Current news and stories from our Alliance field workers.
by Jim Blake, Executive Director at Alliance Redwoods Conference Grounds in Occidental, California
One way we measure our success at Alliance Redwoods Conference Grounds is by celebrating our guests’ decisions for Christ. I had the joy of seeing more than 40 men be baptized in our pool during a recent church retreat.
The men from 3 Crosses, an Alliance church in Castro Valley, California, gave an offering for our Sonoma Fire Relief fund during their annual retreat at Alliance Redwoods. After I thanked them for the donation, I stayed for the baptism and was blessed beyond words to rejoice with my new brothers in Christ. Again and again, men came up to me and said, “This place is holy ground; it doesn’t get any better than this.”
Young men from rough backgrounds confessed their faith publicly and were raised to new life in Christ in front of the others. A grandfather, son, and grandson came forward together for baptism.
Another man named Bill, made his decision “because his wife told him to.” He explained that before she died several years ago she had prayed that he would be baptized. That weekend, in our pool, her prayer was answered.
Even the senior pastor, Larry Vold, who was baptized when he was 10 years old, was re-baptized because he wanted to declare to his men that he still loved Christ deeply.
The group leader, Mark Campbell, has brought the men of 3 Crosses to Alliance Redwoods for the past eight years. He views our staff as partners in this ministry and believes they were instrumental in what happened that weekend.
“This was the best retreat we’ve ever held at Alliance Redwoods,” Mark said. “Significant spiritual breakthroughs took place this weekend [and] many men came to Christ.”
As we partner with local churches, we remember this Scripture passage, Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer (Romans 12:11–13).
by Fernando, a friend of Michael and Ruth Davis, Alliance international workers serving in Portugal
In 2006 when I met Serafim, an evangelical pastor who worked for the same labor company I did, he immediately told me about Jesus. My coworkers made fun of him—they didn’t want to listen to his testimony. I started feeling uncomfortable around him.
When our boss, Carlos*, assigned him to do routine maintenance repairs at an apartment building, Serafim never lost an opportunity to tell the residents about Jesus. The residents soon complained, telling Carlos they didn’t want Serafim doing their repairs anymore.
At that point, Carlos prohibited Serafim from talking about Jesus on the job. But he continued to witness to everyone. So Carlos had Serafim work with a jack hammer or run errands on a motorcycle to keep him from telling the people he met about Christ.
I began to admire Serafim’s determination, so I asked him if he was worried about getting fired.
“God wants me to share the gospel, and if it is God’s will for me to be fired, so be it,” Serafim replied.
I asked him more about how he came to know Jesus, and he encouraged me to read the Bible more and pray.
I started with the Book of John and then read the rest of the Gospels. The more I read, the more interested I became to know more about the Bible. Serafim gave me a Gideon’s International New Testament, and every day after work for two years he and I read the Bible together.
Finally, I decided to tell my wife, Luzía, about Serafim. She asked me, “How can you be so crazy as to abandon the icons and not believe in Mary?” She didn’t ever want to see Serafim in our house.
I was very sad. So the next day I called my sister and my brother-in-law to ask them to visit me. When I returned home from work, they were there. They told me I was crazy and that I should stay away from churches that want to rob believers.
I wanted to explain my reasoning, but every time I said something, the conversation escalated. I stayed silent while they talked.
Luzía said if I continued, she would divorce me. At that moment I didn’t know what to say, so I said, “OK, I’ll give up everything.” But it was not what I wanted.
The next day when I saw Serafim and told him everything, he said, “Don’t worry. Just stand firm, keep reading the Bible, and pray even more so God will transform Luzía’s heart.”
Peace in Suffering
For seven years I went through many trials, and then in November 2016 I was hospitalized with a serious case of pneumonia—I had a bacterial abscess in my right lung. After a week it burst, and I was left with a three-inch hole. The doctors told me I couldn’t work anymore and that I would have to use oxygen 16 hours a day. It was as if my life had ended.
