Report from “Ricky” William Shanks in Gainesville GA
4565 Persian Trail; Gainesville, GA 30507; Phones: 843-569-8729-Home; 843-725-9283-Cell
Website: AnswersFromTheBible.ORG - Dial A Bible Study: 770-835-4000 (Ext. 3 for Spanish.) Gainesville church of Christ (GCOC.org) 2815 Wallace Rd. Gainesville GA 30507 meeting location
The work here continues to inch in a positive way. The flock now is meeting for both worship and Bible classes. All are in good health. The most vulnerable have not yet returned but wait on medical news to improve in our area. Georgia numbers are back up because of the riots, so the darkness continues to hover in our state. It is so good to see our brethren in person again. Greg Perkins came with his young people to go door to door and seems to have some wanting to obey the gospel soon. We are gearing up to accommodate a bible class in Spanish if that happens. He found a couple of English language contacts which I am following up on. We pray the Lord of the Harvest will give the increase to those seeking.
This last week we had a lot of visitors as result of splintering congregations of the Lord’s church. As mentioned a couple of years ago in my report, flocks of God’s people have not been immune to the world’s chronic “me isms.” God calls us to serve Him as Lord and King yet too often His people end up being more influenced by the world.
We as His people serve at the pleasure of our King.
As a flock of His people we are to be representatives of His character and His spokesmen.
Yet as we have witnessed the “me, me” generation’s behavior in the world and how it has infected many brethren. Result, where once was a good fruitful flock in the past with godly elders, over time the behavior results in flock splintering and eventually closing their doors. Where are the humble saints who put God’s cause above all else? We have always been at war with darkness but it is sad to see the carnage created when a so few personalities can create such damage among God’s people. May the “King of Salem” (peace) reign.
The Facebook (FB) efforts we make have now been changed. Out of 14 programs FB prevented us from going live 3 times. Thus we had to record it and post later. FB continuously changes how it works almost weekly. What works one week would not work the next. Because of the lack of consistent reliability for live broadcast we decided that short 3 minute prerecorded efforts would be more fruitful. They become more consistent with less interruptions and the finished product will focused on one subject at a time and titled with the subject. In addition to that, I noticed the demographics of FB heavily leaned toward older watchers (45 and above). These short videos are also being posted on Instagram (IG) which leans toward a much younger viewership. The first 3 are running already. We are using “googles most asked religious questions” as themes for now. These may not help mature saints much but will hopefully find those who are lost and seeking God’s salvation. IG does not have the statistics tracked like FB but we looking for connections locally that we can help study with in person. I can’t wait till the “fears” of virus will totally subside where we can mobilize our local saints in an evangelistic meetings and meet people in person with festivals, free speech areas in colleges.
Stats from FB: 44K people reached. 35K minutes (583 hours) viewed from beginning of effort total of which the highest amount was last week. We now have 663 who follow the page. 13K post reached and 9K viewed video this week.
My goal is that we find local good and honest seekers who will show initiative to ask and knock (Matt 7:7) with reaching out via TEXT or downloads from website above. Pray with us that the Lord of the Harvest will show us those in this area who seek Him. Thank you for your encouragements and we all serve Him to His glory!
Honored to serve, Ricky Shanks
JUNE/JULY 2020 REPORT ON
THE WORK IN CORRIGAN, TEXAS [email protected]
171 CALDWELL ST. LIVINGSTON, TX 77351
I find it just as hard, if not harder, to find time to write this report as when I was actually going to the prison. Going to the prison occupied two whole days basically. Now I find myself, every day, grading their lessons and sending them my sermons that I believe will help them and writing personal notes. Sometimes I get tired of the constant flow, getting lessons in the mail as I am sending more out. But I know it is opening their eyes as I am actually personally studying with each one. It is so encouraging to get to know them this way. I sent off five envelopes today and each one was about 1/4 inch thick. I went and bought $140 worth of stamps and a bunch of printer cartridges and 10 reams of paper and 1000 envelopes. Some write a lot and do perfect on the lessons, some are slower, some haven’t done any lessons yet - - but they write (There are 5 or 6 who are almost blind and it is difficult for them). I’ve heard from them all. And there is no telling if they will open up Estelle before the year ends.
