Tuesday, December 31, 2013

LEAVE IT BEHIND AND GAIN FREEDOM IN 2014


Things We Leave Behind


Almost everyone who follows Jesus in the New Testament leaves something behind.

Peter and the disciples who were fishermen left their nets and boats.

James and John left their father as well as a prosperous family business (as uncovered by archaeologists).

Matthew left behind his lucrative business as a tax collector.

The blind beggar who used his cloak to gather the coins, left the cloak lying there after Jesus gave him his sight.

The woman at the well ran off and forgot her water jar once she met the man who told her "everything she had ever done.”

The woman who suffered from continual bleeding left a long line of doctors behind.

The young boy gave up his picnic lunch to the Lord, and saw a multitude fed.

The son of the widow of Nain left an empty coffin lying there by the city gate.

Lazarus, perhaps most miraculous of all, left behind a pile of grave clothes and an empty tomb.

It’s hard to imagine the freedom we find
From the things we leave behind. 




Colonel Henry Gariepy

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Where in the World are We Headed ?


The official 'baby hatch' where desperate mums can abandon their newborn babies
Keith Kendrick Dec 11, 2013

This is a 'baby hatch' where abandoned babies can be left by their mothers.

Newborns can be placed in the heated box, lined with a pillow and blankets, so that nurses can retrieve them and take care of them before they are put up for adoption – if their mothers don't return to re-claim them.

The 'Babyklappe' is used at Berlin's St Joseph hospital.


The stainless-steel hatch slides out and after a person has placed their baby inside and slid it shut, it triggers an alarm inside the hospital so staff can pick the child up.


It takes about two or three minutes for staff to get to the hatch so the parent has enough time to slip away unseen.

Inside the box is a letter which tells the mother German authorities will look after the baby for eight weeks.

The system can be like a 'revolving door' as mums that change their mind can come back to reclaim their babies within two months.

However, if the parent does not come back to be reunited with their child after the two months it will be put up for adoption.

The practice was common in medieval times but according to the BBC has been criticised by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recently, which believes children have a right to know who their parents are and that right is denied to children left in the baby hatch.



There are baby boxes across Europe but Germany has the most with 99 across the country. Poland has 45, Czech Republic 44, Hungary 26, Slovakia 16, Lithuania eight, Italy eight and Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Vatican, Canada and Malaysia all have one as of last year.

And here at home?

Why I’ll Never Stop Singing In Your Church






Why I’ll Never Stop Singing In Your Church
You read that right. I’ll never stop singing in your church. 

Never.

I know. Shocker. I’m the guy who wrote Why I’ve Stopped Singing in Your Church not long ago and stepped unwittingly into what some have called “worship wars.”

Not my intention. If that’s how you look at it, consider this a white flag.
I was just voicing frustrations that had been brewing for the last decade or so. It seems as if there are a lot of others who’ve felt the same way. You might have been one of them. But there were also many who disagreed. I tried to highlight some of both this past week starting here.

