Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Missions In May

     I will be traveling this weekend to Cajazeiras to teach an intensive seminar on "Faith and Obedience"over the weekend.  Please pray for a safe trip and encouraging, edifying classes.  The church in this city has a lot of young people.  Most of whom have not grown up around Christian influences.  In fact, many of them have seen more drug dealers than people imitating Christ.  Helping them understand God's Word and the promises in which their faith is rooted is important for them, as well as any Christian.  Helping them understand how that faith will be evident in their lives through words, actions and attitudes will be important for all of those around them. 
     On May 13th, Joe McKinney and I will head out for Patos, returning on May 16th.  Our goal is to discover church's needs and how to best help them.  We will also visit other small towns that have congregations - Emas, Catingueira, Pombal and Cubati - visiting and encouraging each of them. 
     I will also travel this month to Campina Grande to work a little more with the team and help with the follow-up work from the campaign. 
     In João Pessoa, Monica and I will be visiting members of the church and trying to involve them more in the Kingdom.

Please pray for us and these plans.  Please pray that:
  • God may give us wisdom and use me to encourage all of the Christians with whom I come in contact;
  • God may give us a greater and clearer vision of what He would have us do for the growth of His Kingdom;
  • We may live in such a way that those who do not know Christ may see Him in the way we live.
May God bless us all in the plans we make and may His will always be done,

Jeremy, Monica, Nicholas, and Dylan

Monday, April 25, 2011

Faithful Until Death

Picture (from left to right): Sônia, Beta, and Simone 

     Simone, a loving mother of her six year old daughter.  Simone, a loving wife to her husband.  Simone, a faithful Christian in a small farm community.  Simone's two sisters, Sônia and Beta, are the only Christians in the town of Areial about a 15 minute motorcycle ride from where Simone lived.  The three sisters would meet every Sunday by themselves to sing, pray, read God's Word, make an offering, and take the Lord's Supper.
     Simone had a toothache; she and her daughter were on their way to Areial to see a dentist.  There was a cow in the road so she stopped and waited, honked.  A young bull ran across the road and rammed her, they think it was head o head with Simone.  Most people do not wear helmets on country dirt roads.  Simone had a serious head injury and her six year old daughter, a broken arm.  Not long after, someone passed by.  They got help and rushed both to the nearest hospital about an hour away.  Surgeries.  Her daughter released.  Simone in a coma.  Three weeks passed - Simone passed away.
     Funerals in Brazil are fast.  There is no embalming.  The burial usually happens within 24 hours after death.  After hearing that Simone died, I went the next morning to Areial to read God's Word, sing with and pray for the family.  I think the entire small farm community came to her house to be with the family and pay their respects.  The body was loaded up and a long line of cars, motorcycles and some bicycles followed.  Upon arriving in Areial the people held the tradition, stopping in front of the main cathedral and saying the Lord's Prayer.  From there, what seemed like 1/4 of the town of Areial, which would be about 1,500 people, walked from one end of the town to the other following the body.  Many crying, some singing and all feeling the pain of losing someone they cared about.  The burial was quick.  Not many words were exchanged at the cemetery, mostly tears, hugs and words trying their best to comfort those closest to her.
     Sônia was sad but comforted with the thought of knowing that Simone was now with God.  The last song we sang at Simone's funeral was "Because He Lives":
And then one day I'll cross the river,
I'll fight life's final war with pain;
And then, as death gives way to victory,
I'll see the lights of glory - and I'll know He lives.
Because He lives I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just because He lives.
     How wonderful it is to be able to sing these words and see the result in the life and death of a faithful Christian.  Our struggles in this life are worth the fight to remain faithful and know that we are going to see God and be with Him forever.
     Sônia called me last night and said that her sister Beta is struggling with God's decision not to let Simone stay a little while longer on this Earth.  In hard times, we all struggle with doubts. They prayed with faith; we all prayed with faith in a God, who is able to heal and restore.  Why did He not do so?  Was our faith not enough?  Does God really care about us?  Is He near us?  Does He know our pain?  These are all questions that are being asked by Simone's two sisters.  The questions are not bad ones.  And we shouldn't let these questions hang in the air.  Go to God - He has the answers.  That was my answer to Sônia.  These two women need your prayers.  The family needs your prayers.  We will be visiting them and helping them trust in God who saw His own Son die.  He knows our pain. Do you think we really know His?

