“ . . . and the Lord remembered . . .” (From 1 Samuel 1:19)
God has a memory and He gave human beings the capacity to remember. Then, God commanded humans to use that capacity, saying, “You shall remember.” (Deuteronomy 8:2) Remembering is a God-like act because it mimics a Divine attribute. It is Godly to remember.
For these reasons and more, our American tradition of “Memorial Day” is important. The holiday was established for the deliberate, public remembrance of those who died while in military service to their country. Remembering those who gave their lives in service to others recalls the words of Jesus when He said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) The Psalmist declares, “The memory of the righteous is blessed.” (Psalm 10:7a) Our remembrance of the fallen on Memorial Day is a blessed act.
There’s another reason Memorial Day is special to me—because I’m named for a fallen hero. My parents gave me the name of my father’s older brother, Captain Robert L. Schenck, who died over the skies of Korea on November 14, 1952. “Uncle Bobby,” (as the family affectionately remembered him) had already been a decorated aviator when he “retired” from the Army Air Forces (before the U.S. Air Force was a separate branch). He had earned his senior captain wings, the Air Medal, and the
Distinguished Flying Cross, among others. Following his discharge, Capt. Schenck did a stint in the import-export business but decided he hadn’t done enough for the country he loved, so, he re-upped for Korea. On one of his first missions, transporting airmen on leave in a C119, ground crews accidentally guided him into a mountain. All 44 men on board died. It was ironic that after he flew a record number of B17 bombing sorties over the European theater, my uncle’s distinguished career would end in an accident. Still, he was in uniform and in defense of his nation when he died, so I only know him as an American hero.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve appreciated more and more the gift my family gave me by naming me for a hero and a beloved son, brother, and uncle. I also see something more in my namesake. The ancients carried around the bones of their ancestors as a tribute to those that came before them and in honor of the covenants God had made with His people. Carrying my uncle’s name is like that: a way to pay living tribute to him, to honor his sacrifice and the that of the family that loved him, and a way to remind my kids and future grand kids that freedom comes at great personal sacrifice. That sacrifice, too, is righteous and holy and reminds us all of the One Who gave His Life as a ransom for all. (I Timothy 2:6)
Here’s to my uncle and namesake, CPT Robert L. Schenck (USAF)!
A blessed Memorial Day to you and all yours.
Even I was tempted to wonder about “mission drift” when today we turned our attention to the people of Oklahoma City and its environs. Of course, it’s impossible to think of much else with the images, reports, and social media posts we’re receiving at our office here on Capitol Hill. We also know the members of Congress that represent the affected areas, and the two senators from the state. Most importantly, we have many Faith and Action supporters in the region that we have been unable to contact since the tragedy struck. All that makes Oklahoma very important to us now.
Another reason for this connection, though, is that first responders are again on the scene. These brave men and women in uniform, that bear the badge and uphold an oath, that are charged with doing their duty regardless of the danger, constitute the first and most visible line of government. A police officer, firefighter, paramedic, National Guardsman, even civilian or military chaplain, are the vanguard of the best part of government–whether on the community, local, state, or federal level. These are the “government agents” that are far from the villainous type held suspect by so many. They are neighbors and friends with the same accent and zip codes as the people they rescue, help, and comfort when emergencies hit.
I’ll admit it–I choke up a lot when I see these brave souls risking their lives for the sake of others. For me, they become signs of the Gospel. Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) When everyone else is understandably and naturally running the other way, these noble souls run toward the danger. That’s rare–really rare. By considering others as more important than themselves (Philippians 2:3), these literal public servants help us to be better disciples of Christ–whether they themselves are believers or not.
As we go about our regular ministry activities today and for many days following, our hearts, minds, and prayers will be with the people of Oklahoma–and I trust yours will be as all.
