July 2017 Update

Rolf arrived home safe and without incident on June 30th. Time seems to be already flying by and Sherri is aware but trying not to focus on his return to China with his reservations already made for August 29th.

He has come home to the daunting task of purging and cleaning out files and paperwork in preparation for our upcoming move. We thought we downsized when we moved to our townhouse but moving to an apartment is a whole another story!! It is amazing what can be accumulated in almost 14 years of living here!! Most of it is just “stuff” but then there is the memory “stuff”…..leaving us with the decision of what to keep, what to sell, what to donate and what to just toss.

Since Sherri never heard back from the property manager that was listed for these apartments she contacted back the property management company and spoke to a very helpful and nice young lady. She was able to answer the questions we had and also send us a sample application form. With Rolf most likely going to be in China when the application to apply is sent out, we need to have things lined up so we can apply quickly while there would still be availability.

Please continue to keep us in PRAYER as we work through the preparation and the upcoming application process.  We do our part and trust God for the rest.

“Put God in charge of your work, then what you’ve planned will take place”  Proverbs 16:3 The Message

We have wonderful news from China. The person who was interested in leading a Faith or Fiction” class has started a class this summer with 11 people in the church! We are thrilled and praise God how this program is growing and how many lives it is changing!! She wants to also be one of Rolf’s leaders when he gets back. She and the other leaders are already recruiting people to join. Please PRAY for caution and care in their choice of recruits and for God to be working In their hearts readying them to hear and understand their need for Jesus.

And last but not least we would ask for PRAYER for the ability to fix the air conditioning in our minivan. It is the car Sherri drives and the one we take on our driving trips. It apparently has a leak that can be fixed for $1200! That is a lot of money but we plan on keeping this car for as long as it will run! Right now we get some cool air that will probably last for about a month or so more. It can get pretty hot in the car with little or no air at this time of year!!

We are most grateful and thankful to have you on this team with us. You are loved and appreciated.

” Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him”. Col. 3:16-17

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June 2017 Update

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.” 1 Chronicles 16:8-9 (NIV)

June is finally here and in a few weeks summer vacation begins. No one will be happier than Sherri as Rolf will be home on June 29th. His last classes for the school will be on June 28th and the last Faith or Fiction“ class is June 24th. We pray these last few weeks will continue to remain as calm and without incident as it has been for the last few months.

We have just good news to report from China! This last “Faith or Fiction” class all 18 students have become Christ followers. PRAISE God!! Not only did they become believers but it happened very early in the startup of the class. They are attending church and growing in the Lord. It is so exciting and rewarding to see how God has used this program to draw so many to faith. We thank God and the person that gave Rolf the material to use.

A Christian friend of one of his leaders heard about the class arousing her curiosity. Rolf met with her and she is very interested in bringing this program to the church. To learn more about the class he invited her to participate in these last few weeks of classes and then join the new class when he returns. If needed she could also become one of his leaders.

“Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” Rev. 7:12

On the home front: We know God is working with our upcoming move by finding buyers for our townhouse even before we thought of putting it on the market. And we are trusting God for our next home BUT not having the confirmation of it has caused Sherri to feel some anxiety and some sadness in just the fact that we have to move. We are planning and counting on living in the new affordable senior apartments near here which are scheduled to be completed sometime in Feb/Mar of next year. We have our names in to receive an application which won’t be mailed out until about 90 days before completion.

Meanwhile Sherri has been trying to contact the property manager to obtain more info on what will be needed to make sure we have all the paperwork needed to assure we can have our application in as quickly as possible. She has had no response to her phone messages or email. Please PRAY for a favorable response. PRAY also peace for Sherri and that she will “cast all her cares on Jesus” and fully trust on His provision. “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” Psalm 56:3

Thanks for being there for us in the highs and lows and praises and prayers.  We couldn’t do this without you on this journey with us.

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China’s War on Islamist

Two ethnic Uighur women pass Chinese paramilitary policemen.

New reports claim that Islamist extremism is moving into inland China.

