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Dear Congregational Family,

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1.      National Day of Prayer:  This Thursday is National Day of Prayer.  Please take time throughout the day to pray for our nation.  Ideas for prayer:
a.      Thank God for the freedoms of our land.
b.      Pray for the protection of our religious liberties.
c.       Pray for all our leaders, that God would be at work through them (even if unbeknownst to them!) for the good of our nation.
d.      Pray that God would raise up godly leaders for our nation.
e.      Pray for our nation to love, value, and protect all life.
f.        Pray for civility and respect in dialogue and debate.
g.       Pray for a spiritual revival to sweep through our land.

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2.     Czymbor Farewell: This Sunday, after the 11:00am service we will be having a cake reception for the Czymbor’s in our Fellowship Hall.  On Monday, they will be leaving for MN, and then ultimately to SD!  This year has gone by quickly!

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3.     Peace be with you:  After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the disciples were experiencing some uncertainty to say the least!  What is going to happen now?  Some were afraid, some were simply trying to make sense of what had happened and to anticipate what might happen!  Jesus comes to them with a simple, but profound word:  PEACE.  This peace was possible, because He was alive and was with them, and would always be with them!

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In nearly three decades of ministry, I have always found May to be a month of transitions for many reasons.  This can be a cause of anxiety and uncertainty.  This year, at Ruthfred, we will be undergoing a number of transitions (most similar to past years), as one vicar leaves and another comes, as students graduate and move away (or return home), and as the spring gives way to the summer schedule.  This year, we have the extra transition of the Osier’s leaving as well.  We continue to work on filling those roles.  You are part of the answer to that as well!  Look for additional ways to encourage and serve others in our congregation! 

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In all of this, Jesus continues to speak to us, “Peace be with you.”  God’s Presence is always with us, His Provisions will be provided to us, His Sovereign Power is in control, and in that Promise, we can have Peace in our hearts as we move forward in Prayer.

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God bless you as we continue,

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        “Growing Together in our Faith as the Family of God”
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                                   Pastor Carlson

 

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Dear Congregational Family,

1. Incredible Easter Services!! Sunday was a wonderful day of Easter Services! It was a beautiful day of celebration of our Resurrected and Living Lord Jesus! (See pictures below). Special thanks to:
a. Bob, Fred, Melissa, the choirs, and all of the individuals who sang or played special numbers!
b. Jim Grimm and the Altar Guild for all of their work in arranging flowers, and preparing the altar throughout the week!
c. All those who shared a message in word and song during our Good Friday afternoon services!
d. Our church staff who worked extra hard to make sure that everything was ready and flowing smoothly!

2. The Haining Family Trio: A number of years ago, the Haining Family came for a concert at Ruthfred and it was a wonderful evening of song and fellowship. Three of the adult children are now touring the nation on their own and they will be coming to Ruthfred this Sunday evening. Their music is a unique blend of Bluegrass. Many of you brought people with you to the Easter Services; please invite them back for this concert! There will be an ice cream sundae fellowship time to follow the concert. It will be a great evening together!

The Concert is at 7:00pm in the sanctuary.

3. Sunday School: This Sunday, Vic Sanders, who is involved with the Gideon Ministry (which our church supports), will be speaking in the adult (large group) Sunday School class on his recent trip to China!

4. Church Pictorial Directory: Thank you to all who signed up to reserve a picture taking spot next month! Pat will be calling many of you who did not sign up for any openings that we might still have in May. After that, Pat will be scheduling in people for the future picture taking opportunities. Stay tune! (better yet, call Pat, and schedule!)
The directory helps us to stay connected together within our congregation!

God bless you as we continue,

“Growing Together in our Faith as the Family of God”

Pastor Carlson

Dear Congregational Family,

1. Notre Dame Cathedral: Yesterday, the world was shocked to watch images of the Notre Dame Cathedral in flames. Notre Dame has been an icon, not just for Paris, France; but for the world for over 850 years! Construction was started in 1163 and building continued for almost 200 years. It has not only survived the passing of the centuries, but also the French Revolution, WWI, and WWII. It has been an architectural masterpiece of the Middle Ages, built for the glory of God and to give witness of God to the world. I’m so glad that there are already plans being made to restore it!

