Many Christian groups make it their business to try to cure spiritual blindness. But Eyes of Faith Optical in West Middlesex, Pa., seeks to address spiritual blindness by helping people with their physical eyesight first.
The organization is the first faith-based company to be members of the Opticians Association of America. But their greatest accolade as a company is that they have pledged 10 percent of their gross revenue to children’s charities. They have also partnered with Restoring vision.com to give one pair of free reading glasses to faith- oriented mission groups for every pair sold through their partners.
“There are so many people in developing countries that can’t work or read because they simply can’t see,” says co-founder Jim Schneider. “We can change many lives by giving the gift of sight with Eyes of Faith.”
“This tattoo symbolizes my lifelong commitment to Christ and to give back to the community.”
—Kyle Steven Bonenberger, lead pastor of City Church in Anaheim, Calif., who was among six congregants to have variations of the City church logo tattooed on their arms, shoulders or feet to celebrate the church’s one-year anniversary. the tattoos are an outward statement of their ongoing commitment to their community and church, which has had hundreds of salvations its first year.
Almost everyone loves a good cup of Joe. But not every coffee company promotes love with each bean. The Atlanta–based Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee (LTHC) is not just in the business of producing high-quality java, but also using their brew to bring justice in the name of Christ to Rwanda, where they grow their beans.
“God calls us to engage the good news of the gospel through both word and deed,“ owner Jonathan Golden says. “Eighty percent of the coffee Christians drink at home and at church exploits the people who grow it. We should choose to brew a coffee that matches the message we preach.”
Through a partnership with farmers affected by the Rwandan genocide of 1994, LTHC participates in “community trade”—paying above-market wages to workers—in an industry where exploitation is common practice in certain places. They also provide microfinance loans to Rwandans, and they build sustenance farms for the region’s malnourished orphans. All their beans are grown 100 percent naturally. For this company, coffee isn’t just a drink, it’s a symbol of community, healing and justice.
For 10-year-old Alex Chipilipili, walking barefoot meant more than just having dirty feet at night. For someone who’d never worn a pair of shoes until recently, it meant having sores and incessant itching caused by blood-sucking parasites that found a breeding ground in the cracks of his heels and between his toes. “I have been bothering my parents to [see] if they could buy me shoes, but they tell me that they don’t have money,” Alex says.
But one gift to World Vision, a partner of TOMS shoes, changed everything for Alex; his mother, Mary Chipilipili; and his brother after they each received a new pair of shoes.
“It is shameful and heartbreaking to fail to provide for children when they ask for something,” Mary says. “I am really humbled, and today I will sleep with a free mind and joyful heart.”
From the first grade, Marida Lopez was taught to believe that a woman’s only lot in life is to have children and care for her family. But something in Lopez (pictured above) yearned to do more, though she didn’t know how to accomplish it.
Since her first year of school, Lopez has been sponsored by the missions and relief ministry Food for the Hungry. Her sponsor, in addition to financially supporting her, would visit her and share Christ with her. “I became more confident about my uniqueness and what God could do through me,” Lopez says.
Food for the Hungry has helped Lopez complete middle school and eventually become the first person in her family to finish high school. She is now a bilingual teacher of Spanish and Pokomchi, her native language.“I am very happy because I have accomplished something that I knew God had planned for me. But I wouldn’t be where I am today without the help of Brad Titus, my sponsor. I have a lot of gratitude and respect for him. Because of his love andgenerosity, I too can be an example of courage and hope to many young people in my community.”
Chris Young’s trailer was in disrepair before heavy rains saturated Windsor, N.C., in September. So when the river near his trailer overflowed into his home, his only source of shelter became completely unlivable—until Samaritan’s Purse disaster relief team stepped in to help with repairs. The Red Cross also contributed by donating enough money to buy Young (pictured left) and his family a new bed, microwave, space heater and linens.
Seeing the change in Young was remarkable, says Todd Taylor, who headed the compassionate effort in Windsor. “When he came in Friday morning he was weeping and very emotional. He did not have a place to stay and [had] no hope. Chris knows the Lord, and as we discussed what we could do, all he would say was he knew the Lord would make a way. He is so excited and his faith in the Lord’s provision is so incredibly strong and unwavering [now].”
For one couple, giving to those in need changed not only their lives but also the makeup of their family—and the course of their ministry. In August 1989, missionaries Charlie and Cathy Milbrodt heard of twin-boy infants who had miraculously escaped death. After traveling deep into the jungle of the Golden Triangle region of Thailand, they purchased the boys—who weighed 4 and 5 pounds and were filled with infection—for a mere $4.
