap water, showers and toilets, as well as outdoor faucets to water lawns, wash cars and hose down the driveway. While our accommodations at the IN Uganda guest house are not nearly as modern, they do include basic bathroom sinks, rudimentary showers [half of the team’s function well while the other half struggle to get wet some days], toilets and cooking water [once boiled] all supplied by harvested rainwater. For Uganda, we are staying in what most Ugandans can only dream about, as we also have cement floors, screened windows, lights and power to recharge computers, cameras and cell phones.
But, more about water. Only the day after arriving some of the team were exploring the expansive IN Uganda ground and facilities when we saw a number of school and community children at a water well, pumping water into countless jerry cans which they carry back to their homes. Twice a day they make the round trip to supply home with water needed for cooking, drinking and cleaning, with some children we are sure walking up to 3 kilometers each way (in the more rural areas the distance can be much farther). As children (both girls and boys) grow older the jerry cans get progressively larger and heavier. Some team members pumped water into numerous cans much to the pleasure of the children who otherwise would do it themselves, if they could not convince a friend or sibling to do it for them. Having seen so many cans filled, we were pleased at the availability of water.
A few days later we visited rural homes to observe how the people live and assist in some basic everyday duties. One of these was to fetch water from ‘nearby’ springs (a previous blog showed a number of pictures of this activity). Both springs provided ample water, while challenging us with long walks (over 3 km for the two sites) much up steep hills (our phone health app said we climbed 22 flights of stairs). Yet, once again we observed ample water for the surrounding communities (i.e. neighbourhoods) homes and schools.
Today we observed another abundant spring where local residents were coming for water for home, small groups of school children (some as a form of discipline) getting water for various school needs, and men with numerous jerry cans on bicycles collecting water to market it to others.
However, the picture is not as ‘rosy’ as we so far had observed. During our meeting with the Deputy Mayor he elaborated on many community challenges, including the availability of water. While the ‘planned’ portion of Buikwe has a piped water system, he told us of four considerable problems: because of the prolonged drought the stored water is getting low; when the power goes off water cannot be pumped through the system; the municipality has insufficient funds to pay for the amount of pumping to supply the community needs; and residents most often cannot afford to pay for sufficient amounts of water. Currently, the stand pipes throughout the community stand ‘dry’.
Then we went to spring which a large neighbourhood relies on, but it was dry, this becoming more and more the case as the drought continues. The fundamental need for water struck home when we saw a very young girl at a dirty pool of water with a jerry can laying sideways to let water flow in. When no more would go in she uprighted the can and proceeded to cup her hands to fill the jerry can. Her duty was interrupted when Trista gave her half a bottle of clean water, which the girl voraciously drank to the last drop. After she ‘washed’ the outside of the jerry can, she capped it and made her way in the sun and heat up the hill – probably her second trip of the day. The local health officer who was with us said they advise that the ‘spring’ water be boiled, which often does not happen, and that the water the little girl was taking home definitely needed to be boiled, but may not be depending on how busy the mother is (thus the spread of water borne diseases).
We were also shown a pump that was completely useless. Provided by an NGO, after a time of insufficient maintenance and the lack of commitment or understanding of the ‘maintenance committee’ to do so, the pump became inoperable. Adam, being trained in water matters, observed the various issues and deficiencies and has been approached by community officials to help them strategize to address the challenges.
The access to water is vital, yet a good portion of the population struggle daily to have sufficient water. Every drop counts as shown by the young girl draining the bottle of water. We in Red Deer take water for granted. I for one will have a tough time not thinking of that little girl when I empty a glass of water into the sink. Water for Life – think about it.
Bill & the Team
We had another wonderful day today, Monday, but it was very full and we are extremely tired so this will be short. Today was our final outreach/clinic day. We were in Kiyindi, which is a landing site for the ferry and the many fishermen. We started the morning with a tour of the clinic and school that is run by International Needs, then together with a number of CHAP staff and volunteers we helped facilitate an event that allowed many to get tested for HIV as well as accessing other services.
