Adventures in Advent

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BY SUZANNE PARKER MILLER | @SuzParkerMiller on Facebook and Twitter |

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Image courtesy of Suzanne Parker Miller

“Mommy, Mommy, Wake up! Wake up! I just put Mary on the Advent Calendar!” So began my morning on December 1st. Lacking coffee and still rubbing my eyes to wake up, I dragged myself out of bed and into our Den to see the source of my son’s excitement. Our Fisher Price Little People Nativity Advent Calendar finally had someone Velcro-ed to it. My five-year-old son was so excited to finally begin the Advent calendars we had put out in the house four days before on the first Sunday of Advent on November 27th. Most Advent Calendars begin on December 1st in order to have a standard 25 days on the Calendar despite the number of days between the first Sunday in Advent and Christmas Day fluctuating each year. He had waited as patiently as a 5-year-old can near Christmas for those four first days of Advent to pass by, and he was so glad we could start the countdown officially!

“Mommy, Mommy, Wake up! Wake up! I just put Mary on the Advent Calendar!”

Advent is a season about waiting—waiting for the Christ Child to be born and waiting for Christ to come again. Christ is already here and yet Christ has not yet come. We live in an already-not yet world, and it is difficult on normal days, but is even more difficult this time of year. For my family to be better about living into the waiting of Advent, we have multiple Advent practices we have developed over the past few years. While they are not unique to our family, we claim them as our own. They help us focus on the season of Advent and not jump too quickly to Christmas and beyond.

nativity scene

Image courtesy of Suzanne Parker Miller

We have four Advent calendars we are maintaining this year. The Advent Calendar my son added Mary to has a person or animal a day that we add to the manger scene by Velcro. Another is a coloring sheet he got at school. Yet another is a Lego figure that you build each day that he does with my spouse. And my favorite is one I ordered a few years ago online is a take on the Charlie Brown’s Christmas play, where we add one person or story element each day. My son is of an age now where he does them himself before school each day, and loves getting to show me his latest additions. Having these to help him count down to Christmas makes it easier for him to mark time and focus on the season.

We also have an advent wreath on our dinner table and, when we remember, we light the candles for that week at dinner. Having candles on the dinner table makes the meal feel even more special, and there’s always the fun of blowing out the candles at the end! My 20-month-old daughter loves to pretend to light the candles, and I envision her doing it for real during Worship one day when she is older.

A new Adventure in Advent for our family began with our Wise Ones from one of my nativity sets. Last year I discovered the Wandering Wisemen on Facebook. A mom in Kentucky came up with the idea to have her nativity scene’s Wisemen and their faithful camel travel around their home looking for the child. In the spirit of whimsy that Elf on the Shelf evokes for kids without the attachment to Santa, these Wisemen have adventures of all sorts. I decided to try this tradition with my own kids, so I’ve been moving our Wise Ones and their Camel around our home each night after the kids go to bed. They get to search for them in the morning to see what they are doing that day. They cannot touch though, or the camel might run off, as the note they left my kids the first day said. Follow our adventures on Facebook by searching the hashtag #WanderingWiseOnes.

nativity scene

Image courtesy of Suzanne Parker Miller

 

Nativity scene

Image courtesy of Suzanne Parker Miller

My final Adventure this year has been a fun opportunity for me to share my Nativity collection with those friends and family near and far on Facebook. I have been posting one Nativity from my collection each day since Advent began. I decided to take this on as my Advent Adventure this year because I wanted to have something positive and fun to post each day on Facebook (Along with my Wandering Wise Ones’ adventures). I have collected over 40 nativities from around the world, and my preferences are for ones that are more diverse and explore the Christmas Story within that culture’s own context. They draw me in to think about the deeper meanings of the story of the birth of Christ Jesus. I have a Nativity from Uganda that includes a water buffalo and one from Peru that has a dolphin in it, and these cause me to ask what animals were likely in the first nativity. This question draws me back into Scripture to look at it more closely and with new eyes. It has been a great practice for me, and I am really enjoying the feedback and comments people have shared on my photos. I have heard stories about friends’ nativity sets, and learned that ones I thought were unique are in fact made from a pattern. I am thankful social media has given me an opportunity to share them and for others to get pleasure in seeing them. They help me to appreciate the diversity of our world and see the story of Christ through other people’s eyes. Follow along with my Adventures in Advent at #NativityAdventure.

