We thoroughly appreciated the 27 guests who attended our Leadership Workshop this past weekend here at the home office. Nine people came from international countries; two from Chile, two from Germany, two from Canada and three from the United Kingdom. Our house guests were Denise McClean and Hazel Huck, who work at the British Isles church office. I made a podcast with each of them—one is featured this week. They gave interesting insight into their lives and the congregations where they attend and serve. This annual event allows us to meet and interact with people who are interested in greater service in their home congregations. We exchanged ideas and answered many questions as we developed constructive relationships for doing God’s work in the local churches.
Beyond Today recording
We recorded three new Beyond Today television programs yesterday before a studio audience at full capacity. The programs were “Quitting Christmas” by Steve Myers, “Jesus Christ, Saved by His Life” by Darris McNeely and “Satan’s Four Great Deceptions” by Gary Petty. One of the two Protestant ministers who came to see the programs wrote me this morning saying, “Thanks for letting us see the production yesterday. What a valuable and impressive way to get the message out.” The other minister stated that he wanted to bring his wife by next week for a tour of our home office.
On Sunday, September 1, Hurricane Dorian barreled into the Bahamas, stalling for over 24 hours above the islands, wreaking havoc and destruction in the wake of strong winds and towering storm surges. The estimated costs to aid our brethren far exceed our disaster relief reserve. We are, therefore, raising additional funds to cover this shortfall. We appreciate the support and prayers for our brethren and all of those suffering from this devastating storm. Chuck Smith, our senior pastor for the Caribbean, will be assessing needs and distributing aid when he is able to travel there. Our initial goal is to raise $35,000 for relief for our brethren who suffered severe property damage. We are thankful that they are safe, however. Please go to our Good Works page at http://goodworks.ucg.org for more information or to make a donation.
Here is the latest report from Chuck Smith as of 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, September 4:
“For all who have been concerned, below is an update on our members in Freeport, Grand Bahama Island:
“Our members live on Grand Bahama Island, where the hurricane ‘parked’ for one and a half days. We have heard from them all, either directly or indirectly. Mark and Wendy Mackey, and their son Andrew are safe and had minimal damage to their home, which is a miracle considering they live only a five-minute walk from the beach. We finally heard from our deaconess, Cynthia Williams, this morning. This was the first we had heard from her since late Monday afternoon when her home was flooded before it began to recede. Here is the message I received from her this morning:
“ ‘By God’s grace, we made it through. Lots of damage inside but things can be replaced. Thanks so very much for all the prayers. Our God is an awesome God and to Him be all the glory. Water came up high again last night. Higher than before, but again God was merciful. I thank ALL my loved ones who are so concerned for us. We were scared but now safe. Thank God for life. ALL my furniture is destroyed. Doors, carpet, personal things. The smell of saltwater is sickening but we are doing our best to clean up.’
“We have not heard directly from the other members; only that they are safe. Most do not have hurricane insurance—it is prohibitively expensive, and the cost of living is very high—most barely scrape by. In order to recover, they will need time and outside assistance.
“Thank you to all who have been praying and have expressed concern for our Bahamian family. An announcement will be forthcoming regarding how you can assist them, if you have a desire to do so.”
Hong Kong News
I have spoken to Earl Roemer, senior pastor for Hong Kong, about the state of things regarding the Church and the upcoming Feast of Tabernacles. Earl will be going to Hong Kong for the Feast, which is very much still on! There are a number of people from mainland China who are also planning to come to Hong Kong for the Feast.
I have also asked for reports from Earl Roemer’s assistant, Terry Franke, and on site members Mary Ong and Jimmy Wong to give their impressions of conditions in Hong Kong. Terry Franke was in Hong Kong last Sabbath to speak to and encourage our brethren. I might add that I am planning to visit Hong Kong in December.
Here are excerpts from their reports that they sent me in the past two days. You can see the full reports at https://kubik.org/hong-kong-september-2019/ .
From Jimmy Wong:
“I would certainly think that everything here should have settled down by [December], and Hong Kong would be back to normal. Unless, of course, it is God’s will to have it end very differently—just like we do not know how God wants the Trade War to end between the U.S. and China. Hong Kong’s fate is very much linked to China, and to what China wants to do with Hong Kong.
“From the latest ‘reliable’ sources, we just heard President Xi of China has decided that Hong Kong’s independent international status is still, at this time, too important and useful to China’s modernization and growth plan to be put into jeopardy. If true, this is a welcoming assurance, because China can resolve all the problems we face now very quickly—if they decide to.
“What is happening in Hong Kong is a political tussle. I will try to explain what I know, but in a separate email. Here, let me agree first of all with what Mary shared in her email. Hong Kong is still a safe, nice and friendly place, like before, and the members here are not affected, as long as we avoid where the protests are (especially in the evening when the police try to disperse the protesters). Business and restaurants that rely on overseas visitors have certainly been affected quite significantly, as the number of visitors has dropped. But that’s due as much to the Trade War as to the protests. Those serving local people are not affected as much.
“Also the Feast site is in a safe area, and our planned activities shouldn’t be affected by the protests. But I believe, God willing, the protests will be over by the time of the Feast.”
From Terry Franke:
“As the Fall Holy Days approach, I want to take the opportunity to write to you concerning the protests in Hong Kong.
“Some have asked whether we plan to cancel the Feast in Hong Kong this year. At present, the only reason we would cancel the Feast this year in Hong Kong is if there were a military incursion by mainland China into Hong Kong. That, however, is extremely unlikely. It simply is not in mainland China’s interest to do that and would be detrimental to China’s standing in the world.
“For those who come to Hong Kong this year, you can look forward to a spiritually meaningful Feast of Tabernacles, enjoying the warm fellowship of the local Hong Kong brethren, and take in the many sights and sounds of one of the most memorable cities on earth.
“I would encourage everyone to pray for the situation in Hong Kong and the brethren there. They would like to have peace in their city.”
From Mary Ong:
“This year will be the 5th consecutive year we are celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles in Hong Kong. The brethren are thankful to our great Father in heaven who has opened the door. The United Church of God Hong Kong was officially registered in 2017 and the website in the same year.
“There are countless qualities that make Hongkongers unique. Some of the admirable characteristics include their loyalty to families and loved ones, their resilience, adaptability, efficiency and open-mindedness, all of which are contributory factors to their distinctive ‘Hongkongness.’
“I have many friends who are not in the Church who said that although they have been saddened by the recent violence that erupted during protests against the extradition bill, they have nonetheless remained proud of being Hongkongers.
“The core character of being a Hongkonger is to have the durability and resilience to withstand and overcome all kinds of challenges and difficulties. I listened to Beyond Today by Steve Myers presenting ‘The Daily Challenges.’
“We were thankful to have Terry Franke with us last Sabbath. He gave us an inspiring sermon that strengthened us on facing trials at this time. Building the house on the rock is the key foundation and doing God’s will.
“Despite all the chaos going on every weekend since June, I am able to teach every Sunday. It is wise to keep away from the venues where the protesters are. This is my advice to my teen students. I am glad none of my secondary and university students are boycotting their classes at school.
“In conclusion, I would say Hong Kong is still a beautiful city to visit and live in.”
Thank you for your prayers for God’s people around the world!