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Hammers Hearts and Hands: November, 2017

07 December

Just a few days ago, as the sun was beginning to fall in the western sky, I found myself racing against the clock to make some progress on an important outdoor project, attempting to complete this work before the onset of winter. With saw and hammer, I set my focus upon the task of completing some simple framing, but in the process I inadvertently nailed several boards in an improper location.

Despite all the years of accumulating knowledge and experience in this field and despite my intention of doing a good job, I had done something that I’m never proud of doing. I had made a mistake.

Believe me, I am more than qualified to make that statement. I’ve made innumerable mistakes over the years of my life, and my dossier of mistake-making is more extensive than I am happy to admit. I’ve made mistakes in judgement, logic, and perception. I’ve made errors in decision-making, listening, speaking, and doing. I seriously doubt that there’s even one aspect of my life into which mistake-making hasn’t insidiously entered.

When I was a young man, I probably would have taken a sledgehammer to the framing mistake, demolishing what I had to work with, and leaving no alternative but to start all over again. That’s a human option, but it’s expensive. I’m not young anymore. My hands didn’t reach for a sledgehammer, but instead they picked up a tool called a “cat’s paw”, designed to discretely retract an embedded nail without causing too much damage to the overall work. Carefully, I applied the physics of this tool to my framing error and in a few well-spent minutes I was able to undo the wrong I had done without being destructive.

2000 years ago, a little baby boy was born to an unmarried and bewildered couple in a town called Bethlehem of Judea, half-way around the world from the region we call home. His newly born body was swaddled in long strips of cloth and placed in a borrowed, crudely built manger as His family had no proper cradletoputintouse. Thirty-three years later His scourged and flesh-torn body,now dead,would be removed from a Roman cross of crucifixion, wrapped in long strips of cloth again, and placed in a borrowed grave.

Without God’s grace, the life of Jesus, from birth to death, would arguably be just another sad portrait of a life riddled with the results of mistakes that have always plagued the human race. With God’s grace, however, His life becomes the miracle of salvation and the emblem for all true human progress. Jesus is the instrument, the tool, of divine grace that God sent into the world to repair all the mistakes we make without making things worse. Jesus is the personification of God’s grace in this world. He is the living incarnation of God’s will, not to condemn but to correct, to build rather than demolish, to be constructive instead of destructive.

Our world is self-destructing under the sledgehammer swing of pride, hostility, hatred, terrorism, violence, senselessness, bigotry, judgmentalism, and meanness. We are hurting one another, hurting the human race, hurting God, and hurting the cause of the Christ whom God sent into the world to save. Our pride and arrogance have grown large and heavy like the head of a 20-pound sledge and we ignore the delicate utility of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s “cat’s-paw” in the Divine Builder’s Toolbox.

Nearly 28 years ago, Hosanna Industries was born to be an instrument of grace in God’s world. The mission has never known a day since its beginning on which destructiveness could not have prevailed. But we were and are called by Christ to be constructive, to build rather than destroy, to help rather than to hurt, to heal rather than injure. We have been invited to share in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and what a year of grace this has been! Since last Christmas, the mission’s service log reports that we have been privileged to help 161 needy households, work with 1675 volunteers, and use all of the gifts generously given to build more than two million dollars worth of equity in this world. We have made blunders, errors, mistakes in various ways, but God’s grace has been sufficient in correcting the way without condemning the work. God’s grace always prevails if we allow it to work.

Very soon, the Holiday Season will be upon us once more. For a little while, the world will be full of the signs of Christmastime. Lights, decorations, trees, presents, parties, carols and candles will ornament our experience, but will we grasp the profound and transforming meaning of it all? Sledgehammers work, if demolition is what you are aiming to do. But must we behave with demolition in mind? Isn’t there a better alternative? Christmas means there is a better alternative and its name is Grace in the person of Jesus.

With this newsletter, you will find enclosed our traditional Christmas present to you, dear friend. It’s another Hosanna hand-made Christmas tree ornament, our 24th in a row, this one made by Amy out of the same kind of canning lid that the mission has used for many years in harvesting God’s produce from the garden and in processing thousands of jars of good food for hungry people. I hope you enjoy it as you include it in your Christmas decorations this year. We give this little gift to you with all the grace we have been given, reminding you as well as ourselves that Christmas is always a choice, because Christ is always the most important choice a person can ever make. This Christmas, choose Christ. Choose His ways of love and forgiveness, peace and reconciliation. Give Christ a chance to correct rather than condemn. You will be amazed at what the Master Carpenter can do if you let Him carefully do His work. Perhaps as you light a candle this Christmas Eve, please know from the bottom of Hosanna’s heart, how very grateful we are for you and for all that you do to help us carry on in our work. Please continue to pray for us, remembering the worth of God’s grace in this world, His grace made known to the world in and through your own precious life, and sing with your voice of faith together with God’s children everywhere:

Silent night, Holy night, Son of God, Love’s Pure Light!
Radiant beams from Thy Holy Face,With the dawn of redeeming Grace, Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth, Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth!

