For many of us, 2020 was a difficult and painful year where many problems were amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic. For our family, 2020 included a tragedy that has impacted us every day. In many respects, 2020 had been anything but a “Happy New Year.” However, after hearing Maureen’s December 13th message on Joy, it has brought home the fact that joy is not happiness, it is so much more. When I thought about that message, I thought about how I would define joy. Here is what I came up with. Joy is fulfillment, contentment and satisfaction despite life’s circumstances. In the gospel of Luke, chapters 1 and 2, the angel Gabriel tells Zechariah that Elizabeth’s baby John will be “a joy and delight to his parents”. The baby John “leaped for joy” when he came into the presence of Jesus in Mary’s womb. Later, after Jesus’ birth, the angel told the shepherds that the birth of Jesus would bring great joy to the world. Joy in these verses speaks of a fulfillment of ancient prophecies. Happiness is fleeting and the pursuit of happiness disappoints. However, joy has an eternal quality and the pursuit of joy does not disappoint. Joy is a choice. God is the originator. Nehemiah 8:10 says: “… Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” I am on a journey and I’m discovering that it’s possible to have joy even when circumstances are difficult and happiness seems absent. Joy is a fruit of the spirit (Gal.5:22) and as I read the scriptures, I see that it rises above circumstances, pain and trials. 2 Corinthians 8:2 talks about the joy of the Macedonian churches: “In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” James 1:2,3 also speaks of joy amidst trials: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” It’s obvious from these verses that, if I choose, I can have joy in the midst of any negative circumstance in my life. I also know that even the hardest trials are not purposeless. To me, the most profound verse about joy is Hebrews 12:2 (1b – 2): “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” His choice to die for us is described as joy! I thank Jesus that he made that choice, for you and for me! Because he sacrificed earthly happiness for eternal joy, we all have eternal life through him. Christ chose to pick up his cross for a bigger purpose. I realize now that I may also have to do the same. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, I know this is possible. Our joy is that God is with us (Immanuel). As Isaac Watts wrote in 1719, “Joy to the world! The Lord is come!” I certainly want to wish everyone in our church a Happy New Year, but much more than that, I wish everyone a New Year filled with God’s joy.

I would like to leave you with a blessing from Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Have a joyous New Year! In Christ’s Love, Ron MacKay

We are so excited to welcome a family from Burundi to our city and church. Claudette and Felix are from Burundi and were forced to flee their country, travelling with their 7 children to a Refugee Camp in Uganda, where they have been waiting for sponsorship. The Lord made a way for us to help sponsor them as a church and we have formed a small resettlement team led by Noel, who is Claudette’s brother and attends Attridge with his family. 

The family is scheduled to arrive on Jan 29. Please join us in praying for them as they travel during this pandemic, for their flights, negative Covid-19 testing and God’s presence to give them peace in all the transitions. They will be quarantining for the first 2 weeks as a family. Thank you for your generosity as a church in providing many items for their home as we settle them.  Check our list of items needed which is updated daily. 

He ensures that orphans and widow receive justice. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing. So you, too, must show love to foreigners… Deut 10:18-19

Covid Relief Project

This week a team of leaders in Panama gathered to assemble basic food and household supplies for 61 families who are without an income because of the pandemic. Groceries are bought, supplies like toilet paper and soap are gathered and sorted into bags for each family. Some fresh fruit in season, like avocados and plantains have been donated by communities in the jungle where they are grown. After all the supplies have been sorted they are loaded into trucks and cars to be taken to several drop off locations in the city. The families pick up the supplies at these spots or they are delivered to their homes. Lots of planning, work and care goes into this food distribution each month for these families in need.

The church in Panama is able to visit families with not only supplies but encouragement and prayer. Our family in Panama is thankful for the support that has come already to provide some of the funds to sustain them through this challenging time. They send their greetings and praise God for the ways that He is providing for them.
“..your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God” 2 Cor 9:11
Our goal this advent is to continue to raise funds that will support the Wounaan church as they care for these 61 families in Panama City for the next few months. Please consider a gift of $160 that will provide one family with supplies for a month.

Check out this partnership zoom call with Trever Godard and Tomas Vidal as they share about the ministry of MTC. Meet the new staff team, hear powerful testimonies from past students around the world, and learn more about how God is at work through these people and ministries. FGCC has supported Trever and Joan and the ministry of the Matthew Training Center for over 15 years. We are in the process of forming a global partnership with MTC and welcome your prayers. Grab a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy this conversation with our friends in Mexico!

Stories are the most powerful means to convey truth. That’s why Jesus continually taught in stories (or parables). Movies that are based on ‘true stories’ are often our favorite because the story is real, personal, and moves us emotionally. We all have our own stories, but sometimes we don’t reflect on them very deeply, or take the time to understand what has truly shaped us and created the lenses that we see the world through. We also need to learn and grow in drawing out, and really hearing other people’s stories – especially stories of pain and hurt – like the stories of racism that are rising to the surface and being seen, heard and told in our world today. It’s challenging all of us to learn how to listen, reflect deeply, and walk alongside each other in our stories.

But what gives context and meaning to all our stories, is God’s story, which includes us in it. It’s the one that is written through the pages of Scripture, inviting us in to continue to write with our lives today. It’s a comprehensive story of reconciliation and hope, found in Jesus Christ as the center and foundation. Jesus gives purpose, power, and maturity to the church, his body, in order that we might together live out a better story (Ephesians 1:22-23).

An update from Bruce Enns on April 9th, 2020.

An update from Pastor Bruce Enns on April 3rd.