Author Archives: Daniele Berman

It all started with a cup of coffee…(VBS!)

Meet Caroline Efird, the director of Children’s Ministries at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Durham:

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(She doesn’t usually look quite so—what’s the word? festive!—but I think you’ll agree that she makes those glasses look pretty good.)

It was over a cup of coffee this spring that Caroline and I somewhat accidentally hit upon the idea of All Saints jumping in and joining Good Shepherd for their Vacation Bible School this summer. And I couldn’t be more thankful for that “accidental” conversation!

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This past week, about twenty children and four volunteers from All Saints joined 250 children and over 100 volunteers for a week of fun and learning about the life of David, what it means that he was a man after God’s own heart, and what it means for us to emulate that heart in our own lives. Through drama and puppets and games and crafts and even meticulously themed snacks, the children experienced stories from David’s life in new and exciting ways.

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Even the children who knew the story of David and Goliath inside out were freshly impressed by the giant (on stilts!) whose strobe-lit slaying at the hands of the boy David was made real in a new way for them through the impressive dramatic skills of the folks at CGS. Thanks to the creativity of ASC’s own Nicki Carpenter and with the assistance of four faithful youth volunteers, including Luke Jackson, sweaty games of tag and water balloons and ultimate frisbee took on new meaning with pool noodles as swords and shepherds and sheep as players.

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Marnie Densmore, another ASC volunteer, became a master slingshot maker over the course of the week, and in the meantime had conversations with and built relationships with lots of children and adults who made their way to her tent in the marketplace. Sarah McSwain and I both had the enviable role of leading groups through the whole week, comprising children from ASC, CGS, and other local churches. The questions we had the opportunity to answer, the prayers we got to pray with them, and the fun we had together with our groups are memories that will certainly stick with the children (and us!) for a very long time.

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Over the course of the week, the children memorized Bible verses daily. One verse that showed up on the list and also during our worship time several mornings is from 1 Samuel 16:7:

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(Here’s ASC’s own David Carpenter, bravely reciting a memory verse for the entire group of children and volunteers during our opening worship time! Go, David!)

What a beautiful promise to each of the children who participated in VBS this week, that what the Lord wants for them is a clean heart, longing most of all for what He wants, seeking most of all after the things of His kingdom; and what a sweet gift it was to me, as an adult walking through the week with these children, to be reminded by their simple but profound questions how the faith of a child can serve as a model for all of us. Ask, seek, knock: that’s what children do instinctively and without reservation, and in doing so, seek after the heart of God, sometimes without even knowing it.

Thank you, Caroline and your fantastic team of coordinators and volunteers, for inviting us to join you at VBS this year! What a gift it was to serve and pray and work and play alongside you–we already can’t wait until next year!

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{Here’s a fun one-minute summary of our time at VBS as told by one of the children’s favorite “volunteers”: a puppet!}

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/99772793″>IMG 5500</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user11516640″>All Saints Church</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

{Beautiful professional photographs courtesy of Julie Yoo at Vibrance Photography: http://vibrance-photography.com/. Cell phone photographs courtesy of parents and volunteers!}

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Dealing with Temptation 101

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–a Lenten reflection from Interim Rector Rev Thomas Kortus–

I am reading two books this Lent that are speaking right to my soul with regards to humility, prayer, dealing with temptation, and receiving and living in God’s grace. One of them is Way of the Ascetics by Tito Colliander. He shares profound and amazingly practical wisdom from the Church Fathers when it comes to our lives in Christ. 

Yesterday I read a chapter that had so many echoes of my sermon last week on the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness that I had to share it with you. If you missed the sermon last week click here to listen to it. This extended passage from the book deals with humility and radical dependence upon God our Father in the face of temptation. 

Reading this passage helped me understand my need for God in order to resist temptation and what it looks like to repent and get up after I fall. I pray you benefit from reading this extended passage. 

In this Lenten season, may Christ give you grace to grow in holiness, deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow him! 