On the eighth day of my stay in the hospital, in the middle of the night, I picked up the New Testament Serafim had given me and started to read in John 11:4—This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.
The words touched me deeply, so I knelt by my hospital bed, confessed all my sins, surrendered my life to Jesus, and asked Him to be my Lord and Savior. My life changed. From that day forward, I gave all my fears and worries to the Lord.
“Maybe It Was the Antibiotics”
The following day, I asked Luzía if she would pray for me. But she just cried and said, “I don’t know how to pray. God won’t hear me.” I told her God hears all of us no matter what we’ve done—as long as we pray in faith.
A few days later, she told me she prayed. I was so happy because I could see God was working in her. On the same day, I asked our friend to pray for me. She told her church members to intercede as well.
The next day Luzía went to an evangelical church with our friends. She loved it. The following Sunday my daughter, Cátia, went with them. She liked it too. When I finally went home after 32 days in the hospital, we all started attending the church together.
After about two months I went to a pneumatologist for a follow-up. When the doctor saw I wasn’t using oxygen, he was surprised. I told him I hadn’t felt the need. He ordered an X-ray, which showed that the hole in my lung was gone.
Luzía asked him how that happened. The doctor laughed and said, “Maybe it was the antibiotics.” But we know it was a miracle from God.
We started attending a church plant, Paredes Alliance Church, as soon as it opened in July 2017. It was started by a team of Alliance international workers from the United States (Michael and Ruth Davis and Charlotte Hisle) and Brazil (Danilo and Elaine Lima).
Because of the discipleship we received from this congregation, Luzía, Cátia, and I were baptized there on the same day earlier this year. My family now attends church and Bible studies every week, and we hope to continue to do so. I don’t want to ever stray from Christ.
At least 155 people have died, dozens are still missing, and thousands have been evacuated during recent flooding and mudslides in Japan.
Alliance international worker/field director Don Schaeffer reports,
“We have been following the news on the Japanese NHK news. The two hardest hit prefectures, Hiroshima and Ehime (on the island of Shikoku), are where we have the most Alliance churches. People in 10 of the cities where we have Alliance churches have lost their lives (115 dead and 61 missing is the latest count with over half of the dead in those two prefectures.) I wrote Rev. Tanaka, president of JAC [Japan Alliance Church], and he said that no churches have been affected by the flooding and landslides. Rev. Tanaka sent a file from Rev. Goto with details about what had happened in various cities where we have Alliance churches. Believers in Kure (near Hiroshima City) and Uchiko (Shikoku) have had homes flooded. Transportation (roads and trains) has been disrupted, and several churches were not able to have worship services on Sunday.”
- For the rains to cease
- For those who have lost loved ones, homes, and possessions
- For the safety of those who remain in highly threatened areas
- For the safety of relief and rescue workers
- For local and national governments as they work together to respond
- For Alliance workers and churches as they find ways to demonstrate Christ’s love in tangible ways
Chinese New Year is China’s biggest family holiday, like Christmas in the United States, and Chinese expatriates tend to feel homesick around this time of year.
That’s why 300–500 Chinese men, women, and children annually gather at Greater Lafayette Chinese Alliance Church (GLCAC) in Indiana to celebrate the new year. Though the guests range in age from infants to seniors, the event ministers uniquely to college students away from their families.
Chinese students and faculty from Purdue University started a Bible study in 1965 focused on reaching their Chinese classmates and colleagues. That Bible study grew into a church and, in 1995, joined The Alliance. Today, the church continues to invite Chinese students and residents to celebrate various holidays with them, but none are more popular than the Chinese New Year.
Many of the guests arrive hours ahead of time to help make thousands of dumplings for the feast. Chinese dumplings are the main delicacy at a new year’s celebration, as they represent fortune or blessing.
The hosts incorporate as many Chinese customs as they can. They hang red lanterns, wear traditional attire, and cook favorite dishes from the provinces represented.
