Praise and Prayer Update (January 24, 2020)

As I write this morning, my heart brims with praise for the many evidences of God’s grace to Heritage in recent days.

evangelsimYesterday, our college students led the Local Outreach Chapel.  They reported on five outreach initiatives they’ve been actively involved in this year:  door-to-door evangelism, pro-life outreach, ESL classes for the community, Move In and Night Light (a drop-in centre for folks living on the streets).  It was moving to hear how God had been growing in them a passion to spread the gospel to those around the school.  God is at work!

I’m also rejoicing in the two-day Heritage Board meeting we had this week.  We are blessed to have a committed, engaged board—men and women who deeply care for the school and its mission.  We discussed important matters related to our upcoming capital campaign.  I’m grateful for their wise guidance and strong support.

Here are several matters for prayer that I would ask you to remember:

  1. great womenLinda is involved in teaching a course on Great Women of the Faith.  She’s teamed up with Dr. Michael Haykin to present the lives of women God has used throughout history.  Pray for Linda and Dr. Haykin as they teach.  Pray that those in the class would be inspired and challenged to trust God to use their lives for His purposes.
  2. Next week I have multiple opportunities to teach and preach God’s Word. I speak in chapel on Tuesday, a preaching class on Thursday, a Pastoral Leadership Class on Friday, and a Maple Avenue Baptist Church on Sunday.  I would welcome your prayers as I prepare and present God’s truth.  Pray for the impact of God’s Word on the lives of all of us who hear it.

Thank you for your support through prayer!

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The Yearly Reeder 2019

As we launch into 2020, here’s our Yearly Reeder for 2019.
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Our year, like so many of yours, had heartaches and happiness – with moments of “Hallelujah.”  That’s the way it ended.  But we will start at the top.

Pic 3January began in Washington state with a trip to bring together our children and grandchild to meet the great grandmothers on the West Coast. The winter semester at Heritage College and Seminary was filled with teaching, writing, and speaking until we shared another joyful graduation with the Heritage students.

In the midst of these busy times, we learned that Ryan and Jenny had lost the baby they anticipated.  They named the little one, Zion, and our heart still aches for this loss for them and for us.  In May, Ryan graduated from the University of Toronto and we all joyfully celebrated the completion of his PhD.

In late May, we learned that Michael and Elena were expecting their first child.  We shared their happiness with treats for all, though Elena wasn’t feeling so swell at that moment.  In early summer, we traveled to the West coast visit missionaries in Mexico, and we had the incredible privilege of visiting the two churches we had served in California.  The ocean breezes, blue skies, and faithful friends in California brought out our “hallelujahs.”

Over the summer we rejoiced with Lindsey when she was hired as a social worker at an Ottawa hospital. In July, through friends with a backhoe, we began to replace our back patio.    We were still working many Saturdays into August to get it done before our first September student reception.  We hope to enjoy many happy gatherings outdoors.

The fall took on a life of its own – it was just overly full.   Linda returned to her linguistic training adding a TESOL (Teaching English as a Second Language) class to the courses she was already teaching.  Rick’s preaching courses grew as well.  His new book, The Heart of the Preacher, was released in October.

A tremendous blessing was the final payment on October 1st of a school debt of 3.7 million dollars!  The conclusion to the “demolish the debt” campaign was nothing but “Hallelujah!”  During this same time period, some very generous donors designated funds to build a new seminary building.  It’s over the top.

We’ve just returned, this December, from visiting our moms again (still both great-grandmas) with a chance to hear the Messiah in Seattle.  It still amazes us to see everyone stand for the “Hallelujah” chorus (“and He shall reign forever and ever. . . “)  That’s the way it will be.

Picture4But the stunning close to the year was the birth of Fia Marie Dugan Reed just a few hours before the clock struck midnight on December 31st.   It’s happy and hallelujah (and a bit of heartache that we are so far away from Trenton, NJ) all at once!

Thank you to so many of you who have sent along your updates.  We rejoice with those who rejoice (for several of you who recovered from cancer) and we weep with those who weep (for loved ones).