Perhaps not “widely” known is the fact that Western China is home to millions of Muslim “minority” peoples, most identifying as “Uighur.”

Recently in China, officials stated that Islamic extremism is beginning to move out of Western China and into inland China where the “overwhelming” majority is Han Chinese.

Although the officials gave no details as to which provinces had “extremist activity, Wang Zuoan, head of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, told the National Congress of the Chinese Islamic Association, “We should let Muslims know the boundaries between legal and illegal religious activities, to enable them to say no to illegal activities.”

China is officially an “atheist” country, allowing only certain “registered” religions to be practiced, and those “practices,” of course, are being “controlled” by the state.

These “limitations” on religious practice have produced great “tension” between religious “people” and the Chinese “government.”

This tension has raised “doubts” regarding China’s claim of “Islamic” terrorism.

A recent interview with Ahmatjan Osman, a Uighur and the “exiled” president of the East Turkistan government, gave much “credence” to this doubt.

In the interview, Osman discussed the “tension-laden” history China has had with the Uighur and their “autonomous” territory of Xinjiang.

“The Chinese are conquerors. Our soil is oil rich. Seventy percent of Chinese oil is Uighur oil. China wants the land and the raw materials. They don’t need the people so they try to seize the land and break the people.”

“They seek legal reasons to kill them. The Nineties saw the emergence of political Islam, with the Taliban and AL-Qaeda. Everything the Uighur did was considered terror. China established a new anti-terrorism law and used the police and army to oppress us. Every small thing was considered terror.”

“Today, China says it’s fighting Islamic terror rather than anything nationalistic. If you are under 18, you are not allowed to enter a mosque. If you are a civil servant, you can’t enter a mosque. They encourage Chinese families to move into our region. Seventy years ago, there were 300,000 Chinese, today they are 50% of the population,” said Osman.

Given China’s obvious “distaste” for religion in general and its attempts to “mold” certain religions into something that will not “threaten” atheist Communism, it is not a “far stretch” to wholeheartedly believe Osman’s “side of the story.”

Osman continued, “We have some extreme elements who went to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS, but they don’t represent us. The Chinese government turns a blind eye when the Uighur leave the country. From 2010 to 2015 more than 30,000 left because of persecution and pressure from the so-called imams.”

“They ended up in Turkey and Syria. As the international community fights ISIS, they kill Uighur and that keeps China happy. China can also say that when it fights the Uighur, it fights international terror.”

This statement from Osman strongly suggests that not only is true “extremist terrorism” not present in China, but that China also, in a way, “supports” groups like ISIS because when Uighur’s join the groups, perhaps due to the “persecution” they receive from the Chinese, they end up being “killed.”

While all of this make “sense,” even if we are to not “believe” Chinese officials when it comes to “Islamic” extremist terrorism, China could still be “at risk” for such activity.

Geographically speaking, Western China is very “close” to the Middle East. China’s Western border lies next to the “gate” to the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan, two countries that “house” Islamic extremists.

So, while China ostensibly may be “free” from the Islamic extremist “terrorism” that the West has come to “know all too well,” this may not be the “case for much longer.”

China bans all Muslim prayer meetings and Islamic religious practices
 ISIS Threatens ‘Rivers of Blood’ in China
Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, China Make Anti-Terror Alliance
Let the Muslims Fast
Islamists Suspected in China’s Deadliest Terror Attack
Turkey, China, Join Syrian Civil War

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Tibetan Living Buddhas

Divine intervention 03

China is continuing its push to “promote” further communist government meddling in “Buddhism.”

A article titled Divine Intervention,” features an expert “warning” from ethnic and religious “commentator” Zhou Quan that living Buddhas “can be a weapon of mass destruction if used by evil or splittist forces” if not properly controlled by Beijing.

“Especially high-and intermediate-level Living Buddhas are very prestigious and influential among pilgrims,” he said, who likes to use his “pseudonym” Zhou Quan.

The Chinese government has taken steps to solidify “authority” over reincarnation of Tibetan “Living Buddhas”  by establishing an online “database” certifying all 870 “Living Buddhas,” experts say.