And He told them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9:29)
Jesus was referring to a demonic spirit that had possessed and tormented a young boy and his father. The disciples had attempted to exorcise it, but had failed and were frustrated. Jesus got it done, the boy was delivered and healed, but the disciples were vexed. They couldn’t understand why their Lord could do something they couldn’t. It’s worth noting, these guys had walked with the Master, God Himself in-the-flesh, but they still couldn’t get it. I guess that’s the human condition. When it comes to spiritual things, we can be terribly obtuse. So, Jesus gave them a lesson: Some things can only be done after prayer and fasting.
Each year I plan a two-to-three-day retreat during which I pray–and fast–for all the important people in my universe. These include the people I am called to minister to in Washington, DC, and the people that support me so that I can do that ministry year-in and year-out. While you may be tempted to think of this as a form of mini-vacation for me, I assure it is not. It is actually a lot of work. First of all, to keep anything on our organization’s master calendar for any amount of time is a Herculean task in itself. There are constant demands made on me, on our ministry team, and even on our facility near the Supreme Court. Some days I walk into “the O. House,” (our nickname for the ministry center formally named, “The Honorable William J. Ostrowski House”), only to find a beehive of activity with people and groups I don’t even know! All this to say, I have to set this prayer retreat as a priority and fight for it to remain as such. Then there is the background work: I want to pray for people not as anonymous collections, as in “Lord, I pray for all those working in government,” but by name, individually, often with their photos in front of me. And this includes not only all those in Washington who are part of my mission field, but maybe even you, if you’re a part of what I call our “extended missionary family.” You are as important to me and to my team as is the President, or a United States senator, member of Congress, or Supreme Court justice. Without your friendship, prayers, encouragement, and financial support, I couldn’t do what God has called me to do. You are His provision to me and to our entire ministry.
All of this means that we must mine a data-base and our memories for the names of hundreds of government officials and Faith and Action supporters to put together long and exhaustive prayer lists for me to take on retreat. We also need to manage the calendar so nothing interferes with this time. we even need to adjust demands on me because, well–to be frank–I’m not at my mental best when I’m fasting. Consequently, I don’t want to be making complicated judgement calls during these three days–to say nothing of not wanting the distraction from the important work of prayer.
And, oh, by-the-way, prayer is work. Boy, did I ever learn that the first time I took one of these prayer and fasting retreats. Back then, I naively took digital files of all of our important people–thousands of them–and just started praying aloud for them. (I’ll explain why I intentionally pray out loud a little farther down in this article.) Boy, it was tiring! Just the muscular work of reading so many names is wearying, but there’s also the eye-strain and mental activity of trying to remember exactly who this person is, and even how to pronounce unusual names! The greatest test in prayer and fasting, though, comes in the spiritual battle that ensues from it. If we really believe there is a devil, an evil one, and minions of demons, then we indeed have our spiritual work cut out for us, and I feel that every time I undertake one of these prayer exercises. But it’s not all “This Present Darkness.” There is also the marvelous, joyful, victorious, near euphoria that comes when you know the breakthrough has come–that indeed, “this kind can come out.” The deliverance, though, comes ONLY by prayer and fasting.
Look, if you know me at all, you know I’m a pretty practical guy. My father was a communications engineer. He raised me by teaching me that there is always a way to “manage the situation.” I like mechanical things. Just the other day I said to Cheryl, my wife, that since we moved from a house into an apartment three years ago, I really miss my tools. I like projects–and I love to fix things myself. I’m a very earthy guy, and that’s usually where I’m looking, to earth, for how to “manage the situation.” It’s a discipline for me to look upwards, to Heaven, to solve “unfixable” situations–and if there’s anything that’s “unfixable” these days, it’s Washington, DC. At Faith and Action, my team and I do everything we can to take the Gospel to our top elected and appointed officials. We stage all kinds of events, sponsor all sorts of programs; literally run here and there to deliver literature; preach, teach, and lecture; lead discussion groups; sit down in one-on-ones; hold press conferences; gather crowds; whatever it takes. In the end though, some things “come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”
So, we spent the last several weeks fighting to keep my “prayer and fasting retreat” on the calendar. We fended off all kinds of temptations to reschedule or cancel it. I got up on Monday morning and had to resist internal temptation to think there was something more urgent, something more effective, some better way to spend 72 hours than to shut myself away in a literal cloister, and pore over list after list of names and collections of faces. Then, once again, as I learn every year, when it’s all done and I’ve called out the names of so many souls who are loved by God and that I care about deeply, and I have lifted up their deepest needs to the only Savior, and I have rebuked the Devil over them in the name of Jesus, and I have asked God to favor them with his saving, delivering generosity, and I have thanked God for each name that represents His generous provision for our work in Washington–every single financial supporter of Faith and Action, when I have done all that, it is the most fulfilling, satisfying, relaxing experience in faith that I ever know. It is done because God does it, and I’ve merely been present to watch, to feel, and to join with that finished work.
