March 17, 2005
March 17th, 2005
Dear Brethren and Co-Workers with Christ,
It is with deep sadness that I have to report to you about the death of seven of our brethren in Milwaukee—plus the shooter, Terry Ratzmann, who then shot himself. This is the greatest tragedy of that kind to strike God’s Church in modern times. We know that thousands of God’s people have been terribly persecuted or even killed down through the ages. But that does not make this senseless killing any easier to bear—especially for the families and friends of those who were murdered!
Our hearts and our prayers should certainly go out to all who have been directly affected by this tragedy. Brethren, please keep on praying for them in the weeks and months to come. For, as one who lost my first wife to cancer many years ago, I know that the deep hurt and quiet agony often lasts for a long time. I am sure that most of you who are personally acquainted with these grieving people will want to visit them from time to time, write them notes of encouragement and even "do things" with them in weeks to come—not just in this time of emotional upset and deep personal grief.
Mr. Randy Gregory was a fine, dedicated, very humble and non-confrontational minister. It is especially tragic that the shooter seemed to single him out. But as God’s Word tells us, "The righteous perishes, and no man takes it to heart; merciful men are taken away, while no one considers that the righteous is taken away from evil" (Isaiah 57:1). Certainly, Mr. Gregory and the other converted brethren involved will no doubt feel the power and love of Christ in the next split second of their consciousness as they awake in the resurrection and perhaps even hear the "last trumpet" still sounding (I Thess. 4:15-18).
As Isaiah said, they are now "taken away" from the "face of evil"—as that last phrase is often translated. We do not fully understand why God allowed this specific tragedy to occur at this time. But we know that in the "Big Picture"—God is still obviously working out His purpose through the major events in world affairs, many of which have been specifically prophesied. And we know that He always has allowed and does allow some of His faithful servants to be tried and tested even through severe persecution or death.
As the book of Hebrews tells us of God’s people down through the ages, "Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us" (Heb. 11:35-40).
Brethren, all of us should know now—near the end of this age—that Satan will be enraged against God’s true Church and against His Work (Rev. 12:7-13). I do not feel that this final"heavenly battle" has taken place yet. But this horrifying tragedy in Milwaukee certainly may have been a "prelude" to this—driving us to our knees and focusing our minds on the frailty of human life and the very real need for Christ’s return, the resurrection from the dead and the glorious loving and peaceful reign of Christ and His saints over this earth (Isaiah 11).
Knowing Mr. Gregory and his absolute dedication to the Work of God, I am sure that he would not want us to be too distracted by Satan from announcing Christ’s powerful message to the world! It is in that spirit that I will now quote from a very recent report by one of my assistants, Wayne Pyle, about the recent growth which Christ has been granting His Work. Even in this time of sorrow, we may know that indeed the living God will cause "all things to work together for good" (Rom. 8:28).
Here is Mr. Pyle’s report:
In recent weeks, the lcg.org Web site has been receiving about 3,000 visitor sessions each weekend. Well, this past weekend the Web site logged more than 48,000 visitor sessions—16 times above normal! Typically, weekend visitors view about 10,000 pages, but this past weekend the count jumped to more than 284,000 pages! Our inquisitive visitors downloaded more than 16,000 copies of the Church’s Official Statement of Fundamental Beliefs. In total, visitors downloaded 12.6 gigabytes of material from the site this past weekend, compared to the typical 8 gigabytes that are downloaded. We also experienced a 78 percent increase in visits to our tomorrowsworld.org site.
While the increases in our Web activity are especially encouraging, although perhaps fleeting, there are other growth statistics in this Work that are quite substantial. Our Tomorrow’s World subscriber circulation around the world has now passed 256,000, which is 33 percent above a year ago. Our Tomorrow’s World television program in the United States and Canada is really booming. So far, for the year-to-date, our response counts from TV viewers are up 55 percent over a year ago. First-time callers among TV viewers, who request the Church’s literature, audiotapes, CDs, Bible Study Course lessons and so forth, are up 71 percent over last year. Church membership on our master file is up 4.9 percent this year. The number of co-workers who voluntarily support this Work has risen 17 percent this year compared to a year ago.
Tens of thousands of TV viewers and Tomorrow’s World magazine subscribers are reaching out to the Living Church of God to get spiritual guidance and make sense out of a confused world. In less than three months more than 100,000 booklets, audiotapes, CDs and other Christian-living materials have been requested and mailed around the world. More literature was sent out in the past two and a half months than everything we mailed during our first 20 months six years ago. Our most recent semiannual subscriber letter generated more than 28,000 requests for our brand new booklet, The Ten Commandments.
We believe enormous good is being produced by the Living Church of God, and the results are significant, especially for all the many lives that have been so greatly benefited. As Jesus Christ so commanded His disciples in Matthew 10:8: "Freely you have received, freely give." The Living Church of God is a work of love, albeit a work in progress, but progress indeed!
We are now poised for one of the greatest leaps ever for the Church of God. Beginning April 4, we plan to begin airing the Tomorrow’s World television program daily on the Inspiration Network’s two international satellites, Eurobird and Hotbird 6. These satellites reach the entire continent of Europe, the United Kingdom, northern Africa and the Middle East. Stay tuned!
Finally, dear brethren, we must remember that Mr. Randy Gregory died faithfully in Christ’s service—as did the other faithful brethren. Their reward is sure. So although we must pray for and comfort those left behind, our efforts in the Work of Jesus Christ must not cease. To cease would truly allow Satan to accomplish his objectives and would be detrimental to the very purpose of Mr. Gregory’s efforts for all these past years. And that would be totally contrary to what Mr. Gregory and the other faithful brethren would have wanted. Remember that Mrs. Herbert W. Armstrong, just as she was dying, told several of us there at her bedside, "I don’t want you men to feel sorry about me. I’ll be all right. You go ahead and finish the Work !"
May God grant all of us that kind of faith and courage. As we meditate on this tragedy—and on the trials and tests yet to come—we should also meditate and focus on what God led the Apostle Paul to write at the very end of his inspired explanation of the reality of death and the reality of the resurrection, "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord" (I Cor. 15:58).
With Christian love,
—Roderick C. Meredith