Saturday, June 19, 2010

Young People Shaped by God

by Diego dos Anjos
 
Diego is an AIM graduate, who served in Mexico, and is now back in João Pessoa, still serving Jesus while also studying to be a doctor. The following is an excerpt from his newsletter about his experience at youth camp. If you would like to receive Diego's bimonthly newsletter, write him at diego_dosanjos@hotmail.com .
 

YOUTH RETREAT IN RECIFE

          We took the youth group from the church in Joao Pessoa to the youth retreat in Recife in April. The retreat's theme was SHAPED BY GOD.

          I personally enjoy these youth retreats that we have in Northeast Brazil a lot. The main reason is because I get to see and meet so many people there. It is encouraging to know that far away from my house there are Christians who are trying to make it through life the same way I do. We face similar giants and trials, and we all want to be shaped by God… isn't that encouraging? It shows me how big Christ's Body is and that geographical barriers don't hide it. You, who are reading this newsletter right now, are probably sitting far away from me, but isn't it awesome that we praise the same God and share the same faith?

          About the theme (SHAPED BY GOD), I took lots of notes about the things we were thinking and learning during those days. I will share with you now something I don't ever want to forget: "If you have already given your life to God, you became a living instrument; He has different deeds He prepared for you to do. The more you accept the opportunities God gives you, the more He uses you." Well, but sometimes our growing process is hard and painful, so remember: "The iron suffers when it is getting shaped. So, let's stop asking 'WHY?' and start asking 'FOR WHAT?' whenever suffering and hard times hit our lives." In the church we are all shaped, depending on the purpose for which God wants to use us. The reason He shapes us is the same for everybody: to glorify His name, make us more like Christ and show the love which is able to save the sinful ones. But there are different ways He will do it because we, as human beings, are all different. The point I am saying is this: even the fork, the spoon and the knife are made with the same material, we use them in different situations, but the purpose is always the same – to feed us. God wants to use you in His Kingdom. He wants to shape each one of us according to His eternal purpose. I hope you let Him work through you because I know He will do amazing things if you do.

        Anyways… we had about 100 people there, and it was great to catch up, hang out, and have fun together with other Christians. It was a bit weird, though, to see young people taller than me who were just little kids a few years ago.

          The next youth retreat will be in November - its theme is SHINY YOUTH and our João Pessoa youth group will organize it.

Ana Paula was baptized!

We report about people converting to Christ and being baptized. Seeing the picture of a person in the water makes it look so easy. It doesn't tell the story of months, sometimes years, of prayers, Bible studies, counseling, patiently working through sinful, knotted-up lives, plus the stories of the majority that don't ever come to a faith that surrenders to Christ.
 
Ana Paula was baptized! If you want the full story, please read Lori Hagewood's newsletter below.
 
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"There aren't many who can scream at me all night long and still make me smile in the morning."

                                                            Quoting myself – in reference to my 9 month old on Sunday May 16.

 

May 2010

            There are some simple things in life that really thrill me. My acerola tree, that I have been anxiously watching, scrubbing off insect nests, and spraying with tobacco water to repel bugs, has flowered and produced it's first little acerola berries. That is so exciting! Then there are other things that… well… you just can't compare them to anything else in life. I have a story with a great beginning. But first some background…

When we arrived in João Pessoa in 2003 we moved into a high rise apt bldg, on the ninth floor, # 901. The family in #903 were an interesting bunch: a tall, big boned grandmother in her 40s named Clea, her daughter Ana Paula, son-in-law Jorge and their 2 year old boy Yury. This family was from Rio de Janeiro, they were loud, spontaneous, argumentative, boisterous, and they loved to have parties. They never went to bed before 11:00pm, including the two year old.

Yury gave new definition to the terrible twos. He was hyperactive and destructive. Most toys did not make it through the first week in his hands. Their main child rearing tactics involved yelling very loud, giving the boy what he wanted (he ruined his grandmother's best set of pots and pans), and threatening him with the dinosaur that comes around when children are naughty.  We invited them to church and they came once. I have a very clear memory of Yury being given the Lord's supper by his mother in hopes that he would settle down at that moment.  A year and six months later Jorge was transferred so they put the apt up for rent and moved south.