GLCAC even puts on their own version of the televised Lunar New Year celebration in Beijing. The broadcast traditionally involves freedom singing, dancing, cross-talk comedy, and talent show performances. GLCAC’s program includes these elements as well as instrumental music, skits, and a presentation of the gospel.
One guest said, “It makes me feel like I’m back in China for the holiday.”
Though the holiday is associated with ancestor worship, the Chinese students at Purdue do not necessarily hold to those beliefs. Moreover, the celebration provides the church a relevant opportunity to share the gospel and thank Christ for His blessings.
The relationships built on nights like these continue to grow throughout the year. These events have allowed GLCAC to offer comfort and support to lonely students. They have become their neighbors’ home away from home, and many of their new friends have joined the church and put their faith in Christ.
The following article is composed of excerpts from stories by two women who were instrumental in the faith journey of an Eastern European immigrant to the United States. “Perseverance in Evangelism” is by Sarah*, who ministers with International Students, Inc. Julie Arant, director of Global Friends, an Alliance-affiliated ministry in Omaha, Nebraska, wrote “I Feel Different!”
“Perseverance in Evangelism”
Soon after I moved to a new apartment in Queens, I met a young couple from Eastern Europe, Fatima* and Amon*, who lived below me. We quickly became friends and spent several evenings talking over dinner or refreshments in our front yard. Many of our conversations were about faith and God. Unfortunately, there was no deep, personal interest, and the Bible I gave them went unread.
Within a month of my move-in date, Amon was diagnosed with cancer. My friendship with Fatima and Amon deepened rapidly as we walked through the stages of treatment, recovery, relapse, and eventually death. Amon’s funeral was full of the religious symbolism of the Orthodox church, but there was no hope or joy.
After Amon died, Fatima was firmly disinterested in the things of God. She was angry at Him for Amon’s death and clearly rejected Him. She said she knew she needed something, but she rejected my offers to study the Bible with her or take her to visit my church.
A few years after Amon’s death, Fatima decided to restart her life and move to Omaha, mainly to be near a close friend. I began to pray that Fatima would meet believers in Omaha who would continue to show her the love of Christ.
In January 2018, I vacationed with Julie Arant, whom a mutual friend invited on the trip. Soon I realized two things—Julie is an amazing evangelist with a love for internationals, and she lives in Omaha. I purchased a small gift from our vacation locale to have Julie give to Fatima when she went home.
Once the two met, Fatima thanked me, saying she had just prayed for new friends. She was spending her only free time drinking with acquaintances and felt no hope or purpose in her life. She was ready for something new.
“I Feel Different!”
After an initial connection over a casual lunch, I sent Fatima an invitation to an international brunch at my church, Citylight. Fatima contacted me when she saw it and asked if she could accompany me to church as well. After a dynamic, gospel-saturated Sunday morning worship service, Fatima expressed interest in attending my church weekly.
Two weeks after the brunch, Fatima was invited to a follow-up gathering to watch the JESUS film. She attended and expressed then that she looked forward to future opportunities to discuss spiritual matters more deeply.
The next morning Fatima accompanied me to church once again. This particular service included a baptism with several powerful testimonies. After the sermon, I asked Fatima, “How would you or your priest respond if I asked, “How can I know for sure if I’m going to heaven?”
“You have to try harder and do more,” Fatima replied.
I asked her if we could ask my “priest” what he would say. She agreed.
We approached my pastor, and I restated the question, “Phil, how would you explain to someone how to know for certain that she is going to heaven?”
He smiled graciously. “First of all, God loves you,” Phil said. “We were separated from Him, but He gave His Son for you because He wants to have a relationship with you. Do you want to give your heart to Him?”
Fatima’s eyes filled with tears. “Yes,” she said. After praying to invite Christ into her heart, Fatima paused, thought a moment, and then put her hand over her heart. “Now I feel that I have a sense of purpose—I feel different!”
She had been praying that God would rescue her from her downward spiral, and that’s exactly what He had done. What a beautiful picture of the Body of Christ working in tandem to proclaim His glory!