Croatia

8 06 2016

Located in Europe, Croatia  is a Crescent-shaped country of 4.5 million people.  It is 91% Christian (primarily Catholic and Orthodox).  It is situated between the Danube River and the Adriatic Sea. It is a part of the Balkan States.

Capital: Zagreb (687,000)

Economy: “Long-term Communist mismanagement and the war with Serbs undermined a previously solid economy. Recovery is still in process, with relatively high unemployment and low wages. A resurgent tourist sector and the privatization of state industries have helped Croatia begin to turn the corner and develop over the last decade” (Operation World, p. 289).

Hatred: Some 1,600 years of rivalry between the Croat and Serb peoples, and their mutual hatred of one another was one of the potent factors in the terrible, horrifying Balkan wars of the 1990’s. “The iron bond shackling ethnicity to religion also hampers progress and stifles spiritual breakthrough” (Operation World). Forgiveness and love are of course keys to reconciliation and renewed trust.

Religion: Christian 91.6%, Non-Religious 6.01%, Muslim 1.9%, Jewish 0.10%, Hindu 0.02%, Buddhist 0.01%

Challenge to Prayer: Of the large Christian population some 87% are Catholic, and while there is a small but active Charismatic movement among them, and some very good Catholic leaders, it is sadly a nation where nominalism and empty rituals abound. According to Operation World, ‘Evangelicals are one of the few groups that straddle the ethnic divide. Many Bosnians, Croats and Serbs have been won to Christ and brought into the fellowship together.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for the gospel of grace spreading amidst a damaged society. Where the young people have little confidence for their future, and amidst high unemployment, may the Spirit of the Risen Lord bring renewed hope, and a desire for development and community, as the plan of God for creation, gives fresh impetus to rebuild the nation.

Part of the Balkan Peninsula:

It is difficult to obtain universal agreement on which nations belong to ‘the Balkans’. Most would include Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro,Romania, Serbia and Slovenia. Parts of Greece and Turkey are sometimes owned as belonging to the mix.

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See details re Bosnia, also: https://nwcc.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/bosnia/

 





Brazil

5 02 2013

 

 

 

Rio - Brazil

 

This statue of “Christ the Redeemer” overlooks the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, in South America.

Capital: Brasilia 3.9 million.

Other Huge Cities: Sao Paulo 20.3 million; Rio de Janeiro 12m, Belo Horizonte 5. 9m, Porto Alegre 4.1m, Salvador 3.9m

Brazil (to my surprise) is the world’s 5th largest country in both area and population. We do not hear much of Brazil in Australia. Perhaps that is because the official Language is Portugese, and we are just quite unfamiliar with it.

The Operation World Prayer Guide says: “Brazil is a melting pot of nations, with much intermarriage and blending of the many immigrant ethnicities. Most Brazilians have at least some mixed ethnic heritage”.

Peoples:

1. European 50.2% including world’s largest diaspora of Portugese, Italian and Spanish people. 2nd largest German dispersion.

2. Mixed Race 38% Mestizo and Mulatto.

3. African 6.4%

4. Asian 5.6%

5. Amerindian 0.41%  275 indigenous tribal groups speaking 185 different languages. Wow!

Economy

Vast natural resources and a huge labour force combine to produce an emerging superpower, especially in agriculture.  A major challenge will be to increase agricultural space without wrecking the precious Amazon and Pantanal ecosystems. 

Religion: Freedom. Large Catholic bias. Christian 91.4%. Ethno-religionist 5.4%. Non-religious 2.24%. Muslim 0.29%. Other…

Answer to Prayer: The sustained increase of evangelicos (from 2 million in 1960 to 512 million in 2010). Wow!  Brazil is one of the largest evangelical populations in the world, with a massive missionary Movement. They have large scale events celebrating Jesus!

Challenges to Prayer: Corruption, Poverty, Crime Racial problems, Catholicism in crisis – a desperate shortage of Priests.

