When Joe Farrell of the International Justice Mission (IJM), the world’s leading anti-slavery organization, visited Covenant in January, Covenant mission committee chair Doug Kilday asked how Covenant folks could get involved. Joe told Doug that it’s hard to find short-term mission opportunities where you can be impactful. Joe talked about praying for IJM staff, volunteers and clients, and about organizing 5K races to raise money. When Doug pressed him to give more concrete activities, Joe mentioned IJM fellowship opportunities—unpaid, long-term gigs mostly for lawyers. “Our church has a lot of lawyers,” Doug told him. “Maybe we can recruit someone.” Then it happened. “As soon as those words came out of my mouth, I felt a tingling down my spine; Joe’s words touched on an unscratched itch,” Doug said, explaining that he thought he’d spend a year in the Peace Corps after law school. It didn’t happen and Doug didn’t look back. But now, he was thinking. “I told [my wife] Thais these thoughts, not in the form of a request, just describing what had happened and she said the most shocking thing I could imagine.” “Three or four years ago, we couldn’t have done this,” Thais said. “Three or four years from now, we won’t be able to do this. But now, now we can,” she said. “That made it real,” Doug said. Soon the Kildays learned there were also opportunities for Thais to use her social work skills. “We could do this,” Doug said. “We could take our family on a grand adventure and do something real.” Later that week, the couple had a regularly scheduled annual meeting with their financial consultant, and Thais mentioned that Doug had been flirting with the idea of a year-long mission trip. “Our advisor, he’s been working with us for 22 years, looked at our numbers and said, you can make it work. You save so you have options. This is why you do what you do. And he started crying!” Doug said. Then the couple got serious. The Kildays attended an IJM Global Prayer Conference in April, an opportunity for staff from the 17 IJM field offices all over the world to meet with churches and pastors. At the three-day conference held in Washington, D.C., attendees go to break-out prayer sessions where the directors of IJM field offices talk needs specific to their location. For the Kildays’ first meeting, there was one open spot: Cambodia. The couple sat down in the front row and was immediately inspired. “We learned and heard so much at the conference, and we walked away feeling like, if this is the way the world is and God is really giving us this opportunity, we’ve got to step up and do it,” Thais said. “Once you have the awareness and you have the opportunity, what does it mean if you don’t step up? So we applied.” “Oddly, it’s a very competitive process,” Doug joked, pondering all the people who are willing to work unpaid for a year in a Third-World country. The options of where to go were limited. The couple explained that IJM sends only Spanish speakers to Central and South America, and it’s difficult to get visas to India. The best opportunities for non-Spanish-speaking Americans are in Southeast Asia and Africa. When factoring in the safety of the family—the couple has three kids ages 14, 10 and 8—the Kildays’ decision came down to two places: Cambodia and Ghana. After a lengthy application and interview process, both Doug and Thais were awarded IJM fellowships. Come January, following a weeklong, intensive training in D.C., the Kilday family will embark on the long journey to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Doug will do legal work in the local office, which is involved with investigations and prosecution of slave trade. “I won’t be licensed in Cambodia. The IJM lawyer will be speaking in court. I will work on trial strategy. I will literally be helping to prosecute slave traffickers. We will have six or seven trials during the year, which is very different than here, where we maybe get one trial to court per year.” Doug said the legal research is complicated. He explained: “Recently, IJM rescued a woman lured to China to work. She was forced to marry and was then a slave. So our work is more than just local. The question becomes: ‘Do you go after people in Cambodia or China?’ A lot of the human trafficking in Cambodia is international. We have to figure out how IJM works in this context.” While Doug is steeped in the law, Thais will be doing administrative social work. She’ll be looking at program design to evaluate how to best help those in need and assessing situations to determine how and where IJM can have the most impact. She will also help develop staff training. “Most of the direct client contact is done by locals, who speak the language. My role will be very supportive,” Thais said. Ninety percent of the IJM staff are local Christians hired to work in their own country. The model is for missionaries—like Doug and Thais—to come in alongside and support those making change in their own country. IJM works with local law enforcement, social workers, educators and others. One exciting thing about Cambodia, according to the Kildays, is IJM’s progress in the 15 years it has been there. When IJM set up in Cambodia, they focused on the sexual exploitation of children. Today, less than one tenth of one percent of Cambodian children are in brothels. IJM is now working to reduce forced labor and labor trafficking. A Typical Work Day IJM staffers generally work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Kildays have talked to IJM leaders about how they will manage that schedule with kids. IJM has been very supportive, offering whatever flextime the couple needs. The non-negotiable hours are the two 30-minute periods set aside daily for prayer. “IJM has Christian practices and they incorporate rhythms into their workday. Every […]
