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Archive for November, 2011

“Palm of Your Hand”

 Now that we have fulfilled the Biblical and Presidential mandate and been duly thankful we should probably get back to thinking about true thankfulness and what it entails.  It is a consistent and persistent Biblical emphasis that God’s people give because God gives.  He gives the first article gifts that give us life in this world and He gives the Second Article gift of life in the world to come through His Son and His death on the cross.  We are declared righteous for the sake of Christ and the Biblical principle is that the “righteous” perform righteous acts that are called “alms-giving” (Matthew 6:1-4), and those acts are the real basis for the passages that we use for all kinds of giving to church needs.  We will talk more about this later but…..

Alison Krauss is a blue grass singer and one of her songs is a great little exposition of the provision of God’s grace.  It is called “Palm of Your Hand” is this is my cover of her rendition.

Cincopa WordPress plugin

 

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Mary Okeyo scholarship fund – more questions and explanations.

Deaconess'

We are back after a short break and hope that everyone had a blessed and happy Thanksgiving.  We have received a lot of questions and applications for the scholarship fund and have had some questions as well.  So here we go – applications can be sent to –

Minnesota North District LCMS

P.O. Box 604
Brainerd, MN 56401

or

North Dakota District LCMS

PO Box 9029
Fargo, ND 58106-9029

If you would like to make a donation and send someone on a trip make checks payable to the Mary Okeyo scholarship fund and send the donation to the North Dakota District Office.

Applications will be reviewed and discussed with the Project 24 team and the Distirct Presidents.  The decision as to who shall go will be the decision of the Project 24 Board.

The deadline on the application says December 1 – the deadline listed in these blogs in February 1.  February 1 is correct.  We have never done this before and one of the issues is finding a time when students that are in school can actually travel.  this si something new for all of us and we will ahve to adapt and adopt and change as we go along.  There are also provisions that we want to make for a Pastor and other so called “Adult” to go that we are working on. 

If you have questions email me at bernie@polarcomm.com.

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6 degrees of separation – Ada and Twin Valley, Minnesota, the Drevlows, Bud Berglind, the Schultz’ and all kinds of stuff.

Joanne Drevlow at Motango

This is going to be one of those blogs that you will have to hold onto your hats and follow along. This could get complicated but it’s a perfect expression of the connections and the interwoven fabric of life we lead up in the North country.

We came to Grafton and Drayton in 1978.  We arrived a month and a half before our furniture and household possessions did.  Since our clothes were the clothes that we carried in the car the first order of business was getting a washer and a dryer and we asked to have a clothes line set up in the back yard of the parsonage.  One morning we awoke to a lot of noise and a group of people digging a hole and installing a line.  One of the men working on the project was Elmer Schultz.  As I got to know Elmer and his family better his wife would talk about her home in and around Ada Minnesota called Twin Valley, or Green Meadow or something like that. She still had a sister there and her name was Ardis Horn.  Mr’s Schultz, Lola, also told me a story about being a sponsor for a child in the Twin Valley church and how she would bake him a “lamb cake” every year and send it to him on his baptism day.  I thought that was a great idea and that was that.

Skip ahead several years and I am attending a reconciler training workshop in St. Louis and seated with a man named Roger Drevlow.  Somehow in the conversation he mentions that he used to get a lamb cake every year on his baptism date and he got one every year until he reached the age of 21.  You guessed it.   Roger was born in Twin Valley and his father was the Pastor there.  Lola Horn was asked to be the sponsor for Roger.  Roger and his wife had been members for a while in East Grand Forks at First Lutheran but he had moved to Bismarck to work with what was at that time AAL.  His wife was the principle of Martin Luther School and his Pastor there was Tom Marcis who at that time was the chairman of the Board for LCMS World Relief and Human Care.