Your servant and partner in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, 

Thomas 

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Do not direct your gaze towards the enemy. Never get into the controversy with him whom you cannot possibly resist. With his millennia of experience he knows the very trick that can render you helpless at once. No, stand in the middle of your heart’s field and keep your gaze upward; then the heart is protected from all sides at once: the Lord himself sends his angels to guard it both from the right and left and from the rear at the same time. 

This, being interpreted, means that if you are beset by a temptation, you should not consider it a matter for examination or reflection or weighing for or against: by so doing you sully your heart and waste time, and already it is a victory for the enemy. Instead, without the slightest delay, turn to the Lord and say: “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” And the sooner you draw your thoughts away from the temptation, the sooner help comes.

Never be sure of yourself. Never make a good resolution, and never think: Oh yes, I’ll make out all right. Never believe in your own power and strength to resist temptation of any kind, great or small. Think, on the contrary: I am sure to fall as soon as it comes upon me. Self-confident is a dangerous confederate.The less strength you credit yourself with the more surely you stand. Acknowledge that you are weak, completely unable to resist the slightest beckoning of the devil. Then to your astonishment you will find that he has no power over you. For if you have made the Lord your refuge you will soon be able to ensure that no evil shall befall you (Psalm 21). The only evil that can befall a Christian is sin.

If you are remorseful because later on you fell anyway, and if you are full of self-reproach and resolutions “never to do so again,” it is a sure sign that you were on the wrong road: it is your self reliance that has been wounded.

He who does not rely on himself is thankfully amazed that he did not fall lower; he praises God for sending him help in time, for otherwise he would still have been lying prostrate. Swiftly he rises and begins his prayer with a threefold praised be God.

A spoiled child lies smarting for a long time when it has fallen. It seeks sympathy and comforting caresses. Do not fuss over yourself, no matter how it hurts. Get up again and resume the battle. He who fights gets wounded. Only Angels never fall.

But pray God to forgive you and not again to allow you to be unwary.

Do not follow Adam’s example and place the blame on the woman or the devil or on any other external circumstance. The reason for your fall lay within yourself: in the moment when the master of the house was away from your heart, you let thieves and robbers come in and make havoc there at will. Pray God that this be not repeated.

A Monk was once asked: what do you do there in the monastery? He replied: we fall and we get up, fall and get up, fall and get up again.

For not many minutes of your life go by without your having fallen at least once. Thus pray God have mercy on us all. Pray for forgiveness and grace, and for mercy as a criminal sentenced to death praise, and remember that it is only by grace that you are saved. You can make no claim whatever to freedom and grace. Think of yourself as in the position of a runaway slave as he lies before his Lord, praying to be spared. Such shall your prayer be, if you will follow send Isaac the Syrian and “cast off your burden of sin within yourself,” in order to find their “the upward path that makes ascent possible.”

Way of the Ascetics by Tito Colliander

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A Lenten Journey

–The following is the text of Interim Rector Rev Thomas Kortus’s Ash Wednesday sermon.–

Ash Wednesday 2014 readings: Isaiah 58: 1-12 and Matthew 6:1-6,16-21

When you set out on a journey, it helps to know where you are going. Your destination will determine what you bring, how you travel,  what direction to head, and what turns to make. 

I love road trips! I love them because they are about the journey. They offer adventure in the unexpected destinations along the way to the expected one. They give you time and reflect on where you have been and time to prepare for where you are going. 

In 2002, Amy and I had been married for a year and we took off in our 1967 VW bus. Our bus was affectionately named Poughkeepsie. It was blue and white–and our only car at the time. We started out in Chicago (where we had just finished the school year) and we were headed home to Seattle, by way of Boston, the Outer Banks in NC, and San Diego. A bit of a roundabout route, but that is the fun and the adventure of road trips. 

We took all backroads–we wanted to see the country and we wanted to stay alive–after all top speed in our bus was about 55-60 miles per hour! We had a few events and people we had to attend and see–weddings and friends–but a lot of open road and things we wanted to do and see!  We had no air conditioning, a bed mounted in the back of the van, a propane stove, Amy’s folk harp, a compass, an atlas, and lots of boxes of mac and cheese. 