We all played different roles and found ways to support the overall goal of getting patients cared for. At the end of the day:
- 128 discovered their HIV status (unfortunately 6 were positive)
- 161 were given deworming tabs
- 22 people had teeth extracted
More importantly I believe this was a time when Jesus name was declared and we as a team were able to serve and love in his name.
Enjoy a few photos from the day!
Good night, Team Uganda!
This bright Sunday morning brought our team various opportunities to spread out within the church community. With invitations from four different churches, our team separated into small groups to each experience these different services and bring back stories to share with the others. A few of our members were even able to share their hearts through God’s word.
I personally (Trysta) had the chance to attend the Kiyndi Pentecostal Church. With a brief history of the recent growth of this community, we learned that the Rwandan population in this area has expanded significantly over the past months due to expansion in the local fishing economy. This resulted in not only the service being translated from Luganda to English, but also into Rwandese. The Rwandan culture was evident not only through language, but also in the differences in dance styles seen in by the small group and choir presentations that opened the service when we arrived. However, despite that blend in multiple cultures, a sense of community was very evident. Many times there were mentions of all members of the congregation considering one another as brothers and sisters. The highlight for me would be the excitement that was shared for three young ladies, all who recently had been engaged to be married, and the blessings that were given with encouragements of maintaining strong, healthy, monogamous marriages. This was very encouraging to see in such a predominant fishing village commonly known for polygamy. God is alive and well in this place.
I (Kelvin) was able to attend the youth service at Buikwe Christian Church. I witnessed young and passionate kids from the primary and secondary school, praising, worshipping and pouring their heart out to God. The pastor had asked if anyone wanted to share any testimonies and at least 7 youths came forward to share and give God the glory. I was asked to minister to the youth today and I thank God I had the opportunity to do it. Speaking on love, equality and unity. This month has been examination season for Buikwe primary and secondary school, they had humbly asked to keep them in prayer for their exams. God is working in the youth in Uganda and today I personally got to feel it.
Trysta & Kelvin
Today was our ‘day off’ to enjoy the touristy parts of this region. We briefly saw a bit of the local forest and took a walk in a tea plantation where were learned a bit about the process of making tea. We then headed to Jinja so we could go see and enjoy the Nile. We took a boat and a guide out to enjoy being on the longest river in the world. We slowly moved along the edges of the river where we saw heaps of colorful birds, a few large lizards and a few families of Vervet monkeys! We also were able to take our boat to the literal ‘source of the Nile’.
We then wen to lunch and enjoyed fresh tilapia fish and tasty chips! After our delicious meal, we headed to downtown Jinja where we did some shopping in some little tourist shops where we were able to pick from the beautiful work of local artisans.
Finally, on the way home, we discovered and made a point to enjoy -a restaurant Tracy spotted and knew from Kenya- Java House! This is a very Western style restaurant chain started in Nairobi Kenya in 1999. There are now a number of Java House restaurants set up in Kenya and a few years ago they came into Uganda. We enjoyed lovely coffee and tea drinks (very much the way we like them) and some lovely deserts. What a treat!
Now as everyone is going to bed, a few of us have been up preparing for tomorrow. Please pray for us as 3 of us are scheduled to preach at churches tomorrow. Bill Shaw, Lawrence Tomalty and Tracy Minke will be teaching at different churches in the morning. Your prayers are coveted.
Blessings and good night.
Today (Friday) was full and wonderful and we are too tired to share all the details but I had to let you know how proud I am of our team! Today we had the pleasure of visiting homes affected by HIV and AIDS. Each of the households we visited were headed by women who were living positively with HIV. Some are widows, others have husbands who have married other women and have now abandoned them and their children and still others have husbands that ‘live on the island’ which basically means he is a fisherman who doesn’t do anything to help his family. So, in short, each of the women we met were in extremely difficult situations but were making due the best they could to raise and care for their families. Many were in Village Savings and Loan Associations and all had their kids in school. All were women who follow God and so even with so little, they are women with hope and joy.
