Thursday, November 28, 2013

Remembering Gene Bennett

Tomorrow afternoon I will be called on to say a few words about my brother in law and friend, Lowell "Gene" Bennett.  Since his pastor will be actually doing the funeral message, the family has called upon me to do a brief eulogy.  It is hard to express in a few words, my feelings for my friend and brother in Christ.  It is also impossible to put into a brief memorial service, all that this dear brother experienced in more than 7 decades on the planet.

However, for those who cannot attend, and for any friends or family members who would like to have a copy of my planned remarks, I will share them with you in this forum. This is not written in "Article" form but in a form of notes for my eulogy.
Lowell “Gene” Bennett, of Ashland, Ky., was born on May 29, 1939 in Springfield, Ohio to the late Earl and Opal Dunfee Bennett. He dparted this life  on November 24, 2013 at Kings Daughters Medical Center in Ashland.  His time on Earth was 74 years, 5 months, and 26 days.
In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his wife Glenna Lucille Tagg Bennett and sisters Juanita Petrie and Virginia Wade.
He was a graduate of Windsor High School in 1957. He was a member of Princess Chapel where he served as Chairman of the board of Trustees and as an Elder.
He went on missionary trips to the Philippines, helped with disaster relief in New York City during 9-11 and to New Orleans during hurricane Katrina.

Lowell was retired from AK Steel with 36 years of service.
He is survived by his loving wife of 45 years, Violet Ann Bowling Bennett;
Three  sons,
·        Brian Bennett (Tracey) of Ashland, Ky.,
·        Glenn Bennett (Robin) of Ashland, Ky., and
·        Chris Bennett (Billie) of Argillite, Ky.;
Two daughters,
·        Gloria Stevens (Gary) of Olive Hill, Ky., and
·        Amy Reed (Scott Carpenter) of South Point, OH.;
Two sisters, Geneva Patrick of Crown City, OH. and Mary Pinkerman of Scottown, OH;
Ten Grandchildren,
·        James Stevens,
·        Shayne Bennett,
·        Evan Bennett,
·        Jesse White,
·        Shanna Bennett,
·        Sara Bennett,
·        Cody Bennett,
·        Cayden Bennett,
·        Sydney Reed and
·        Sophia Reed;
Four great grandchildren,
·        Gary Stevens,
·        Madeleine Bennett,
·        Michael Stevens and
·        Braxton White.
And a host of other family members, friends, neighbors, and church family

It is very natural for us to cling to this body, because it is hard for us to disassociate it from the one who dwelt in it – who animated it – whom you knew and loved as:
·        Brother
·        Husband
·        Father
·        Grandfather
·        Great grandfather
·        Uncle
·        Cousin
·        Brother in law
·        Co-worker
·        Brother in Christ
·        Friend or neighbor.
Yet in reality, this body is only the worn out garment that Gene cast aside on Sunday evening  when he slipped away from us and entered into the presence of the Lord.
Gene is in the presence of the Lord today –
·        Not because he was a good guy (and he WAS a good guy – one of the best I’ve known
·        But because long ago he had trusted Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord.
·        When one has truly done that, good works will naturally follow
Ephesians 2:8-10  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,  9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.  10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
·        He leaves behind a legacy of hard work, good will, fair play, and being a friend to all.
He was my friend for 44 years and my brother in law for 42 years – but more than that – he was like the older brother I never had.
We were the guys who married the two Bowling girls, and we HAD to hang together for that reason alone.
We were treated by Burgess and Orpha like we were their very own blood sons.
We enjoyed holidays and other family get togethers for more than four decades
He was caring and unselfish with his time and talents – with family members, neighbors and friends.
I can look back over the years at many times he had helped me and Linda by doing various electrical, plumbing, and carpentry jobs around our house, whenever called upon.
I had the privilege of working with Gene on two Mission trips.  One to NYC the week after September 11, and the other was a two week mission trip to the Philippine Islands.  In both cases I watched him work diligently at whatever he was given to do – from sorting and stacking huge boxes of clothes in New York, and helping to cook thousands of meals in the KY Disaster Relief kitchen for the relief workers.  Even suffering from Gout, he made the 31 hour trip to the Philippines, and helped carry equipment, distribute Filipino language Bibles, sang and gave his testimony in many crusades and church services.  And he did it all with that typical Gene smile and homespun humor.  They loved him over there.  Please allow me to read a couple of messages that have been sent to me from some of his Filipino friends in hearing he was very ill:
Dearest Dr. C.J.
Thank you for letting us know about Bro. Gene. We're sad of knowing his poor health.
Please tell him that we are praying, missed him and love him very much." Bro.Gene, you are always in our heart. Thank you for being a part of God's ministry here in our place."
God's servants,
Pastor Roberto Martin and Family
Dear Dr.CJ
We here in the Philippines were sad about what had happened to sir Gene. We remember him through his deeds and love for the ministry here in our place. Please extend that our prayer is coming on his way through Jesus Christ. We believe that no matter what may happen God will surely reveal His miraculous touch upon Sir Gene and the Family around him.
Please let him know that we love him and will always be remembered in our prayers. Be strong and of good courage.
Sir Gene, we love you so much with the love of the Lord.
Lovingly yours
Ptr Ernel Agaban and Family
Upon learning of his passing I received these messages –
Sad yet we need to accept God's plan for Bro. Gene's life, I'll be praying that God will comfort his family and friends out there. We sincerely extend our deepest sympathy to all of you there Uncle C.J.  Thanks for keeping in touch with us here in the Philippines. My Father and Mother (Ernel & Elenita) was very sad for what happened. We'll be missing him in the ministry. He's a good son of God. I do believe that Uncle Gene is at God's side right now. God's grace will be with us coz He's not dead. He truly and deeply LOVED us. God Bless you & your family uncle.
Micah Agaban

