We at Servant Quarters, along with you and our country, not only suffer the pangs of our unbelievable loss, but also feel the direct effects of the reeling economy and intense security reactions. My fingers rest helplessly at the keyboard waiting for the command to write something eloquent or comforting. I gladly yield to a greater writer and include his thoughts in this issue. -Gayle Erwin
Four thousand gathered for mid-day prayer in a downtown cathedral. A New York City church, filled and emptied six times last Tuesday. The owner of a Manhattan tennis shoe store threw open his doors and gave running shoes to those fleeing the towers. People stood in lines to give blood, in hospitals to treat the sick, in sanctuaries to pray for the wounded.
America was different this week. We wept for people we did not know. We sent money to families we've never seen. Talk-show hosts read scriptures, journalists printed prayers. Our focus shifted from fashion hemlines and box scores to orphans and widows and the future of the world.
We were different this week. Republicans stood next to Democrats. Catholics prayed with Jews. Skin color was covered by the ash of burning towers. This is a different country than it was a week ago.
We're not as self-centered as we were. We're not as self-reliant as we were. Hands are out. Knees are bent. This is not normal. And I have to ask the question, "Do we want to go back to normal?"
Are we being given a glimpse of a new way of life? Are we, as a nation, being reminded that the enemy is not each other and the power is not in ourselves and the future is not in our bank accounts? Could this unselfish prayerfulness be the way God intended for us to live all along? Maybe this, in his eyes, is the way we are called to live. And perhaps the best response to this tragedy is to refuse to go back to normal.
Perhaps the best response is to follow the example of Tom Burnet. He was a passenger of Flight 93. Minutes before the plane crashed in the fields of Pennsylvania he reached his wife by cell phone. "We're all going to die," he told her, "but there are three of us who are going to do something about it."
We can do something about it as well. We can resolve to care more. We can resolve to pray more. And we can resolve that, God being our helper, we'll never go back to normal again.
— Max Lucado
On September 11, the airlines shut down. Much of commerce shut down. The stock market shut down. Sports events shut down.
However, the churches opened. Can't help but think of Hebrews 12:26-29. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, "Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens." The words "once more" indicate the removing of what can be shaken-that is, created things-so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our "God is a consuming fire."
As I see it, everything has been shaken but our faith. There is a lot of "looking up" going on.
Servant Quarters, Vol. 21 #4
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You may be surprised to learn that the last issue of Servant Quarters in which I proposed a new national anthem brought a large response-some for friendly discussion, one to accuse me of treason, and most just to assert my ignorance. I always plead guilty to ignorance, especially since grammar school marked the last time I saw all the verses of The Star Spangled Banner.
However, the events of September brought our deep to the surface. Even our Congress broke into God Bless America. Flags waved on every street and on every marquee was written, "God Bless America."
So, I suggest (and this is the last of this discussion) that we sing God Bless America as the first verse of our national anthem and the last verse of our current anthem (if you can remember it) as the second verse. (Smile) I leave this subject with the last verse of our national anthem and a quote from USA Today the week of September 24, 2001:
Oh! Thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, for our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner forever shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
Within moments, as they realized what was happening, the several thousand parents, students and other spectators were on their feet. Hats held over hearts. Talk of kids put on hold. In their own way, standing with their country.
Our daughter began to see her inability to cope with her sinful self in her final year of college and decided that she must move towards God. Thus she went to Australia, to a training base to seek God. These are the background circumstances preceding her climbing a tree, falling and breaking her back. Not really your extreme sport.
We are devastated. For us, there is simply the further agony of reconciling the fall with faith, feeling deserted. The fall from the tree seems so graceless in its results that I feel it is out of character with God. I could be wrong, of course, but it seems weird-it is the opposite of the way He has dealt with me, graciously covering me at every turn.
So, bottom line, with my mind I can see no graceful scenario with our daughter except healing. Nor can I see that it is disrespectful to feel this way, rather the opposite-it seems disrespectful to God to believe that He will not heal her after her tender reaching out to Him and her innocent fall. As you can see, this puts me way out on a limb. I fear that I will not really be able to speak for God in the future if she is not healed. I will still have faith, but it will be a fall back sort of faith, not vibrant, but unsure, based on not knowing His character as I thought I did.
Now, I don't have very much faith, never have. But I thought I had faith in His character of grace. I feel set like an adamant stone, hardened. Do you have anything to say?
I don't know if you remember any of my own story. My father, a successful pastor, a man of great faith, was disabled in an airplane accident when he was only 29 years old. I was six.
This plunged our family into deep poverty for 12 years and then only being "poor" after that.
