Monday, September 26, 2011

Open to the Word

by David McKinney
 
 

    Juliana is 35 years old. She is the girlfriend of a member of the church and that is how we met her. She had attended a Presbyterian congregation for some years, before moving to João Pessoa, but she fell away.  She said she was baptized in 1998, but she said she felt weird about being sprinkled and wondered about it for several years.  Studying the Bible with her is very refreshing. She is eagerly open to the Word, and she is not one to conceal her emotions (see the photos). You can literally tell when she is touched by the Word of God and her relationship with Him. We are very grateful to welcome her to the family.

A Worthwhile Mess

        Bible Bowl 2012 was a mess: miscommunication with my volunteer question makers so I received two sets of questions for Luke 19, Luke 21, none for Luke 18 nor 22 and one person sent questions for Matthew 9 - wrong book; the nightmare of finding rides to Recife for 4 teams of 4 kids since most people traveled this past weekend; and a couple of kids dropping out at last minute leaving teams incomplete. All this left me feeling drained and disorganized.
         But it was all worth it: to learn how to do things better next year, but especially to benefit the kids spiritually this year. Our fifteen competitors came away excited about studying and knowing God's word.
Yury's last minute cramming

Two teams won first and third place in the 1st Division (6-12 year olds)

Nicholas Newlin won third place individual score (83/100 questions) in 1st Division.

Samuel McKinney won first place individual score (88/100 questions) in 2nd Division (competing against 13-25 year olds - he's 11).

Teaching kids to love the Bible - yes, worth it all!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sitting At The Feet Of Jesus

            Seeing someone who finally understands what Jesus did and God's forgiveness given in baptism is one of the most profound joys that one can feel.  Seeing a Christian who understands a new truth in God's Word and wants to live it and tell others about that truth comes in at a close second. 

            S.E.A.R.A. (Servants Sent to Announce the Kingdom of Love) began as a training ministry for new and old Christians in the church who were already serving the body and would do even more with a greater knowledge of God's Word.  The first group formed seven able servants.  Two of those were Junior and Kátia who now live in Campina Grande as missionaries, sent by various congregations and individuals from all over Brazil.  Another, Fabiana, is married to one of the Brazilian evangelists working with the new church plant on the other side of town.

            A new S.E.A.R.A. group began about a year ago.  I have had the privilege of teaching these eager students for the past two Saturdays.  In October I will be teaching this same course in the city of Patos to the newly formed S.E.A.R.A. group in the interior of the state.

            Please pray for courage and boldness for the 11 students to share what they are learning about God's Word with others.  In these days when many do not want to hear about the Gospel, when many skip Sunday School to sleep a little longer these men and women are spending their entire Saturdays, like Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to His every word.

Contentment: Is It Possible To Really Live Without It?

            Joe McKinney and I are teaching the Sunday school class here in João Pessoa.  We are teaming up because both of us travel quite a bit so we cover one another's absences.  We began teaching on the subject of contentment the first Sunday of September.  I taught for three months on this subject almost two years ago. 
The reason I began studying this subject and decided that it needed to be taught to the church came from simply reading God's Word and asking the question; "Am I living this truth?".  Almost two and a half years ago, reading through the book of Acts, I came across a very familiar verse that I have used on many occasions, Acts 20:35.  The apostle Paul quotes Jesus as saying: "It is more blessed to give than it is to receive".  I stopped and thought about Jesus' words and began asking myself if I believed in what my Lord said.  After meditating for a few minutes I decided that I would be living a little different if I really practiced what Jesus said.  In other words I knew it was true but I did not feel comfortable saying that I really believed it.  If I did, then my life would be different than it was at the time.  I began studying and meditating on the "why?"  I came to the conclusion that I was not living contently with what God had given me.  During this study I realized that I probably was not the only one.  So I taught the church what Jesus lived and passed on to his disciples, how the early church dealt with and felt about money and tried to help them see that the amount of income you receive is not where the problem lies.  Your boss is not to blame for your financial anxieties but it is your discontentment with that which God has provided you.  I am not saying that it is wrong to try and get a raise, a better paying job, educate yourself for better pay but what I do see in God's Word is that we are to be content with what we have at the time we have it.  Be thankful and move on in contentment. 
After studying how Jesus and the early church lived and taught about finances I began working on budgeting with the church.  I first asked them how many of them had debts.  I believe every single person raised his or her hand and, even chuckling, said it would have been easier if you asked who does not have debt.  It is normal to live with debt.  Why not?  Everyone is doing it, right?  That was almost two years ago.  I bring up this subject again to the church here because it is of vital importance.  I am living a lot differently than I was when I began teaching the class so long ago, and Jesus knows what He is talking about, as always.  It is better to give than to receive.  Give and give contently.
This subject is an eye opener for a lot of people.  Not that they do not know the right way to manage their finances, but credit cards and debt have become the norm for them.  Here in Brazil the economy has been growing steadily for the past 17 years, sometimes slowly but still growing.  The middle class is growing, where a few years ago it was all but non-existent.  It is "easier" to buy cars, houses, nice clothes, and electronics.  It is "easier" because banks and stores are offering credit cards to just about anyone who has a pulse and is 18 years old. 
I'm sure a lot of this sounds very familiar to you, especially those who grew up in the 50's to early 80's.  You saw these changes taking place in the United States as well.  You are now on the other side.  The entire nation is feeling the pain now because so many people believed in the "easiness" of buying without having to save and be patient, not having to say "no" to their desires. 
The old saying that hindsight is 20/20 is correct in this situation.  Please pray that every Christian here and everywhere can live contently in every aspect of their lives, not just financially. 

