Greetings from Charlotte, The Council of Elders meetings began Thursday morning, and regional reports centered on positive trends and challenges we face going forward in a very uncertain world. Attendance and income were up in 2019 in most areas around the world. One challenge that came up from a number of men was how to handle interested Spanish-speaking people here in North America. These are individuals who have limited fluency in English, and many come from a Catholic or Protestant background. We do not currently have resources everywhere we have interested people, to effectively communicate to them the subtle nuances of doctrine. In the days ahead, we will be discussing with our Spanish Department how best to handle this challenge. The coronavirus was obviously a major topic and will be discussed in greater detail regarding how to handle Church services and various programs such as Tomorrow’s World Presentations, social events, and even the Feast, if the problem carries over to that time of year. Regarding Church services, we have advised that if you are not feeling well, please stay home. If you are not comfortable being in a group, you can stay home and listen on line. —Gerald Weston
The decision has been made to postpone the General Ministerial Conference that was scheduled for March 16-18 in Charlotte, NC.
Babysitting for Passover—Repeat Announcement
Each year, the question comes up for many baptized parents, “What if I need babysitting service during the Passover service?” The simplest solution we suggest is that parents make arrangements personally with a babysitter, rather than relying on the Church to provide babysitting service. Otherwise, the Church takes “care, custody, and control” of your children, which is a real legal responsibility and sets in motion a number of processes we are required to take (vetting volunteers, background checks, etc.). If, however, you have no option of working out babysitting personally, contact your pastor and discuss the situation with him.
Pastors: An e-mail has been sent to all pastors about the steps to take if you decide you will be providing babysitting service for your congregation(s).
No BRiC Weekend in Charlotte This Year
Charlotte will not host a BRiC weekend for singles this year on the Memorial Day weekend. This was decided to be the safest course to take, given the uncertainty of how the coronavirus pandemic may play out.
Feast of Tabernacles
Care Regarding International Travel for the Feast
COVID-19, the coronavirus, has now been declared a global pandemic. One of its greatest dangers is that it is highly contagious, and the general population has no immunity to it. It is a killer to a small percentage of those who contract it, and about a fifth of those who contract it become seriously ill. The rest may have mild, flu-like symptoms, but still spread the illness as they continue to go about their normal activities instead of seeking medical assistance or quarantining themselves. Therefore, this is something to take seriously and, as we know, it is causing disruptions all over the world. We cannot predict what conditions will be like seven or eight months from now for the Feast of Tabernacles. We will keep the Feast, but we may need to cancel or limit travel to some sites. Governments, at any time, may ban group gatherings where they deem necessary. Therefore, please do not make reservations or final travel plans until we see how this is going to shake out. You may even want to consider attending your locally assigned site this year rather than traveling halfway around the world by air. As the scripture counsels us, we should take precautions when we see trouble on the horizon (Proverbs 22:3).
Living Youth Program
Living Youth Friday Evening Bible Study
The online Friday evening Teen Bible Studies are now suspended for the summer and Feast break. They are scheduled to resume on Friday, November 6. Archives of previous Living Youth Bible Studies can be found on the Living Youth Programs Live archive page at https://live.livingyouth.org/archive/.—Josh Penman
Sobering Signs of the Times: When we look at events and trends in our world today, it is sobering to see the parallels between conditions mentioned in the Scriptures and the times in which we are living. During the days of Noah, God intervened dramatically to destroy a global society that had become filled with violence, wickedness, and evil (Genesis 6). Just about 400 years later, God poured out punishments that destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, because they perverted their ways with depraved behaviors (Genesis 19; Ezekiel 16:49–50). While Lot and his family enjoyed the abundance of the area (Genesis 13:10–13), they had grown so accustomed to and tolerant of what was going on around them that they were reluctant to leave. Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt because she looked back longingly at what she was leaving behind. As we see our modern societies going the way of Sodom again—approving and promoting homosexuality, same-sex marriage, abortion, and other behaviors that God condemns—we need to remember that these Old Testament examples were recorded for our admonition today (1 Corinthians 10:1–13). The Apostle Paul urged Christians to “come out” of this world and its perverted ways (2 Corinthians 6:17–18) because God’s judgment will come on our societies—just as it did on Sodom and Gomorrah. We need to wake up and recognize the real significance of what is happening around us today, and earnestly pray, “Thy kingdom come.”
Have a profitable Sabbath,
Douglas S. Winnail
News and Prophecy—March 12, 2020
World Markets Falling: Trade and travel restrictions associated with the coronavirus are negatively impacting global financial markets (Reuters, March 8, 2020). Stock markets around the world, including in the United States, have been spiraling down for the past several weeks as fear of the virus spreads. And now, as oil prices drop, markets continue to be affected.
Russia and OPEC nations led by Saudi Arabia continue to go to war financially with each other in the oil arena. Russia and OPEC nations were working together on global oil output (CNBC.com, March 9, 2020). However, with global economies stagnating due to the coronavirus outbreak, these countries need more revenue. In response to Russia’s refusal to lower oil output, not only has Saudi Arabia lowered oil prices but the Middle Eastern kingdom is also reportedly considering an increase in oil production—pushing oil prices even lower. Economists predict that a price war over oil may negatively impact U.S. oil revenue—and, together with other effects of the coronavirus outbreak, may trigger a global recession.
It is difficult to know how low world economies will tumble and for how long they will remain suppressed. But, as national economies decline, there could come a time when nations will begin to look for an economic savior. Bible prophecy indicates that a future European “beast” power will develop a powerful economic engine by which nations of the earth will be made rich (Revelation 17–18). For more insights into Europe’s future role, be sure to read “Growth of a Strongman: Germany Rising Again!”
Another Refugee Crisis in Europe? The civil war in Syria has pushed 3.5 million refugees into Turkey. With intensified fighting in Syria, Turkey can no longer handle or afford the volume of refugees. As a result, Turkey is releasing refugees into Europe through the “gateway” of Greece (Politico, March 5, 2020). Yet, Greek authorities are loath to open their borders and create another migrant crisis on the European continent. Sadly for these displaced people, violent clashes are occurring at the Greek border.
The turmoil at the Greek-Turkey border is happening as the coronavirus wreaks havoc across Italy. All of this adds to the woes of a Europe that is already politically and economically unstable as it deals with debt, Brexit, a rise of right-wing nationalism, and many other issues. Some commentators fear that if the refugee crisis in Turkey spills over into Europe, it could have dire consequences for the future of the European Union (New York Post, March 3, 2020).
The 27-member European Union appears to be at a precipice. Many nations, including Germany, are suffering economically, several other nations are considering leaving the Union, and the leadership does not agree on big issues, leaving the continental power more divided than ever. For years, political analysists have speculated that the EU could fracture, with a “core” of nations moving ahead on their own. Bible prophecy predicts that, at the end of the age, a group of “ten kings” will arise in Europe and “give their power” to a strong political leader, the “Beast of Revelation” (Revelation 17:12–13), backed by a prominent religious authority (Revelation 13:11–13). This central “beast power” will be welcomed on the scene and it will exert influence over Europe and the Middle East (Daniel 11:40–43). Dictatorial powers like this often arise from chaotic and dysfunctional systems. For decades, this Work has warned its readers to watch for the rise of Germany and a centralization of power among a group of European nations. For more information on this topic, be sure to read or listen to “Resurgent Germany: A Fourth Reich?”—Scott Winnail, Chris Sookdeo, and Francine Prater