We struck up a friendship and over the years had a lot of fun hunting pheasants together.  Roger is a wonderful servant of God with a marvelous family and a deep and abiding love for Christ and his neighbors.  In 1991 Roger was a delegate to the convention in St. Louis and so was I.  At that convention I was elected to the Board for World Relief and Human Care, which Tom Marcis had to leave because of term limits.  That outgoing Board had called Rev. Matthew Harrison to be the Director of World Relief and Human Care, and I met Matt for the first time at that convention.  In 2003 I traveled to Kenya with Rev. Harrison, John Fale and Rev. Tim Yeadon from Connecticut.  The next year the church in Kenya became a partner church.  I had been impressed with the orphan situation and with the chicken programs and the need for cows for the Pastors.  When I returned to Kenya in 2005 I was determined to take people who could come back home and be advocates for the various issues that we saw over there.  I took Roger Weinlaeder a seed dealer and farmer from Drayton, ND; Bill Sharpe’s daughter, Rachel who was interested in youth and children; and Joanne Drevlow who was something of an expert on chickens and feed etc as well as being a principal in a parochial school and quite a good artist as well.  Joann fell in love with the orphans at Motango and Roger W. had already planted the seeds for what would become Project 24. 

This is where things get hazy but somewhere along the line people in Ada and Twin Valley invited us to come and speak about Project 24.  If my memory serves I believe that a man named Karol “Bud” Berglind met with Roger and invited us or Roger and Joanne’s families had something to do with it but a great relationship developed that still reaps benefits.  Bud Berglind, who Roger Drevlow worked for when he was a boy had a great heart for mercy and a concern for the orphans that I still find inspirational.  Over the years John Halake the General Secretary of the Kenyan church has spoken there as have I and Roger Weinlaeder. 

Bud passed away in September leaving a gap in the networks that we hold so dear.  He cared for the needy half way around the world.  He cared for his children and grandchildren.  His grandchildren attend parochial school in Crookston, MN, and Grace School in Fargo.  He was very proud of his church,  St. John’s, serving in various offices which included: Chairman, Elder, Trustee and Treasurer. He also served on MN North District LCMS Evangelism Committee. Bud was a Gideon member for many years.   His concern for the orphans in Kenya intrigued me and I asked him after the Mission Fest that I preached at how that came about.  I wish I could say that I recieved and answer that I can relay to you but I didn’t.  Bud simply had a heart for mercy and Project 24 was something that resonated in his soul.  I thank God for that.

 

Bud Berglind

Roger and Joanne Drevlow have suffered some afflictions.  Roger suffered a stroke a few years back and I met them in the airport in Minneapolis a while back, headed off the visit one of their children.  They continue to exhibit that abiding faith in Christ and concern for others by which I always get refreshed and renewed.  Their son Ryan was recently installed as the Pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in Breckinridge Minnesota, and if my memory serves he was a child the last time I saw him and we hunted pheasants together. 

So there it is 6 degrees of separation and another example of the conenctions and crossings and how God brings us together and separates us in this life.  There really is a plan to all of this “stuff” that happens in our life.  He has appointed our “times and seasons” and the “boundaries of our habitations” (Acts 17).  Interesting stuff this life that we live together up here in the North Country.

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For the “Planners” Out There

I remember getting into a deep theological discussion about….. wait for it…… planning!  There was some intensity to the discussion too.  The jist of it was that the obsessive compulsives and anal retentives among us were pushing those that are more easy going to “do” metrics and planning types of things to make us more efficient stewards of our time.  I remember going to get the “day timer” back in the day, but I could never find the time to organize it.  I believe in those good First Article gifts that help us to maximize our time and effort but in my world these things simply do not work.  I was slightly appalled at a recent gathering when I noticed a van in the parking lot that was emblazoned with the words, “professional organizer”.  Asking the owner about this line of work I found out that most of it has to do with organizing space, like in my house where we seem to have misplaced the basement, but some of it has to do with organizing the space between peoples ears.

Here is my problem.  On the one hand we have those that follow James logic when he writes in chapter 4 -” Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. 17Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”

On the other hand we have those who say like Solomon in Proverbs 6:6-9 6Look to the ant, thou sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise,7which, having no guide, overseer or ruler, 8provideth her meat in the summer and gathereth her food in the harvest. 9How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? When wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?

