Dear Friends and Family:
You are reading our first “missions update!” (I attempted unsuccessfully to embed a fanfare sound effect.) We know that some of you have not heard from us since our initial letter stating that we have decided to follow God’s call to serve at LCC International University in Lithuania. Quite a lot has happened in our lives over the last couple of months. Hopefully, future updates will be somewhat more concise, but we have much to rejoice over, and much that requires prayer.
(Read on: LCC’s ministry to church leaders; Eastern European young people who need Christ; great deals on furniture and technology)
I presented a paper on the books of Samuel and Chronicles (related to my dissertation) at a regional academic conference back in March. The conference was enjoyable; however, the recurring theme of conversations with graduate students and fellow young PhDs was the abysmal North American job market in Biblical Studies. Those conversations reinforced in my heart and mind the importance of biblical education in regions like Eastern Europe, where need is quite urgent and the supply is desperately low.
Pray for LCC International University in this accreditation year. Pray for Rev. Dr. Tom Boone, interim chair of the Department of Theology (my new boss), as he works with the administration and Lithuanian church leaders to develop a new church-planting program. He writes: “[The program] will involve a one-year Diploma of Christian Studies at LCC followed by a one-year period of mentorship in churches. The training will be in English and Lithuanian, and with full cooperation of church leaders who will themselves identify potential candidates. Rather than costing $120,000 for a student to attend a three-year seminary with the family transplanted, this experience will cost about $7,000 per student and keep young leaders here.” LCC continues to have a tremendous impact on churches in the region; for example, sending speakers to a recent church leadership conference in Latvia, and hosting the annual LCC Congregational Conference [KBUK].
These few months have been very busy as we continue to finish out our ministry commitments at Lansdale Presbyterian Church. I will continue to serve as director of contemporary worship music until June 15, and I am also teaching a Sunday School class on Isaiah. Corrie continues to serve on the steering team of MOPS, a ministry to young mothers. She also plays and sings with the worship team from time to time, and is directing the church choir for two weeks—Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday!
Pray that God would bless and encourage those whom we leave behind at our church—our sisters and brothers who are how sending us into the field.
Pray that God would give us boldness and strength as we prepare for a ministry of evangelism and discipleship on the LCC campus, where the majority of students do not possess a saving knowledge of Christ. Many of the students have never even opened a Bible before coming to LCC. One of the professors shared with me some of the students’ responses when he asked at the end of a semester, “What have you learned as a result of reading the Old Testament?” Here are just a few:
· “Every time I was reading it I was feeling inner peace. The Bible strengthened my belief in God.”
· “I am discovering a surprising thing. God is sovereign. I had always thought God was not interested in my personal life, but this new lesson challenges me.”
· “This was my very first time reading Old Testament. I can honestly say that it opened my eyes. I feel much closer to my spirituality and God than ever. Firstly, I learned how important it is to have good relationship with God. Secondly, I learned how great and sovereign God is and how sinful is the nature of the human. Furthermore, I started realizing the importance of repentance for sins and the need for restoration.”
· “I used to blame God for the bad in life, but after reading the Bible I no longer blame Him. He is actually wanting me to have a better life, but I can only have this if I am one of His children. How does this happen?”
Pray for the hearts of these students and their families in countries that are darkened by communism, corruption, instability and widespread depression. Lithuania has the world’s second-highest suicide rate.
As we attempt to raise our financial support, I will probably need to continue to work full-time at ICON Clinical Research through mid-July. Corrie continues to teach private piano and voice lessons through the end of May. We are tremendously grateful for God’s provision through numerous means. Providentially, at just those times when we’ve become disheartened, an unexpected windfall or a generous financial gift has arrived. You’d think I’d have learned by now that God is faithful, having seen His provision for us throughout seminary and graduate school—and having a PhD in the Bible, for goodness’ sake!—but somehow I always need those timely reminders. Part of a tax refund paid off one of my loans from seminary, so our total debt is now under $9,000—all of it student loans.
Pray that we would raise all our financial support. Our first year at LCC (August 2014 through July 2015) is currently about 14% funded through a combination of monthly supporters and one-time gifts. Many of you have given so generously, and we are very grateful. If you or someone you know would like to become part of our monthly support team or give a one-time gift, instructions on how to do so can be found here.
Pray that God would give us strength to finish well at our jobs—not doing the minimum, but with every effort “as unto the Lord.”
As we prepare to move in with Corrie’s parents sometime in June, we are already considering which of our things we will ship to Lithuania, store in the basement, sell, give away, and throw away. Especially difficult in this process will be deciding about books, clothes, and toys that have sentimental value (more for us than for the children!).
Pray that God would allow us to bless people with these things, even as many others have blessed us with gifts. As we look around our apartment, we see very few furniture items that we were forced to purchase at full price—most of it was given to us or purchased on Craig’s List! We are trusting that God will give us all the things we will need when we get to Lithuania, and again meet all our needs whenever we move back to North America. We are grateful that we have very few large possessions that will be difficult to discharge or store.
We have been blessed by several families in our church and neighborhood that have watched Daniel and Elizabeth while we have worked on support letters or sorting through things. If you have time and are willing, we would be grateful for even more help in this way. We will also need help moving large items in June.
Keep an eye out on Facebook for good deals on furniture and technology items that we’ll be selling!
PEACE AND JOY
As we press on though this very busy season of preparation, the danger is that our busy-ness will crowd out our joy in the mission that awaits us and in the journey
Pray that God would keep our eyes fixed on Jesus in the midst of all these important tasks.
Pray that we would continue to disciple the little hearts in our care: Daniel (3 years) and Elizabeth (9 months), who was baptized just this past Sunday.
Thank you all for your prayers and support. Stay tuned for further updates; be sure to follow us on the web and join (and share) our Facebook group. To receive monthly updates about happenings at LCC, you may wish to sign up for the university’s newsletter, Transformations.
Benj and Corrie Giffone