Most of the prisons didn’t lock down like Estelle. Estelle is the medical unit for this region, so they get the sickest to come there. And if an individual needs a real hospital, then they are all sent to John Sealy Hospital in Galveston. Estelle had about 1000 tested positive out of 3000, and they were juggling them to keep the positives form the negatives. But Estelle is starting to open up a little. The men have been eating sandwiches three times a day in their cells. The same o' same o' for 70 day! And their sandwiches have no nice things in them. They were really happy this week to get out and go to the dining room - - no one complained about the food. And they got to go out and see the sun and breathe fresh air. Two of my guys were pretty sick, but they both pulled through. The work goes well.
Switching gears. The Christians in Jerusalem needed financial help from the get-go. And Paul was still helping brethren send contributions to those same brethren 30 years later on his third journey (Rom 15:26- 27)! He URGED brethren to help these “foreigners” because they were all in the same family - - the family of Christ. When Paul met with the church in Jerusalem, they only asked Paul to remember the poor there (Gal 2:10). Almost always the contribution is designated for the “poor saints” among us (I Cor 16:1-2; 2 Cor 8:5; 9:1, 12). We say “Amen” to all of this.
Our Filipino brethren barely make a living in harsh conditions, and many hundreds have been actually living in tattered tents even in winter the last year because the 2019 typhoons wiped out entire cities. And now the CoVid has hit. They are living in a nightmare - - no food, no shelter, and now sickness. Please consider them. I have been helping receive and send money to one particular preacher, Jimmy Domingo and his congregation over the years. He is a good and faithful worker, spoken of highly by good brethren like Ron Halbrook and others. He appealed for help for one special sister, Dalores Mabborang. She fell last weekend and broke her femur. The doctor said he could do a hip replacement for $1000, but that there would be another $1100 to pay the hospital etc. She got the hip replacement and is up and walking with an aid, but needs to pay off the rest. She is a good and active sister in the Tuguegarao City congregation where Jimmy preaches. Jimmy verified her situation by sending X-rays, and copies of the medical bills. If there are any who could help her, it would be greatly appreciated. If the hip were not fixed, she would die a slow painful death as she would waste away to nothing since she couldn’t move. The church there doesn’t have the money. They can hardly buy enough rice to eat. If you want to help, I can send money directly and Paypal charges just $4. It is not tax deductible. But if you want to send a large amount and want it to be a tax deduction, you can send it to Ron Halbrook who is constantly going down there and knows all these brethren personally. He has set up an account just for helping the poor and he can send it directly to them. If you want that information, write to me and I can give it to you.
Yours in Him who saves, Robert
Lights in A Sinful World
Thanks be to God we made it safely through the night. As I write this letter, our community is picking up the pieces from vandalism, looting and violence against the police. We have seen so much hatred and frustration, often being directed at those who are simply trying to help. And we have seen so much greed by those taking advantage of the civil unrest. We have seen the media spinning narratives from the air that don’t always match the reality of the situation on the ground. This community has torn itself apart. We live in a minority community and so many minority-owned businesses were destroyed. As the looters were systematically working their way toward our house, as police fired tear gas canisters down our block, as we closed our windows and rushed the children to the back bedroom for safety, I actually considered leaving this place. We have experienced so much sin and lawlessness since moving to Philly. It seems that few people value human life, so few have regard for the law, and so many have disdain for authority. Men shooting men, children shooting children, men beating women, and citizens shooting police officers who are sent into our community to restore order. People are so quick to blame others, yet so few are willing to accept responsibility for their own actions. We all want justice as long as it’s not against ourselves. When we sin, we hide from God’s judgment. That is true regardless of the color of our skin. It is true regardless of where we live. There are many people on both sides of the political debate proposing false solutions to our problems. I’m very concerned when Christians begin taking sides and adopting these false solutions. The only solution for peace and unity
is Jesus Christ. The Gospel is not a theoretical solution, it is a very practical one. It speaks to every area of our lives. Every sector of society, every discipline of study, every area of our public & private life should presuppose and be informed by God’s Word.