The Milbrodts set out in search of a home for the babies but soon realized that God’s plan for them was to raise the boys and start a children’s home for other unwanted young people. It wasn’t long after the twins’ birth that the Milbrodts launched Abundant Life Children’s Home, which after 20 years is still providing clothing, food, shelter, medical support and an education to the “unloved” children of Thailand. The Milbrodt twins, now in college, have plans to graduate school and return to Thailand to help their parents with the ministry.
In an effort to support ministering to Thailand’s “unloved” children, Abundant Life Children’s Home started Mai Tai Coffee with the hope that the coffee business would fully fund the children’s home. Currently at least 500 farmers have become Christians as a result of the ministry and are provided the materials and training to grow coffee. They’re also given above-market prices for the coffee.
The ministry’s leaders say this coffee business has radically transformed the lives of many in Thai villages.
“Through simple coffee cultivation we can fivefold and tenfold their annual income,” says Charlie Milbrodt, founder of Abundant Life Children’s Home. “It has a double purpose, that farmers are committed to tithe to the local church we have built in their village. This causes the churches to become self-supported where we don’t have to pay a pastor to oversee the church anymore.”
Buying coffee to support this ministry could reap endless dividends.
Though Angel Mo grew up in poor conditions, he and his family didn’t neglect his education. But without the support of Food for the Hungry, Mo says he wouldn’t have been able to complete middle school and high school, and become the first in his community to get a university degree. Mo now teaches middle school and encourages his younger siblings to excel, as he was encouraged to.
“I thank Food for the Hungry for all the support and encouragement that I received since I was in grade school. I won’t forget that very crucial moment when a staff read Joshua 1:9 to me: [‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.’] I memorized this passage as a child, and it was the hope that carried me through some very difficult times.”
Just three years ago this month Brock Mealer was trapped under an SUV in a horrific accident that left him paralyzed and took the lives of his father, David, and brother’s girlfriend, Hollis. Doctors gave the then-23-year-old sports fanatic a 1 percent chance to ever walk again. But during the University of Michigan’s football season opener this fall, Mealer beat the odds by walking—assisted only by canes—onto the field to lead the team alongside his brothers Blake (left) and offensive lineman Elliott (right). Before almost 100,000 fans he attributed his miraculous recovery to God by wearing a Wolverines-colored T-shirt that read, “Glory to God. 1 % .”
Jesus called us to live as if we are already dead. Have you discovered the freedom of the crucified life?
One of the primary marks of Christ's life was His continual declaration that He was born to die. He taught His disciples that the avenue to greatness was always found in the willingness to forfeit one's own desires and serve those who are the nearest and often the least in the world's eyes.
The call to partnership in His kingdom was initiated by an invitation to "deny [yourself], and take up [your] cross [an instrument of death], and follow Me" (Mark 8:34-35, NKJV). Such an offer is quite a bit different from the man-centered, need-oriented invitations that permeate the landscape of modern church culture today.
Divine healing is a gift from God, an act of His mercy and grace. Our part is to listen to Him and carry out His Word.·
The most fundamental skill required for healing is openness to the Holy Spirit, emptying oneself and receiving His leading and power. Frequently I encounter people who want a method for healing, a formula they can follow that guarantees them automatic healings. But divine healing is neither automatic nor dependent on our right actions; it is rooted in a relationship with God and the power of His Spirit. Divine healing is a gift from God, an act of His mercy and grace. Our part is to listen to Him and carry out His Word. When I speak of listening to God's voice, I mean developing a practice of communion with the Father in which we are constantly asking, "Lord, what do You want me to do now? How do You want to use me? How should I pray? Whom do You want me to evangelize? Is there someone You want to heal?"
Sometimes the Holy Spirit gives me specific insights about people for whom I am praying. These come as impressions—specific words, pictures in my mind's eye, or physical sensations in my body that correspond to problems in their bodies. These impressions help me know who and what to pray for as well as how to pray. I do not imply that I have an infallible "hotline" to God, and that I always hear His voice and follow His leading. But I am open to God, listening to Him, confident that He wants to lead us to minister to others.
During the years that Jesus walked this earth, He devoted time to teaching His disciples the principles of the kingdom of God, principles that conflict with those of this world. In the Beatitudes, specifically in Matthew 6, Jesus provided the pattern by which each of us is to live as a child of God. That pattern addressed three specific duties of a Christian: giving, praying and fasting.
