We wish you a wonderful conclusion to the 2019 Days of Unleavened Bread. Several of our pastors are traveling to distant places at this time and are serving our brethren who are so appreciative and encouraged by such visits.
Jorge de Campos is currently in Angola and is conducting training seminars for the ministry there. He was met at the Huambo airport on Tuesday by a delegation of 20 of their elders and wives who greatly appreciate someone speaking to them in their native Portuguese language. You can read his last report that describes what he's doing and the history of that area which not long ago was devastated by a civil war. His most recent posting is at http://v2.travelark.org/travel-blog-entry/jorgedecampos/9/1556045200.
David and Jolinda Schreiber were to go to Sri Lanka, where last Sunday over 350 people were killed in coordinated terrorist bombings. Colombo, as well as all Sri Lanka, is under curfew and our deacon Frank Reckerman advised the Schreibers not to come. So, they changed their plans and headed for Chennai, India, instead where readers of Beyond Today and others from the past have requested visits. David and Jolinda are making the best of their trip despite this horrific development in Sri Lanka. We are thankful that none of our brethren were affected by what happened.
Please pray for all our brethren around this hurting world that desperately needs the Kingdom of God. Elements of Jesus' model prayer come into play: Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, lead us not into sore trial and deliver us from the evil one!
First Day of Unleavened Bread in Lilongwe, Malawi.
Yesterday, I spent time with our elders in Malawi and Zimbabwe here in Blantyre. We had a heart-rending discussion with Mabasa Chichaya, who traveled here from his home in Kadoma, Zimbabwe. We surveyed a map of Zimbabwe where he graphically showed us what cities he serves and where the brethren live.
Mabasa Chichaya discusses the perils of Church members with
Vic and Bev Kubik over a map of Zimbabwe.
Conditions in Zimbabwe are as bad as they had been previously under the Mugabe rule. There is little fuel and it costs $8 a gallon if you can get it--waiting in a line that may be a mile long. Our brethren are starving. The unemployment rate is 99% in the Gokwe area where our largest UCG congregation is found. Our two elders, Mabasa Chichaya and Michael Mukarati, still traverse this country and visit and speak to our brethren on a regular basis, but it is getting harder, much harder. We listened to his plight and are finding solutions for immediate and longer-term problems. We gave money to immediately provide our starving people with bags of staple maize. Please pray for our brethren and the Church in Zimbabwe! I have more extensive descriptions and photos of our visits to the churches on my TravelArk blog at http//v2.travelark.org/travel-blog/victorkubik/25.
Manyinga, Paris, Notre Dame and You
Earlier in April I was in Manyinga in the Northwest Province of the impoverished nation of Zambia. It was there that my wife, Bev, and I learned that a fire had broken out in Paris, engulfing the ancient roof (comprised of more than 1,300 old oak trees called "the Forest") of the famous Notre Dame Cathedral.
Astonishingly, the foundations of this revered architectural masterpiece survived. Even before the embers fully cooled from the blaze, numerous billionaires, companies, church organizations, major corporations like Apple and Walt Disney, and even thousands of ordinary folk enthusiastically and collectively pledged billions of Euros and dollars to rebuild the devastated French Gothic structure. Those professing belief in God and even atheists alike have expressed condolences to the damage of a world-recognized shrine and pledged support. Some have called upon "Our Lady" (as Notre Dame is rendered in English) not to leave them.
But the global unity was short-lived. Even as French and international political leaders vowed to rebuild the medieval icon, cracks appeared in the initial unified effort. Protests broke out again in France from the so-called Gilets jaunes (Yellow Vests or Yellow Jackets) movement, a national French group that has rioted and caused major upheavals. The Yellow Vests claim that the French government--through taxation and economic policy--has intolerably increased the price of fuel, the cost of living and rural expenses. The Yellow Vests people claim the billions of Euros pledged to rebuild Notre Dame are representative of how billionaires dismiss the middle and lower classes of people in France.
While reflecting on this calamity during our stay in Manyinga, an important spiritual lesson was eloquently and powerfully reconfirmed for all of us in the United Church of God. I would like to share it with you.
On the day before the Notre Dame blaze, I was privileged to dedicate a new church building in Manyinga, Zambia. In contrast to the billions of Euros and dollars now pledged to rebuild Notre Dame in Paris, the Zambia church building cost about $7,000. Instead of 13 million tourists annually, the humble facility will serve a United Church of God congregation of about 30-40 people.
On April 14, the day of the dedication, local members and families gathered around outside as I expressed dedicatory words, a prayer and a ribbon cutting. Following the brief ceremony, the congregation all filed in one by one to occupy the building. To read more about it click here: http://v2.travelark.org/travel-blog-entry/victorkubik/25/1555447820.
It was humbling, inspiring and powerful. I found myself feeling fortunate that I was here in southern Africa instead of on the European continent.
Why? This humble church building is where Zambian members of the United Church of God will worship God from the heart. This is where their prayers will be heard. This is where they will praise the living God in song. This is where they will learn of God's wisdom and His desire and plan for them. These rich spiritual experiences represent a stark contrast from what may be experienced in massive cold and emotionally distant cathedrals of the world.
I found myself humbled at the simple faith, belief and grateful joy expressed by the Manyinga members and families. In reflective context and in the moment, I thought: "I would rather be in Manyinga than in Paris."
The Manyinga building dedication brought home the fact that while church buildings are certainly a wonderful blessing, they in the end are only physical. The Spirit-filled members and families who use these buildings--whether humble or ornate--represent the true treasures.
The profound lesson that a "church" is not physical was reaffirmed for me. We in the United Church of God understand that the Greek word ekklesia often translated "church" in the English New Testament doesn't refer to a physical structure. This word is used by biblical authors to specifically describe an assembly of disciples of Jesus Christ. The biblical "church" represents a spiritual entity, an entity that includes you, not a physical building.
While physical entities like the Notre Dame cathedral may manifest extraordinary beauty and design, the real spiritual beauty of brethren assembling together in worship of the living God--the true spiritual Body of Christ--powerfully transcendsthe loveliness of any physical building. Such it was at the dedication of the new church building recently in Manyinga.
How does one know if he or she is a member of the Body of Christ? Paul specifically tells us that "you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His" (Romans 8:9 Romans 8:9But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
American King James Version×, emphasis added throughout).
Thankfully, we in the United Church of God hold great comfort and confidence. As Paul goes on: "The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodiesby this same Spirit living within you" (verse 11, New Living Translation).
Further, we hold the precious knowledge that with the gift of the Holy Spirit living and working within us, we literally are the living temple of the most high God (2 Corinthians 6:16 2 Corinthians 6:16And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? for you are the temple of the living God; as God has said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
American King James Version×)! No matter how beautiful and well-constructed, all physical buildings will one day come to an end (2 Peter 3:10-12 2 Peter 3:10-12  But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.  Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in all holy conversation and godliness,  Looking for and hastening to the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
American King James Version×). But we who have been given "the Spirit as a guarantee" (2 Corinthians 5:5 2 Corinthians 5:5Now he that has worked us for the selfsame thing is God, who also has given to us the earnest of the Spirit.
American King James Version×), we shall live and serve with Christ for all eternity!
What a marvelous truth! While some feel pain at the loss of a magnificent structure like the Notre Dame cathedral, we rejoice that the powerful Spirit-filled and Spirit-led Temple of God--represented by us within the Body of Christ--lives on and spiritually prospers now and forever.
It was a good day to be in Manyinga, as it is wherever God's people infused with God's Holy Spirit are gathered (Matthew 18:20 Matthew 18:20For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the middle of them.
American King James Version×).