Letter to the Brethren: July 2, 2020

Dear Brethren and Co-Workers in Christ:

Greetings from Grover Beach California.

John Hickey

We are sad to report that John Hickey died today. His wife, Shirley Gestro (Hickey), sent the following:

Dear Dr. Thiel,

I am deeply saddened to report my husband John Hickey passed away peaceably at approximately 7.35am today.

I am organising his funeral service, it will most likely be next Tuesday service and burial.  …

Kind regards
Shirley


Shirley Gestro with husband John Hickey

John Hickey has been the host of the New Zealand congregation for 7 1/2 years. Before that, he was part of the Living Church of God. New Zealand was the first congregation that formed after the Continuing Church of God was announced. (One person who came fairly quickly afterwards was Fesilafai Fiso Leaana. She had a dream after going to bed on December 8, 2012 that her husband concluded was about the Continuing Church of God–which had not even formed when she had the dream–see Dreams, the Bible, the Radio Church of God, and the Continuing Church of God).

John Hickey bravely moved out on faith and was willing to take on a variety of tasks that he had not had in the Living Church of God.

John Hickey oversaw the CCOG in New Zealand, gave sermonettes, conducted baptisms, and handled the registration and related New Zealand required legal procedures from the CCOG to be officially registered there. He had been the main editor of the English edition of the Bible News Prophecy magazine. He also was sometimes the voice of our Bible News Prophecy online radio, which has been produced by his wife Shirley.

My wife Joyce and I have been to New Zealand four or five times since the formation of CCOG and have met with John (as well as Shirley and others there) every time we were there. John was always helpful and determined to support the work.

He has been battling many health problems over the years. John told me that he has lived longer than the medical people thought he would, as they expected one of his numerous ailments to have ended his life years ago (I believe he outlived 3-4 different prognosis of his death, starting about one per year around 5 years go). He went to hospice about a week ago. His suffering is over.

John Hickey now awaits the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:51-53) where death will be swallowed up in a victory (1 Corinthians 15:54), where he will receive his crown (1 Peter 5:4), and then be able to reign with Jesus in the millennium Kingdom of God (Revelation 20:4-6).

He will be greatly missed.

Bible News Prophecy Magazine

The latest Bible News Prophecy magazine, and the last one edited by John Hickey, has been mailed to subscribers around the world.

However, because of coronavirus and other problems, the United States Post Office states that it cannot currently send mail to many countries at this time. Thus, we were not able to send the magazine to those in Chile, Columbia, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Haiti, India, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Peru, the Philippines, South Africa, and Tanzania.

However, the magazine is available online in both English: July – September 2020 edition of Bible News Prophecy and Spanish: Noticias de Profecía de la Biblia Julio – Septiembre 2020.

So, people in the currently postally-restricted lands (as well as others) who have internet access can still read it.

COVID-19, the Philippines

Joe and Fe Lumpay sent the following:

Dear Dr. Pastor Thiel,

Four months away and God’s people will again be out of home to keep this year’s Feast of Tabernacles. For our part here in the Philippines, this pandemic seems not to allow us to travel to a far city to celebrate this God’s very important festival. Without this pandemic we could have informed you at once upon booking a hotel or any temporary dwelling for that matter. Lockdown is still being implemented in this country. Exit from our place is allowed but entry to another is prohibited. Travel is restricted to only very essential purposes.

If ever someone is allowed entry, he/she must undergo a 14-day quarantine, that is after passing through all the protocol. Hotels in Cagayan de Oro City, according to Roy, limits their occupancy to only 50%, but this time seniors are not allowed. By the way Sir, last March, Roy was having a mild stroke. But just recently he informed me that he already can walk now though slowly. This first week of June, travel restriction was a little slack in our region ( a region apart from Roy’s) because  of a little lowering down of positive COVID 19 cases upon which our government tolerating people (to include oversee workers) returning from Manila (capital city) to their respective homes in the provinces. This again has caused the rise of positive cases on all regions of which travel restrictions was again back to a very stricter one.

Anyway, its still 4 months away praying and hoping for the best of the situation. Whenever this situation only come to worst (God forbid) in our place, we will be seeking your advice at once and guidance as to how this coming feast will be celebrated locally.

Our warm regards, Joe and Fe

Please pray for Roy Baconguis and the situation in the Philippines.

Anyway, I sent the Lumpays an email on how we would likely handle the Feast of Tabernacles in the Philippines if the restrictions remain in place, etc. Basically, it will involve sending DVDs, which we were working on BEFORE we got this email.

Sending Funds

We worked on sending funds to Africa and Haiti.

In both cases, unnecessary regulations that the US government has ‘unofficially’ imposed stopped both transactions and resulted in additional work.

It took until the next day for Africa to be resolved. And it took from Monday through Wednesday with multiple telephone calls, emails, etc. to resolve Haiti.