What surprised me most –although in retrospect, I don’t know why — were the assumptions many readers made about what I really wanted.
I thought I had actually been pretty clear on that point. And yet somehow others perceived that I really just had a Fanny Crosby hymn fetish, or that I had capped off my musical growth with Bing Crosby (not that there’s anything wrong with that), or that I was was just a self-righteous, selfish sop taking up space that a fresh “seeker” could fill. Well, they may be right on that last part. I confess I’ve done some soul-searching in the weeks since that post. I suspect there’s plenty of those darker motives in all of us.
But I never said I wanted to stop singing in your church. In fact, I said the opposite. I really did want to sing again. I was just letting what I experienced in your evangelical church stop me.
But enough of that.
I’m in. To stay. Now you’ll never stop me from singing in your church.
What I really want
As I reflected on my list of what I wanted for worship music in church (and yes, I know, it’s not about me), I noticed that all three revolve around one thing — more truth. I said I wanted songs to be truthful, written for adults, and timeless.
The first obviously is about truth, but so is the second one really. It’s about my desire for songs with some doctrinal depth to them to put meat on the bones of my soul. “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness.” (Matt. 5:6 NKJV)
The third wasn’t focused on musical style (as some seemed to interpret it) but on those songs that have stood the test of time because of the truths with which they’ve nourished the church for centuries. I can — and do as part of my daily life — enjoy much modern music. What really bothers me most is the lack of truth in church worship music. We’ve got plenty of spirit in most evangelical churches — passion, vigor, and experiential religion. Even if we assume it’s all sincere, we’re still missing a critical half of true worship.
At least that’s what Jesus said. If that matters.
God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:24 ESV)
Picture this
It’s not even the repetition thing itself that bothers me. There’s a valid place for repetition in worship. Let me repeat that just to be sure you heard it. It’s when we repeat lyrics lacking truth that I think even Jesus could not be pleased.
I picture the disciples gathered around Jesus and a glowing bed coals beside the Sea of Galilee singing “Yes, Lord. Yes, Lord. Yes, Yes, Lord” about a dozen times. I see John strumming  a lyre (I’m guessing they didn’t have harmonicas) while Matthew lays down a pretty mean beat with his sandaled foot. Peter’s leading some energetic clapping, of course – when Jesus interuppts after the 13th rendition with a raised hand: “Guys, I got it. I got it. Thanks.”
There’s an awkward pause as Peter stops in mid-clap. Jesus continues: “Thanks. Really. That was — um, swell. Now can we talk some more about what saying yes to me will mean for each of you in the weeks and months to come? Peter, let’s start with you. About that trading your sorrows stuff, there’s a few things you probably should know.”
My limited options
So what are my options?
.                Stop worshipping God with music. Just eliminate a Biblical avenue for glorifying God — the very reason for which I was created? I don’t think so. “Worship is a way of gladly reflecting back to God the radiance of His worth.” (John Piper) If I’m called to praise him when facing an executioner’s hand, surely I should be able to keep singing in your church.
.                Leave your church. A lot of readers lovingly suggested that I get out of their church and find somewhere where grumpy people could feel welcome. Thank you, by the way. That explains why you need to be so seeker-friendly to keep the pews filled. And I confess, running down the street seems a popular option these days. Funny, I don’t see that option when I read Acts. Our problem today is not a shrotage of churches. It’s a shortage of churches where it’s safe to authentically engage issues in a way that authentically engages the Word of God.
.                Start fixing the problem. To paraphrase Jerry Garcia (a hymn writer of a different sort of Reformation, for those not familiar), somebody has to do something. It’s just pathetic that it has to be me. But maybe God intended it to be me — and you — all along.
What dreams may come?
So if there is a shortage of truth in modern church worship, why don’t more people speak up about it? What gives us pause?
Based on the reaction in the comments to my original post here, I think it’s safe to say that church may not be a safe place to voice concerns about the church. In fact, I think we tend not to speak up on such spiritual issues because we’ll likely be accused of something impossible to disprove — the theological equivalent of calling someone a racist or intolerant. How do you disprove a negative? What could you possibly do to prove you actually believe there’s something wrong and you’re not just a divisive buffoon secretly undermining the work of the Spirit?
I suppose you could give in to the popular passive-aggressive response, “If you really have problem with it, why don’t you get up on the stage and lead?” Let’s face it, slings and arrows hurt. And, apparently, they don’t use Nerf in worship wars. No wonder so many of us feel it’s just not worth the trouble.
But if the unity and purity of the body of Christ isn’t worth it, what are we doing? Really?
So you’re afraid. Get over it.
Let’s face it. Isn’t that what the fear of man is all about? And isn’t that why Solomon describes it as a trap? Our fear of how people might react when we speak up only tightens the agonizing vise-grip on our soul. We end up frustrated, bitter, and alone — well, maybe we could start tailgating in the church parking lot with the other parishioners waiting for the concert to end.
We can do better. We must do better. Our Lord demands it.
Jesus said that the gates of hell would not stand against His Church. I know some of you feel like that’s what you’re up against on a Sunday morning. But you’re not. Not really. And as valid as my concerns are, I must never let anything or anyone cause me to hinder the advance of Kingdom growth.
Instead, I’m proposing a Biblical path forward.
A Biblical solution
There’s just no getting around it — as much as I might want to. We will have to engage in the messy business of — gasp! — making disciples.
I don’t like it. I’m just saying. But maybe that’s what taking up His cross is all about.
Let’s draw strength from these morsels of truth:
But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. (1 Cor. 1:27 ESV)
It is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time! (Prov. 15:23 NLT)
[We], speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ….” (Eph. 4:15 NKJV)
Here’s the best I can offer on how to go about this potentially disruptive strategy so we will never stop singing in church. I welcome others to offer better steps:
.                Study. Get clear on what worship is. The Bible speaks much to what it means to worship God in spirit and in truth. Plus He’s blessed us with 2,000 years of teachers who’ve written at length on the topic. Of course, we have to sort through that stuff, but there’s a lot of helpful instruction to be had. Let’s not assume we know it all; let’s get busy knowing what we can.
.                Commit to the Spirit’s continual scrutiny of your own soul. Jesus warned when we see a problem with someone else to “first take the beam out of our own eye.” Let’s start there. And stay there as long as needed. But then we do have a responsibility to help gently remove the splinter we noticed in the first place. How?
.                Speak the truth in love. Judging by the reaction from some worship leaders, many seem surprised that people in the pews might not be enjoying the mix of songs they’ve been offering — and many pastors and worship leaders do sincerely pour their hearts into it. Based on the Ephesians passage below, don’t we have an obligation to go to them and respectfully voice our concerns with respect, civility, and — of course — love? I think that’s how the body grows. (Eph. 4:11-16  NKJV)
So what now?
With that said, I not only want to sing again — I will sing again! And nothing your church can do will stop me. Not even the gates of hell will shut me up. And thanks for all the helpful advice. You know who you are.
But I insist on singing as my Savior commanded me to do — both in spirit and in truth. Both with passion and understanding. With spirit-filled sincerity and Spirit-inspired content.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Why I’ve Stopped Singing in Your Church



