A Matter of Faith – The Pagosa Springs SUN http://www.pagosasun.com The most trusted source for news and information about Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Thu, 23 Jan 2020 21:59:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.5 The residue in my cup http://www.pagosasun.com/the-residue-in-my-cup/ Thu, 23 Jan 2020 22:00:43 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=195846 By Jan Davis
Special to The PREVIEW

Leah studied her favorite coffee cup and sighed. Years ago, she discovered the old mug tucked away on a shelf in one of the local thrift stores. The quote engraved on the outside, “A Cup Half-full,” grabbed her attention and reminded her how she chose to view life. In spite of the circumstances, the simple words encouraged her to find something good in every situation. The cup still looked decent and the words still resonated in her mind. But inside told a different story.
Regardless of how many times she washed this cup, a small deposit of previous coffee breaks persisted. She needed something stronger than soapy water to wash away the stains.
Leah turned to the Word of God, her version of Google when matters of the heart needed answers. How to remove old residue? First, acknowledge the source of the grunge. God’s word supplied more than one answer.
In Leah’s case, spots in her half-filled vessel denoted a marked past. Sediments of offenses, disappointments and pain corroded the inside of her heart. The grime symbolized the dark areas.
The process took time. A quiet time of reflection bathed her heart with the presence of God. As she emptied herself, Jesus bathed her white as snow with his cleansing blood. Through the soothing words of His Holy Spirit, Leah overflowed with God’s joy and peace.
There’s no room for residue in a heart full of love. She reached for her journal. The little book contained proof of God’s faithfulness. Recorded moments, when steam rose from her warm cup of brew, while tears rolled down her cheeks in recognition of deep hurts.
Leah’s preferred cup may be half full, but God revealed a way to guarantee her personal vessel remains full. With her spirit and soul dirt-free and filled with God’s goodness and mercy, Leah slipped out of her cozy chair and headed to the kitchen. A little bleach and water soon had the inside of the cup as clean as the external.
“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” — Isaiah 1:18 (NKJV).
Because of Jesus, our sins are washed away.
I love you but, Jesus loves you more.

Satan’s rant and the God of Heaven http://www.pagosasun.com/satans-rant-and-the-god-of-heaven/ Thu, 16 Jan 2020 22:00:51 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=195500 By Jan Davis
Special to The PREVIEW
“You think you won the war. Big mistake. I’ll make you regret the day you created me,” Satan ranted to no one in particular while the earth trembled beneath his feet.
To his surprise, only one-third of the angelic host bought into his deception. He rallied his troops around him. “We are a vast number and possess great power and skill. Back me and together we will realize the demise of God’s empire.”
The great deceiver slipped into the Garden of Eden and turned his attention to God’s other handiwork, Man. “He loves you too much to ever let you die. Trust me.”
Satan couldn’t believe how simple it was to plant the lie into the mind of man. He chose the sweetest fruit as his deadliest weapon. The woman, easy to persuade because of her predisposition to please, caved first. The man soon followed.
God’s chosen people proved to be a worthy opponent as average men rose to the call of God and lead his people. They built a mighty nation and overcame every obstacle Satan attempted to throw their way. Slavery, persecution and vast enemy armies couldn’t stop them.
“I must find a way to end this thorn in my side. It’s time to focus on God’s only son. Disguised as a man, he tried to weasel his way in and usurp my kingdom.” Satan manipulated the hearts of prominent and arrogant men who convinced the crowd to kill Jesus. “Jealousy is such a persuasive tool.”
“So much for the Son of God.” He smirked as Roman soldiers nailed Jesus to the cross. “It is finished.” He mimicked Jesus’ final words.
“I must retreat for a while and rethink my strategy.” Caught off guard by the resurrection of Jesus, Satan stepped back to contemplate the results of this one action on his long-term goal.
Satan continued to orchestrate his plot with the faithful support of the fallen angels. “With the rapture of God’s church and those wretched Christians out of the way, victory is within reach. The frontal assault is straightforward enough. Time to establish my rightful position as King of the World. The God of Heaven kicked me out of His domain, but mine will exceed his lofty endeavors.” A self-righteous smile spread across his grotesque face and added to his evil personification.