Liberation Theology, Prosperity Theology, Theological Disagreement, 4,000 distinct Evangelical Groups:

The problems and prayer-points and diversity of fruitfulness, need and mixture of all sorts of dynamics make this place most difficult to assess. Except to say that the Christian faith is alive and well, and the church is making a significant impact on the society.

Interesting note: “Brazil’s most widely sold books are about magic, the occult and psycho-graphed (dictated by the dead) books. Evangelicals are not avid consumers of Christian books, despite there being many Christian publishing houses. Pray for more Christian books that will resonate with the Brazilian mentality to both disciple Christians and challenge non-Christians” (OW, p. 168-169).

Internet: “This is an increasingly vital part of effective young people’s ministry in particular.”

Happy Days Brazil. I would love to visit!

Ah South America!

Ah South America!

 

 

 





Bosnia

23 01 2013

Bosnia and Herzegovina, is a mountainous Balkan state situated amidst the nations of Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia.

Capital: Sarajevo. Population: 3,750,000. Language: Bosnian

The shameful war in the early 1990’s shattered this beautiful country, and devastated the once effective agrarian infrastructure.

Politics: It is helpful to hear the story: “Bosnia separated from Serbia in AD 960 and, during the 500-year Turkish occupation, many Bosnians became Muslim.  WW2 saw hundreds of thousands of Serbs exterminated by Croat and Bosniak Nazi collaborators. The breakup of Yugoslavia led to a Croat-Muslim alliance in support of independence in March 1992, which was swiftly and militarily contested by the Serb minority.  The three-sided war among Serbians, Croatians and Bosnians caused immense damage, loss of life, displacement of millions and wartime atrocities (most notably by Serbs upon Bosniaks). The war ended in 1995 with no winner and the nation partitioned between the Serb Republic and the Croat-Muslim Federation.  Real power lies with NATO and international agencies, trying to orchestrate a transition to a feasible post-war arrangement.” (Operation World)

And one more point: “Ethno-nationalistic religious confessions replaced communism as the prevailing ideology”.

Communist Background: April 7, 1963, the new Yugoslav constitution proclaimed Tito to be the president “for life” of the newly named Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Tito’s dictatorial leadership swiftly suppressed opponents.Image

Points for Prayer:

1. VIOLENCE: Forgiveness alone, can address the deep-seated anger over so much violence. Justice must flow, with reconciliation, for war-crimes so horrendous they are difficult to comprehend.

2. POVERTY: Economic transformation needed to address poverty, which is endemic.

3. ENTRENCHED RELIGION: Freedom in Christ is the only hope of liberating entrenched ‘religious communities’. 

4. GOOD NEWS: Creative means for sharing: The Alpha Course has helped to share Christ’s love. New means are needed continually. Broadcasts, Jesus film, etc.

5. Expatriate Christian input: is needed for believers in Bosnia, in order to bring the good news to their nation.  Pray for effective networking for the gospel’s sake.

6. The unreached are many.

(1) Bosniak Muslims.

(2) Orthodox Serbs: Islamic Rule for 500 years has made them bitter, and angry.

(3) The largely Muslim Romani (Gypsy) and the wholly Muslim Turks.

(4) The students. Note: “Among 30,000 tertiary students (the majority in Sarajevo), there are fewer than 40 believers.  Young people are very pessimistic – “more than 60% want to leave the country”. Pray that youth and ‘brains’ will come to know Christ, and remain in the nations to serve, with hope, for the future.





Belgium

20 10 2012

Two facts I knew about Belgium:

(1) They like horse meat. Living at Peterborough, South Australia, we were aware of the local abattoir being the destination for horses that had no future ‘use’ (remember that you slow ‘Melbourne Cup nags’). I asked where the horse meat was being exported to… ‘Belgium’ came the answer. They eat it.

(2) “Belgians in the Congo”. Billy Joel sang it in ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’! In 2002 the Belgium Government apologised for their 1961 assassination of the Congo’s first Prime Minister, and made way for repairing the abuse of colonial power with— reconciliation.

