Monday, November 5, 2012

Leaving Stuffed

          Have you ever had a big supper.  I mean one where the food is spread out, and there is no room on the table for your plate.  I’m thinking of something like a Thanksgiving meal with the family all together,  where everyone is happy to see one another, interested in what is going on in each other’s life, and how they can be of help.  That is good!
We had what we call the Grande Ceia (Big Supper). The church in Campina Grande hosted it.  Christians from all but two congregations in Paraíba came to the feast as well as from five other states, a total of 18 congregations were represented.  Paraíba is the only state in Brazil in which the congregations have a state-wide event like this one. The theme was “Wake Up, Church!” We ate well physically and left stuffed spiritually, deeply renewed, and reminded to wake up to the needs of families, to the focus on evangelism, and to the importance of financial stewardship. 
Yes, you read right: the church in Campina Grande.  Just a little over two years ago, I would not have been able to write about the church in Campina Grande because it did not yet exist. 
How wonderful it is to be a part of what God is doing throughout the state of Paraíba.  Do you feel the same?  You should, you are a part of this work too!
                                                                         by Jeremy Newlin

Stepping Back and Moving Forward

            Yesterday afternoon, Nicholas (my son) and I traveled to Alagoinha, a city about an hour and a half away from João Pessoa.  I don't know if you remember or not, but a couple of months ago I met Fabiano in this city who I thought was an answer to my prayers for God to lead me to someone who could move the church forward.  He seemed like he was a planner and could focus on a plan as well as execute it.  Now, he is gone, not dead, just meeting with a denomination.  I felt saddened by the fact that we did not have the man power to meet his expectations of visiting the city and studying with him.  I also understand that each of us makes his or her own choices. 
Sometimes we take steps back that may lead to steps forward.  I met with the two men who are working with the church in Alagoinha.  They have never really had a good working relationship, and the church has suffered a great deal because of their different visions in the way to deal with people.  We have tried many different ways to help them, but it has been difficult which is why I was so excited about Fabiano, who now does not show any interest in wanting to know the truth.  So, anyway, back to my meeting with Antônio and Zezito: together we planned for them to visit the members and spend time nurturing and maturing them.  I had this same meeting months ago, but it didn't seem to stick.  This time, I hope, will be different.  They even set up a visit to one of the members last night. 

Please pray:
·       That Antônio and Zezito will love God more than their own opinions;
·       That the church in Alagoinha will grow in maturity;
·       That God will open people's hearts in this town.

Invading Sapé

           Sapé is a small city about an hour from João Pessoa. One lady has been baptized and another moved there from the Peixinhos congregation after her son died.
          The Peixinhos congregation, active and always looking for opportunities to serve, planned a weekend trip to meet with these two ladies. They were going to bring a van, but as interest grew, they ended up renting a bus.
          They traveled from Olinda, near Recife, to João Pessoa on Saturday and ate lunch with the church here. Then they traveled to Sapé and stayed in the two small hotels of the city.
          I took a carload from João Pessoa to meet with them on Sunday. I was greatly impressed with these brothers' and sisters' desire to share Christ. They borrowed a school classroom and made friends with the director, the janitor, a teacher, calling them in to pray for them, and giving them Bibles, and telling them at every opportunity how wonderful it is to know Jesus.
          They did the same with their bus driver (he broke down in tears in the meeting, sharing things his family is going through), and the restaurant owner and workers, where they had their meals, and the city's club where we had the baptism. While I was in the swimming pool, one brother took the club's guard aside and explained to him everything that was happening and why, and then we said a special prayer for him and his family, calling other people, relaxing in the pool, to join in.
          They made friends with sister Bel's family and got so excited when they found an open door for the Gospel.

          On my trip to Sapé, we passed a dead horse without its head and crowd of people looking down an incline at a wreck. In Sapé we found out that sister Vera Lúcia and her daughter had been in that wreck. The car in front of them hit the horse, and flipped down the ridge. Then they hit the dead horse and totaled the car. Everybody was okay, just bruised and scared.
          We were sad that Vera was hurting too bad to go to the church meeting, but she had another scare when 60 people showed up on her doorstep, singing praises to God, giving prayers of thanksgiving for their safety, and giving her fraternal hugs even though this was the first time they met.
          I had the privilege to preach and to baptize a young lady that came with them. One of the first convert when our family first moved to Recife was Ana, baptized by my father in 1981. Her daughter Priscilla decided on this trip to be baptized and asked me to do the honors. With the Peixinhos group every little thing is a reason to celebrate; imagine their reaction when Priscilla gave her life to Jesus - talk about partying in heaven and on earth.