Lent is the church’s road trip. The destination is clear from the outset: Easter. Lent is a forty-day road trip. The fast of Lent is for the purpose of the feast of Easter: celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, God’s triumphant victory over sin, death, and the devil. 

And Jesus and his body, the church, have laid out a clear way for us as we journey to and prepare for the cross and resurrection. We have been given concrete instructions, stops we need to make along the way, but there is freedom and adventure on the journey. 

The way forward–our route–on this road trip of Lent involves the concrete practices of sacrificial giving, prayer, and fasting. These practices are not optional. Jesus does not say if you give or if you pray or if you fast, but WHEN

When we look back over the 2000 years of the church, these practices have been central to following Jesus! Our journey toward the most high and holy day of Easter must involve these destinations.

We see Jesus embody these practices: 

Drawing away to be with the father in prayer, so much so that the disciples ask him to teach them to pray! 

Stopping and meeting the needs of those around him, giving of his time

Ultimately giving up his own life for the life of the world 

Fasting in the wilderness

Choosing hunger and obedience to feed on the word of God rather than physical food

The Apostles followed Jesus’ example as they devoted themselves to caring for the poor, to the prayers, and the breaking of bread together and also fasting (Acts 13).  

The Didache, written in the first or second century, instructs the church to keep these practices as well, instructing the church to fast on Wednesdays and Friday: Wednesday, the day when Christ was betrayed; and Friday, the day of His Crucifixion.

St. John Chrysostom wrote, “The fathers did well when they came to our aid and established for us the practice of this Lenten Fast. As soon as the season of Lent draws near, even the laziest of men rouses himself, even though no one counsels or advises him. Why? He gets counsel from the season of Lent” (Against the Jews III:6).

Jesus teaches us How to give and pray and fast in our gospel reading. He tells us to do these things unto God our Father and not others. “Beware of practicing righteousness before other people in order to be seen by others.” He tells us that there are consequences when we pursue these practices: we are rewarded for our practices, for doing them.  

We are rewarded either here on earth if we practice our righteousness for others to see and be impressed by or in heaven when we do them discreetly and in secret for the purpose of obedience and pleasing our God and Father. Just because we proclaim a gospel of grace and gift does not mean we do not receive rewards for our actions here on earth. We are uncomfortable with this. 

Jesus clearly says we will receive rewards in heaven. 

By giving to the needy in secret

By praying behind closed doors

By fasting discreetly 

By not amassing worldly material goods

So this Lent, there is freedom for how we get to these destinations, but these are our destinations along the way to Easter. 

I want to challenge you to take Jesus’ words seriously: be intentional about giving to the needy, prayer, and fasting. Jesus lays out these practices for us for a reason and the church has handed them down to us to practice. Don’t be too ambitious, but be realistic. The Church Fathers tell us that a light rule that is observed is better than a heavy one that is soon broken and discarded.  

Our Lenten road trip also involves dust and ashes. It begins the dust and ashes. Ashes symbolize humble repentance and Dust our mortality.

On Ash Wednesday, we were invited to receive the imposition of ashes upon our foreheads. The ashes call us to humble repentance. We have all fallen short of the glory of God. None worthy of our salvation. Ashes are a biblical symbol of mourning and penance. In Bible times the custom was to fast, wear sackcloth, sit in dust and ashes, and put dust and ashes on your head. 

Our ashes were made by burning the palm fronds from Palm Sunday last year. There is significance in this: Palm Sunday was when the people rejoiced at Jesus’ triumphal entrance to Jerusalem. They celebrated his arrival by waving palm fronds, not realizing that he was coming to die for their sins. Not realizing that in a few short days their shouts of “Hosanna” would turn to “Crucify him!” By using palms from Palm Sunday, we remember we must not only rejoice at Jesus’ coming but also regret and mourn the fact that our sins made it necessary for him to die for us in order to save us. Our best intentions and worship often turn to apathy and failure. 