Now for some other insights. 62.7% of the Belgian population are listed as Christian. 32% non-religious, 4% Muslim and some others. There are only 10.5 million people here at ‘The Crossroads of Western Europe’.  Feature: politics is at a bit of a deadlock, but, with ‘Liberal social policies consistently pursued to a degree only matched by the Netherlands’. Interpret this as, ‘kind-of-on the downward slide’ in lots of ways.

There are genuine enthusiastic believers among the populace, many of whom are recent immigrants. Catholicism is in rapid decline.

It is a deeply divided nation, with (1) Latin/Romance and (2) Germanic worlds, with further (3) immigrant cultural world-views.  Walloons-Flemish rivalry and resentments colour the use of language, the economy, politics, religious life and viewpoints of the world about them.

We pray that the church may become a profound example of unity to the wider society. 

  • “The Bible has been reintroduced to Belgian society after many years of being discouraged, even banned by the Catholic Church before 1960.”
  • “Spiritually, Belgium isone of the most needy countries in Europe, with great spiritual apathy and faith largely banished from the public sphere”.
  • “Brussels is a strategic city” (The Capital). 32% Foreigners. 8% Evangelical. 13% Muslim. Over 45 nationalities of 1,000 or more.
  • Pray for the student work among 250,000 students over 17 different Universities.




Belarus

29 09 2012

Minsk is the capital city of Belarus, with a population of 1.8 million people. The country has 9.58 million and people numbers are falling! 

Belarus is a land-locked nation, still deeply influenced by the by autocratic Communist ways—having been dominated by Russia for centuries. It is often called ‘Europe’s last dictatorship’. It is surrounded by Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

Belarus was deeply affected by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster with 20% of the nation’s land being affected  and 2 million people uprooted and thousands died of radiation-induced cancer. Sadly, many children became of have become orphans, as the terrible nuclear health issues continue to affect this portion of God’s world. Pray for the mercies of the Lord, healing and help, to reach the most needy children and orphans.

The gospel is affecting this nation in spite of oppressive government ways, which show favour, and give precedence towards the established Orthodox and Catholic slavic churches—and make it difficult to even invite in speakers and Christian teachers  and evangelists from other nations.

“The state steadfastly maintains laws that forbid meeting in homes for worship, forming congregations of less than 20 people, opening religious schools, ministering outside of the home city, and importing and distributing non-state-approved literature. All religious activity must receive state permission” (Operation World, p. 140).

We pray for the Lord to raise up local Belarus Christian leaders, alive to the Spirit’s leading and able to stir anew the hope of their own people through the spoken Word. For renewal and reformation within the ancient confessing Christian communities. For the continued fruitful work of the Bible Society. With their successful completion in 2009 of a Belarusian Bible not only is the word going forth in the Russian language, but also in BelarusianWe also pray for increasing freedom from old political pressures, and a growing sense of national identity. 

As with many struggling European nations there is a beauty in the creation, which is stunning:





Austria

5 09 2012

Austria: 82% Christian, but quite a bit of very nominal Catholicism. A good sprinkling of Lutherans as we might expect, among this nation, where 91% of the 8.3 million, are Germanic people. Austria is a landlocked country, with The Alps in the south and west, and the flat plains of the River Danube to the east. Famous for ‘The Sound of Music’, a popular American musical picture, winning 5 Academy Awards… ‘Do-Re-Mi: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIjobdArtiA

A mixed prosperous economy, of agriculture, commerce and tourism—with culture, music, art and beautiful scenery in abundance. All this serves as a thin glaze, over a deeper human despair. Rates of suicide are high, as is abortion and alcoholism. The evangelical and charismatic churches, though quite small numerically, are working, praying and seeking to be a fresh influence in the life of Austrian people. Pastors are in great need, as are more full-time workers in missionary work. ‘Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out more workers into the field’ (Matthew 9:38).