Love and grace to you with unending gratitude, dear Hosanna friend, this Season and always,

DDE

Read more in our 2017 November Newsletter.

Hammers Hearts and Hands: September, 2017

27 October

As I write these words, Hurricane Irma is churning its ferocious path across the Caribbean waters, bearing down toward a certain Floridian landfall with recorded windspeed of more than 150 miles per hour and the potential of a predicted 20” of catastrophic rainfall. Further out in the Atlantic Ocean Hurricane Jose is gaining energy as it travels westward to destinations as of yet unknown. In the Gulf of Mexico, Hurricane Katia is threatening the northeast coast of our southern neighbor, where not very far from that location Hurricane Harvey decimated the Houston and surrounding regions just two weeks ago. Just last night, the strongest earthquake in more than 100 years stealthily struck the southwestern side of Central America, causing as of yet unreportable levels of loss of life and property.

Millions of people are variously evacuating, preparing, escaping, “hunkering down”, watching, waiting, remembering, forgetting, and grieving. All of them are hurting, in one way or another, from hardships never fully anticipated but now as real as rain.

Closer to home, I’ve witnessed mission workers and volunteers, laboring hard all through the summer in all kinds of conditions, helping poor households in the Southwestern Pennsylvania area who have been suffering for a very long time from the ugly and disastrous effects of poverty. While helping with these efforts, I’ve also seen hundreds of people travel far from their homes to volunteer with the Hosanna workers in bringing much-needed help to the households who suffered from the catastrophic flooding in Richwood,West Virginia a year ago.

Still closer to my heart, I’m aware of a husband and a wife, both in their 90’s, who after living together for nearly 75 years are no longer under the same roof. The worsening of dementia has made it necessary for one to leave the other in order to receive professional care in a nursing facility, and the quiet, painful calamity of separation, loss, grief, sorrow, and loneliness threatens the coastlines of old souls. Another dear friend, beset with the uninvited changes of age and decreasing physical condition, struggles with the tension between trying to live life independently or surrendering to this painful challenge by transitioning to an assisted-living environment.

Just last week, I spoke to a man whom I have known all my life. He is about my age, has enjoyed physical health through the years, lives in his own home, and works hard to make a living. Three months ago, he found himself not feeling very well on an ordinary, seemingly routine day of his life. The next day, he mysteriously felt worse. The next morning he could not get out of bed because his legs wouldn’t move. Apparently, a very rare neurological condition attacked his system and now he is adjusting to what may very well be living out the rest of his years in a wheelchair.

All of these natural and personal disasters are tribulations that we experience in this world. No one is immune from catastrophe. There is no inoculation against loss and hardship. Hurricane Irma will be utterly impartial toward millionaires and paupers alike as she unleashes her fury upon Florida over the course of the next three days.

My dearest friend once said,“In this world you will have tribulations, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.” Jesus, the Carpenter of Nazareth, knew that tribulations are not possibilities, they are eventualities. Sooner or later, we all know or will know what it’s like to be lost in the storm of a hurricane, or the storms of the soul where advanced age, decreasing physical health, poverty, hardship, job loss, confusion, anger, or piled-up resentment crash upon the human heart. They all lead to the same place: tears, anguish, despair.

That’s where Hosanna comes in. We were born to help those who are crying out for God’s help, and by the grace and provision of God, we will help! We will rebuild ruined houses, we will construct new homes, we will craft handicap ramps, we will continue to go where He leads us to help those who are hurting, and we will do so, not with the hammer of anger but with the hammer of love, for that is what Jesus Christ used to “overcome” this world.

We can try to prevent catastrophe, but we are in truth powerless against it. But we can, should, and will help when hardship falls for this is the most important work in all the world: to bring hope to the hopeless, faith to the fearful, love to the forgotten.

