Tuesday, August 23, 2011

This Is Eternal Life - Cubati

"This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent…"  John 17:3
            The same day as my meeting in Patos I traveled to Cubati, half-way back to João Pessoa to visit with the three Christians that live in the sparsely populated city of 6,000.  I gave a Bible study to around 15 people on faith in Jesus.  We discussed what our belief in Jesus and His Word moves us to do in our lives.  I urged them to trust in Jesus and to believe that He is God's Son.
            Cubati is a small town with many different denominations and mixture of religious beliefs and teachings.  The group began asking questions about how faith in Jesus plays out in our everyday lives.  It is a wonderful thing to see interest and joy in learning about God's Son.
            Please pray that God, in His time, may give an opportunity to hear His truth to those seeking His Will in Cubati.

Two Weeks of VBS!

          You might think that one week of 60 screaming, starving for attention kids is more than enough for the year, but no, here is João Pessoa we doubled the fun, doing a repeat of VBS back to back: four more days with the Mangabeira congregation. inviting the children who go to the school where the church meets.
          VBS is indeed a lot of fun, but a lot of work, the kids, though, who love it and who start getting a taste for God’s word for the first time make it worth it. Acting out the story of Joseph in Eygpt, teaching how God cares for us and blesses us, resurrecting King TUT (Jeremy Newlin) and the Mummy in skits that teaching these truths, are all part of creating an experience that boys and girls will remember for years.
          Lori Hagewood did an excellent job organizing this ministry, and we thank the Joelton church of Christ for the VBS material, which was used twice in João Pessoa and will now make the rounds to other cities.

          Two weeks of VBS may make some lose their sanity, I only lost my hair. We gave a challenge to the children that if they brought 250 kilos of food for our benevolence program, I would become a “real” Egyptian with an ancient Egyptian hair-do. They barely made it and I got my head shaved – little losses, big gains. May the seeds we planted today become the church of tomorrow. 

12 Noon In The City Of Patos

            That was the time set for us to meet.  I was nervous about meeting with the Brazilian evangelists from different congregations in the interior of the state.  We were, or better said, I wanted them to name a city that they would all begin focusing on to establish a new congregation or build-up a struggling one.
            The meeting a couple of weeks before was not an easy one.  Some of the men argued back and forth about how to spread God's Word.  It took them around 10 minutes to agree on a date for the next meeting.  I did not want them to be discouraged and do nothing after this meeting.
            I went as prepared as I could and asked God for His direction and blessing on these men and His church.  Time was short.  We had 2 ½ to 3 hours tops to decide on a city and a beginning strategy to execute until our next meeting in October. 
            Representatives from five different congregations were present.  The meeting went very smoothly.  God blessed us and His church. 
            Pombal, a city of just over 32,000 with only three Christians is the focus of these seven congregations evangelistic effort.  Our goal is to establish a congregation that can meet on its own without any outside help by August 2012.
            I was 30 minutes late for my 12 noon deadline.  I underestimated the volume of traffic on the road.  I know that I am underestimating what God can and will do because He is able to do more than I could ever ask or imagine.  This is an exciting time for the church in Paraíba.  Please pray that God may bless our efforts to spread His Word.

Monday, August 1, 2011

How Do You Work With Many Congregations To Evangelize An Entire State?

            P (Plan) OR (Organic) missões (missions) or Organic Missions Plan is the guideline that the churches in Paraíba are using to take the Gospel to the entire state of Paraíba. 

Some of the evangelists from congregations in Paraíba met over the weekend during the Great Supper but because time is short at such events, we set the date for a next meeting.  We plan to name and strategize the outreach of new cities and or the building up of smaller congregations.  Far too often we tend to see the limitations:  few men who are spiritually mature and few financial resources to help those who are proven to go live in these cities.  The challenges are not few but with each one our faith and trust in God grow.  This mission to save the world is God's; we are privileged to work in His field.  

Each congregation's representative will bring names of cities in Paraíba and explain why they chose them.  From there we will begin planning on how to reach one or two of these with God's Word. 

I am coordinating the congregations in the interior part of the state first.  Please pray that they may learn to work as one.  Our first meeting this year was pretty rough but they do want to work together and they do see the need to evangelize.  Thank God for that.
    We plan to meet every three months and discuss what has been done towards reaching these cities.  We do know that this is God's mission and we are His instruments, we are but workers throwing out the seed in all directions and seeing where the ground needs to be cleared.  Please pray for God to give the increase. 
    Please pray for God's direction and wisdom in reaching cities throughout the state.

The Great Supper

            The Great Supper is a yearly coming together of all the congregations in Paraíba.  Over 200 people participated in this 16th Great Supper, hosted by the João Pessoa church, 140 sleeping two nights at the church building, reflecting on the theme "Words that Edify".  Almost every member of the church in João Pessoa was involved in the preparation and service.  It was edifying to serve and encouraging, to see the joy on everyone's face.  Some said that they did not know if heaven had come down to earth or if we had ascended.  Although that is a gross exaggeration it was a great weekend with a time to talk, a time to learn, a time to serve and a time to edify.