In particular there are many unreached pockets of people, such as six ethnic groups from the Balkans, as well as Muslim Turks, Afghans, Kurds and Pakistanis.

Witness among the student population is a fruitful area of work. Vienna the capital (1.7million) host thousands of international students. All 7 universities have active ministries among them. There are growing prayer ministries among teenagers, and SU and CEF are focussing on school age children. Lots to do, but hopeful signs. May the Living Lord Jesus, bless the people of Austria with a good hearing of the Word of Life!

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Vishal Mangalwadi

17 05 2012

Seeing the world through Indian eyes. That’s what I have been doing a bit lately. And it is a very stirring, thought-provoking exercise.

I have been reading a book by Vishal Mangalwadi, entitled: The Book That Made Your World. It is a great book!

A great read!

It is subtitled: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization

The subtitle could be misleading. This is not just a ‘three cheers for the Bible’ kind of book. Nor is it going to simply bolster the views of the hard-line fundamentalist, as the title may suggest.  Rather, these are the words of a man who has come into the rich flow of wisdom, and truth.  Indeed, he puts much emphasis upon the importance of “truth”. He has come to see in a very profound way how the wonderful benefits experienced by countries like Australia, America, England, Canada, Germany, France, and Scotland—to name a few, have flowed from a Bible-given understanding of the world, its purpose, of humanity and of its hope, and of God and his character as revealed in Jesus Christ.

This is a book for the benefit not only of individuals, but for musicians, for those who are troubled by the death of rock legends, like Kurt Cobain, or the enduring love of Johann Sebastian Bach.

It is a book for readers of history, ponderers of culture, and leaders of Nations. It is a rewarding read for those interested in why many nations have not succeeded. Why has poverty engulfed so many nations?

Mangalwadi addresses questions like:

  • ‘Rationality: What made the West a Thinking Civilization?’.
  • ‘Technology: Why Did Monks Develop It?’
  • ‘Languages: How Was Intellectual Power Democratized?’
  • ‘Caring: Why Did Caring Become Medical Commitment?’
  • ‘The Future: Must the Sun Set on the West?’

I first heard Vishal Mangalwadi address a modest sized crowd of listeners in Adelaide, in October, 2011. I would like to have heard more from him. I would like more people to have been able to be there to hear him.

There are some You-Tube links:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5nHV3j8InRQ

But I suggest you purchase the book, and have a read for yourself.  I certainly have benefited from such an enjoyable read, and from a man who does evidently have a very keen intellect.  And not only that, he does stack of original research – to find out if what he is being told is true. What a good idea.

He also wrote :

  • The World of Gurus
  • In Search of Self: Beyond the New Age
  • Truth and Transformation: A Manifesto For Ailing Nations
  • Legacy of William Carey: A Model for Transforming Culture
  • Missionary Conspiracy: Letters to a Postmodern Hindu
  • India: The Grand Experiment
  • Quest For Freedom and Dignity: Caste, Conversion and Cultural Transformation
  • Astrology

For further resources: http://www.revelationmovement.com/





The Meta-Narrative AD

14 05 2012
The Word Became Flesh
  • 4 BC John the Baptiser (The Greatest of all the Prophets)

Magi from the East...

  • Incarnation: Birth of Jesus of Nazareth, Life, Ministry
  • 30 AD Death of Jesus
  • 30 AD Resurrection of Jesus
  • 30 AD Ascension of Jesus and Current Reign
  • Pentecostal Spirit
  • Acts of the Apostles: Peter, James, John, Paul, Others
  • ‘The Spreading Flame’: Christian Faith and Community
  • Growing Opposition: Nero, Rome
Turning Points: “2000 Years of Christ’s Power”  (M. Noll, N. Needham)
  • 70 AD   The Destruction of Temple (Jerusalem)
  • 100, 200, 300: Expansion, Persecution, Emperors, Theologians
  • 325    Nicene Creed
  • 481    Chalcedon and Heresies
  • 530    Benedict and Monasteries