Jesus said, "When you give" and "When you pray" and "When you fast." He made it clear that fasting, like giving and praying, was a normal part of Christian life. As much attention should be given to fasting as is devoted to giving and to praying.
To my surprise, I've remained single far longer than I ever expected or wanted to. As the years have progressed, I have found myself increasingly challenged by the need for answers to the tough things I was facing. Unfortunately, resources to help me and those like me have been few.
It is good for us to want others in our lives whom we love and who love us. But I have found it difficult, as a single, to sustain the level of relationship with other people I believe God wants me to have.
Various barriers inhibit this, and He wants to remove them. He wants to open the floodgates to abundantly meet the relational needs of singles today.
Through Christ, you can do whatever you need to do in life
On July 2, 1932, in Atlantic City, N.J., a baby boy was born. Six weeks later, a couple adopted the infant, but when he was 5 his mother died. His father moved from state to state looking for work and taking his young son with him. At age 12, the boy landed his first job at a restaurant counter—and loved it. When he was 15, his father wanted to move again, but by then the young man was working at the Hobby House restaurant in Fort Wayne, Ind., and didn’t want to leave his job. So he dropped out of school, moved into the local YMCA and went to work full time.
Several years later, his Hobby House boss offered him an opportunity. The man owned four Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) outlets that were failing. In four years, with hard work and determination, the young man turned the restaurants around financially, sold them back to KFC and received a portion of the profits from the sale. He was once a high school dropout, but now he was a millionaire at age 35.
I have discovered that as we seek the Lord our most difficult periods can be transformed into wonderful breakthroughs into God’s love. For me, one such season occurred during the years 1979 to 1981.
The association of churches with which I was aligned had fallen under spiritual deception. Not only were its core doctrines increasingly seeded with New Age influences, but also immorality crept in, and key leaders began leaving their wives for other women.
For millions of orphaned children in Africa, blankets do more than warm their bodies—they give them hope, reminding them that someone in the world cares for them.
What makes Operation Kid-to-Kid’s “God Loves Me” program even more special is that both the donors and recipients of the blankets are children. “Children learn best by doing, and so this gives them a tangible way to express their love and God’s love to other children,” says spokeswoman Shannon Velasquez.
Tim Thompson should be dead, but God had other plans for him. At only age 6, Thompson almost drowned in a frozen lake. His brother did die—while saving him—and Thompson resented God after this experience.
Aching for his brother’s company, Thompson tried to communicate with him in the afterlife, and got an answer. “I heard a voice coming against God. It sounded like my brother’s voice. We were able to spend time together again,” Thompson says.
In China, nearly 72 million people are denied access to work, education and community, not because of race or gender but because of a disability. Many deaf Chinese turn to deaf-led gangs to find love and acceptance. But Hearts and Hands, a ministry based in Kunming, Yunnan, in southwest China, is working to be advocates for the deaf. Through the ministry the hearing-impaired learn Chinese sign language, as well as how to read, write and learn a trade. They also learn about Christ.
“The deaf Chinese are very open to the gospel because any disability is considered a curse,” says Jane Ramsey, a deaf American who taught English in China for 25 years and joined the ministry in 2004.
After spending a decade doing hand-to-hand combat with satanic forces, I have discovered several symptoms of demonic operation. Some of these indicators can be signs of mental illness, which isn't always the result of demonic attack. But when good psychological care from Christian professionals doesn't result in a cure, it is often possible that the person's symptoms could point to demonic operation.
Drawn from the account of the demoniac of Gadara in Mark 5, the first six symptoms are extreme. The man in that passage was controlled by a legion of demons and had been chained in a cemetery because of his erratic and violent behavior. Other signs of demonic activity may be subtler, but they are no less dangerous and shouldn't be ignored.
1. Incapacity for normal living (see Mark 5:1-5). The actions of legion made him unsuitable for normal social interaction with friends and family. An unusual desire for solitude, accompanied by a deep loneliness, will often set in. The person will often become very passive with no desire to change.
2. Extreme behavior (see Mark 5:4). An explosive temper and extreme uncontrollable anger could be signs of demonic activity. These are dangerous behaviors that control the individual and affect surrounding loved ones.
3. Personality changes (see Mark 5:9,12). Changes in personality, extreme or mild, may be evidence of demonic activity. And though all cases of multiple personality may not be demonic, in most cases demon activity is involved.