The one unique situation is with Harriet, well known to Wilma and Bill from their first visit in 2010. At that time Harriet had just lost her husband and was wrecked. Over the years Harriet has been helped in various ways through CHAP and today instead of being the one that is in great need, she is actually hosting and caring for 7 extremely vulnerable HIV positive youth. On top of that, she has been working for 6 years to build a house and she is nearly done, with plans to officially move in this January! What a joy to be able to see her home and celebrate with her.
In total our team visited 5 households and we served as best we could by doing physical labor, by listening to their stories and challenges, by praying over the homes and families we met, sharing words of truth and encouragement and by bringing gifts of food packs for their family.
As the sun beat down on us, I watched our team humbly respond to the simple request to cook, wash dishes, work the garden and collect water. No one complained and everyone pitched in- it was so beautiful to watch!
This afternoon Wilma, Adam and myself were blessed to go visit sponsored children. Wilma met her Caroline at school and we all drove together to her Uncle and Aunties home where she now stays. There was a sweet time in the home together as they talked and enjoyed company.
Afterwards, Adam and I were able to be introduced to our new sponsored child, Marion who turns 5 in a few weeks . There is something very special that happens in this sponsor-child relationship and were again blessed by this time together. We look forward to ‘introducing’ her to our Makena and watching both from a distance and also at time in person as little Marion develops into a fine young woman.
It was another VERY full day and yet we have no regrets. God is at work here- in Uganda and in our own hearts and minds. I am thoroughly proud of how our team is doing and how well they are responding to the various challenges and joys they are experiencing. This is a great team!
Thursday was a very special day to some on the team. It was time to visit sponsored children and also those sponsored by friends from Crossroads. Sometimes back in Canada we may wonder if the monthly sponsorship cost for our children actually makes a difference in their lives and YES it does and we got to witness the joy and change that it brings. It was a very emotional day for us.
Bill got to visit he and Pat’s sponsored daughter Rachel. “A joy to behold” was Bill’s response as she came running down the dusty road and jumped into his arms.
Others on the team drove two hours one way on African roads, (something that has to be experienced to fully understand) to visit 4 different schools. It is amazing to meet the children and be invited into their school class by the headmaster or mistress and have the children greet and sing to us all the while trying not to laugh at the Mazungu (the white man). At the school of our sponsored child Kenneth, we were invited to go with him to his grandma’s home. It was amazing to meet them again and see the changes that have happened in the past 5 years. Lawrence now has a small livestock operation in Uganda (5 pigs and a number of chickens). The family is doing VERY well by Ugandan standards. All the sponsored children we visited are so thankful for the assistance they receive.
Upon our return to the school we were surrounded by hundreds of children. They even got Lawrence to dance with them which sent hilarious uproars from them all. Kelvin running with a small football with a hundred more children chasing him was an amazing sight. We left the schools feeling truly blessed.
Vickie & Lawrence
In the afternoon, after all the wonderful visits, we had the absolute pleasure of visiting our second Village Savings and Loan (VSLA) group. This group consisted of 30 members, 5 of which were men. They are moving on well and are in their 2nd cycle, preparing to give our their shares and profits this December 15th! We were all invited to come to their party and we wish we could come to celebrate with them. After hearing from the group about their accomplishments and challenges and being able to see their books and ask so many questions, we were able to tour around to see a number of the projects they have been able to start from the savings. Many of us were touched by the story and testimony of a young student called Stella. We continue to be honored and humbled by the people we are meeting.