These are the things I learn again and again on my prayer and fasting retreats–and there is so much more to learn in the years ahead. Thank YOU for letting me pray with and for you–I’m so very grateful to God for that honor.
Oh–I said I’d tell you why I pray aloud for each of the thousands of names on my list: Because there is something intimate, something close, something very real and tangible about speaking out loud. I can actually hear the name myself, form it with my lips, and tongue, and facial muscles. It’s almost like laying hands on someone to pray for them; it’s tactile, palpable, personal. As I said to someone at the retreat center where I prayed, it’s like having all these people in the chapel with me–and it’s literally the only time they are all together with me in one place. I’ve come to call it my “sonic congregation.” They are all there just in the sounding of their names. Beautiful–and, now that it’s over, I already miss them.
I can’t wait until our reunion next year!
Faith and Action president and lead missionary Rev. Rob Schenck has often said this ministry’s greatest asset is the circle of supporters that sustains it. Thousands of generous friends from around the country and from as far away as the United Kingdom and the Philippines each year make donations so that Faith and Action can continue to proclaim and model the Gospel among top U.S. Government leaders in Washington, DC.
“I can’t ever adequately say in words how grateful I am, and how thankful every one of our team members is, for each and every financial supporter of our ministry,” Rob said. “We don’t take anyone for granted. We know times are tough economically and people give sacrificially to keep this ministry moving forward. I also know there’s plenty of competition, ministries much larger and more well-known than ours, and so I appreciate all the more when individuals, families, churches, and even other ministries take us on for regular missionary support. We are deeply grateful to God for each one of our supporters. One way I can give something back is to pray for everybody, individually, by name.”
Rev. Schenck will comb through pages of names during his three days of fasting, announcing out loud each one as he intercedes for individuals, families, churches, and organizations that support Faith and Action financially.
“This is the way the Lord provides for us,” Rob continued. “The money to pay our team members, to buy supplies, to stage events, to maintain our buildings, all comes from the hands of those who share our passion for taking the Good News of salvation and biblical truth to those at the highest levels of power and influence in our country and, by extension, to other countries of the world. That’s no small thing. So, while I’m praying for our supporters, I’ll also be thanking God for each one, by name, of course.”
Specific prayer requests will be forwarded to Rev. Schenck while he’s away on his retreat. You can e-mail requests to him directly and confidentially at email@example.com, or post requests publicly so others can join you in prayer as well at https://www.facebook.com/PrayerRetreat.
Faith and Action president and lead missionary, Rev. Rob Schenck, traveled this weekend to Highland, Michigan to speak at Cornerstone Church of Highland. Rob was one of several guests featured at the church’s annual convention themed, “Lift Up Your Head.” Senior Pastor Tim Forsthoff asked Rob to bring a message of hope for his people. “These are tough times,” Pastor Tim told Rob by phone last week. “God’s people really need hope. They need to know God is moving in answer to their prayers.”
Rob was happy to oblige the pastor’s request, “I’m very big on hope,” Rob said. “There is no reason for God’s people to be fearful or despairing. Jesus said more than once, ‘Don’t be afraid.’ The Apostle Paul spoke of our steadfast hope in Christ. There’s plenty of reasons to be hopeful, even about what is happening in Washington, DC, and in our country, because God is very definitely at work.”
