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Belonging in East Berlin by Neita Geilker

In June of 1987, Don and I traveled by an East German night train from Cologne, West Germany, through East Germany, heading to West (and East) Berlin. The East German police photographed us, took our passports, and, supported by dogs, even waked us in the night to confirm our identity.

In West Berlin, we spent several hours just walking along the Wall, reading the troubling and often beautiful graffiti, and observing the frequent guard stations atop the wall, situated so that each East German guard was visible to the one on either side and poised to shoot if any “inappropriate” behavior occurred either on the ground or the Wall.

And we particularly noticed for sale signs on the property of several large churches. When we used the underground train system, we discovered that it bypassed each stop where it had once entered East Berlin, and barriers were in place to prevent passage. However, East and West Berliners could meet on both sides of a barrier to talk, and West Berliners could pass packages through to family and friends. Apart from these striking exceptions, West Berlin was fascinating: lively and colorful.

On a Saturday, we entered East Berlin through Checkpoint Charlie. According to a pronouncement Hitler had made a quarter of a century earlier, Berlin was celebrating its 500thh birthday (timed to precede the Protestant Reformation by just a few decades), and the guards were ordered to “be nice.” Having exchanged a prescribed number of East German marks, we entered without difficulty. We enjoyed visiting several sites but were most impressed and amazed at the evidence of religious activity.

We discovered that it was the weekend for a conference of ecumenical churches from all over Europe, and we met some very welcoming folk, one of whom gave me a scarf like they all were wearing, which I still treasure. The words around the scarf say, “And I will be with you always. Evangelical Churches’ Day, ‘87, Berlin.” We were in front of St. Hedwig Cathedral just in time to observe an astonishing sight: leaders of the conference were standing together on the large portico, having concluded a high-level session. They were wearing their ecclesiastical attire—red Cardinal robes, Greek Orthodox robes, and many other religious designations. The crowd greeted them warmly.


We also discovered a music service at Marienkirche and marveled at full occupancy. There, we participated with other Christians singing Martin Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”— each in his own tongue!

As we departed East Berlin, we contributed to Mariankirche our remaining East German marks. And as we walked back through the checkpoint, we were enveloped with a warm feeling of belonging with those believers—both East Berliners and others from across the continent.
at Monday, March 5, 2018
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Birthdays Can Be Great by Harold Phillips

When Gwen achieved a significant birthday, 50+ friends gathered at McBowl for a loud, fun night of bowling, greasy hamburgers, and to write greetings on a scuffed up bowling pin. There were laughs, hugs and warm thoughts from friends and family. For Gwen, it was also a time to consider the second half.

Birthdays can be great!

2018 marks the 175th anniversary of a church started in conflict within a young frontier town. To celebrate, our church will have a number of activities between the 175 days (* fake fact) of May 6 and November 11.

Please note these special dates on your family calendar:

May 6 -- Celebrating Our Heritage: 175 years of faith and ministry
     11 am Worship and a 12:30 celebration meal (details coming very soon)

September 9  -- Serving God’s World: The church has left the building
     Worship and Serve opportunities throughout the Liberty community ending with a cookout (Stocksdale Park)

November -- 11  Gathering Together: A Christ-Centered community
     Worship in the morning and an evening Thanksgiving Meal (Heritage Hall)

Intertwined will be an array of activities ranging from Chapel renovation, a public art unveiling and a commemorative Anniversary Book, to stories of Stalwart Saints who journeyed before us and We Are Second testimonies from those among us now.

Looking forward to May 6.  Birthdays can be great!

at Friday, March 2, 2018
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Second Hope for Payday Loan Victims by Mike Lassiter

Predatory loans, How do you take on this giant absurd practice?

In recent months there has been movement by government entities to reign in payday or title loans. The bottom line is that the blight of this type of ridiculous loan practice continues to thrive at the expense of those finding themselves in a funding crisis requiring some immediate cash.  We were excited when Harold Phillips brought Second Baptist the prospect of an alternative to this type of predatory lending that, as a church, we could support.  So in the late summer of 2016 Second Hope was born at Second Baptist. Over $15,000 was donated by those who believe strongly in not just helping those caught in the predatory loan practice but, hopefully, eliminating the practice of lending with such absurd interest rates all together in this short-term credit industry.

It all starts with the borrowers living on the edge of paycheck to paycheck and being one hospital visit, car repair, or other emergency cash need from the panic to find money somewhere fast.  The short-term credit industry steps in because apparently, that is the only choice some people have available.  Yes, it is a risk for those businesses,  but it doesn't rise to the level of the high-interest rate that the borrowers are charged.  When the borrower can’t make these payments, with already extremely high rates, and pay periods on the loans, are extended the problem spirals out of control.  In Missouri, interest rates can run as high as 495% a year (Kansas City Star article.)

Let me share two real-life scenarios from the Second Hope ministry.  Someone who was working two part-time jobs at minimum wage was involved in a car accident, and because of the age of the automobile, it was totaled.  Insurance didn't offer near enough or soon enough to cover another vehicle purchase, and one of the jobs was lost because of lack of transportation.  Now what? The rent is due.

Scenario two is a homeless family in the Family Promise of the Northland ministry took out a payday loan to buy school supplies for their daughter.  The family made substantial monthly payments for a year, and the principle never changed continuing the burden on them!

Yes, sometimes it is a bad decision by the individual, but mostly it is the life circumstances of being one the countries working poor. 

How Second Hope works is when we become aware of a need, and we determine that we can help, a low-interest loan is made out of our fund managed by the Liberty Teacher's Credit Union. Recipients of the loan, pay off the payday loan and begin making payments to the Second Hope loan that has a 3% interest rate, versus the 495% interest rate they were paying. Our Second Hope volunteers work with the client on budgeting process and learning new money management skills. In most cases, the loan is paid off in a reasonable amount of time and the family is released from the trap of the payday loan cycle.

Thank you, Second Baptist for becoming aware of a problem that can be fixed and showing others that there is an alternative with dignity. This sounds like the gospel doesn’t it?  One of the families who used Second Hope not only paid off the loan last year but they also contributed to the fund out of their gratitude.  One payday loan alternative at a time is how this looming giant can be conquered.
Posted by Mike Lassiter at Thursday, March 1, 2018
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