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A letter from Mary Nebelsick and Paul Matheny in the Philippines

July 9, 2009

Dear Friends,

Our ministry in the Philippines has brought our daughter face-to-face with some very harsh realities. One of these has been the difficult life of a Christian in prison. While we were ministering to our student, Berlin Guerrero, who had been abducted and incarcerated, she learned that life could be very painful and hard for Christians in prison.

Photo of seven men wearing orange tee shirts and blue jeans. Two of them sit and hold guitars. The others stand behind them, their arms folded over their chests.

Worship in prison (Rachel’s guitar on the left).

We had known Berlin as a good student and thoughtful Christian before his life was so abruptly invaded by military intelligence. This did not change our attitude and our support for him. Our daughter also continued in her own way to support him and his ministry in the prison. When she heard that he needed musical instruments for their worship among the prisoners, she offered her guitar. Berlin was so moved by this that he wrote a short poem for her. I thought that some of you who have been following our work in the Philippines might enjoy reading it. It might give you a feel for the pain and joy that are so common here.

A Poem for Rachie

Dearest Little Miss Rachel Marie
You never stop to amaze me!

On my birthday
four animal pet bookmarkers came my way.
Oh, how surprising was it to see
the cute orange kitten was just like me!

For play and worship
A new shiny blue guitar for us to keep.
Now, words and music can join together
In hymns and songs, in praise we offer.

Then came a prayer picture
drawn by your own pretty hands, I’m sure.
My family locked in happy embrace
to be together again in God’s own time and grace.

In the Gospel we are told
Of how Jesus blessed the children of old.
He said, “If you receive God’s Kingdom like these little children
You are welcome to enter God’s reign.”

Receiving gifts from a child like you
Is like finding a key and a door to God’s home, too.
Remember the child, the loaves and the fishes offered?
Jesus broke and shared, a family of thousands was fed.

Rachie, my dear Rachie,
You never stop to amaze me.
In God’s sight you are truly favored,
In my heart you are a gift, a wonder to behold!

pastor berlin
15 august 2007

Photo of 18 people standing in a courtyard in front of a cross. There are two children among them. Except for the children and Mary Nebelsick, all the people are wearing bright orange tee shirts.

Mary Nebelsick with prisoners after worship.

Life is not easy for those who critique the government in the Philippines. For Christians who would struggle for a better future for the poor and marginalized, life can be endangered. As Christians we are obliged to bring light into the world and to preserve life and new life. This is a lesson that is not easy to face, especially when you are just 11 years old. When our daughter sees that her world is not always safe, I am grateful for her faith and the ever-present love of God that will help her and encourage her to do the right thing. In her love and generosity I see the hand of God.

In Christ,

Paul Matheny

The 2009 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 126


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