However, the ashes we receive are in the form of the cross.  Our sin and disobedience has been dealt with on the cross of Christ. We are marked by the cross. We belong to Jesus. 

When else do we make the sign of the cross on foreheads? In baptism: “You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever.” As you journey through Lent, know that you belong to Christ. Never forget you are his! 

As you receive the ashes you hear the words, “Remember that you art dust and to dust you shall return.” These words come from God’s address to Adam after his disobedience: “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” 

These words also show up in a burial service, “Ashes to ashes; dust to dust.” In Lent we face our mortality. This life is not eternal; we will all die and we need to be ready to face our God and judge. We are but dust. There is freedom in a renewed sense of our frailty and mortality, though. Accepting our need releases us to live in dependence and in daily communion with our life and our light, our God and Father. We can do nothing without him! Embrace your dustiness this Lent! Live in constant awareness of and need for God!  

There is also a strong warning for us from the prophet Isaiah this Lent. Lent is not all about you. It is about obedience to God and loving the people around you. We are called to give, fast, pray, and devote ourselves to God, but our spiritual disciplines should never overshadow our love for others! 

Isaiah 58 is a strong indictment against Israel! They were so focused on themselves in their prayer, their fasting, their worship, their purity. But they were not present to the world they were called to be a light to and called to bless!

“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn.”

Lent is not about you. It is about purifying yourself, yes, but for a purpose; it is about aligning your will and your desires to God’s will and what he desires! And what he desires is for you to pursue justice and live lives of compassion and proactive generosity and hospitality. 

This Lent you are called to humble repentance, prayer, fasting, giving, and facing your mortality…but these practices are not the end. They are the means to glorify God more fully in our lives and love and serve others more faithfully! 

On our epic road trip, we broke down a lot, the van overheated–it was air-cooled. VW buses are not known for their reliability! They look cool though and are incredibly functional! 

We got lost along the way, we snuck into campgrounds to use their showers, we were homesick–you name it. But we were together–sharing the driving, keeping each other awake. We stopped off at friends’ homes, called strangers whose names we found on the internet to help us fix our bus. 

We journey through Lent together. Do not go it alone. We journey together as a church family for a reason. We need each other! One major area of growth we have as a church is just being open and honest with one another. We need to repent of our pride and self-reliance and competency! We need to reveal our hearts to one another–our needs, our joys, our pain, our struggles. We need one another. We are but dust–all of us! We are miserable offenders and screw-ups! Every one of us! Don’t road trip through Lent alone; you need to share the driving, you need someone to keep you awake as you drive! 

And don’t forget where we are going. We fast in Lent that we might celebrate the Feast of the Resurrection. We are preparing ourselves to enter anew and afresh into the resurrection life that Jesus has secured on our behalf on the cross on Calvary and in his glorious resurrection and ascension. 

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St. John Chrysostom, in a text that has become classic in the Orthodox Church, has stated the necessity for “fasting with the spirit” most eloquently and his words remain just as true today as when they were spoken over sixteen hundred years ago:.

The value of fasting consists not only in avoiding certain foods, but in giving up of sinful practices. The person who limits his fast only to abstaining from meat is the one who especially lowers the value of it. 

Do you fast? Prove it by doing good works. If you see someone in need, take pity on them. If you see a friend being honored, don’t get jealous of him or her. For a true fast, you cannot fast only with your mouth. You must fast with your eyes, your ears, your feet, your hands, and all parts of your body. 

You fast with your hands by keeping them pure from doing greedy things. You fast with your feet by not going to see forbidden shows or plays. You fast with your eyes by not letting them look upon impure pictures. Because if this is forbidden or unlawful, it mars your fast and threatens the safety of your soul. But if you look at things which are lawful and safe you increase your fast, for what you see with your eyes influences your conduct. It would be very stupid to eliminate or give up meat and other foods because of the fast but feed with your eyes upon other things which are forbidden. 

You don’t eat meat, you say? But you allow yourself to listen to lewd things. You must fast with your ears, too. Another way of fasting with your ears is not to listen to those who speak evil or untrue things about others. “Thou shalt not receive an idle report.” This is especially true of rumors, gossip, untruths which are spoken to harm another. 