Rob spoke to the Highland congregation on Sunday morning and will speak again Monday morning. Later Monday, he’ll fly to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, to participate in a council meeting for the Evangelical Church Alliance, as well as conduct interviews of candidates for ordination and licensure to Christian ministry, and to deliver the ordination address for a special convocation to be held at Tyndale University College and Seminary.
Rob considers his guest preaching and ministerial work as an indispensable part of his call to missionary work among top government officials in Washington, DC.
“I can’t travel as much as I used to,” said Rob. “The work in Washington has just become too demanding. I’m finishing up some long-standing commitments, but will not be doing too much more in the future. My work with the Evangelical Church Alliance, though, is a duty I have as a minister in the church. It’s also enriching to my own life and ministry. That translates to more effective and fruitful work in Washington.”
The Reverend Dr. Rob Schenck, president and lead missionary of Faith and Action, America’s only Christian outreach to top and elected and appointed officials located across the street from the US Supreme Court, today led a delegation of clergy and church representatives in an observance of the National Day of Prayer on the High Court’s iconic marbled West Plaza. The Daybreak Prayer service, held just after sunrise, is the only approved observance of the National Day of Prayer at the seat of the judicial branch of the federal government.
The 9-member delegation followed a special order of service developed for the National Day of Prayer. The service was opened with a recitation of a part of the cry announced by the marshal of the Supreme Court each time the justices sit to hear a case: “God save the United States and this honorable court.” The program included Bible readings and prayers related to government and to specific elected and appointed officials by name, by office, and/or by branch. For example, the prayer for the President, offered aloud by one of the participants, was:
“Lord God Almighty, on this National Day of Prayer we bring before you Barack Obama, president of the United States. Grant to him a desire to know You fully, a humility to acknowledge Your rulership over his life, and an appreciation for Your great gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. Enlighten the understanding of our President that he might receive Your wisdom, respect Your laws, and faithfully execute Your will through his public office and in his personal life. Grant our President wisdom, knowledge, insight, and understanding, for they are more profitable than silver and gold; cause him to always and in every way trust ultimately and absolutely in You. Convict our President of sin and of righteousness and turn his heart and mind to You in repentance and in humble obedience. Provide for and protect our President and his family as they look to you alone as their Defender. We commit President Barack Obama into your constant care and keeping, for we ask these things in the mighty name of Jesus; for just and true are Your ways, King of the Nations. Amen.”
Prayers were also offered by name for the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, the Majority and Minority Leaders of the Senate, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, respectively, and for the Chief Justice of the United States, John Roberts, and for each of the associate justices of the Supreme Court. General prayers were offered for all members of each of the three branches of the federal government and for members of the Armed Services. The service was closed with the Lord’s Prayer recited as the members of the delegation knelt. The entire service lasted about 20 minutes.
For more information contact Peggy Nienaber, 202-202-236-0953 or Patty Bills, 202-734-8732.
Faith and Action president and lead missionary, the Reverend Dr. Rob Schenck, opened this year’s Marathon by anointing the corners of the famed West Terrace of the US Capitol Building, the same spot where the presidential inaugural platform is constructed each Inauguration Day and the where the newly-elected president swears the oath of office. Dr. Schenck also read the first verse of Genesis in Hebrew and in English. From there, Pastor Hall and others took over reading. Dr. Schenck read again for four straight hours in the middle of the night and in the rain.
“Whether or not people are listening or are even present, it’s important to continue reading,” said Schenck. “It’s the continuous nature of the event that captures attention, which is a good thing not only because members of Congress and the people that work for them start talking about the Bible, but also because reading like this is an exercise of our First Amendment rights. Our constitutional rights are like muscles, if you don’t use them, you’ll lose them. It’s important that we defend and preserve these rights by publicly acting on them in sometimes dramatic ways, and the annual marathon is dramatic in its own way.”