“First order of business … rid the world of His remnant and any traitors who rally to their allegiance. No place for defectors in the greatest monarchy on earth.” Satan began to initiate war against the nation of Israel and the tribulation saints.
“I recruited two individuals with similar personalities. They behave like brothers, poured from the same mold. Both egotistical and prideful, they were easy to influence with the simple idea, It, was all about them. Given stations of importance, they became simple pawns in my bigger scheme.”
Influenced by Satan, the anti-Christ and false prophet rose to prominence in the end-times. Things progressed as planned, but then …
“The victory of the greatest battle ever fought belonged to me. My demons were strong, skillful and ready for revenge.” But once again, God of the Universe and his angelic host proved superior to Satan’s army.
With the two counterfeits cast into the Lake of Fire and Satan bound for a thousand years, peace resided on earth. Jesus ruled from the Throne of David and exercised justice on mankind.
Unable to move about in freedom, Satan ranted, “How dare he chain me up like a slave. He’ll pay for this foolish blunder.”
Once released from the abyss, Satan set out to accomplish his mission. “Humanity is vulnerable to persuasion. All I need to do is offer them their own kingdom.” God’s timetable ended before Satan could complete his scheme.
The heat rises to the point of near suffocation. Fire reaches high into the atmosphere as it draws into its clutches every ounce of air. Brimstone falls to the ground and simmers as hot coals on the dry and crusted ground.
“Pathetic, tormented souls surround me and cry out in pain. I am the ultimate fool. This is my destiny. He won. No one is higher than God.” Satan ranted, but no one listened.
God’s word is true — a real heaven and hell exist. It’s not too late to accept Jesus. Follow Christ into an eternal home created for you in heaven. Say yes to his invitation and sit down at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
“Then the king will say to those on his right, come you who are blessed by my Father; inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”— (Matthew 25:34 (CSB).
“Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.” — Revelation 20:15 (CSB)
Because of Jesus, we have the promise of eternal life.
I love you, but Jesus loves you more.

A prayer for the new year http://www.pagosasun.com/a-prayer-for-the-new-year/ Sat, 11 Jan 2020 12:00:11 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=194645 By Sami Fortin
Special to The PREVIEW
Lord, Prince of peace, spirit and truth:
Let all the world know that even if it all comes crashing down around them, those who are found in my presence will know “All is well.”
Truth is my new word for the coming year. How do I touch the world with truth? How can I make a difference? I feel so small and insignificant and yet you tell me I matter. In fact, you know the number of my days and you can count the hairs on my head and not one thing happens that you don’t know about. You came into this world to call us out of it, not to be recluses, but to show others that you are the truth, the way and the life.
Father, help us to get out of our comfort zones and be in the right place at the right time to encourage one another. May we start this new year flaming into fire the gift you’ve given each of us to do. If we question what that looks like, we miss out on the gift. You’re about doing good and that’s what you want us to do, laying down our lives for others. Give us the strength to do just that. Go the extra mile, not only give our jacket, but our shirt, too. Put a generous heart in your people that they not only give out of their pocket book, but out of their time, also, knowing that we’re covered by you. Grant us a bigger trust in the one who created us to do greater things than this.
Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, let us resolve to follow you more closely, read your word more diligently, be involved with your people that are earnestly working to make your world a better place, by sharing your love and forgiveness. Help us to go out of our way to show kindness, putting others before ourselves.
I don’t have the answers for my neighbor’s problems, but I know you do. Give us the right words, or just a smile or prayer at the right time. Give us a boldness to step out and share the good things you’re doing in our life. You say in your word, “Do not remember the past events, and pay no attention to the things of old. Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:18-19).
Let us walk in expectation of this new thing you’re doing in our life by seeking joy beyond measure, being content in our circumstances; peace that passes understanding, by letting go of past hurts and rejections; love that knows no boundaries, by being kind to those who are hard to love.