Besides fasting with your mouth by not eating certain foods, your mouth should also fast from foul language or telling lies about others. For what good is it if you don’t eat meat or poultry, and yet you bite and devour your fellow man?

Homily III:8 On the Statutes

 

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Lent at All Saints Church

–a reflection by Interim Rector Rev Thomas Kortus–
Lent is a season of soul-searching and repentance. It originated in the very earliest days of the Church as a preparatory time for Easter, when the faithful rededicated themselves to Jesus and when converts were instructed in the faith and prepared for baptism. By observing the forty days of Lent, we are invited to imitate Jesus’ withdrawal into the wilderness for forty days. When we enter into the traditional spiritual disciplines of Lent, Easter becomes a genuine personal experience of the resurrection.
Lent is an opportunity live into the Spirit’s words in Hebrews 12:…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus... It is a season in which we seek to enter more deeply into repentance and to fix our lives more firmly on Jesus. Lent keeps the grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ central. Christianity is not a self-help religion. We are never good enough to merit our salvation, and Lent reminds us that it is only by the grace of God that we are rescued from sin and death.
I pray that you will enter into Lent this year by joining us for regular Sunday morning worship and by taking advantage of these intentional lenten activities. I particularly commend the Servant Songs of Isaiah Bible Study on Wednesday nights and the Morning Prayer Eucharist services. Prayer and Scripture study and meditation are foundational to our lives in Christ and particularly during the Lenten season. Ash Wednesday (next week!) is also a powerful and intentional way to begin this important season. Call the church office of you have any questions about these activities (919-908-9187).
Ash Wednesday Services  March 5 7:30 a.m. & 6 p.m. 
    Five Oaks SDA Church  /4124 Farrington Road, Durham
   Nursery for ages 0-3 provided at 6 p.m. service
Morning Prayer and Holy Eucharist throughout Lent 
   Tuesdays and Fridays 7:30 – 8:10 a.m.  / March 7 –April 11
   All Saints Church Upper Room  / 3622 Lyckan Pkwy, Suite 5006, Durham
Lenten Bible Study: Wednesdays 6-7:15 p.m. throughout Lent 
   Five Oaks SDA Church
Join us weekly as we study the Servant Songs of Isaiah together as a church family. Brian Maiers, Bishop Steve Breedlove, Dr. Jennie Grillo, Rev. Brad Acton, and Dr. Ross Wagner will be teaching and leading our discussions. Sign up for dinner at church or by email (thomas@allsaints-chd.org) the Sunday before you attend ($5 per parson or $12 a family) or bring your own. Dinner begins at 5:30. Nursery and Young Elementary program available upon request. Contact the church office for more information.
As We Forgive Movie Screening  March 23  7:00 p.m.
   Five Oaks SDA Church
As We Forgive is a short documentary film that explores how Rwanda has recovered from genocide through the work of reconciliation. The event will also be an opportunity to learn more about Rwanda and hear how God is calling Brandon, Emily and Elsa Walsh to serve him there as Ambassadors to the Gasabo Diocese. For more information contact Brandon Walsh (bwalsh0121@gmail.com).
Information about our Holy Week services will be announced soon.

THE MEANING OF LENT
The days of Holy Week–Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter–are packed with meaning and significance central to the Christian faith. Lent is a season of preparation and of intentionally dwelling on the great passion of Jesus Christ. On Ash Wednesday (March 5), which marks the beginning of Lent, we will come forward, kneel, and receive the imposition of ashes upon our brows as we hear these words: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return. Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.” This is the message that sets the tone for Lent. Dust and ashes symbolize two themes at the heart of Lent: our creaturely mortality and our moral culpability. We are finite and sinful people. So we humble ourselves before the eternal God who created us and who redeemed us, our only source of life and righteousness.