The Marathon will continue through Thursday, May 2, the National Day of Prayer, when it will close with a special ceremony on a stage erected on the West Lawn of the Capitol. The public is encouraged to attend. Readers are also still needed. For more information see http://www.dcbiblemarathon.org or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By US Senate Resolution, April 25 marks the annual “Bring Our Sons and Daughters to Work Day on Capitol Hill.” This is the day when people who work in government and in other jobs in Washington are encouraged to bring their children to work with them. Here at Faith and Action, we did a little extra: We hosted more than 40 kids from Cornerstone Christian Academy in Willoughby, Ohio! (Click here to see these great kids visiting Faith and Action).
The eighth grade students, along with teachers and chaperones, visited the Honorable William J. Ostrowski House on Capitol Hill, the ministry center for Faith and Action. Lead missionary, Rev. Rob Schenck, and chief of program Peggy Nienaber, used exciting stories to explain what Faith and Action does to convey the Gospel of Jesus Christ to top government officials. In his part of the presentation, Rev. Schenck also challenged the young people to pray about whether God would have them serve in government.
“How many of you would like to be president of the United States? How many would like to be a member of Congress or a US Senator? How many would like to be a justice at the Supreme Court? If you do, start praying about that and preparing for it now. Fourteen years old is a good time to begin because there are lots of decisions you need to make so you’re ready when the time comes,” he said.
The group was also treated to a quick walking tour of the neighborhood that includes the U.S. Capitol, U.S. Senate office buildings, the Library of Congress, and the U.S. Supreme Court. When the students were in front of the Supreme Court, Rev. Schenck explained how it was once illegal to pray anywhere on the High Court’s property, even if it was only a silent prayer with a bowing of one’s head. Several years ago, after Faith and Action teamed up with the Christian Defense Coalition and the American Center for Law and Justice to petition the Court’s administrative officers to change its anti-prayer policy, the Supreme Court marshal’s office clarified that prayer would be allowed going into the future.
“So, you can now pray here safely,” Rev. Schenck told the students. He then led them in a prayer on the Court’s front steps.
A lot of people ask me why we do the things we do in Washington. Why the annual events: National Memorial for the Pre-born and their Mothers and Fathers, Bible Reading Marathon, National Day of Prayer at the Supreme Court, and Live Christmas Nativity?
There are two simple answers that have to do with the “two sides” to our Faith and Action ministry: The public and the private.
The public side is exactly that: Special events and programs that are visible and accessible to–well–the public. Almost anyone can see them, experience them, respond to them–even participate in them. They’re meant to publicly telegraph a message, or, should I say THE MESSAGE. Our ministry is evangelistic. We are not lobbyists. That is, we don’t lobby or advocate for certain policies or laws. (On occasion we’ll support such efforts if we feel they’re good for what we call “the soul of the civilization,” but that is the rare exception to the rule.) We’re not lawyers. That is, we don’t sue people in court, or defend them. (Of course, on occasion we’ve been sued for ministry actions we’ve taken–and, we’ve joined in lawsuits if they involve our First Amendment and religious rights, but again, it’s very rare.) Our mission is to be evangelists–to announce the Good News that God has provided a way and issued an invitation to be reunited with Him through the saving work of Jesus Christ on the Cross and in His Resurrection.
The private side of our work is pastoral in nature and involves intensely personal ministry to individual souls and small groups. Because this type of work is built on a foundation of trusting relationships, we don’t say a lot about it. We certainly don’t publish or broadcast anything on it. To give this part of our work public exposure would betray the confidentiality and trust that makes it effective. I’ll explain more about this side to our ministry in another post, but for now, I’ll get back to the matter at hand: The annual US Capitol Bible Reading Marathon, April 28 – May 2.
