Monday, May 28, 2012

The Kingdom Comes

The churches in the desert region of Paraíba had their trimester PORmissões meeting.  PORmissões (Organic Missions Plan) is a three phase plan to take the Gospel to the entire state of Paraíba. 
            The first phase is to establish a congregation in each of the four major cities.  The second phase is to mature these four congregations, and the third phase is to reach out to the surrounding cities within a 90 mile radius of these four major cities. 
            Phase one is complete but still needs a little work in the last of the four cities, Campina Grande.  The mission team arrived there going on two years now.  It is still a very slow process.  Please pray that the team in this city may have wisdom, courage, and determination while taking God's message to this city.  Please pray that the hearts of the people in Campina Grande may be open to the Gospel.
            Phase two has begun in the desert region around the city of Patos.  Belem, Emas, Catingueira, Patos and Cajazeiras are working together to plant a church in another city.  Sounds a little like phase three, I know.  I have encouraged and helped them plan this church plant to also help these congregations mature as well.  To pass on this vision of evangelism, they need to believe that they can work together and establish a congregation in another city on their own.  They are in the beginning stages and are excited to see things happen.  There are two Bible studies happening in the city of Pombal, one personal and another in a group.  Please pray for those studying and their faith in God's Word.
            This step has taken the evangelists in these congregations to see the need to mature other members of their own congregations.  Not that they did not already know this, but it seems to be even clearer to them now.  Please pray that men and women will be matured in Christ and teach other men and women.  When this begins to happen then phase two will be completed successfully, and then the church can spread to other cities, minimizing the danger of new converts leaving Christ. 
            It is exciting to see God working through the lives of others, to see their excitement and their dream of another city one day having a group of people who have given their lives to Christ.  Please pray for Luciano, Santo, Givanildo, Silvan and Café and their wives. 

How awesome it is to be a part of God's mission to save the world.

Four Days

As I travel through the interior of the state visiting different congregations, I am usually the one that speaks and teaches.  The reasons being, one, the local evangelist is usually needing a break and to receive some spiritual food, two, the congregation wants to hear someone different.  That is all fine and dandy, but I very rarely get to hear the evangelist speak, and it makes it hard for me to know how he teaches and where he needs help.
            This last course I taught in Patos was Discipleship with Evangelism.  It's one person training two others how to study the Bible with others, then if converted, maturing the convert and teaching him to start the process again.  There were four Christians (two supported as evangelists) taking this course.  I got to hear them give Bible studies and hopefully help them improve on how to teach others.  This is what I really like doing.
            We spent Thursday through Sunday teaching, reviewing and helping each other give a better Bible study through simulations.  I also shared with them in this course the importance of teaching responsibility and learning to listen and love the people with whom you study.
            An interesting fact is that the air in this region is very dry.  My nose always bleeds at least once if I stay for three days or more.  I thought that I had made it through this time without bleeding but while singing on Sunday, my nose began to bleed, not long before speaking.  Luckily it did stop and I went to preach without having a piece of toilet paper hanging out of my nose.
            It was a great four days!

Heavenly Hospitality

Frank and Louise Cutler from Milan, TN, lifelong supporters of our family in the mission field.
The Cutler's farm was our home away from home. When we visited Milan, we usually stayed with them. Louise would get up early make breakfast: eggs, country ham and bacon, mouthwatering corn bread with honey culled from the bees right there on their property. Our rambunctious kids never fazed them, as they banged melodies on the piano or just making a mess. Yes, when I think of the Cutlers, I think of cozy hospitality.

I called Louise about a month ago and couldn't believe how happy and energetic she sounded - same as ever, even in the face of terminal leukemia. I can't call her now, but I know with thankful certainty that she is just as happy or more, energetic, alive, excited about her new home. I thank God for His great hospitality in welcoming her - I'm glad she is feeling now how she would make us feel at her home.

The Cutlers gave us a lot of good memories. Here's what David has to say: "Some pretty exciting things happened at the Cutler's. It was in their back yard that I rode my first go-cart (homemade), took my first plane ride (not homemade) and Adriana built her first snowman. When we were kids we would refer to Louise as Granny Cutler. That is exactly what she has been to us all these years. We are so grateful to God for letting us be a part of her life."

For a while we all miss Louise, especially Frank, please remember him in your prayers.

The Last Photo

On our last visit to Esperança, Michel and I visited Naldo's family, and even picked jabuticabas on his mother's farm. His sister Leda returned to Esperança a few years back to take care of her mother in her old age, a sweet lady, who loaded us down with produce from their little farm.

Last Tuesday, a pouring down rainy night, Michel and I were visiting one of Naldo's neighbors here in João Pessoa. Michel got a call; there had been an accident between Campina Grande and Esperança, carload of people hit head on a truckload of people, six dead, seven wounded, Leda was one of the dead.