No, we didn't understand why that happened, but we leaned on our faith in God for healing. I don't believe that I have ever exercised as much faith for healing as I did in praying for my dad. Every famous name in America who prayed for the sick laid hands on him. He was not healed. I began to understand that I didn't understand healing.
My conclusion was to obey God and pray for the sick and accept that after praying, the ball was in God's court. Many I thought shouldn't be healed were. Others I thought should be, weren't. But, in our distress, we clung ferociously to the goodness of God and witnessed miracles during that time that I could not have seen any other way. In fact, this injury and subsequent hardship benefited my life in many ways that I could not have understood at the time.
Only hindsight (which they say is "twenty-twenty") revealed some of the great good that came out of this. I can truly look back with gratitude. I wouldn't take a billion dollars for the experience nor would I want to repeat it. Our belief in the goodness of God never weakened, though I fail in explaining all the why's. We willingly accepted the fact that some things resided outside our understanding. I am encouraged and amused by the fact that God never gave Job an answer for his suffering. Ultimately, I have been able to see that God was actually protecting my faith although I might have thought he was testing it. The surrounding stories would be a book.
So, you have the right to grieve. Know that God is touched by your grief. Tough things do happen to God's people; however, God has a way of redeeming everything. I don't know what He is going to do in your situation, but I do know where He is!
Your wild range of feelings and thoughts simply probe the boundaries of God's care and are covered by His compassion.
At the same time, I will be praying for two things: First, that your daughter will be healed; second, that while you go through this valley of weeping (Baca) you might dig a well or two to give drink to others who might be coming that same route.Blessings,
This is the last issue of Servant Quarters for this year, 2001, so this becomes the Christmas issue also. Perhaps this will be a different Christmas from any we remember. Regardless, we regret that we approach Christmas in such somber reflection. We at Servant Quarters, Gayle and Ada Erwin, Dave and Audrey Bjur, Clyde Erwin, Dion and Mercedes King, Joe and Lynn Warren, Barbara Eshoo and Barbara Bartlett, pray that His light will ease your path and fill you with joy and gratitude.
September 15, 2001
I have finally found a few moments to sit down and let you all know what has happened since the attack.
At first it appeared as though a number from our fellowship were lost in this tragedy, but to my knowledge now everyone is accounted for here at the church. The stories of those spared from the church are amazing-some missed work because they were sick or decided not to come in for some reason, others were running late, others were called to meetings elsewhere, and still another in the fellowship explains his harrowing escape from Building Two of the WTC.
Nevertheless, there are a few in our fellowship who lost loved ones or have near and dear friends who have lost loved ones. Pray for them as they experience this unspeakable loss and try to encourage those who have lost ones.
From the beginning I have felt that our primary role in this time of crisis was to comfort people in our fellowship. To that end we have set up regular prayer times, and will have staff, elders, and leaders available 16 hours a day to pray with, counsel, and otherwise assist those in need.
In addition, the home groups from the fellowship will be serving as key bases of operation to reach the community. Already we have accounts from some who are reaching out to their neighborhoods with boldness, giving them the truth of the Gospel. Praise the Lord, people are responding. Homes are being opened just to invite their neighbors to pray and people are flooding in.
Before this tragedy occurred, we already had invited a brother from Israel, a tour guide and former captain of the Israeli Army, Amir Tsarfati, to join me on Tuesday as I filled in for the host of a Christian radio talk program on WMCA. After hearing of the tragedy, we contacted the station and they were thankful that we were still willing to come and encourage the listening audience, if only we could get up to the station in north Jersey with all of the traffic blockades and chaos.
Going up to the station on the NJ Turnpike, we viewed the smoke rising from the city after the collapse of the Towers. It was numbing-like a dream in which one eagerly hopes to awake. I wondered about God allowing this tragedy to this extent. Blocked by the closure of I-95 by Newark Airport, we made our way via side roads to the station in time to pray with the staff, field calls, and share the Word of God.
Then the real involvement began. The night of the attack, we had an emergency prayer meeting at the church and hundreds came out to seek the Lord's will for the nation and for those affected by the tragedy. We shared from Daniel's prayer in Daniel 8 and prayed. On Wednesday night we had more people crowd into our building than we ever saw for any event ever. After an extended time of prayer, Amir Tsarfati, our guest speaker from Israel, shared on "Will there be peace in Israel (and peace over all) and how these events fit into the hatred for God's people." I also shared on 1 Chronicles 6-7 about Solomon's prayer that "if ever there was a time that we need as Christians to seek His face and turn from our wicked ways it is now." We gave an altar call, and, praise the Lord, more young people and backsliders responded than we could fit into our follow-up room. The fields are truly white for the harvest.