I send you peace today, dear friend, in this world of dynamic despair. Do not be afraid. Fill your heart with love. Trust God. Forgive your adversaries. Play a beautiful song on the piano. Paint a beautiful picture. Write a beautiful letter. Pray without ceasing. Support worthwhile efforts sacrificially. And always remember these two things: The Lord is at hand, and next year’s lilies will one day bloom. Storm clouds might gather and terrible energies might collide but the power of love goes on forever.

~DDE

Read more in our 2017 September Newsletter

Hammers Hearts and Hands, June 2017

22 June

One year ago, the little village of Richwood,WV was brutalized by the floodwaters of nature’s storms. This already struggling community, beset with the decades-long decline of coal-mining, lumber-mill slowdowns, economic drift, population loss and systemic depression, found itself suddenly torn apart by the raging torrents of the normally quiet Cherry River when more than 6” of rainfall burst the river from its banks.

Floods take a toll upon a town. The property loss, interruption in utility services, transportation problems, mud, stench, destruction, and disarray are nearly more than a human heart can handle. Moving forward is hard when you can’t see the horizon through the immensity of debris. If one were to try to describe the most manageable aspect of a flood, it would be the water itself in all its ferocious power. The hardest part of a flood is what’s left behind when the water subsides.

Hopelessness is the worst of human ailments because when a person loses hope, it’s hard to see positive potential in a sunrise. When a town loses hope, it’s hard to see tomorrow.

A year ago, we flew into the area on an investigative mission and landed at the closest runway at the Greenbrier Valley Airport, about an hour’s drive from Richwood. Geoff Smathers graciously piloted the Piper Lance aircraft that had been gifted to Hosanna Industries by Norm Carroll just a few years earlier. Mission workers Brian Hetzer, Julie Wettach and Amanda Becker accompanied me as we drove to Richwood to meet with local leaders for the very first time.

As we walked into the makeshift community-center in the heart of town, introductions were given and received, strangers shook hands, and we sat together in a little circle of folding chairs. We prayed. The first words uttered by Hosanna afterward were simply these,“We believe God has led us to your town. We are sorry for all that you have lost. We are here to find out if we can be of help, and if so, how we can best deliver that help to you.”

Much has happened since then. I just returned from Richwood after experiencing with many other people a new kind of flooding that is leaving its mark upon the town. It’s a flood of healing and helpfulness, a flood of hard work being done well by many hands that are coming to the area. It’s a flood of rebuilding, repairing, restoring, rejuvenating. It’s a flood of God’s grace happening in thousands of different ways one day at a time. It’s a flood of green trucks and green shirts communicating a message of hope and joy and love.

At this mid-way point in the year, and after numerous journeys to Richwood by our mission workers and volunteers, nearly 20 rehabilitation projects have already been completed. By the end of July, I am confident that we will meet the needs of 30 suffering households. By the end of September, I believe we will reach the goal of bringing assistance to at least 40 households in that community. In the course of doing all this work, the mission expects to spend some $650,000 in providing building materials, furnaces, washers and dryers, and the skilled labor required to get the work done. We have already hosted hundreds of volunteers in the local abandoned armory, which has been thoroughly refitted as an emergency volunteer base and charitable construction center, and we expect to work with hundreds more before year’s end.

Two evenings ago, while preparing to return home the next day to meet local commitments, I found myself privileged to address the nearly 90 volunteers from the Avon Lake United Church of Christ, and upon their invitation, to proclaim God’s eternal Word and to serve Holy Communion in the context of an armory-hall evening worship service. I preached from one of the great post-resurrection passages in the Gospel of John, Chapter 20, verses 19-23, emphasizing the words of the Risen Lord to the shocked and bewildered disciples of 2000 years ago. “Peace be with you,” Jesus said. “As the Father has sent me, so send I you.” I reminded those gathered of the call of Christ, and how this calling is always personal and powerfully transforming, and perpetual in its eternal results. Then, humbly and quietly, I invited them to the Table of the Lord Jesus Christ, this one made of a piece of plywood with 2×4 legs and braces. We broke His Bread and outpoured His Cup, and as those dear young people already exhausted from the hard day’s work eagerly came forward with their adult leaders and our wonderful mission workers to receive communion, a tear welled up in my eye and I wondered about the fragile nature of life, how each and all of us are incomplete and broken, riddled with the damage of sin and pride and the floods of service to self.

Then I thought of another flood, the one of God’s gracious love, the one that provides healing to our hurts, forgiveness for our sins, redemption and meaning to our lives. I thought of how that flood provides fuel and trucks and workers and tools and machines and materials and even airplanes and pilots to answer the Hosanna cries in our world and the words from an old hymn came into my mind.

