Thursday, March 14, 2013

Feira De Santana

I traveled to Feira de Santana, which is in the state of Bahia. It would have been about an 11 hour drive non-stop by car. I took a plane, which was cheaper anyways, a two hour flight and then a two hour ride from the airport. I went to teach on "The Mission of the Church". I had read a book called: The Mission of God's People by Christopher Wright and decided to base the direction of the class on chapters from his book. The church in Feira de Santana began about four years ago and now has around 40 members. I taught for about 14 hours on this subject and also on contentment as a way of life for Christians.
I was greatly encouraged by their love for God and their desire to see God's kingdom grow. Most are young in their faith and still have questions about the Christian life. We read a lot from 1 Peter and saw that we will eventually suffer if we are perseverant in doing God's will. We talked a lot about being a blessing for others and continuing to fulfill God's promise to Abraham to bless all nations. We also talked about God fulfilling His promise through Christ but that it does not stop there, we must live so that others may see Christ in us and come to know our God, the one, true, living God. We discussed how debt for superficial things is a sign of discontentment with what God has given us to manage for him. So then, to be able to bless others, living on what you make is important, if you want to be a blessing.
There is too much to talk about in this short article, but I hope that what was said may encourage you to keep moving forward in your walk with Christ. I know that I was encouraged by our brothers' and sisters' faith and desire to know God forever more.

Please pray that:

  • the church in Feira de Santana will continue to grow in faith and maturity;
  • the church in Paraíba will grow in the same way;
  • God may give His church wisdom and vision to win, catch, and capture souls for Christ, our Savior.

Three Strange Days In The Life of One Missionary to Brazil

There are days that will stand out in your mind for weeks, some months or even years.  Other stories may live on through your children and grandchildren and still other stories may die with you.  I don't know which category this story will fall into but I do hope you enjoy it.  Don't feel bad if you laugh.  I did.

A couple of weeks after arriving back in Brazil, I took our car to the mechanic.  You can't work on your car here or people will start complaining.  It was a rainy day, we had a hard rain early on and then it began to taper off.  Anyway, I was at the mechanic and I went walking to buy a part for the car.  There is no sidewalk.  I was walking along the side of the road, just off to the edge, to stay out of the way of the cars.  Because of all the rain there were some puddles of water in my path.  I came upon one puddle that I did not want to step in so I stepped off in the road where there was a wet board leaning up against the curb (a curb with no sidewalk mind you).  I slipped on the wet board.  You might think you know what happened next but I did not fall.  I put my right foot down in the puddle so that I would not fall; only it was not just a puddle of water.  It was a sewage drain and the top was off of it with the sewage water forming the puddle.  Listen, if it was just the water on top of the sewage hole that would be normal but since the top was off my whole leg up to the top of my thigh sunk deep into the dirty sewage hole.  There was a group of people at a little snack shop right where it happened.  They were probably amazed at how I didn't really miss a step even though I almost got sucked into the sewage.  All that was for show because of my embarrassment.  They were quick to remind me "hey, you know that is a sewage hole, don't you".  I went on to the store and bought the part while smelling the stench that was wreaking from my pants.  After buying the part I had two choices:  pass in front of the guys again or take the long way around and avoid any further embarrassment.  I decided to pass in front of them and swallow my pride but this time I didn't care if cars were coming or not, I was taking the street.  After standing around for a couple of more hours I called Monica.  I was going to take a bus home but didn't want to rub any sewage off onto anyone so I called Monica to come pick me up.  When I got home I took a shower and washed my leg at least five times.  My pants still stink but only if you put your nose up to them.  
I was back to the mechanic for more but I was going to make sure to avoid any sewage holes.  Thinking back, as I write this, that may have been the reason day two is in this story.  I was walking to another parts store and I was looking at where I was stepping.  As I came up to the parts store, two guys who were sitting outside were looking at me and they both said "hey" at the same time.  Before I had time to think or react, I ran my head into a pole that was sticking out of the building to hold up the front part of the roof.  The two guys started laughing.  That was about all I could do too but I didn't want to call anymore attention to myself.  And when you laugh at yourself for something like this it kind of makes you look weird, so I held it in.  Yes, I have done it before and that is how I know.  I did get a little cut from the pole but nothing too bad.  
This day I was registering my car.  I was in a line, with my car, for them to check it over and make sure everything was o.k. with the car.  They closed for lunch and they get a two hour lunch break and they take the full two hours.  I left my car in line and went to get something to eat.  On the way back I was walking in front of a bus stop that was full of people, so full in fact that I had to step out onto the street.  As I was passing by the people I saw a bus was coming.  For those who do not know, when you want a bus to stop for you, you stick your arm straight out, perpendicular to your body.  As I was passing by, the bus was coming and I was licking my lips still with the good taste of my lunch on them when suddenly this lady sticks her arm out and instead of licking my lips I licked her arm.  I don't think she knew what happened and I really did not want to tell her.  Lady, if you are reading this, I'm sorry, I did not mean to lick your arm.  Anyway, her perfume was in my mouth for the rest of the afternoon.
I was at the prayer meeting that night telling everyone what had happened in my short week.  They all laughed.  Samueuel McKinney spoke up and said; "I want to go with you tomorrow to see what is going to happen".  
If we can't laugh at ourselves who can we laugh at.  I hope you enjoyed three strange days in the life of one missionary to Brazil.

