The Cape Girardeau Dynamic Duo

Cape Girardeau Couple Forgoes Lucrative Income To Work With Youngsters

Mike and Debbie Bowers ought to be taking it easy. They’ve both worked hard in very prosperous careers, and they admit that they’re “not getting any younger!” But to see them with the youth of the Cape Girardeau Corps in southeast Missouri—well, you’d think they discovered some youthful tonic that enables them to keep up with these teens and young adults.

Mike and Debbie have taken on a grueling weekly schedule working with youth—with something going on at the corps every night and throughout the weekend.

On Monday evenings, the “Life Skills” program has the kids visiting a different business in the area, with the purpose of learning what jobs are out there and perhaps planting a seed as to what career they’d like to pursue in college.

“We go to restaurants, auto shops, financial advisors, banks—really anything that might help them decided what they want to become as adults,” Mike says.

Tuesday night is corps cadets, and a different twist on the Cape Girardeau Corps is that any of the kids who want to attend the classes may do so, but only those who are officially signed-up for the five-year course receive credit. Of the 15 or so that usually come, 10 are actual members. The underlying incentive is that if you are going to do the work anyway, you might as well get credit for it.

Wednesday nights are for the adults who come to prayer meeting, Bible study, Home League, and Men’s Club—but the children that come along enjoy games and activities in the corps gymnasium.

Thursday night used to feature boxing for boys between sixth grade on up. But this has given way to basketball, which has proven to be even more popular.

On Fridays and Saturdays, the gym is open for everyone, and special programs designed for smaller groups are planned. Also on Saturdays, a church league rents the gym and Mike, Debbie and several kids help out by running a concession stand to raise money for the youth programs.

And of course, there’s Sundays—with a breakfast, Sunday School, Morning Worship, a dinner, and an afternoon activity such as skating or to a movie.

“All of these daily activities begin with a short lesson from God’s Word,” Mike explains. “We also feed them lunch or dinner, and then we have the activity.”

Feeding the youth of the Cape Girardeau Corps can sometimes feel like an endless job—
but well worth it, says Mike Bowers.

Although Mike is the “paid” employee, the Army gets “two for the price of one”—Debbie volunteers 25-30 hours each week helping Mike fulfill his dream of working with kids and teens. It’s a dream he left a high-paying job as a accounts/sales manager for Kimberly Clark and its partner company, CrossMark.

Mike supervised 30 employees and brokered accounts for food outlets in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas. Before that, he worked a similar position with Pillsbury. (Look for Mike’s complete testimony in a War Cry issue tentatively set for early 2017.)

Actually, his many years in the corporate world are another bonus for the kids of the Cape Girardeau Corps. Debbie’s teaching experience comes into play by teaching Sunday School, Corps Cadets, and devotions before each nightly activity.

And Debbie shares her husband’s passion to develop kids at an early age, before they are much harder to reach as young adults.

Moreover, Debbie is a constant encourager to Mike, particularly when he feels like their work is getting little traction.

“These kids are at risk,” he says, “and Debbie reminds me that they are not where they used to be.

“That keeps me going.”

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Major Frank Duracher, Assistant Editor

 

 

 

Be A Comfort (Even If It’s Uncomfortable)

According to the language used centuries ago in the King James Version of the Bible, the seat of emotion was not the heart, but far lower. If you really want to make an impression on your teen Sunday school class, use the version of compassion and deep-seated affection the Bible calls “bowels of mercy.” That will get a derisive howl every time.

In a similar way the word “comfort,” which is sprinkled throughout the Bible, has changed in meaning over time. Originally it meant to provide for someone else rather than for ourselves. However, our narcissistic tendencies have influenced its meaning. Now it connotates ease and restfulness, like a plush, overstuffed recliner seductively beckoning after a hard day. But comfort has nothing to do with relaxation.

Comfort comes from two Latin words—con and fortis, meaning “with strength.” When you see the word, keep in mind the idea of providing powerfully stabilizing security to those who have none.

A quick scan of a concordance shows 71 Bible references to comfort, all of which in some form fit the “with strength” definition.

Handel used one of those references in his renowned musical composition Messiah:

“Comfort, comfort My people,” says the Lord your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” (Isaiah 40:1–2)

The Lord spoke these words to the prophet Isaiah many years before the inhabitants of Judah became exiles in Babylon after suffering through a long siege with horrific loss of life and property. Jerusalem was sacked, the Temple treasuries pilfered and the populace taken to Babylon by force. Most would never return. Those who managed to get back found the place a ruin inhabited by sheep, weeds and wild birds. The devastation served as a visible warning of what comes from flagrant disobedience against God. Yet with these words the Lord told the prophet to encourage and strengthen the people of Judah years before God would give the nation a collective attitude adjustment.

Recalling the deeper meaning of comfort, the words of Isaiah could read:

“Give strength to My people. Do not cripple their hope, for hope is all they will have in the days ahead. Speak tenderly, not with a smug ‘I told you so,’ but that her hard days of correction, bondage and exile are done. Israel will receive double measure of grace in spite of what she has done.”

Nothing in the message presented a weak “It will be all right.” Things will be all right one day, but not yet. The Lord told them He will not be against them forever, but would shower them with more than they lost.