“There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins; And sinners, plunged beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stains…”

There are all kinds of floods in this world, dear friend. Most of them can lay a place or a person to waste. One of them can lift a person up to a new start, a season of reconstruction and building, a time of joy instead of sorrow.

Thank you, dear Hosanna friend, for helping in all the ways you do, to provide for the flood of God’s grace and love to this world of deep need.

~DDE

Read the rest of the 2017 June Newsletter here.

March 2017 Newsletter / Hammers, Hearts, and Hands

05 April

March 2017 Newsletter

A few days ago, I stopped at the mission’s Gibsonia campus to check on a few things, and was delighted to arrive just as Amy and Emily were unloading the kiln from the previous day’s firing. They took a moment to show me the beautiful results, and I was thrilled to see the finished work of a dozen participants, most of them novices, who recently attended the mission’s four week clay construction class. Coffee mugs, trays, bowls, and other interesting and useful articles had been hand-crafted from clay, allowed to thoroughly dry, fired once, then glazed in a variety of colors and styles, and finally fired once again to melt the glaze onto the surface as a permanent glass coating. I was really impressed with the designs, the workmanship, and the final results. I hope you can become involved in one or more of the many programs offered there in the months to come, each of which is intended to further develop your God-given creative instincts in a setting that is focused on the One from Whom all blessings flow.

As I handled and observed these newly-fired ceramic creations, I thought about what they once were. Clay is a truly amazing substance. It comes from the earth. It can be wedged, formed, rolled into a coil or a slab, or thrown on a wheel. It can be shaped, while soft, into a countless number of shapes, forms and structures. When the shaping process is over, the item is left to dry thoroughly, until void of moisture content. At this stage, the item is called Greenware, and although it is hard and breakable, it can actually be reconstituted into pliable clay once again if exposed to enough water.

Once the first firing takes place, however, the Greenware is converted into Bisqueware. This is a physical transformation that turns the Greenware into a hard, brittle, glasslike substance that is no longer capable of absorbing water anymore. The firing process changes the clay into something it never was before, rendering impossible any chance of returning to what it once was. You can take a piece of the Bisqueware and grind it into a fine powder and mix it with water, but even in this state, it will never return to clay. This thermal process, known as vitrification, changes the clay forever.

A few hours ago, I had the privilege of listening to a newly posted podcast of a sermon preached by the Rev. Dr. Richard A. Morledge, then pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Bakerstown, on Palm Sunday, April 8, 1990. This sermon and nearly 30 years’ worth of others are being made available due to the graciousness of Dr. Morledge, the tedious efforts of our friend,Tom Shoup, who copied more than 1000 sermons from cassette tapes to a digital system, and the labors of Amanda Becker and Julie Wettach, both mission workers at Hosanna Industries, who are methodically uploading those sermons onto a newly established “It’s a Great Day in the Kingdom” podcast site which is linked to Hosanna’s website. We hope that these proclamations will be helpful to you in your own journey of faith, and I encourage you to frequently listen to these sermons as preached by a man whom I consider to be one of the greatest communicators of the Gospel in our lifetimes.

In the particular sermon which I listened to, Dr. Morledge described those whom he referred to as “Hosanna people”, those who are in desperate need, people who are crying out for God’s help. He taught that the word “Hosanna”, heard by Jesus on the first Palm Sunday 2000 years ago, was not really a word of praise as is commonly thought, but was instead a prayer. Its true meaning is, “Save us now.” Jesus answered that prayer in seven days. Later He sent His Spirit on the first Pentecost to equip the newly born Church to be His body in the world, continuing His great work of salvation.

Then Dr. Morledge went on to describe to the congregation of that great Church that a new mission was to be launched that day. Its name would be Hosanna Industries.

Following the sermon, additional words were spoken, announcing what this new mission was intended to do: “Whenever – wherever we hear as Christians the Hosanna cries of God’s needy children, our faith demands that we do something, representing a powerful Savior instead of an impotent theological idea. We cannot anymore bear the shamefulness of poverty that is unaddressed, nor can we bear mission mediocrity… this Church today in establishing Hosanna Industries is proclaiming loud and clear that ultimately some day the love of God in Christ will heal all the world’s ills.”

The mission was born as an outward expression of the Kingdom of God. It was born to proclaim the Good News by way of home construction, repair and rehabilitation for the poor; vocational training of the unskilled; small business development for would-be entrepreneurs; job creation for new and future mission workers; and volunteer mobilization, locally and beyond, to locations of impoverishment and calamity.