Divine intervention 01

A young lama looks at the camera in a monastery in Sertar county, Southwest China’s Sichuan Province.

A Living Buddha, or “Tulku,” is an honorary title given to a child chosen as the “reincarnation” of another Living Buddha.

Some “Living Buddhas” who were affirmed by the 14th “Dalai Lama,” the highest lama of Tibetan Buddhism, have been behind “riots or self-immolation’s” with the aim to further the cause of Tibetan “independence,” explained Zhou, a columnist at m4.cn, a Beijing-based “political commentary” website which is dedicated to “helping young Chinese build healthy, constructive and progressive minds.”

In late March, it was rumored that Zhu Weiqun, chairman of the “Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference’s Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee” and one of the key architects of the “Living Buddha Database” was detained for selling the “Living Buddha” title.

Divine intervention 07

Zhu Weiqun.

Zhu Weiqun, known for his harsh “criticisms” of the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, has denied “accusations” that he received huge “bribes” to grant “approvals” for people to become “Living Buddhas,” dismissing the claims as a “vulgar smear” since “Living Buddhas” must follow strict “historical and religion regulations.”

Zhou claimed that these rumors were spread by “separatists” and targeted the central government’s “reincarnation system.”

Zhu, former vice-minister of “United Front Work Department,” has been “tough” toward the Dalai Lama. “Separatists hate the initiators of the system, including Zhu,” Zhou wrote.

In previous years the government’s supervision of “Living Buddhas” was far looser.

During the “Cultural Revolution” (1966-76), some Tibetan Buddhist temples were “torn down” and Living Buddhas were “criticized and denounced,” according to Wang Xiaobin, a scholar with the Beijing-based “China Tibetology Research Center.”

Divine intervention 08

As the “chaos” ended and opening-up “reform” began in the late 1970s, the central government tried to correct its errors. “But the policy went to another extreme. The government was hands-off on the reincarnation of tulkus,” Wang told the Global Times.

According to Zhou, in the 1980s, temples were “rebuilt” and thousands of new Living Buddhas “sprung up” in Tibetan areas. Some of them had their “authenticity” affirmed by domestic Living Buddhas, some of them were recommended by “herdsmen,” some were identified by “senior” Living Buddhas overseas and others were “sent” to China from India, he said.

“Many of the Living Buddhas verified by the Dalai Lama and Dharamsala-based ‘Tibetan government-in-exile’ have become the backbone of ethnic separatists,” he added.

Wang agreed, saying that these “lax policies” made it easy for the Dalai Lama to “interfere” in domestic ethnic and religious issues.

In 1987, ’88 and ’89, “riots” hit Lhasa in which mobs shouted “pro-independence” slogans, attacking “governmental buildings, police, and businesses,” according to State media.

On March 14, 2008, “separatists” initiated another “riot” in the city, in which 18 civilians and one police officer were “killed,” the Xinhua News Agency reported.

“The Dalai Lama clique see that manipulating a Living Buddha means controlling a temple, means controlling a large amount of believers,” Zhu, told the Global Times.

In recent years, more than 100 Tibetans set themselves on fire to “protest Chinese rule,” according to the US-based National Public Radio.

The authorities claim that most of the people who “self-immolated” were lamas or former lamas at the “Kirti Gompa or Gerdeng Monastery” in the Aba Tibetan-Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Southwest China’s Sichuan Province or its sub-monasteries.

The official investigation showed that these “suicides” were directly linked to a Living Buddha, who used to “head the monastery” and now lives in exile in Dharamsala, according to Xinhua.

“Living Buddhas can be very influential and deceptive. If they preach national conflicts and describe central government policies as ‘threats,’ their disciples and pilgrims would believe it with few doubts,” Zhou said.

The central government started to “assert its authority” over Living Buddhas in the late 1980s. Following the “death” of the Tenth Panchen Lama on January 28, 1989 in the Tibet Autonomous Region, the government and high-ranking “lamas” in Tibet began to start searching for his “reincarnation.”