Wishing you and your family many Adventures in Advent this season!


If you have questions or need additional information, email (bhayesATmcsp.org) or call the Resource Center (336) 722-8126.

The Rev. Suzanne Parker Miller serves as Local Coordinator for InterExchange Au Pair USA for the Raleigh, NC area. She attends Ekklesia Church in Raleigh, a new church development that meets at Athens Drive High School. When not chasing her kids, she enjoys reading and playing The Settlers of Catan board game.

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How Will You Let Jesus’ Light Shine?

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BY DOUG RIGHTS |

On Thursday evening, December 31, 2015 at the Youth New Year’s Eve Party in the Fellowship Hall at Fairview Moravian Church, I spread out Moravian Star points and markers on a table that included a sign that said, “On one of the star points share how will you let Jesus’ light shine in 2016 in you, your youth group, and/or your church?” At the party many of the youth and adults who attended wrote on the points. As the new year began, the points were put together and this Moravian Star has hung in my office throughout the year.

Moravian star image

In January I took the star to our Regional Youth Conference Retreat at Laurel Ridge, and many of the youth wrote their thoughts on the points. In February the star traveled to Florida for the Florida District Youth Retreat, and more was written on the star. Later in the year some of our area youth leaders wrote on it when we had a Youth Leaders Get Together. This fall I took the star to our Fall Celebration at Advent Moravian, and more thoughts were added. Here are what some had to say:

  • “I hope God will help us be bold in faith.”
  • “To help me get through my tough times.”
  • “I want to see all the youth on fire for our God.”
  • “Set a fire down in my soul that I can’t contain, that I can’t control.”
  • “I want our youth to shine by reaching out and meeting more people.”
  • “To provide a sense of direction in my life and show me where I should be going.”
  • “That our church loves God! We want Him to help us become the beacon of our community.”

Moravian star image

As this star has been in my office throughout 2015 (except for the times it went to the above mentioned events), it has been a constant reminder of all the wonderful youth and adults we have in our province and the many ways they want the light of Jesus to shine in their lives and in their churches. It is my hope and prayer that not only those who wrote on this star’s points, but that all of us, will let Jesus’ light shine in our lives and that we will see the great difference it makes when we do!

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As we come to our Christmas Lovefeast and Candle Services later this month, many of us will sing the traditional “Morning Star.” It is my prayer as we finish out 2016 and soon begin 2017, that the wonderful words of this hymn will be evident in our lives and in our province . . . “Jesus mine, in me shine!”


If you have questions or need additional information, email (drightsATmcsp.org) or call the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries at (336) 722-8126.

The Rev. Doug Rights is the Director of Youth, College, and Young Adult Ministries at the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). Here he is with his new grandson, Nolan Key (photo by Kathy Rights.) 

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The Great In-Between

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BY RUTH COLE BURCAW |

The Great In-Between

“We are not who we were, and yet we are not who we will become.”
– Carrie Newcomer, singer/songwriter

Welcome to the great in-between. The recent national election reveals exactly how far we are from being the Church that truly represents the Kingdom of God here on earth.

We all survived past elections. Some of us grumbled and some of us celebrated, but we fairly quickly got on with our lives. This feels very different. The gaping divide among Americans shows no signs of ending. We are further apart than ever before, gathering and commiserating mostly with those who agree with us, getting our news from sources that agree with us, and doubling down on our convictions that we are right. Which means others must be wrong. And where are the Moravians in all of this? We’ve been pretty quiet, haven’t we?