Going to School

The Colinas do Sul congregation is still just one year old but has
already grown out of Naldo's house. Following the example of most
mission points in Brazil, they have rented the Colinas do Sul
Educational Institute for Sunday meetings and other Bible studies at
night when the school is not in use. We pray that they will outgrow
this place to reach more people in this neighborhood.

Fire In The Bones

While in Cubati I received the wonderful news that there was going to be a baptism in Campina Grande.  This is the first person to give her life to Christ in the beginning of a new church plant. You may not realize this but the first conversion on the mission field is very important and usually the hardest, and most exciting.  It is usually hard to convert the first person where the Church is just beginning.  There is no one to testify to her that the church is not a cult or a sect.  There is not anyone to encourage her and no family or friends with connections to the church family.  The first person is testing new waters.  Since there is no one to encourage her, no ties with friends or family, her decision is solely faith based.  I am not saying that yours or my decision to follow Christ was not one of faith.  I am saying that most of us were blessed to begin a spiritual journey that friends or family were already living. 
Odete was invited to study the Bible through the campaign we did back in early April.  She took the course and eventually began studying one-on-one with Isac.  The Wednesday before she was baptized, she told Isac that she wanted to be saved from her sins.  Isac did not know where he would be able to baptize her, since there was no ocean nearby and the schools the missionary team's children go to do not have a swimming pool.  Odete told Isac that her life was in his hands now.  He had to find some water.  After searching for two days he found a school that would let him use their swimming pool to baptize her. 
I arrived on the day she was baptized.  The joy on her face, the clarity and reality of her decision in her eyes, and the childlike energy could not be contained as she gave her life to Christ.  It was contagious.  After being raised from death to life, she immediately began encouraging another to follow her lead, asking a visitor who has also been studying the Bible if she was not ready to give her life to Christ.
That night I gave the Bible study to Odete, her sister and son on grace.  I could see in Odete that the message of Christ dying to save the World would not remain hidden inside her.  I imagine that it is feeling like a fire in her bones, like a treasure that she has to share with friends and family.  I received an update on Odete just yesterday.  Her husband, who has not been to a worship service in six years, came with this new babe in Christ last Sunday.  Praise God for His wonderful and marvelous mercy and grace.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Battles of the Feminine Soul

    This past August 16 ladies, 13 from João Pessoa plus 3 from interior Paraiba cities, embarked  on a four day trip to learn about our "Battles of the Feminine Soul". Leaving our families, work or our daily tasks is a battle in itself, but we wanted to experience this journey to enrich our spiritual lives and be ready to face our troubles and strives ahead of us. We left early, taking a 12 hour bus trip, 2 dozen ladies from Recife tagged along and we reached our destination safely around 8 P.M. on a Thursday night.
     The XXI Women's Seminar was held in Aracaju for the first time, and all 177 ladies that attended this year were very excited about the lectures, workshops and fellowship, that was to take place there. The hostesses did a wonderful job with our facility arrangements, we were able to enjoy a beautiful retreat site surrounded by nature, with simplicity and comfort. The atmosphere was relaxing, the food was delicious, but the most enjoyable part were brought by several speakers, two of our own,  that delivered wonderful messages of encouragement, addressing very relatable issues we face in our daily lives, juggling with our marriage, young or teenage  children, housework, jobs, church services, elderly parents, relatives or friends in trouble, grief, emotions, hormones, aging, persecution, faith and so on. We know we are on the winning side, but how wonderful it is to be reminded and to have the opportunity to share, and to hear from our fellow "sisters in arms."  It was heartwarming. We came back renewed and reassured that all our battles belong to the Lord, and we are fully committed to resist till the end serving in His army.