Why I’ve Stopped Singing in Your Church


I love music. Truly I do. I love to sing. But you wouldn’t know it on Sunday morning when I’m visiting your church.

I’m not talking to all of you, of course. I’m sure many churches, maybe even yours, get it right. I just haven’t been there that often, I guess. My experiences with modern worship music in evangelical Christianity often leave me not just silent, but wondering if I should be joining George Bailey in making a quick exit from the agony.

To be candid, I know how to behave in your church. I’ve been raised in it my entire life. So I know how to fake it when necessary. Lately, it’s been very necessary when the music is playing and we’re supposed to be singing, you know, to God. Frankly, I’m tired of it. Maybe all the “seekers” are enjoying it, but I’m finding it hard to sincerely engage in anything resembling worship.

Instead of feeling the joy of joining with other believers in offering praises to the Almighty, I often feel insulted, bored, and disconnected from 2,000 years of worship history. And just when I think that maybe it’s just me having a selfish and sinful attitude — a very real possibility — a flamboyant electrical guitar solo breaks out. I’m left deciding whether to waive my iPhone and buy the t-shirt or just shut up and go home.

As best I can sort through my own muddled and messy thoughts, I think there are three things that really bother me about the worship music in many Evangelical Christian churches today:

1. They’re really, really simplistic. There, I tried to keep the words small. You certainly put a lot of work into doing that for me each Sunday. It’s not just that most of the lyrics are simple — as in easy to understand. It’s that so many of the songs remind me of the ditties we sang at camp — when I was ten. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure the theology in some of those camp songs was more advanced than the ones I’ve heard in some of your services. But, hey, everybody else seems to be really, really enjoying it so maybe it’s just me. Unless, of course, they’ve also learned how to fake it.

2. They’re all pulled from the latest Top 40 Worship channel. Or so it seems. Most songs I hear in evangelical churches of late have been written in the last decade, if that. I know I’m painting with a broad brush here because there have been some really, really (is this helping?) awesome songs written in the last two decades that deserve a place on the all-time worship songs list. We just usually don’t sing those. 

Maybe because they’re so three years ago.

What ever happened to the previous 2,000 years of church music history? Oh, I know, every so often you toss a token “hymn” (meaning within just the last century or so) into the mix. But even then, it’s a remix that requires melodic jujitsu to keep up with the quicker pace and fancier chord progressions. One distinguishing mark of the worship music of centuries past is that it generally focused more on content than today’s  simplisitc style.  Songs like “Arise, My Soul, Arise”; “Immortal, Invisible”; “Rejoice, the Lord is King”; or even the simple “I Sing the Almighty Power of God” typified a depth of doctrine that taught us as it revealed the glory of our Lord.