Bishop Wayne Burkette recently expressed his view that many Moravian Churches are ‘purple’ – i.e. filled with a mix of political points of view. Unlike churches where all views are identical, he said, we are challenged by the real stories and real faith of people who view the world very differently from ourselves. Proverbs 27:17 says ‘As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.’ (Thanks to Brother John Jackman for using this in a post-election sermon.)

While this could be a positive for Moravians, it is a very fine line to walk. On the one hand, being purple might make our churches safe spaces, free of the turmoil and high emotion that often comes along with political discussion. On the other hand, it leaves many of us feeling empty and paralyzed, unsure how we engage in real community with those who love Christ with us. In our efforts to keep peace and maintain relationships, we avoid discussing difficult issues with one another.

What IS the Moravian way forward here?

Let’s face it, we modern Moravians are not those early, radical members of the ancient Unity who defied the state church of its day to form the first voluntary, peace church. We were early to embrace the idea of spiritual equality, where women, children, and people of color were considered equal in the eyes of God. We were early to head to the furthest ends of the earth, reaching out to the marginalized and those no one else wanted to even recognize as human.

We are not who we were.

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We are not who we will become either. We like the idea of returning to our roots, or at least letting those roots inform our faith today, but we struggle to live into that reality. The world can be a frightening place these days and we are uncertain how to proceed. It is easier to sit in our beautiful, not-quite-full sanctuaries and sing our familiar hymns, raising money to pay off the new organ or redecorate the parlor. We talk about our desire to grow and yet when those different from us appear in our sanctuaries, we shift uncomfortably in our pews. We talk about being missional, and then hold another chicken pie dinner and call it a day.

What is next for the church? How will God call us to a new thing, one that will challenge and maybe even frighten us, but also lead us to a new, Spirit-filled reality of faith, love, and hope?

This election, while divisive and unprecedented, actually provides us with an opportunity to come together in our “purple-ness,” move out of the great in-between and toward a future filled with grace and hope.

There are no easy answers. A newly-installed sign in my office reads: Hard things are hard. Ain’t that the truth!

Bishop Sam Gray provided us with some guidance in a recent post: “No matter what happens … in this election, Jesus Christ is still our Chief Elder. We must never allow partisan politics or personal preferences to get in the way of the mission that Jesus has entrusted… to us!”

To continue this mission entrusted to us, we must love each other. Only we can love each other. Only we can figure out new and different ways of being the church together. We won’t be able to do it if we can’t even talk to each other. We must listen in a way so as to recognize one another, and we must recognize everyone. We need each other now more than ever. (Here’s an example of how one church is doing this.)

And then, “We must be brave enough to speak and to listen, to share our hopes and our fears, and to remember that when we care for the least, whoever we consider to be least, we do it for Christ. The church has work to do, for ourselves, for those on whatever margins, and for the world around us.” (Brother Riddick Weber at Moravian Theological Seminary during a recent chapel service.)

And we do have all that we need to carry on Christ’s work in the world today. Ephesians 3: 20-21 (from The Message) lays it out for us. “God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

Glory to God in the church!
Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus!
Glory down all the generations!
Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!”

Oh yes.

It is easy to complain about what leaders and governments are doing or not doing. But just like it was for our Moravian ancestors, our work as Christians is clear: Love our neighbors as ourselves. Love our enemies. Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with our God.

Let’s get to work as the church Jesus loves, moving closer to the people Jesus loves.


rcb at fourRuth Cole Burcaw is Executive Director of the Board of Cooperative Ministries. She and her family are members of Unity Moravian Church in Lewisville, NC. Here she is when her daddy was the preacher at Grace Moravian Church in Mount Airy, NC. 

#MoravianStar2016 Social Media Campaign

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Moravians! Advent is here, which means, by tradition, many of us have our stars assembled and displayed. In the spirit of the season and fostering our Moravian unity, we’d like you to send us a picture of how you have your Moravian star displayed. If you feel led, include a description of what Advent/Christmas means to you as a Moravian Christian.