As I watched footage of it burning and saw the 300-foot steeple fall, I thought of the hymn we sing, “Built on the Rock the Church doth stand.” The hymn is overflowing with good theology (google it today!), but here are two verses (vs. 1 & 3) which stood out to me on this occasion:

“Built on the Rock the Church doth stand, even when steeples are falling;
Crumbled have spires in every land, bells still are chiming and calling;
Calling the young and old to rest, calling the souls of men distressed,
longing for life everlasting.”

“We are God’s house of living stones, built for His own habitation;
He fills our hearts, his humble thrones, granting us life and salvation;
Were two or three to seek his face, He in their midst would show his grace, blessings upon them bestowing..”

Church buildings are wonderful and they give us a sacred space in which to worship the Lord. They also are a witness to the world of the presence of God. At the same time, we are reminded that we, the Church, the Body of Christ, are the temple were God is pleased to dwell. We also are a witness to the world!

2. Church Family Easter Festival: Incredible! It was so wonderful to see our congregation serving, loving, worshiping, eating and playing together at the Festival. Thank you to Barb Harrold and to Kerry Macugoski for directing, to Steve & Peggy for preparing the meal, the worship team, Brandon and the youth puppeteers, and all the adults and youth who volunteered to serve in different ways as we told the Easter story of Jesus to the children! (See pictures below, and check out our Ruthfred Facebook page as well!)

3. Easter Baskets: Thank you to Bev Rowan for directing our Easter Basket ministry! The wonderful baskets were put together with love by our team of servant-hearted members. They are a blessing to so many our shut-ins!! (see picture below)

4. Celebrating Holy Week:
a. Maundy Thursday: 2:00 & 7:30pm services with Holy Communion.
b. Good Friday: 12:30-3:00pm – Service of Scripture, meditations and music.
c. Good Friday: 7:30pm – Tenebrae Service with Message in Word and Song.
d. Holy Saturday: 6:00pm – Service of Prayer and Praise (large SS room).
e. Easter Sunday Celebration: 7:00am, 8:30am, 11:00am. Holy Communion offered after 8:30 & 11:00 services.

5. Men’s Group: Monthly men’s group meets tonight at 7:00pm.

6. Church Pictorial Directory: This Sunday, you can continue signing up for having your picture taken for our new directory! It has already been five years since our last directory. We want everyone to have their picture taken!!! The directory helps us to stay connected together within our congregation. Pat Lutz, our administrative assistant will be signing you up, by the elevator.

God bless you as we continue,

“Growing Together in our Faith as the Family of God”

Pastor Carlson

Dear Congregational Family,

1. Lenten Services and Soup & Sandwich Suppers: Tomorrow (Wednesday) we will be having our last Lenten Supper and Service together for the season. These have been wonderful times of fellowship together! (Even if you come for the 2:00pm service, you can return for the Lenten Supper!)

2. Holy Week: This Sunday is Palm Sunday and begins Holy Week. Please be in prayer for all of our services for the week as we journey with the Good Shepherd to the Upper Room, to the Garden, to the Cross, to the Grave, and join in the celebration of resurrection on Easter Sunday! Invite someone on the journey with you!

3. Call Committee: A number of you have asked about this. Last night at the Council meeting, the members of the Call Committee were approved. The Elders will be revising the Assistant Pastor position description over the course of this next month as well.

4. Church Pictorial Directory: This Sunday, you can continue signing up for having your picture taken for our new directory! It has already been five years since our last directory. We want everyone to have their picture taken!!! The directory helps us to stay connected together within our congregation. Pat Lutz, our administrative assistant will be signing you up, by the elevator.

5. The Pilgrim’s Progress: This classical book has finally been produced as a movie and is being released next weekend. It is based on the book “The Pilgrim’s Progress” which was written in 1678 by John Bunyan while imprisoned in England for his faith. It is an allegorical story of “Pilgrim” who is journeying through this life on the way to heaven. I have read the book and it is excellent! Perhaps we could show this movie at church in the future??

