JZ's A to Z Blog
By Pastor Joel
December 08, 2017

Two weeks ago Paul Siemer, Pathway’s worship director, shared deeply his struggle with panic attacks. Some of you may have wondered what Ashley, Paul’s wife, was thinking and feeling as she walked beside him during those dark days. Here’s her version.  

Thank you Paul and Ashley for your vulnerability. God is good, and you are brave!

“Paul shared this week about his struggle with panic attacks and anxiety and I was asked for follow up and to share some more on it.   

So five years ago, Liam was born! He was our third child, making it three kids ages 4 and under. It was the first time in parenting I really began to feel like I was out of control! And in a very typical Siemer-style way of doing life, we decided to move. Our house sold when Liam was one month old and we were in a new house when he was less than 4 months old. Just a few weeks later, in the midst of a very chaotic season of life for us, Paul experienced his first panic attack. (Cannot imagine why, right?-Just kidding!) Well, I thought life was hard having three young children, but I had no clue that some of the darkest years were ahead for Paul and I. When I think of those years, all I can say is THANK YOU JESUS for the healing, restoration, and hope that only YOU give.  

Paul mentioned during the years of panic attacks that we had a miscarriage. I was in my second trimester and we lost a baby girl. The week of my miscarriage was one of the darkest weeks for us. We were consumed with grief and Paul was battling constant panic attacks so it was very hard for us to heal. I would get the kids in the car, put on gospel hymnal music and just drive and cry--nearly every day. I didn’t want to open my Bible, and I had no words to say to God, but my heart was broken and I needed to hear His promises. So I listened to songs that were filled with scriptural encouragement.  

Paul is my other half and I could not help him. I missed him deeply. He missed himself. I wish I could say I was never angry, but that would not be true. Anger, frustration, disappointment, loneliness were feelings that lingered for years. While Paul struggled with anxiety, I lost my best friend. I didn’t want to talk about it with anyone.  

But I share all of this today because God allowed anxiety to break Paul, and then the Lord reshaped him more in Christ’s image. Paul has a different faith now than he did five years ago. In Paul’s words, “the ground under his feet was put back stronger than ever in his relationship with the Lord and even in our marriage.” And the best part of this pain that we both lived through is that the Lord can take our pain and use it to bless someone else who suffers like Paul did. We can tell someone we have been there! We have such grace and love for people hurting in a way that we could never have had until we lived it ourselves. I pray the Lord uses us to minister into others’ lives who are hurting. We are not an answer to anyone’s problems, but we can tell them—“You are not alone.” I think that is an amazing part of the gift we have in Jesus Christ. He understands our sufferings. He is a Savior who suffered. There is nothing we can experience that He cannot meet us in. And when He allows us to suffer, He is refining us to go out and share His love and grace to others. My life theme seems to be about restoration. When we had our miscarriage and lost our sweet baby girl, who we named Aria, the words from Scripture that I clung to and still cling to are:  “He will restore my soul.” I love how the Lord makes beauty from ashes. May He continue to restore me, AMEN!” ~Ashley Siemer


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By Pastor Joel
October 13, 2017

For the last year, Pathway has been re-purposing food with a local Starbucks. Usually packaged food is thrown away in the restaurant industry if not used by the packaged date. However, through Food Donation Collection Program, Pathway is able to assist with bringing our local dated food to area food pantries. The following is an explanation by Jackie Sergeant who faithfully does Starbucks food runs. Thank you, Jackie and children. And thanks to all volunteers who participate. ~Joel

“Mom, What’s A Food Pantry?”
By Jackie Sergeant

This was a somewhat foreign term to my kids ages 11, 10, 8, 5, 3 and 8 months. Serving in any ministry is a challenge with small children. Most require a certain age/ability that can help. My husband and I have both felt slightly limited in our ability to participate in different ministries due to our young family. I have always had a heart for serving our neighbors locally; I want to take care of those around me.

When Pathway offered the opportunity to help deliver Starbucks food to local food pantries, I signed up!

Pathway Church partners with the Food Donation Collection Program. Their vision verse is John 6:12:  “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” For our ministry, we pick up unsold food from the local Starbucks and then it is brought to a food pantry in Cedar Lake. This food is what Starbucks would otherwise throw away at the end of the day. The food pantry in Cedar Lake serves approximately 41 families per week!