How to Submit:

Post your star image on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with the hashtag #MoravianStar2016 and tag @MoravianBCM (Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM) on Facebook.) Don’t forget to include your description of what Christmas means to you as a Moravian Christian! If you prefer to keep your name and location private, email your submission to acox@mcsp.org. You may also direct/private message your pictures to us on the listed social media platforms (we are MoravianBCM on all three.)

Deadline: 

Please submit by December 24, 2016. 

What do we plan to do with this? 

We will simply share some of our favorite Advent star pictures submitted by you. If we make a final product, like #MoravianStar2015’s photo mosaic, then participants, our social media followers, and e-newsletter subscribers will be the first to know!
#MoravianStar2015 mosaic
We are currently offering the #MoravianStar2015 image above as a notecard for purchase! The notecards are $12 for one pack of ten, and $50 for five packs of ten. They come with envelopes. Shipping fees are not included. To order, email bcm@mcsp.org or call (336) 722-8126. Cards are available for purchase in person at our office, and are being offered on consignment to congregations to be sold at events. All proceeds go to benefit Sunnyside Ministry’s Gaining Control program.
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Please read the below information carefully. 

NOTE ON PRIVACY: 

If you post your image to social media and prefer to keep your location private, please do so by not tagging a location when you post your image. If you prefer to keep both your name and/or username as well as location private, submit your image via email (acox@mcsp.org) or direct/private message us on one of the listed social media platforms. Please expressly tell us we are not permitted to use your name or location by saying you want your submission to remain anonymous

IMAGE PERMISSIONS:
By submitting, you give us permission to repost your submitted image, your description, and name/general location (if not expressly denied) on all digital platforms. You also agree to let us reuse the images/descriptions/name/general location (the last two only if given) for future purposes, both digitally and in print for non-commercial purposes. The original submitted photo’s copyright still belongs to the original photographer. Your submission must be your own creation or submitted with the original creator’s permission and not violate others’ copyright or expectation of privacy. The Moravian BCM will seek formal permission from creators before printing images on a commercial product.
Submission guidelines updated 12/20/2017

Moravians Growing in Faith, Love, and Hope

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BY BETH HAYES | 

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your being, and all your strength. These words that I am commanding you today must always be on your minds. Recite them to your children. Talk about them when you are sitting around your house and when you are out and about, when you are lying down and when you are getting up. Tie them on your hand as a sign. They should be on your forehead as a symbol. Write them on your house’s door frames and on your city’s gates. -Deuteronomy 6:6-9 (CEB)

These words from Deutoronomy speak volumes to me. When I get requests in the Resource Center for resources to teach our children about our Moravian heritage, I am reminded of this verse. There are several fine resources I point older youth and adults to, and soon, there will be another fine resource for Moravians of all ages.

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The Eastern District of the Moravian Church’s Northern Province saw a need for a new curriculum to guide churches in learning Moravian history and to provide meaning for today’s Moravians. They invited the Moravian Church’s Southern Province to join forces to create a multi-aged curriculum focusing on Moravian history with an emphasis of looking to the future. An interprovincial team worked to design the various elements and then contracted with Margaret Norris (now the Director of Christian Education at Home Moravian Church) to manage the project. She worked with a team of writers that included Karen Wilson, Marie Couts, Tricia Everett, Carol Foltz, Sam Gray, Justin Rabbach, and Denny Rohn. After a thorough review by several Moravian theologians, educators, and scholars, we are preparing to unveil it. Called Living Branches: Moravians Growing In Faith, Love, and Hope, this 13-week curriculum written for younger elementary, older elementary, youth, and adult groups will soon be available online. We will also, for a reasonable price, make available printed copies for congregations who need to access it this way. The Southern Province is currently developing a five-day Vacation Bible School model to supplement this curriculum.

