For Every Tribe

Photography By Jeremy Kramer

Photo courtesy of byFaith Magazine.

One of the worst days of Elidamares (“Eli”) de Almeida’s life was the day she had to take her husband to the doctor with her. The 40-something elementary school teacher from Brazil had recently immigrated with her family to the U.S. She knew very little English and was almost completely dependent on others.

In Brazil, she was a capable and independent woman with a bachelor’s degree in education. “I was free to do everything I wanted or to solve any kind of problem.” Not so when she came to America.

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The Autistic Road to Belief

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Image courtesy of byFaith Magazine.

Seven years ago, Christian singer-songwriter Lori Sealy experienced what she describes as a fierce battle against the “old vestiges of atheistic doubt.” It went back to her torturous teenage years and her even more difficult beginnings.

Conceived as a result of an adulterous affair, Sealy was almost aborted. Thankfully, her mother decided to walk out of the abortion clinic at the last minute. Sealy was soon adopted, but her adoptive mother struggled with mental illness. Consequently, their relationship was stormy and didn’t do much to help Sealy wrestle through her spiritual questions. She grew up in a church, but it didn’t help much either.

“From my earliest years I had longed to know and understand God, but my questions were either met with petty pat answers, calls to blind belief, or hypocritical hubris.” Fed up, Sealy “turned the page on God.” And while still in high school she began a new chapter of “theistic disdain.”

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Elder Survives Japanese Prison Camp

Jack Graham

Photo courtesy of byFaith magazine.

Jack Graham knows it’s a miracle that he’s lived to see his 83 years. A former ruling elder (Good Shepherd Presbyterian, St. Louis), Graham recounts how his mother had to stuff straw in his mouth when he was a baby to keep him from crying as they hid in rice paddies to escape being captured by the Communists.

Graham’s parents and grandparents were missionaries with China Inland Mission, and for decades they labored to plant churches. Graham’s grandfather was influential in translating the Bible into the native Miao language.

When Graham was 6, his parents sent him to Chefoo School, an English school 2,000 miles away. After Pearl Harbor, the Japanese invaded China, captured Chefoo, and sent Graham, his sister, and the 150 other students and teachers to Weihsien Internment Camp, where they joined 1,500 other prisoners, including Olympic runner and missionary Eric Liddell (featured in “Chariots of Fire”). Graham remembers that Liddell worked in one of the prison kitchens and spent much of his time distracting the children with stories and games. He died at age 43 from a brain tumor, just five months before the camp was liberated.

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Dying with Grace: My Interview with Kara Tippetts

(Reprinted with permission from byfaithonline.com. Photography by Jen Lintz.)

Kara Tippetts, 38, is the wife of PCA church planter Jason Tippetts (Westside Church, Colorado Springs, Colorado) and a mother to four young children. She is also dying of cancer. Not long after receiving her initial diagnosis of breast cancer, Tippetts started a blog called “Mundane Faithfulness,” where she chronicles her daily battle with cancer and her fight for joy in the midst of pain and probable death. Her rawness, sense of humor, and spiritual clarity have particularly connected with women, with close to 30,000 now subscribing to her blog. In late 2014, despite plodding through three weeks every month of chemo treatments, Tippetts published her first book, “The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life’s Hard” (David C. Cook). This past Thanksgiving, while Tippetts was in Indianapolis, Indiana, speaking to a group of more than 700, byFaith writer Zoe Erler had a chance to talk with her about the book and what keeps her going in the face of her expected prognosis.

You arrived in Colorado Springs in 2012 with the dream of planting a church. Instead you were welcomed with a shocking diagnosis of  breast cancer. What did church planting look like then?

We had only been in town six months before I started chemo, and so the church started out basically not having a pastor’s wife. If they wanted to be a welcoming church, they had to be the ones to do it. I didn’t have the strength. I was often sitting there slumped sick in a chair. I would show up, but I didn’t have any pastor’s wife abilities to host other people. Our church plant was really born out of brokenness. But it has created this safe environment of “we don’t have to pretend that we have it all together here.” And then it created a warm community where the people understand it’s their job to capture the new people and to embrace hospitality where we can’t.

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Fashioned for Freedom

What does a 15-year-old girl do when, after being rescued from sex slavery, realizes that her family doesn’t want to take her back?

