April 16th, 2020
Greetings from Charlotte,
The Last Day of Unleavened Bread saw the majority of members tuning in to services streamed from here in Charlotte, where Mr. Ames gave an encouraging sermon on “Victorious Overcomers.” We apologize for the delay in starting as we ran into some kind of problem with our servers, but commend our Internet team for being able to scramble and create a work-around. Some areas, because of the time zone they were in, were able to hold two services, which is more ideal for most of our Holy Days, and we want to keep that as the normal once we get back to some kind of normal.
We are pleased to see a significant uptick in responses to our initiatives. Mr. Gaylyn Bonjour reports that, among our responses to the Tomorrow’s World telecast between April 3 and 13, that 2,786 were brand new. So far this year we have sent out 342,137 pieces of literature, DVDs, CDs, and letters. In addition, we sent out more than 300,000 Tomorrow’s World magazines in January and again in March, despite some 60 countries closing their borders to mail coming into their countries.
We are also happy to report that all our members were spared during this week’s tornados in the southern United States. The largest one, an F-4, cut a mile-wide swath through 100 miles in Mississippi and killed 11 people. It came within five to seven miles of the home of our minister Mr. Ed Breaux and his wife, and was even closer to that of another member, but none of our members suffered any damage. Be sure to read the encouraging comments regarding our members in prison who were able to take the Passover and what that meant to them.—Gerald Weston
The Second Passover this year is on Friday, May 8, which means that it will be observed on Thursday evening, May 7, shortly after sunset. This Passover is for those baptized members who were unable to take the first Passover due to unavoidable circumstances, as instructed in Numbers 9:1–14. If you have any questions, please contact your pastor.
Report from South Africa
Many members expressed their gratitude to the UK Office for inviting the Southern African brethren to join their Sabbath and Last Holy Day services through their new Zoom connection, which worked very well for all those who had Internet access and data. Of the 209 connections to the UK Last Day of Unleavened Bread services, there were at least 30 connections from Southern Africa. Some of the connections served more than one person—for instance in our case it was my wife and me, plus we made telephonic contact with six other brethren who could then listen to the services in audio. The South African Office offered to help the brethren who can’t afford the more-than-usual data usage, and we were able to provide for them.
We will keep on distributing recorded HQ services, sermons, and updates to as many brethren as possible. We keep in close contact with our members and it has not been necessary to help financially so far, except for those who are officially on Third Tithe assistance.
The effects of the lockdown are starting to become more visible for some Southern Africans, especially in the poorer areas and the townships. A lot of people suffer due to unemployment and hunger, and the robbing of shops has increased in the past week. Our president, Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa, will inform the nation on Friday if alcohol and cigarettes will be declared as essential goods or not. He is under tremendous pressure from some organizations that want him to allow the selling of these items soon.
Please be assured of our and all the Southern African brethren’s prayers for all of you at Headquarters.—Christo Botha
Prisoners in North Carolina Prison System Allowed to Take the Passover
The following has been excerpted from a letter to Mr. Gary Ehman from one of our three North Carolina prison inmates, regarding the Passover:
All religious activities were closed down for now due to the COVID-19. I have been praying that the Chaplain would work with us. Well it turns out he did. God intervened. After I got in this afternoon, the Chaplain came to my cell-block and called me outside the door and talked to me, he brought all Robert’s and my items to me so we could keep the Passover in my room. I almost cried.… Robert and I had a wonderful Passover. [We]… had no disturbance from staff or inmates. That was a blessing. I asked God to help me through it, I was [a] little slow but we made it. I also want to say it was very special to me to be my first with Robert.
While they were not able to perform the foot-washing, the member also noted that the Chaplain provided enough unleavened bread so they were able to eat a portion each day of the seven-day Feast. Mr. Ehman said he has not heard from the third member regarding how his self-service went, but communications with a member he contacted indicated that he was able to take the Passover as well.
Sabbath and Holy Day Hall Rentals (USA)—Repeat Announcement
Pastors: As the coronavirus crisis goes on, please continue to be in touch with the management of the halls we regularly use for Sabbaths and Holy Days. In some cases, because of local or state-wide restrictions, they may be legally unable to open, which simplifies things as far as we are concerned. But please let them know we value their service and we intend to be back as soon as the crisis ends. If we have prepaid, ask them to give us a credit for the times we are not meeting. If we have not prepaid, let them know we fully intend to return as soon as the crisis ends. We will not be making further payments until the crisis ends and we start meeting in halls once again.
For information about what the contract says for a particular hall, please refer to your copy of the approved contract; it was attached to the Letter of Authority sent by Legal/Risk. If you cannot locate a copy of the approved contract, or need further assistance with the contract wording, please contact Legal/Risk at HQ ([email protected]). If you have any questions about what has been paid to the halls previously, please contact Accounting at HQ ([email protected]).
