Jan's Newsletters
November 2015: Simple Offerings Bringing the Greatest Gift to Children All Over the World

September 2015: A Call to Prayer

June 2015: Saying Thank You and Saying Farewell

March 2015: Prayer in the "Little" and "Big" Things of Life

February 2015: Daily Opportunities

January 2015: Undaunted

November 2015: Simple Offerings Bringing the Greatest Gift to Children All Over the World

A shoebox — it’s a simple thing. But shoeboxes—113 million in number, and all containing a colorful and child-friendly Gospel storybook—have been used to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with children who are poor, suffering, lonely, sick, homeless, and who live in areas that are dangerous and affected by war and natural disasters. Fueled by the power of prayer, simple shoebox gifts have changed lives in families and communities in 161 countries for the past 22 years.

The volunteer coordinator of Operation Christmas Child in Atlanta sums it up: “Something as simple as a shoebox, it’s a very humble offering, and God can change the life of the person who packs the box, the people who process the box, the child who receives the box, the community where the child lives—God can do all that through really simple offerings.”

Christ Church is once again joining forces with more than 80,000 churches across the United States to pack shoebox gifts that will be used by churches in poor and developing countries to reach children and families with God’s unconditional love and with the good news of the gospel. AJC columnist Patricia Holbrook recently wrote about her family’s participation in Operation Christmas Child for the past decade:

At a time when our society tries to shift our attention from the true meaning of Christmas, I find it important to point my children’s hearts to the truth: We give, because God gave himself for us. We celebrate, because love came down and brought us true hope. And we wish to share it with the world.

The gifts in the shoeboxes are received with exuberant joy and gratitude, but Operation Christmas Child doesn’t end with the delivery of the shoebox gifts. In fact, it is just the beginning. The churches and missions that facilitate the handing out of the boxes have follow-up programs in which they share about Jesus and the love of God with the children and their families. The churches offer a 12-week Bible study and discipleship course called The Greatest Journey which gives an overview of the Gospel and explains how to receive forgiveness and eternal life and become a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ. The course teaches the children to read the Bible and pray and how to share the good news of Jesus with others. The course has a lasting impact upon it participants, who are given New Testament Bibles in their native language upon completion of the course. From a shoebox... to the Bible!

Operation Christmas Child goes to hard-to-reach places, showing God’s love and grace, showing love and concern, and treating strangers like neighbors. With great challenges come great opportunities to share hope, bring help and share God’s love and gospel message with the hopeless, the helpless, the sick and the disadvantaged. Shoeboxes are delivered to children who live in orphanages, landfills, refugee camps, and on the streets; they are delivered to hospitals where children are suffering and dying. In many of these places, children seldom receive gifts, so a surprise shoebox gift is a real treat. Here are a couple of the true “shoebox stories” shared on the Samaritans Purse website:

A girl named Yuri received a shoebox in an orphanage in Honduras at the age of 6:
Everything in my shoebox was special. I really liked the school supplies. Normally in the orphanage we’d receive a notebook and a pencil at the beginning of the year and it had to last an entire year. I was really excited that I had a set of 10 pencils! I also got a notebook as well as toothpaste and a toothbrush. The toothbrush meant a lot because before I had to share my toothbrush with 25 other girls.
The most important thing was the picture and note from the American little girl who sent that shoebox to me. Her note said, “Jesus loves you and I love you too.” At that moment it made a big impact on me, and it continued to for years.

