Resources for the members of the United Church of God

Update from the President: Aug. 2, 2018

You are here

Update from the President

Aug. 2, 2018

As we start this new month of August, we are excited to report that the Video Recording Studio is almost complete and on schedule with the construction phase of this project. The electrical work was finalized earlier this week and the remaining inspections are planned for the end of this week. Also, yesterday we put up a new sign for the home office as part of the construction project.

If all of our inspections go well, we should receive our Certificate of Occupancy and we can then take possession of the new space. At that time, we will begin to move some of our existing TV studio equipment over to the new studio.

We have finalized our negotiations with a set building company and I signed the contract today for its construction. The cost came in $11,000 under the initial estimate. The on-camera set will be built off-site and should be ready to install at the end of September or in October.

A Mighty Promise: We can never be separated

I am deeply grieved as I watch the worldwide refugee crisis, human smuggling, separation of children from parents. My parents were refugees for four years and slave laborers in Germany three years before that. I came over as a two-year-old and have lived in a survivor family that was traumatized by that experience.

As I see others helplessly suffer, this represents the heart-rending definitive summation of a world going mad, of the pressing need for God's Kingdom to come. The images come in different forms and in different places. It can be the image of fearful faces gaping helplessly as their overloaded and unseaworthy vessel dangerously bobs up and down, unsteadily headed to who knows where. It can be the heartbreaking image of a face-down lifeless body of a three-year-old boy, washed up on a lonely Turkish shore after being separated from his anguished Syrian refugee parents when their inflatable dinghy capsized. It can be accounts of huddled families tramping through the hot stinking mud on the Bangladesh-Myanmar border, involuntarily cast from their homes and desperately seeking to flee violence, rape and murder. And, of course, there are the current politically polarized stories of Mexican families torn apart from their parents as they illegally try to cross the American border in search of a better life.

These images sear my mind. This is going on even while you're reading this—and it's going on in a thousand different places.

Refugees fleeing mindless war and families desperately seeking shelter and opportunity—these stories pierce my heart. It might seem easy to turn away, but I cannot.

This is not a new story. The mind-numbing tragedies of refugees crisscross thousands of years of history. Today, millions of words have been written and countless stories told about immigration and refugees in contemporary times that have no human solution.

So, why should that matter to us?

Because this powerfully reminds me that we live in times where life is fragile. As millions know today, the stability of a peaceful life can vanish in a heartbeat. In America, where a standard of living exists that is but fantasy or a wild hope for much of the rest of the world, the challenges faced by refugees can be difficult to understand. We who live in prosperous countries have little context of what refugees struggle against. When we daily pray as disciples of Christ "Your Kingdom come" (Matthew 6:10 Matthew 6:10Your kingdom come, Your will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
American King James Version×
), I suspect that some are motivated to pray that prayer a little more fervently than others.

As I mentioned, I come from a family of refugees. As an infant, I was born in and lived my first two years of life in a United Nations refugee camp following the close of World War II.

I've told parts of this story before in the pages of Beyond Today and in various sermons and other forums. But the key bit is this: but for a few fortunate turns, I would likely not be writing this in English today. In fact, I probably would never have known life in the United States.

Here's a quick review of my background and why it's relevant: during the war, my parents were dislocated from their Ukrainian homeland and forced by the Nazis to be laborers in German wartime factories. When the war ended, a compulsory trip back to an uncertain future in the Soviet Union loomed largely. As yet unmarried, my then-future parents desperately came up with a plan of escape. Together with another couple, they fled from the Russian detention site where they had been assigned. Miraculously, they found shelter in a Hannover refugee camp operated by Western Allies. There they married and two years later, I came along.

But their trial was not over. For four long years, they applied and waited, applied and waited. They sought asylum in Canada, Australia, the United States and even various countries in South America. Nothing opened up.

After nearly half a decade in a refugee camp, it looked like they were going to be forced to return back to Soviet-controlled Ukraine. It was not a pleasant option.

Then, literally at the last hour, what can only be described as a miracle occurred. A sponsor from the United States appeared. Our lives were profoundly changed beyond measure. After a challenging trip from war-torn Germany and a problematic and eventful passage through Ellis Island in New York, we settled in Minnesota as grateful immigrants and began to build anew. We were all fervently thankful and appreciative that we had been given a second chance. We knew God had been miraculously involved, and we knew that God was present in our lives. It was, and remains, profoundly humbling.

So, when I see or read the news of refugees who were not nearly so fortunate as I was, it gives me pause. It reminds me of three spiritual lessons that you may find of value.

First, for me with my experience, the Apostle Peter totally summed it up when he referred to disciples of Christ as "temporary residents and foreigners" (1 Peter 2:11 1 Peter 2:11Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;
American King James Version×
, New Living Translation) living on earth. I have been a naturalized American citizen since the second grade of elementary school. But I have been blessed to understand that my true citizenship, my eternal nationality, is being held in store for me in heaven until the return of Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:20 Philippians 3:20For our conversation is in heaven; from where also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ:
American King James Version×
). That citizenship is as real as anything I know.

Second, as both a citizen of the coming Kingdom of God and a present child of the Most High God (1 John 3:3 1 John 3:3And every man that has this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure.
American King James Version×
), I am called to a changed life. Paul directs us to "set your mind on things above, not on things of the earth" (Colossians 3:2 Colossians 3:2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
American King James Version×
). As spiritual refugees awaiting a better Kingdom, Paul further instructs us: "do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2 Romans 12:2And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
American King James Version×

Third, even though we might be spiritual refugees on this planet, we can never be torn or involuntarily separated from our spiritual Father or our Elder Brother Jesus Christ! The pain and anguish suffered by those separated as refugees will never come upon us. On the eve of His death, Jesus declared to His disciples: "I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you" (John 14:18 John 14:18I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
American King James Version×
, NLT). God gave Joshua a mighty promise that we can claim: "I will not fail you or abandon you" (Joshua 1:5 Joshua 1:5There shall not any man be able to stand before you all the days of your life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with you: I will not fail you, nor forsake you.
American King James Version×
, NLT). And finally, I invite you to read these words from Romans slowly and ponder their magnificent meaning for you and me: "nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow... nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39 Romans 8:38-39 [38] For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, [39] Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
American King James Version×
, NLT).

I'm thankful that I was never separated from my physical parents as a child. I'm even more thankful that I'll never be separated from my spiritual Father in Heaven.

What an incredible promise! What an incredible future! May God's Kingdom come soon!