The first five young mission workers were called forward from the congregation. The first assistance project was to begin the very next day, less than a mile away from the church, at the home of an elderly woman and her disabled daughter. Their income was less than half of what the government defined as poverty level. A newly donated used pick-up truck was parked outside, donated by the late Frank Reese, president of North Pittsburgh Telephone Company, painted Hosanna green by Bart Williams, president and owner of Parks Moving and Storage and serviced by Tom Henry of Tom Henry Chevrolet.

Then, as this unique worship service drew near to its ending, Dr. Morledge asked the mission workers to kneel at the chancel, he asked the more than 500 people in attendance to rise, and he asked all to join hands.

At that moment, a Spirit of quiet holiness descended upon that assembly of believers. Some people shed tears. As I listened to the recording, I sensed a nearly palpable silence in that place 27 years ago. Then, with his voice momentarily breaking, Dr. Morledge offered the following prayer:

“Father, in faith we reach out to try to follow You, and like Abraham of old we’re not quite sure where we’re going but we go now to be your people in this community and clear to the uttermost parts of the world. Father, thank you for these individuals whom we set apart in Your name, please indue them with your Holy Spirit and empower them to be people who reach to the Hosanna people and in ministering may they be ministered unto, and as we join hands as a great church, Father, bind us in this time of faith, not with criticism but with our love, to try to grow and become even greater the people that you want us to be. We thank you for all of the blessings of the past and now we ask a special blessing. So please Father, to these six individuals, whom we now set apart and commission as mission workers of Hosanna Industries, thank you Father, thank you, please place Your Hands upon the heads of these particular missioners. Thank you Father, we feel Your Presence, we go out in faith in Christ’s name, Amen.”I knelt with those five young men that day, and remember the first sounds a new-born mission heard were those of the organ, beautifully phrasing,“Hosanna in the Highest!”

We were clay then. Soft, pliable, malleable. We were ready to be shaped by the Potter’s Hands.

I suppose the years have vitrified us through the hard and often difficult firing of work, striving, learning, succeeding, and sometimes failing. Whatever we may or may not be, I’m certain we could never go back to become what we once were. Though we’ve learned much, and tried hard to refine our efforts into a vessel of grace useful to the hands of God in this world, I still hope that something within the heart of Hosanna is yet soft and pliable, ready to be shaped at the Master’s bidding.

Over the years, Hosanna Industries has been privileged to help more than 3400 needy households. We’ve blitz built almost 200 new homes. We’ve received more than 160 mission workers, each one leaving a mark, some weaving at least a part of their hearts into the mission’s own heart. In the past 27 years, the mission has travelled about 2 1/2 million miles, moving more than 60,000 tons of material, working with about 150,000 volunteers, in spending less than 16 million dollars to get almost 60 million dollars worth of work done. We’ve had a presence in 35 states, provided disaster relief work in nearly a dozen locations, and given assistance to more than 40 charitable organizations who needed help. We’ve provided intensive trade-skill training for hundreds of people, and we’ve witnessed the creation of at least ten small entrepreneurial businesses that were an outgrowth of our influence. On occasion, the Lord has sent us abroad to five different countries, and we have hosted volunteers from a half-dozen nations and all 50 states in the United States of America.

Just a few days ago, I held a newly fired ceramic cup in my hands and admired its beauty. I can estimate the time when, not long ago, it was nothing but a lump of clay, but I could never know for how long it may be of future service to someone who finds it useful.

I believe God inspired the birth of Hosanna Industries. I’m grateful that His hands have molded and shaped this mission into the vessel of His choosing. I’m very grateful that the commissioning prayer of Dick Morledge 27 Palm Sundays ago has been answered innumerable times.

The cries of the Hosanna people have been heard, not ignored. I don’t know how long this vessel called Hosanna will be useful to God’s hands, but I’m so deeply grateful for your part in it, and for all who have gone before. Without you, and all the other wonderful, gracious, generous, believing people like you, I don’t think God could have ever shaped the mission His hands have made.

Happy 27th birthday, Hosanna! And thank you, dear Hosanna friend!