The 10th Panchen Lama with China’s former President Hu Jintao, at Tashilhunpo Monastery in Tibet on 23 January 1989. The Panchen Lama died just five days after this photo was taken.

“They agreed that the search should respect established religious rituals and Qing Dynasty-era historical conventions, adhere to patriotism and submit to the leadership of the central government,” according to China.com.cn.

The government had the group of lamas “select” a group of young boys as possible “candidates” among whom the Panchen Lama would then be selected by “drawing” lots.

Gedhun Choekyi Nyima.

Pre-empting this process, the Dalai Lama announced that one of the boys, “Gedhun Choekyi Nyima,” was his chosen Panchen. Nyima was then taken into government “protection” and a different boy, “Gyaincain Norbu” a 6-year-old boy born in Lhari county in northern Tibet was “picked” through the urn process and “approved” by the central government.

Gyaincain Norbu.

“The method of drawing lots from a golden urn and the central government having the final say is an historical custom,” according to Li Decheng, a researcher with the China Tibetology Research Center.

Tibet became an administrative “district” directly under the central authority of the “Yuan Dynasty” (1279-1368) in the 13th century.

In the “Ming Dynasty” (1368-1644), the central government started to “confer” the title of Living Buddhas to “religious” leaders in Tibetan-inhabited areas, Li said in an article published in the overseas edition of the People’s Daily.

To solidify its role in selecting the “reincarnations” of major Living Buddhas, the Qing court established the method of “drawing” lots from a golden urn and ruled that it had the power to “decide” whether or not to use the method and to “approve” the final choice.

Wang said “religion” is a major tool for the separatists. “When they are not able to use economic or military methods for their splittist purposes, they resort to ideology. By using religion, they can easily provoke the masses to be against the government,” he noted.

In 2007, “China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs” (SARA) endorsed a set of regulations to “institutionalize” the management of reincarnation of “Living Buddhas,” which stipulates that all the “reincarnations” must get government approval.

“The selection of reincarnations must preserve national unity and solidarity of all ethnic groups and the selection process cannot be influenced by any group or individual from outside the country,” SARA said, Xinhua reported.

To further “regulate” Tibetan Buddhism and “crack down” on the growing number of “phony” Buddhas, the country has launched an “online database” which helps people check the “authenticity” of Living Buddhas.

“These efforts further consolidate central governmental control over the reincarnations of Living Buddhas, and cripple the separatists’ capability to intervene,” Zhou noted.

Dorshi Rinpoche, professor at the “Northwest University for Nationalities” in Lanzhou, Northwest China’s Gansu Province, believes that administration over the “reincarnation” of Living Buddhas is vital.

“Due to the impact of the commercialization, corruption also breeds and spreads in religious circles. To eradicate the possibility of people gaining Living Buddha titles through bribery and connections, controlling their number and approval is essential and needs to be strengthened,” Rinpoche told the Global Times.

But there are still “barriers” on the road to ” implementing” this reincarnation system.

Zhu said the barriers are mainly put there by external forces. “Ignoring the historical facts, the Dalai clique has been making every attempt to deny the religious rituals and historical conventions,” he noted. “Their purpose is to use religion to serve their politics.”

He also pointed out “internal” problems, citing some people who miss the “old system of integration of religion with politics.”

But Zhou also says some domestic “religious officials and experts” also complain about the government’s administration over Tibetan affairs. “Some experts still take a dogmatic approach toward Marxist national theory and policies,” he noted.

In early days of the “Communist Party of China,” the Party advocated a “non-monopoly” federal system and said that the “ethnic groups could implement a high degree of autonomy and even decide their relationship with the central government,” according to an article by Lin Zhiyou, a scholar from the “College of Marxism” at Henan University. The article was published in the “Journal of Qinghai Nationalities Institute” (Social Sciences).

Tian Ye, an “ethnic” studies researcher at Henan University, said that as the Party “came into power,” this changed. “The range of autonomy should be limited so as to prevent splits,” he said.

