Seminary and MB Mission extending ministry during Christmas season
by Connie Faber
The Advent season began this past weekend, and two USMB ministry partners are offering Advent and Christmas resources. The materials are available online so its convenient to take advantage of the resources offered by Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary and MB Mission.
Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary: Advent Devotions
The purpose of the Advent devotional is twofold, says Lynn Jost, FPBS vice-president and dean. The first is to provide spiritual nurture. “We want to help resist the trend toward commercialization with a reminder that daily attention to God through his Word has greater value,” says Jost.
“Two, we ourselves are transformed and refocused when we contemplate the person and work of Jesus,” says Jost.“We know that as a Seminary community this transformation process must be vital and continuing.The devotional helps provide that focus for us.”
As in previous years, the circle of writers for 2012 Advent devotionals begins with seminary faculty and staff. Pete Menjares, Fresno Pacific University president; Steve Varvis, FPU provost; and FPU undergraduate Bible and religion faculty were also invited to write.
“Seminary students are always eager to write,” says Jost. “Usually some of the students produce our best pieces.”
This year the Advent booklet extends through the Christmas season into Epiphany, thanks to the growing interest among students—and Seminary alumnus—in contributing a meditation.
The day-to-day Scripture readings correspond with texts from the daily lectionary and were chosen for their appropriateness to the season. “We also make an effort to include the Gospel texts that are associate with Christ’s birth,” says Jost.
While a change in office personnel led to the decision to discontinue the option participants have had in the past to receive the devotionals as a daily email, this year the entire series can be downloaded as a pdf in one of two formats.
Printed booklets are available from FPBS, while supplies last, to anyone requesting the resource. This year Reedley (Calif.) MB Church is using the Seminary Advent devotional guide as their primary Advent piece and church staff worked with seminary personnel to secure an additional quantity for their use.
MB Mission: “Give Christmas Away”
Advent resources from MB Mission focus on Christmas as a season to be generous, to sacrifice and to take risks. Under the umbrella phrase, “Give Christmas Away,” MB Mission offers their supporters the opportunity to actively go, pray and give. Each opportunity is outlined in detail on the agency’s web site where visitors can watch a video feature that explains what one team of families did last year.
Go: The North American MB mission agency invites individuals, couples and families interested in sharing the Christmas season with MB Mission workers in Thailand to travel to that Southeast Asian country Dec. 13-27. The trip will allow participants to spend time with believers who are reaching their communities with Christ’s love and to experience a different cultural style of prayer, worship and church ministry. The deadline for participating in the 2012 Christmas trip has passed, but MB Mission encourages interested individuals and families to contact them now about next year's trip. The summer issue of Witness magazine, the MB Mission quarterly publication, included an article about one family's experience on a Christmas trip to Mexico.
Pray: The agency’s monthly prayer calendar is designed to reflect the Advent season and incorporates the use of Advent candles, one for each of the four Sundays prior to Christmas Day as well as a fifth candle lit on Christmas Day to represent Christ himself.
Entries for each week of December begin with a short reading, which could be used prior to lighting an advent candle. Each daily entry highlights the requests of a specific MB Mission worker, although some long-term workers serving in restricted access countries are identified by initial only.
Give: MB Mission has identified four broad categories of giving that aren’t unique to the Christmas season but are key areas of need among the people the agency serves around the world.
- Orphaned and abandoned children and teens are being given love, a family, a safe home and a bright future filled with Christ’s hope through MB Mission’s children’s homes efforts in various least-reached regions of the world.
- Discipling leaders is one of the greatest needs of churches worldwide. Whether training to become schoolteachers, church pastors or community health workers, many young adults are filled with passion and vision to transform their communities. But books, courses, mentors and internships are scarce in places where leaders are needed most.
- Lack of healthcare leaves many families and communities devastated by illnesses, deformities and serious symptoms that could be treated with appropriate medicine. Interested supporters can partner with MB Mission to build healthy communities by increasing access to medical care.
- In many least-reached regions around the world, pastors, health workers and church leaders work extremely hard to serve God’s church, yet they teeter on the brink of abject poverty. They have employable skills, but need a small seed fund to start a business to provide for their financial needs while they pursue their ministry. MB Mission provides these families with help in beginning small business and micro enterprise, farming endeavors and resources for church planting.