Now that to me sounds more like a diatribe against being lazy but some equate lack of planning with being lazy.  We have Jesus famous saying in Matthew 14 – “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and count the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it? Or perhaps, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, everyone who sees begins to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build, and wasn’t able to finish.’ Or what king, as he goes to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends an envoy, and asks for conditions of peace.”

The problem with that one is that he is talking about calculating the “cost of discipleship”

My problem is simple.  In my life the important sometimes misplaces the crucial and the crucial sometimes overrides the essential.  There are simply so many diversions big and small that what I intended to do in the morning may be forgotten by mid- afternoon.  It drives many in my life a bit wild at times so imagine my joy in finding this quote from Bonhoeffer.

We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and cancelling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions. We may pass them by, preoccupied with our more important tasks, as the priest passed by the man who had fallen among thieves, perhaps – reading the Bible….. it is part of the discipline of humility that we must not spare our hand where it can perform a service and we do not assume that our schedule is our own to manage, but allow it to be arranged by God.

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Dies Irae – part 2.

 

Durer - Last Judgement

 

 

 When I was looking at translations of the Dies Irae is was struck by the verse that said -“You Who did Mary’s guilt unbind, and mercy for the robber find, have filled with hope my anxious mind.”  I knew I had seen something like it before and I found it – a portion of Matthew Harrison’s translation of Herman Sasse’s essay on Luther.  Written for the 400th anniversary of his death it is a marvelous exposition on Luther’s fundamental understanding of the human condition before God.  Matt has included it in “The Lonely Way”, published by CPH.  Here is the portion from Sasse that stuck in my mind.

 There is only one of the great teachers of the church who possessed the knowledge of human misery, the impotence of man in all spiritual matters, who can be compared to Luther. That is Augustin, the greatest of the church fathers of the old Latin church. He so emphasized the sola gratia, “by grace alone” in a time of the migration of nations to the Christianity of the west, that it could never completely forget it. Still today his mighty praise of the redeeming divine grace rings in the Roman Catholic liturgy when in one of the prayers, which is read by the priest in every mass, God is called upon as the “One who does not regard merit, but sends forgiveness.” Or when in the burial office is sung in the dies irae, “King of fearful majesty, you who deliver freely [umsonst] those who shall be delivered” and implores the Lord Christ:

“You who once absolved Mary
and pardoned the thief,
have granted hope also to me.”

This sola gratia, as it rings yet even in the Roman Church – if only as one note among others – must not be undervalued. As Evangelical [Lutheran] Christians we can only rejoice. This is for us today what it once was for the Reformer, Martin Luther: A promising sign that the church of God is also still present in Roman Christianity. Otherwise how could the Reformation have commenced from a cell in a monastery?

But Luther’s understanding goes deeper. He knew that the sola gratiamust be enlarged by the sola fide, that to the “by grace alone” must be added “through faith alone.” For the depth of divine grace is understood only when one knows “Even in the best of lives, our deeds are naught.” Also in a life led in the peace of the forgiveness of God and in the power of His Holy Spirit, we are never righteous by what we are and do, rather always only through that which Christ is and what He as done for us. When the Apostle, with the deep experience of the effect of the Holy Spirit, describes a life of sanctification in Galatians 2:20, with the words: “I live, and yet not I, rather Christ lives in me,” he then continues with, “The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Our righteousness before God is never a righteousness which we possess, rather it is, in the proper sense of the word, the righteousness of Christ. What the old Reformation hymn says, which the young Zinzendorf revitalized in his own way, is literally true:

Jesus Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress
With it before God shall I stand,
When I heaven shall enter in.