 Beginning of 2008 they returned. We then had Sabrina, they also had a two year old girl, and Yury had grown out of some of his unruliness. Ana's mother, Clea had moved back to Rio to live near family, when she found out in the Fall of 2008 that she had cancer in her throat and some spots in her lungs. Clea is single and Ana is her only child, so this news took her and her children almost immediately to Rio. Clea underwent cancer treatments and surgery with determination. She was not the type of woman who gave up what she wanted without a fight. In fact, ever since I've know Clea she has been suing someone. She had recently returned to college to pursue a law degree. 

In the spring of 2009, Hunter made a business trip to Rio and stopped by to pay them a visit with a brother from one of the local congregations.. Hunter describes the visit as more of a therapy session where he listened to the hardships, the fears, and the struggles they have been facing at this time. He helped them locate a nearby congregation, prayed with them, and delivered cards and little gifts I had sent. They did visit the church and Clea started studying the Bible.

In July 2009, Ana and her children moved back to João Pessoa (her husband had remained here due to his work). She came to church the day after she arrived and announced that her mother's cancer was in remission and that Clea had been baptized. Chills ran up and down my spine and I had to cry. Glory be to God for all things wonderful! Ana continued coming to church with her two children (her husband was supportive, but not so interested), asking lots of questions and expressing how she wanted to change.  

October 2009 came around with bad news. Clea's cancer was back. Treatment options were bleak. She was weak and needed surgery. Ana did not know what to do – go back to Rio or stay here. Her conflict was resolved early December when her aunt called and told her to come immediately. One week later, after spitting up a lot of blood and a traumatic rush to the hospital Clea's body did not make it. Her spirit soared home. Glory be to God for all things wonderful.

This hit hard. Ana Paula, being the only child to a single mother, spent the following 2 ½ months trying to sort out her mother's legal and inheritance issues (and is still trying to do so) before returning to João Pessoa with her husband and children. She called me the day she arrived and we talked. In spite of it all, she spoke of feeling strength and peace from God. She credited God for her ability to be rational and hold up during such a terrible time. She spoke of confidence that God's plan is greater than her desires and that her mother is resting with Him. And now, as soon as she got herself unpacked and organized, she wanted to study the Bible.

Well, it was another 2 months before she gave up being organized and made time to study, but she continued to attend church services and couples meetings. One Sunday, after a very poignant sermon by Jeremy Newlin on the book of Hebrews and the promises for those who are in Christ, Ana came up to me and said, "I have a question… what do I need to do to be baptized?" We studied together a few more times, Hunter and I spoke with Ana and her husband about this decision, and then I told her, "Ana, I have no reason to keep you from being baptized." To which she replied, "good because you would not be able to." Glory be to God for all things wonderful!

So this is where we finally get to that great beginning I mentioned. Sunday, May 16, Ana Paula died to herself and was raised, clothed in Christ, to live for Him. There's a lot she still needs to learn and work on, but I can say that of everyone I know, and most certainly of myself. Pray for Ana, that she will remain strong and will grow each day in the likeness of Christ. I called her last night: she was visiting a friend and talking about God. I really love it! Pray for her husband Jorge to open his heart and be wiling to give up all for Christ. Pray for Christ to continue being victorious in this family, so that Satan may have no foothold in their lives. Glory be to God for all things wonderful.

 

Lori Hagewood

 

PS:  We cannot wait to see you and hug you in less than 1 month in your part of the hemisphere! Pray for safety and strength to travel with three little guys – this is a new number for us on a plane.

Sharing Jesus in Mexico

by Renato Menezes
 
Renato is the second young person from João Pessoa to go through the Adventures in Missions program. His 18 months is Mexico is about to end, and undoubtedly he has grown tremendously in his faith during these past two years.
    Here is his report on his personal Bible studies:
 
    Praise God I started studying the Bible with one more person since last month, raising the number of weekly Bible studies to four.
    Ema is one of the main people that work at the orphanage where we have a ministry (the children from there call her mother). She would visit the church before, but stopped because of work and other things, but in the last months, she not only started coming again, but brought her daughter too. Some Sundays ago I offered a Bible study, and she accepted happily (I was happy too). So then Ramiro and I began to meet weekly with her to study the book of John. We talked about the importance of baptism and about whether her baptism was Biblical, and we came to the conclusion that it was so she has been presented to the church. We have continued the study, which has been a great blessing to me too.
    Another person, with whom I am studying about Jesus, is Jesus! He is the brother of a sister of the church. He didn't have time to study because of his job, but some weeks ago he left his job and we began to study the Bible in Portuguese. Since we began, he hasn't come alone, bringing two friends who have been faithful to the classes until today.