Yuliya received a shoebox at age 9 in a Central Asian country:
When I lifted the lid on my shoebox, the first thing I saw was a stuffed dog. I was filled with exuberant joy! I just remember hugging it. It was my new best friend, my newfound treasure. My second favorite item was bubble gum-flavored toothpaste that came in a pink tube. We didn’t know such a thing existed. We would squeeze out a bit the size of the tip of a match so we could get a little bit of flavor and make it last as long as possible. My friends would line up in our bathroom and my sister and I would squeeze out a tiny amount on their toothbrushes. I think we made it last about two years. The toys were the most important things to me as a 9-year-old but it also stood out that the letter in the box said, “I am praying for you.” As time went on, I realized why. With my shoebox, here was someone I’d never met and never seen, yet she was still praying for me. We became pen pals and she would always close her letters, “I am praying for you.” I always wondered, “Why is she praying for me?” The impact hit me more than seven years later after I became a Christian. She was showing me the love of Christ all along, starting with the shoebox and continuing in her prayers. I still have my stuffed dog 14 years later. That’s a glimpse of how much the shoebox meant to me because it was packed with love and prayer. It wasn’t just any dog. I could tell she specifically chose that dog for me and wanted to use it to communicate God’s love.

Every gift-filled shoebox is a powerful tool for evangelism and discipleship—transforming the lives of children and their families around the world through the Good News of Jesus Christ. Will you be a part of this amazing effort to bring children great joy and give partnering churches the opportunity to share the Gospel?

There are many ways to get involved:

  • Use a Go-box (available at church) or another shoebox to pack gifts, according to the detailed instructions found in the brochures at church or online. Remember to include a check for $7 made out to Samaritans Purse for shipping costs.
  • “Follow your box” - Donate the $7 online, print out your shoebox label and bring your box to church. You will receive an email with information on what country your shoebox is delivered to.
  • “Build a box” online
  • Skip the box, but contribute financially to help underwrite the shipping costs associated with delivering and distributing the shoeboxes.

Shoebox Deadline: Sunday, November 22

One way we can ALL be involved: PRAY! Pray for the children who will receive the shoeboxes and pray for all the volunteers that make the collection, shipping, delivery and distribution of the shoeboxes possible.

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations. (Matthew 28:19)

- Jan Robinson, Director of Children’s Ministries

September 2015: A Call to Prayer

Sinclair Ferguson, a well-known Scottish theologian, says that when visiting a church, he looks for two things:

Is there frequent teaching of God’s Word to the congregation?
Are they devoted to prayer?

Indeed, he has noticed that the least-attended meetings at many churches are those centered on prayer. But prayer is serious business. By the time this article appears in our church newsletter, a new movie will be out called The War Room, which is about the necessity and power of prayer.

There are many verses about prayer in the Bible:

  • Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving. (Colossians 4:2)
  • Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks… (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
  • The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. (James 5:16)
  • Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)

And we have a marvelous example of the importance of setting aside time for prayer in Jesus Himself.

But alas! We are so busy with many demands on our time and energy—so many things to do, tasks to accomplish, carpools to run, laundry to do, meals to cook, etc. Yet, as a book written by Bill Hybels more than 25 years ago—Too Busy Not to Pray—reminds us, we need to make prayer a priority in our lives. We need to take—and make—time to pray.

Corrie ten Boom said, "Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees."

At Christ Church, we have an appointment with the Lord at the beginning of every school year, when we lift up the children and youth of our church and ask for God’s guidance, strength and blessing in their lives. I invite anyone and everyone in our congregation to join together in this meaningful time of serious intercession for the younger generation—from pre-born through college…and beyond. We will meet on Sunday, September 13 during the Sunday School hour from 9:30 – 10:15 a.m. in Room #139. There will be lists available of the children and youth of Christ Church to guide our prayer time—but bring your own list of children (grandchildren?!) within your sphere of influence who you would like to pray for!

And with the refreshing cooler temperatures of the fall upon us and with the beginning of a new school year, may we all renew our commitment to the reading and studying of God’s Word and to prayer!

For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst. (Matthew 18:20)

- Jan Robinson, Director of Children’s Ministries

June 2015: Saying Thank You and Saying Farewell

The month of May seems more like the “end of the year” than December. In May comes the last day of school. Our “Sunday School year” also ends, and in June we go into “summer mode” as families travel for vacation and as children attend camps. For the past nine months, we have been blessed to have many adults be an integral part of making Sunday mornings “happen” in the Children’s Wing of Christ Church. These individuals have spent much time and effort in planning and preparing Sunday School lessons for the children, and have devoted their Sunday mornings to teaching about God and His Word. We say “Thank You!” to Morgan Cressman, Angie Lisenby, Julie Schneider, and Judy Wood for planting and watering the seeds of faith in the youngest of our congregation.