On Thursday, we got an open door to help the American Red Cross load some commuter ferries with all sorts of supplies, and then we hitched a ride into Manhattan. We caught a cab and using our pastor credentials were permitted below 23rd Street where thousands lined the streets and cheered for the rescue and relief crews.
Literally thousands of people were trying to get down to the site to help, but officials were not allowing anyone anymore. Then as we approached 14th street our cab was stopped once again because vehicles that were not directly involved in the rescue were refused access. We told officials that we were pastors needing to get in to encourage the rescue team, so they promised us a ride if we were to wait by the side of the road. A few moments later, they directed a van of medical personnel to pick us up. We prayed with the medical team and were stopped once again after 10 blocks to confirm there were no press members aboard. We were confused with the medical team, though I did offer that we were clergy (I dislike that name, but it works).
We were later let off about four hundred yards from the site of disaster. Here we passed another checkpoint with our newly made friends on the medical team and went right in to what is known as Ground Zero, where the Towers once stood. What an experience. We were directed to a school used as a makeshift medical unit and there we sought to encourage the workers. Because there was concern about the weakening of the American Express Building and the Millennium Hotel, the relief efforts were slowed somewhat.
The people of New Jersey and New York have responded incredibly to the need. Ample supplies were available. In fact after observing all the bases covered at Ground Zero, we felt it was not the place we could be of most help, so we left for the Armory where the families of victims were there awaiting word of their loved ones. Governor Pataki just finished addressing them when we arrived and we signed up as volunteer chaplains. Since it was late and they again had many volunteers available, we were asked to be available at another time.
Now the word is that officials are not in need of any volunteers at the site and will not allow any others to go who are not directly part of the chain of command.
All of next week we will be having meetings each night to mobilize over 100 groups in the church to reach out to their neighbors and to provide comfort, encouragement, and supplies as needed. We have over 200 women in the fellowship making meals and freezing them for the various families who will be preparing for loved ones' memorial services and other arrangements. If teams come from other parts of the country to evangelize, counsel, and encourage, we are ready to provide them with hospitality through the home groups, etc. The most important thing for all of us to remember at this time is that this temporal tragedy has opened a door to affect the eternal destiny of many.
Right now, we do not know what the weekend services will hold for us. Pray! We are already packed as a fellowship, and we may need to add two more services on top of the four weekend ones we currently hold.
As for other plans, many doors have been opened through Calvary Distribution for publishers to donate Bibles and other materials to be used in this relief effort. There may be a possibility for a large-scale memorial service, and we ask that you pray for the Lord's direction in that regard. We have some contacts to see if such a memorial service is feasible, and we want to make sure it will be unashamedly Christian. It saddens me that this event is being used to further push an ecumenical mentality.
People are getting the vision. Backsliders are coming back to the Lord. We pray that this is lasting devotion, as opposed to an emotional response, which, like the morning dew, dissipates with the coming of warmer, sunnier weather. (Hosea 6:4)
Calvary Chapel, Old Bridge, NJ
A revival could begin in India on November 4, 2001. 300 million Dalits (low-caste "untouchables") are on the verge of turning to the Christian faith.
Over the past few months, high level leaders representing no less than 300 million Dalits have been in dialogue with the All India Christian Council.
Their simple request was "The only way for our people to find freedom from 3,000 years of slavery is to quit Hinduism and Castism and embrace another faith. Christianity offers hope for us. We would be happy if our people would become Christians. Can you help us?"
This mass exodus begins on November 4, 2001. At this time, one million low-caste Dalits are expected to meet in Delhi, India for a mass conversion event to Buddhism. Originally, these Dalits were to be asked to convert only to Buddhism. Now, by God's grace, the option of finding freedom in Christ will also be presented on November 4th, 2001. PRAYSome of you are aware that I am on the Board of Gospel for Asia. I am watching and praying as this awesome event unfolds.
FOR YOUR FURTHER INFORMATION
Since this is after November 4 and many of you have asked, here is an update from Gospel for Asia for the important information above.
The Gateway is Open!
In the past weeks and months, the date of November 4, 2001 held an event that was the focus of much prayer and petition. Up to a million Dalits ("untouchables") were expected to gather in Delhi, India on that day, declaring their exodus from more than 3,000 years of slavery in the caste system and expressing their desire to convert to a different faith.
We asked God for this event to become a "gateway" for us to share the love of Christ with the 300 million Dalits of this great nation … and God has done just that! (We wish we could tell you more details of how God is leading. But for the sake of our workers on the field and so as not to hurt the possibilities before us, we have to restrain from going into great detail. We are dealing on a daily basis with many obstacles and opposition but, whenever it is possible, we will share information with you concerning this event and it's impact. Keep praying!)