Lord, I pray you’d give each of us a new word, one we can hold onto each year. Give us goals we can accomplish in your strength alone showing others the power in your Holy Spirit. It won’t be us, but they will see you.
Help us to hold onto your promises and know (even if we doubt) that you love us and you have plans for us — plans for our welfare, not for disaster, to give us a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11). Make us strong and courageous and careful to obey all the wonderful laws you give us. This is the way to a wonderful life; filled with your spirit. As you make all things new, give us a greater hope that we will see goodness in the land of the living.
In Jesus name, amen.
We have no greater joy than to see our children walking in the truth. Won’t you invite Him in today? I’ll have to write again to share what I’m learning. Truth is my new word for the coming year.

The bull and the brothers http://www.pagosasun.com/the-bull-and-the-brothers/ Sat, 04 Jan 2020 12:00:13 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=194245 By Lynn Moffett
Special to The PREVIEW
My dad, a charming man, told stories born from years of living. One memory came from an early age.
He was the third of four brothers whose father, a pastor, died when Dad was 8. His single mom worked hard in the ensuing years to provide food and shelter before and during the depression.
Left to their own devices, the boys proved full of mischief. They played basketball in their parlor, moved Model Ts up on neighbors’ porches and the like.
One Friday evening, their mom announced they were going on the first vacation Dad could remember. To those of us living in the 21st century a weekend away might not seem much of an escape from troubles, but to this struggling family, it sounded like heaven.
Visiting their uncle’s farm brought a long-forgotten smile to their mom’s face. The brothers spent hours hassling chickens, chasing goats and racing through the fields of corn. They played baseball and used the hoop attached to the barn for games of horse and two on two.
Throughout that Saturday, they eyed the prize bull. Dares barked between them, escalating as the day waned.
They chose a time when their uncle left to retrieve his mule from the farm next door. The oldest brother dashed through the pasture and leaped on Black Thunder’s back. Unable to find a hold, Thunder catapulted Tom 5 feet straight up. He landed with a thud on the hard-packed earth. The other three laughed until their sides ached. All the while, Tom bragged about getting on board and challenged Bob, next in line, to do better. He suffered the same fate, a sudden flight and the next moment slammed into the dirt. He jumped to his feet and dodged the cloven hooves intent on driving him into the ground. The big black critter wasn’t having fun.
Next came Dad, who not only scrambled to the bull’s back, but actually rode him. Though full of the euphoria at breaking a rule, he said the bull turned out to be the worst kind of experience. Through the brutal bouncing up and down on that boney spine and fear of jumping off, he held on. Hearing the racket, my grandmother tore out the kitchen door yelling. The animal hated that. He bucked and raced more than before.
Uncle Aaron returned and stood stunned to discover a boy riding his bull. When he shook off the surprise, he trotted through the grassy field to grab and gentle the creature enough to pull Billy off the bristly back.
Dad was the only one who got a tongue lashing. Nobody tattle-tailed among those brothers.
Interestingly, he always laughed and claimed it to be one of the best times in his life. He used the story to point out not only a delightful day at a farm, but the depth of my grandmother’s faith and how in the midst of dire times, she managed to teach her boys that a moment of adventure and laughter rolled together trumped all the hardships.
Are you going through a bad time? Is finding a positive moment impossible? My grandmother went through the same thing. Faith is what strengthened her. Without fail, she believed God would see her through the darkness and back into the light, as much as a platitude as that may sound. She held this scripture tight to her heart.
Galatians 6:9: “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (MSG).
In grandmother’s case, doing well consisted of taking care of four rambunctious sons in spite of losing the love of her life. She didn’t let her circumstances destroy her or them. She trusted blessing would come. God would never let her down.

What are we seeking on New Year’s Eve? http://www.pagosasun.com/what-are-we-seeking-on-new-years-eve/ Sat, 28 Dec 2019 12:00:15 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=193756 By Lynn Moffett
Special to The PREVIEW
On New Year’s Eve, the weather forced me to cancel my plans for a night of games with family. As I sat alone, I wondered how many groups of people around the world usher in the new year with a celebration. One thought led to another. Why is the new year such a big deal? What are we seeking?