Please extend our deepest sympathy to the Bennett family. We are praying for God's comfort to the family, friends and relatives. we will tell ptr cadiao and the bcf family. God bless  we are also praying for you ptr. C.J.
Boboy Rosales
There are several pieces of information that one finds on a tombstone or grave marker:
·        Name
·        Date of birth
·        Date of death
·        Little “-“ in between the two
·        The most important piece of information is the dash of your life.
·        What was done in those fleeting years of life
My Dad is fond of saying that a man preaches his own funeral while he is living. This is true.
I always tell my sons, (and now my grandsons) the three things:
1.      Always Do Your Best
A.   As a husband, father, and grandfather
B.   As a friend or neighbor
C.   On the job
D.   At the church – recognized as one who could be placed in positions of trust
2.     Always Do What’s Right
A.    He treated all of his children and grandchildren equal. No favorites.
B.   He hated to see someone treated unfairly
C.   He was willing to stand up for those who could not stand up for themselves
D.   He had a sense of fair play
E. And although far from perfect – in the 44 years I knew Gene, he always tried to do the right thing

3. Always Treat Others The Way You Would Like To Be Treated
In the Old Testament, Samuel records King David’s reaction to hearing the news of the death of Abner:
2 Samuel 3:38  “Then the king said to his servants, “Do you not know that a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel?”

That is the way I feel about Gene Bennett.
I will miss him here but I look forward to seeing him again soon in a land where there will be no more sickness, no pain, no death, no parting.
I love you brother and I'll see you soon.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Heart For "All Nations"

 More than 50 people gathered together on October 27, 2013 in the Community Room of Earl Bales Park in North York, Ontario, for the 2nd Anniversary Service of All Nations Baptist Church Toronto.  It was my pleasure to be the guest speaker for this wonderful group of Brothers and Sisters in Christ, and Pastor Jolly Ampong and his wife, Mary Jane.

It was a strange turn of events that brought me to visit Jolly and Mary Jane back in August with a team from Westmoreland Baptist Church in Huntington, WV, and to be back there in October for the church plant's 2nd Anniversary.

The circumstances can only be identified as a "God Thing".

The story begins in February, 2000.

That is the year I made my first (of a dozen) short term mission trips to the Philippines.  I was part of a team of six eastern Kentucky pastors who made a two week trip to the Province of Negros Oriental in the Central Visayan area of the archipelago.  There we split up and worked with several native church planters of the Negros Oriental Southern Baptist Association.  After arriving in the provincial capitol of Dumaguete City, we took a 50 minute Fast Ferry ride to the neighboring island of Siquijor, for us to spend a couple of intense days of prayer and fellowship with the Filipino pastors who would be our partners for the next 11 days.