AME: Full Throttle Ahead

AME is João Pessoa's AIM-type program that gives kids training and opportunity for hands-on mission work. For six months we have worked with about ten part-time students, but this week the full timers begin. These are six young people, who are at the age to begin college, but have decided to put that on hold for two years to dedicate themselves to God's mission.

Coming Week's Activities:

Saturday - Inaugural Dinner for Students, their families, Teachers, and supporters.
Sunday - Presentation of the New Students to the Jardim Luna congregation.
Monday-Thursday - Classes (6 - 8 hours a day)
Friday - Rest
Saturday and Sunday - Involvement/assistance in local congregation/getting experience in the work.

More details later.
Join us in prayer for these six missionaries in the making – May God be praised!

Being Thankful Even When Everything Goes Wrong

    We took four carloads of teenagers to Campina Grande for a short campaign in the AME program. These kids spent three Saturdays (Morning and Afternoon) preparing to share Christ there. The plan was to hand out pamphlets, make friends with local teenagers, invite them to group dynamic games and to a Bible study at night. But once on the campaign, things did not go as planned:

  • The central park, which is always open and filled with tons of people, was closed for fifteen days for renovation,
  • Therefore local teenagers that had been invited had no where to meet up with us for the afternoon of games;
  • A new building for the church had been rented and was to be inaugurated during the campaign, but the owner delayed on fixing something and wouldn't hand over the keys;
  • So the meeting was set up outside in a yard with chairs, powerpoint projector, etc, but even though we are technically in a drought, it rained and everybody had to rush to cram indoors;
  • And one of our cars broke down.

    Samuel McKinney (13) said the blessing before one of the meals, praying "Thank you, God, for this trip. Even though everything went wrong, we had a lot of fun." We did have some visitors, the young people learned that God still works even though things don't go as planned, and instead of the park we handed out pamphletes at a jogging trail - Samuel was an example of dedication there, running up alongside the joggers to tell about Jesus and give them an invitation to know more. Some ignored him, some were annoyed, but some stopped, and like the Ethiopian Eunuch asked to know more.
    We thank God in all things.

The Plan Moves On

While in Patos teaching, I met with the workers from Belém, Patos, Emas, and Caatingueira. We discussed how they are doing in their efforts to train other men to replace what they do so that they will be able to travel, evangelize, and maybe even move to another city to establish a new congregation. Their goal for this meeting was to have someone trained to organize and guide the worship service and also be able to teach. They all met this goal and seemed excited about things going on in their congregations.
We discussed our overall goal which continues to be to establish a congregation in Pombal, a city an hour's drive from Patos. We also set new goals to be accomplished before the next meeting: train one more person to do the same as the one just prepared, train the one you just prepared to train someone else, and train a woman to be able to study, disciple, and mature other women. There is a lot to be done.

Please pray that:

  • These men of God will continue to be dedicated and safe from sin.
  • We may reach the goals set and have more men and women prepared to work in the harvest.
  • God may open doors for us to evangelize and establish His church in the city of Pombal.