“It’s also a lesson from the collapse of Soviet Union,” he noted, adding that growing ethnic “nationalism” in both Communist Party and governmental officials “contributed to the country’s dissolution.”

Wang said “controlling” the reincarnation if Living Buddhas and “locking out” separatists is part of the “war” over Tibetan “public” opinion.

“It’s likely a tough battle, but we should stick it out, as it affects the reform and social stability,” Wang said.

With “Buddhism,” China has found a unique mode of control: establishing an online database of government-approved living “Buddhas,” ostensibly to prevent con artists from “falsely” claiming the title.

Noticeably “absent” from the approved list of living Buddhas is the Dalai Lama.

“From the point of view of Beijing, the whole apparatus seems to be about giving Beijing control over the appointment of the next Dalai Lama,” Robbie Barnett, director of the “Modern Tibet Studies Program” at Columbia University, told the LA Times earlier this year.

The “current” Dalai Lama is 80 years old, and many “fear” China will attempt to give a Beijing-friendly “monk” the official title, “usurping” the power of Buddhist authorities.

“Communist policy on religion is: You run Tibet by … having a lama who is credible enough to be influential when he says you should follow the Communist Party. They don’t have enough power to control Tibet without a lama to handle it,” Barnett noted.

he 11th Panchen Lama Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu delivers his first public speech outside mainland at the Third World Buddhist Forum.

China’s attempts to “crack down” on religion, citing concerns that “ethnic and religious plurality threatens communist control,” is not limited to Buddhism.

Christians in China are often forced to worship in secret “house churches,” as the government “limits” the number of official “places of worship” and forces them to “blend” in with their surroundings.

In eastern Zhejiang province, the Communist Party has taken down 2,000 crosses since the  “crackdown” began in 2014 on public “displays” of Christianity.

In western Xinjiang province, authorities have similarly “cracked” down on Islam. Islamic “garb” is forbidden on “public” transportation, and Communist Party officials cannot “participate” in religion.

“Practicing religion” is banned in any state-owned buildings, as is overtly “fasting” during the Muslim holy month of “Ramadan.”

All 358 ‘Living Buddhas’ of Tibet should be certified in China

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May 2017 Update

We hear and read about persecution, arrests and churches and crosses being taken down by the Chinese government. When it comes to Christianity in China one can get very lost trying to figure it out. A lot depends on where you are with what is “allowed.” And what is now can change at any time.

China is officially an atheist government but it says it guarantees religious freedom; in practice religious activities are tightly controlled. All churches have to be approved by the state and authorities keep a close eye on their activities to contain their influence. The Communist Party once tried to destroy religion all together. It failed. There are estimates that today there are more Christians in China then Communist Party members – maybe close to 100 million (but there are over 1 billion people in China, so that means many lost souls that still haven’t heard!)  Because of the control of the government is why many choose to join “underground churches.” These unregistered churches of course pose a real threat to the control of the Communist party and therefore are not legal.

Rolf is now going to a fairly new, very large government sanctioned church that seats around 6,000 worshipers. It is a mixed congregation with a lot of younger people – although per the government they do have to be over 18 to attend. With his students translating for him it appears to be a pretty solid Bible teaching church. They have a contemporary type service with a choir and a band. After the service the people are invited to stay for another hour of singing and praising.

He was amazed and delighted when he saw and learned that every week the pastor asks first time attendees to come to the front. He prays over them and then asks if they want to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior of their life. He then has them all immediately paired up with someone from the church to give them a Bible and to follow up. No messing around, he cuts right for the chase!!

Praise God all of Rolf’s “Faith or Fiction” class are now attending church! After church whoever is available will meet for lunch at a local restaurant where they can get to know each other better, ask questions and just enjoy each other’s company. Some weeks there are few and some weeks as many as 18 that will be able to join for lunch.

All is going well but what Rolf is doing is not “government sanctioned”!  He still must be a missionary disguised as a teacher so please continue to PRAY for safety and protection for him, the school and students. There are still far too many lost souls that have never even heard of the name of Jesus let alone who He is and what He has done for them.