6. Cynicism & Curiosity: Carey Nieuwhof, in his book “Didn’t See It Coming” writes, “Cynics are never curious, and the curious are never cynical.” We live in a cynical world, and the church can get cynical as well. Why? It’s not because we don’t care, but because we do care. But along the way, we get burned and disappointed, and cynicism creeps into our heart and hope gets squeezed out. Sometimes we grow a callous over our heart or we might even close it, to protect our heart from further hurt. Thankfully disappointment, despair, and death don’t have to have the last word! Jesus came to bring hope, love and life back to us. Become intentionally curious about what God is doing in your life, in the lives of others, and in our church. Everyone who is in Christ, is a new creation! This Spring/Easter Season, keep your eyes and hearts open for signs of new life!

7. The Haining Family Trio: A number of years ago, the Haining Family came for a concert at Ruthfred and it was a wonderful evening of song and fellowship. Three of the adult children are now touring the nation on their own and they will be coming to Ruthfred on the Sunday evening after Easter (April 28th). Mark your calendar now, as this will be a great evening together!

God bless you as we continue,

“Growing Together in our Faith as the Family of God”

Pastor Carlson

Dear Congregational Family,

1. Lenten Services and Soup & Sandwich Suppers: Our Lenten Services are every Wednesday at 2:00pm and 7:30pm. In addition, this year we are also having Lenten suppers from 6:00-7:00pm. Come and enjoy some wonderful fellowship together! (Even if you come for the 2:00pm service, you can return for the Lenten Supper!)

2. Church Pictorial Directory: This Sunday, you can begin signing up for having your picture taken for our new directory! It has already been five years since our last directory. We want everyone to have their picture taken!!! The directory helps us to stay connected together within our congregation. Pat Lutz, our administrative assistant will be signing you up, by the elevator.

3. Sunday School: I am continuing to teach a series on the “Mission of God” as we explore what God’s mission is, what the role of the church is in it, and what the rapidly changing face of our world looks like today. Even if you have not yet made it, you can still come!

4. Easter Festival: On Palm Sunday afternoon we will be hosting our Family Easter Festival. This in a great opportunity to invite others to our church as well. Please sign up to register, and to help in making this take place. Barb Harrold is directing it.

5. Easter Sunday Services: Now is the time to start inviting friends to come with you to our Easter Services! Many people do want to go to church on Easter, but lack a friend to invite them, sit with them, and help them make the connection. Be that friend!

6. “Unplanned” movie: This incredible movie is about the story of Abby Johnson, an abortion clinic director who was convicted by the Author of Life, and found new life and the meaning of all life. The movie came out last weekend and was a tremendous success, coming in fourth in the box office, and making twice the expected box office sales, in spite of being “accidently” censored and silenced by social media outlets (ex – Twitter).


God bless you as we continue,

“Growing Together in our Faith as the Family of God”

Pastor Carlson

Dear Congregational Family,

1. Lenten Services and Soup & Sandwich Suppers: Our Lenten Service continue every Wednesday at 2:00pm and 7:30pm as we journey through Psalm 23 and listen to the “Song of the Shepherd”. Come and enjoy some wonderful fellowship together during our Lenten Suppers as well from 6:00 – 7:00pm! (Even if you come for the 2:00pm service, you can return for the Lenten Supper!)

2. The Suffering Church: Terrorist attacks have been much in the news of late, especially regarding the attack which killed 50 at the Muslim mosques in New Zealand. As I mentioned on Sunday we grieve the loss of all life, regardless of one’s religious conviction. I do wonder though, why has the media been absolutely silent about the massive and daily killings of Christians in the “Middle Belt” of Nigeria, Africa?

The population of Nigeria is almost evenly divided between Muslims and Christians. That religious split largely follows geographic lines: The northern part of the country is predominantly Muslim, the eastern and southern parts of the country heavily Christian.

In the “Middle Belt” part of the country, Christians have been victims of “religious cleansing,” as the Muslims attempt “to eradicate Christianity” from the region. One of the most notorious Islamist groups in the world, Boko Haram, is responsible for killing thousands of Christians and displacing countless more in northern Nigeria. But Boko Haram isn’t the only group targeting Christians there. In June of last summer, Christian leaders claimed that “over 6,000 persons—mostly children, women and the aged—have been maimed and killed in night raids by armed Fulani herdsmen.” The Fulani are an ethnic group that are overwhelmingly Muslim. Along with the killings, there is the continuous abduction of under-aged Christian girls. These girls “are forcefully converted to Islam and taken in for marriage without the consent of their parents.”

