Wednesday, December 21, 2016

'Light to Gentiles’ (Luke 2:32, Acts 9).

Luke 1:78-79 (ESV) … because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.  
Merry Christmas from South Africa 2016

Dear friends,
Zechariah, filled with the Spirit, spoke of the coming of the ultimate sunrise bringing light to those sitting in darkness, guiding into the way of peace. Later Simeon, also filled with the Spirit, would hold the baby Jesus in his arms calling him a light of ‘revelation to Gentiles’ and ‘glory for Israel’ (Luke 2:32).

We pray that you will be filled with the ‘light and peace’ of Jesus this Christmas season. This Christmas is bringing us another transition for in January we’re moving back into a University flat (apartment). We will miss having a spacious house to show hospitality to International students. I won’t miss the yellow jackets (a German invasion), the flies (we’re near a dairy farm) or the squirrel from the roof that recently got into the kitchen. Then there’s watering the garden and cleaning the pool. Yes, we had a pool but keeping it clean and free of frogs is a hassle. We’ll also miss the rental Belgian Shepherd, Maxie that came with the house.

Carol service w/ DK and Kefas.
When I walk with Maxie in the hills not far from the house we pass a house with a large German shepherd. As we pass the house the two dogs bark furiously at each other on either side of the security fence. Somehow this reminds me of the barriers between the various ethnic groups that still remain here in the 'Rainbow Nation’.  America is a different place but when I watch media clips and read Facebook posts somehow I’m reminded of those two dogs growling on either side of a dividing wall.

In South Africa there are Christian churches of every ethnicity but little interaction between them. Unfortunately it seems we in the church are just as divided ourselves. Our ‘story group’ has been working through stories from the Book of Acts and the theme of the ‘one multi-ethnic’ family of Abraham comes up again and again. The stories show how the Holy Spirit powerfully worked to form one unified people of God, the Church. The Spirit was poured out on the Samaritans at the laying on of the Apostle’s hand (Acts 8:14-17) and the Jewish believers were amazed when the Spirit was poured out even on Gentiles in the household of Cornelius the Roman centurion (Acts 10:44-48).
That God wanted one multi-ethnic people of the Messiah really hit home when we discussed the story of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:1-19). While on his way to Damascus Saul was blinded by the light of the glorified Christ.  Then when Ananias placed his hands on Saul he could see again. After being baptized, Saul preached Jesus fearlessly until he had to flee for his life from Damascus through the city wall in a basket. Later Saul joined the Apostles in Jerusalem where he spoke boldly about Jesus until he was forced to flee for his life to Tarsus. We are told that the church (singular) throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened and encouraged by the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:31).  

When Saul, the churches greatest antagonist, fled Jerusalem as a persecuted proponent the church, the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria experienced a time of peace. The one unified church in Judea, Galilee and Samaria is depicted as having the presence and power of the Spirit upon and it grew in numbers (9:31). What a powerful witness of God’s new society they were! They even sold their properties to care for those in need (4:34-35) and they feed their widows daily (Acts 6:1). The one multiethnic people of God showed unity and exhibited charity before the world that Israel’s Messiah was the Lord of all the earth.
Getting to know students from Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and South Korea over the past year has been just a small taste of the one multi-ethnic people of God. Being privileged to hear their diverse perspectives on the ‘Story and stories of God’ has been for us a taste of the ‘light and glory’ that Jesus has and is bringing to the world. Thanks so very much for your prayerful support of the ministry God has given us here in South Africa.
With Love / Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!
Jay, Laura, Clara (11), Katherine (10) and Lauren Stoms (7).

We invite you to partner with us in prayer. To give financially please send donations on behalf of Jay and Laura Stoms to the Africa Christian Training Institute. Your generosity is deeply appreciated. Send a tax-deductible donation in care of Jay and Laura Stoms to: PLEASE SEND SUPPORT TO: 

Africa Christian Training Institute (Stoms Ministry Fund).
P O Box 15621
Panama City FL 32406-5621


Steve Pargman said...

Hi Jay and family. Your thoughts and experiences are great reminders of the unfinished task. Sue and I wish you all a joyful holy-day and a new year marked by obedient cooperation with the Holy Spirit. He will sanctify each of you as you yield your wills to God.

Jay Stoms said...

Hi Steve and Sue. Thank you for your encouraging words. Cooperation and participation with the Spirit is a good reminder as we come into the new year 2017. All His best to you both, stay well and blessing in the new year!