Come step into the Moravian world! Ours is a past full of “living branches” – those faithful guiding figures who have led us since the 15th century. These witnesses to the Lamb were not only pioneers in their generations, they also provide inspiration to lead us through our present into our best future. We’ll explore the Moravian Church’s roots, starting with Hus and his peers, and travel the road to the present. We will take stops along the way, visiting Comenius and the “Hidden Seed,” Herrnhut’s revitalized church, and our bold missionaries. We will untangle different periods of history as we move into the future of the Moravian Church, with our past to inform and guide us.

The curriculum design team wanted age-appropriate as well as topically-based curriculum. Therefore, we have arranged these pieces in a 13-week Sunday School model. Additionally, we have coordinated the sessions’ topics so that a particular time period or historical figure can be studied by all ages. For example, if the Moravian Church is celebrating the birth of the Unitas Fratrum, the curriculum pieces that reflect that time in our history can be pulled out and studied by children through adult.

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We are excited this project is nearly complete. Soon churches will be able to teach this rich Moravian history to all ages. As the Deuteronomy passage emphasizes, we must never forget the importance of passing our faith through generations.

Here are a few ways you can use the Moravian curriculum:

  • in place of your regular curriculum for a quarter, (You’ll need to plan ahead and give Beth Hayes plenty of notice!)
  • with your current curriculum at the beginning or end of a session,
  • as a summer Sunday School option,
  • as a week day Kids’ Club option,
  • as Vacation Bible School curriculum,
  • for a Confirmation Class,
  • in your New Member (or Inquirers’) Class, or
  • as part of a weekly Bible study (especially the adult program).

The list could go on and on. Plan to use it to best fit your needs. Get on board and help Moravians of all ages grasp the heritage and beauty of this faith.


If you have questions or need additional information, email (bhayesATmcsp.org) or call the Resource Center (336) 722-8126.

Beth Hayes is the Director of Congregational Ministries and Resources, Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). 

Beth Hayes portrait

 

Building Relationships with Young Adults

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BY DOUG RIGHTS |

The Young Adult Working Group, one of the working groups of our Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM), is discussing plans to offer an open forum on young adult ministry in our churches. The group plans to offer this open forum sometime early next year. In preparation for this provincial event, the Young Adult Working Group had a trial run at the November Moravian Ministry Association meeting in which around thirty people attended.

Young Adult Open Forum

Brother Zach Dease, pastor at Macedonia Moravian and member of the Young Adult Working Group, guided us through this event which included videos and discussion questions. The first video was called “We Are the Millennials: a Letter to Baby Boomers” which shared several reasons why millennials (young adults) are not active in church. Other videos included some of our local Moravian young adults and a former Moravian young adult who shared their feelings and experiences of being a young adult in the Moravian Church. These videos showed a variety of perspectives from young adults who are active in their churches to one would rather be out doing ministry than sitting in a church to one who feels the Moravian Church does not meet her needs and has found them met elsewhere. There was some good discussion following the videos.

This open forum also included questions for discussion from which many at the forum shared their responses. The questions were:

  1. How would you feel if you were a young adult Moravian today?
  2. How should we be supporting our young adult Moravians in our churches? What is your church doing now? Where do you need help?
  3. On a scale of 1-10 (1 lowest, 10 highest), how would you rate the performance of the Moravian Church in serving young adults, and why do you pick that number?
  4. If the church seems to be struggling to support millennials now, what can we do to serve the children, the next generation, and ensure that they do not find themselves in this same situation?

Sister Victoria Lasley, a candidate for Moravian ministry and student at Wake Forest Divinity School and member of the Young Adult Working Group, shared some of the responses from the questions. Due to time restraints we were not able to discuss the responses, but the working group will use this information for its future event.