Three members of our congregation comprise a “guitar trio” and come early on Sunday mornings to lead the children in singing for 15 – 20 minutes prior to instruction time. We say “Thank You!” to Meredith Fletcher, Blair Lisenby, and Skip Saunders for helping us start off Sunday mornings with songs of praise to God, and for teaching spiritual truths to the children through music.

Wednesday afternoons during the school year have also been special times of learning about God and His Word at E. Rivers Elementary School in Good News Club. Bible lessons, memory verses, songs, games, and mission stories have all been part of the fun. We say “Thank You!” to all the GNC team members: Peter Buck, Carleton Fuller, Betty Jarrell, Austin Mayfield, Nancy Perry, Mary Pierson, Stephanie Poje, Jan Robinson, Chrissie Wayt, James Wayt, and Karen Wedge. Our behind-the-scenes supporters are Anita Shippen (who graciously hosts our team fellowship lunches/planning meetings) and Camille Davis (our prayer support). We are looking forward to our fifth year of Good News Club at E. Rivers in the fall. We will be switching our club meeting day to Tuesdays. More team members are needed and wanted, so please consider joining us!

On May 9th, we had a year-end cookout for our ten Good News Club “graduates”—5th graders who will be moving on to middle school. We say “Farewell” to them. We will miss their presence and leadership in our club next year, but we know that God has great things in store for them, and that they will make a difference in their schools and communities.

We pray for all of these children—at Christ Church of Atlanta and at E. Rivers Elementary School—to continue to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 2:18)

We thank all the adults who have allowed God to use them this past school year to communicate His message of love and truth to these children.

A final thank you and a final farewell goes to a dear sister in Christ who faithfully and tirelessly served the Christ Church congregation for many years—Anne Carter. Anne was an enthusiastic and experienced teacher, teaching preschoolers for more than 40 years! She loved teaching children about Jesus and she lavished her attention and love on them every Sunday morning. I could always depend on her to be willing and prepared to teach. Three of the children (Divine Anyanwoke, Matthew Robinson and James Wayt--who are now in high school and college!) interviewed Anne eight years ago. Here is a poignant Q & A from that interview, which captures Anne’s spirit of love for the children, obedience to the Lord, and service to her church family:

Q: Why did you volunteer to become a teacher here at church?
A: Because I love children and because I want to obey God when He tells me to teach. Every year when they would ask for teachers, I would pray about it and God would say, “Teach!” He would tell me in my heart that I needed to be part of it. And you can do anything one day a week. I really pray that in heaven I’ll take care of the children. I don’t know what we’ll do, but that’s what I’d like to do.

Well, Anne now knows what they do in heaven, and I’m sure she is playing an active part, surrounded by children! A final thanks to Anne for all the seeds of faith she planted and watered in the hearts and minds of the children of Christ Church! And a final farewell to Anne who lovingly and cheerfully served the Christ Church family with joy!

“Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them;
for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.
Mark 10:14, 16

- Jan Robinson, Director of Children’s Ministries

March 2015: Prayer in the "Little" and "Big" Things of Life

At our weekly Good News Club meetings at E. Rivers, the children have the opportunity to write down their praise and prayer requests, for which the club leaders pray during the week. The prayer requests are varied: asking God for help in school, for their parents getting a job or promotion, for good health for grandparents, for safety, confessing sin (like hitting their little brother!), healing for a family member with cancer, healing for their guinea pig, thanking God for His blessings. Recently, some of the requests have been to pray for one of our leaders who is hospitalized: “make Mr. Carleton be healthy.”

We’ve taught the children that prayer is not a celestial vending machine, but that God is sovereign and answers prayer in various ways (yes, no, wait). We’ve talked about different aspects of prayer with the ACTS acronym (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication).