The situation has now become one of genocide, although the Nigerian government refuses to acknowledge it, as the president is the son of a Fulani chief. Just since last month, nearly 300 Christians have been killed and thousands more displaced.

3. Unplanned: This Friday (29th) the movie “Unplanned” is being released. It is the story of former Planned Parenthood clinic director, Abby Johnson who left her career in the abortion industry after overseeing 22,000 abortions in eight years. She is now an advocate for the unborn. The company, Pure Flix, also released the “God’s Not Dead” movies. This comes on the heels of the “Gosnell” movie which was also recently released and exposed the chilling story of Pennsylvania’s most infamous abortion doctor who was found to have been knowingly committing infanticide. The slide from pre-birth abortion to post-birth infanticide is measured in just inches and seconds.

In speaking of the issue of slavery, the great British abolitionist, William Wilberforce said, “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.” In much the same way, the cloak of secrecy is coming off, and the truths of abortion are being revealed. Pray for our nation as we continue to struggle to love and value life!

God bless you as we continue,

“Growing Together in our Faith as the Family of God”

Pastor Carlson

Dear Congregational Family,

1. Lenten Services and Soup & Sandwich Suppers: Our Lenten Service are every Wednesday at 2:00pm and 7:30pm. In addition, this year we are also having Lenten suppers from 6:00-7:00pm. Come and enjoy some wonderful fellowship together! (Even if you come for the 2:00pm service, you can return for the Lenten Supper!)

2. Repentance (or lack thereof) in a self-righteous world (and church):
What does it mean? This is especially a great question during this Lenten Season.

“To believe that Christ is your savior, you have to believe He has saved you from something, which sinners will never understand if Mama Church keeps telling Papa God to have a Snickers every time He’s acting a little too Old-Testamenty.” – Hans Fiene

Lutheran pastor, Hans Fiene, has written an outstanding article in The Federalist. It is written in the wake of some of the LGBT controversy in the United Methodist Church, but the wider context which is addressed is that of how the church in North American does (or doesn’t) address sin. Connected with this is the truth that if sin is minimized, does that also minimize God’s saving grace and mercy?

Has “Mama Church” downplayed sin so much, that “Papa God” is now perceived as obsolete in speaking of holiness? Fiene states that in a sense what the church today is saying is that, “The church exists to make it easy as possible to be a Christian. So get out of the way and let Mama Church do her job by telling us that she talked some sense into Papa God and now we don’t have to choose between our souls and our idols anymore.”

Fiene does a wonderful job in presenting the pure Gospel when he concludes by saying: “Christ has invited every sinner in this world to receive forgiveness, life, and salvation from His church. When sinners can’t possibly imagine that freedom in Christ is better than slavery to Eros [Greek word for erotic expression of love, which can be romantic and beautiful, but used here in reference to immorality], you can’t help them by being nicer than God [that is, to excuse sin]. You can only help them by asking them to look at their chains long enough to know what it means when Jesus melts them with His mercy.”

I encourage you to read the entire article “Christians need to stop assuming LGBT sin matters more than God’s mercy” in thefederalist.com. Simply google the title.
(PS – This is not an endorsement of thefederalist.com, but this particular article accurately puts its finger on what is taking place within the church in North America today.)

God bless you as we continue,

“Growing Together in our Faith as the Family of God”

Pastor Carlson

Dear Congregational Family,

1. Lenten Services and Soup & Sandwich Suppers: Our Lenten Services are every Wednesday at 2:00pm and 7:30pm. In addition, this year we are also having Lenten suppers from 6:00-7:00pm. Come and enjoy some wonderful fellowship together! See the picture below of the supper.

2. The Good Shepherd: Our Lenten theme this year is “The Psalm/Song of the Shepherd” and our text which we are focusing on and memorizing is Psalm 23. Kathryn Carr created a new bulletin cover (see picture below) for the season which features one of the earliest surviving paintings on plaster by the early church from the 1st or 2nd century. It was found in the catacombs in Rome which were underground caverns where Christians secretly met, worshiped, baptized their children, celebrated Holy Communion, and also buried the remains of the martyrs of the faith.