Luther, the Augustinian Monk - History Maker

  • 600    Gospel in China (Nestorians and Others)
  • 630    Muhammad Conquers Mecca with (sword not Word)
  • 800   Charlemagne Crowned on Christmas Day, …“by the Pope”
  • 1054  East and West Divide
  • 1095 The Crusades begin
  • 1382 John Wycliffe’s English Bible completed
  • 1521  Reformation: Luther (& later …Calvin)
  • 1534  England – Henry VIII
  • 1540 Counter-Reform, Loyola
  • 1738 Revivals: Wesley, Whitfield, Edwards
  • 1789 French Revolution
  • 1793 William Carey to India
  • 1807 Robert Morrison to China
  • 1854 David Livingstone to Africa
  • 1904 Revival in Wales
  • 1906 Azusa Street, LA, Pentecostals
  • 1907 Pyongyang, (North) Korea, Revival began
  • 1910 Edinburgh Missionary Conference
  • 1914-18 World War One  (P.T. Forsyth – “think in centuries”)
  • 1922 Karl Barth on Romans; and 1934 Barmen Declaration
  • 1929 Totoyohiko Kagawa, Indigenous Missionary in Japan
  • 1939 World War Two: Suffering and Nations
  • 1945 New Beginning, Service in Love (G. C. Bingham)
  • 1962 Second Vatican Council
  • 1966 Pray for China (cf. Mao’s Cultural Revolution
  • 1979 Aboriginal Australia Revival From Elcho Island
  • 1989 Fall of Berlin Wall: ‘The Twilight of Atheism’ (A. McGrath)
  • 2001 New York Twin Towers: Faith, NOT Religion
  • 2004 Tsunami Indian Ocean and Theodicy
  • 2012 Attempt to redefine Marriage (US Obama)
  • … New things
  • … More new things
  • … The Eschaton
  • Date Not Known: ‘Behold I make all things new’ [the ‘old things’ transformed into the ‘new’]
  • The Age to Come – Eternity – Glorification of All Things




Absent Fathers

24 04 2010

What has happened to that once great nation, Britain? On a long flight home to Australia, I had opportunity to watch 2 movies:

(1) Into the Storm, starring Brendan Gleeson, as British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. The film highlighted Churchill’s bold, tough, lonely leadership, and his genuine desire to serve his nation, against Hitler’s madness, even at the cost of precious life—for the benefit of the world. For his nation, Churchill exercise fatherly leadership. Strength was not absent.

(2) Harry Brown, starring Michael Caine as a self-appointed vigilante, Harry Brown, a former Marine! The film was in itself, social commentary upon the moral bankruptcy, corruption, lawlessness, and cowardice of British street gangs. And it highlighted the need today, for the exercise of strong leadership, for the rediscovery of moral courage, on a national-scale. The need for vigilante movements, is a bad sign for any community; it arises from inadequate leadership.

The two movies seemed to sit in stark juxtaposition. Stark.

(1) Comment regarding Into the Storm: Fearing many casualties, Winston Churchill during WW2, on June 4th, 1940 said publicly:

“… I have, myself, full confidence that if all do their duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are being made, we shall prove ourselves once again able to defend our Island home, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of tyranny, if necessary for years, if necessary alone. At any rate, that is what we are going to try to do. That is the resolve of His Majesty’s Government-every man of them. That is the will of Parliament and the nation. The British Empire and the French Republic, linked together in their cause and in their need, will defend to the death their native soil, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strength. Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

(2) Regarding Harry Brown, the actor Michael Caine, reflected on the story saying that he learned from the film of a wasted generation in the 2000’s in Britain. Considering the social scene in Britain, today, (some 60 years since Churchill’s great speeches and leadership), Caine said:

the “irresponsibility” of absent fathers, was “the start of all of this”. “Sadly the state cannot provide fathers,” he concluded.