Here the sola fide is so clearly and simply expressed that a child can understand it. If a Francis of Assisi, a Friedrich von Bodelschwingh, or whoever else one might name as an example of a sanctified life, were saved, then it was not because of their life or work, rather only for this reason: Because the Lord Christ also died for these poor sinners. “By faith alone”, that is “I am nothing, I have nothing, I am capable of nothing; but I have a Savior who is all, has all, and can do all.” God has made Him for us “Wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption” (I Cor. 1:31). And what Luther wrote in 1516 to his brother in the order, Goerg Spenlein, cries out through his words, “We are beggars: This is true”, his last written note, to all of Christianity, as his legacy to every Christian: “Father, my dear brother, learn of Christ, even Christ the Crucified! Learn to sing His praise and despairing of yourself, say to Him: You Lord Jesus, are my righteousness, but I am your sin. You have taken what was in me, and have given to me what I was not.” And then comes this bold assertion: “Be careful never to endeavor to obtain such purity, that you no longer find yourself a sinner, much less desire to be one. Christ dwells only among sinners. This is why he descended from heaven, when He dwelt among the righteous, so also to make His dwelling among sinners. Take note of this His love time and again and you will experience the sweetest consolation… And so only in Him, through having despaired of yourself and your works, will you find peace. Here you will learn from Christ Himself, that He, as He has received you unto Himself, has made your sins His own, and His righteousness your righteousness.”

Talk about the proper distinction between Law and Gospel!

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Dies Irae

I have always wondered about the liturgical calender and how it is that between All Saints and Advent we have the emphasis upon the Last Judgment and “Day of Wrath”.  The Latin poem Dies Irae is probably best translated in our hymnal – LSB – in Bartholomaus Ringwaldts poem put to music – “The Day is Surely Drawing Near”.  It makes for some interesting reading of the texts as we also prepare for thanksgiving.  For those of us who take the liturgical calendar seriously and use the pericopes it makes for a good excercise in the proper distinction between the Law and the Gospel.  I like the translation below.

 

What horror must invade the mind
when the approaching Judge shall find                                                   
and sift the deeds of all mankind!

The mighty trumpet’s wondrous tone
shall rend each tomb’s sepulchral stone
and summon all before the Throne.

Now death and nature with surprise
behold the trembling sinners rise
to meet the Judge’s searching eyes.

Then shall with universal dread
the Book of Consciences be read
to judge the lives of all the dead.

For now before the Judge severe
all hidden things must plain appear;
no crime can pass unpunished here.

O what shall I, so guilty plead?
and who for me will intercede?
when even Saints shall comfort need?

O King of dreadful majesty!
grace and mercy You grant free;
as Fount of Kindness, save me!

Recall, dear Jesus, for my sake
you did our suffering nature take
then do not now my soul forsake!

In weariness You sought for me,
and suffering upon the tree!
let not in vain such labor be.

O Judge of justice, hear, I pray,
for pity take my sins away
before the dreadful reckoning day.

You gracious face, O Lord, I seek;
deep shame and grief are on my cheek;
in sighs and tears my sorrows speak.

You Who did Mary’s guilt unbind,
and mercy for the robber find,
have filled with hope my anxious mind.

How worthless are my prayers I know,
yet, Lord forbid that I should go
into the fires of endless woe.

Divorced from the accursed band,
o make me with Your sheep to stand,
as child of grace, at Your right Hand.

When the doomed can no more flee
from the fires of misery
with the chosen call me.

Before You, humbled, Lord, I lie,
my heart like ashes, crushed and dry,
assist me when I die.

Full of tears and full of dread
is that day that wakes the dead,
calling all, with solemn blast
to be judged for all their past.

Lord, have mercy, Jesus blest,
grant them all Your Light and Rest. Amen.

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What a Way – keep your eyes peeled.

