Announcements for January 28, 2016
How to Send Funds to Southern Africa
From Jim Franks: Last summer we made an announcement about the food shortages in Zimbabwe. The shortages have continued and are now also affecting the neighboring countries of Malawi and Zambia. The Church has been providing emergency assistance funds for the members in all three countries by sending it to South Africa for distribution. Some members have chosen to send funds directly to South Africa; and in some cases, directly to the other countries. Below is an update from Neil Becker, who oversees the Church’s finances in South Africa:
Banks in South Africa have to report to SARS (South African government) on all incoming funds from overseas countries. We at COGSA have a standing signed agreement with Nedbank that incoming funds from our HQ in the U.S.A. are a regular monthly subsidy, and Nedbank processes such funds each month without my having to complete and sign any further official forms.
I suggest that your contacts [in the United States] send their donation to COGWA HQ with a request that the funds be added to the next subsidy payment to South Africa. That way, I will not have the hassle of dealing with Nedbank and its Foreign Exchange Department. It was bad enough and of long enough duration (best part of a year!) just getting a standing order OK from Nedbank for our existing monthly subsidy.
As you can see, funds sent by individuals to South Africa or funds sent by individuals to the other three countries create a high level of scrutiny by the government and extensive paperwork for COGWA in these countries. The needs are still present, and it is perfectly fine for members to send funds, but they should not send them directly to South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe or Malawi. Because of government regulations, it is difficult to get access to the funds quickly in such cases.
When it comes to food shortages, we can’t afford to wait weeks or months to access the funds. The Church has increased the emergency assistance that we send to these countries, and we continue to monitor their needs. We would like to ask for your cooperation. In the future:
· Please do not send funds from the U.S. directly to the countries named above.
· If you would like to assist the brethren in these countries, you may send funds to our address in Allen, Texas—either the bank address (where you regularly send your tithes) or the office address (see below). Please label the donations as being for a particular country, or you may label them simply as being for the “international fund.” These funds are used to provide emergency assistance for the brethren in the southern Africa region. You may also make donations online at the COGWA member site, designating them for the “international fund.”
Bank address (same as on tithe envelopes):
P.O. Box 731480
Dallas, TX 75373-1480
P.O. Box 1009
Allen, TX 75013-0017
Thanks for your understanding. COGWA has a history of sending funds from the U.S. to these countries, so there is no issue for us, but when individuals do so on an occasional basis, it can create considerable difficulties for those who must handle the funds on behalf of the Church.
Summary of PCD Activity
From Cecil Maranville: The Personal Correspondence Department wrote 725 replies in the last quarter of 2015. Breaking it down further, there were 185 in October (fall festival month), 246 in November and 294 in December. That is roughly the same as the third quarter’s number of 798. The first quarter total was 829; the second was 836. The complete output for 2015 was 3,188, an average of slightly less than nine per calendar day.
In the fourth quarter, we learned of several people who are now attending church services, having first learned the truth of God from Life, Hope & Truth. They had no prior Church of God contact. That shows that God is blessing our efforts. We have been corresponding this quarter with individuals and congregations in western Tanzania, Nigeria and Kenya. Pastors and missionaries of all types contact us regularly, but we can quickly tell if they are (1) just seeking money from an American church or (2) evangelical Christians who are unaware of how different our faith is from theirs. (Hindus and Muslims also write to us.)
But those with whom we are maintaining extensive correspondence are Sabbath-keepers. (Some are also keeping the festivals.) Potentially, they represent a large number of people in East and West Africa. Even so, it takes time to discern if God is calling them. Language differences are a challenge. Also, most communicate by smartphone! They do not own or have access to laptops, tablets, desktops or printers. So, they are reading articles and writing their emails on a small screen. Their messages are often cryptic, making it a challenge to understand their meaning. Being unable to print copies of articles and booklets is a huge limitation when it’s a church leader or pastor writing to us on behalf of a number of people.
The PCD writers mentor these contacts until they are ready for direct communication with the regional pastor. Essentially, the PCD team “pastors” those whom God might be calling, when they still need to learn spiritual fundamentals. We do the same with contacts from every country, not just Africa. It’s a service both to the people with whom we are corresponding and to our pastors, freeing the ministry to attend to other pastoral duties.
Of course, 13 of our PCD team members are serving in the full-time field ministry! So, they are volunteering some of their time to serve their fellow pastors. But by dispersing the workload among them, no one man has to take too much time to write emails. We also have two office-based ministers on the writing team who are able to take a larger writing workload.
We have gone as far as is possible by email with the pastor of approximately 55 people in Tanzania, and we introduced them to Tim Waddle, the regional pastor. He is planning to visit them soon. Sometimes a face-to-face visit is necessary in order to discern if we are of one mind.
Life, Hope & Truth is so rich in content now that we are able to weave our answers so that we redirect people to the website. The more they search and read there, the more exposure they have to God’s way of life. Few people contacting us have more than a superficial awareness of God’s expectations for Christians. Even the fundamentals are new to them. They just don’t realize it until we “sell” them on their need to read more!
By the way, the website is now a rich resource even for people attending the Church of God. By using the search engine at the top left of lifehopeandtruth.com, they can search by keywords or Bible verses and pull articles on their topic of interest from our library.
Approximately 50 of our replies in the last quarter dealt with people seriously seeking to follow God’s way of life. Some wanted baptism. Some wanted to know how to be forgiven or sought related counsel on repentance. Some wanted to attend church. Some wanted bedrock guidance on building a relationship with God. Several recognized that they did not have the Holy Spirit and wanted to know the way to receive it.
Another large number of our emails were about family and/or marital issues. They included people wanting to resolve marriage issues; people who divorced long ago but want to know if Christ’s teachings mean they are living in adultery; people having serious conflicts with or over their children. The situations involving multiple marriages and children from several spouses are especially complex. A person (none of these mentioned are Church of God attendees) wanted to know about marrying an unbeliever. Another asked about marrying someone who is several decades younger. One wanted to know if the person she had “hooked up” with might be “the one” for her. Others asked if sex outside of marriage is wrong. We dealt with a range of people—from the biblically well-educated to the biblically illiterate.
We answered dozens of questions about specific Bible verses and doctrines. People from a traditional Christian background often mention heaven or hell in the context of their question. Even though that’s not the main topic, it opens the door for us to suggest reading that “might be of interest.” Pastors wrote to us, one wanting copies of our lit to use in his pastoral training program and another wanting to know how to conduct a funeral for a Hindu. The pastor of an evangelical church called us to counsel about personal marital issues.
A third large group of emails went out to encourage people. Some people wrote about their need for employment and/or financial help. Two others were so fearful that they requested help for healing their minds. Some felt hopeless or unforgiven. A pregnant teen asked about her future. One sought counsel on forgiving the murderer of a close relative. Another asked about forgiving a thief who wants to be friends, but hasn’t repaid the stolen money. Many wrote of struggling with health trials. One message was from a former Church of God member who’s been fighting back to the faith from mistakes made. Two were from people wanting help in encouraging terminally ill friends. A person with little education, ADHD and dyslexia somehow found our telephone number and called to ask for guidance. After offering encouragement by phone, we were able to send material via a friend who can read it to the person.
And, then, there were the “unusual” types of question. Is it okay to be a Muslim? Who was Daniel’s father? Are mealworms clean to eat? What the Bible says about shaving. A word count of the KJV. Whether more men than women have demon problems. And, the topper: a person claiming to be the John the Baptist emailed us.