“But thanks be to God! For through what Christ has done, he has triumphed over us so that now wherever we go he uses us to tell others about the Lord and to spread the Gospel like a sweet perfume”  II Corinthians 2:14.

 It is the ultimate high to see these Chinese come to faith and become brothers and sisters in Christ. We are so grateful you are on this journey and can share this joy with us!

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March 2017 Update

After a 14 hour flight and long evening wait in Beijing for his next flight Rolf finally arrived at midnight in Dalian, tired but safe. His wait in Beijing was made a little more enjoyable with Michael, a former student there to greet him with his wife and daughter and also to help him and his luggage get over to the faraway terminal for his plane to Dalian. It took the first week back to get acclimated to time and schedule but he is back and going strong.

He has a full teaching schedule this semester. On Monday through Thursday he has 4 afternoon classes teaching primarily young adults going for their English certification to obtain their MBA’s and PhD’s. Then on Tuesday and Thursday evenings he also has 2 adult business classes. When he is not teaching and preparing for his classes he spends a lot of time socializing and establishing relationships with the students usually over a meal.

“Sing to the Lord, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples”  I Chronicles16:23,24.

The “Faith or Fiction” class has already started with 18 students. Eight of the students are from his regular classes and 10 were recruited by his 2 leaders. His one leader that last semester was under house arrest for a few weeks is now back. She and Rolf had a long talk about the need for caution and the possible consequences not only for her, but for Rolf and the school if she is not more careful. PRAY for continued protection for him and his students and that God’s Word will continue to go forth and change lives.

On the home front: God is definitely working in our moving situation! Before Rolf left a couple put letters in mailboxes in our townhouse complex looking for those that might be interested in selling. Rolf contacted them and they are more than interested in buying ours! We love the couple, they would fit in perfectly with our friends, our neighbors here. Please keep PRAYING for where we will go. We are really counting on getting into the affordable senior apartments that are being built nearby. We are trusting God has that worked out for us also but PRAY we are doing our part to make it happen.

We get asked a lot when is Rolf going to stop going to China?  How can we stop when we see so many lives changed and coming to Christ!!  As long as God keeps that door open we will be there! It is such a privilege to get to do this and we hope you feel as privileged to be a part of this because without you on this team we couldn’t do it.

Thank you for partnering with us!

My home church in China.

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February 2017 Update

Time goes by quickly enough but it really seemed to fly by even faster with Rolf only home for 2 months!

We just returned from an enjoyable and restful 2 weeks in Florida – in spite of the fact when we left Sherri was being treated for bronchitis and then while there she had to visit Urgent Care with some breathing issues! We enjoyed some warm weather and the warm hospitality of Sherri’s sister-in-law in Gainesville and friends in Bradenton and The Villages. Sherri also met a friend in Ocala for their “annual lunch” date. The drive down and back was just like we like it – uneventful – no issues and no bad weather!! Thanks for your prayers!

Monday, January 27th Rolf will be returning to China. He will be starting a new 12 week “Faith or Fiction” class when he gets back. His leaders are now carefully recruiting new members. PRAY for God’s hand on those they recruit and for their hearts to be prepared for receiving God’s Good News!

It became apparent a while ago that in the future we would need to find more affordable housing. After thinking and praying and praying and thinking we realize the future has arrived. This has been a very difficult decision especially for Sherri. God had placed us in a very special neighborhood where neighbors have become friends that socialize and really care for each other. It has been a very safe and secure place for Sherri and of course that makes it hard to leave.

We were encouraged when we found that affordable senior apartments are being built practically in our backyard. They are scheduled to be completed February/March of 2018. We have already contacted the property managers and have our name down to be sent an application which we should expect sometime near the end of the year. Meanwhile we will be on the lookout for what else might be available. Please PRAY for the right move for us.

“The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.” Habakkuk 3:19

As long as we have been doing this it never gets easier to say goodbye. Rolf won’t be back home until June 29th. We cannot tell you enough how thankful and grateful we are for you to be on this journey with us. We could not do this without you. You are a blessing and pray God is blessing you in return.

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