“Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord;
walk as children of light.” —Ephesians 5:8
Before their conversion, all Christians were in spiritual darkness (I Peter 2:9b), spiritual blindness (I Corinthians 2:9a), and spiritual death (Ephesians 2:1b), but following their conversion, all Christians are in spiritual light (I Peter 2:9b); they have eyes which “see” (Matthew 13:16a) “Jesus [as] the Author and Finisher” (Hebrews 12:2a) of their saving faith in Him as the “one Mediator between God and men, …who gave Himself a ransom for all” (I Timothy 2:5-6a), and they have “the gift of God, [which] is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord” (Romans 6:23b). Do Christians themselves deserve any credit for this astounding work of conversion? Absolutely not! Listen to the Holy Ghost (II Peter 1:21) speak to all Christians of all time in these words from Ephesians 2: “By grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast” (vv. 8-9).
In unending gratitude for the “riches of [God’s] grace” (Ephesians 1:7b), all Christians have the privilege (I John 4:19) and the “opportunity” (Galatians 6:10a) to “walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8b), in order to “show forth the praises of Him who hath called [them] out of darkness into His marvelous light, which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God; which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy” (I Peter 2:9b-10), “which He shed on [them] abundantly through Jesus Christ, [their] Savior” (Titus 3:6). This “walk as children of light” involves walking “in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor” (Ephesians 5:2). Therefore, “whoso hath this world’s good and seeth his brother have need and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (I John 3:17-18).
In our Conference, we have needy brethren in the Orthodox Lutheran Church of Ekaterinburg (Russia) and in St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church (Sauk Village, Illinois). Both of these local congregations are receiving monthly subsidies from our Conference to help them in their need. This is one very small way in which we can “walk as children of light.” What is the up-to-date report from these two sister congregations?
• Ekaterinburg – The Money Gram subsidy transactions have been going through without a “glitch,” right up to this current month (February). Pastor Schurganoff’s health is a continuing concern. His e-mail of February 16 gave this brief report on his physical health: “The past few months my health has deteriorated.” This was confirmed in his monthly reports for December and January, which show that the congregation’s Worship Services for December 11 and 25, as well as for January 15 and 29, were cancelled due to their pastor’s unspecified “illness.” Mr. Alex Popoff, a member of St. John’s, Lebanon, Oregon, is our Conference translator for any documents which need to be translated from English to Russian or from Russian to English. At the present time, Mr. Popoff is working on translating from Russian into English the answers given by Pastor Schurganoff to questions addressed to him concerning his health, questions drafted by the Committee on Missions for its current and accurate information and, for the convenience of Pastor Schurganoff, translated into Russian by Mr. Popoff. Concerning these health issues, we take great comfort in the reassuring, certain words of our gracious and compassionate God: “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28); “Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth” (Hebrews 12:6a).
• Sauk Village – This congregation, located in a south suburb of Chicago, has reported to the undersigned that it is doing “fine” with the monthly subsidy so far in this fiscal year (June through May). This is an unexpected blessing from our heavenly Father, especially when we consider that St. Mark’s, on its own, asked for a lowering of its monthly subsidy by $200.00 at our June 2011 Convention. Our response to this report is the response expressed in Psalm 118: “O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, because His mercy endureth forever” (v. 1).
We also have needy brethren in Nigeria, but these Nigerian congregations do not receive any monthly subsidy. However, when a special or urgent need does arise on their end, we assist them as we are able on this end. An example of such an urgent need was the cost for the hospitalization of Pastor Wariboko (who subsequently died as a result of a taxi crash), plus the lengthy hospital stay for his daughter, Anthonia, who was with her father in that terrible accident. We appealed to our United States congregations for help in paying the extensive hospital bill. They responded generously; and, in an October 13th e-mail, Pastor Fyneface reported that the hospital bills had been paid in full (with contributions toward those bills also coming from those Nigerian congregations which were able to assist Mrs. Wariboko in defraying them). Incidentally, Mrs. Wariboko and her children have expressed great gratitude and appreciation for our financial assistance in her unexpected need.
Approximately four months ago, two men from these Nigerian congregations (one of them a seminary student) were kidnaped. Both men were married, with children. As of February 17th, Pastor Fyneface wrote that “no news” has been received regarding their whereabouts, that is, their families (and all of their dear Nigerian brethren) do not know whether they are dead or still living. We “weep with them that weep” (Romans 12:15b). May our Nigerian brethren, especially the families of the two men, remember that our God “cannot lie” (Titus 1:2) when He promises that “all things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28).
Let us, with “the love of Christ constrain[ing] us” (II Corinthians 5:14a), continue “by love [to] serve one another” (Galatians 5:13c) according to the light and lamp of God’s Word (Psalm 119:105) in the days ahead!
— R. J. L.