May our hearts still rise to the Hallelujah chorus at the end of every year.  He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and He will reign, forever and ever.

Happy New Year from Rick and Linda Reed.

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Praise and Prayer Update (December 13, 2019)

Last week I asked you to join us in praying for the ESL International Christmas dinner we were hosting at Heritage.  The Lord answered our prayers in some wonderful ways.  We had over 160 people attend; many different countries were represented.

IMG_1345The dinner itself was delicious.  I’ve never seen such an abundant array of international foods at a potluck dinner.

The highlight of the evening was singing Christmas carols and explaining the meaning of the Christmas story.  For some of our guests, the message of Christmas was unfamiliar.  What a joy to present the good news to these friends from around the world.

At the close of the evening, we gave gifts of sweet treats and spiritual resources (Bibles, Jesus DVDs).

Linda and I were grateful for the help given by friends from Hespeler Baptist Church and by students from Heritage.  We’re also grateful for your prayers.

Please pray that those who heard the good news would make room in their hearts to receive it.

Here are some pictures from the evening!

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Praise and Prayer Update (December 6, 2019)

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Group Presentation on Local Outreach

Yesterday (Thursday), I had the joy of hearing Heritage students give group presentations on their involvement in our Love Hespeler Initiative.  We engage all our incoming students in ministry to our local community (Hespeler).  In addition to praying for the people in the village, students serve the community by collecting food for the local foodbank, raking leaves (for free) and sharing the good news of the gospel with people they meet.

It was thrilling to hear students report how the Lord had enabled them to get past their fears as they went into the community.  Many spoke of their determination to continue to reach out to those in Hespeler Village.

This afternoon (Friday), Linda and a group of Heritage students ran our weekly ESL conversation class in a local library.  It’s amazing to see how these students teach English carolingand also help our guests come to know God’s love.

Tonight (Friday evening), a number of students went out caroling in the neighbourhood near the school.

I’ve been asking the Lord to raise up a generation of gospel-hearted men and women.  I see the Lord answering that prayer in exciting ways.

PRAYER REQUESTS

This Sunday evening we are hosting an International Christmas Dinner on our campus for those who have been attending the ESL classes.  We will have the joy of explaining the meaning of Christmas to our new Canadian friends.  Please pray that God would help us to be clear.  Pray that He would open hearts to receive the good news.

finalsNext week is finals week at Heritage.  Students are busy finishing papers and preparing for exams.  Please ask the Lord to give stamina and success to our students in their studies.  We want them to come to know God and His Word deeply during their time at Heritage.

Thank you for partnering with us through your prayers.

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Better Man (Part IV)

This is the final installment of a series of posts on a biblical understanding of a godly man.  You can read previous posts here:  Part 1Part 2,  Part 3.

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Men are to be proactive to serve others

proactiveGenesis 1, the satellite view of creation, emphasizes the innate equality and unity of men and women.  As we have seen, both men and women are created in God’s image.  Together they are given the mandate to populate the earth and steward the creation.  They are equal in essence and united in mission.

When we come to Genesis 2—the street view of the creation of Adam and Eve—we see details and differentiation.  We learn Adam was created first, from the dust of the ground.  We listen in as God gives Adam instructions to work and keep the garden.  We watch as Adam names the animals and comes to the sobering realization that nothing in creation qualifies as a fitting partner or true match for him.  After naming the animals, Adam is put to sleep.  God creates Eve, not from the dust but from his own flesh and bone. We see Adam’s delight as he sees Eve for the first time. “This, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Genesis 2:23).

As we come to Genesis 3, we learn how things quickly fall apart.  Eve, then Adam, disobey God’s instruction not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (3:6).  When God confronts Adam, he tries to shift the blame to Eve.  She follows his lead by passing the blame to the serpent (3:12-13). God pronounces judgment on the serpent and then on both the woman and man.  Even creation suffers as a result of human disobedience (3:17: compare Romans 8:19-22).   Suddenly and sadly, everything changes—including the relationship between Adam and Eve.

What are we to make of the events and dialogue recorded in Genesis 1-3?  How are we to understand the various details of the narrative?  Is there any significance to the fact that God created Adam first?  That God confronts Adam first?