Monica Newlin

Our Plans Don’t Always Work Out But God Knows Best

I left for Cajazeiras thinking I was going to teach the church on the role of men and women.  I did begin the subject but Café thought it better to wait for another time when more members of the church could be present. 
            What I ended up doing was giving Bible studies to different groups of boys from the Right Step soccer program and one family.  Their 16 year old daughter and 13 year old son were the only two who were not Christians in this five member family.  The week after I left the son, Igor, was baptized.  Also, in one of the Bible studies with the boys from the soccer program, Jean, another 13 year old, who listened intently and purposefully to God's Word seems to be close to giving his life to Christ.  Doesn't God always know best? 
            Please pray for Rosa, Chico and Claudia's daughter.  She is now the only one in the family who is not a Christian.  I think the odds are against Satan in this family.  This could be the first family in Cajazeiras in which every member is a Christian.

Lighting the Way in Sapé


    Sapé is the tenth largest city in Paraíba, population 50,000. It began in 1883 with a Great Western train station, coming to be recognized as a city in 1925. Its name comes from the indian word for a type of grass predominant in the area, Eçape. The indians would bundle the grass together, making a torch to light their path at night.
    Sapé is called the "Pineapple City", because of its pineapple festival in November, and Augusto dos Anjos, one of Brazil's greatest poets, was born there. He was elected Paraiban of the Century.
    Catholicism is predominant. There is also a spiritist center, and several evangelical groups (Assembly of God, Baptist, Foursquare Gospel, Congregational, etc).
    And on September 4th, 2011 we arrived and had a first Bible study in Sapé. Severina's sister, Vera Lúcia, had been begging us to come. She invited 15 neighbors, half came and we studied about God's purpose for our lives. His purpose is to bring the True Light to the people in Sapé, setting their hearts on fire.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Go Diego Go!

Teddies for Honduras
The João Pessoa congregation got together and made 100 teddy bears for an orphanage in Honduras. 
Sewing
               
Filling
Spacebagging 
  Packing
Giving
Here is an excerpt from Diego dos Anjos's newletter, telling about his trip to Honduras. If you would like to receive Diego's newsletters, write him at  
 diego_dosanjos@hotmail.com

..............................


TORCH MISSIONS            
Since I got back from AIM I had the desire to remain involved with missions. It could be here, working with the local church, but I also wanted to do some ministry overseas. One big dream that I had was to be involved in some kind of Medical Missions. Even that I am not a doctor yet, I wanted to start learning about medical missions for future plans.
            Then I heard about this group called Torch Missions that goes to Central America every year to ministry there. They do not just medical missions but lots and lots of other ministries as well. In my last newsletter I asked you to be praying for me as I was getting prepared to be a part of their Mission Trip in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. As you know, God always answers our prayers. It can be with a “NO”, a “YES”, a “NOT RIGHT NOW” and a “THIS OTHER THING IS BETTER FOR YOU NOW”. The thing is He always answers. This time, our lifted up prayers came with a YES answer and I want to share with you some of the things I got to do during my ten days in Honduras.

MEDICAL CLINIC / HOSPITAL VISITS / BLIND SCHOOL VISIT

            During 2 days we spent time welcoming people to a medical clinic. We got to see over 300 patients. We talked to them about their health difficulties, gave some counseling about some diseases they could prevent and also giving medicine out. Since I am not a doctor yet, most of the time I was giving out medicine and explaining how they should be used. Also I got to assist a few patients under the supervision of a doctor, translating everything from Spanish to English.
            We also visited a few hospitals and a special need hospital in Tegucigalpa. It was a tough experience to see so many little kids, youth, adults and elders suffering with a various numbers of diseases like Paraplegia, Cancers, Diabetes, kidney problems, burnings and more. It was sad to see some many pain, sadness, tears but in the other hand, we got to deliver some joy and love coming from the Lord to those people. In one of the hospitals we dressed up like clowns and went room by room visiting the patients and giving out little toys for the children. The kids loved it and I could see some hope in the eyes of their parents. We know that God will keep watching them and taking care of every single one.