~DDE

Rev. Dr. Donn Ed, Executive Director & Founder

November 2016: Hammers, Hearts and Hands

05 December

As I write these words, our nation pauses to celebrate Veterans Day in grateful recognition of the thousands upon thousands of men and women who have protected our country’s unique freedoms. One of them, a sergeant by the name of Joyce Kilmer, fought during World War I with the 165th Infantry far from home in the European theatre. He was killed in action near Ourcy, France on July 30, 1918, at the age of 32. Though his loved ones had to suffer the heartbreak of his loss as many do, Sergeant Kilmer left these words which have remained with us for nearly a century –

I think that I shall never see A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day, And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain; Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.

Our world couldn’t exist without trees. They cleanse the air and provide oxygen for us to breathe. They hold the soil against erosion and offer habitat for innumerable birds and other small wildlife. They shade the earth from the scorching heat of the Summer, and paint the landscape with breathtaking beauty in the Fall.

Like all living things, they are born to live, they grow, and one day die. Poplars grow twice as fast as oaks, but live only half as long. Even in death, like a poet’s words, trees contribute great value to our lives.

They provide fuel for our fireplaces to heat our homes in Winter. Most of our houses, even if they show a handsome suit of brick, are framed up with wood. The paper you are holding right now came from a gracious tree. The pen I am using was fashioned out of wood. The old rocking chair in my study that I am sitting in right now was once a tree more than a century ago. The bookshelves nearby and all the volumes they hold that have been my teaching companions through the years, all these came from trees. Around the world over, experts tell us that there are more than 23,000 varieties of trees that are an integral part of our planet’s cyclical ecological system.

Wood is a substance unlike any other in our world. It can be split, chopped, rived, and cut. It can be turned, planed, joined, shaped and sanded. It can be burned as fuel, converted into other useful products, or finished with a protective coating intended to last for hundreds of years. Without wood, our music would be limited to the sound of brass.

Once, 2000 years ago, a tree was felled halfway around the world. Its wood was crafted into an old rugged cross upon which the Prince of Glory died. Only God could have anticipated the particular purpose of that tree.

A year ago, when the mission acquired its new facility in Gibsonia and began to re-purpose that property for a new chapter of God’s work, my daughter Emily took note of the beautiful trees there that had lived, while others died, and while others still emerged beneath tall boughs as tiny saplings. In the Autumn she saw how the majestic oaks dropped thousands of acorns upon the ground, each one holding the potential of becoming, one day in due time, another tall oak tree in the forest of our lives.

Nobody but God can make a tree.

It’s been another amazing year at the mission, dear friend! Thank you for all you’ve done in providing the blessings that God used to make all of this possible! We used thousands of 2×4’s and sheets of plywood, swung a lot of hammers, and drove a lot of nails in helping many of God’s needy children during the course of 2016. Much of what was accomplished came from trees that God purposed for such work.

When a little tree is born, perhaps only God can be aware of this new life and all the potential worth that lies within that delicate, fragile structure.

Centuries ago, an unknown carpenter from a far away land took wood from a fallen tree and crafted, with adze, mallet and chisel, a primitive trough. It was built to hold hay for the feeding of animals, but it became the first cradle of a new-born swaddled child whose angel-announced name was Jesus. He would grow up to become Savior of the world.

Soon you may be joining with countless people around the world in decorating your home for the upcoming holiday season. Perhaps a different kind of tree, a Christmas tree, may adorn your own dwelling place. Upon its branches, an unknowable variety of ornaments may be hung, each reflecting its own particular meaningfulness.

Enclosed within this newsletter mailing is our little gift to you. This year, a simple ornament made of wood and stamped with the impression of an acorn. As you hang this little handmade ornament upon your tree, may you be inspired to prayerfully reflect upon the worth of your own God-held life, how you like a tiny acorn, have grown into the great person you are and are yet capable of becoming still!

Only God can fully plumb the depths of potential that lie within an acorn. Only God can know the fullest potential of what yet lies within you and me. Only God can grow greatness.

While all the world slept, a little boy was born to a world aching for God’s love. On that silent night, He was born to “raise the sons of earth, born to give us second birth!” His unique life blessed this world forever, and because of that, so can we if we so choose.

Thank you, dear Hosanna friend, for who you are and for all the good you’ve done. May God’s love surround you throughout the Christmas season and always.
-Donn Ed, Founder & Executive Director of Hosanna Industries

Read the rest of this quarter’s newsletter, here.