The term ‘food pantry’ has not been common in our household. Our family has not yet had to utilize one. So when I explained to my kids that we would be helping to pick up and deliver food to local food pantries, it brought on some interesting conversations. We talked about who would use a food pantry. It might be for someone who has lost a job, someone who is elderly, someone who is a single parent, or someone who has just fallen on hard times. We talked about the kind of food they might receive. We discussed where the food was coming from. 

Sometimes I go by myself to pick up and deliver the food. Often I have one, or many of my kids with me. They get to help carry the bags, pick up the food and deliver it. I believe that making my children aware that there are others less fortunate than they are and that THEY can do something to help, will have a lasting impact on them. 

Below is a video made by NOWTHIS that shows exactly what Pathway (and my family) have been able to participate in:  https://www.facebook.com/NowThisNews/videos/1488585184564934/.


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By Pastor Joel
September 29, 2017

Michele and I will be visiting the seven churches of Asia Minor in the country of Turkey next February (Lord willing). We’ve found that hearing the Bible in the context of the land is of great value and inspiration. Here’s an article on why Turkey is so important to the Biblical record. It’s written by Brad Gray from Walking the Text ministry. Brad is a guide whom Michele and I went with to Israel five years ago. If you are interested in either the holy land or Turkey for a Biblical knowledge trip, we highly recommend him. Check out his site: walkingthetext.com.

Here’s Brad’s description of Turkey:
“Why Turkey? What’s in Turkey? What does Turkey have to do with the Biblical story?"

These are a few of the questions I’m often asked when people find out I’m leading Biblical study trips to this country. These questions are good questions. These are the same questions I had when I first considered the possibility of taking a Biblical study trip to Turkey. But the very asking of these questions exposes the reality of our unfamiliarity with the Biblical story. Here’s why:

Thirteen books and letters of the New Testament were written to the residents of Turkey (ancient Asia Minor). That’s nearly half of the New Testament. Among those letters not written to Turkey, a number of them were written from Turkey. In a nutshell, without Turkey, there is no New Testament as we know it!

Two letters written to Turkey that stand out are the gospel of John and the book of the Revelation. Have you ever wondered why the gospel of John is so radically different than Matthew, Mark, or Luke? It has everything to do with who John’s audience was. Of the gospel writers, only John was writing to the land of Turkey (although Luke’s patron, Theophilus, to whom he wrote Luke and Acts to, may have resided in Turkey). John was using stories from the life of Jesus to connect to a particular people in a particular land. As one begins to understand the world of Asia Minor, one better understands the gospel of John.

Unquestionably, the most debated, cryptic, and confusing book of the New Testament is Revelation. Revelation was written to the people of western Asia Minor (Roman province of Asia). Although most people see Revelation as an apocalyptic, end times account that will only become certain in the future, most fail to recognize that it was originally a letter of encouragement written to a persecuted people who would have understood the contents of the letter at the time they received it (not at some undisclosed time two thousand plus years later). In order to better understand Revelation, one has to better understand the land of Asia Minor. Also, since the letter of Revelation was written to the people of western Asia Minor, the seven churches mentioned in chapters two and three are, of course, in present day Turkey.

The early church of Antioch (on the Orontes), where the people were first called Christians, is in Turkey.

Paul grew up in Tarsus, a strategic, bustling, commercial city, world-renowned for its school of philosophy, along the southern coast of Asia Minor, in present day Turkey.

Timothy was from the city of Lystra, in the province of Galatia, which is in Turkey.

All three of Paul’s main missionary journeys were through the land of Turkey, with the first journey almost entirely in Turkey.

The first seven Ecumenical Church Councils were all held in Turkey (Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, Chalcedon).

Furthermore, because of Asia Minor’s strategic location between Rome and the rest of the world, it was of utmost importance to the Roman Empire (hence, why it became the Eastern Roman Empire in the Byzantine Period). The Empire pumped an unparalleled amount of resources into making the land of Asia Minor serve its purposes well. So the ruins in Turkey are large, impressive, and they provide the best picture of the Greco-Roman world. As many have said, “If you want to see the Greco-Roman world; don’t go to Italy. Don’t go to Greece. Go to Turkey.”

