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Friday, April 18, 2003

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

This morning is a relatively quiet one in comparison to the last several months. This is Good Friday; many are in quiet reflection of the significance of this day in our lives. To some it is a day off, to others a time to be thankful to the sacrifice Jesus Christ made for each of us. Some will use this time to reflect on the teaching of our Lord. Some will enjoy quiet solitude and confess shortcomings and thank God for His grace and forgiveness. Some will remember the triumphant entry into Jerusalem and the songs of Hosanna, the palm branches laid along the path of Jesus as He rode on a donkey into the city. Some will spend special time together with family and possibly have an Easter dinner. Some will gather at their churches or synagogues and hear of the Israelites being released from their captivity as slaves in Egypt during passover. They may have celebrated yesterday a Seder dinner (as we did)and asked and answered the four questions. They may have heard of the different elements of this dinner and the symbolism involved. They may have joined as a community and celebrated communion.

Easter is to some a time for new dresses, shoes, hats and purses. Some may make an annual trip to church in a newly bought suit. To some it may be the rekindling of old relationships with friends seldom seen. It may be a time of spiritual rebirth. To some it may bring back painful memories of loved ones who are no longer there to celebrate with them. Some will possibly think of the men and women defending our right to choose in Iraq. Those men and women will spend this special time separated from their family and awake to another day much like the past twenty-seven. Their day will be a day in which they risk all to defend our freedom. One of these freedoms is how we choose to worship, sometimes a freedom often ignored.

We have a crewmember onboard that knows what it is like to have this freedom taken away. He is from the Philippines and spent the last three years working in Saudi Arabia. For him to practice his Christian belief he had to hide. Sometimes he had to meet in a darkened room with only a small flashlight to read with. He said that his fellow believers would meet sometimes only after midnight when they felt most people were asleep. Even taking these precautions they feared for their safety. The threat of losing their job and being deported was very real. They could be placed in jail for violating the laws in Saudi Arabia. Hearing his testimony causes me to reflect and look at our own commitment. We're thankful for the sacrifice Jesus Christ made for our lives. May we be a living sacrifice for Him. We encourage each of you during this Easter season to take a few hours, and reflect on your relationship with Jesus Christ. Look at the new birth that is offered. Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world. But that through Him the world could have life and have it more abundantly.

We have been privileged to see God at work firsthand here in the Dominican Republic. Last Sunday (Palm Sunday), we celebrated in a new church built by Mercy Ships in a small Haitian refugee village. This was the new church's dedication and the service was in four languages; Spanish, Creole, Italian and English. In the Haitian culture Voodoo is traditionally practiced as their religion. This village of Haitians have a customary Voodoo house. However, a group of Christians, led by a man named Elio, from Italy have brought Christianity into the village and have begun building houses for the village. Mercy Ships joined with them to help build the houses and this new church. The worship we experienced on Palm Sunday with these people celebrating was an awesome time and definitely glorified God! We came to be a blessing and in turn were blessed. May our hearts be broken this Easter season by the things that break the heart of Jesus. May we see the world through the loving eyes of the Father.

May your lives be as wonderful as they were in the mind of God the day He made you is our prayer. May you have a happy and blessed Easter!

Rob and Denise Miller
Mercy Ships, M/V Caribbean Mercy

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