I went online and found an extensive list of different celebrations. In every country, people do something, not always the same day the new year lands on our calendar, but customs do exist. From there, I searched for traditions accompanying each, hunting for a common link. What I suspected proved true.
For the western world, New Year’s Eve means people stay up late to see the old year out and new year in. Church bells ring, horns toot, whistles blow, sirens shriek. Often the next step is to write out a list of resolutions to make the coming year better than the last.
For the Chinese Lunar New Year, along with the dragon and the rest of the celebration, the people clean their house to sweep away any ill-fortune and make room for good luck.
Koreans celebrate Seollal, a three-day holiday marking the beginning of the Lunar New Year. Their many traditions include using fire to ward off evil spirits for the days ahead.
Rosh Hashanah, part of the high holy days for the Jews, includes the common greeting “Shanah tovah,” which translated from Hebrew means “[have a] good year.”
The point being, all around the globe, no matter the date or religion, there is a celebration for each new year. Because of religious diversity, many countries commemorate more than one.
Isn’t it interesting that humankind uses this time to hope for a clean slate? We hold fast to our successes. There is no need to let those fade away. It is our failures we want to sweep behind us, and good fortune or better outcomes to proceed us. We want our lives to start fresh.
The thing is, there is only one guaranteed way to a better future.
Revelation 21:5: “And he who sat upon the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’”
When we Seek Him — Jesus, our new year will hold more potential than our feeble attempts through determinations to do better, a house swept clean, a fire to ward off evil spirits or a shouted greeting of good luck.
2 Corinthians 5:17: “Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it!” (MSG)
He is our promise. He holds our future.

A prayer for Christmastime http://www.pagosasun.com/a-prayer-for-christmastime/ Tue, 24 Dec 2019 12:00:26 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=193339 By Sami Fortin
Special to The PREVIEW
Dear Lord,
This Christmas gives us a whole new purpose — one that takes our eyes off of who we are or what we’ve done so that we might ponder the wonder of who you are — not only what you’ve done but who you are.
Take us back to the night you were born and let us look upon the faces of Mary and Joseph as they gazed into your eyes knowing who you were but not having foreknowledge of all that would take place. They just went about doing what they knew to do.
Let us get a feel for the starry night when the shepherds saw the angels. What a sight that must have been and the message they heard, “Good news for all.” Could that mean me also?
Oh, what a night to follow the star and find out it was just as you said, they’d find the baby wrapped in cloths laying in a manger. The King of the World. Born in a manger? What do we see here? A way for us to relate to you. A way for us to understand you came to have a relationship with us. Help us to grasp the whole picture of your amazing love for a people who find it hard to believe you created the earth for this purpose.
Can we see the wise men traveling from afar? They didn’t know what to expect. They just obeyed what they knew to do. They’d been waiting 400 years for prophesy to be fulfilled. They had to see with their own eyes.
Give us this same excitement over all the hustle and bustle just to come and see the babe that was born in Bethlehem to a virgin.
Father, show us your glory in this season and turn our hearts toward yours, for you are not far from any one of us. Move your people to reach out and find you. You’ve commanded us to repent for you have set a day when the whole world will be judged in righteousness by this one man who was born to a very unlikely couple, beating all the odds in prophesy.
Help us to let down our guard, take a chance and believe this Christmas that Immanuel wants us to hear His voice, to know His touch and give a response to all He has done. Let us worship Him as Lord of Lords and King of Kings.
Like the wise men who brought gifts, let your people bring their hearts and lift up their hands in praise, not to a God of stone but one who lives among us and delights in us.
Let us see you in all the lights and decorations. In the excitement of buying gifts for one another, let us not forget the greatest gift of all: Jesus. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
He’s waiting for us to come, He hears our prayers and He’d rather die than live without us.
“I’m just a nobody, trying to tell everybody about somebody who saved my soul.” — Casting Crowns.