3. They repeat. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat. And rep — all right. See what I mean? Really, really annoying. Really. The first time we sang the simplistic ditty, I could tolerate it though I thought the infinite God of all creation deserved better. By the fifth time, I was hearing echoes of Jesus warning about vain repetitions. But once you went softer and slowed it down on the seventh time, it really began to resonate with my soul.

Not.

Please. Stop. Now.

Yes, there’s a place for repetition in worship — if the words are really that good or pulled directly from Scripture (“Agnus Dei” by Michael W. Smith comes to mind), but even that can be overdone. Ironically, most of the same evangelical churches that practice this repetition in modern worship music would resist using more formal chants from church history designed for that very purpose. Or reciting historical creeds of the Church.

So, enough complaining you say. What am I proposing that would be better?
I confess I don’t have a well-developed strategy for modern worship. I’m just a guy in the pews, a husband, father, and former pastor, frustrated that I just don’t feel like singing by the time the worship music ends. It seems that focusing on three things would at least be helpful so take it for what it’s worth.

So here’s what I’d like songs in church to be:
.                Truthful. Rather than trying to get dumber than a fifth-grader in the worship service (no offense to my fifth-grade daughter), offer truth that grows my understanding of God as we glorify him. He is truth, after all, so it shouldn’t be that difficult.
.                Written for adults. We’re not camp attendees giddy about it being our first time away from home. Well, maybe some of us are — but the rest of us don’t always want to have to choose between clapping our hands in rhythm with the group or wrestling with the guilt trip you put on us.  Go ahead. Give us songs with deep doctrine that excite our souls. We’re not seekers anymore. Come to think of it, I never was.
.                Timeless. Let’s sing songs that reach back into the archives of songs proven to have been used by God to edify His people. Mix them in with modern songs, by all means. That’s fine. But don’t feel as if you have to make them sound like they just hit the airwaves last week. Imagine Mayberry today on MTV. Modern? Yes. Watchable? No. Sometimes classic is really cool. Really.
I could mention the need to play the music well, of course, but, frankly, I can live with the best you can give on that one. Make it as excellent as you can, please — just don’t make us sing it ad nauseum or worship your musical talents instead of our musical God.

I don’t like what I’ve been feeling in your church. It’s like what the redeemed George Bailey prayed, “I want to sing again. I want to sing again.”

I really, really do.

Am I the only one to have this problem or have some of you been faking it too? Who do you think is leading the way in restoring a Biblical balance to evangelical church worship today? Leave a comment to help point us all in the right direction as we seek to worship God in Spirit and in truth.

Friday, December 27, 2013

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT!





A CONDENSED APPEAL -

The 2014  FSAOF mission focus is three-fold; a Bible – Music and Arts Camp in the Crimea, a young people’s band recently formed in Kiev’s Light House Corps. Both projects are under the direction of Salvationist recruited and trained by me 20 years ago. One is a SA officer and the other two musicians product of the SA’s very first music camp in Ukraine, and now successful professionals in their own right, and soldiers of the corps. Both hold Master's degrees in brass instrument performance.

Our third mission focus is on a very different activity, it’s on two unsung heroes in the Simferopol Corps, Ukraine. We met these very special SA soldiers, Doctors Igor, his wife Elena and their eldest son, all registered practicing dentists, but with a unique list of patients.

About eighteen months ago Igor’s and Elena’s youngest son developed a form of cancer. In order for him to receive the very costly USA prescriptions and treatment needed they sold everything; their home, their dental practice, their car in order to maintain the very expensive treatment. Sadly, in spite of the treatment, their boy died six months later, and they had lost everything.  They still grieve over the loss of their son. Nevertheless they continue to move forward resolutely seeking to learn from the cruel lessons the death of their son presented. They asked God to help them understand and respond to His leading them through their tragedy.