We went down a couple of houses to Naldo's and got there just as he got the news. There is not much to say, nothing that counteracts the unreality of suddenly losing someone so close to you. We hugged him, and prayed with him, and were just there. He rushed off to Esperança in the middle of that rainy night. The family is worried about his mother - weak heart, had to be admitted to the hospital when she found out. We sent them a copy of the last photo of Leda, sitting under the tree eating jabuticaba.

Pray for comfort for this family, but pray especially that something of eternal value will come from this tragedy. Naldo has already asked us to come pray with him again. At the Chinese restaurant, many were praising the fact that we were practically with Naldo when he received the news. Michel said that it had to be more than just a coincidence." Pray that whatever God is planning will come about.

Monday, May 14, 2012

An Open Family

        Linaura is the lastest conversion of the Chaves family. Sometimes we come across a family that seems to be just waiting for Christ to come into their lives. First Severina, then her sister, Dalva, then one of Dalva’s daughter, then brother-in-law, his wife, another daughter and son-in-law, then another sister, Vera Lúcia in Sapé (another city) – I think I lost count. Anyway, Linaura is Dalva’s other daughter, who lives in the Cristo neighborhood, and now she really lives in Christ.
       It’s like the Chaves family has given Christ the keys (chaves in Portuguese) and the door is opening wide for Him.
      “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” Revelation 3:20

(Severina, Linaura, and Dalva)

Traveling, Teaching, and Training.

            A couple of weeks ago, I traveled to Cajazeiras, Areial and stopped to visit in Campina Grande.  The whole trip took less than 48 hours.  Nicholas, my oldest son, traveled with me during the 14 hours in the car.
            On the way to Cajazeiras, we stopped in Pombal and visited Ezequiel and Jessica, the two Christians in the city.  From there we went on to Cajazeiras where the soccer program, The Right Step, is having a good effect for Christ. Here I taught a couples' class.  There were fifteen different couples at the meeting, thirteen Christian couples and two visiting.  That is great news!  All but two of the thirteen couples were baptized into Christ through the contact made with their sons and/or daughters in the soccer program. 
            We left early the next morning to go to Areial where we encouraged the three Christian ladies, and I spoke on the radio, as well as, worshipped with them.  We left from there, went to Campina Grande, visited with Danny and Lee Bratcher, slept at their house, got up at 4:30 a.m., traveled back in time for Nicholas to go to school.
            It was great to spend time with Nicholas, visit, teach, and encourage other Christians. 

Please pray for:
  • Nicholas, who wants to be a full-time missionary after his soccer career.
  •  Café and Leila, the couple working with the church in Cajazeiras through the soccer program - please ask God to continue to give them energy, wisdom and love for all those they are teaching and training.
  •  Sonia, Beta and Beatriz in Areial who are doing all they know how to do to evangelize their city.  Please ask God to give them wisdom, vision and courage.
  •  Please pray for Danny and Lee.  Danny had surgery and is recovering well, Lee still has some recurring health issues.
  • Please pray for me, that God may give me energy to keep going, wisdom to teach, train and see opportunities, vision to know what steps to plan and execute to better help God's Kingdom grow.

Walking With A Holy God

            I was invited to teach a youth class in Recife, a city about 2 hours south of João Pessoa.  I have been focusing my time and attention on teaching and training Christians in Paraíba.  This would take one of my weekends away from Paraíba.  Besides the time away and focus off the state, the subject I was asked to teach on also brought some discomfort: "Masturbation: A Sin Against Holiness."  This is not a subject you just bring up in a casual conversation with young people who you do not know. 
            I decided to accept the invitation so that I could better prepare myself to help other young men deal with this problem, and I do confess, I had already been thinking about how to talk to my own sons about this subject.  Thankfully, they is not ready yet, but unfortunately, I'm sure it will not be too far off.
            The men were separated from the women to discuss this same subject.  Lori Hagewood taught the women.  There were some 40 young people and young adults for this one-day seminar on making ourselves holy for God by avoiding pornography and masturbation, and their negative effects.
            We came to the conclusion that hiding these practices of sin is what brings on guilt, desensitization of sin, and distance from God and brothers and sisters in Christ, who can and want to help, as well as affecting your marriage, present or future, in many negative ways, such as closing off communication, sexual perversion, emotional distress, and opening up yourself to lusting after other women instead of desiring your own wife.
            Really, that is the way all sin works, isn't it?  We may be surprised by sin at first.  Kind of like it and want to do it again, we then begin to think of ways to hide our sin so that we can continue to practice it.  We distance ourselves from those closest to us, because they would be the first to notice.  Eventually, if we continue down this road and no one is able to stop us, we end up all alone, full of guilt, with hatred toward others, and lost because we cannot find our way back to a clean conscience or even knowing how to love and be loved by others.  Don't hide but confess your secret sins to someone.  God loves you, and He wants you to walk down the narrow path that leads to LIFE!