Sharing with the Saints (Rom. 12:13)
The Deacons’ Newsletter Volume II, Number 1
Christmas is a season of hope. And that hope extends to the New Year.
There are some interesting facts from the Bible that become especially relevant at New Year’s.
Cultures around the world recognize the new year as a time for a fresh start. In an old article (2013) from Psychology Today titled “Why We Really Celebrate New Year’s Day,” the author remarks how the new year “has always prompted us both to celebrate and to step outside the day-to-day activity we’re always busy with to reflect, look back, take stock, assess how we did, and resolve to do better.”
He then asks an interesting question: “Why does the start of the new year carry such special symbolism? And why is its celebration so common around the world, as it has been for at least as long as there have been calendars?”
As an evolutionist, the author gets the answer wrong, thinking it has something to do with motivation to survive. But the Christian realizes that the true reason has to do with something much more important: ethical transformation. This goes to the heart of the nature of man, his fallen state, and his need for a redeemer.
THE EIGHTH DAY
New Year’s Day is the eighth day following Christmas Day (if we count the days as the Jews did).
There are some important facts about the number 8 that come from the Bible:
- God commanded that every male under the Old Covenant be circumcised when they are eight days old (Gen. 17:12, Lev. 12:3).
- David was the eighth son of Jesse (1 Sam. 16:10-12). The arrival and reign of David marked a significant transformation in Israel’s history.
- Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day (Luke 2:21).
- Jesus was resurrected on the first day of the week (John 20:1). If a week has seven days, then the first day of the new week marks the eighth day of the old.
- In the eighth year of being bedridden from paralysis, Aeneas was healed by Peter in the name of Jesus Christ. Aeneas then literally rose to a new life. (Acts 9:32-34)
- The Apostle Peter reminds us that “eight persons were brought safely through water” (1 Peter 3:20) on Noah’s ark. God delivered them to a new creation.
And so it is that, in Christ, we are new creations (2 Cor. 5:17). In Christ, the putting off of the old self is united with our spiritual cleansing (Col. 2:11-12).
Every Christmas, we celebrate the coming of our Savior to redeem us from our sins and look forward to the “new world order” ushered in by His life, death, resurrection, and ascension. “Of the increase of his government and of peace, there will be no end” (Is. 9:7).
Jesus’s obedience to the Father’s will forms the basis for permanent spiritual and ethical transformation in our life. And it also forms a legitimate ground for hope in the coming year.
Eight days after Christmas, New Year’s Day is like a symbolic resurrection to new life. The Roman Catholic Church, (Eastern) Orthodox Catholic Church, and some Protestants make a point to celebrate the Feast of the Circumcision on January 1.
Even John Calvin couldn’t deny the symbolism of circumcision on the eighth day. Though he wasn’t confident enough to say with absolute certainty, Calvin stated in his commentary on Genesis that it would make sense “that the number seven designated the course of the present life.” Therefore, the eighth day might “prefigure the beginning of a new life.”
So, instead of a New Year’s Resolution, let me use the language of the Westminster Larger Catechism (Question 167) to ask: What can you do this year to improve your baptism and walk more courageously by faith?
We have some ideas.
Below are updates from the Mercy, Missions, and Building and Grounds committees (with their chairmen noted in parentheses). As you read them, ask how you can tithe your time or talents to show your faith by your works. “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:26).
Mercy Committee (Evanda Remington) – The first duty with which the Book of Church Order charges the diaconate is ministering to those who are in need, to the sick, to the friendless, and to any who may be in distress.
Through several committees, the diaconate ministers to those in need. The Mercy Committee is one important means for serving those needs locally. But we need your help.
The Mercy Committee has seen increased business in the last year and even more in recent months. In accommodating the needs, Mercy has expanded committee membership, engaged congregational volunteers, partnered with WIC to disciple the numerous single mother families we meet, and dedicated a donation closet for material necessities (like coats and toiletries).
Despite record-high stock markets and record-low unemployment, Jesus’ statement that “The poor you will always have with you” rings true. There are deep needs in our community, and we have a great opportunity to serve.
In the second half of 2019 the Mercy Committee handled 28 cases: double the previous six months and double the second half of 2018.
We help most (green), turn away a few (red) where we feel we’d be enabling poor patterns, and have a few we’re debating at any given time (gray).
We have some requests that you can help us with:
- For the materially and spiritually impoverished people who approach the church, that:
- Our omnipotent and merciful God would change their hearts and circumstances.
- Their sufferings would produce endurance, character, and hope.
- They would love the Creator and not just the created things.
- They would join a church: ours or another, to foster their spiritual growth.
- That Midway would:
- Be wise and loving in ministering to these needy.
- Honor Jesus by loving our neighbors and making disciples as He commanded.
- Comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God (2 Cor 1:4b).
Step up in engaging with visitors (some of whom visit through the Mercy ministry):
- Sit, eat, and talk with unfamiliar families on Wednesday nights.
- Greet visitors on Sunday mornings.
- Contact Evanda to volunteer to assist.
Missions Committee (Phil Schrock) – Phil Schrock and Patrick Rockholz are hard at work making preparations for this year’s Missions Conference. Save the dates: March 20-22.
Those of you interested in supporting Midway’s mission endeavors are invited to take part in our weekly prayer time: Sunday evenings at 5:15 pm. We utilize this time prior to the evening service to pray for our Midway-supported missionaries as well as other missions needs.
The Missions Committee is readying plans for summer missions trips to Punta Hermosa and Cajamarca, Peru. The trip to Punta Hermosa will be in June. Phil will lead that trip, and Pastor David Barry will lead the trip to Cajamarca. Details will be made available in the next few weeks.