Faith in Christ infused their grief with the hope Jesus promised. It was God’s sign that He has called them to care for others in a way they had not ever anticipated. They believe God has told them that He does not want them to return to their earlier relatively comfortable lifestyle but to move to a new calling. They now work four days a week voluntarily providing free dental care particularly for children and the elderly, and also for others who urgently require dental care but can’t afford it.

Both Igor and Elena travel about the Crimea and beyond in a seriously dilapidated car, hauling their dental tools and medications with them, in full SA uniform. And they wear a Salvation Army badge on their dentist lab coats to encourage conversation as they repair the teeth of people in need.

Glad and I traveled with Igor in his 1991 Lada, and the crunching of gears could be heard well in advance of the car’s arrival. The car has had 4 major overhauls and the odometer reads 719000 km. (420,000 miles) and its reliability is in question. They receive no SA or other funding and rely totally on donations, mostly the FSAOF’s, hence our focus on their ministry.



Ruslan Zuev 
Commander, Crimea
Sven, December 3, Igor Repyakh received your money in the bank in the amount of U.S. $ 470, in 3760 Ukrainian hryvnias. Igor and Oleg received 50% each, Igor and Oleg 1880 hryvnia hryvnia 1880.

Let God's blessings on you will be generously.
Once again, Thanks for your help.
Blessings to you.





_________________________________

DONATIONS: (Sven & Glad Ljungholm)

August, 2013 given to Dr. Igor in August     $150.00
Dec 3 300.00 GBP Pounds      $480.00 includes  WU fee
Jan1, 2014       $400.00
Total:     $1,030.00

My hope is that the FSAOF will support Drs. Igor and Elena Repyakh in the amount of $400.00 per month via WU beginning Jan 1, 2014. None of the funds will be diverted to the SA or any other Factivity.

If you would like to join in supporting this unique ministry please consider a one time or monthly recurring gift. All gifts will be acknowledged publically in the blog  and in the FB forum and a monthly financial statement made available from the FSAOF Treasurer.

Please send your donation to Paypal at selmoscow@aol.com. The Paypal address displayed will be FSAOF – FORMER SALVATION ARMY OFFICERS FELLOWSHIP.

Or you may donate by check to:

Sven Ljungholm
202 South
1100 Ponce de Leon Blvd.
Clearwater, Fl. 33756

We'll also initiate an appeal for dental equipment and supplies very soon.

Many blessings!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

THE FSAOF MISSION - CHRISTMAS 2013


 Dr. Igor Repyakh proudly carries the Army's colours

In the last three weeks several FSAOF members in Canada and the USA have requested information on current Mission Project. This is the first time in five years that the FSAOF has not journeyed to Latvia and the celebrated Christmas with our 53 ‘adopted’ families in Seda and Sarkarni.  We’ve in fact made 12 mission project visits and turned our vision further south to Ukraine and designated it a FSAOF mission destination.. It’s a country with which I have some very intimate knowledge in that my then wife Kathie and I ‘opened fire’ there in 1993 and it is in fact the largest country entirely within Europe

Our mission focus is three-fold; a Bible – Music and Arts Camp in the Crimea, a young people’s band in Kiev’s Light House Corps. Both projects are under the direction of Salvationist recruited and trained by me 20 years ago. One is a SA officer and the other two musicians product of the SA’s very first music camp in Ukraine, and now successful professionals in their own right, and soldiers of the corps.



Our Christmas mission focus is on a very different project, it’s on two un-sung heroes in the Simferopol Corps, Ukraine. We met some very special SA soldiers, Doctors Igor, his wife Elena and their eldest son, all registered practicing dentists, but with a unique list of patients. 

About eighteen months ago Igor’s and Elena’s youngest son developed a form of cancer. In order for him to receive the very costly USA prescriptions and treatment needed they sold everything; their home, their dental practice, their car, anything that would fetch even a few coins in order to maintain the treatment. Sadly, in spite of the treatment, their boy died six months later, and they had lost everything.  They still grieve over the loss of their son. Nevertheless they continue to move forward resolutely seeking to learn from the cruel lessons the death of their son presented. They asked God to help them understand and respond to His leading them through their tragedy. 