I’m working on obeying God when I hear Him call. This is a daunting task, one that I’m not qualified to fulfill, but I have found Him faithful and He calls the unqualified to finish His work here on earth. Just as He came as a human baby to this place in a most unlikely way to call us into a most holy place with Him. He’s the deliverer. He delivers us from darkness into light from wrath into joy from destruction into eternal life.

The love of reading http://www.pagosasun.com/the-love-of-reading/ Sat, 14 Dec 2019 12:00:37 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=192904 By Richard Gammill
Special to The PREVIEW
The workers in Cuba’s cigar factories loved to read, even on the job. During the 19th century, those workers chipped in and hired a lector who for hours at a time would read aloud while the workers rolled their cigars in silence. They so enjoyed Alexander Dumas’ writings they wrote the novelist shortly before his death in 1870 and asked if they could name a cigar after “Monte Cristo.” That brand of cigars is still available around the world today.
That story is told in the book “Indelible Ink,” edited by Scott Larson. Each chapter of this inspiring book is written by a prominent Christian personality giving a personal account of two or three books that made a significant impact upon his or her life. The titles range from familiar classics to little-known children’s books.
Despite all the digital and electronic alternatives, the love of reading is making a comeback in our country. Some may occasionally read an entire book, while others (like my sister) will read 50 or more books a year.
I approached my retirement with two ambitions: occasionally sleeping in and having time for a wide diversity of reading and writing. Forget sleeping in. Since moving to Pagosa Springs five years ago, I have developed a delightful early morning routine.
I brew a fresh cup of coffee, spread butter and jam on a slice of toast and settle into my recliner for an hour or more of prayerful devotions and reading.
The edge of Village Lake is only 50 feet from my window and beyond it to the east is the rising sun. On a morning with broken clouds, the sun appears above the horizon and starts the day by transforming the sky into brilliant colors.
Flocks of noisy geese landing on and ascending from the lake’s surface distract my thoughts. Near the edge of the water, pairs of ducks swim idly by or dive tails up for food. From springtime through the weeks of summer, I watched two families of ducklings grow from tiny balls of fur into adulthood.
I love the setting. I love my cup of coffee. I love reading. It just doesn’t get any better than this.
My greatest pleasure derives from new insights and assurances I gain from God’s Word, as fresh and new as the dawning day. Devotional writers — such as Oswald Chambers and William Barclay — give me understanding and application. While my body ages my mind and spirit are constantly revived and renewed. Sharing with my wife adds to the meaning and pleasure.
If I have time, I turn then, or later in the evening, to one of several books I am currently reading or listening to. Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard gave me vivid history lessons in their “Killing” series. Their detailed revelations of the atrocities of the German Nazis and the Japanese military during the murderous years of World War II enthrall and sicken me. John Grisham’s latest novel, “The Reckoning,” a gripping murder mystery, takes the reader to the Japanese WWII occupation of the Philippines and puts us on the Bataan death march. Ken Follett’s masterful (and super-long) series of novels of the medieval era and of World War I and WWII immerse the reader in histories both ancient and recent.
Books such as these expand and enlarge our knowledge and experience of places and times otherwise not well known by us. Those who do not read miss the benefits. I have the privilege of frequent travel to India and other international destinations, such as my five-week trip this summer with my son and two grandsons to southeast Asia, Tokyo, and India. Even so, I don’t want to miss out on the places my reading takes me.
The book “Indelible Ink” reminded me of the enduring influence of certain well-written classic books. Open one of the recommended books, begin to read, return to it again and again — and a life is changed. “Indelible Ink” gave me a list of titles that I have known about but have never read, such as “The Brothers Karamazov” by the Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky. Now I must get it. And I must read. And write.

Hope: Reflections on working at a refugee camp http://www.pagosasun.com/hope-reflections-on-working-at-a-refugee-camp/ Sat, 07 Dec 2019 12:00:27 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=192516 By Adeline Thompson
Special to The PREVIEW
One day, during our class with the oldest age group (12-15 years), we started the class with a simple activity. We went around the circle and each student talked about what they wanted to be when they grow up. Its intention was to practice vocabulary and talk about different occupations, but as each child talked about their vision for their future, the reality of the situation sat heavy in the air.