And we’ve assured the children that they can bring anything—no matter how “little” and no matter how “big”—to the Lord in prayer.

Our missions stories are another way to show and teach about the power of prayer. This semester we are learning about Hudson Taylor, missionary to China in the mid- to late 1800s. We’ve learned that the earnest prayers of his mother and sister for Hudson’s conversion were answered by Hudson’s accepting Jesus as His Savior. We will be talking about how Hudson fully relied on God for every need, taking everything to the Lord in prayer—during his years of preparation for missionary work, during his voyage to China, and during his many years of sharing the Gospel in China amidst tribulation, danger and adversity.

In his autobiography, Hudson tells of an early experience, during his time of medical training in London, when he was totally broke and down to his last coin (a half crown, worth about 60 cents). A man came to Hudson and implored him to come pray for his very sick wife. Hudson agreed and was led to the roughest, poorest part of town, and up to a cramped and dirty room. In the room were five children, all very thin and looking like they were practically starving. And then there was the mother, who was moaning, obviously in pain and quite miserable. She was very thin as well. This family was on the verge of starvation; they obviously needed money to buy some food. But, Hudson himself needed money for his own food and rent. Hudson relates:

It will scarcely seem strange that I was unable to say much to comfort these poor people. I needed comfort myself. I began to tell them, however, that they must not be cast down, that though their circumstances were very distressing, there was a kind and loving Father in Heaven; but something within me said, “You hypocrite, telling these unconverted people about a kind and loving Father in Heaven, and not prepared yourself to trust Him without half a crown!” I was nearly choked.

Hudson proceeded to kneel by the sick woman to pray. He somehow uttered a prayer, but “such a time of conflict came upon me then as I have never experienced before or since.” Hudson arose from his knees, greatly distressed. The man said, “If you can help us, for God’s sake, do!”

Just then the word flashed into my mind, “Give to him that asketh of thee,” and in the word of a King there is power. I put my hand into my pocket, and slowly drawing forth the half crown, gave it to the man.

Immediately joy flooded Hudson’s heart. Hudson walked back to his home—which was just a little room that he rented. He was totally broke, but totally happy. He didn’t know how he was going to pay his bills or pay for food to eat, but he knew he could fully rely on God, trusting God to provide for his needs.

Morning came. The postman arrived with a letter addressed to Hudson. Hudson looked at the letter—he didn’t recognize the handwriting, and the postmark was blurred, so he couldn’t tell where the letter had come from. He opened the envelope. Inside was a folded blank piece of paper, and inside the paper was a pair of kid gloves. As Hudson took the gloves out, something fell out—it was half a sovereign (which was a coin worth about $2.50)! The coin that Hudson had given away the previous night was worth 60 cents. But the coin that Hudson received was worth four times that much.

“Praise the Lord!” he exclaimed.

Hudson had trusted God—and God had provided for his needs in an amazing and totally unexpected way! Not only did God answer Hudson’s prayers for money, but God also answered his prayer for the woman who was dying. She got well! Hudson wrote in his journal:

I cannot tell you how often my mind has recurred to this incident, or all the help it has been to me in circumstances of difficulty in after-life. If we are faithful to God in little things, we shall gain experience and strength that will be helpful to us in the more serious trials of life.

It is encouraging in our own Christian walks to see how God answers the prayers of others—be they missionaries from more than a century ago, or fellow Christians in our everyday lives. May we learn to trust God and fully rely on Him, as we “cast on Him [our] every care.”

And since He bids me seek His face, believe His Word and trust His grace,
I’ll cast on Him my every care, and wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!

- Jan Robinson, Director of Children’s Ministries

February 2015: Daily Opportunities

Something that amazes me when reading about Jesus in the gospels is just how unhurried He is. He always takes the time to talk with people and to minister to their needs. For example, when Jesus and His disciples pass through Samaria, the disciples go into town to get food while Jesus stays by the well on the outskirts of town. A woman comes to get water at the well, and He engages her in conversation. He reveals to the Samaritan woman that He is the Messiah. She rushes into town and brings the townspeople out to meet Jesus. They ask Jesus to stay for a while. And He does—for two days!