4. Restlessness and insomnia (see Mark 5:5). The demoniac cried in the tombs "night and day." He couldn't sleep. Insomnia can be a sign of a physical or spiritual problem. God has gifted His children with sleep (see Ps. 127:2). So when you can't sleep night after night and there is no medical reason, the devil may be tormenting you.
5. A terrible inner anguish (see Mark 5:5). Grief and anguish are normal emotions. Yet persistent unresolved anguish that won't leave after normal therapies of counseling, encouragement and prayer could well be demonic.
6. Self-inflicted injury and suicide. In Mark 5:5, the demonized man was cutting himself. And in Mark 9:14-29, a man's son was both deaf and mute because of a demon, and the evil spirit would often throw the boy into fire and water to destroy him. Demons can cause people to injure themselves and even incite suicide.
7. Unexplained illness. When medical testing produces no physical cause for an illness, then we should look to the mind and spirit for answers. Sometimes illnesses are psychological, and good counseling can result in a cure. Other times the battle is with demons. Luke 13:11-16 tells the story of a "daughter of Abraham" who was afflicted by a "spirit of infirmity." Although she was a child of God, she was tormented by illnesses caused by this class of demons.
8. Addictive behavior. Addiction to alcohol, drugs, sex, food, gambling and other things opens the door to demonic influence and control. I'm not saying demons cause all of these problems. But anything that causes one to be out of control opens that person to infernal control.
9. Abnormal sexual behavior. The spirit of harlotry is mentioned several times in Ezekiel 16:20-51. This spirit infected the nation of Israel with the sins of Sodom and even motivated the people to sacrifice their own children. Homosexuality, adultery, fornication and even infanticide were all inspired by the spirit of harlotry (see Hos. 4:12). And nations and families are sold into spiritual bondage by the witchcraft of this spirit (see Nah. 3:4). When we play around with sexual sin, we open ourselves to this demonic spirit. We must battle this principality that dominates our nation.
10. Defeat, failure and depression in the Christian life. It is Satan's purpose to rob us of the victorious life that is ours in Christ (see 2 Cor. 2:10-14). This symptom is often manifested by an inability to praise and worship, which is a weapon of warfare. In Psalm 106:47, David asks God for salvation so he could "triumph in [God's] praise."
11. Occult involvement and behavior. Occult involvement is clearly a symptom of demonic control. Deuteronomy 18:9-12 catalogs the works of the occult, including child sacrifice, fortune-telling, sorcery and calling up the dead.
12. Speech difficulties. In Matthew 9:32-33, Jesus rebuked a demon, and the mute man was able to speak. Speech difficulties may be physical, emotional or mental, but in some cases they are demonic. Extreme language and cursing also may be prompted by the enemy.
13. Doctrinal error. First Timothy 4:1 warns that in the last days deceiving spirits will teach the doctrines of demons. Today religious cults and charlatans abound. The reason these deceivers draw many people is the power of the demonic that teaches them.
14. Religious legalism. In Galatians 3, the church at Galatia had forsaken a faith ministry that resulted in the miraculous for a law ministry of rules and regulations. Paul classified this error as witchcraft. Some deeply religious people are under the bondage of tradition, man-made rules and outward appearances. Demons thrive in this kind of environment, especially demons of control. Whenever something is substituted for faith in the finished work of Christ, it is a doctrine of demons.
When your priorities are out of order your life is filled with confusion.
My first word of counsel to every leader is drawn from biblical wisdom—"seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matt. 6:33). When a person's priorities are out of order, his life will be filled with confusion and God's given purpose will not be fulfilled.
Confirm your status as a citizen of the kingdom of God by acknowledging His authority over your time, talents, opportunities and treasures. When seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness is top priority, you will be able to experience faithfulness as a steward of God's blessings.
Second, "trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths" (Prov. 3:5-6). It is essential for servant leaders in the kingdom to maintain an ongoing, intimate relationship of trust and obedience to God. Challenging situations tempt us to lean upon our own understanding. Always remember that God has promised to be with us at all times and that He delights in our acknowledging and trusting in Him. The kingdom is His kingdom, and we belong to Him; we are God's responsibility.
God's call to ministry is a call to preparation. It is not a call to success, but a call to faithfulness.
Bishop George McKinney is pastor of St. Stephen's Cathedral Church of God in Christ in San Diego and a member of the denomination's 12-member General Board.