Major milestone reached!

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Amanda and I are excited to announce an important milestone in our journey to missionary work in Liberia. The Lord through you and others has fully provided our One-Time Departure funding which helps us get to Liberia and get set up. We want you to celebrate with us in this significant achievement.  After you watch it, if you feel it is appropriate, we would really appreciate your showing this video in an upcoming meeting at your church or small group sometime soon. Please thank them for their kindness and generosity. We really thank the Lord for you and your joining hand in hand with us in this missions calling.

Chrysostom on “Christmas Morning”

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John Chrysostom preaching in Constantinople

This year Christmas Day falls on a Sunday. We pray your Christmas is awesome this year. Here is an excerpt from a Christmas morning sermon about the 4th or 5th Century by John Chrysostom (c.349-407), Archbishop of Constantinople:

“What shall I say! And how shall I describe this Birth to you? For this wonder fills me with astonishment. The Ancient of Days has become an infant. He Who sits upon the sublime and heavenly Throne, now lies in a manger. And He Who cannot be touched, now lies subject to the hands of men. He Who has broken the bonds of sinners, is now bound by an infant’s bands.
“Come, then, let us observe the Feast. Truly wondrous is the whole chronicle of the Nativity. For this day the ancient slavery is ended, the devil confounded, the demons take to flight, the power of death is broken, paradise is unlocked, the curse is taken away, sin is removed from us, error driven out, truth has been brought back.
“To Him, then, Who out of confusion has wrought a clear path, to Christ, to the Father, and to the Holy Ghost, we offer all praise, now and for ever. Amen.”
–John Chrysostom (c. 349-407), Archbishop of Constantinople, excerpt from his sermon, “Christmas Morning,” The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers, M. F. Toal, ed., (Swedesboro, NJ: Preservation Press, 1996), 1:110-117.

Ankle aftermath 

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How to break an ankleOn April 16, 2015, I (Gene) injured my left ankle while helping install insulation on 30-foot tanks at an adhesive company in Simpsonville, SC. First diagnosed as a bad sprain, we later found I had torn all the tendons and sustained an impact bruise on the top of the ankle bone. After a year of physical therapy with minimal relief, it was on to surgery on June 28, 2016. The orthopedist found what three MRIs and 2 x-rays didn’t: I had indeed broken two ankle bones, crushed together and fused on their own with spurs all over.

Kid-decorated bandageNow in month 4 of a 6-12 month healing process and 20 sessions of physical therapy, I am down to one crutch and an ankle brace. Victory, but in small increments. When I was an AmeriCorps VISTA in Spartanburg, SC, a long time ago, my director at the Adult Learning Center, himself a retired textile executive, gave me a piece of wisdom which has proved true, “By small steps we’ll get there!”

Isaiah 63:7-17 – The Trinity

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Sharing sermon notes preached this past weekend at Happy Trails Cowboy Church in Ware Place, SC.

The situation seemed hopeless. No one wanted to go there. It was a land of deep spiritual darkness and strong demonic forces. The high priests of witchcraft actually held more power over politics than the tribal kings. But there was one man who knew he was called to this land and this people, a runaway slave. In fact, he had fled enslavement by this very people group.
God had called him to this dark nation in an astonishing vision when he saw a man from that people group bringing him letters. The first one read, “We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come home and walk among us.” That was all he could read. He was overcome, and he immediately made plans to take the Gospel to the very people who had enslaved him.
When this pioneer missionary arrived among this violent, rough people in the profound bondage of paganism, the name of Jesus had never been heard among them. Pat brought that message to them, energetically traveling all over the countryside, sharing the Gospel and preaching with courage. Bitter enemies undermined Pat’s message, and he received death threats regularly, especially from the highly educated priestly class who practiced black magic and controlled the kings.
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Liberia deja vu

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Eight years ago today I wrote the following on my other blog, Sunday in the South. I didn’t know it then, but we were in our final month pastoring our first church, Amis Chapel Baptist Church in Oak Hill, NC. We were in the midst of praying for direction with the church, but committed to love the people and teach the Bible there as long as we had breath. I was to resign on July 8, 2008, after the encouragement of friends during Discipleship Week at Ridgecrest, NC, a couple weeks after writing this post.
I see here in this old post the longing, the call to Liberia latent but growing as we sought the Lord on His direction for our lives.