Lent is a “bright sadness” (Schmemann, Great Lent). During Lent we become more aware of our sinfulness and need for God, but we also remember that we are redeemed by Jesus’ death on the cross and receive forgiveness and eternal life through it. Lent is sobering, but it ends in Easter!

We Focus on Jesus 

During Lent we focus on Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness where he battled with the devil. We are given the opportunity to renew our baptismal vows to renounce Satan and all evil powers and sinful desires, to trust in the grace of Christ as our Savior, and to follow him as our Lord.

We also focus on the passion of Jesus. Jesus set his face to Jerusalem. He intentionally and willingly walked toward crucifixion and death to redeem the world to God the Father. So we focus on self-denial, dying to ourselves and pivoting from self-gratification.

TRADITIONAL LENTEN DISCIPLINES

Fasting
“There is no Lent without fasting. Christian fasting is the voluntary denial of something for a specific time for a spiritual purpose” (Schmemann, Great Lent). It is a restriction that creates space for God. Fasting from food helps us to know more vividly that Jesus is the true source of our sustenance and being, but many people choose to fast from other things as well to create space for God.

Prayer
We set aside times to quiet ourselves in the presence of God in order to take an honest look at ourselves and to cultivate a closer union with God. In prayer we gain a greater awareness of our inner disposition, external behaviors, hearts, and habits. Some choose to meditate on the Ten Commandments or the Beatitudes. Reading the Daily Office Lectionary also leads us to prayerful reflection before God.

Almsgiving
Giving of ourselves sacrificially over and beyond our tithe is a form of self-denial that loosens our bonds to the flesh and the pleasures and vices of the world. Consider how you might give more of yourself this Lent.
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The more we can enter into Jesus’ sufferings and death in that final week, the more we will know both our own great sin and need for God’s great goodness and love. Reading and meditating on scripture during Lent enables us to know Christ and share in his sufferings, becoming more like him in his death so as to share in the power of his resurrection (Philippians 3:10).

If you have questions about how you can enter into these traditional Lenten disciplines, please contact one of our clergy:
Thomas Kortus 919.619.5007 / thomas@allsaints-chd.org
Brad Acton 205.873.2257 / brad@allsaintschd.org
Julie Cate Kelly  919.402.7244 / JulieCateKelly@gmail.com
Kent Hinkson 919.452.4642 /  kent.hinkson@yahoo.com

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Prayers and Thanksgiving As We Send Off Our Boxes…

We are first of all grateful, Father, for the abundance of your gifts to us, out of which we are able to give these gifts to others. Your generosity to us is boundless; thank you for the opportunity to share it with children around the world.

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We pray for the 9.8 million children who will receive their first Christmas gift this year because of Operation Christmas Child, for the 112 children who will receive these gifts collected at All Saints.

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We pray especially, Father, for the over 460,000 children in the Philippines who will receive shoeboxes this year. We know that our meager offerings of crayons and slinkies cannot even begin to touch the profound suffering of those children. But we humbly ask that the gifts in these boxes would bring moments of joy to those children in the midst of so much pain–and that those crayons and slinkies would open their hearts to hear a message of true joy, true salvation, true hope, true comfort.

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Bless the many volunteers who will work to get these boxes delivered around the world, Father. Protect them as they travel, especially in places that are hostile to the gospel. May the joy and light they carry with them as they serve touch hearts and open doors to your truth and love.

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Most of all, Father, may each of us whose hands touch these boxes–from the people who have packed them to the volunteers who sort and deliver them to the children and families who receive them–may we all know your unconditional gift of love, the ultimate gift of your Son, which we celebrate at Christmas, represented here in these boxes. We are so grateful, Father.

As National Collection Week begins and our shoeboxes begin their journey, will you join the thousands who are praying for this project? Click  here to learn more!

And thank you to everyone who helped make this year’s project at ASC possible: from taking pictures to donating supplies to baking treats for the party to packing boxes to loading them…we couldn’t have done it without all of you!