There are many other times when Jesus allows Himself to “be interrupted” in order to speak to individuals or address their needs: Jesus goes with Jairus who asks Him to come heal his very sick daughter. Jesus talks with Nicodemus when he comes to visit in the middle of the night. Jesus goes out of His way to call Zacchaeus down from the tree and goes to his house to dine with him. It is not an “interruption” or a “bother” to Jesus when children come to see Him (though the disciples want to shoo them away). Instead of sending the crowd away after a long day of teaching, Jesus suggests that all 5,000 people stick around and eat together. In many instances, large crowds press around Jesus, bringing the lame, crippled, blind, mute and many others—and He heals them. Jesus takes time to carefully instruct and prepare His disciples during the Last Supper on the evening of His arrest. He even takes the time to listen and talk to the criminal who is crucified next to Him! Time and again, we read that Jesus had compassion on the people.

When people “interrupt” Jesus, He doesn’t stop to consult His travel schedule or the agenda for the day. Jesus welcomes interruptions and unplanned meetings. He has time for people—time to listen to them, time to speak with them, time to minister to them. Each and every encounter is an opportunity to show love and concern, to teach, to reveal truth, to share, to help, to encourage.

In our insanely busy and structured lives—with our day-timers, palm pilots, PDAs and other schedule-planning and appointment-reminder devices—I wonder if we sometimes miss opportunities that arise in the course of an ordinary day: to encourage someone who is feeling down, to help someone who is in need of assistance, even just to take the time to speak with a friend or a neighbor which conveys in a powerful way the value that you place on that relationship and your appreciation for that person. I know that when “interruptions” occur in my everyday life, I tend to think: “I don’t have time for that” or “that was not on today’s schedule.” But instead of focusing on what MY plans are for MY day, and what MY way is, perhaps I need to be available for what GOD has planned and have a more accurate view of whose day this really is — “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)

The grandchildren of one of our church parishioners recently taught us a simple prayer, which is a great way to start each day:

“Good morning, God. This is Your day.
I am your child. Show me Your way.”

May we be open to and embrace opportunities to be interrupted and to be used by God in unplanned and unscheduled ways with people we encounter throughout each day, remembering Paul’s words: “While we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” (Galatians 6:10)

- Jan Robinson, Director of Children’s Ministries

January 2015: Undaunted

-- adj. not faltering or hesitating because of fear or discouragement

This is a good description of Jesus when he encounters challenging situations — like 5,000 people to feed with no source of food in sight; or riding in a fishing vessel with his disciples and being tossed about by a storm on the Sea of Galilee; or crowds of sick and crippled people following Him anywhere and everywhere, seeking to be healed.

Massive storms did not dismay Jesus.

Large crowds didn’t overwhelm Jesus or deter Him from ministering to people and meeting their physical needs of hunger or healing.

Jesus did not shy away from these daunting situations.

Most of us can think of daunting situations in which we’ve found ourselves. There seems to be no hope, no way out. Such situations can immobilize us, paralyzed in non-action, because we consider that any action or effort seems ineffective in the face of overwhelming odds. Such could be the case for those who champion the sanctity of human life and who seek to limit abortion-on-demand. And, let’s face it, the numbers are daunting:

  • 56,405,766 babies aborted in the U.S. since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973
  • 1,120,775 babies aborted in the U.S. in 2012
  • 28,036 babies aborted in Georgia in 2012, with Fulton & DeKalb “leading” by county

With such overwhelming statistics, how can we effectively promote the sanctity of human life and stem the tide of abortion?