Industrial District Mustard Seed

On the outskirts of João Pessoa is the Industrial District, which began as a group of factories, but now has large residential areas. Francinaldo and Ivani, faithful workers for the Kingdom, bought a house there. Now they are one more step closer to realizing their dream (God’s dream too) of starting a congregation in this neighbor: Carlos and Girlene were baptized. They are a couple who visited the church a while back. They studied the Bible and found out what needed to be done. They had some hard decisions, like separating until they could get legally married. And when Girlene said she was ready to be baptized, we took her to the beach. Carlos surprised all there and said he was ready too. It poured down rain so by the end everybody was soaked but praising God for this new Christian couple.
            Their schedules are a little hard to work around. They both work in factories; he, the night shift, and both have to work some Sundays, but none of this dampens the joy they are experiencing about being in Christ.
            Carlos, along with some of his co-workers, while others jeer, has a 1 am devotional at the factory. I have been giving them the Spiritual Milk studies along with Francinaldo and can attest to their thirst.
            Francinaldo came excitedly to me with a prayer request. He met another family in the same neighborhood who wants to study the Bible. Please pray for Ana Cristina and her family. They visited the church meeting this past Sunday for the first time. The mustard seed grows…

Financial Peace

            One of the important aspects of any mission and its future continuance is the financial side of those who give.  If Christians are having financial problems, that is, overburdened in debt, then hardly anything will be left for supporting mission efforts.  The question of whether it should be this way or not is rendered irrelevant since this is the practice in most people's lives. 

            You may think that I am writing about my own support, or that of other missionaries and mission works, but I am actually writing about the local work here in Brazil.  Brazil is booming economically.  People have more financial buying power than they have ever had before by the increase in salaries, easy credit, some lower interest rates (although lower, they are still around 280% a year on major credit cards, yes, that is not a mistype).  Most everyone is buying new cars, new TV's, new everything, and going into major debt.  This is also happening with a lot of Christians.  The similarities of this new economic "freedom" remind me of the U.S. in the 90's. 
            If the church is to become mature and support its own workers and mission efforts then the Christians need to control their buying habits, live on less than they make, and save for emergencies by being content with what God has given them.  I have been teaching the João Pessoa church, material from Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University course. I asked for his permission to teach and distribute some of his material.  He happily agreed, and I began translating and teaching.  I have even had the privilege of cutting up Terezinha's credit cards. 
            I traveled to Patos this past weekend where I also taught this same Financial Peace material over a 16 hour intensive class.  I was already hearing the comments about saving to invest in God's Kingdom and stop wasting money on our own desires.  I also preached, using the parable of the Unfaithful Steward in Luke 16:1-13.  It was great to spend time with these Christians and to be encouraged by their desire to seek God's will in everything they do.
The mentality of those taking the course has changed, and with time the signs will show.   Please pray for Terezinha, the church in Patos, and all of those who have gone through this course so that God's Word may spread with more speed and through good examples.

One Missionary And A Half

            I traveled to Cubati where I spent the day with Afonso and Vania, visited families, gave a Bible study, taught the Church, and spent more time with Afonso and Vania.  I took Dylan, my youngest son with me on this weekend trip.  Training can never start too early.
            Leaving Cubati, Dylan and I traveled to Areial where we spent time with Sônia, Beta, and Beatriz, participated in a radio program, gave some ideas to the church (the three ladies) about how to evangelize, and we worshipped together.
            Leaving Areial, we traveled to Campina Grande where we met with the church and talked with the Brazilian mission team about their work, and I heard some ideas about our state-wide evangelism as well.
            It was a two-day, three-city trip but well worth it.  I saw a light bulb in Areial, not literally, although they do have them, but something seemed to click as we talked about evangelizing their city, and I think and hope they begin to move forward.  I was not as encouraged this time with my visit to Cubati.  Not that they are not moving forward, but I was hoping to see more progress.  It is a tough city and they need our prayers.  In Campina Grande I was encouraged and always enjoy meeting with the mission team.  It is great to spend time with them and be encouraged by their love and joy in serving the Lord.