Captains Zuev and Drs. Igor Repyakh 

William Cowper, the English hymn writer, said, “Grief is itself medicine.” Grieving is a necessary part of God’s pathway to healing and we can take comfort in knowing that Jesus has experienced all of our pain. As our good Shepherd, He leads us safely through “the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4b). And we need to remember that a shadow confirms that there is a light on the other side. Faith in Christ infused their grief with the hope Jesus promised. It was God’s sign that He has called them to care for others in a way they had not ever anticipated. They believe God has told them that He does not want them to return to their earlier relatively comfortable lifestyle but to move to a new calling.



They now work four days a week voluntarily providing free dental care particularly for children and the elderly, and also for others who urgently require dental care but can’t afford it.

Both Igor and Elena travel about the Crimea and beyond in a seriously dilapidated car, hauling their dental tools and medications with them, in full SA uniform.
And they wear a Salvation Army badge on their dentist lab coats to encourage conversation as they treat the teeth of people in need.



Glad and I traveled with Igor in his 1991 Lada, and the crunching of gears could be heard well in advance of the car’s arrival. The car has had 4 major overhauls and the odometer reads 719000 km. (420,000 miles) and its reliability is in question. They receive no SA or other funding and rely totally on donation, hence our focus on their ministry.

A bit of background-

A private message from Ruslan Zuev, SA Commander – the Crimea, Ukraine teads:

Hello brother Sven,
in our case there are 2 problems. Do you remember the man Oleg who has a minibus and 5 children. He drove us in his van when you were here, and he delivers food and clothing for the corps. Oleg broke something in his car and no money for repairs.


Sven Ljungholm How much $ does Oleg need?
 And has Ukraine reinstated
Paypal? (In 2012 we lost a donation sent to Captain Ruslan Zuev– Mafia identity theft and Paypal pulled out of Ukraine)







Ruslan Zuev 
Hello Sven - to repair the van Oleg need for $ 400 there many broken











Sven Ljungholm We will send $500.00 using PAYPAL

(Again the moneys  MONEYS WERE STOLEN BY MAFIA but refunded by Paypal several weeks later subsequent to many emails and telephone calls)–

Sven Ljungholm We will try a bank wire! (three weeks and no success)

Ruslan ZuevThanks Sven for that that you're helping our people out of the corps, Oleg and Dr. Igor.











Sven Ljungholm We will send using Western Union
                 
ещё раз со словами благодарности от семей из Армии спасения Симферополь. Получено, согласно банковским выпискам 459,78  долларов США, при обмене в гривны украинские это сумма составила 3774,79. Олег получил 1887 грн.,  Игорь получил 1887 грн.
С уважением, Зуев Руслан и Зуева Марина. (translation below)



Ruslan Zuev
Sven, December 3, Igor Repyakh received your money in the bank in the amount of U.S. $ 470, in 3760 Ukrainian hryvnias. Igor and Oleg received 50% each, Igor and Oleg 1880 hryvnia hryvnia 1880.

                  Let God's blessings on you will be generously.
                  Once again, Thanks for your help.
                  Blessings to you.





_________________________________

DONATIONS: (Sven & Glad Ljungholm)

August, 2013 given to Dr. Igor in August            $150.00 
Dec 3 300.00 GBP Pounds                                  $480.00 includes  WU fee

Total:                                                                      $530.00

My hope is that the FSAOF will support Drs. Igor and Elena Repyakh in the amount of $400.00 per month via WU on or about the 1st of each month beginning Jan 1, 2014. None of the funds will be diverted to the SA or any other entity.

If you would like to join in supporting this unique ministry please consider a one time or monthly recurring gift. All gifts will be acknowledged publically and a monthly financial statement available from the FSAOF Treasurer.

Please send your donation to Paypal at selmoscow@aol.com. The Paypal address displayed will be FSAOF – FORMER SALVATION ARMY OFFICERS FELLOWSHIP.

Or you may donate by check to:
Sven Ljungholm
202 South
1100 Ponce de Leon Blvd.
Clearwater, Fl. 33756

Many blessings!

Free sidewalk check-up





Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Manger with two Boys



PRECIOUS JEWELS

In 1992 many missionary groups who'd moved into the former Soviet Union expanded beyond Russia - and we, the Salvation Army pioneers in Moscow, were given marching orders; Open Fire in Ukraine!