As a child, I remember being told that I could be anything I wanted when I grow up. However, my childhood was privileged and my family has been able to support me as I am still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.
That is not the childhood these children have had. Their entire lives have been turned upside down. They have left their home, their schooling has been interrupted and I have no idea what their future holds. Since I worked with children as young as 3 years old, some of them have been born as asylum seekers. They have never known a home. As Makmoud tells the circle that when he grows up he wants to be a scientist or Tulin says she wants to be a teacher, my heart lurches just a little bit. They have dreams just like any other young person, but where is the hope in the situation?
I spent the time in between classes outside playing lots of games and a lot of the girls loved these hand games. Many of them were different variations of the same clapping patterns I had played at summer camp when I was their age. One of the games involved an elaborate scheme of hitting, pinching and grabbing each other’s hands, which ended in each of you making a wish and if the stars had aligned and you were able to uncross your hands in a certain way then your wish came true.
I was playing this game with a young girl named Tulin. She was an absolute class clown, but smart as a whip and always trying to beat the boys in all of the games. She has five brothers and sisters who also attend Happy Caravan. Her family is among one of the families that have been in the camp the longest.
There was a time when her family had been told that they were moving out of the camp and that they were getting a house in Athens. They packed up their things and made the bus ride to Athens, but when they arrived, there seemed to be a lot of confusion and instead of admitting to the family they had made a mistake, the authorities told them they were bringing them to their new home, but instead just drove them to another camp in Athens.
This camp was mainly Afghani refugees and the Kurdish family immediately felt unwelcome and so they made their way back to Thermopylae, where they at least had a community. By the time they had come back, the isobox they had been living in had already been filled by another family. Kindly, another family invited them to share their iso box until they were able to get their own.
When I played this game with Tulin, we made our wishes and we closed our eyes tight, but our hands were tangled, which signaled we hadn’t done it correctly and so our wishes were deemed to fail.
After our failure, Tulin asked me what my wish was and I answered, “I wish we had ice cream!” and asked what she had wished for, “I wished my family could go to Germany.”
When I looked at her, I knew this was no longer a game, but a moment where she was sharing with me her hope. Throughout my month at Happy Caravan, Germany came up a lot. Many of the students asked me if I knew German and could teach them or they spoke about what they’ll do once their family gets to Germany. It had become this place in their consciousness that was safe and welcoming. If they could just make it to Germany, everything would be OK. Germany meant hope for their future.
At the school, we had two “helpers” who were young adults from the camp, Hammid and Raya. The school paid them weekly and every day they would work with us, mainly being in charge of managing the door. Kids constantly were knocking at the door asking if it was time for class or parents would come by to ask a question, and it was Raya and Hammid’s job to answer the door and help with these questions. They both also spoke English well and would help with interpreting when we needed it.
During the month I was there, Raya’s family was moved to Germany. She had been in the camp for nearly two years and had been in a camp in Turkey before that. She spoke Arabic, Kurdish, Turkish, English and was learning Greek. She told us she was really nervous about learning German. She said she was scared, sad, but also excited. Her family packed up the little amount of things they had for their flight to Germany. There were lots of tears and hugs, but I felt hopeful that maybe this time things would get better for Raya and her family.
There was also a man named Khalid who worked with us. At first, I was really confused about what his position was because he lived in the volunteer house in Kamena Vourla with the rest of the volunteers, but he knew everyone in the camp and told me that he, too, was a Syrian refugee. Eventually, I found out that he had actually been living in that camp when he first started working with the school and then he moved to Germany, but had come back to work at the school again (this might’ve been because of an epic romance, but that is a story for another time).
Khalid talked about moving from Thermopylae to Germany, but it wasn’t the story I was expecting. I had a naive vision in my head of refugees finally finding a new home. That after long and treacherous journeys, it was finally worth it. For Khalid, he talked about how Germany made him hate carrots because every day at dinner they were served carrots. He talked about how things didn’t get much better. He had been at a camp and now he was just in another camp this one just happened to be in Germany.
