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Thursday
Nov102016

A Sneak Peek at Christmas

One Christmas Eve, my dad agreed to let my sisters and me sleep in the downstairs family room on our grandparents’ sleigh bed, the bed he put together each time my grandparents visited. They hadn’t arrived yet, so it was all ours. Once we were bathed and in our pajamas, we crawled into that magical bed. Full of giggles, we told stories until we fell asleep with the joyful anticipation that the next day was Christmas.

In the middle of the night, my younger sister woke us up. “Let’s go peek for presents,” she whispered.

As our bare feet hit the cold, unfinished floor, the fear of being caught gripped me. Huddled together we pushed forward, opening the door to the game room. The Christmas tree was still lit, its reflection twinkling on the floor. Soon, we were on our tummies, trying to get close to the festively wrapped presents under the tree, and looking for the tags with our names on them.

Suddenly, a bedroom door opened upstairs. We knew the heavy tread of our father’s footsteps as he came down the hall and neared the top of the steps. In a flash, we were on our feet, sliding back through the door, and jumping into bed as Dad came down the stairs. Our hearts were racing as we lay perfectly still, pretending to be asleep. I sneaked a peek at my dad. In his white robe, he practically glowed in the dark.

“There wouldn’t be anyone awake now and out of bed?” he asked. “I better not hear another sound.” And then he disappeared.

Christmas morning came as usual. After church and breakfast, it was finally time to gather together and unwrap the presents.

The anticipation while trying to fall asleep and then excitement over discovering what our parents had prepared for us were always part of the Christmas experience. In the same way, as you sit in the audience and the lights fall at the start of The Heart of Christmas program, a shared holiday excitement enters the room. The set is like a great expanse filled with presents as you sit in the darkened theater. Only once the music begins and the set lights up do you get to feast your senses on the holiday wonder that the cast, director, and crew of Charis Bible College have prepared for you.

Christmas music—both the familiar and the new—fills you with nostalgia as you enjoy a feeling of family within your own community. To experience this for yourself, go to www.HeartOfChristmas.org to order your tickets. Adult admission is $25, admission for children ages 5 to 11 is $15, and children under 5 (on an adult’s lap) are admitted for free.

Arrive a little early and enjoy Christmas festivities, photo opportunities with a professional photographer, and the beautiful property of The Sanctuary. Don’t miss this opportunity to discover what’s wrapped up in The Heart of Christmas for you!

Monday
Nov072016

Freedom in the Dominican Republic

Charis Bible College prepares second-year students to go and declare the glory of God to other nations by sharing His wonders among all peoples (Ps. 96:3). These mission trips are not just prayer walks. Those who go—students whose lives have been transformed by the Holy Spirit—carry the “Charis experience” with them, taking the love and power of God and sowing it among the people they come in contact with. On one particular trip, the destination was the Dominican Republic—one of two nations located on the island of Hispaniola in the Greater Antilles archipelago, nestled in the turquoise waters of the Caribbean.

With the help of their hosts, Tim and Trena Johnson, the students visited many different places, and their testimonies awakened the reality of the Gospel for the listeners. Students truly had the opportunity to learn the meaning of Christian outreach. They were not sharing just stories from a book; they were sharing the true love of God flowing from their own lives. They visited a prison in Santo Domingo, and Charis student Sylvia Wells opened her heart and shared her testimony with the inmates:

“A few years before I came to Charis, my twenty-three-year-old son, Kyle, was involved in a hit-and-run accident and was left to die on the side of the road. Being found by a policeman, he was then rushed to the hospital, where he died several hours later. The man who hit Kyle was drunk at the time of the accident. He was arrested just days later and received a light sentence for what he had done. My son was born again, and in spite of the circumstances, I knew that God’s Word promises that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8). Because of this truth, how could I be sad, knowing that my son was now in the presence of the God I love?”

She continued, “I forgave the man and chose not to harbor bitterness toward him. I was free to celebrate the life of my son without focusing on the loss. Later, I found out that the man was struggling with guilt and depression because of what had happened to my son and our family. I wrote him a letter and extended forgiveness to him. I told him that Jesus died for him so that he could be forgiven and free. The man was very grateful for my letter. I’m sharing with you today how God helped me to forgive the man responsible for my son’s death—because you need to know that God’s forgiveness is available for you too. My son’s race is over, but yours isn’t. God still has a plan for your life. Don’t give up!” With those words, seeds of forgiveness, redemption, and hope were planted in the lives of those inmates.

During the same trip, Dominican children also received ministry. The visit from the Charis team to a mission where children gather for a meal and Bible study was the highlight of the day for many involved. The children were able to see that God loves them through these students taking the time to show that they cared. Ed and Michele Liquete, the team leaders, had the opportunity to minister to a Canadian girl who was struggling with drugs. They also helped others rededicate their lives to the Lord. Like Jesus, the Charis team went about doing good and destroying the works of the devil (Acts 10:38).

If you would like to help take the Gospel of Christ to the nations through the missions trips taken by Charis students, go to our
website: iamworldoutreach.com.

If Sylvia’s testimony or the work done in the Dominican Republic ministered to you, please comment below.

Thursday
Nov032016

Shared Experience—It’s the Heart of Christmas

I was six years old the year I found a long, rectangular package with my name on it under the Christmas tree. The box was wrapped in candy cane-stamped, pine-green paper, and inside was a doll. She had caramel-colored hair, a white blouse, and a red, Scottish-plaid beanie and skirt. I named her Tammy.

After dinner and baths, I sat on the floor in pajamas with my little sister. My parents and older siblings were there too. The darkened room created a theater effect. The television played a movie about Heidi, her grandfather, and an ornery goat. Christmas lights twinkled off the surface of our shiny floor like stars reflecting on a lake. We passed around bowls of popcorn, and Tammy sat on my lap. Nothing can ever take away the sense of belonging I had in that moment. For me, family identity was formed on holidays, during our shared meals, or on game nights. Those shared experiences were embedded in me as a child, creating points of connection.

Last year I attended Charis Bible College’s original production The Heart of Christmas. My son and I went with several families from his school. Sitting shoulder to shoulder with my son, a familiar warmth rushed through my senses as soon as the lights fell.

The Heart of Christmas, an original play written by Adam Stone and Elizabeth and Robert Muren, focuses on a family who passes their Christmas traditions down through a book, as the world changes rapidly around each generation. The book is the story of a “fourth” wise man who becomes separated from the other three wise men. He spends his life looking for the Messiah, whom he missed the opportunity to honor as a babe in Bethlehem.

The stage of this multimedia play is divided into one set featuring a two-story house and one set that displays all the action that occurs outside of the home. The family’s living room takes on scenes from the past up to the present, while the main stage portrays scenes from the book. With stage changes, the main stage also becomes the historical site of world events. Background action and crowd scenes are projected onto large screens behind the set, giving the production a larger-than-life feel.

If you’re looking for a shared family experience, The Heart of Christmas will transport you and your loved ones to a magical moment where cherished memories are formed and holiday traditions are made. The early-bird price is $21 for adults, but be sure to order by November 9. After November 9, regular adult admission will be $25. Children from 5 to 11 years old are $15, and children under 5 (on an adult’s lap) are free.

Plan to come to Charis a little early that day to enjoy Christmas festivities, photo opportunities with a professional photographer, and Charis’s scenic mountain property, The Sanctuary. It’s a holiday experience you won’t want to miss.

Don’t forget: Early-bird prices will only last through November 9. Go to www.HeartOfChristmas.org and order your tickets today!

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