We must not only allow preachers to speak truth in the pulpit, but also in the statehouse, the laboratory, and the classroom. Why? Because the Bible should inform how we think about everything.
Someone asked my wife today, “At what point do you leave Sodom?” I’m not sure I know the answer. However, I do know that Jesus suffered to save lost sinners. We should be willing to suffer too.
My Father’s Death
In late December or January, my father contracted a flu virus which turned into pneumonia. The virus attacked his liver and he was admitted to the UAB hospital in Birmingham, AL so that he might receive a liver transplant. However, due to the COVID-19 shutdown, the surgery was delayed and he did not survive. Because he contracted the virus before the official COVID-19 outbreak, the doctors do not believe it was related. I’m thankful that I was able to attend his funeral service in Alabama on May 8.
The first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in this area on March 6. However, in late January, I came down with what I thought was a really severe flu which matched the symptoms of those being reported in China. Testing was
~ Joe Hamm - Philadelphia ~
June 1, 2020
not widely available at that time, but I was taking Hebrew classes with many students from Asian countries who had recently returned after the holidays. Perhaps I was exposed, but we will never know. This flu-like disease quickly turned into pneumonia and I was in the bed for several weeks. Following my sickness, each member of our family experienced two days of sickness followed by three weeks of low-grade fever. We isolated our family even before the official lockdown. We were advised by Fiona’s doctor to stay home and we all recovered. Thankfully, no one else in the church has experienced the severe symptoms of this disease.
Worshipping During The Shutdown
The church here normally meets on the campus of UPenn in downtown Philly. However, because the campus has been closed, we’ve been unable to meet there. The Raif family has continued to open their home for the brethren to worship together on Sundays. We even had three visitors worship with us yesterday. Those who have not felt safe coming continue to listen to the service over the internet. We hope that the city will re-open soon and that the whole church can gather together once again.
Growing In Number
Despite the shutdown, the Lord continues to bless the church with growth. Matt & Meagan Smith recently moved here from Birmingham for work. Nick & Tifanee Lane just moved here from Kentucky for the same reason. As I mentioned in my last report, several other brethren are planning to move here after things return to “normal.”
And Growing (More Babies)
We are also growing in other ways. Four of the ladies in our small group, including my wife Fiona, are expecting babies. Please pray for the Lord’s protection upon them.
A Special Need
With the expected birth of our sixth child in December, we will need to purchase a larger van. A family of eight will no longer fit into a seven passenger van. For some time now, it has been difficult to give other people rides to church because of our limited seating. We are hoping to purchase a used 15 passenger van so that we can transport our own family and also have plenty of room for others. I do believe that a large van will not only be helpful to us, but will also be a blessing to others we are seeking to serve. I anticipate the cost to be $20k. If you are in a position to help, we would appreciate your consideration.
A Final Word of Exhortation
During these evil days, let’s commit to loving one another more fervently. Let’s be willing to listen to our brethren who have experiences different than our own. Let’s determine that we’re not going to allow this world to divide us. Let’s compare everything being said with God’s Word. Read the Scriptures daily with your family so they will know how to properly view the world.
“The Lord bless thee, and keep thee:
The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.”
- Numbers 6:24-26
Love in Christ,
5232 Spruce St. Philadelphia, PA 19139 267-831-4019 [email protected]
Southern ~ Joe Hamm - Philadelphia ~ Hospitality
~ Joe Hamm - Philadelphia ~
~ Joe Hamm - Philadelphia ~
~ Joe Hamm - Philadelphia ~
MAY 2020 REPORT ON
THE WORK IN CORRIGAN, TEXAS [email protected]
171 CALDWELL ST. LIVINGSTON, TX 77351
We offer up prayers to our Creator for you every day. We pray for your health and well being, but more importantly for your standing fast in the Lord. And not just to stand, but “excel still more!” (1 Th 4:10).
It is said that there is on average a 60% recidivism rate across America. This means 60% of the prisoners that are released from prison return there having committed another crime. Some years ago, Texas stopped just warehousing the offenders and started teaching them how to change their thinking and to help prepare them for the outside world through education, because it is a BIG adjustment. In Texas, the recidivism rate has dropped to 37%. Among the “faith-based” groups, it is 10%!