This famous piece is simply titled: “The Good Shepherd.” In the catacombs, eighty-four variations of it have been found. You will notice that it has the Good Shepherd, Jesus in the very center. On His shoulders is a ram (male) lamb and on each side of Him is another sheep; an ewe (female) and another ram. Although there is no explanation attached to the painting, church traditions were that the sheep beside the Good Shepherd are those who are safely in the green pastures of heaven, and the lamb on His shoulder is a lost sheep that has been found, or a dying soul that is being carried to heaven by the Shepherd.

In looking closely at the painting many other things are noticed which quickly bring their Scriptural connections to mind. Two doves are seen at rest on the tree tops. Doves in the Bible represent peace. Noah sent out two doves from the ark to see if the flood waters had gone down and if it was safe to come out of the ark. The first dove returned empty, but the second dove returned with an olive spout in its beak (note the dove on the left has an olive branch, while the one on the right does not). The third dove Noah sent out did not return because it found dry land and then Noah knew it was safe to go out. In the Bible two doves were also used for sacrifice at the temple to redeem the firstborn son. Joseph and Mary presented two doves when they brought Jesus as an infant to the temple.

There are also two trees in the painting.
In Genesis 2, in the Garden of Eden, there were two trees; the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and were removed from the Garden before they could eat of the Tree of Life and live forever in sin and death.

In the last chapter of the Bible (Revelation 22) in the Apostle John’s vision of heaven, he writes of one tree in particular, which is The Tree of Life. The tree is so immense, that it appears on both sides of the River of water which flows from the Throne of the Lamb of God. This immense tree has leaves which are “leaves of healing for the nations.” In the paradise of heaven there is perfect healing, and eternal life.

Note also the abundant green grass upon which the Shepherd and the sheep stand. Heaven is the perfect restoration of the paradise of the Garden of Eden. The Good Shepherd has come to lead and to carry His sheep back into the green pastures of paradise where they “will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” as Psalm 23 concludes.

3. Parents’ Night Out: Last week our youth group hosted a dinner (and entertainment) for their parents in our fellowship hall. It was a wonderful evening together! About 60 parents and youth attended. Thank you Brandon for your ministry to our youth! Thank you to Peggy & Steve, Al & Kerry for your work in the kitchen! (see pictures below)


God bless you as we continue,

“Growing Together in our Faith as the Family of God”

Pastor Carlson

Dear Congregational Family,

1. Ash Wednesday: Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday which is the beginning of the Lenten Season for the Church. Many will wear the sign of the cross upon their forehead as a sign of our human frailty and repentance of sin. We remember that we are but dust and we repent of sin, and believe in the Gospel unto everlasting life. Tomorrow our services are:
a. 6:30am – Brief Sunrise Service followed by breakfast in the fellowship hall.
b. 2:00pm – Lenten service
c. 7:30pm – Lenten Service
· The imposition of ashes will be offered before all three services and Holy Communion will be offered during all three as well.

2. Lenten Soup & Sandwich Suppers: Each Wednesday we will be having these suppers from 6:00-7:00pm. Please come and enjoy some wonderful fellowship together! (even if you did not raise your hand on Sunday – there will be plenty of food for you and your friends!)

3. United Methodist Church (UMC): Last week the UMC met in St. Louis, MO for a special General Assembly to address issues of human sexuality. This has been decades in the making as the 12 million member international UMC denomination has been struggling internally with this issue. Last week they took a vote and the decision was made (albeit by a rather small majority) to return to and affirm the traditional Biblical teaching on God’s design for marriage being between a man and a woman. This was a historic vote, as the UMC is the only large mainline Protestant denomination that has been able to return to the clear teachings of Scripture after straying far afield. This will also be historic as it is a turning point for the denomination. (Al Mohler gives one of the best summaries of what this means for the church in his February 27th briefing which you can google!)

Schisms, court battles and lawsuits are sure to follow. As I mentioned in Sunday School on Sunday, this is part of the sweeping global dynamic which is presently taking place in the global church, but is unrecognized in the U.S.