Back to my words:
I’m looking forward to sharing our learnings in sermons and blogs. When Michele and I toured Israel, it was the best 10 days of personal Biblical growth we ever had. I’m hoping Turkey will be similar.


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What's the Christian explanation for a good, all powerful God allowing massive storms to decimate? Christian actor Kirk Cameron takes a great stab at an answer. Note the counter jabs by an author critiquing Kirk's explanation.    

Some years ago, I had a friend in Christian movie production. He had a Christian friend in Hollywood movie production named Kirk Cameron who played Mike Seaver on the ABC sitcom, “Growing Pains” (1985-1992), a role for which he was nominated for two Golden Globe awards. My friend told me to keep an eye on Cameron, and watch how he gets beaten up for his faith. I’ve been watching over the years. Here’s the most recent example of how skeptical people can be about Christian faith, and Christian explanations. Note Cameron’s well-said Christian perspective. Also note the cynical view of the author.    

Kirk Cameron has some interesting views on weather.  

The former child actor and current star of the evangelical circuit seems to believe hurricanes such as Harvey and Irma are messages from God.  

“How should we look at two giant hurricanes coming back to back like this?” Cameron said in a video posted on his Facebook page. “Do we write them off as coincidence? Do we write it off as a statistical anomaly? Wow! Who would’ve thought? Is it just Mother Nature in a bad mood?”  

“None of the above,” he said.  

He also skipped meteorological explanations and cited a passage in the Old Testament Book of Job that describes storms created by God as either “punishment” or a means to “demonstrate his faithful love.”  

In the video, viewed more than 240,000 times, Cameron called hurricanes “a spectacular display of God’s immense power.”  

He added:  

“When he puts his power on display, it’s never without reason. There’s a purpose. And we may not always understand what that purpose is, but we know it’s not random and we know that weather is sent to cause us to respond to God in humility, awe and repentance.”  

Cameron said the storms should be “causing us to remember that it’s God who supplies our life, breath and everything else so that you and I reach out to him.”  

He then encouraged viewers to use that as an answer to children asking about the storms, which have killed dozens, left thousands homeless and done untold damage.

“Remind them that God is the blessed controller of all things,” he said. “He is the one who gives us peace, security and strength in the midst of the storm and that he uses this to point us to him and to his care for us.”

Cameron recorded his video from an airport in the Orlando area as he left Florida despite the approaching Category 5 message of “humility, awe and repentance.”

Irma currently has winds of up to 175 mph as it pummels the Caribbean and heads toward the U.S. mainland.” By Ed Mazza, Huff Post  

I thought Cameron’s comments were spot on. If we believe in a sovereign, all good God, He’s up to something in everything -- including in hurricanes. “Humility, awe, and repentance” are what He looks for in His human creatures always, no matter the situations in which we find ourselves. God is good, all the time! However, sometimes the explanations we Christians give do not land well outside our Christian tribe.   

Thanks Kirk for articulating Christian values in the public sphere.   


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By Pastor Joel
September 15, 2017

Pathway Friends,  

You hear me talk once in a while about Pastor Siang and a Burmese church plant in Indianapolis as well as Pastor Siang’s vision to unite Burmese people into the CRC. Here’s a clear look at his work and the beauty of this for the Christian Reformed Church. It’s been a privilege and joy to work with Pastor Siang and serve as his mentor. I love him and the Burmese people. I hope, work, and pray for the day that the Christian Reformed Church will look like the nations gathered at the throne in the book of Revelation, from every tribe, nation, and language. Wow! And there we together will worship the Lamb who was slain.  

Joel  

Here’s the article published in the Classis agenda for Siang Hup’s CRC ordination interview.   

INTRODUCTION TO PASTOR SIANG HUP

Pastor Siang Lian Hup moved to Indianapolis, Indiana in December 2016 to start a Christian Reformed congregation among the growing Burmese population there.

Hailing from Burma (also known as Myanmar), Hup is in the process of seeking to become an ordained CRC minister under Church Order Article 8, which allows for a pastor such as Hup to enter into the CRC. Currently, he is the pastor of an independent Burmese congregation in Knoxville, Tennessee.