Thirteen of us crammed into a small "Easy Ride" (a huge misnomer) and we began an up close and personal relationship that transformed my ministry.  We bounced along the rough road that traversed the small "Island of Witchcraft".  Loaded down with Filipinos, Americans, and all our luggage, the little easy ride couldn't quite pull itself to the crest of the hill we were crossing after leaving the port city of Larena.  I wish you could have seen us all piling out of that little truck (like the clowns in the Volkswagen at the circus) and pushing the Easy Ride the rest of the way to the top of the hill.

Anyhow, we spent the next two days getting to know one another, planning our crusade strategy and itinerary, and sharing devotional time together.  One of the young Filipino pastors was a man named Jolly Ampong.  My first thoughts were that with his wide smile and jovial manner, he certainly lived up to his name.

When our brief retreat was over, it was time to get down to work.  We returned to Negros Island and once we reached Dumaguete we all went our separate ways for the crusade activities.  Bro. Charles Davis and I stayed in Dumaguete in the home of Pastor Reuben Allosa and his wife, Lolina.  Joed Rice traveled to the next town of Bacong, where he worked and stayed with Pastor Josue Cadiao and his wife, Christy.  Ric Frazier went north about an hour up the National Highway where he paired up with Pastor Benjamin Marcelino and his wife, Emma in Bais City.  Henry Mosley, partnered with Jolly Ampong.  Jolly and his late wife, Anita, were based in the town of Manjuyod, an hour and a half drive up the National Highway from Dumaguete City. 

I'll skip a lot of other details, but will just say that it was a joy working with the pastors of NOSBA.  I made two trips there over the next three years, working with Pastor Doming Valdez in the Upper Batinguel area.  On each of those trips it was a pleasure to be associated with the Filipino pastor/church planters. We worked with Jolly on three of those trips.  After Anita died from breast cancer, Jolly was unable to continue the church planting activities that had been based on Anita's family's property in Manjuyod.  We were never able to work with Jolly again in the Philippines, but we did stay in touch via email, and later through Facebook.

Fast forward a decade.

Jolly had remarried.  His new wife was Mary Jane Malaga from his native island of Mindinao.  Mary Jane had also attended the Southern Philippines Baptist Seminary, Jolly's Alma Mater.   She was in Canada working as a caregiver, and had almost given up on her dream of marrying a pastor.  But through a mutual friend, they were introduced and began a long distance relationship.  After marrying, Jolly began working on the papers to join Mary Jane in Metropolitan Toronto.  Shortly after arriving there, they began the work together to begin a new Baptist work in the city of North York in Metropolitan Toronto.

Westmoreland Baptist Church was seeking new ways to reach out in Missions.  Through a series of events, and the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board's "Send North America" initiative, my long time friendship with Jolly and their new work's affiliation with NAMB and "Send Toronto", we were able to hook up as partners for missions in the fourth largest metropolitan area in North America.  
God works in mysterious ways!

I would like to ask our readers to join us in praying for Jolly and Mary Jane as they work primarily in the large Asian community in North York. The challenges are great, but the Kingdom possibilities are unlimited. Although their present membership is made up of Filipino and Chinese believers,they are seeking to reach out to others in a multi ethnic ministry.   At the anniversary service there were Filipinos, Chinese, Vietnamese, African Americans, Canadians, in attendance.  There was even a Muslim woman who visited, who had been invited by one of her co-workers who is a member of the church. 

They have a heart to reach out to everyone with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

There are only 300 Southern Baptist Churches (Canadian Baptist Convention) in Canada.  The goal is to increase that number to 1,000 by the year 2020.  By God's help, this can be accomplished!

We have also become acquainted with two other Baptist Church planters in the Toronto area (David Smith and Rudy Geronimo) with whom we also hope to partner in some way.  Will you join us in praying that God will use Jolly and Mary Jane and the other dedicated church planters who are working diligently for the Lord among our neighbors to the north?