Because we know the situation in Haiti is desperate, we did not stop until we succeeded. Normally, we do not mention most of the times we send funds overseas, but thought this time we would share some of the complications as we had more than usual.

Yes, it is getting frustrating and difficult to help. However, we must still persevere as we are to let ‘brotherly love’ (Philadelphia) continue (Hebrews 13:1).

Anyway, we were also able to send support to Serbia–and that was without problem.

World News Items

There are concerns that a new swine flu discovered in China may cause an additional pandemic (see CBS: New swine flu in China could morph to cause human pandemic, study warns). Despite the fact that unclean animal consumption has been linked to many pandemics, including COVID-19, we are not seeing calls from places like the World Health Organization to tell people to avoid eating biblically unclean animals. There are costs to violating God’s statutes. More on unclean animals can be found in the article: The New Testament Church, History, and Unclean Meats.

Yesterday, a new security law went into effect in Hong Kong. Many are concerned that this will squash dissent and effectively make Hong Kong a fuller part of China prior to the 2047 date when it is to be officially fully part of mainland China. Police have arrested protesters of various sorts under the new law in Hong Kong (see AP: Hong Kong police make first arrests under new security law).

Europe’s disdain for the USA continues to grow. More and more European leaders are willing to publicly acknowledge that and state that steps need to be taken because of the unreliability of American world leadership (e.g., see ‘Europe should brace for a reality in which US is no longer a world power – Merkel’).

Over in the Middle East, it has been alleged that an Israeli cyber attack caused a major explosion in Iran (see BIN: Israeli Cyber-Attack Caused Secret Iranian Nuclear Missile Plant to Explode). Iran and Israel have both reportedly launched various cyber attacks against each other over the years. But explosions may bring this to a new level. Damage to Jerusalem is prophesied (Isaiah 22:6-8) to come from Iranians and Syrians. We seem to be getting closer to the fulfillment of that prophecy.

Also in the Middle East, Arabs and Europeans are concerned about the possibility of violence, and even war, if Israel actually annexes the lands currently called Judea and Samaria (see Arab League Head: Jews in Judea and Samaria Will Spark ‘Religious War’ & Europeans supportive of Palestinian state). The Palestinians have proposed different borders in an attempt to dissuade Israel from going forward with Benjamin Netanyahu’s annexation plans (see BIN: PA Offers Israel: Militarized State based on 1967 Armistice Lines). Conflict often comes before peace deals are agreed to, and we know some type of temporary peace will be coming to the Middle East per Daniel 9:27.

Suggested Sabbath Service

Here is a suggested Sabbath service for this week:

  • 2-3 hymns (our songbook, The Bible Hymnal, contains the materials from the 1974 Bible Hymnal from the old WCG with new covers, plus ten additional hymns; there is also some Choral Accompaniment online).
  • Opening prayer.
  • Sermonette, which for most who receive this letter via email will be a recorded one. The one suggested for this week is: Bizarre Things are Happening: Beginning of Sorrows? Other sermonettes are available at the Bible News Prophecy channel.
  • Announcements (if any; though for many it will be this letter) and one hymn.
  • Sermon, which for most who receive this letter via email will be a recorded one. The one suggested for this week is: Ecumenism, Rome, and CCOG Differences. Other sermons are also available at the ContinuingCOG channel.
  • Final hymn.
  • Closing prayer.

Note: If you have a slow internet connection, you can watch these by starting the video, then below it (and towards the right) look for an outline of a gear–if you click on that, it will allow the YouTube video to be played with lower video quality, but at least it will not stop often–you can select a quality as low as 144p. If your internet connection is still too slow (as my home one is) and/or you prefer audio messages to audio-visuals ones, go to the YouTube link for the message, click on SHOW MORE related to the description. You will then see something that says, “Download MP3.” Below that is a link to an MP3 file. Most computers (and even some cellular telephones) will allow MP3 files to be downloaded and played. This is an option we have made available (but we are also looking into ways to improve that as well)–and, of course, we have written article options. Some people have found that if their internet connections are not fast enough, that they can simply listen to the messages that are found at the Bible News Prophecy online radio channel.

IN CASE YOU DO NOT RECEIVE A ‘LETTER TO THE BRETHREN’ FOR ANY WEEK, REMEMBER THAT THERE ARE MANY SERMON MESSAGES ON THE ContinuingCOG channel AND MANY SERMONETTE MESSAGES ON THE Bible News Prophecy channel. There are also some messages at the CCOGAfrica channel.

Concluding Comments

The Apostle Paul wrote:

17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints — 19 and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:17-20)

Brethren, be faithful, pray, and be watchful. I do appreciate your prayers as well.

Sincerely,

Bob Thiel
Pastor and Overseer