"Greetings, Friend. In keeping with the traditions of the recent celebratory season, and all of our plans for the New Year, I have invited our new Executive Assistant, Jo (Joanne) Phillips to share some thoughts with you. I know the following message will touch your mind and heart for the sake of God’s Kingdom." ~ Doug McKenzie, CEO for VOM Canada

May I take this timely opportunity to wish you a very Happy New Year during this first month of 2016? I have never been a lover of the tradition of New Year’s resolutions, perhaps due to a history of my own failings! Yet when I come across passages in the Bible, like the "Parable of the Talents," they remind me to reassess how I’m doing in this ‘life on earth’ business. I was given the blessing of life and health, and so many other good things, but also the responsibility of carrying out God’s plans for me that were put together before the world was even made! How am I using those figurative but, none the less, conceptually real talents to bear fruit in the Kingdom of God? Have I buried them? Have I taken risks and invested them with prayerful consideration and diligence?

We emerge from Christmas with the knowledge that Jesus came to be "God with us" (the meaning of "Immanuel") fresh in our minds. The story continues through to His death on the cross, when the ripped veil in the temple symbolized that there was no longer any barrier between us. Jesus opened up a new and living way for us to draw near to Him with a true heart in full assurance of faith (Hebrews 10:20,22).

A couple of years ago, I had the privilege of visiting the stunning Iguaçu Falls on the border between Brazil and Argentina. You have to begin to understand the scale of these cataracts! They span 1.7 miles into many separate waterfalls and are up to 269 feet high. Over 62,000 cubic feet per second can pass over them. These are large and truly awesome! Spray from the force of the waterfall creates an extremely humid microclimate with subtropical vegetation and diverse and often rare fauna -- creating a highly specialized ecosystem. The force of the water could so easily crush life and, yet, the area is truly life-giving.

I was impressed with the tiny birds that actually nest behind the falls, somehow able to pass through those awesomely powerful veils of water at will. Brown and small, and easily lost to view in their habitat, the Great Dusky Swifts don’t appear remarkable or obviously attractive. (I am reminded here of the passage in Isaiah 53:2 that talks of how the coming Saviour "had no beauty of majesty to attract us to Him.") Yet these birds communicated a message to me! I, too, can go behind "the veil" whenever I like... whenever, wherever and for whatever reason. My Heavenly Father is always delighted to hear my voice!

It is this abiding -- this access to the Lord -- that will give me the strength to carry out the plans He has for me. All of us who are adopted by repentance through faith can go behind this veil and be refreshed and equipped to do whatever the Lord has called us to do: use our gifts and talents to help others, glorify Him, and further His Kingdom here on earth. Let’s use this privilege and see what the Lord will do in and through us this coming year! One thing we can know, it will be "immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine..." (Ephesians 3:20).

This abiding truth is for all of God’s children around the world, whether hard-pressed by persecution overseas or here in Canada where many of us are able to enjoy comfort. The generosity of constituents such as yourself is a constant cause of thankfulness and encouragement for the team at The Voice of the Martyrs Canada. May you be blessed as you seek to bless those in peril for their faith in Jesus Christ!

In Him,

Jo Phillips
Executive Assistant
The Voice of the Martyrs Canada