 Our work there was modelled on what we'd found helpful in spreading the Gospel among young people, especially those to whom we'd ministered in government orphanages.
"It was nearing the
  holiday season, time for our orphans to hear, for the first time,
 the traditional story of Christmas. We told them about Mary and Joseph 
arriving in Bethlehem. Finding no room in the inn, the couple went to a
 stable, where the baby Jesus was born and placed in a manger. Throughout 
the story, the children and orphanage staff sat in amazement as they
 listened. Some sat on the edges of their stools, trying to grasp every
word, as others, bed ridden strained to sit up in order to hear better.

Completing the story, we gave the children three small pieces of
 cardboard to make a crude manger. Each child was given a small paper
s quare, cut from yellow napkins I had brought with me. No colored paper
 was available in the city. Following instructions, the children tore the
 paper and carefully laid strips in the manger for straw. Small squares
 of flannel [cut from a worn-out night gown an American lady was throwing 
away as she left Russia, were used for the baby's blanket.

A doll-like baby was cut from tan felt we had brought from the United
States. The orphans were busy assembling their manger as I walked among
them to see if they needed any help. All went well until I got to one
table where little Misha sat. He looked to be about 6-years-old and had
finished his project. As I looked at the little boy's manger, was
startled to see not one, but two babies in the manger. Quickly, I called
for the translator to ask the lad why there were two babies in the
manger.

Crossing his arms in front of him and looking at this completed manger 
scene, the child began to repeat the story very seriously. For such a 
young boy, who had only heard the Christmas story once, he related the
 happenings accurately -- until he came to the part where Mary put the
 baby Jesus in the manger. Then Misha started to ad-lib. He made up his
 own ending to the story as he said, "And when Mary laid the baby in the
 manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay.
I told him I have no mamma and I have no papa, so I don't have any
place to stay. 

Then Jesus told me I could stay with Him. But I told him
I couldn't, because I didn't have a gift to give Him like everybody else 
did. But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so I thought about what I
 had that maybe I could use for a gift. I thought maybe if I kept Him
 warm, that would be a good gift. "So I asked Jesus, 'If I keep you warm,
 will that be a good enough gift?' And Jesus told me, 'If you keep Me
warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave Me.'

So I got into the manger, and then Jesus looked at me and He told me I 
could stay with Him -- for always." As little Misha finished his story,
his eyes brimmed full of tears that splashed down his little cheeks. 
Putting his hand over his face, his head dropped to the table and his 
shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed. The little orphan had found
 someone who would never abandon nor abuse him, someone who would stay
 with him -- for always!"


After sharing a Bible story at a large hospital-orphanage in the Crimea with the Black Sea shimmering in the distance I asked the children if they'd like to have Jesus as a friend - He's here and waiting for you to say' 'Yes Jesus, I want you to be my friend'… All the children, some 50 or so were bedridden, suffering from a long list of varying illnesses. 
My closing prayer, translated into Russian by a Moscow SA soldier traveling with us included the words; "And now dear Jesus, please come to each of us right where we are - we're making room for you in order that we can share pillows…" And there was an immediate sound of shuffling as the children move ever so carefully to the edge of their beds and making room for Jesus to share their pillows
We gave each child a children's Russian Bible donated to the SA by Lars Dunberg, a former SA officer whom we'd assisted with distributing Bibles in Russia.

We returned to the orphanage some months later to deliver a piano, clothing and a large amount of nutritious food. And on our visit we also painted several of the wards. Many of the children were quick to wave hello. 'Dobredin Kapitan' as we moved through the hospital-orphanage and to hold up their most treasured belonging - their Bible.

Twenty years have passed and my guess is that the massive orphange's been razed and replaced by a resplendent '5 star' hotel, all with in-room jacuzzis, wifi and balconies overlooking the azure waters of the Black Sea. The location with its vista was magnificent. No doubt many dignitaries, VIPs and even royalty will have passed through its doors and been entertained and lodged there. But none can hold a candle to the King who came down and shared His glory with those precious jewels who'd moved ever so slightly and made a place just for Him.

Have you made a place for Jesus in your heart and life? Make this Christmas Day special - invite Him in


Sven Ljungholm
Liverpool