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Needs by the Numbers

five oaks SDA

Beginning December 22, we will hold two services at Five Oaks Seventh Day Adventist Church (4124 Farrington Rd., Durham 27707) on Sundays: 9 and 11 a.m. For many of our ministries, that means we need to double our roster of volunteers…and we have only four weeks to do it! Here are the needs by the numbers and the contact information for ministry team leaders; if you’re not already serving on a Sunday morning rotation for one of these teams, which one will you join? Contact a team leader today to help make sure all our ministries can make the transition seamlessly!

Yes, you did that math right: we need 36 new volunteers by December 22!

Which team will you join? Contact a team leader today!

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Christmas in November?

It won’t even be Advent yet, much less Christmas. But on November 10, we’re going to be getting in the Christmas spirit at All Saints Church…because some presents have a long way to travel before December 25!

Chances are that you’ve heard of Operation Christmas Child. If you’ve been around All Saints for long, you probably have even packed a shoebox or two. I have participated in or led an OCC project for lots of years now, so I’ve read all about it and watched hours of video testimonials and packed hundreds and hundreds of boxes. But when I read this new testimonial this morning about how one orphan of the genocide in Rwanda found his way to forgiveness in part because of OCC, I was overwhelmed afresh by the amazing impact of this project. I’ve read lots of stories about OCC in lots of countries, but hearing about its impact in Rwanda brings it that much closer to home. 

Sit for a minute with The Gift of Forgiveness in Rwanda. (Watch the video, but take a few extra minutes to read the whole article. I promise you won’t regret it. And if you’re anything like me, make sure you have the tissues nearby.)

He can still picture the box, along with many of its contents. Small, multi-colored candies—Alex thought they were medicine—a comb, and his favorite: a red and white striped stick shaped like a “j.” He couldn’t figure out what that was, so he stuck it in his mouth. As he bit through the plastic wrapping, a sweet cooling sensation filled his mouth. Alex had eaten his first candy cane.

“Just having something that we could call our own, that could take our minds off of what happened during the war, reminded us that someone out there cared for us and we still had hope,” he said. “I started to see that God had to have a plan for my life too, that He had been there all the time,” Alex said. “I started to see all the things that He used to save my life not as a coincidence, but as part of His bigger plan.”

What an amazing opportunity we have for the sake of the Gospel–and it can be as simple as sending a candy cane. Will you help us at All Saints as we share God’s precious, simple love with hundreds of children around the world again this year? There are so many ways to get involved.

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  1. Pack some shoeboxes! Stop by the table in the lobby on Sunday to pick up all the materials you’ll need to pack your shoeboxes at home. You can use your own shoeboxes or plastic containers (lids wrapped separately, if you wrap them), or you can pick up one of the limited number of preprinted boxes we’ll have to give away.
  2. Mark your calendar, and plan to join us in the Annex after church on November 10 as we pack boxes together as a church. We’ll have all the supplies ready to go; we’ll just need your help putting it all together!
  3. Donate supplies for the party. Look at this list online for ideas for shoebox gifts: http://www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/pack-a-shoe-box/. Next time you’re out running errands, would you consider picking up a few items to donate to our party? 
  4. What would a Christmas party be without treats? Would you be up for baking a few batches of your grandma’s special Christmas cookies a little early this year? Does everyone rave about your fudge at the office party every year? The more treats, the merrier!
  5. Help with setup and cleanup. Are you a lover of Christmas decorations? Come help make the Annex merry before the party! Or are you the engineering type? These boxes have lots of “insert tab A into slot B” type instructions–we will need your help constructing them! Do your kids love sorting and cutting and taping? Help us get the supplies all ready for the boxes! Help set up and break down tables, clean up trash, load boxes in my van–many hands will make the work light the day of the party.
  6. In lieu of Children’s Church on November 10, we’ll have a special OCC project for our elementary children. We’d love to have your help that morning as we share this special project with our kids.
  7. With a month to go, there are bound to be more ways to help. So stay tuned!

Don’t wait a month to get involved. Let me know now how you want to help! (daniele@allsaints-chd.org)

But just as you excel in everything–in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness, and in your love for us–see that you also excel in this grace of giving. –2 Corinthians 8:7

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