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Global Impact Conference at First North Spartanburg

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Three PC grads: Amanda, Gene, and Jennifer Perry Scruggs

Three PC grads: Amanda, Gene, and Jennifer Perry Scruggs

We had a great weekend April 28-May 1 as one of the 17 missionary units at the Global Impact Conference at First Baptist Church, North Spartanburg, SC.

Our Mission conference table

Our table at the Global Impact Conference

God moved in many hearts during that weekend, and we saw many commitments to Christ regarding the Great Commission.

Luke reading

Luke reads to Spartanburg Christian Academy first graders

On Friday, we enjoyed doing a missions program for the first graders of Spartanburg Christian Academy located at First North.

On Saturday, Luke and I enjoyed shooting clays with the men’s ministry of First North at River Bend Resort north of Lake Bowen.

We also reconnected with a friend from Presbyterian College days, Jennifer Perry Scruggs, a member of First North.

Our mission table was right next to Global Gates' Brad Wall working in New York City. Enjoyed seeing him again.

With Global Gates’ Brad Wall working in New York City.

Imagine our pleasant surprise when we found the table next to us was manned by friend Brad Wall of Global Gates working in New York City. Enjoyed connecting with him again.

We had a great time with the FBNS men shooting clays. Luke is a better shot than his dad.

Luke is a better shot than his dad.

To God be the glory!

Be sure to sign up for our prayer letter at http://eepurl.com/76ulp.

Luke did well shooting clays as part of the Global Impact Conference

Luke did well shooting clays

Luke shooting

Luke shooting clays

 

Trauma Healing

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20160406_093842Last week I was privileged to be part of SIM USA‘s training in Bible-based Trauma Healing developed by the American Bible Society.

The training was held at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary’s Charlotte campus, and the forty-one attendees from all over the country and two other nations worked hard from 9am to 5pm Monday through Friday.

20160407_142412Bible-based trauma healing is a way for people to deal with heart wounds through the power of Scripture. I attended in preparation for Liberia, but it is useful here in North America as well.

Now a duly certified apprentice facilitator (which means I know enough to be dangerous!), I am looking forward to sitting in trauma healing sessions led by Liberian brothers and sisters in Christ to see what they emphasize and how they lead it.

The people at my table were an SIM USA staffer, a Mission to the World worker with refugees in Dallas, a Campus Crusade for Christ staffer from Orlando, the wife of a Navy chaplain, and a PC USA community health education worker in Ethiopia.

20160407_142504Here is a link for you to read more about Bible-based Trauma Healing: http://thi.americanbible.org/

Ankle surgery

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ocd-figure-5The orthopedic surgeon has recommended ankle surgery for Gene. Progress and healing has plateaued and a third MRI has provided objective evidence of chronic issues only fixable with surgery. The surgeon is going to perform the procedure in such a way that he will try his best not to break the leg bone. If so, the recovery time will obviously be shorter. We have been waiting for three weeks for word about a second opinion or a “go ahead” from the adjuster. Since this is a worker’s comp situation, a lot of time passes between steps which may (and probably will) affect our faith leave date of July 31. Pray with us that all these things will happen in the Lord’s timing and healing.

How they prayed for missions

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prayer-hands-01George Whitefield, the famous English evangelist, said, “O Lord, give me souls, or take my soul!”

Henry Martyn, a missionary to India’s Muslims, cried as he knelt on India’s coral strands, “Here let me burn out for God.

David Brainerd, missionary to the North American Indians in the early 18th century, prayed, “Lord, to Thee I dedicate myself, oh accept of me, and let me be Thine forever. Lord, I desire nothing else, I desire nothing more.” The last words in his diary written several days before he died were, “Oh come, Lord Jesus, come quickly. Amen.”

Thomas à Kempis, 1379-1471, said, “Give what Thou wilt, and how much Thou wilt, and when Thou wilt. Set me where Thou wilt and deal with me in all things as Thou wilt.”

Dwight L. Moody implored, “Use me then, my Savior, for whatever purpose and in whatever way Thou mayest require. Here is my poor heart, an empty vessel, fill it with Thy grace.”

Martin Luther prayed thus on the night preceding his appearance before the Diet of Worms: “Do Thou, my God, stand by me against all the world’s wisdom and reason. Oh, do it, Thou must do it. Stand by me, Thou true, eternal God!”

Praying Hyde,” a missionary in India, pleaded, “Father, give me these souls, or I die.”