The harvest is ripe but the laborers are few.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Trustees Take A Biblical Stand In Kentucky

This is a followup to my post from Saturday, November 2, regarding the Sunrise Children's Services (formerly the Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children) and their Director's proposal to change employment standards to allow for practicing homosexuals to serve on staff.  click here to see original post

The Sunrise Board of Trustees has voted to keep the hiring standards as they have always been.  While affirming that there is no one who is beyond the love of our God, and no one to whom we should not show Grace, as a former Kentucky Baptist pastor, I am thankful for the stand taken by the Trustees.  Those who serve the children of Kentucky through this long standing ministry of the Kentucky Baptist Cconvention
should certainly be held to the highest Biblical standards.

Here is a link to the Baptist Press article on the Trustee vote.  click here to view article

Since Sunrise presently receives over twenty five times more money from federal sources than it does from the parent organization, the Kentucky Baptist Convention, this decision may result in a radical reduction of funding.  We should continue to pray for this important ministry.  Pray that if the federal funding is taken away that the God who was able to serve more than 5,000 people with one little boy's lunch, will also show His power in this ministry.  May He honor the stand the Sunrise Trustees have taken for Biblical truth.

Little is much when God is in it.

A Report From Our Partners In The Philippines.

Several of you have written to ask about our friends and church planting partners in the Philippines.  It has been my pleasure to work with these dear people for the past 13 years in the province of Negros Oriental, in the Central Philippines.

I am thankful to report that we have heard from most of them.

I am passing along their communications in this post, so you all may see their level of trust in the Lord and their reactions to being hit by the strongest storm ever recorded to make landfall on the planet.

Negros had high winds and torrential rains, but they were blessed to be missed by the most powerful portion of the typhoon.

Here are communications we received from Pastor Josue Cadiao (who also had the family of Pastor Ernel Agaban with them in Bacong), and Pastor Roberto Martin in the coastal area of Bais City.

Hello Dear Brethren in the Lord,
God is gracious enough who holds our lives from the monster typhoon Yolanda.
We cannot hold our emotions upon looking  at the news. Hundreds of people were dead due to the typhoon and homes and establishments were broken. We are so sorry for them. And we prayed for God's comfort and hope for them.
For us we are sending our heartfelt gratitude and thanks giving for your earnest prayers for our situation upon waiting the coming of the typhoon. Your prayers mean a lot to us. God redirected the typhoon in our area Negros Oriental. From signal No. 4 to signal no. 2 He made it possible and it is because of all your prayers for us. We really appreciate. 
We cannot explain our emotions upon waiting the said typhoon but because of your prayers, your calls, and your concern we felt God's hand and comfort. and protection.
To Central , Burnaugh, Ptr. Darrell, Bro.  Richard, Ptr. Pete, Ptr. Joed, Dr. CJ and all who prayed for us our heartfelt appreciation to all.  How lucky we are to have you as our prayer partners. To God be the glory for all that He has done.
We are now back to our daily routine of works. Today we are experiencing a sunny day.
We will uphold you all in our prayers continually.
We thank God for all of you.
God's blessings be upon us all.

In His Vineyard,
Bro. Josue Cadiao, Cristy and Bacong Christian Fellowship

Pastor Roberto Martin in Bais City kept us updated with the following dispatches as the Typhoon approached, and in the aftermath:

11/6  5:59AM  “Hello dr. Cj.Pls pray for Negros we are the center of Super typhoon.The Gov. already suspended the classes for two days.please pray for the covering of God's hand”.

11.6  11:26PM   “The strong Wind is now starting....  We are in the house.praying,preparing just open the computer till there's service of electricity to update the news.”

11/7  6:48PM  “The typhoon striking signal no.3 in our place.About to landfall before 2 hours.”

11/10  6:29AM   “Hello Dr. CJ.....Thank you for all your prayers.God's grace we are all safe.Lets just continue pray because Yolanda is still in the Philippines and this coming Tues night-Wed.There's another heavy rain threat and it may become a tropical storm.
God is amazing!miraculous!He really answered prayer.There's no any damaged in our home and church building.During the landfall,we sing God's songs and prayed.rebuking the typhoon.God is good all the time.”

I have also heard from Pastor Nico Folio in Manjuyod.  He did not give specifics regarding damages, etc, but we understand that the Bamboo Church is still standing along the sea coast in Manjuyod.

While our hearts are broken at the tragic loss of life and catastrophic damage in Tacloban City, Leyte Island, Samar, and northern Cebu, we are thanking God for the deliverance of our dear friends and partners on Negros Island.

Please keep the thousands of affected families in your prayers.