Covenant’s Deacons are sponsoring a 30-hour Prayer Vigil from Friday morning, Jan. 20, to Saturday afternoon, Jan. 21, in the Covenant Sanctuary. The vigil is an opportunity to spend some time with God in prayer in our Sanctuary. A security guard will be on site to ensure everyone’s safety during the late-night hours. We will have suggested prayer material available, both for individuals and for families with children. SIGN UP HERE. If you have questions, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are a few spots left for the 2017 Marriage Course. The course, designed to strengthen and nurture marriages no matter the age or stage, will be held on Sunday mornings at 9:30 a.m., Jan. 15-Feb. 26, and will consist of seven video sessions that are independent from one another. There is a $15 registration fee per couple. Download the application: Marriage Course Application Contact email@example.com with questions.
We see in these words that Jesus is a gift God has shared with us so that we might experience salvation both in this world and in the world to come. This gift is a tangible expression of God’s incredible love for you and for me. Christmas is a time of year when we give gifts to one another. Yes, it can be difficult to find the time to shop and buy meaningful presents for the people we love. It can make the holidays become more hectic and at times that can seem like it is defeating the purpose of the season. This can certainly be the case if we wait and try to accomplish everything at the last minute. But this year, I invite you to step back from the frenzy. Throughout our Advent sermon series, “And the Soul Felt Its Worth,” we’ll hear and study the priestly blessing found in Numbers 6:24-26: In this prayer, God promises to protect us, and give us grace and peace. He promises to bless us, and what a gift this is! In October, a group from Covenant attended the first Fuller Cohort Retreat. After spending much time in small groups of six people, we had an assignment to tell the other members of our group how they had been a blessing to us during our time together. We had gotten close throughout the three days, sharing our deepest prayers. The blessings we shared were real. They were kind. They were love. It was an incredible experience. It was a gift. What if your gifts this Christmas weren’t purchased on Dec. 23 at Target or Macy’s or Academy? What if, instead, you slowed down and thought about all the ways your friends and family members have been blessings to you? What if you thought about the ways that Love Does in your life together with your small group members, families and friends? And then, what if you looked your loved ones in the eyes and said, “You have blessed me by __________”? This can be a very powerful thing. We are called to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. We aren’t following a rule, rather we are acting toward others the way that God acts toward us. As the holidays draw closer I invite you to value the call to share your lives with one another. This year, give the gift of a blessing and be sent as a follower of Jesus. Joyfully, Thomas Daniel Senior Pastor
The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit—Psalm 34:18 Walking the Mourner’s Path is a Christ-centered, spiritually-directed grief support group for those who are mourning the death of a loved one and are experiencing the pain of grief. Group members become aware of God’s presence and healing comfort as they share their own stories with each other. Participants learn ways to honor loved ones, seek spiritual direction and discover Christ’s promise of comfort as they move forward. Walking the Mourner’s Path is not a psychologically-based therapy group. Two trained group leaders and a Covenant pastor serve as facilitators. Group enrollment is open to church members or nonmembers, and uses a workbook that is available for $25 at the first meeting. Scholarships are available upon request. We welcome anyone who is grieving the death of a loved one whether or not the death was recent. 2017 winter, spring and fall sessions will take place: Saturdays, Jan. 21 through March 11, from 9:30-11 a.m. Thursdays, March 30 through May 25, from 6:30-8 p.m. Thursdays, September 28 through November 16, from 6:30-8 p.m. The eight-week sessions are limited to 10 people. Contact Kay Austin at firstname.lastname@example.org or (512) 334-3030.