Fruits In The Workplace

Think of coming out of a freezer and walking into an oven. That is close to what I felt when I arrived in Brazil after spending 2 ½ months in the States. I know it was not all that cold this past winter, but I still felt the difference. Thank you, God, for giving us winter, spring, and then summer. Jumping from winter to summer is a shock.
Well, after a couple of weeks back I traveled to Patos with Elias who is one of our full-time workers and coordinates the SEARA (Servants Sent to Announce the Kingdom of Love – I know the acronym doesn't match but it does in Portuguese). He taught 1 & 2 Peter and Judas, and I taught on the book of James. It was nice to hear someone else teach, and he did a great job. Elias is leaving us to work with a church in the South of Brazil. He will be greatly missed. I am now coordinating SEARA courses and classes in Patos.
While we were in Patos, we were told of two baptisms just a couple of weeks before. We also had the privilege of witnessing another couple give their lives to Christ. They live about 7 miles from the city but the husband works in Patos at a grocery store. Cicero, a member of the church, works at the same store. Both couples baptized this year in Patos are fruit of Cicero's never-ending desire to tell others about Christ at his workplace. What a great example for the church and for all of us. With patience, perseverance, and love, the seeds that are being planted will grow and produce fruit.

Please pray for:
  • Anderson and Patricia, Nino and his wife, Isliâne, as they are beginning their walk with Christ.
  • Cicero, that God may continue to bless him with courage and opportunities to tell others about Christ.

Sometimes the Seed Takes a While to Grow

I first went to Alagoinha around the year 2001, because someone with whom I was studying the Bible insisted I go tell his in-laws. I went and taught many times (maybe for a year) and then stopped going for a time because no one seemed interested in following Jesus. After a year or so, I kept getting calls that someone wanted to begin the church in this city. I went along with Ricardo and talked with Antônio Germano. He had been baptized biblically so he began a meeting in his garage, and the church grew.
After some time many of the members left for different reasons, most of which were personal problems that they could not (or should I say did not want to?) resolve. The church, though, is still meeting in a rented house close to the center of the small city.
Last night, I saw for the first time the in-laws of Rodrigo, the one that insisted I go and teach. Almost the entire family is now excited about studying the Bible and asked me to come back and study with them. Twelve years later and the seed is showing signs of growing roots. One sad fact to add is that Rodrigo died in a car wreck in 2001 and never became a Christian. His life may have led others to Christ, but he himself was not willing to give up his own life to Christ.

Please pray that:
  • the church in Alagoinha will grow spiritually and numerically
  • this family with whom I have renewed ties will allow the seed to produce fruit for God's Kingdom.
  • God may open the hearts of the people in Alagoinha to hear and believe in His Word.

Monday, March 4, 2013

We're Back!

    It wasn't planned, but four missionary families returned to Brazil on the same day, on the same flight: the Newlins, the Palks, the Hagewoods, and my family. There was talk of having a Gospel meeting in the sky or even hijacking the plane to heaven, but since we boarded at 11pm after a full day of traveling to Miami, we sort of conked out.

    Our stay in the good ole United States of America was refreshing (especially getting away from Brazil's tropical summer), renewing ties, reporting on the work, some of us traveling all the way from Georgia to Arizona, spending time with friends and family, hopefully encouraging everyone we made contact with to love the lost and continue to invest in missions, and being encouraged by seeing the Father working in your lives. We didn't get to see everybody we wanted to, but we ask God to take care of you until we meet again.
    We have been here a little under a month, but it seems like six months with getting the kids started in school, getting our houses in order after two months away, taking a car to the shop, Carnaval week, Campina Grande campaign, trips to the interior, baptisms in Paraiba, starting up Bible studies, preparing AME courses, etc. Jeremy Newlin and I write our mission updates, but this is the first day we have had time together.
    As we all continue working for Jesus and waiting for eternal results, please renew your commitment to pray for the lost and the church in Paraiba, Brazil, that the former will shrink as the latter grows. We praise God for what Christ is doing in your lives, where you are, living for Him in your home, work, and neighborhood. How a child's song captures a deep truth: "This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine." Count on our prayers as you let Jesus' light shine!