That question confronted Dawn Manske when she visited a safe house in India for girls who had been trafficked. Manske, had first witnessed the trafficking of children while teaching English in China.

In 2011, although she was already working three jobs, Manske decided to undertake a business venture called Made for Freedom to help provide employment for girls rescued from brothels. Made for Freedom works with New Life Center, a recovery and restoration house that employs victims of sex trafficking in Thailand, to produce unique handmade pants that have a story of their own.

Continue reading at byFaith . . . 

Sewing for Jesus

Kieow couldn’t pass English class.

A political science student in Bangkok, Thailand, Kieow Thongluan needed a passing grade in English to graduate, but she just couldn’t master the class she was taking at Ramkhamhaeng University. Then a friend told her about a class run by MTW missionaries who taught English using the Bible.

“Because of growing up in a Buddhist family, we believed in angels, but we never talked about God,” Thongluan, 36, recalls.

She had learned a little about Jesus in religion classes, but it wasn’t until she started reading the Bible with the MTW missionaries that Thongluan began to realize who He really was.

“Jesus isn’t just the father of a religion; He is God. If He is God, I want to know. That day I went home, I prayed to Jesus that if He was God, I wanted to know Him. That night, I had a dream. Someone was knocking on the door. The person said, ‘I’m standing here and knocking.’ I said, ‘Yes, I want to open the door.’”

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Remember the Prisoner

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Photo taken from ByFaithonline.com

Mr. Casson, I hereby sentence you to life in prison with the possibility of parole. You understand sir, that the key word here is ‘possibility’ and that you may never leave prison; in fact, you may die there. Do you understand the sentence that I’m imposing on you today?”

These were the words that 21-year-old Mark Casson heard in the courtroom on a cold day in March 1989.

“I liked violent things,” Casson admits.

While serving as a linguist with U.S. Army Intelligence, Casson often engaged in underground fighting at a warehouse in San Jose, Calif. Committing murder was just the next step on his violent path.

One day, his best friend told him that his wife had committed adultery and he wanted revenge. Casson agreed to be the hit man.

Continue reading at ByFaithonline.com . . .

Precious in His Sight: San Diego Woman Fights to Set Victims Free

One_on_One_Munsey_407x226Sex trafficking is the fastest-growing business for organized crime, and San Diego is one of its hot spots. In the most recent issue of byFaithI chatted with a woman named Susan Munsey who is providing compassion to victims of this injustice through her organization GenerateHope

Your personal story played a big role in your desire to start an aftercare house for girls who have been trafficked. Can you share a little of your story with us?

When I was 16, my parents divorced. I felt lost and alone. During this time, I ran into a guy who did with me what is very typical for many girls:  He made me believe that he wanted me to be his girlfriend. I went for it, and before I knew it, I was in the street. For me—like for many kids—it was hard to say no, since I thought it meant I would lose love. Not long afterward, I was arrested. That was my saving grace.

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Reclaiming a Pool Hall to Redeem a Neighborhood

Photo courtesy of byFaith Magazine

Photo courtesy of byFaith Magazine

In a smoky pool hall in an undisclosed urban ghetto, Tom Cruise, playing a young billiards protégé in director Martin Scorsese’s 1986 film “The Color of Money,” bends over his cue and shoots impeccably, not only winning the admiration of his challengers but provoking their jealousy. Almost 20 years later, a young pastor takes a hammer to the walls of that same pool hall; blood, sweat, and prayers now at work transforming the once notorious pool hall at the corner of 64th and Cottage streets into a common ground — a haven for the downtrodden, the once-forgotten street kid, and the weary intellectual.

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Bridge to Bhutan

As they read, Todd Fizer couldn’t help but notice the tears welling up in their eyes. For many, those letters from home were a link to relatives they hadn’t seen in two or three years — a bridge between the displaced Bhutanese living in Nepali refugee camps to a community of old and new family members at New City Fellowship Church (PCA), St. Louis.

According to the U.S. State Department, during the past five years the United States has welcomed almost 324,000 refugees from around the world. More than 51,000 have come from Nepal, originally displaced from Bhutan, a tiny country sandwiched between China and India.

Continue reading article here in byFaith Magazine . . .