Young Adult Open Forum

Those who attended this open forum also received a recent survey in which around twenty Moravian young adults in our area responded to questions about the involvement or lack of involvement of young adults in the church. Many of the survey responses tied in with the information from the videos and discussion. The survey also included some practical things churches can do for young adults which include:

  • Know who your young adults are and contact them.
  • Have services and programs that are relevant and meaningful..
  • Have someone whose ministry is to keep up with the church’s young adults.
  • Have leaders who are sensitive to the needs of young adults and do your best to relate with them.
  • Be willing to be flexible and open to new ideas.
  • Don’t be afraid to deal with tough questions.
  • Have a church where young adults want to invite their friends.

Soon the Young Adult Working Group will announce the time and place for its open forum. We hope many who are concerned about our ministry to our young adults will be there. Our group’s prayer is that looking at the issues and at what we can do will help make a difference as we minister to the young adults in our churches.

Young Adult Working Group:

Laura Bennett-Overcash (Friedberg), Zach Dease (Macedonia), Victoria Lasley (Bethania), Reed Lawson (Bethania), Amy Linville (Rural Hall), Sabrina Maksi (Christ), Randall May (Rural Hall), Doug Rights (Board of Cooperative Ministries)


If you have questions or need additional information, email (drightsATmcsp.org) or call the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries at (336) 722-8126.

The Rev. Doug Rights is the Director of Youth, College, and Young Adult Ministries at the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). Here he is with his lovely wife, Kathy. 

Doug with wife Kathy

For Us

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BY THE RT. REV. SAM GRAY | 

November is a time when, as Moravians, we reflect on two elections. One of those elections is fast approaching, and, for many, it brings uncertainty and concern. Who will “win?” Who will “lose?” The seemingly endless campaign season has often gotten quite personal. There’s been lots of name-calling. The issues have sometimes been put on the sidelines.

The other election, thankfully, has already been decided – 275 years ago! On November 13, 1741 it was announced to Moravian congregations that neither Sister Anna Nitschmann nor Brother Leonard Dober would be the “head” of the church. Ironically, at that time they set aside the “issues” and got personal and did some name-calling… in a good way! Yes, they set aside the issues that might serve to divide them. They “called upon the name of the Lord” to lead them. And they invited Jesus Christ himself to “get personal” with the church and have a guiding presence in their lives!

Moravian Lamb White House

So, what does that election mean for this election? It means that, as Moravians, no matter who “wins” and who “loses” our ultimate allegiance is to Jesus Christ. A phrase that has been used in Moravian circles recently is, “We don’t follow a donkey or an elephant; we follow a Lamb!” But words are meaningless unless we live those words. How do we live our motto? How do we follow our Lamb who has conquered? I think there are two very important words in that motto: “follow” and “our.” Following means listening to the leading of our Chief Elder and being willing to “do what Jesus would do” and be whom Jesus would call us to be. But how, in such divided times (even among Moravians) can we say that Christ is “our” Lamb?

There are no easy answers. But I believe we start by recognizing that there are no term limits on the position that our Lamb occupies. No matter what happens this week in this election, Jesus Christ is still our Chief Elder. And Christ still calls us to be witnesses to the faith and love and hope that we have in our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer no matter who occupies lesser offices for the next few years. We must never allow partisan politics or personal preferences to get in the way of the mission that Jesus has entrusted… to us!

Remember, it was “for us, for us” that the Lamb was slain. But it is also “to us, to us” that this task has been given – to carry on the platform and policies of our Chief Elder: to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, clothe the naked, care for the sick and imprisoned, welcome the stranger… the list goes on. The task seems daunting. But that’s why the “our” in that motto is so important. Our Chief Elder calls us to do these things together, in community that transcends our present circumstances.

Finally, I find comfort in these words in a letter that the Apostle Paul sent to some folks facing challenging times a couple thousand years ago. These words were part of the assigned readings for Sunday, November 6:

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.

This is my prayer… for us.


If you have questions or need additional information, email (samATmoravianmission.org) or call the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries at (336) 722-8126.

The Rt. Rev. Sam Gray is the Director of Intercultural Ministries at the Moravian Board of World Mission.

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