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Harvest Family Spotlight - Tamang Family

Dhan and Chandra Tamang (and Suk, Dhan’s mother) were born in the country of Bhutan.   Located north of Myanmar and Bangladesh, on the eastern edge of the Himalayan mountains, Bhutan is a Buddhist kingdom and is governed as a Buddhist theocracy. 

In 1988, Bhutan launched a national policy demanding that everyone adhere completely to Buddhist traditions, mandating that all citizens of Bhutan become one in language, dress and faith.  Violent protests and ethnic antagonism broke out, and thousands of Bhutan’s Nepalese residents fled to Nepal.  Among those fleeing were Dhan, Chandra, and Suk, who for the next 18 years, found themselves permanently entrenched in a refugee camp.  Conditions in the refugee camp were hardly even basic, and often inadequate.  They lived in bamboo shacks and used outdoor latrines; malnutrition and disease were overwhelming issues in the camps; food was provided by UNHCR.  It was in the refugee camp that Dhan and Chandra Tamang were married and had their first son, Dinesh. 

In 2007, the Tamangs applied for refugee status in the US. They were processed through the International Organization for Migration and landed in St Louis in June 2009.  They knew minimal English when they arrived and Dhan was provided a job, but he soon realized that language was a major obstacle to providing for his family.  Through the International Institute of St Louis, Dhan received some ESL (English as a Second Language) training while they lived in an apartment close to the Institute.  It was challenging to have ESL training and work at the same time. They had to pay back their travel expenses and begin paying for their rent and utilities within 6 months of arrival.

Some time soon after, Central hosted a Thanksgiving worship service and meal to which many Nepali refugees were invited, with transportation provided from New City Fellowship South by Dwight McKinney and Central members.  It was at that Thanksgiving worship and meal that many refugee families were met and contacts were made for future gardening.  The Tamangs were one of those families. 

The Tamangs say that Christians welcomed them immediately by providing basic necessities and visiting their family in their home, even when they had nothing.  Volunteers with the Harvest ministry visited weekly and spent hours gardening together, continued with tea in the winter months, and shared food, as well as a Genesis Bible study about Adam and Eve in the garden.  Sara, Marjorie, Liz, and Deb became part of the family, celebrating births, birthdays, 4th of Julys, and more.  Dhan states, “we became a family”.

Since then, their children have come consistently to Backyard Bible club and Kid’s Night out. They know the Gospel message and can recite it, although at present continue to be Hindu. Gratefully, seeds have been planted and God’s word does not come back to Him void. 

Dhan and Chandra Tamang live in Affton, with their 3 boys, Dinesh, Deepesh and Diwas, and mother Suk.

If you would like to learn more about Harvest and hear how you can get involved in this local outreach ministry, please join us on Saturday, May 4, from 10am-12pm for a special meeting/training event.

Joyful Waiting

As the saying goes in St. Louis, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait.” We have seen some dramatic examples of that this winter, haven’t we? From below zero to the mid-60s in a matter of days, it has been quite the roller coaster this year. Personally, I’m pretty much done with winter. I am ready for spring to be ushered in, when barren trees become lush and when chirping birds return. I am ready for baseball season, for barbecues, and for pleasant (sans-winter coat) walks in the neighborhood with my family.

 Our recent sermon series in Philippians has me thinking a lot about the age to come. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” As much as we want to speed up the arrival of the renewal of springtime, how much more is the return of Jesus worth offering the yearning of our hearts! The inescapable pain and death of this present life will be purified as we see the Creation restored in ways that we can only imagine. No more cancer. No more failing marriages. No more scarcity. Those sins that so often beset me will no longer plaster me with shame and fear. We will live as God intended us to live, finally.

 So what are we to do in the winter of life if Jesus does not return tomorrow, or in our lifetime? The season of Lent begins in early March this year, and while we do not formally observe it, I think it is a wonderful season to reflect on this question of waiting. With our eyes toward Easter, waiting expectantly to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, how might we warm our hearts during these final days of winter?

 Gratitude. One of the greatest challenges of our lives in this present age is that it is polluted by darkness. The darkness of death, of sickness, and of our sin. It is hard to see rightly in the dark. But if the Lord would give us eyes to see, we would see light penetrating the darkness, even now. Where are you seeing light in your life or in the lives of others, and how can you show gratitude for it? Like a 60-degree day in the dead of winter, gratitude can revive our souls in powerful ways. It allows us to see God at work, even in the midst of pain. It encourages those around us, and gives them strength to carry on through their own trials.

 Repentance. The effects of the fall and of our sin are very real, and pervasive in all the earth. As we wait for Jesus to return, it can be tempting to see the problem as exclusively “out there.” No doubt, there are myriad problems “out there.” But let’s not kid ourselves…there are many problems right here at home, in my heart and in yours. When we repent of our sins with hearts flooded by his powerful and renewing grace, to God and to one another, sunshine comes bursting into the frozen tundra of our lives in profound ways, thawing our hardened hearts and restoring our broken relationships. The enemy of our souls does not want us to repent, because he knows how powerful it is to overcome his evil plans to destroy us. What might you repent of in the days ahead, and how might God use that to breathe restoration into the world through you?

