Dr. Manon and I had the privilege of traveling to Shanghai, China in September. We had the opportunity to officiate over a graduation commencement and an ordination service. What a wonderful privilege and honor it was for both of us to speak at the ceremony and to minister to the churches! The dedication and sacrifice of the Chinese people is awe -inspiring to say the least.
It was necessary for us to move the location of the ceremony three times just to stay ahead of the officials and police. We had to remain obscure at times as to not draw attention to ourselves before the graduation. The police had said they were looking for foreign nationals and would immediately arrest us. We were unable to secure a venue until 11:00 p.m. Friday evening, when the graduation was scheduled for 9:00 a.m. Saturday morning. However, about 300 people showed up, no police, and they were praising God until 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon! Praise God!
Five years ago a young Vietnamese university professor, Dr. Joshua Doung and his wife Dr. Mary, also a university professor who is Chinese, went to China and started a tremendous work. In five years he has learned to read, write, and speak Chinese fluently. They now have over 1,000.00 students across the country with approximately 300 in the Shanghai area. He resigned his position at the university having been offered his Ph.D. and tenure there to enter ministry full time. They have paid a tremendous price and face persecution and imprisonment on a daily basis, but yet they carry on in the name of Jesus and the power of the Holy Ghost.
We had 67 graduates with Masters and B.A. Degrees from Agape International Seminary which is now a Vision affiliate. We also ordained 59 pastors into Harvest International. We have never witnessed a more emotional service than we did in Shanghai. All of the graduates and ministers had tears streaming down their cheeks in gratitude to God for such an honor.
Last year we traveled to Vietnam and Cambodia where we ordained many new ministers with Bishop Paul Ai. One of them being a four star general and personal advisor to the last two kings. We also ordained the wife of the President of the University of Laos where we will be traveling in the summer of 2015. Each year for the past three years we have attempted to go to Laos and establish the campus and ministry, but it has been too dangerous for us. But thank God, a four star general of Cambodia is going to accompany us personally and the government officials there are his friends. We are also scheduled in Burma.
We conducted a graduation last year in Saigon for Dr. Joshua and had a wonderful time. We did not sense the restrictions we have been through before to hide from the police, it was very open with caps and gowns and as lot of outside photos. We then went to Hanoi to minister. It was much more restricted, the churches are very persecuted.
God willing, we will travel to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos next summer and continue the work that has proven so fruitful the last four years, “bringing the whole word to southeast Asia!”
We have also been invited to be speakers in Hong Kong in 2016 with an anticipated attendance of over 50,000 people. Please continue to pray for Southeast Asia and China. And all of the dedicated soldiers of the cross which are on the front lines every day of their lives.
Bishop Randolph Gurley Chairman of Board of Regents and Dr. Manon Gurley
By Dr. Stan DeKoven
I have but a few traditions that I adhere to traditionally. As with most traditions, they provide meaning to the one holding them, and are not always logical, sometimes merely sentimental. Further, some traditions are for a season or a generation, and some last from generation to generation.
How Do Christmas Traditions Begin?
While I cannot speak for other families, I can speak for my own. The DeKoven family has a tradition that has lasted for two full generations. The tradition began with my parents. I wasn’t even a twinkle in my parent’s eyes yet on Christmas Eve, 1951. In so many ways, it was the grayest of days. This Christmas would be different, or so my parents hoped beyond hope.
A Brief Perspective
My parents, Ron and Louise DeKoven, along with my sister, Rhonna, who was only two at the time, found themselves in a sleepy little town on the Oregon coast. Steeped in pastoral beauty, they thought it would be the perfect place to celebrate Christmas. Christmas can be problematic for many, even under the best of circumstances. Memories both pleasant and desperate abounded for both. Indeed, Christmas is not always the happiest day of the year. For example, divorced parents may experience anxiety or even disappointment during the holidays. Promises are made but rarely kept. Or they are present for the holiday, but without the true expression of sincere love. Meals devoid of genuine affection rob the delight of the season. What started out as a very disappointing Christmas for my folks, as you will see, turned to the good.
Back to the Story
The news my parents received was devastating beyond comprehension. As a junior enlisted man in the American Navy, my father’s paltry paycheck was not worth mentioning. For some unknown bureaucratic reason, the little check they expected wouldn’t arrive until after the first of the year. My parent’s life had seen many rough spots, but this seemed to be an all-time low. The heart rendering thought of having no Christmas became a disparaging reality for this new family. The situation became even more desperate as Christmas approached. The food supply had diminished and the cupboards were nearly bare. My parents own version of the story tells it best.
“I went to the cupboard, hoping to find at least something that symbolized Christmas,” my mom stated with a sense of deep resignation and disappointment in her voice. “The cupboards were bare except for some cookies, cocoa and milk. Not much; it was all we had.” My dad continued, “My hurt and sense of inadequacy, combined with feelings of hopelessness, were immense. In some sense this trifling bit of sustenance was like a ‘last supper’, or like the flour and water of the Shunammite woman.”
Though not particularly religious at the time, my parents still had a firm belief in a good God. It just seemed right to them to do something “religious” for Christmas.
“So we decided to have a birthday party for Jesus.”
My mom made hot cocoa and put out the cookies. My father lit a candle. My sister, mom and dad sang Happy Birthday to Jesus. As they sang, their tears of sadness began to turn to hope.
Somehow, in the midst of this humble little song to the Lord, they sensed a presence of peace, unlike either had experienced before. What had begun as the worst of days had ended with hope! God, wherever he might be, both understood and cared.
Each Christmas eve, my family gathers again to celebrate the wondrous birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. There will be the normal business of the season, and anticipation of friendship, goodies, presents and the like. Yet, before we proceed too far, the family will bring out the cookies, hot chocolate and the candles.
Since we are all Christians now, we pray, read Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus, and finally we sing Happy Birthday to our Jesus. As usual there will be little said, but the tears of joy will be felt by all. We will remember. The tradition that was established so many years ago, and repeated every year since, is a continued proof to us all that Jesus is truly the Christ. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is still with us no matter how desperate our circumstances, or how hopeless our lot seems to be. “Becoming poor, he became rich, that we who are poor in spirit may become rich through His marvelous grace.”
This article will also be appearing in Faith Filled Family Magazine December 15th.