 

 

LCMS President Matthew Harrison has a new initiative called “What a Way”.  It is a push to get our young people and students interested in Church Work.  He writes –

Jesus in that wonderful text in Matthew 9 says “pray the Lord of the harvest send workers”.  That’s the first thing a church that is interested in mission does, pray and the Lord promises to answer prayer.  Pray the Lord of the Harvest send workers.  That’s our prayer right now.  That’s the prayer of the church every Sunday.  That’s my personal prayer daily.  That means that’s a prayer for you to consider how you can pray and also encourage people, especially young people to go into the service of the church in its various ministries.  A missionary church, which is what the Missouri Synod is and must be, a mission church must be a sending church.  An ascending church must send those trained to speak God’s word and to serve Christ.  Please, join us all in encouraging young people, noticing young people and their gifts, helping them consider a vocation in church work, getting them to a Concordia University or to a seminary for a visit, taking advantage of opportunities for young people to get on the campuses of the seminaries and to meet the faculty and enjoy time there.  It will make a huge difference in the life of that young person, and because of the service that person will provide to Christ and his saints it will make an eternal difference.

I believe that the Project 24 initiative to get young people over to Kenya is a good fit with President Harrison’s vision.  Let’s keep out eyes open for those young people that we thin might be a good fit and keep them in touch with this vision.

My hope I that we can keep this initiative not only in our prayers as our President urges but in the forefront of our efforts to continue to develop our partnerships in the minist

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Indoctrination is for those who are ignorant; exhortation for those who know….

Melancholia - Durer

This engraving by Durer is thought by some to depict the problems that arise from too much study.  I get a lot of that in my life as a Pastor.  There is always someone that wants to tell me of the melancholy that comes from too much study and usually it is by some adult on behalf of some juvenile

This is what Luther said in his commentary on Romans.  “Indoctrination is for those who are ignorant; exhortation for those who know’.

There is nothing wrong with indoctrination, though you would be hard pressed to get any post modern American to agree with that premise.  Indoctrination is simply instructing  in a body of doctrine or principles.  Luther understood that and insisted that a course of instruction be institued for the young and the uneducated.  He said,

I entreat [and adjure] you all for God’s sake, my dear sirs and brethren, who are pastors or preachers, to devote yourselves heartily to your office, to have pity on the people who are entrusted to you, and to help us inculcate the Catechism upon the people, and especially upon the young. And let those of you who cannot do better [If any of you are so unskilled that you have absolutely no knowledge of these matters, let them not be ashamed to] take these tables and forms and impress them, word for word, on the people…..

The rote memorization of the catechism is falling by the wayside.  I talk to folks from “other churches” of course that have never even tried to memorize anything in the catechism.  They just spend a lot of time talking about what it mean “in the childs context”.  I wish someone would tell me what that means.  Memorization, as tedious as it is these days is still the best way to learn and get into the heart and head the message of Gods love and compassion for human beings.  Once it is there and being talked and spoken aloud and rehearsed God uses that word as he has always used His word; to create new creatures.  As Luther said, all creatures are “nothing but nouns in the divine language”.  Those who hear the Word and recieve it are new creations.  That is why the Bible Clubs in Kenya are really on the minds and hearts of the Minnesota North and North Dakota Distirct Presidents.  Maybe we can learn something from them.  (See http://www.wmltblog.org/tag/project-24/

Those who have received the Word and know it need to be exhorted.  Somedays I think we are falling down on both the indoctrination and the exhortation.  Maybe we need another diatribe like Luther issued when he introduced the Small Cathechism.

The deplorable, miserable condition which I discovered lately when I, too, was a visitor, has forced and urged me to prepare [publish] this Catechism, or Christian doctrine, in this small, plain, simple form. Mercy! Good God! what manifold misery I beheld! The common people, especially in the villages, have no knowledge whatever of Christian doctrine, and, alas! many pastors are altogether incapable and incompetent to teach [so much so, that one is ashamed to speak of it]. Nevertheless, all maintain that they are Christians, have been baptized and receive the [common] holy Sacraments. Yet they [do not understand and] cannot [even] recite either the Lord’s Prayer, or the Creed, or the Ten Commandments; they live like dumb brutes and irrational hogs; and yet, now that the Gospel has come, they have nicely learned to abuse all liberty like experts.

That’s tough stuff but it is a kind of exhortation and after all we should know.

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Minot Mission from Chisolm part 3

The last of the Breitbarth pictures.  Thank you – we would still love to run an article on this site about more of the “mercy crossings” that we have in our “life together”.