Encouragement. There is no escaping the reality of this present darkness, unfortunately. A stiff upper lip is not going to cut it when real pain and struggle come to winter in our lives. I have the privilege of walking with so many of you through your struggles – struggles that are exceedingly painful for you and for those that you love. In the midst of our struggles, we need to be encouraging one another with the certain hope that Jesus is reigning at the right hand of the throne of God, and he is coming again. When we are down, we need fellow believers in our lives to point us back to this certain hope as we walk together through our pain. Encouraging one another in this way gives us the strength to continue to run the race set before us. 

 As we enter into the month of March (and the end of winter, in theory), we ask the age-old question: will it come in like a lion, and go out like a lamb? And don’t even get me started on our furry little friend, Punxsutawney Phil. I’m pretty sure he didn’t see his shadow this year. Spring feels like a long time coming, and regardless of our favorite cultural superstitions I think we can all agree on that. Within our yearning for springtime we can hear an echo of our yearning for the age to come and Jesus’ triumphant return. Let’s reflect on that glorious truth together in these coming days with gratitude, repentance and encouragement.

Posted by Clay Smith with 7 Comments

The Full View of God's Church

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When I was in seminary, a professor challenged us future pastors to view the church as a hospital rather than a museum.  Too often, he was seeing churches as a place where people go to look and see all the “good” the church had done in the past.  But in a museum, you aren’t allowed to touch anything.  He wanted to challenge his students and future church leaders to view the church more like a hospital - a place where broken sinners need to come to find healing.
 
Through my time in ministry, I’ve appreciated this constant reminder to focus on the lost as Jesus came to seek and save.  However, the teaching needs to expand beyond this: the church can’t just act as a hospital because once someone is healed from their brokenness, their transformed being in Christ needs to know and understand what comes next.  The church needs to embrace its function as a MUSEUM (acknowledged history), HOSPITAL (healing), SCHOOL (teaching, learning, mentoring), and SENDING AGENCY (equipping and sending people).
 
MUSEUM – I just celebrated the 40th anniversary of Wheaton Chinese Alliance Church where I had the privilege to serve while I was in Chicago.  St Louis Chinese Gospel Church, where I served prior to coming to Central, recently celebrated 90 years of God’s faithfulness.  Now, I come to Central Presbyterian Church, going strong with 174 years of history.  In church membership class, the material had this quote, “the more we know about who we were, the better we can understand who we are and where we are going”.  Although it is important to know our past, it is even more significant to commemorate how God is always present, no matter the circumstance.  We honor and cherish God’s consistent faithfulness to us and therefore, can hold secure knowing He will continue to be there through all circumstances.  As in times of crisis, we also remember the many blessings that God has given us.  It is not to say hardships are lessened, ignored or forgotten, but rather how they have built us up and challenged us to seek, to change what is not working. God never changes but how can we make sure we are faithful and also communicate God’s constancy in ways the changing world can understand and know.
 
HOSPITAL – Churches need to be seriously challenged with the ability to love people and help them find healing and new life in Christ’s sacrifice.  I have been in beautiful churches, but it becomes all too easy to prioritize “prettiness.”  God reminds us that it is not the building but His people that make the church.  And to also remember, as Ravi Zaccharias shares, “Jesus did not come to make bad people good, but dead people alive.”  The church needs to help the lost and broken realize the spiritual death that is in their lives, through practical needs then spiritual ones.

SCHOOL – When I say school, I know people have different reactions.  I hope what comes to mind is a place for intentional teaching, learning, and mentoring. In this, there is an emphasis of practical application and fully internalizing God’s Word where it is lived out in our lives.  It also has to be a place where there is true mentorship where we walk along with the next generation to help them grow and learn from life experience but also realize how much we, ourselves, can learn from them.
 
SENDING AGENCY – I remember preaching a series on the Great Commission and by the exit doors it said, “You are now entering into the Mission Field”.  The church needs to see itself as sending God’s people into the world to share the Gospel through word and deed.  I recall hearing of churches that would commission all professions to go from the church and be God’s light as teachers, lawyers, doctors, and stay at home moms.  Can we continue to be a church that sends people well, not just missionaries to many parts of the lost world abroad, but also right here in our community?
 
One last important thing: there will be different seasons in the church when each of these things are emphasized more than others.  However for the church to be healthy, we must never neglect being the HOSPITAL.  The church needs to be a place for the broken to find healing in God.  When people are hurting, people need to know that the church is a place where they can come and find healing … A sanctuary, where we dispel “prayer gossip”, self-righteousness and judgement. A place people wantto come because they know they will be loved and cared for. May God continue to humble us and guide us.

Posted by Ben Tzeng

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