Hammers Hearts and Hands: September 2016

27 September

Hammers Hearts and Hands September 2016

At the mission’s Rochester campus, a large garden is planted every Spring that produces bushels upon bushels of food that is lovingly processed by our mission workers and volunteers in order that hungry people can be fed. I am always deeply amazed by the mysteries and miracles of a garden; how the soil can be properly prepared, furrows dug, seeds planted, and then the patient, watchful waiting for gentle rains, warm sunshine, germination, growth, blossoming, fruiting, and harvest. During the past several weeks, we’ve been harvesting and canning from time to time when we can break away from other work, and I have been astonished to see nearly 30 bushels of produce enter the kitchen from a patch of ground that just months ago was nothing more than fallow soil!

I think gardening is so meaningful to me because, beyond the food producing aspects of a vegetable garden, there is so much symbolism about life and faith, work and growth. In a way, all worthwhile enterprise is at least a little bit like gardening, and perhaps all of our lives are, as well.

The constructive building characteristics of Hosanna’s mission have continuously reminded me through the years of a garden’s cycles; how initiatives begin, how and in what ways growth occurs, the blossoming of effective effort into the results of work well done, the harvest-time as the seasons of collective souls change, and the important moments of reflection, preparation, the unending quest for better future methods when Winter comes to spread its white blanket over the restive ground.

For those who have dedicated themselves to God’s service through the mission’s work, we’ve often found ourselves contemplating the deep and various meanings of four cardinal values that we call “the 4 C’s” namely, Call, Charism, Compassion, and Community. I believe deeply in these values, and I think they are close to the heart of Hosanna Industries, but they are never easy to live out as they constantly challenge every one of us to rigorously pursue God’s will in our work.

God calls, but the divine call is never without consequence. When God calls a man or woman into some form of meaningful service, that call has a mysterious way of bearing heavily upon who we are, what we do, and why. In our changing and often self-centered world, I think that the thought of God’s call may be usually considered as a momentary, snapshot-like experience for the few overly-religious types out there in the human community, but I wonder if God’s call is actually something we all hear throughout all of our days like a beautiful song playing somewhere in the distance, too customary to stop and pay attention, too unnoticed to elicit obedience.

God gives all of us gifts, charisms, in abundance, but it is so easy to think that these resources are of our own fashioning, instead of the One from whom all blessings flow. Our personalities, our memories and histories, our greatest triumphs and deepest sorrows, our talents and special skills, our uniqueness as individuals all created in God’s same image, all these and so much more are gifts given to be employed in God’s service, and yet we tend to use these gifts, and misuse them, according to our own designs and directions rather than the Lord’s.

We live in a hurting world, and we ourselves are not at all impervious to injury and yet God’s Word instructs us to be compassionate toward others, always striving to set aside our own burdens and sufferings as we aim to remove these from the shoulders of others. Sometimes, it is easy to be compassionate, but though I have never found it easy to be always compassionate, I know in my heart of hearts that until and unless I do learn to be consistently compassionate, I’ll be standing as a stumbling block against God’s grace instead of serving as a bridge toward that grace.

Born as we are, usually as single individuals, we soon learn the lessons of walking and talking, thinking and being as though the meaning of life was contained in the small sphere of our private selves. The concept of community challenges us to consider an entirely different way of being. Community never degenerates the value of the individual person, but lifts the individual self into a higher form of living in which we think of others more highly than we think of ourselves, we discover our own personal value within the fabric of relatedness rather than alienation, and we learn that the best which life has to offer benefits the most instead of the least. Community can never really happen unless we are truly willing to sacrifice the sovereignty of self for the sake of others.

Call, Charism, Compassion, and Community, this is what we work with at the mission all the time, even as these issues work on us continuously through the influence of God’s Spirit. If Hosanna has a garden of the soul, these are the resources that make it grow. I cannot think of a better example than Jesus Christ, who dealt with and wrestled with the same ideas of Call, Charism, Compassion, and Community, and who in another garden called Gethsemane decided once and for all to discard His own private will in choosing the will of God which embraced the welfare of the whole world. It has been said that His apostles turned the world upside down. I think what made that possible, then, was the silent, solitary maneuver that Jesus employed in Gethsemane when He prayerfully turned upside down the “M” of “Me” into the “W” of “We”. That act may be the most important and life- saving work that any man or woman could ever do.

Soon, dear friend, the leaves will be turning, and the beauty of Autumn will be upon us. Much of the year’s work will be done. If Winter comes, there will be time for quiet reflection and rest as God’s garden lies fallow for a while. Peace to you in the days that lie ahead. Thank you for the very important things you do to keep the mission moving forward. Please pray for us, always. Get your favorite sweater ready, maybe take a walk through the soon-to-be falling leaves with a friend, light a fire, and remember, the difference between “Me” and “We” can make all the difference in the world.