If all we had was the text of Genesis, giving definite answers to these questions would prove difficult.  After all, the meaning of the events in the opening chapters of the Bible can be interpreted in different ways.  Thankfully, God gave us more than the Genesis account.  The rest of the Bible, especially the New Testament, gives divine insight into the meaning and application of the events recorded in Genesis 1-3.

Interpreting Genesis in light of Jesus and the New Testament

As we read the teachings of Jesus and the writings of the New Testament authors, we discover the ancient events recorded in Genesis have abiding significance for us today.  For example, Jesus affirms the reality and reliability of the creation account.  He references Genesis 1:27-28 and Genesis 2:24 to affirm a binary understanding of gender (“male and female”) and to highlight God’s desire for marriages to last (“What therefore God has joined together let not man separate”).

New Testament authors Paul and Peter affirm the essential equality of men and women.  We not only share a common humanity (1 Peter 3:7), but after we come to faith in Christ, we are equal members of God’s new humanity, the church (Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:10-11).  Both men and women continue to bear God’s image—an image that has been defaced but not erased by sin.  Further, as followers of Christ, men and women are commissioned together to make sure the gospel message goes global (Matthew 28:20; Acts 1:8).

In addition to highlighting the innate, abiding equality of men and women, New Testament writers interpret Genesis 1-3 as revealing a divinely-designed order for the relationships between men and women in both the home and the church. From the fact God created Adam first, Paul concludes God intends husbands are to take primary leadership in the home (Ephesians 5:22-23) and that qualified men are to serve as elders for a local church (1 Timothy 2:12-13).  Husbands are assigned the position of “head” in the marriage (Eph 5:22-23); godly men who meet biblical qualifications are given the responsibility to be elders or overseers in local churches (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9).

Equality and Order

When you consider the various New Testament passages which reference Genesis 1-3 in order to give insight and instructions about the relationship between men and women in the home and in the church, you discover two consistent themes:  equality and order.  There is a foundational equality as well as a functional ordering in the way God wants men and women to relate in the home and in the church.  These themes (equality and order) must be held in tension.  Both are true; both must be taught.  Both must be lived out in spite of the fact this is often difficult to do well.

In light of the abuses perpetrated by men over the years, some have concluded the safest and best recourse is to deny or downplay any notion of functional ordering in the home or church.  While I understand this sentiment, I’m convinced this approach winds up downgrading Scriptural authority, damaging women and diminishing men.  A better way forward is to develop better men who understand the nature of biblical leadership in the home and church.   Better men are pro-active to serve others in sacrificial ways.

I am using the term “pro-active” to describe the kind of leadership responsibility given to husbands in the home and elders in the church.  I realize the concept of leadership carries a wide range of connotations and applications in our day.  It can easily be misused and abused.  However, the same was true in Jesus’ day.  Jesus knew the concept of leadership was normally framed in terms of position, prestige, power and perks.  He also realized his disciples were infected with a defective, self-serving view of leadership.  So, Jesus redefined leadership for his followers—then and now.

“And he said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them and those in authority overcome over them are called benefactors.  But not so with you.  Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as the one who serves’” (Luke 22:25).

In Jesus’ understanding, leadership is about taking the lead (or being pro-active) to serve the needs of others. Jesus practiced the truth he preached: “But I am among you as the one who serves” (Luke 22:27).  Jesus exemplified taking the lead to serve others.  No wonder Dietrich Bonhoeffer referred to Jesus as “the man for others.”[1]

servant leadershipA biblical view of leadership that emphasizes pro-active service for the good of others, protects against the all-to-common abuses of leadership.  It also combats the notion that those responsible to lead are intrinsically superior or more important. Further, it allows for and even encourages women to thrive using their gifts and abilities to serve Christ.  In fact, a test of whether men are leading in Jesus’ way is whether women (in the home and in the church) are flourishing.

But some will still push back, contending that a functional ordering in the home and church undermines the foundational equality between men and women.  My response would be that equality is not undercut when husbands and elders are seen as “first among equals” but also “first to serve.”