If you are outside of the United States, please contact your Regional Office for more information about your particular situation.
This past weekend, Living Education hosted a “Young Singles Virtual Weekend” with almost 60 of our young adults from around the world attending. Singles from across the U.S., Canada, Barbados, Jamaica, Australia, the Philippines, and Norway gathered together for three interactive sessions focusing on challenges for the next generation of leaders in the Church of God. Mr. Gerald Weston and Mr. Jonathan Bueno joined Mr. Jonathan McNair in leading the sessions. Although the gathering was virtual, the success of the event was real!
Do You Love God’s Law? What is your attitude towards the laws and commandments of God? Many today have been told the commandments of God are burdens and bothersome—in spite of what the Scriptures say (1 John 5:3)—or that Jesus kept the commandments for us, or that He did away with the commandments by nailing them to the cross (Colossians 2:14). Another common idea is that professing Christians only need to keep two commandments: love God and love your neighbor (Matthew 22:34–40). Yet, Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15; cf. Matthew 5:21–22, 27–28). David, who was a man after God’s “own heart” (Acts 13:22), wrote, “Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97), and “I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation” (v. 99). David also wrote that God’s law kept him out of trouble (v. 101), and “Through Your precepts I get understanding” (v. 104). David realized the laws of God showed him how to live: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (v. 105), and “Great peace have those who love your law” (v. 165). David held the commandments in high regard: “I love your commandments more than gold, yes, than fine gold!” (v. 127), and he was fascinated by the laws of God: “Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law” (v. 18). We can gain wisdom, understanding, and peace—and stay out of trouble—if we study and learn to love and live by God’s law.
Have a profitable Sabbath,
Douglas S. Winnail
News and Prophecy—April 16, 2020
Financial Crisis Further Divides Europe: “The European Experiment”—a description applied to the European Union by many—is in serious trouble. Old divides that have plagued the continent for centuries are reemerging. A couple of weeks ago, EU leaders met to come up with a unified financial response to the COVID-19 pandemic but struggled to agree (Reuters, March 27, 2020). The resolution they did hammer out failed to address major issues, much to the dissatisfaction of Spain and Italy—two nations being ravaged by the coronavirus (Fortune, April 10, 2020). Many nations believe the EU should have a standard, unified, fiscal response to the crisis. But Italy’s prime minister commented last week that if the Europeans cannot agree, nations “will have to write off Europe and ‘everyone will do their own thing.’”
As one author wrote, “The novel coronavirus crisis has reopened old euro zone divisions” among the 27 nations in the EU. However, these events in Europe resemble ancient Bible prophecies. Daniel warned that, at the end of the age, ten kings or nations will come together yet still be divided like “iron and clay” (Daniel 2:41–43). We appear to be watching this “iron and clay” mixture reemerge in Europe today. Regardless of these growing divisions, ultimately there will be a temporary union of ten rulers under one leader known in prophecy as the “beast” (see Revelation 17)—a group most likely led by the nation of Germany. For greater understanding about the future of Europe, read the insightful article “Iron and Clay.”
Coronavirus Bailout—Will It Work? “Whatever it takes” is the now-famous comment of Mario Draghi when he was the European Central Bank chairman. He was addressing the European debt crisis of 2012—and his sentiment is now shared by many world leaders and national governments as they attempt to deal with the economic consequences of the coronavirus shutdown of national economies (The Economist, March 19, 2020). French president Macron promised that “no company, whatever its size, will face the risk of bankruptcy.” Germany has promised “unlimited cash to businesses” impacted by the virus. In February, Japan delivered a spending package to its populace and did so again in March. The United States recently pushed through a record spending package worth two trillion U.S. dollars (New York Times, March 27, 2020). Nations around the globe have not taken on this much debt since World War II. And in many cases, nations will take on even more debt than they did at that time, as a percentage of GDP—just to keep their economies floating.
The Economist reports that China’s GDP may have fallen by 10 percent year-on-year for the first quarter. The euro area’s GDP is forecast to contract by 12 percent year-on-year in the second quarter. Many economists expect the global economy to pick up again in the second half of the year—unless the coronavirus crisis drags on. Economies and populations in the richer parts of the world are expected by some to make it through the current crisis relatively easily, but the same cannot be said for the poorer nations of the earth, where governments are not able (or are unwilling) to support their people with cash and where healthcare systems are crumbling under the weight of the pandemic.
Bible prophecy foretells a time at the end of the age when hunger and disease will combine with other factors to kill an unprecedented number of people worldwide (Revelation 6:5–8). While that future time is not yet here, the coronavirus pandemic provides some insight into how such devastation might occur. World governments may have what it takes to get through this current crisis—but what about the next one? To learn more about prophesied end-time events, be sure to read “Debt, Disobedience and Demise of Nations.”—Scott Winnail and Francine Prater