-Rev. Dr. Donn Ed, Founder & Executive Director

June 2016 Hammers Hearts and Hands

08 June

2016 June Newsletter

Early yesterday evening, I had the pleasure of mowing the grass at the new Hosanna Gibsonia facility. While operating the lawn tractor, I once again realized what a beautiful example of God’s creation that particular piece of real estate is, and what great potential it has toward inspiring people with new insights and fresh perspectives. There’s not a tree or flower there that doesn’t make God’s glory known! As I neared the completion of the work, I steered the machine away from the main yard and toward a little walking path that travels around the east side of the largest pond. Carefully, I trimmed that woodland path which meanders around plentiful trees, both old and young, and I prayed that God would lead certain people of His choosing to quietly pursue this unique path as a practical exercise in reflecting upon His presence in our lives, His guidance to our lives, and His call upon our lives. Please consider these words as a personal invitation!

Paths. How very important they are! How intimately they are connected to our pasts and futures, our memories and dreams! How ironic it is that, though our lives signify a lifelong career of path walking, our memory functions rarely if ever recall the first experimental steps we took when we first started out on the journey!

Did you know that the average moderately active person takes around 7500 steps per day? If we maintain that daily average until, let’s say the age of 80, we each walk about 216,262,500 steps in a lifetime, or 110,000 miles. That’s five times around the globe. No wonder our joints eventually wear out!

The paths of our lives are as powerful as destiny and as unique as a fingerprint and as ridiculous as it may seem to some people, I consider that the one thing that can be said of all of our paths is that bidden or unbidden, God is always there.

Right now, I’m aware of a friend whose path abruptly changed at the end of last year. A routine medical exam revealed a very serious and life-threatening illness. Everything that has happened since then is of a different hue.

In these early pre-dawn hours as I write this article, I’m aware of another path, this one on the part of a dear friend who is currently struggling with the meaning of God’s call. She is in the wrestling match of a lifetime, much like Jacob of old at Peniel. Where will her path take her?

Soon, a mother will awaken to the prospect of a new day, silently bearing the heartbreak of an adult child who is incarcerated again as a result of poor decision-making, mental imbalance and spiritual alienation. She will outwardly function today, but inwardly her feet are walking a lonesome path.

Not very many miles away, a saintly old person will soon arise to a new dawn, the vigorous past now gone, the quiet struggle of burden-bearing and patient waiting now at hand.

In another place, a young person is walking upon a new leg in the journey, soon to graduate from high school with the prospect of a lifetime future burning brightly ahead!

Yesterday, a little child completed her last day of first grade. Today, she begins her first experiences of an American child’s summer vacation. Where will her path lead?

Not too many years ago, another little child experienced the same moment. Today, she is making final arrangements for her upcoming wedding day, full of hope and with life’s cup overflowing with the joy of human love.

Earlier this week, the mission workers found themselves in another desperately needy home. They drove the green trucks to a new address to help another household in the name of the Lord! The homeowner is aged, widowed, and very poor. She lives within the brokenness of one of Pittsburgh’s former industrial river towns, but those days are now only a memory of a brighter past that led to a despairing future. In the bleakness of her quiet suffering, God’s helpers came to brighten a path with a strange new light that somehow glows from green shirts, smiling faces beneath sweat-streaked brows, and the simple tasks of a carpenter who can build. It seems to me that just a few blinks ago, it was Christmastime, and now we are already nearly halfway through a year that isn’t new anymore. How fast the path goes, and how quickly it changes! More than 26 years ago, a brand new mission took its first steps upon a new path, and we’ve been striving to do our very best ever since, one day at time. Thank you, dear friend, for everything you’ve done and for everything you are doing to support Hosanna’s walk upon that path!

Thousands of years ago, a sensitive soul interpreted the presence of God upon life’s path as one which leads to green pastures and still waters, even through valleys of dark shadows, yet always in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. I believe that hundreds of years later, a Carpenter from Nazareth somehow translated those words into the living presence of His example, His leadership, and His gracious friendship. He is the Word made flesh.

Perhaps one of Christian hymnody’s most beloved songs says it best ~ John Newton, the author of “Amazing Grace”, wrote these lyrics while on his own path from slave-trading to Christian ministry in the late 1700’s,“Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come, ’tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”

May God’s grace be with you and upon your path, dear friend. Please continue to uphold us in your prayers.

With love, Donn