At first, I was taken aback. I thought about all of those who were dangerously traveling along the Balkan route in hopes to make it to Germany. I thought about Raya’s family who had been so excited and hopeful to be going to Germany. I thought about Tulin who after everything she had been through, was wishing that her family could just make it to Germany.
I pair these stories with the ones I read in the books “Lights in the Distance” and “The New Odyssey.” Story after story, I’m left in awe at the barriers and difficulties that those seeking asylum have to go through. As it is put by Patrick Kingsley, ”There is a crisis, but it’s one caused largely by our response to the refugees, rather than by the refugees themselves.” Yes, the number of people seeking asylum in the EU is great, but they are numbers that should be easily manageable for the world’s richest continent to absorb if we had a different response. The physical barriers of migration are turned violent by the bureaucratic system. The system has forced people into systems of exploitation for survival. The moral consciousness that post-World War II Europe has tried to obtain is sinking in the Mediterranean.
This is where I find myself- overwhelmed, frustrated and face-to-face with a generation who has had their homes and futures stolen from them. This is no longer a theoretical discussion in a classroom, this is the child I’m giving an apple to who clung to dead bodies for six hours in the Mediterranean to stay afloat and survive. It’s in these moments of sober reality that I struggle to believe in the human rights framework that I at one point championed. We have not done well.
One cannot hear the stories of travels through the Sahara or read about the shutdown of rescue missions in the Mediterranean and believe that this situation has been handled with compassion and kindness. Yet, the reality is that the situations of war or totalitarianism that refugees are leaving make the risks worth it. Even if every part of the system is unwelcoming to these populations, they are still coming. We are faced with the fact that these numbers will only increase in the future as climate refugees become a serious reality.
In this situation when everything feels broken and every story is filled to the brim with pain, what is the function of hope? Did it matter that Germany wasn’t necessarily everything it promised to be or does it function more as a source of hope? For the students I worked with, hope wasn’t a cute phrase cross-stitched on a pillow, but a survival method, a reason to believe that tomorrow could be better.
In a system against them, I aspire to be a harbinger of hope. I know that I personally am in no position to create much change in this situation, but I am convicted to continue working with this school. I cannot give them back their home or change their status, but I can help them feel like kids again. Happy Caravan aims to provide a safe place to educate, inspire and lead children. While it is by no means a perfect organization, they saw a severe deficit of education for children living in refugee camps and have tried to fill in the gap. Happy Caravan is a place where these children still have futures, a place where there is hope for a better tomorrow.

Words and a grateful heart of thanksgiving http://www.pagosasun.com/words-and-a-grateful-heart-of-thanksgiving/ Wed, 27 Nov 2019 22:00:47 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=192202 By Jackie Henderson
Special to The PREVIEW
The majority of what we hear from the media daily is disturbing. The effect is evident upon our population’s attitude. Like an old song said, “You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum. Bring gloom down to the minimum. Otherwise pandemonium is liable to walk upon the scene.”
Every day when I call my mom, she sings her version of a song from Bing Crosby’s movie, “On the Road to Morocco.”
“What did Noah say when everything looked so dark
“With Jonah in the whale and Noah in the Ark?
“You’ve got to accentuate the positive.
“Eliminate the negative.
“Latch on to the affirmative
“But don’t mess with mister in between.”
Words are powerful. James 3:5-8 (New Living Translation) says, “… the tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do. A tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is full of wickedness that can ruin your whole life. It can turn the entire course of your life into a blazing flame of destruction, for it is set on fire by hell itself … It is an uncontrollable evil, full of deadly poison.”
We each can use our words to encourage others and influence them for Jesus. Take captive the thoughts from circumstances around us that take our focus off of who God is and the loving kindness and mercy He has shown us. Meditate on things that are of good report, true, praiseworthy and lovely. With an attitude of gratefulness, we can remember His blessings and trust Him.
Some words are a memorial. They can bring back memories forgotten.
On Oct. 3, 1863, in Washington D.C., President Abraham Lincoln gave this Thanksgiving Proclamation:
“The Year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.
“In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.
“Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.