Cajazeiras: Project Going Strong!

Here is this month's news from the city on the other side of Paraiba:

    The Perpetão Championship - the Right Step Project - reaching kids and families through soccer - participated in this exciting event. The boys got to play on a professional field, and it got families more interested and a flood of new students - more people to study the Bible too.
    The Right Step kids are taught morality lessons in a classroom and practical lessons on the street. They put together 70 sandwiches and made juice and distributed them to the homeless, who sleep on the streets in Cajazeiras. Confronted with so many sad situations, the kids were touched and a second day of feeding the hungry is in the works. Rivaldo Café wrote, "We talked a lot with some of them and they are people who listen and they kept asking who we were and we answered that we are your future friends." On the second day, they will have more time to share our Eternal Friend.
    Jorginho, disciple of Christ and soccer player, traveled to Recife to tryout for one of the big soccer clubs, Sport Clube. The church is praying that God's will will be done in Jorginho's life.
    They are studying the Bible with groups and personal studies, and also Bible courses (Principles of Christian Faith and Sermon on the Mount) Café has called some of the first converts to give the morality classes to the younger ones. This week they will have a meeting with parents of 35 students, aiming to get them more involved in the program.
     "Each day we have more boys wanting to enter the project, but we are having to turn them back," reported Café. "All the spots are filled, and it is hard to say no to pleading parents and kids but we are overworked, trying to study with the ones we have. We have started a study just for new students and they are asking about the Christian life. We plan to schedule some events that don't involve soccer."

Mangabeira Mission

Mangabeira is the largest neighborhood in João Pessoa with around 200,000 people, yeah, it is a neighborhood.  The church began meeting in a house on November 14, 2010 and moved to a school in January 2011 where they have had an average of 20 - 25 people on Sundays. 
     The two full-time evangelists, Raniere Menezes and Raniere Vieira, along with 6 young Americans from AIM (Adventures In Missions) out of Lubbock, TX, went door-to-door for close to 8 months.  There have been three baptisms, the last of which was Joseane.  She is Jorginho's wife.  He himself was baptized 9 months before and his new Christian life has obviously influenced his family.
     Numerous Bible studies have also been held as a result of these efforts.  Raniere Menezes reports that in January he knocked on the door of Benedita, who asked if he would conduct a Bible study in her home.  He said "Yes".  She told him that there was one thing he needed to know: she is a devout follower of "Our Lady of Penha" and she is the coordinator for a Bible study group of 30 catholics, and she asked Raniere: "Is that a problem?".  Raniere promptly replied: "We are going to simply study the Word of our Lord" and the Bible study was set up.  At the first Bible study there were 10 visitors at Benedita's house and as of the last report, 9 people still continue. 
     Please pray for Mangabeira and all that God is doing through this mission effort in this neighborhood.
Summarized translation from the Mangabeira blog:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tough Day

While we were taking Suely to Recife, we received word that Simone, a sister in Christ in the interior city Areial, passed away. She and her six year old daughter had a motorcycle accident on a country road when a calf jumped out in front of her. The daughter had a broken arm, but Simone had a head injury. The doctors operated on her to relieve a blood clot, but she went into coma and died. She is Sonia's sister.

An update on Suely's son, Anderson: he had killed a man in self defense ten years ago and lived under a death threat from this man's family. When we received news of the murder, we figured it caught up with him finally. But it looks it had nothing to do with that. His family says he got into a fight at a soccer match. Later that day, the teenager involved came and shot Anderson at his work out gym. It seems so senseless to die over an argument at a soccer game, and the sad part is that he seemed to be getting his life in order, even with God. He started visiting the church, talking to one of the missionaries. He would call his mother every night. I read the messages he sent his mother every day, sometimes twice a day; they all talked about God, some were prayers, some were blessings.