Isn’t that just like God to lavishly give far in excess of what we deserve? The Lord did not tell them “Time will heal everything.” The only thing time does is lengthen the hurt. It never goes away. We are not the same again, and never will be.

In the New Testament, Paul took comfort to a deeper level:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:3–7)

This Scripture passage reads as well or better if the word strength is substituted for comfort.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all strength, who strengthens us in all our troubles, so that we can strengthen those in any trouble with the strength we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our strength abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your strengthening and salvation; if we are strengthened, it is for your strengthening, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our strength.

The fledgling church Paul was addressing was enduring extraordinarily severe persecution bordering on extermination. He endeavored to impart to them confidence in God and in each other. Today, we tend to think we suffer unduly when someone disagrees with us. To the early church, persecution was far more malevolent—often resulting in torture and painful death.However, the Church not only survived but grew in numbers and quality because of it.

As the Roman Empire descended into self–destructive madness, forgetting the characteristics that once made it the great, the emperor elevated himself to deity status. As such, once per year, every citizen of the empire had to offer a pinch of incense and say, “Caesar is Lord,” even if they did not mean it. When the “offering” was finished, the person received a certificate of completion. Without that official document, a person could not work, buy or rent property, marry or do any of the things we do as a matter of course. The worst place for this type of systematic persecution was in Smyrna. This is the church commended for its faithfulness in the Book of Revelation, which deals with Christ’s return to earth and the coming of the end.Of all people, these persecuted faithful would understand comfort in terms of giving strength where there was none. They did not need well–meaning people to wring their hands, but to help with tangible things and pray like there was no tomorrow.

So when tragedies occur be of tangible assistance to others, giving strength where there is none. First of all, pray. And do not say to the grieving, “If there is anything we can do, do not hesitate to ask,” for they will not ask. They will remain stoically silent and hurt. Be proactive—cut their lawn, shovel snow off their driveway, take them to the store or doctor or assist with any of a thousand things so they do not go through the loss alone. Be a strong comforter to bring strength to God’s people who have none of their own. It will be worth all the risk, for that is how God comforts us too.

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Major A. Kenneth Wilson recently entered retirement from his appointment as senior instructor for the Army’s College for Officer Training in the Eastern Territory. He lives in Lancaster, PA.

Frontlines: Refugee Crisis in Europe

There is much fear in the world these days due to the refugee crisis in Europe. Some of it is understandable, given the terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels and Istanbul. On the other hand, the refugees from Syria, Iraq and Iran are fleeing violence in their homelands in fear for their lives. Who can blame them for that?

How should Christians address this issue? It very well may be that God is addressing it for us, forcing us to take action.

According to Global Mapping International (GMI), a Christian ministry research organization in Colorado Springs, Colorado, 86 percent of the world’s population does not know a single Christian.

“People are on the move because God is on the move,” explains Jenny Yang, vice president of advocacy and policy at World Relief. “An unexpected and positive outcome of an exodus of Muslims relocating to Europe is that thousands are being exposed to the claims of the gospel!”

For 2000 years, Jesus’ followers have been carrying out His command to share with the world that its Savior has come. The difference today, many believers contend, is that we are living in what the Bible calls “the last days.”

A Turkish couple, Mihail and Doris De˘girmenci, have acted upon this sense of urgency, recognizing that God has opened a door to minister among Iraqi refugees languishing in a refugee camp in eastern Turkey. The De˘girmencies live in Selcuk,on Turkey’s west coast. There they operate their popular business, St. John Café. Since the refugee crisis began, they have used much of the café’s profits to fund their travel and other expenses to act as pastors to a church they’ve planted in the refugee camp.

The camp is fertile ground—an estimated 10,000 Iraqis are housed in squalid conditions. “The camp is some 13 hours from Selcuk, and we plan our visits over weekends,” Mihail says through an interpreter. “We visit them in their homes and pray for their sick. We are often even able to pay for prescriptions and medical needs for as many as we can.”

They also help with heating fuel during the cold Turkish winters and provide gift cards so families can buy groceries and meet personal expenses. “This is a critical social ministry, as these refugees are not Turkish citizens, and as such do not qualify for any type of public assistance from the government,” he adds.

On Sundays, Mihail and Doris preach and teach the gospel to those hungry for the Word of God. Often 70 to 90 people attend church. “We are studying the book of Daniel, and since ancient Babylon includes what is now Iraq, they sit in rapt attention when it is mentioned in the text. They love the Word of God!”

Mihail’s family is Christian, a minority religion in Turkey, where nearly 99 percent of the population is Muslim.

“I just preach the Bible as the Word of God. I preach about the way of salvation because I believe that Jesus did not come to establish a religion, but to show the world that He is the way, the truth and the life,” Mihail says.

Considering that God is bringing about His good and perfect will, the refugee crisis is an opportunity to extend the Kingdom of God.

Mihail and Doris De˘girmenci are risking everything to do what God is commanding them to do. Their very lives are in sometimes in danger, but to them, it’s worth it. “People are being saved!” Mihail beams.

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Find an overview of the Army’s refugee response efforts at www.salvationarmy.org/ihq/europerefugees