Here’s where a biblical precedent for equality and order can be helpful.  In the Old Testament, we learn that the Levites were given a special place of spiritual leadership among the twelve tribes of Israel.  They were not innately better or more important than others in Israel.  In fact, their original ancestor (Levi) was labeled a troublemaker by his father (Gen 48:5-7). However, God assigned the descendants of Levi a place of unique service and spiritual leadership.

In a similar way, men are assigned a role of providing pro-active, servant leadership for their families and the church family.  Sadly, because of the fall, men have all too often abused this position of leadership.  One of the direct consequences of Adam’s sin, stated by God in Genesis 3:16, would be the twisted tendency for men to serve themselves and “rule over” women.  Patriarchy (a word which literally means “father rule”) was not part of God’s original instruction but a result of God’s judgment when Adam and Eve sinned.

If we are to develop better men who do a better job of pro-actively serving others, we will need to disciple men to live and lead like Jesus.  What are the implications for discipling men in the area of being godly leaders for their homes and churches?  Let me highlight two.

First, boys and men must, like Jesus’ first disciples, be re-oriented to understand leadership biblically rather than culturally.  They must be discipled to see godly leadership as sacrificial service, following the model of Christ (John 13:13-15; Luke 22:24-27).  They must be divested of the common notion that leadership is about position, privilege, power, and perks.  Instead, they must come to see leadership as pro-actively loving others through sacrificially pursuing their best interests and spiritual good. When men are not challenged to proactively serve others, they easily turn inward and become passive and selfish.  It is in the struggle to fight off selfish impulses and to actively serve others that men grow up.  As in so many areas of life, only as we are forced to stretch and take on difficult challenges do we reach our true potential as people.

Second, boys and men should be trained to step into arenas of spiritual leadership that will stretch them in good ways.  Christian men who are married should be discipled to pro-actively serve the spiritual welfare of their wives, even if she is more naturally inclined towards spiritual leadership.  I remember reading a blog post by a Christian woman who said she was the more spiritually strong partner in their marriage.  Her husband felt awkward when trying to lead out in prayer of Bible reading. So she took the lead in these areas, wanting to free him from any expectations or pressure.  He served her in other ways—keeping the cars in good order, taking care of their home and yard.

I would agree that some Christian women are more gifted and inclined to provide spiritual leadership than their husbands.  Without wanting to limit a wife’s contribution to the spiritual health of the home, I’m convinced that allowing spiritual leadership to be only the wife’s domain can have an unintended, negative impact on a marriage.  When a Christian husband opts out of proactively providing spiritual care for his wife, he fails to grow up in all the ways God intends. He coasts spiritually.  He fails to develop fully.  There are many areas of life where maturity comes only as we step into arenas where we feel awkward or inept.

Fathers don’t get a pass when it comes to discipling their children in the instruction of the Lord just because they feel inept (Eph 6:4).  The same holds true for a husband’s responsibility to proactively serve the spiritual needs of his wife.  Young husbands can be taught to be proactive by praying for and with their wives.  By initiating reading of Scripture together.  By leading the family to be involved in a local church.  As a man learns to take responsibility for providing spiritual care for his family, a man grows up and becomes more like Christ.

Summing Up

As we reflect on how the New Testament draws theological truth and relational implications from Genesis 1-3, we discover God’s original intent and ongoing intentions for men and women in the home and the church.  There is both an equality and ordering in how we relate to one another.   We share an essential unity in creation and in Christ.  At the same time, this unity comes with a complimentary ordering in the family.

Men are designed and called to use their God-given strength to serve sacrificially through being productive, protective and pro-active.  While these qualities are not exclusively male (women can be productive, protective and pro-active), they are entrusted to men as a primary responsibility in both the home and the church.

better manSo, when a nine-year-old boy asks, “Dad, what does it mean to be a man and not a woman?”, his father can give an answer.   He can talk to his son about being productive, protective and pro-active in serving others.  As this nine-year-old boy is discipled to become a godly man, he will become the kind of “better man” our world desperately needs.

 

[1] See Experimental Theology, “Letters from Cell 92”, accessed October 9, 2019, http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2010/12/letters-from-cell-92-part-6-man-for.html/.

