Monthly Archives: December 2011

Christmas Greetings from the Chastains

Many blessings to you this Christmas season!  

I’ve been spending some time these past weeks in Luke, and wanted to share a few verses and thoughts that have stuck out to me:

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,…He has raised up a horn of salvation for us…to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. Luke 1:68-75

One of the results of our receiving salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ is that it makes us able to serve Him without fear.  It’s part of the reason Jesus came to die for us. 

She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. Luke 2:8

The great works of the Lord are very often done in dirty places through rejected, unknown and unpopular individuals.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon,…and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ… Simeon took him (Jesus) in his arms and praised God, saying, ‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace.’  Luke 2:25-29

There was also a prophetess, Anna…she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.  She never left the temple but worshiped night an day, fasting and praying.  Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.  Luke 2:36-38

Individuals truly seeking to follow and serve the Lord do not do so for personal gain, be it financial, social, or political.  These individuals very often continue to do what they do in the name of Jesus simply because it is what they believe God wants them to do.  They realize that, even on days when they want to quit, the option of leaving the ministry is not an option until God releases them from His calling on their life.  It is no more a choice to these individuals than is breathing or eating.

In this spirit, this month Charlie and I would like to share a bit about some of the individuals who have given everything to following the call of God in their lives, and to serve those to whom He has called them.  The work they do is most often unromantic, sacrificial, draining, and even heart-breaking.  But they continue day after day because, like the people who were called to usher our Lord into this world, they see no other option to life but to follow the call of their God.  

Hope and Jeff Holeman – House of Hope – Ralph, AL- It is the purpose of the House of Hope to serve the Lord Jesus Christ by being a House of Hope for individuals in transition from incarceration to productive members of society. They are a residential aftercare ministry focusing on the crucial four to twelve months immediately following release from prison or jail.

Established in August of 2000, House of Hope is an interdenominational, non-profit organization which provides food, shelter, clothing, guidance and love. They are a bridge for ex-offenders re-entering the “free world.” They believe that a Christian home environment helps the ex-offender adjust to life on the outside. They also believe it helps him alter his behavior and increases his potential in order to become a productive, law-abiding citizen.  By providing a disciplined home environment, guidance, counseling, and Bible study, House of Hope works to change previous behaviors of ex-offenders.

After serving 12 years in prison, Jeff Holeman has made a successful transition from prison to the “free world.” He now knows his life direction is to serve the Lord Jesus Christ in helping other men make this transition. His wife, Hope, also knew the Lord had a great plan for their life as a family to serve the outcasts of society.

To learn more and to become a supporter of House of Hope, please go the following website.

Ksusha and Alexander Nikiforov – Orphanage Ministry – Kaliningrad, Russia – Miki had the wonderful opportunity to meet and work with Ksusha in prayer ministry in Kaliningrad early this month.  In their time together, Ksusha shared with Miki a little about the work she and her husband, Alexander, do with orphans in Kaliningrad, including orphan grad support and an annual summer camp for a local orphanage.  

Because Kaliningrad – Russia’s only warm-water seaport – is physically separated from the rest of Russia, Ksusha and Alexander are the only people in that city who are working to support orphans at all, and they struggle to find support locally or otherwise.  Many teams are willing to travel to the larger cities in mainland Russia, but fewer consider going to the smaller city of Kaliningrad, located on the Baltic Sea between Poland and Lithuania.  

If you would like to learn more about Ksusha and Alexander’s work, and to consider supporting them or visiting them in Kaliningrad, please let us know and we will be happy to connect you to them directly.  

Michael and Lolla Agwanda – Life for Children Ministry – Kisumu, Kenya – The HIV/AIDS epidemic is spreading rapidly, spiraling out of control to infect 1 out of 10 Kenyans. This statistic leaves over 5,000 children as head of household with over 2.5 million parentless, and in most cases supporting their siblings and/or sickened relatives at a very young age. 1.8 million children are fending for themselves on the street. Extreme poverty conditions are especially evident here and the traditional family support system is overburdened.   

Life for Children Ministry works to locate extended family members or approved guardians under whose care the orphans will live, and to provide:

food, clothing, healthcare and education

Christian teaching and counseling

Social Workers for case administration

training for life skills including HIV/AIDS awareness, personal hygiene, and self-perception

training for economic self-sufficiency, i.e. Micro Enterprise Lending

training for best agricultural practices to enhance food security 

To learn more or to support Michael and Life for Children Ministry, please go to:


Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.

Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.

Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil because of the Son of Man.  Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.  For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.

 But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.

Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.

Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.  

Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets. 

Luke 6:20-26

Thank you all so much for your continued love and support to our family.  In these days let us welcome, again, the Lord Jesus into our families and homes and lives!  Praise and thanksgiving be full in our hearts for our God this Christmas, in Jesus’ name!  Amen.