    Please pray for Sonia and Suely, and their families as they deal with terrible loss.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Prayer Request

We are taking our dear sister Suely to Recife today to bury her son. He was murdered. She is torn up, even though her family only told her that he had a motorcycle accident and was in serious condition in the hospital. Dad and Mom are going to tell her the truth before our trip. This will be the worst day of her life. She really needs your prayers!

your brother,

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Campaign Is Not Over, It Is Just Begining

To all who love the Lord and await His coming,

    Thank you for the prayers on behalf of the campaign in Campina Grande.  Thank you for your dedication and participation in building up the church in this city.  The campaign was a success!  94 people signed up to study the Bible, we read scripture and prayed with numerous others, and 60 from João Pessoa, Campina Grande, and Recife had their faith strengthened.
    34 people arrived Friday.  After lunch, a welcoming period, devotional, and campaign instructions, we set out to spread the "Good News".  Michael, an American here from the AIM program, and I asked for permission to advertise the next School of the Bible class, "Let the Bible Speak," at business establishments.  Others handed out invitations on a busy sidewalk.  The next day 10 more people arrived, and after an encouraging message from God's Word, we set out again.  This time we went downtown to the busiest city park.  The biggest problem we faced was not people's resistance to study or talk with us but it was parking.  I drove around for almost an hour before I found a parking place and was able to go help in the campaign. 

    Campina Grande is surrounded by 40 smaller cities.  Many of the business owners come to Campina Grande on Saturday to buy products to sell in their towns.  Needless to say, it was busy.  There was a singer from a denomination in the square singing his songs and selling his CD's.  One of the members from our group asked him to announce our presence in the city.  He did so and very well, he went on for about 3 minutes talking about the church of Christ and the campaign we were doing and asked people to talk to us.  I was impressed.  Later, he asked Ricardo Sobral, who now lives in Recife but worked with us for 9 years, to say a few words about the campaign.  Ricardo also asked permission for our group of Americans to sing.  This same singer then called Ricardo to lead a prayer before we left.  During our time in this square we handed out 50 correspondence courses to people who will be accompanied in this study and signed up 4 more. That's 54 people wanting to study the Bible. 

    In the afternoon, we went house-to-house having on-the-spot Bible studies, praying for those we met.  I met Antônia who has a son with autism.  He is 24 years old and did not make a sound the entire time we talked, about 10 minutes.  I asked if I could read a passage and pray for her and her son.  After reading the Bible and explaining the passage I prayed.  When I started to pray, her son, who had not made a sound with his mouth began laughing, not mockingly but happily.  He laughed all the way through the pray.  When I said amen, he stopped and made no more sounds.  My partner and I went on but the memory of Allison remains. 

    Sunday morning a group went to another park and signed 38 more people up for Bible studies.  Another group stayed behind and invited people to the church meeting that night.

 We had two visitors at the meeting.  Not a great response for the effort and work put into the campaign, right?  This is only the beginning.  There are now 94 people with whom the team will be studying the Bible and many more contacts that had a seed planted in their hearts.  God is at work in Campina Grande, would you like to be a part of what He is doing?  Pray!  Pray!  Pray!


 If you felt an urge to pray for me this past week, then it was the Spirit working. I had some panic attacks, beginning on Thursday at 2 a.m. when our new dog starting barking and wouldn’t quit till 4 a.m.
When I woke, I felt all my problems crashing down on me. It was agony: shallow breathing, my mind racing from worry to worry, I couldn’t lie down, and I wandered the house till my legs ached. Finally I slept but woke feeling exactly the same. I couldn’t concentrate, and the smallest problem seemed mountainous. Food gave no comfort – I was nauseous. At my morning Bible study, I confessed by weakness and asked for a prayer while fighting back tears.
My work seemed like it was going nowhere, no light at the end of the tunnel, I was stuck in despair, a funk that was never going to end.
The claustrophobic feeling terrified me, but spiritually this was a moment of growth – it stripped away all my props and securities: my family, my work, my health, my finances, my home – they all seemed utterly worthless. I lay down in a hammock and spoke over and over, “Lord, I only have you; Lord, I only have you.” I read Romans 8 about the working of the Holy Spirit within us. I didn’t feel better, but the spiritual reality was true, and I renewed my commitment to the Lord of my life.
I don’t envy anybody who suffers from panic disorder – it must be horrible. My panic attacks were probably a combination of factors: I was getting over a virus (possibly a light strain of dengue fever) and sleep deprivation. Then on Tuesday night, just one day before my attack, I got sprayed by poison. While teaching the kids in the square about Jesus, a truck came by pumping dengue mosquito poison into the air. We tried to get away from it, but it circled the square. Poison inhalation can cause depression.
By Saturday life was back to normal: the world was beautiful again, the sun was shining, and happiness filled me. I felt joy watching the kids playing, and food tasted delicious again. I went to my Bible study with an excitement to share the things I had learned.
            Your prayers are so appreciated.

                                                Joseph McKinney