Advent Devotion: The Gift of the Stranger

written by Ginny & Fred Karnas Narrated by Donna Soyars in 2019

The Gift of the Stranger

Scripture ReadingShe gave birth to her first Son, wrapped him in cloths and laid him in a manger – there was no room for them to stay in the inn. (Luke 2:7)

Meditation:   It was my first night as a volunteer at the new Salvation Army shelter, opened to address the growing needs of homeless men in downtown Phoenix.  I had never worked with homeless people before, so I sat nervously at the registration table asking each man a few questions as he signed in.  As I got more and more into the flow of the job, I became more mechanical in my duties, soon failing to look up before asking the next man in line his name. As I crouched over my clipboard, I called out for the name of the next person in line.  A voice quietly said, “My name is Joseph.”   Continuing to stare at my clipboard, I asked, “And your occupation?”  Joseph quietly answered, “I am a carpenter,” and then he disappeared into the crowd heading through the shelter door.    

At that moment, just a few days before Christmas, I was jolted out of the complacency of my “official” role.  I realized I could not ignore these men. I could not fail to give them the simple dignity of looking them in the eye. If Joseph were there, could Jesus be there also?   And what if I missed the opportunity to grasp God’s outstretched hand and His invitation to journey with Him in service to the world?  

The Bible does not tell us why the innkeeper felt compelled to find a place for Joseph and Mary to sleep that night.  Perhaps it was the fact that it was clear that Mary was close to giving birth that moved him to compassion, but why had none of the other innkeepers felt so moved?  Maybe it was because the innkeeper had access to the cave where Jesus was born and no one else did, or perhaps it was simply a chance to make a little more money from the travelers visiting Bethlehem to pay their taxes. Or, just maybe, it was because by looking into the eyes of Mary and Joseph the innkeeper caught a glimpse of God’s love and chose to be a part of His plan for revealing that love to mankind. 

We will have to wait until we get to heaven to get the answer to that question, but what we do know is that the birthplace of Jesus is an important part of the revelation of God’s story.  Through His humble birth, Jesus was connected to the world of the broken, and through that was able to teach us about compassion and grace and hope.  As Thomas Merton reminds us:

Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for Him at all, Christ has come uninvited.  But because He cannot be at home in it, because He is out of place in it, His place is with those others for whom there is no room.  His place is with those who do not belong, who are rejected by power because they are regarded as weak, those who are discredited, who are denied the status of person, who are tortured, bombed, and exterminated.  With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in the world. He is mysteriously present in those for whom there seems to be nothing but the world at its worst… It is in these that He hides Himself, for whom there is no room.

Prayer:   Lord, thank You for the innkeeper who chose to be a part of God’s plan for the world.  Help us to be aware of those around us who need to find room in the inn – be it a place of physical rest or spiritual hope.  Amen.

Introduction to Ginny and Fred’s Devotion Series

The gift of presence.

Sunday I received a heartbreaking call with news that a neighbor we connect with through community ministry had been found dead Saturday afternoon. This neighbor had been coming to Community Ministry for longer than my time here. He was unhomed and relied heavily on organizations like ours to provide for basic needs like food and clothing.  A few months ago, he approached us and asked if he could take a shower in our facilities. After checking the hot water and finding some towels, I showed him to the shower. I was a little hesitant, but the shower was a blessing for him and for us. One shower led to regular usage, and those showers led to longer conversations and more personal connection and care.

A week ago he requested corduroy pants to help with the cooler nights.  I hesitated—does he really need them now?  Should we wait? Maybe we could wash what he has.  Do we have enough?

Amazingly, we recently received a donation of several pairs of corduroy pants that were his exact size! So the decision was made to share what we had and address future needs later. We set them aside, clean and folded, ready for his next shower.

Saturday morning, just hours before his death, he showed up for his weekly shower. As usual, God showed up in our interactions. Following his shower, he came outside with a huge smile on his face. He expressed how much he loved this place and how grateful he was for how God was taking care of him. Tears rolled down his face as 5 or 6 volunteers talked to him and made sure that he had foods he could easily eat in the coming week.  

My last memory of our neighbor, is him walking away, food in a bag hanging from his walker, wearing new corduroy pants and a long sleeved blue shirt.  He turned around and said ‘thank you’ multiple times as he left.

God is present in the alley.
He continues to provide.
He loves each of our neighbors.

These interactions challenge me to be more present and in the moment with our neighbors. They challenge me to pay attention to where God is at work. They prompt me to examine the use of our abundant resources. They remind me God continues to provide “enough”- which is a promise I have embraced throughout the pandemic.


April Kennedy
Community Minister Director

Tabernacle Stories: Mary Jo Dailey (04/05/17)

“We need to tell stories as a testimony to what God has done and is doing. If we do not share the stories, their power and truth are diluted, and their impact forgotten” (Wright/Davis).

On April 5, 2017, we invited Mary Jo Dailey to share her call story.  We are grateful for her bravery and vulnerability. Mary Jo’s testimony to God’s presence in her life is inspiring.

Visual Testimony: Week of March 29, 2020

Christ is at work among us.

Christ is at work among us. We are an extension of his hands, feet, and heart.

We celebrate the creative use of the the gifts and resources God has given us.
We testify as an expression of gratitude to Jesus, and also to encourage those he his using to bring light in darkness!

Thank you, Tabernacle, for your courage, love, and faithfulness.