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Better Man (Part 3)

In two previous posts, I’ve highlighted the need for better men (Part 1) and sought to explain the first of three essential qualities of a better man (Part 2).  In this post, I focus on a second quality essential to a biblical vision of a better man. 

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Men are to be protective to safeguard others

titanicAs the Titanic began to sink on April 15, 1812, the ship’s captain gave the order to uncover and fill the lifeboats.  While there were 2,228 people on board, there was only enough space in the lifeboats for just over 1,100.  Rather than fill the lifeboats on an every-man-for-himself basis, the ship’s officers gave available seats to “women and children first.”  As a result, a staggering proportion of the 706 people rescued were women and children.  Or to put it another way, the men on board prioritized the protection of women and children.[1]

It’s possible to see the decision to rescue women and children first as simply a 19th-century version of chivalry.  However, the impulse to protect women (and children) can be traced much further back than the 19th century.  In fact, it goes all the way back to the garden of Eden and God’s design for the first man.

When God created Adam, He not only placed him in the garden to “work it” but also to “keep it” (Genesis 2:15). Imbedded in the command to “keep” the garden is a fascinating hint of God’s original intent for men. The Hebrew word translated “keep” (somra) can carry the nuance of watching over, protecting or guarding.  For example, when God questions Cain about his brother Able, Cain responds, “Am I my brother’s keeper (somra)?”  Cain resists the idea that he should be watching over or protecting his younger brother.

snakeThe very fact that Adam is commanded to protect the garden, clues us into something important.  Evidently, from the very beginning, there was some kind of threat Adam was to guard against. The word “keep” implies things were not as innocent and idyllic as they seemed. In Genesis 3, we learn the nature of the threat and why Adam needed to stay on guard.  A sinister, crafty presence inhabited the garden: the serpent. There was a snake in the grass from the first days of creation. There still is.

So how did Adam do in keeping watch, in staying on guard?  Not so well.  The serpent—the embodiment of the Ancient Serpent, the devil (Revelation 12:9)—snakes its way towards Eve.  It entices her to doubt God’s goodness and disobey His word by eating from the one tree in the garden God said was off-limits.

And where was Adam when all this was happening?  Genesis 3:6 tells us Adam was right alongside Eve when the serpent tempted her.  Instead of opening his mouth to challenge the serpent, Adam opened it to join Eve in eating the forbidden fruit.  He wasn’t his wife’s keeper; he didn’t guard her or the garden.

It’s interesting and instructive to note that, while Eve disobeyed the Creator’s instructions first, God confronts Adam first (Genesis 3:10). God seems to place primary responsibility for what happened on the man.  Adam had failed to fulfill his role as a keeper.  In the New Testament, the apostle Paul spotlights Adam’s culpability for sin’s entrance into the human race when he writes, “sin came into the world through one man” (Romans 5:12).

Tragically, Adam went passive and stayed silent as the serpent hissed his deceptive lies. By being passive, Adam played an active part in the Fall.  Larry Crabb’s book, The Silence of Adam, develops the idea that Adam’s passivity has often been passed down to his sons!  Rather than being protectors who safeguard women, men have often been passive or become perpetrators.  No wonder many women have serious trust issues with men.

everafterIn the 1998 movie Ever After (a modern retelling of the Cinderella fairy tale) we see an interesting twist in the movie’s climax.  Henry, the handsome prince, finally sets off to save Danielle, who has been sold into slavery.  However, his heroic efforts prove too little, too late—and ultimately unnecessary.  Danielle is no helpless damsel in distress; she shows her expert swordsmanship and rescues herself from the evil master who had taken her captive.  Henry arrives only in time to offer a rather lame apology and a marriage proposal.  The movie has a happily-ever-after ending, but it also sends the message that women can’t count on and don’t need men to be their protectors.  They can take care of themselves just fine, thank you.  To paraphrase a famous statement by Irina Dunn, when it comes to making it through life’s challenges, “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.”[2]