The “Marathon” (as it’s affectionately nicknamed) is a four-day, 90-hour continuous and uninterrupted public reading of the Bible from the famous West Steps of the US Capitol. This is where the president swears the oath of office on Inauguration Day. It’s at the heart, or, seat of our federal government. The Capitol is where members of Congress stand on the floor of the their respective chambers (the US Senate chamber on the north end and the House of Representatives chamber on the south end) to debate proposed laws and to amend existing ones. It’s also where they meet for special committee conferences and other deliberative exercises, where they stage events such as awards ceremonies, speeches, even rare church services! The West Lawn of the Capitol, where the Bible Reading Marathon podium looks out to, is the site of countless demonstrations during the course of any year. It’s this side of the building, too, that is the iconic representation of the United States. The grand steps leading up to the various terraces and balconies, and all under the looming and luminously unmistakable columned and rotund dome capped by the statue of Freedom.
It’s this bedazzling architectural tableau that draws innumerable tourists and other site-seers from around the world.
It’s for these reasons that the Bible Reading Marathon is situated just in front of the central fountain at the base of the Capitol building’s West Facade. First, you can’t miss it; and second, it just can’t be ignored! But, back to the original question: Why a Bible Reading Marathon? Well, there’s two aspects to that answer, too. First, because I don’t believe anyone can improve on the message of the Bible. How can we improve on God’s Word as it is expressed in Holy Scripture? It’s far better than a sermon, a poem, or even the best Gospel song. And, in the Bible Reading Marathon, the whole redemption story is told, from beginning to end! This is the entirety of God’s written revelation to humankind. All the answers are found here. The second aspect to the answer is because reading the Bible in public at the US Capitol is a robust exercise of our God-given freedoms as protected in the First Amendment to the Constitution: Freedom of speech, freedom of association, and freedom of religion. These are our most basic and fundamental human rights, and the quintessence of those rights endowed to us by the Creator, as the Declaration of Independence so eloquently states. I often say rights are like muscles, if we don’t use them, we’ll lose them. It’s important to exercise our rights deliberately, dramatically, and frequently. Only then can we ensure they’ll remain strong!
So, I think we have some pretty good reasons to do a Bible Reading Marathon at the US Capitol this year, as has been done for the last 24 years. I hope you agree–maybe even enough to get personally involved! Why not come to Washington with your family, friends, or fellow church members to take a turn at reading the Bible from the podium on the famed West Terrace of the US Capitol? It’s very safe, very fun, and very satisfying! Check out our website for details: www.faithandaction.org . To sign up to read, visit www.dcbiblemarathon.org or write to email@example.com
I’ll post more on Marathon over the next few days, so keep checking in here at my blog. In the mean time, please herald the news everywhere you can: on all your social media, list serves, websites, in your church bulletin, via your e-mail lists–and even in in-person conversation! Spread the word and help Spread the Word!
Hope to see you sometime between April 28 and May 2!
Rev. Rob Schenck, president and lead missionary of Faith & Action, spent last evening at the Embassy of Canada, near the US Capitol, for a dinner event honoring that nation’s first appointed Ambassador of Religious Freedom, His Excellency Andrew Bennett. Ambassador Bennett has been the dean of Augustine College, a Christian liberal arts school in Ottawa.
The new Canadian ambassador payed tribute to his American counterpart and friend to Faith and Action, Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook. Rev. Schenck said, “This is a very positive development. I’ve spent a lot of time in Canada. I grew up on the US-Canada border and have many friends there. I’ve traveled across Canada preaching in all but two of its provinces, and Faith and Action has many supporters in Canada. With great affection for the nation, I can also say Canada has had problems with religious freedom issues. The appointment of someone like Ambassador Bennett bodes very well for the future of religious freedom in Canada and around the world.”
During Ambassador Bennett’s comments from the podium, he said he looked forward to working closely with US Ambassador Johnson Cook, and “praying with her.” At Faith and Action, we also look forward to working together with both ambassadors to advance the cause of religious freedom worldwide.”
To read how the news of the Ambassador’s appointment is playing in Canada: http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/scholar-andrew-bennett-to-lead-canada-s-office-of-religious-freedom-1.1162231