We received word from Pastor Santos Buendia in Peru that they were able to use some of Midway’s donated funds to conduct a Christmas Party for 230 children from Santa Rosa de Alleros, a town in the mountains near Punta Hermosa. The children were served Christmas chocolatada and the panetone (hot chocolate and cake).
We also received an update on funding that was provided to Neih and Ruth, our partners in Yangon, Myanmar. They were able to speak to over 600 children in a prison near Yangon. Some of you have asked about the background of these children. Ruth advised that some have committed crimes, others have run away from home, and some were abandoned by their parents or relatives. Neih and Ruth were able to provide some Christmas goodies for the children and distribute 600 of the Children’s Catechism booklets in Burmese (they ran out). There are 650 children and 40 workers in this prison.
We could use additional donations to print more copies to reach others at the prison and through their children’s ministries in Myanmar. If you are interested in contributing, please contact Phil Schrock.
Some Midway members also contributed funds to purchase playground equipment at the Christian School they run in Yangon. Others contributed to enable members of the church in Yangon to travel to the capital city of Naypyitaw in Myanmar where they distributed 6,000 Bible tracts. There were also contributions received to assist in building a pastor’s quarters and church near Falam, Burma.
The American dollar goes a long way in Myanmar. Some of the Midway funds were also used to help a church and orphanage in Yangon that recently had over 1,000 in attendance at their Christmas program! Myanmar is primarily a Buddhist nation; however, our supported missionaries are making inroads in spreading the Gospel beyond the Christian stronghold of the Northwest.
Be mindful of missions even in our own backyard. Some church members at Midway are active participants in “Good News Club” activities in our own Public Schools in West Cobb, specifically at Still Elementary. There’s an urgent need for male leadership for this local missions outreach. Retirees or other men in the church are encouraged to assist with teaching and oversight. Please contact Phil if you’re interested.
Building and Grounds (Joe Hash) – The Building & Grounds Committee is pleased to have George Taylor on staff as our Facilities Manager! George and Debbie do an amazing job here, and we are so fortunate to have them both serve.
Here are some notable updates to our facilities over the last several months. We:
- Replaced the 40-ton HVAC unit that services the 1987 sanctuary (installed over Christmas break). The old unit was 30 years old and failing.
- Passed our fire marshal fire and safety re-inspection.
- Added a parking light in back of the church to help with lighting at evening services.
- Installed 2 new scoreboards in the gym.
- Converted library lighting to LED (to reduce our energy bills).
We also put together a 10-year facilities maintenance plan to budget for painting, roof replacements, HVAC unit replacements, and parking lot resurfacing.
Lastly, the B&G Chairman provides small Cokes in the small refrigerator off the conference room near the back door for members—just in case you might not be feeling well and need a pick-me-up. Enjoy!
Finally, if you notice any leaks or see something that needs repairing, please contact Joe at email@example.com.
A YEAR IN REVIEW AND CHANGING OF THE GUARD
Even in our diaconate, the new year brings change and renewal. Cliff Miller, who has served faithfully as chairman of the diaconate for several years, is transferring the responsibility to Rick Griffin starting January 1. Rick was unanimously elected by his fellow deacons as the new chairman in December.
As parting chairman, Cliff provides a review of the diaconate’s activities for the year in his letter below:
I am so blessed to have served as the Chairman of the Diaconate of Midway Presbyterian Church in 2019. The gifts and talents of these men has been amazing. Their commitment to serving and love for the Lord have been the foundation and strength of our Diaconate. The diversity of skills in one small group is incredible.
Phil Schrock has traveled the world leading many mission trips. Evanda Remington and Sammy Mitchell’s heart for serving the less fortunate in our Mercy ministry has truly been a gift to all they have encountered. Simple acts of service such as a home repair for a widow may go unnoticed to many, but I have had the privilege of seeing many of these priceless deeds fulfilled this year. Brian Washington has served faithfully in helping on many such projects.
Bringing their gifts in computer science, Chris Vincenzi and Patrick Rockholz have been diligently working on our church IT infrastructure. John Livingston has used his engineering talents to help forecast our long-term maintenance needs. The recent replacement of a large A/C unit on the east side of our campus was the result of a cost analysis by John and the faithful planning of the Finance Committee members to make sure that the work of Midway’s ministry is not interrupted. Joe Hash has worked with the Building and Grounds Committee to ensure a safe and beautiful facility.
Ryan Zumbrum and Jimmy Cooper have served on several committees related to our insurance and safety policies. You may not have been counting, but this year we had seven weddings, and a deacon was serving at every one to make the bride’s special day a little less stressful.
Brian Adams served in getting Trail Life started to offer many young men an alternative to the Boy Scouts. Greg Kistner has served faithfully giving good counsel and advice.
Brady Pritchett has faithfully served as Chairman of our Worship Committee, which handles the weekly diaconate and usher schedule and the preparation for big events such as the Reformation Worship Conference.
Lastly, Rick Griffin has served as the Secretary and Vice Chairman of our Diaconate. In 2020, Rick will become the new Chairman, and I know that the Lord will use him to lead the Diaconate in many acts of service in the ministry of our church.
We are all blessed to serve here at Midway Presbyterian Church.
Cliff Miller, Chairman Emeritus
Cliff remains on the diaconate and continues to serve. He remains a source of experience and wisdom for the diaconate, and we have been blessed by his leadership and by his continued service.
Speaking about those in need, Jesus said “Truly I say to you, what you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine”—whether you fed the hungry, clothed the naked, cared for the sick, or visited those in prison— “you did it for me” (Mat. 25:35-36).
If you would like to help or volunteer your time with Mercy cases, Missions work, or in any other way, then please contact Evanda (firstname.lastname@example.org / 678-421-4555), Phil (email@example.com), or any of us.
May the Lord bless you and your family richly in this new year.
Deacon John Livingston, Editor