In the biblical narrative, the first man was entrusted with the high calling of standing guard and keeping watch, protecting what God made and entrusted to his care.  Again, this is not to say women are not called to be protectors as well.  The Bible faithfully records the impressive protective exploits of Deborah (Judges 4:1-16), Jael (Judges 4:17-22), Esther, and a host of other women.  Without denigrating the important protective role of women, the opening chapters of Genesis point to a primary responsibility in guarding and watching over given to men.  Something inside a good-hearted man will understand and accept this responsibility on a deep level.  The privilege and duty to provide protection calls forth the best part of us as men.

passiveThe implications for a discipling ministry to men include helping men understand their responsibility to safeguard others.  While some men intuitively acknowledge and embrace this aspect of manhood, others will need biblical instruction and fatherly mentoring in order to grow into their calling as godly protectors.  Selfish and fearful passivity must be recognized and rejected in favour of appropriate efforts to safeguard the well-being of others.

One aspect of mentoring men to be protectors will involve teaching them to use their strength in a godly way.  God created men with physical strength that, like many things, can be used well or badly abused.  The opening chapters of the Bible give us an account of how Adam and Eve’s first son brutally murdered his younger brother (Genesis 4:8).  In just a few generations, we meet Lamech, who boasts of killing a young man for wounding him (Genesis 4:23).  This pattern of masculine strength gone rogue becomes a tragic but familiar part of human history.  The vast majority of violent crimes are still committed by men.[3] Men will use their strength—the question is whether or not they will use it to serve themselves or safeguard others.

In his letter to Titus, the apostle Paul had a clear vision of where Titus was to focus his energies when it came to discipling young men.  After giving Titus a list of qualities to seek to instill in older men, older women and younger women, Paul instructs Titus to focus on one main thing with young men:  self-control.  “Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled” (Titus 2:6).  It’s almost as if Paul is saying, if you can help men in this one area, it will affect all the other areas of their lives.  Until a man learns to control his strength by living under the Spirit’s control (Gal 5:23), he remains much more likely to misuse it. For this reason, boys and young men must be taught how to bring their strength under God’s control so that it is used to defend, not damage, others.  I am grateful for a father who made it clear to me I must never hit or abuse a woman (starting with my sisters and mother).

In addition to doing no harm, Christian boys and men must be instructed and mentored to actively look for ways to look out for the good of others. Christian men should be taught to actively seek the physical, emotional and spiritual welfare of those around them.  This vision of using strength to safeguard others helps a man grow into a better man, someone women can respect and rely on.

TO BE CONTINUED

[1] See Titanic:  “The Truth Behind Men and Women First”, accessed August 16, 2019,  http://www.premierexhibitions.com/exhibitions/3/3/titanic-artifact-exhibition/blog/truth-behind-women-and-children-first.

[2] See The Phrase Finder:  “A Woman Needs A Man Like A Fish Needs A Bicycle”, accessed October 9, 2019, https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/414150.html/.

[3]See PubMed: “Men, women, and murder: gender-specific differences in rates of fatal violence and victimization”, accessed November 7, 2019, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1635092.

 

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Praise and Prayer Update (November 22, 2019)

christmas dinnerIt’s a crisp, cold day here in Cambridge.  We are gearing up for our annual Christmas Dinner tonight.  It’s a wonderful evening for all our students, faculty and staff.  After a wonderful meal (prepared by friends from Hespeler Baptist Church), we will enjoy musical selections and Scripture readings done by students.  I praise the Lord for the strong sense of community we enjoy at Heritage.

Here are a few prayer requests for the coming week:

This Sunday I will be speaking at Faithway Baptist Church in Woodstock.  One of our student worship teams will be joining me to lead the congregation in musical worship.  Please pray we would serve the Lord well through music and the preaching of God’s Word.

Our Christmas newsletter is being prepared to be mailed out soon.  Pray that people will be encouraged as they read what God has been doing at Heritage this year.  Pray as well for many to support the school through their prayers and donations as we come to the end of this calendar year.

Next week, Linda and I plan to travel to the States to enjoy US Thanksgiving with our sons and their wives.  Please pray for safe travels and a rich family time together.  We treasure these times together.

Thanks for praying!

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