Another hot beautiful day in Uganda! We started our day with a tour of the rest of the IN projects, beginning with Hope Technical School. We started with the Tailoring department with Instructor Fred as our tour guide. The class holds 50 students, with the Level 1 one year program costing $106 US. We saw students working on Singer peddle sewing machines, and one making a sweater on a knitting machine. Next on our list was the Hairdressing department. Here they were working on hair extensions….tempting! They have sleeping quarters for 15 female students at the back of the room. The motor vehicle repair training center was next, where we saw 7 men and 1 woman in a classroom learning about light and heavy trucks.
We then moved on to Buikwe Senior Secondary School. The average age of the children here are 15-19, the equivalent of our high schools. The Head Master Paul had been taken in and raised by Justus (the head of IN Uganda) as his adopted son. We discussed significant details of funding requirements and student enrollments. We discussed the success of the school in general, and noted an article in a local newspaper of several of their students winning academic awards. We then viewed the trees planted by the money donated by the Crossroads Kids. From there we moved on to the science lab which was funded by Crossroads Church and commissioned by Pastor Dan in Nov. 2013. Due to the fact that many of the chemicals had expired, the lab is not being fully utilized. We were told that roughly 40% of chemistry curriculum can be taught without chemicals. From there we moved on to the computer room, where the ratio is 110 students to 1 computer.
In both schools we visited today the students were taking exams and we continue to lift them up as they take these important steps for their future.
After our tour around the schools we had yet another tasty lunch made from the loving hands of Irene and then prepared for an outing to visit the Mawotto Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA).
Wow, what an amazing outing we had!!! The point of our visit was to witness the giving out of their savings and shares which have been accumulating over the past 12 months. We arrived to a group of women who greeted us with dancing and singing, each wearing a white t-shirt with the CHAP (Community HIV/AIDS Program) and CrossRoads logos as well as the name of their savings group.On one side was a tent covering around 50 guests who representing family and friends that had also been invited to the great occasion. We were seated on the ‘stage’ which was the front porch of the home we were at. The event had already begun without us with the national anthem and an opening prayer. When we got there the even continued with a few speeches and then we had a chance to ask questions and understand the process of the savings group and how they run. We heard about their policies and group constitution, how they each are expected to save and bring 2000 shillings (approx. 70 cents) each week and then based on savings accumulated they are able to give out loans. We heard some success stories and challenges and then the fun began.
One by one the ladies in the group were to come up to the front where they were met by a secret friend (one of the ladies in the group) as well as any friends and family that had come to celebrate with them. Each of them came bearing gifts. What was extraordinary about this ceremony was how the ladies and all that were up front transacted the gifts. Instead of simply shaking hands and handing over the gift, they literally danced all the way to the ‘stage’ area and then continued to dance around each other, taunting each other with the gifts. It would take multiple minutes to get the gift. The movement in their bodies and the expressions on their faces were simply so entertaining. We were laughing so much our cheeks hurt by the end of the ceremony.
After each of the ladies had received their gifts they invited us to come and share a word. Tracy went and shared on behalf of the group a word of encouragement and then we started introducing each of us. Adam took the show to a different level when he reciprocated what the ladies had done by offering a dance of his own (you must see the video!)- as Bill says, ‘he freed himself up to make extraordinary moves’ and was joined by Tracy. He had everyone laughing and fully engaged which truly broke the ice for us as the visitors. One by one we introduced ourselves by telling about our families and how many times we had been in Uganda, etc.
Next it was time for them to receive their money, the main point of the whole day. Bill was asked to be the one who honored them and handed out the envelopes. He took the opportunity as well to dance and have fun with the ladies. This time together was so much fun and so special. It is pretty common when we come to places like this that we connect and play with the children. However, it is rare that we as visitors are able to really connect with adults in such a free and playful way. What a special time to experience together!
The afternoon finished with a meal where we were privileged to serve each of the guests as they had monumental piles of food on their plates consisting of matoke (steamed green bananas), rice, goat meat and peanut sauce. We then said our goodbyes and then loaded into the van and offered our final interaction by yelling out of the van in the African way (ululation) which made them all laugh one more time.
It was a great day!