Transforming for Christmas and Beyond!

A Letter from José LaMont Jones, serving in Congo, currently in the the Dominican Republic

November 2020

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A Mighty Fortress is Our God! By the time you read this, I pray that the U.S. Elections will be fully resolved, and the results validated. Thanks to all who worked tirelessly to get the vote out, making this year’s plebiscite a success! Now, in this season of Thanksgiving, let us all give thanks for the blessings, present and past, and pray for God’s guidance and favor for years to come.

This is always a busy time in the church…and this year will be no different. And, while this is the first in 15 years that I am not actively involved in the season preparations of a parish, however in my new capacity as mission co-worker, I am just as busy as ever! I am thankful for my colleagues in ministry of the Congo Mission Network and our Congolese partners who have helped make this time of sheltering-in-place a productive, learning experience. Our virtual conference will take a break in the month of December but return with presentations on education in January. The bar has been set quite high by the sessions on healthcare and theology. We are working to maintain that high level of quality and information in the education sessions. I hope to see you there!! Just in case you haven’t been able to catch all the presentations and discussions, videos of the individual presentations and full-meetings are available on the Congo Mission Network YouTube channel:

Some people are using the videos for their discussion groups and Bible studies!

This Christmas will be the first away from my family. Christmas is my wife’s favorite time of the year. In fact, here in the Dominican Republic, some folks in the neighborhood had put up their decorations as early as mid-October! Evelin’s favorite thing to do is transform the house into a Christmas Wonderland, with poinsettias, trees, nativity and scenes of Christmas and the like. The house has already begun its transformation. I will experience the whole Christmas celebration beginning in late November (Advent) to Christmas Day, through the Día de los Reyes Magos (Epiphany), all the way to Presentation Sunday (early February), Dominican style! I will miss the choir practices, caroling and praying all “my angels” arrive on-time to complete the nativity scene of the Sunday School play but this will be my first time experiencing the whole season here in the Caribbean.

Because of the pandemic, there will be no Christmas Cantata, no children’s pageant, no caroling, no large community dinners. COVID has changed our normal. Perhaps, as our “normal” is changed we too might transform and have more empathy for the plight of those who do without most days of the year. The United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that 1% of the world’s population are forced refugees. That is about 80 million people! DR Congo is no exception as militia and armed groups vie for control of mineral rich regions. Pray that our Congolese siblings will experience peace soon and that they will be able to return to their homelands and raise their children.

They say that necessity is the mother of invention. Perhaps, because we had no choice, we found ways to reach out to check on our brothers and sisters and check that the sick and shut-in were okay. Our on-line worship has spread God’s word and increased our reach into the community in ways we could not have predicted. Work (on-site and other non-traditional ways) will never be the same. People have shared their blessings and the bounty of creation has reached even more. Why can’t we stay more like our new “normal” and just get better. I think we can!

The Year 2020 has been a time of trial for many but, Lord willing, we will make it out in one piece! Please remember those who have lost everything in the wildfires in the Western U.S. and several other countries in the world. Let us pray for those who have suffered loss of life and wellness due to COVID-19 and other diseases that affect the world: Ebola, Measles, Dengue, and others. Let us strive to be better people and speak out against the injustices that continue to plague humankind, as we try to reconcile with providing justice for all peoples in the diversity of God’s creation. There are those who go without in this season, let us be instruments of love and share our blessings that God has provided. Thank you all for your past and present support for the ministries we are engaged in around the world. We are blessed to be a blessing to others. Let us keep being a blessing! Only then, will the trials of this year have meant something; that 2021 will be a new beginning, a new start, us doing our part in bringing heaven to this earth for all. Amen.

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