“I like the CRC’s worship style, and it has the same confessions and creeds that I have,” said Hup whose father was pastor of a Covenant Reformed Church of a Myanmar congregation.

Hup, who speaks several languages, attended a Reformed seminary in India before coming to the United States to serve as an interpreter for the U.S. State Department and to do ministry with refugees, especially of the Chin ethnic group of Burmese.

“I believe God is calling me to Indianapolis. I have the vision of establishing a church there because there is so much potential.”

Indiana has one of the largest Burmese populations in the United States, and Indianapolis has the most Burmese refugees in the state, tallying more than 13,500. Fort Wayne, Indiana has the second highest number, with about 7,000.

“Most of the Burmese refugees in Indiana are fleeing from government, ethnic, and religious persecution,” said Hup. “They are coming to Indianapolis to be with people who speak the same language and so that they can find work.”

Joel Zuidema, pastor of Pathway Church in St. John, Indiana is serving as Siang’s mentor as he goes through the process leading to ordination as a CRC minister. Zuidema’s church will play a role, along with the Home Missions committee for Classis Illiana, in encouraging formation of the new church in Indianapolis.

Pastor Siang Hup has been preaching to CRC congregations in the classis and sketching his vision for a new church.

Zuidema said Hup’s work is an example of the type of ministry that Christian Reformed Home Missions and Christian Reformed World Missions will be doing once they complete their process of unification.

As one agency for mission, they will be able to combine their expertise to reach out to people, such as the Burmese, who have come to North America from abroad. The new unified agency will also use its resources to build up the church around the world.

“There is so much talk of immigration in our land and in our church, and here we have the opportunity to work with people who have come here because they were oppressed,” Zuidema said.

Joining with Burmese people and pastors such as Hup offers added dimension and diversity to the CRC, and at the same time it promises to expand the church in many ways, including by means of adding congregations, said Zuidema.

“What the Burmese and Pastor Siang bring to us is a contagious enthusiasm for the gospel and a deep desire to be good citizens in their new homeland,” said Zuidema. “They need people in the CRC to surround and support them.”

Last year Siang Hup contacted David Koll, director of the CRC’s Candidacy Committee, to ask about becoming a CRC minister and church planter. Hup made the inquiry upon the suggestion of his brother-in-law who recently became pastor of a Burmese CRC in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Princeton CRC helped in formation of that church.

Koll suggested Hup contact Classis Illiana, the Classis in which he wants to start the church. So Siang contacted the Classis and connected with Zuidema.

“Our Home Missions committee grabbed onto this with full energy,” said Zuidema.

Meanwhile, the Classis heard from another Burmese group in the Syracuse, New York, area that is also thinking of affiliating with the CRC.

“We flew there and met with them, and it went well,” said Zuidema.

The New York group is a set of three informal Christian groups who would like to get a person to be their pastor; they have in mind a person who visited from Myanmar, who is willing to come, but who will need a visa to come for an extended period, said Koll.

These three groups may form into a congregation should that happen.  And with the connections through Siang Hup, the CRC in New York Classis Atlantic NE is getting involved.

“So we have three groups now, in three classes — Thornapple Valley, Illiana, and Atlantic NE — it is a wave of excitement,” said Koll.

“These developments offer the CRC a wonderful chance to partner with a group of people who can offer us so much,” added Zuidema.

“It shocks me what a gentle spirit so many of these refugees have. Even though they were driven out of their country, they show no bitterness. They are a sweet, beautiful people.”

An accomplished musician, Hup moved to Indianapolis after serving for two years in ministry with a church in Knoxville.

As he envisions his new church, it will be much more than a place to worship on Sunday. Much of his ministry will take place in the homes of refugees.

“We will teach and preach and visit people house to house,” he said. “Many of the Burmese can’t come to church. They have no car, or they work on Sunday. We want to reach out as a CRC church to people in need.”

Hup will also serve as an interpreter, especially in hospitals and for Burmese immigrants seeking various services and jobs.

And as the church takes hold and grows, he said, “I would like to go and bring the gospel to Burmese people who are Buddhists and Muslims. I would also like us to reach the many Burmese who are now living in Fort Wayne.”


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