Sunday School: I just started a new Sunday School series on “The Church in Mission” where we are looking at a Biblical basis for mission, what is the mission, what does the church around the world look like today, and how does one share the Gospel in our Post-modern culture?

God bless you as we continue,

“Growing Together in our Faith as the Family of God”

Pastor Carlson

Dear Congregational Family,

1. I know this is a day late! Sorry about that!

2. Kids Time & Evening JTTW: Today will be the last week for these ministries. Next week is Ash Wednesday. Please make a priority to be part of our Lenten Services as we focus on “Jesus, the Good Shepherd” as seen in Psalm 23. Services will be at 2:00pm and 7:30pm, and our Lenten Suppers will be from 6:00pm-7:00pm every Wednesday.

3. Patriarchs & Matriarchs: This week we have had a number of funerals for individuals who were long standing pillars of spiritual strength both in their biological families as well as in our church family. Whenever I see a strong spiritual leader who was the patriarch or matriarch within the family, I wonder, who will God raise up to take their place? That is a challenge from the Lord! Who will answer God’s call to step forward and be a servant-leader of God for the sake of others? Will you be the one?

4. Church offerings & finances: You may have seen just the other day, the news report of a church in the South Hills which just found out that over one million dollars had been embezzled from its funds over the past seven years. These dollars were given in good faith by church members and now they are gone. This is distressing news to say the least. Situations like this can cause people to grow cynical (and less generous) about giving. It underscores the importance of churches to have careful financial policies and practices in place concerning how money is handled, counted, transferred, audited, spent, etc. I am thankful for our financial team here at Ruthfred and for all of the extra cautions which we take to ensure that your gifts to the Lord are handled with integrity and accountability.

5. “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act”: This bill was put forth on Monday to the U. S. Senate, but it failed to pass as it needed 60 votes to overcome the legislative filibuster, and the vote was 53-44. This bill would have provided medical assistance to infants who were born alive after an attempted abortion procedure. It’s hard to fathom how someone could vote against this, but in our present day of state legislatures and governors showing callous disregard for life, it seems that infanticide itself is now becoming accepted, and publicly promoted.

6. The “state of life in the states”: On Tuesday I learned that legislators in Rhode Island, Vermont, New Mexico, and Illinois are preparing similar “no-restriction abortion laws” which New York and Virginia have put forth. Something is happening here. This is a crucial moment. Abortion advocates are motivated by fear—that the Supreme Court may soon overturn Roe v. Wade and they want to ensure their states will allow abortion at any time for any reason. As Christians, we believe that human life is sacred from the moment of conception until natural death, and we need to be prayerful and purposeful in working to protect the most vulnerable victims in our society.

7. Black History Month: Harriet Tubman: She was born into slavery around 1820 in Maryland. She was repeatedly whipped severely, and as a child was hit in the head by a lead weight which was being thrown at another slave who she happened to be standing beside. This cracked her skull and she suffered from seizures the rest of her life. She eventually escaped, but returned nineteen times to the slave states to rescue slaves. She personally rescued over 300 slaves in 11 years and became known as “Moses” for leading slaves out of bondage and into the freedoms of the “Promised Land” of the North. She never lost a single slave as a “conductor” in the Underground Railroad. A bounty of $40,000.00 was placed on her head for her capture. She was fearless and said, “I can’t die but once” and she was willing to give her life to save the lives of others. During the Civil War, she served as a Union army scout and spy, as well as nurse. She also helped lead (with Col. James Montgomery) an armed expedition to liberate more than 700 slaves. In all, she is credited with helping to free over 1,000 slaves. She said that she could have freed more, but many were so hopelessly blinded by their bondage in slavery, they didn’t even realize they were slaves, but just saw slavery as their natural and unchangeable station in life. She never learned to read, but she intensely listened to the voice of God, and was devout in her faith and her testimony was that she relied on the strength and deliverance of God. Fellow abolitionist said of her, that one “never met any person, of any color who had more confidence in the voice of God.” She died in poverty in 1913, but was buried with military honors.

God bless you as we continue,

“Growing Together in our Faith as the Family of God”

Pastor Carlson

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