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Christmas gift brings together Idaho boy and Filipina girl

Tyrel and Joana Wolfe, a newly-married couple who connected as children through Operation Christmas Child, brought their gifts to Samaritan's Purse international headquarters during national shoebox collection week (Credit: Samaritan's Purse) Tyrel Wolfe was a seven-year-old living in Idaho when he packed a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child, part of Franklin Graham's Samaritan's Purse.  He enclosed a picture of himself.  The box was eventually given to eight-year-old Joana in the Philippines.  Through the box, she heard a presentation of the gospel and made Christ her Lord.  Not long afterward, her father also trusted Christ and eventually became a pastor.

Joana wrote a letter to Tyrel, explaining how his gift had impacted her and her family.  However, he never received it.  Eleven years later, having kept Tyrel's picture, she decided to see if she could find him.  She eventually located him on Facebook, and the two began corresponding.  Tyrel saved up enough money to fly to Manila, where he and Joana spent 10 days together.  They began dating. 

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How to survive Thanksgiving

How to survive Thanksgiving concept: womans wearing apron screams as she reaches into her oven to retrieve two burning pies (Credit: Andrey Armyagov via Fotolia) "How to survive Thanksgiving" articles have populated the Internet this week.  Most assume that the problem with Thanksgiving is family members you don't see the rest of the year.  So contributors have these suggestions: feed your family lots of tryptophan-laced turkey and hope they fall asleep; treat them as if they were strangers; take a hike during the day to be alone for a while; and bribe the kids to hug their relatives and help with dishes.

I doubt this is what the pilgrims had in mind when they celebrated the first Thanksgiving 393 years ago.  Today was meant to be a day of worship and gratitude to the God who has been so gracious to us.  As we've noted this week, when we "give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thessalonians 5:18), we position ourselves to receive God's best.  Such expectancy is vital to a life of thankful joy.

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Is God at work in Ferguson?

Dobri Dimitrov Dobrev, born 20 July 1914, better known as Grandpa Dobri, Elder Dobri, or The Saint of Bailovo, a Bulgarian ascetic who walks several kilometers each day to sit or stand in front of the Cathedral of Alexander Nevsky in Sofia to collect money for charitable causes pauses for a photo (Credit: Unknown) Where shall I go from your Spirit?  Or where shall I flee from your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, you are there!  If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! (Psalm 139:7-8).

Like you, I have been watching the tragedy unfold in Ferguson and wondering if any good can come from such chaos.  The father of Michael Brown, the teenager who was shot by Officer Darren Wilson, has stated: "Hurting others or destroying property is not the answer. . . . I do not want my son's death to be in vain.  I want it to lead to incredible change, positive change, change that makes the St. Louis region better for everyone."

How could such change happen?

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100-year-old man begs daily and gives it all away

Dobri Dimitrov Dobrev, born 20 July 1914, better known as Grandpa Dobri, Elder Dobri, or The Saint of Bailovo, a Bulgarian ascetic who walks several kilometers each day to sit or stand in front of the Cathedral of Alexander Nevsky in Sofia to collect money for charitable causes pauses for a photo (Credit: Unknown) Dobri Dobrev looks like a stereotypical homeless man.  His grey hair and beard are long and matted.  His clothes are old and threadbare.  He is 100 years old and lost most of his hearing during World War II.  Dobrev lives 15 miles outside of Sofia, Bulgaria, and rides the bus into town every day to beg from the people who live there.  I'm sure those who pass him assume he is like any other beggar they have seen.  But they would be wrong.

Dobrev lives off his monthly pension of 80 euros (about $100) and gives everything he receives to churches and orphanages.  He once donated $24,000 to the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.  He explains: "We must not lie, nor steal, nor commit adultery.  We must love each other as God loves us."

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World's most generous country? You may be surprised

Salvation Army Red Kettle Presentation: Mayor Moncrief gets a little help from an audience member to kick off the 2010 Red Kettle Campaign (Credit: City of Fort Worth via Flickr) The Charities Aid Foundation annually ranks nations on a "world giving index."  The United States has long been at the top of the list, so it's not surprising that the U.S. is tied for first again.  But guess which nation shares first place—Myanmar, otherwise known as Burma.  Both received a World Giving Index score of 64.  While Myanmar receives only a 49 for "helping a stranger" and 51 for "volunteering time," it receives a 91 for "donating money."  Why?

The country is home to 500,000 Theravada Buddhist monks, who are supported financially by the larger population.  Charitable giving, known as dana, is one of the key paths for Buddhists in earning good merit.  In another surprise, Malaysia moved from 71st place to seventh this year.  The reason?  Humanitarian aid to the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan and to China and Japan after natural disasters there.

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