It is such a privilege to help make a difference in the lives of some men. Some in the prison are surely bad to the bone and enjoy just living life they way they want it, and no one is going to tell them what to do. Others have made some bad choices - - some just ONE bad choice. Others got addicted to this or that - - either a pattern of life or to substances.
Since I can’t meet with my classes at the prison, I’ve started sending my sermons and bulletins and offering correspondence courses. WOW! Almost all 36 of my students have responded with letters of appreciation - - and even write “love” as they sign their name. About 13 so far have responded to doing the first lesson of the course. Some are expressing their thanks to me for caring enough for them to teach, and to you brethren who make it possible for me to be there. I thank you too!
One of those men is James Gee. I just love this guy. He about 68 and is so gentle and humble and such a sincere smile always. He is upset when Christians there waste time playing dominoes, and cards, and watching TV. All he does is read his Bible. He wrote that my coming there saved him. He has served 31 years of a 45 years sentence for aggravated kidnapping! I would have never thought.
Most of these guys have a sentence of 40 years are more. Some have a life sentences, or life without parole. Seven are in there for murder, aggravated assault, or organized crime, but you would never think it. Three or four of these probably never will get out. Art Moody went with me several times and was just amazed how nice and polite they are. He taught the class when I couldn’t make it and was impressed with their knowledgeable Bible answers and their kindness.
Six of my students have been released, all but one is doing well. He got involved in drugs again and is back. Two can’t worship with churches because of their crimes, but they are good men following the law. Eric works 50 to 60 hours a week, and the plant manager wants him there every day because he is the most dependable worker and most honest. John got out a month ago and I got him hooked up with a good church in San Antonio and I think he will go far. Right now he is doing baby-steps.
Well, I’m out of space. The Corrigan church has been meeting all month, spacial distancing as much as we can, and things are going well. Thank you brethren so, so much for your support - - financially and your encouraging remarks. Let us keep praying for open doors!
Yours in Him who saves, Robert
SPREADING THE GOSPEL IN PHILADELPHIA,
Dec 29 – Mar 31, 2020
So much has changed since my last report. Up until three or four weeks ago, I was going out twice a week to set up a table at the train station to hand out leaflets and to speak with people about the Lord Jesus. I had Bible studies at coffee shops three times a week. Patti and I met with the saints in our home for a Wednesday evening Bible study and assembled with them each Lord’s Day on the UPenn campus. Now we are discouraged (forbidden?) by the civil authorities from doing any of these things face to face. The exception being assembling on Sunday. We can still do this if we practice social distancing. However, since we have no assembly hall of our own, it must be done in private homes. Because of seasonal illnesses (thankfully, not coronavirus), some concern for venturing out due to pregnancies, pre-existing health concerns, and general concerns for catching the virus, these assemblies have been small but encouraging. Almost all who feel they can’t venture out
“join us” through ZOOM.
Except for my Wednesday morning study with Anne (who postponed the study entirely), I continue to participate in the other studies via ZOOM.
Because I ran a fever for about a week, our primary care physician thought it best that I get tested for the virus. After two weeks, the test came back negative. In the meantime, we canceled Patti’s caregiving service until this state of emergency is over, and because we did not want the caregivers to bring the virus into our home. So far, everything has worked out as well as it can be expected. When the days are lovely, we attempt to take a brief stroll for exercise. But for the most part, we confine ourselves to our apartment.
At the moment, our health remains good, except for Patti’s daily bouts with either extremely high or extremely low blood pressure. But we consider ourselves blessed!
Thank you so much for your prayers and for your support. We know that some of you may not be able to continue your support if this state of emergency continues for months and months, as many predicted. Whatever the future holds, rest assured that we will continue to trust in the Lord while giving thanks to Him for you.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please let us hear from you. Hold fast!
Kieran & Patti Murphy
241 S 49th Street, Apt 202
Philadelphia, PA 19139
Home Tel. 215 825-7444 Mobile 267 437-7517