Remember the Lord: Reflecting on 2008

By Evan Bartholomew, Lead Minister.

“Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the LORD promised on oath to your forefathers. Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you….

“When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” Deuteronomy 8:1-5, 10-14 NIV.


Kyle, Cindy (“mom”) and Evan (l-r) huddle together after Cindy is baptized!

As the year comes to a close, and 2008 lives on only in the history books, there is no better time to “praise the Lord [our] God for the good.” For some, the year has been filled with times of refreshing and encouragement, and for others, times of discipline and training. Yet, in either case, God has been working for the “good of those who love Him.” (Romans 8:28) Therefore, as disciples, we should all take a look back and “remember” what the Lord our God has done! Here are just some of the things that happened in 2008…

For the first time in over five years, we had a Special Missions Contribution. We had previously stopped having a “super” sacrificial day of giving due to the dismantling of structure in our former fellowship. There was no longer any organized effort for world missions, and almost all mission work was only orchestrated on a local level. This made world missions a mere afterthought for the church in Hilo. After studying the Scriptures, and seeing the example of the first century church in the book of Acts, the Hilo Church leadership decided to once again rise up to the challenge of true financial sacrifice. We set the goal of ten times our weekly contribution before the church. This proved to be difficult for the church — difficult as a whole, because of the struggling economy in Hilo; difficult to some of our most sacrificial individuals, whom already were giving over twenty percent weekly! Through God’s power moving through the hearts of all the disciples, with a total goal of $10,000, we collected $11,100! All the money collected was given to missions. A total of $4,000 was given to help complete the training of Kyle Bartholomew in Los Angeles as an evangelist for the Honolulu International Christian Church. Then a check of $7,100 was given to the Honolulu Church planting at their inaugural service in June. The Honolulu Church has since become self supporting, and has added over 18 people to their number! To God be the glory!

 

In May despite being “financially challenged”, the Hilo Church — on the faith that God would provide — hired me to serve as their full-time minister! This is of great significance to me, as I had been formerly leading the church, along with working a full-time job, and finishing a house that we had started building over a year earlier. Upon finishing my house, and refinancing the loan into a mortgage, it gave me the liberty to quit my job and go into the full-time ministry. As one can imagine, without a full-time leader, the needs of the church were not adequately being met. God has faithfully been providing for us, and has allowed us to continue to remain on full-time staff! We are incredibly thankful to the church, and it has been such a privilege to have been blessed with such an awesome responsibility!


Kyle makes a special, last minute trip to Hilo to help baptize his mom!

Upon returning from the 2008 World Missions Jubilee in Los Angeles in August, the Hilo Church was politely asked to send financial support to our sister church in Chennai, India. Raja and Debbie Rajan had taken a stand against the complacency and lukewarmness that had crept into our former fellowship in India, and decided to leave and start a new church composed of only “sold-out” disciples. As expected, their radical stance on true discipleship cost them their full-time leadership positions. The Hilo Church was asked to support them for $1,000 of the $1,600 they needed to go full-time in the ministry, so they could lead the new Chennai Church, as well as to oversee the churches in Bangalore, Mumbai (Bombay), and New Delhi. The other $600 would be supplied by the Chicago International Christian Church and the Washington DC International Christian Church. Isn’t it awesome to be in a unified movement where we can pull resources together? We agreed to support India for six months minimum starting in October, but will continue our support for as long as we can financially back it! In looking at some of the Scriptures that Paul had written to the church in Corinth, we were inspired by his comments about the churches in Macedonia. Paul said, “They gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.” (2 Corinthians 8:3-4 NIV) Because of the Macedonian Churches’ example, we decided to call our effort to support the saints in India — The Macedonian Project! Since Raja and Debbie have been put on full-time staff in India, they have baptized 6 people into God’s Kingdom!

Also in 2008, the leadership of the Hilo Church changed our official church name to the “Hilo International Christian Church” from “Hilo International Church of Christ”. The change of name came because of the need to identify with our sister churches throughout the world who bear the “International Christian Church” nomenclature. God’s church is commanded to be “perfectly united in mind and thought.” (1 Corinthians 1:10 NIV) It is a true blessing to have brothers and sisters throughout the world that can honestly claim to be “perfectly united” with our little church here in Hilo. The name change is a symbol of that type of unity as it shows our connection and commitment to one another throughout the world!

Lastly, and without doubt the most encouraging thing of the year to me, was the 11 people who were baptized and became true disciples of Christ! It is always amazing to see individuals young and old radically changing and giving up their lives for the Lord! We believe that each baptism is a modern day miracle, and each miracle a reflection of God’s power and glory! However, one of those miracles struck a special chord with me. Among the eleven baptisms was the baptism of my mother — Cindy! For my mom to come to the Lord was an answer to seven years of prayer not only from me, but also both of my brothers, and our wives, who are disciples. Praise God for 2008! And may God continue to shower His blessings upon us in 2009!