Stepping into this bleak scene are crisis pregnancy centers like A Beacon of Hope Women’s Clinic of Atlanta (previously called The Pregnancy Center of Decatur). Christ Church has supported the important work of this clinic for several years through our Baby Bottle Boomerang Drive and through our Missions Committee. The clinic is located conveniently on the main thoroughfare of Decatur amid restaurants and shops, and invites women and couples who are dealing with unplanned pregnancies to come in and seek help. With that one gesture of walking in the door, the clinic staff springs into action and goes “all out” to assist the woman who finds herself in a seemingly hopeless situation. The staff extends a warm welcome and gives respectful and kind treatment, offering free pregnancy verification and STI testing, ultrasounds, emotional help and counseling, follow-up phone calls, parenting classes, reduced-cost baby merchandise in their in-house Baby Boutique store, and prayer. All of this goes to show the woman: “We care about you; you are important; your life is valuable. We care about your baby; your baby is important; the life of your baby is valuable. God loves you.”

Suzy Brister, the Clinic Site Director, recalls a recent patient. “Olivia” (name changed) already had a 7-month-old baby and found that she was pregnant again. Olivia felt overwhelmed and was uncertain about her future with the father of this new baby. She came to the clinic seeking information about abortion procedure. After getting an ultrasound, the clinic nurse shared information about what an abortion procedure would involve and presented Olivia with alternative options and information about how the clinic could assist her if she chose to carry the pregnancy to term. The nurse was unable to reach Olivia by phone for follow-up. But several weeks later, Olivia showed up at the clinic, bringing a friend who was in need of a pregnancy test. Olivia shared with the nurse about her decision (made with her boyfriend, the father of the baby) to continue her pregnancy. Suzy comments, “Not only did God change her heart concerning her pregnancy, but she felt so positively about the care she received, she brought her pregnant friend. It will be our great pleasure to continue to follow up and care for her. Our hope is that she will take part in our long-term programming. Praise God for His incredible power, mercy and grace!”

Suzy shares about another couple:

“Samantha” and “Rick” (names changed) came to our clinic to verify their pregnancy. “Samantha” was quite anxious and expressed concerns about the stability of their relationship as well as their finances. After the nurse shared the medical information about all of their choices, “Samantha” became teary. She clearly felt torn about her decision but was leaning towards abortion. “Rick” seemed more optimistic about their ability to parent. With their permission, we prayed for them to have wisdom as they make their decision. They left the Clinic after the appointment with lots of good information, the encouragement to slow down to really think through their decision and a follow up appointment to have an ultrasound.

When they returned for their ultrasound appointment, they seemed much more relaxed. The images on the screen were so clear. “Rick” seemed very excited as he watched his child’s heartbeat, hands, feet and beautifully formed spine on the screen. We spoke afterwards. “Samantha” was leaning towards continuing the pregnancy, but she still seemed hesitant to commit to the decision.

Upon following up later, “Samantha” excitedly shared their decision to continue the pregnancy. She stated that they had shown the ultrasound images to both of their families who embraced this pregnancy and expressed their support. Their little boy is due in early 2015.

As I spoke with “Samantha”, she expressed her appreciation for the services of the clinic. She shared that they had not felt judged in any way. Although not religious people, they said that the prayer brought them a lot of peace. With tears streaming down her face, she shared that she probably would not still be pregnant had they not found A Beacon of Hope.

This is the way A Beacon of Hope operates: Lives Saved, Touched, Changed, One Woman at a Time. It is not unlike how Jesus ministered to people. He touched and changed lives…one person at a time. There was Zaccheus, the Samaritan woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, the widow of Nain, and many others. Jesus made a difference in their lives.

Praise God that the efforts of those working at the Clinic are making a difference in the lives of pregnant women... and in the lives of their babies and their extended families. Praise God that crisis pregnancy centers like A Beacon of Hope are undaunted by the task before them!

Will you be a part of this important and impactful work? You can by participating in our Baby Bottle Boomerang Drive during the month of January (Sanctity of Human Life Month). Funds collected will support A Beacon of Hope Women’s Clinic in reaching the hearts and minds of women (and men), through caring about them in the midst of crisis pregnancies, speaking the truth in love, and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

You can learn more about the center’s work and services by going to www.friendsofbeacon.com.

- Jan Robinson, Director of Children’s Ministries

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