            Everyone has gone home and began the work week.  Please pray that everyone will teach others what they saw and heard when the church spent time as one.  If the joy and love we felt was this great over a weekend in an imperfect world, just imagine what heaven will be like.  Let's not give up!  Keep on fighting until death!

Breaking Satan’s Hold On Lives

While in Cajazeiras I studied the Bible twice with two young boys, Anderson and Lucas, both 13 years old.  The week after I left they were both baptized.

Café had already been studying with them before I arrived and working with them through the Right Step program.  Café and Leila, his wife, have been working hard to advance God's Kingdom in Cajazeiras.  I am glad to have been able to spend time with this wonderful family, hopefully to have given them a little rest and encouragement while there.  It is a wonderful thing to be a part of what God is doing through His church.

            You are also a part of God's Word reaching these young boys and girls, their lives are being transformed by a closer relationship with the Lord of Lords.  Please pray for Anderson and Lucas (pictures below): they both have pretty hard day-to-day lives to face, but a huge weight has been taken off of them through the waters of baptism.

Break A Leg Or Maybe A Wrist

           July 1, 2011, Nicholas, my son, and I traveled 6 ½ hours to Cajazeiras to encourage, teach, visit and spend a week with the church and Rivaldo Café's (the evangelist living there) family.  July 2, 2011, I fell playing soccer and thought that I had broken my wrist.

            Let me back up a little.  I fell while playing, fell again, but finished the game, of course.  After the game, both Café and I went to his house to get ready to go to a Bible study, I taught the Bible study, and then we visited another family.  After the visit I could not take the pain anymore and asked to be taken to the hospital.  The doctor said it was probably broken but would only show up on the x-ray about 15 days after the fact.  I didn't really care at the time and said, "Put a cast on it," which gave my wrist support, relieving the pain.  Since it is illegal to drive with a cast on your arm in Brazil, Raniere Vieira, one of the evangelist in João Pessoa, traveled by bus, yes, 6 ½ hours and then drove me back home on July 8, 2011.  Thank you, Raniere! 

            While in Cajazeiras, I taught different aspects of the Christian life to the kids in the Right Step soccer program, a church resource for outreach into the community, changing lives through love, discipline, visits, trips to other cities, soccer and of course God's Word. 

 Café and another church member involved in the project, Deusimar, have been teaching the kids about honoring father and mother.  I talked with the kids about what honoring someone means in practical terms and what the penalty was in the Law of Moses if a child did not honor his/her parents.  We discussed how honoring father and mother plays out at school, on the job, on the soccer field and throughout their lives, even after parents have passed away.  I conversed with some of the older teens about Jesus' coming back and asked if they were ready.  On other occasions I taught studies to some of the parents of these same kids, who have expressed how amazed they are at the change in their sons' and daughters' behavior, all learning not to use four letter words to express themselves verbally or fighting to express rage.  These same children are also getting better grades in school.  All of these things are program requirements and the kids want to "stick with the program".

Although my time in Cajazeiras was a challenge physically, the joy of being used by God to build up His church by far overshadows my own shortcomings.

At Home Missionaries

There is a Gospel trail that can easily be followed, interweaving people's lives: from Michel to his sister in Mangabeira, Michele, from her to her neighbor, Severina, now Severina and Michele have brought another neighbor to Christ, Rony. She was baptized for remission of sins. 

I am called a missionary because I left one country for another, but God calls all His children to be missionaries, and Michel's family has understood this, sharing Christ at the Chinese restaurant, with neighbors, with anybody within their circle of influence. Heaven is home and we all sojourners in foreign fields, God's missionaries while we are here.

The Battle of the Feminine Soul

This month seventeen ladies from Paraiba will take a 10 hour bus trip south to Aracaju for the Women's Seminar. In 2009 and 2010, I was invited to compose official songs for their encounters. This year, though not invited, I offered my contribution. We made a little video with Sabrina Hagewood as the warrior. You can watch it above.

The translation of the song:

I am a warrior of the day to day,
Fighting against the world and its lies.
The battle is for my soul
And I am the one who decides who wins.

The victory is won,
            Conquered on the cross for me.
            Jesus paid his life, he did it!
            Just hold his hand and fight.

The enemy comes, I will resist
Even if he draws my blood
My hope is guaranteed
In Christ I live the Life.

Our fight is not against people
But against the principalities and powers
They will do everything to defeat us.
Nobody will take me from the hand of God.

2nd Chorus verse:
    I will be strong in the Lord
    And in his mighty power (Eph 6:10)
    He sacrificed himself, I sacrifice myself
    Anything to be with Jesus
    In my life Jesus will win.