Covenant will hold a 30-hour prayer vigil on from 7 a.m. on Jan. 20 to 1 p.m. on Jan. 21. Stay tuned for online sign-ups.
Carol Kalendorf from the Dream Come True Foundation will present “Disrupting the Cycle of Poverty in Austin” at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 4 in FE 200. This is a follow-up to Q Commons, an important public conversation for the common good, held this fall at our church. Many who attended were eager for more dialogue, especially the local issues. As a result, Covenant will host three Wednesday evenings for discussion on Jan. 4, Jan. 18 and Feb. 1. The other speakers are TBA.
by Elizabeth Christian It’s that time of year—Advent devotionals, Christmas planning, house decorating. How did the end of 2016 get here so fast? Your friends and fellow church members who serve on the Covenant Presbyterian Foundation remind you that December is also a wonderful time to prayerfully consider your finances. Here’s a brief checklist to help spur your thinking on some tasks that may make starting the New Year a little less stressful: Have you had a meeting with your estate attorney, financial planner or accountant recently? It’s a good idea to talk through your personal situation with your professional advisor early in December so you have time to make tweaks to your strategies before the tax year closes out. It’s worth revisiting your will at least every other year. Legal wording of important ancillary documents, such as powers of attorney, often undergo updates because of court decisions and changes in the law; it’s important to keep these current. Think through your charitable giving. Making donations to charities is a winwin—you may get a nice tax write-off, but you will also help a worthy cause. Naturally, we hope that Covenant Presbyterian Church and the Covenant Presbyterian Foundation are on your list to consider for a gift. The Foundation is particularly grateful for bequests written into your will. If you are over 70½ or have an inherited IRA, it’s time to ensure that you’ve taken the proper “required minimum distribution” for 2016. Check with your advisor if you are not sure—the tax implications can be unpleasant if you do not make the required withdrawals. For those of us who are still working, make sure you’ve contributed the maximum allowed under law to your IRA, Roth IRA, 401(k), etc. Your future self will thank you. Do you have a health savings account, usually known as an FSA? Be sure you have used it up by the end of the year. • Gather your important financial documents—insurance policies, retirement and bank accounts, etc., and make sure the beneficiaries are listed as you would wish. If you have experienced the death of a spouse during the year, it’s especially important to make sure you’ve updated all beneficiary designations. Spending a few hours this month can be the best gift you give yourself and your family. Merry Christmas to you all, and happy New Year. For more information about Covenant Presbyterian Foundation, please visit covenant.org/foundation or contact Duane Dube or any Trustee: Elizabeth Christian, Everard Davenport, Dianne Erlewine, Larry Faulkner, JoAnne McIntosh, Megan Poore, and Helene Maham. Covenant Presbyterian Foundation supports Covenant Presbyterian Church by assisting donors to be Faithful to Generations, during and beyond their own lives, by receiving and growing their gifts, and using them to help fulfill the donors’ glorification of God. One generation will commend your works to another …Psalm 145:4
Save the date for D*NOW 2017, Jan. 13-15. This weekend long in-town retreat is for all students grades 6th-12th gather to build community, learn about God and serve our amazing city. During the weekend, students stay in host homes around Austin with other students their age. Cost of the retreat is $75 by Dec. 14; $100 by Jan. 4. Get a registration form online.
Below is a collection of reflections and stories written by Covenant members. We encourage you to take some time every day to read these pages as you anticipate Christ’s birth. Focus, this season, on the coming of Jesus Christ, on celebrating his birth and on the hope that He will come again.