“No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
“It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”
As Abraham Lincoln addressed in his proclamation, there is much to be thankful for, even in the midst of civil strife. We are reminded that God is our source of the bounties enjoyed in our nation.
Let every day be a day of giving thanks.
But the day we set aside to celebrate Thanksgiving is more than a day for watching football and more than the beginning of the Christmas holiday and the parade.
We can remember the goodness of God through Christ.
We can thank Him for He is in control.
We can get past doubt and worry and have faith and trust.
God always keeps His promises.

A legacy of encouragement http://www.pagosasun.com/a-legacy-of-encouragement/ Thu, 31 Oct 2019 21:52:52 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=190313 By Richard Gammill
Special to The PREVIEW
“Jack, pick up, sweetie, can you hear me? OK. I just want to tell you, there’s a little problem with the plane. I’m fine. I’m totally fine. I just want to tell you how much I love you.”
Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas left that message on her husband’s answering machine on Sept. 11, 2001. She called from United Airlines Flight 93. Was this her last message? Not at all.
Lauren was returning home to San Rafael, Calif., after attending her grandmother’s funeral, when she boarded the flight from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco, Calif. Eager to rejoin her husband, she arrived early at the airport and took a seat on doomed Flight 93 and departed before her originally scheduled flight.
Forty minutes after takeoff, four al-Qaida terrorists hijacked the plane carrying Lauren and 32 other frightened passengers and seven crew members. While the plane changed direction, the passengers learned the news of three other planes that hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. They realized they had to take action.
“Are you guys ready? Let’s roll!” shouted Todd Beamer, and the frantic unarmed passengers attempted to breech the cockpit door. Trying to stop the break in, the hijackers put the plane into a roll. Minutes later the plane plowed upside down at 563 mph into a reclaimed strip mine near Shanksville, Penn. Another 20 minutes and the plane would have reached Washington, D.C., most likely striking the U.S. Capitol.
As with the rescue efforts of New York City police and firefighters, United Flight 93’s heroism helped inspire and unify a stricken nation during the fitful aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Several memorials were established around the country over the following decade applauding the actions of the crew and passengers of the ill-fated flight. One of them is “Lauren’s Garden” in Market Square Park in downtown Houston, Lauren’s hometown. It features a bust of the 38-year-old woman. Particularly meaningful to her husband, Jack, is the birthing room at Marin General Hospital, which he and the family-run Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas Foundation established in Lauren’s name. She was three months pregnant at the time of her death.
A memorial of another kind is Lauren’s book, “You Can Do It! The Merit Badge Handbook for Grown-Up Girls.” A few months before she died, Lauren left her editorial position with Good Housekeeping to devote full time to writing the book, which encourages women to have faith in themselves and reach for new accomplishments. Her two sisters finished the book, which they published in 2005. Proceeds from the book support several charities, including a college scholarship fund.
During her short life, Lauren was active in a number of charitable organizations, including United Way, March of Dimes, Project Open Hand, Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, Breast Cancer Awareness and others. Her example inspires those who know her story.
By definition, those who encourage others will engender determination, hopefulness and confidence. Encouragement is a vital force that brings needed change and new upward direction.
Encouragement is at the heart of the Christian faith. When the Apostle Paul spread the gospel, “He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people …” (Acts 20:2, NIV). His written words of encouragement continue for all time.
One of the spiritual gifts listed in Romans 12 is “encouragement.” If you have that gift, says Paul, exercise it generously. The results are changed lives.
Barnabas was one of the stalwarts of the New Testament church “whose name means ‘son of encouragement’” (Acts 4:36). What a great way to be known.
Teachers, whether in Sunday school, grade school or college, can impart encouragement that endures for a lifetime. Monuments to teachers may not stand in many public places, but memories of their encouragement (“You can do this!”) live on in the minds of their pupils.
Each day brings countless opportunities to each of us to offer encouragement. We may never know how a word — or a note — of encouragement uplifts the life of a friend. We may forget what we said that meant so much, but our friend might remember the remark for years.
Like Lauren, may your own life leave a legacy of encouragement.