Scraping the Mold

 

The Crew

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Kenyan Bible Clubs – confirmation classes beware.

 

Back in February the two District Presidents of Minnesota North and North Dakota traveled to Kenya and went to some of the Project 24 rescue centers.  While there they saw “Bible Clubs” in action.  Both were impressed.  Children at the centers learn the Small Catechism of Luther by memory and have competitions in singing and putting the words of the Six Chief Parts to music.  We would like to get some of our confirmation classes to think about this and perhaps some of our churches could develop Bible Clubs of their own.  In the meantime here is an assignment for my confirmation class and for anyone else that would like to follow along.

Scroll down and on the right hand side of this page  find the link to the Witness, Mercy, and Life Together Blog – click on it.

Now that you are at Witness, Mercy and Life Together scroll dwon that page and look for the tags section on the right hand side and find Project 24.  Click on it.

Read all the articles from the February posts.  Listen and watch the videos and then answer the following questions.

How many members belong to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya?

Who is their Bishop or President?

How many boys are living at the Othoro Center?

In the video of the Bible Club can you tell which of the 6 Chief Parts is being recited.  It takes a little getting used to but there is a rhythm to the childrens voices.

 What are the 6 Chief Parts of Christian doctrine?

In the Pokot area of Kenya who looks to us Lutherans for social care and mercy work?

Project 24 Centers were meant to be built around churches so the children would have a Pastor and Sunday Schools to go to.  The Udom center has had a new church develop around it.  How many worshipers can the church at Cheparia hold when it is completed?

What is in the center of the Deaconness badge or the emblem that they wear on their arms?

What is written on the Board that Pastor Seter is pointing at in the church at Whema?

What is carved in the Pulpit at Whema?

Explanation of Luther’s Rose

Luther's Rose image“Grace and peace from the Lord. As you desire to know whether my painted seal, which you sent to me, has hit the mark, I shall answer most amiably and tell you my original thoughts and reason about why my seal is a symbol of my theology.

The first should be a black cross in a heart, which retains its natural color, so that I myself would be reminded that faith in the Crucified saves us. For one who believes from the heart will be justified” (Rom. 10:10).

Although it is indeed a black cross, which mortifies and which should also cause pain, it leaves the heart in its natural color. It does not corrupt nature, that is, it does not kill but keeps alive. “The just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17) but by faith in the crucified.

Such a heart should stand in the middle of a white rose, to show that faith gives joy, comfort, and peace. In other words, it places the believer into a white, joyous rose, for this faith does not give peace and joy like the world gives (John 14:27). That is why the rose should be white and not red, for white is the color of the spirits and the angels (cf. Matthew 28:3; John 20:12).

Such a rose should stand in a sky-blue field, symbolizing that such joy in spirit and faith is a beginning of the heavenly future joy, which begins already, but is grasped in hope, not yet revealed.

And around this field is a golden ring, symbolizing that such blessedness in Heaven lasts forever and has no end. Such blessedness is exquisite, beyond all joy and goods, just as gold is the most valuable, most precious and best metal.

This is my compendium theoligae [summary of theology]. I have wanted to show it to you in good friendship,hoping for your appreciation.

May Christ, our beloved Lord, be with your spirit until the life hereafter. Amen.”

Martin Luther, Letter to Lazarus Spengler, July 8, 1530.

 

According to Luther what is white the color off?

Why would people in Africa be interested in Luther’s Rose or seal?

What is the name of the town where Pastor Seter is interviewed?  What is going to happen there?

Where does the money for the Project 24 centers or the 1001 Orphan project come from?

Now go back to www.northerncrossingsmercy.org and go to the blog on August 29th.  What is the “Brick by Brick” program, or the “One Brick at a Time” program.  For extra credit – come up with and idea to have the confirmation class start their own “Brick by Brick” program.  How many bricks do you think that you can buy?

 Final question – if little children in Africa can learn the catechism by memory WHILE LEARNING TO SPEAK ENGLISH – why do you think it is so hard for you?

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