SUMMARY:
Sometimes things come to us, and leave us with an impression, which is difficult to fully articulate. Yes, Britain and all other nations need quality leadership. Lawlessness is always a disgraceful situation. However, mere heroics in not the answer, or way forward. What is most needed is genuine hope—and the desire to make a significant contribution. This together with fear of ultimate judgment, needs to be recovered in Britain, and other nations.

THE NEW LEADER: neither stubborn, not mere invader of personality!
In Jesus Christ, the Early Church saw that the world had a new ascended leader—for eternity. That is why they so often quoted Psalm 2, and Psalm 110. I think the Risen Jesus pointed them to these two Psalms, prior to his ascension, and prior to Pentecost, for they are both quoted over 20 times in the New Testament.
Psalm 110:1 The LORD says to my lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.”

Psalm 2:1 asks, Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain?

Psalm 2 continues on: 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and his anointed, saying, 3 “Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us.” 4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the LORD has them in derision. 5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, 6 “I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.”

7 ¶ I will tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to me, “You are my son; today I have begotten you.8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You shall break them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” 10 ¶ Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11 Serve the LORD with fear, with trembling 12 kiss his feet, or he will be angry, and you will perish in the way; for his wrath is quickly kindled. Happy are all who take refuge in him.

Britain once based their approach to society, upon Christ’s active, present-leadership. Let us come under this gracious Lordship of Jesus, of the truth, and begin to expect greater things from our society and community. Pray that ‘absent fathers’ will come to know The Father, through his son. Pray that schemers and users, will come to behave as true sons, trusting the Father, for the whole future. Pray that many will respond to the gospel!! And so find true courage, in this man, patience, graciousness, and perfect timing in ordering the world.





Europe’s Past Is Today’s Hope

6 10 2009

Europe continues to be a difficult place for the gospel to take fresh root, and to make real headway. Only today, I received a request for support for a missionary couple, as they endeavour to take the Word of truth into … Italy. Ha – just think… the Apostle Paul wrote his great letter of truth, concerning the world, and life, and the future, to … the church in Rome. We should read Paul’s Letter to the Romans often!

What a strange thing human history can seem to be. One of the most unusual days, and perhaps disappointing in terms of unwise use of power, was when Charlemagne, was crowned by the Pope, as leader of the ‘Holy Roman Empire’, on Christmas Day, 800 AD. In a short Church History lesson (2009), I wrote the following:

Charlemagne crowned by Leo III

On Christmas Day, 800 AD, in Rome, Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne as emperor. This signified a shift in power structure, for the church in Rome, in relation to the all of the Kings of Europe.  In theory, church and state were now in harmonious interplay. How did a Pope ever come to crown a world ruler? Can you have a Holy Roman Empire?

Fast forward. Another Gregory, Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085), instituted reforms, which ultimately led to the papacy emerging in the 12th and 13th centuries, as the most powerful office in Europe.

Fast Forward: By 1409, there was one Italian Pope, Urban, in Rome, another French one, Clement from Avignon,. But neither stood down, as of necessity, a third Pope, Alexander V, was elected. Three Popes. And one was preaching a crusade against another and selling indulgences to pay for it.

In World History, many Christian leaders, (if not all to some extent) have really failed in their specific calling to continue to announce the good news of the gospel to the world. Some have become too theologically clever, and too politically careful, or manipulative, to be able to really bear witness to Jesus Christ as the Saviour of the world, through his death and resurrection. Nevertheless, Jesus ever remains Lord of all current affairs, of life itself, of death, and of creation, with its future in his hands! This is an amazing claim.

I was heartened, therefore to read this article in Christianity Today, concerning the current Pope, and his recent words. It is good to be a person, who, in spite of many obstacles, and when often being misunderstood, does not give up in one’s calling to proclaim the good news for the human race. check out this article:

Europe’s Past Is Today’s Hope | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction.

I hope you are not giving up, on your calling, or compromising it, wherever that may be!








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