How it Began
The rally originated with Ram Raj, a Dalit leader who has been working for years to bring his people out of the bondage of the caste system. Following the example of his predecessor, Dr. Ambedkar, who, along with tens of thousands of Dalits, converted to Buddhism in 1956, Ram Raj's initial plan was to conduct a ceremony in which a million Dalits would do the same. But his primary goal was to make a statement to the nation that the Dalit people had the freedom to choose any faith they wanted … Christianity included.
This was not a Christian convention per se. In fact, Ram Raj himself publicly affirmed his own conversion to Buddhism by means of a special ceremony that was conducted during the rally. Addressing all the Dalits of India, he spoke with much fervor and conviction, saying, "Get out of casteism! All human beings are equal … go on and convert to any faith of your choice." Then he shouted, "Let my people go!"
He then spoke at length about the love and support he had received from the Church in India, and how the body of Christ supported freedom of choice for the Dalits. He asked the Christian community to continue to help them in every way possible.There was applause as he shared about the solidarity that Christians had pledged to the Dalits. "Thank You for Opening Your Heart to Us"
GFA President K.P.Yohannan and Joseph D'Souza, President of the All India Christian Council, were the only Christian leaders allowed to speak to the people gathered. (Portions of their messages will be available soon.)
Introducing Brother K.P. Yohannan to the crowd, Ram Raj spoke very kindly and expressed his appreciation for Gospel for Asia's promise to establish 200 primary schools for Dalit children. Illiteracy is a major problem among the Dalits, with up to 90 percent of the population in some areas unable to read
Speaking for the body of Christ as a whole, Brother K.P. addressed the Dalit people as he would his own family: "My precious brothers and sisters, I come to you today speaking on behalf of Christ, His love, and His mercy for us all. Jesus came to set the captives free. And He Himself said that whoever the Son sets free is free indeed … This is the day, the gateway [to that freedom] … Please remember, we love you with Christ's love, unconditionally and always."
The Dalit delegates responded very positively to Brother K.P.'s message. The Dalit leaders especially expressed their gratitude for the openness of the Church in inviting them to be a part of God's family. After his speech, one key national Dalit leader approached Brother K.P. with a firm handshake, saying, "Thank you for opening your heart to us. We are one."
The People Still Came
The days leading up to November 4 were filled with much tension. Fearing that this primarily Buddhist ceremony might be only a smokescreen for a Christian conversion event, religious fundamentalists did everything they could to prevent the rally from happening. Although government permission had been given for the use of a certain stadium for the million-person gathering, that permission was revoked only days prior to the event
Also, in an effort to prevent Dalits from coming, all sorts of false information was circulated through posters, radio and television, announcing that the rally had been cancelled.In addition, police stopped hundreds of buses coming into Delhi, and there were also reports of large numbers of people being detained at the railway station. But the people still came.An alternate location was chosen for the meeting, and soon a crowd of 100,000 Dalits packed the compound, with thousands more standing outside.
There were about 3,000 media representatives at the event, both local and international. Anti-Christian groups initially downplayed the rally and stated the number in attendance as between 3,000 and 20,000. However, two separate local television stations both reported that at least 100,000 Dalits were at the rally; and a local newspaper carried a police statement the following morning with the same facts.
For the First Time in History
For the first time in the history of the nation of India, people are becoming aware of the fact that 300 million Dalits are seeking liberation and new life through any faith of their choice. The nation as a whole is realizing that these people have the freedom to choose-and they will.
Another milestone occurred at this rally: The entire church body of India, representing all denominations and mission organizations, declared their solidarity with the Dalit community. What this has done is to open a gateway for 300 million people to experience the love of Christ for the first time in their lives.
Please continue to pray for the Dalits in the days to come. The rally on November 4 was only the beginning of something that will continue in the months and years ahead. Most of the key Dalit leaders from all over India were present to hear the message of Jesus' love and the openness of the Christian community toward them. Pray that these leaders will now share this message in their communities with their own people.And please pray for for the nation of India, the largest democracy in the world, a nation of wonderful people. God loves India, and we thank Him for the government leaders there whom He has appointed according to His plan and purpose. Please pray for the President of India, Mr. K.R. Narayan; for Prime Minister Vajpayee; and for Home Minister L.K. Advani; that God may bless them and this great nation.
Thank you for praying! God has answered in a way that is more than we hoped for. November 4th, 2001 was the gateway for many wonderful things to come -- changed lives, miracles and souls that no man can count coming into the Kingdom... it is only the beginning. Let us trust God that the gateway to share the love of Jesus with the Dalits will remain open until all have heard His name.
-Gospel for Asia
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