GOD REIGNS OVER ALL THE CIRCUMSTANCES             
Another day we went to a blind school and spent the afternoon there playing with the kids. We gave out toys, candies and sang with them. I had fun that afternoon and got to play soccer with them. Yes, blind little boys play soccer. In fact, for some reason I felt like they played better than me. So neat to see the control they had with the boy and how happy they were when they scored a goal. It made me think to myself and reflect on different situations that happen in my life and how often I get sad, angry and complain with so many little things. That day I saw little kids that weren’t able to see at all. How hard would that be? How cranky would I be? But there they were, kicking a ball around and overcoming the difficulties. Oh well, what can I say of this blessed opportunity God allowed me to have? Like I said, I really wanted to make a part of a medical missions and working along with Torch Missions in this ministry really impacted my heart. I thank God for this opened door and I ask you to be praying that He keep firing me up for in the near future I be able to became a doctor and serve Him with my career. Now, I would like to hear from you. How can you serve Him and His kingdom with your occupation, in your job? Let’s think about this together and be ready to serve anywhere and anytime.

DAUGHTERS OF THE KING            
In a country with a high number of homicide, family violence, sexual abuse and a machismo mindset how would you expect young girls to be treated? Some of them maybe never met their fathers, other possibly live around violent man who try to proof they are strong using aggressive words everyday towards their relatives and children; also lots of these little young may not ever heard the phrases “You are special” or “You are important”.             There were so many pain and suffering in the eyes of those children. “Daughters of the king” was a ministry we did in Honduras to show to these little girls that they are important to our Lord and to our society because they are DAUGHTERS OF THE KING. We went to a neighborhood called Mololoa and invited all the girls to gather together in this big hall. There, we washed their feet, we washed their hair, painted their fingernails and toenails, and they received a brand new dress and put make up on. They deserved it! So cute to see their smiles and their joyful faces. But above all, I guess the big impact at their lives was to see old men, young men, little men and big men under their knees washing their feet. Like I said, in a country full of the machismo mindset, where the men believe they are superior over women, who should submit to them in every circumstance…..
            How cool is that to see a man taking care of them and literally serving them. It was a great experience and I want to bring that idea to Brazil cause, unfortunately our society here is surrounded by the same “macho-man” concept.

VISITING THE DIDASKO ORPHANAGE
           
We also got to visit an orphanage in a little neighborhood called Didasko. We visited with the kids, treated their health problems, painted the bathrooms of the building, had a 3 days VBS with them and re-painted their playground. They were so adorable and after a couple of days we got really close with some of them. In the last day of the week we took them to the city and fed them lunch at KFC, and then we took them to the mission house we were staying and watched a movie. They have about 40 kids there and I could see how happy they were. The church in João Pessoa had made 100 teddy-bear pillows that I took with me to Honduras. I gave them out at the orphanage, hospitals, special need school, blind school. I think the church there did a great job and the effort they made was for sure a great impact in so many lives. That’s awesome!

AIM's Purpose Fulfilled

      The Adventures in Missions program's purpose is to give young people a taste of what it means to be a missionary. It's all about bringing people to Jesus, and our AIM team have been here one year and are doing just that.
      This past week Lidiane was baptized. She was one of the first Bible Clubbers, studying the Bible in English when our first AIM team (Sabrina, Melissa, and Janae) came  in 2005. We lost contact with her, but this AIM team met her, became good friends, and they studied the Bible with her. She realized that she needed to be baptized.

      Dani was also baptized last week. The process of her conversion, from the first contact, the Bible Club meetings, to the studying the Bible two-on-one, to the baptizing were all done by Erick and Jenny. Dani has worked lined up in New Jersey and will move there in a month. Please say a prayer for these new Christians.


      We praise God that these young people are learning ways of being useful to the Lord's Kingdom.
      Speaking of AIM, another young person from João Pessoa has entered the program. Beatriz sent her application, was accepted and is now in Lubbock taking the AIM Bible courses. She is the fourth from João Pessoa to go on this adventure.