Christ is at work among us.

Christ is using the church as an extension of his hands, feet, and heart. Help us testify!

Please send screenshots, written testimonies, and videos to Please just be sure you have permission to share, especially if minors are in the images.

A God-Sized Vision: Louise Cochrane

Harwood and I went to church at Tabernacle the day after we were married by Dr. Aubrey Williams.  That was Easter Sunday, April 1, 1934.

The following October I was baptized by immersion in the very baptistery we use today.  I had been baptized as a young girl in the Methodist church by sprinkling, but in the mid-30s we thought it was important to follow that up with full immersion baptism.  I still like to think that full immersion is best, but if others want to do it differently, that’s okay.  That’s a good thing about this church, people can believe differently about some things and it’s not a problem.  My three children were also baptized at Tabernacle.

Tabernacle’s been our church all these years, and we’ve had great times with many folks.  There have been lean times with few in the pew, but we survived.  Throughout the 80 years we’ve been here, Tabernacle has been a hodge-podge of people: not all young, not all old, some well off, some not.  Once we were part of that young group, now look at us … is there anyone older than we are?

I see God at work in the wonderful way that He has filled the church once again with children.

It would be great to see Tabernacle ‘keep on keeping on’ … do what we’ve been doing.  I am glad that we have the vision and plans to provide accommodation for visiting missionaries and visiting mission groups like we used to do through the WMU.  WMU was a wonderful group of women focusing on our interest in missions and helping to raise funds for missions.  It would be nice to see something like that come back to Tabernacle.

I would say that we should keep missions as a focus of our prayers … how do we stay in touch with the world at large and how do we support missions from our home base?

We need to keep our strong emphasis on music in worship … great music really boosts our spirits.  It is great to experience our children and youth leading in worship and playing their guitars.  I like it that our worship songs and specials are sung in other languages.  Even if we don’t understand it all, God does.

– Louise Cochrane


My Prayer for Tabernacle

Lord, help us keep missions a primary focus of Tabernacle as we try to stay in touch with your world and respond to needs we are made aware of.  Give us wisdom to know how to support missions from our home base.

Thank you, God, for great music.  It lifts our spirits as we worship you in song and with various instruments.  Thank you for Tabernacle’s strong emphasis in music in worship and thank you that our children and youth share in leading us musically.

We are blessed with a church family who speak and sing many languages that express love for each other and for you.


Embracing a God-Sized Vision: Cung Thawng

I am thankful to have a chance to share my testimony today. First of all, I would like offer thanks to this country and the Americans for helping us and letting us stay here. On behalf of my family and the Chin Community in Richmond, I would like to let you know how grateful we are to be here at Tabernacle. My name is Cung Thawng and I have two sons. I was in Malaysia for about 13 years and I was jailed three times during those years; one time with my wife, Hlei Iang. We were sent back to Thailand but since we were not able to go back to Myanmar, we returned to Malaysia again. Because of the love of God and with the help of UNHCR, my family and I arrived here in Richmond on February 11, 2009.

I would like to share our first night experience at  the Tree House Apartments when we arrived here. It was a little depressing because of the coldness during that time. The snow came heavily one week prior to our arrival in Richmond. We did not know our air conditioning was on.  Therefore, we had to cuddle up in a blankets. Some of us sat on the couch while others were in the bedroom. Thinking back those times, it was a fun experience. A few weeks later, I met Eric and Tee Moo at an ESL Class at Colonial Apartments. We learned about there about Tabernacle and came to worship our God with you. We were warmly welcomed by the church and its members. We found happiness and love here. As time has passed, we have come to to see that even though all of us have different backgrounds, we have a strong cord that binds us all together here at Tabernacle. This is a church we now call our home. As a child relies on his parents; we look up to you. As you welcomed us as new members on July 26th, 2009, I felt as if  was I was coming to my parents’ home! Our burden and worry were forgotten!

I can still see in my imagination the first time we met. You worked very  hard to welcome and communicate with us even though we did not speak each other’s language, and yet, I could understand you through your facial expressions. It seemed as you were talking to us in our mother tongue. Your love and help guided us to to a path to who we are today. I am very grateful to each and every one of you, especially the Judson Sunday School Class teachers. I would also like to invite you to our Chin worship service on every Saturday. Laura Severns has joined us for many years and now, she can even read and sing in Chin. I would like to thank her as well.

Tabernacle and it’s members are our backbone, strength and wellness…… like the well of Bethsaida. I find peace, joy and strength among all of you. I am proud and grateful to call Tabernacle, “home”. Perhaps, yours as well. I truly believe that Tabernacle Baptist Church is a blessing from God for all of us. I know that you all honor and love Christ as you are loved; I believe that we all go forward one step at a time supporting each other. Take care of one another, as we are all one in Christ! I believe and see that as we go forward in the future, many of us will have to sit in the balcony during worship, as there will be more members! This is a blessed home!

I am grateful and thankful to have you in our lives, for everything you have done for us. Thank you.

– Cung Thawng


My Prayer for Tabernacle

  • I pray for our pastors, deacons, and all of our educators, as they guide us to welcome believers and non-believers alike.
  • I pray that Tabernacle will  continue to welcome everyone without segregation so that anyone can look upon us and be drawn to the heart of who Christ is calling us to be.
  • I pray for the financial resources that will be necessary for the renovation of our buildings so that we can complete the project without burden.