 Miki, Charlie, Isabel and Jasper Chastain

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No Big Thing

Here’s another vintage post from Michael Spencer in 2007.  As we all begin this week anticipating the coming of Jesus – taking stock of our lives and the lives of others around us – Michael gives us another perspective to take to heart.  As you make your final charitable donations this year, consider these words.  Blessings!  Charlie



I want to start this post with a quote from a typical ambitious evangelical church that wants to grow. Get big. Add lots of people. Become “mega.” Get the crowds and their kids in the doors.

But I’ve decided not to insult you. If you don’t know the vast majority of American Christianity is about churches getting bigger, and bigger…and bigger if possible, then where are you? Iceland? Mars?

Then I want to tell you what a friend is doing this week. He’s in Hurricane Katrina country, building houses. He’s with a group of Christians that moved down there after the hurricane and planted a church. The thing is, this church doesn’t have a building and all the usual church programs. They don’t have that single-minded church growth ambition focus. They are different. These Christians are basically building houses, cleaning up, rebuilding. They are a servant church. “Missional” for those of you who can say that and think good thoughts.

They’ve come into the ruins and incarnated Jesus, the carpenter, by serving and loving the homeless. They build and repair houses. The reputation of Jesus in that community is not displayed on a neon sign, but in the finished houses and tears of those who will live in them.

Those Christians are a different kind of church. A footwashing, gospel-living, Kingdom-embodying, incarnational movement of Jesus followers.

I’ve got a prediction: They never will be big.

Not with goals, attitude and actions like that. They won’t ever have to worry about where to put the crowds or how to finance a worship center to seat the thousands and thousands who want to worship with them.

There are a lot of churches and ministries that won’t ever get very big. Here in the mountains we have what we used to call “Baptist Centers.” Little “social ministry” operations, aimed at mercy ministry for the poor. Ours around here is called the “Friendship House.” We give away clothes to poor people in the community. Sometimes we give away food. We don’t ask any questions. That ministry won’t ever need to worry about stadium seating. Or replacing the audio-visual gear before next year’s Christmas pageant.

In a large city in our state, there’s a mission downtown that’s ministered to the homeless, the addicted and the mentally ill for many years. They’ve got better facilities than they did twenty years ago, but never enough resources for the need. They could use better facilities, but they won’t be moving to the suburbs any time soon. Like most ministries of their kind, they use a lot of volunteers. few people are paid. Except for those holiday groups and the occasional youth group doing a project, it’s usually a bare bones crew serving the meal and handing out the blankets.


They’ll never become “mega.” Success in today’s evangelical success race will completely allude them.

It’s that way with ministries all around you. The ones that shelter homeless people. The “rescue missions.” The battered women’s shelter. The facilities providing care for Alzheimer’s families. The outreaches to build houses for the poor and to try to repair substandard houses in Appalachia. The volunteer crisis pregnancy centers. The literacy programs. The “Help” programs that provide assistance with utilities.

They will never become some “big church” featured on the local news. You’ll probably never hear about them unless some celebrity stops in or it’s a VERY slow news day on local media.

These ministries and missions are almost always small while their sponsoring churches are big. The crowds are at the pageants, not at the weekly meal for the homeless. The churches are full. The ministries in the darkness, on the streets, in the mountains, on the reservations, in the poor neighborhoods…they’re small. So small you can miss them if you don’t know about them.

Most of them have no budget for publicity. They aren’t on Christian radio asking for money. No billboards. No golf tournaments. They aren’t getting Joel Osteen’s and Joyce Meyer’s 100 million dollars a year. To be honest, many don’t know if they will be open six months from now. Their staffs aren’t making six figures or driving a Lexus. Those who loyally serve at those ministries long ago got used to getting by on whatever second hand donations of money and goods show up. They depend on God to see what happens. They can’t make it happen otherwise.

They are no big thing. In fact, for many of these small, unglamorous ministries, there is a kind of invisibility, even locally. They aren’t competing for young families with the church across town by adding another kickin’ band. They aren’t working on how to appear hip, cool and relevant. They are trying to hammer a nail, keep a drunk off the street, save some children, hand out some blankets and food. They are trying to do justice and show mercy. They are always walking humbly with God compared to the rest of us.

Of course, one day, you’ll know all about them.

One day, they will be a big thing. On that day when Jesus comes to reveal his Kingdom, there won’t be any way to miss these ministries and the people who keep them going. He’ll make sure of that.

The one for whom there was no room in the inn, the one from forgotten Nazareth, the one with the unwed mother, the one whose infant skin was covered with straw and rags in a stable, the one who had no place to lay his head, the one who was the poor, the cold, the naked and the imprisoned. He will remember those ministries. I assure you.

You might consider dropping in on one of those ministries sometime. They do have one thing many big churches don’t have.

Or, to be more precise, they do have someone many big churches don’t have. And he’s not generated on a big screen or via special effects.

He’s the one I hope we’re all looking for. He’s not so hard to find, even if, in this world, he’s no big thing. Just think like Jesus, and you’ll find the way.

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