Monday, May 27, 2013

Growth and Interest

I have talked about Alagoinha for years. I first went there over 10 years ago. The Church began and grew and then dropped to just two members. I won't go into details in this article but the church is now slowly growing. There were 22 people present at the worship service yesterday and I was the only person visiting from another city. I was very excited to see so many people. I would have loved to have taken a picture but I forgot my camera, sorry.
Please pray:

  • that the six members in Alagoinha may continue to grow in their understanding of following Christ;
  • that God may continue to work on people's hearts in the city of Alagoinha.

First Time Baptizing

        Last Wednesday Lucas decided to give his life to Jesus and was baptized. His parents were converted in Cajazeiras, and since moved to João Pessoa and meet with the Luna congregation. Renato started studying the Bible with him, and then Adeliton continued the study. Adeliton is one of the AME students, preparing for the mission field.

"I planted the seed,
Apollos watered it, 
but God has been making it grow." 
1 Corinthians 3:6
        This is the first time Adeliton has baptized someone; he was excited and is preparing for more. I talked to Lucas about counting the cost of following Christ, and he said that following Christ no matter the cost is what he wants for his life.
        First time baptizing, a new life born, may God continue to bring about growth. 

May Newsletter: AME

2013 Flying

         Wow! I can’t believe we are already in May, four months gone out of this year like that: 1, 2, 3, 4. The first month the Newlins and my family were in the United States, traveling from Atlanta to Phoenix reporting on the work in Brazil. The second, we arrived in time for Carnival and getting the kids caught up in school, getting settled and getting back into the routine of trips and studies. Since getting back, Jeremy has visited every congregation in Paraiba, except Belem do Brejo do Cruz – talk about wearing out the tires. The third month, the big news is AME, and you can read all about it in this newsletter. This is our first newsletter of the year, not because there has been no news, but because AME has upset our writing times, but we are working through it.  

         The AIM program through Sunset Institute (Lubbock, TX) has had a big influence in the Joao Pessoa work, through sending teams of young people to work as short-term missionaries (we have received three so far) and giving our young people the chance to experience the mission field through the program (four have served in Mexico, New Zealand, and Phoenix).
         The program can be a life changing experience, and many more young Brazilian Christians wanted to participate, but were limited by lack of funds, documentation, or language skills. Our co-worker Raniere Menezes began to dream about having a similar program here in Joao Pessoa that eliminated the documentation and language difficulties and greatly diminished the need for funds. After of year of praying, planning, and meeting, the AME program is now full time.
         The name AME has a double meaning: it is the command mode of the verb “to love”, LOVE, and it is also an acronym for Adventurers in Evangelistic Missions. It actually started last year with younger part time students. They spent their Saturdays preparing for weekend campaigns, and then the group (sometimes over twenty people, half adults, half kids) would go to an interior congregation to evangelize their city. We had campaigns in Cubati, Belo Jardim, and Campina Grande. I was amazed at how seriously the young people took the training and the campaigns. It is a part of AME that will continue; the youth group of the church has become a lot stronger because of it.
         In April, AME started with full time students. These came to live in Joao Pessoa; they have classes Monday through Thursday mornings, afternoons, and some nights. On the weekends they accompany evangelists in the work with local congregations to get plenty of practical experience. This preparation will go on for eight months, and then they will be sent in teams to assist South American congregations for a year and a half. This way young people will have a taste of missions that will influence them spiritually in church work for life, and young congregations, desperate for manpower, will have young people full of energy and excitement about putting into practice what they have learned.

The Inaugural Banquet
         At the end of March we had a banquet to present the new students and their families to the church, and to present the beginning project to all. Since EBNSER in Recife is a partner in AME, one of the teachers, Alvaro Pestana, came and spoke. Special prayers were offered for these students and their families, who support their decision to take two years of their lives to dedicate to the growth of the kingdom. 

Brethren and their Responsibilities
         A large number of the Joao Pessoa church is involved in getting this program rolling. Raniere Menezes is the director, Diego is coordinator, Neal and Kaitlin (our current AIM team) are monitors, Edda is in charge of buying groceries, Sula helps with cooking, though most days they do their own cooking, Monica takes care of finances, Nilson has done remodeling to the building to better accommodate them, and the teachers, Joseph, Raniere V, David and Adriana, Renato, and Jeremy, are teaching a total of 26 hours of classes each week on the subjects of Evangelism I: Acts, Introduction to the Old Testament, Homiletics, Devotional Life, Relationships I, and Spanish. We thank God for all the others serving to help young people become missionaries, and we thank the Father for all the financial supporters also. May God bless you richly in His Kingdom!

The Students
         Our student body is made up of four girls and two boys:

→Jackelayne Lima, converted along with her mother and sister, lives in União dos Palmares, Alagoas, and they meet at their house or travel to congregations in larger cities one or two hours away, like Garanhuns or Maceió.  She is no stranger to Joao Pessoa though, ever since she started dating Diego, who was our first young person to go to AIM.

Tais Lins started following Jesus six years ago in João Pessoa, and her dream is to spend her whole life in His footsteps.

→Aiane Nayara is from Belo Jardim, Pernambuco, and has been a Christian for three years. Everybody in her family was converted except her father.

→Beliza Patrícia was baptized two years ago in João Pessoa. She is putting her university education on hold to serve God full time for two years.

→Adeliton Oliveira, converted in Belo Jardim, Pernambuco, has been a Christian for 15 years. He is the only one with previous training through EBNSER in Recife.

→Hewerton Oliveira is a second generation Christian from Recife, giving his life to Christ three years ago.

    Please Pray for AME!

An Awesomely Exciting Trip

       On April 4th, I traveled to Cajazeiras with two of the students from our Brazilian AIM program called - AME. We went to teach the 120 or so kids on the theme: "How Good It Is To Be At God's Side - In the Storms of Life." Adeliton, Ayane, and I each divided up the boys into two groups and one group of girls. The ages ranged from 10 to 50-ish in my class. The classes had a lot of discussion, and I believe at least one person in each of our groups became pensive about his or her relationship with God.
       The time we spent with Café and Leila, the only supported couple working in the city for the church and who also organize all of the church, as well as, the activities for the boys and girls, was very encouraging. We spent time talking about the church and some of the difficulties. We spent time dreaming about different members of the church who came up through the soccer program and who can begin helping, if motivated. We talked about the possibility of beginning a class to help the church mature and the importance of involving other couples and men of the congregation in the teaching and training up of the younger men and women. And, we just had fun together, which I think they also needed.
          On the way back to João Pessoa, we stopped off in Pombal and talked, visited, counseled and worshipped with the only two Christians in the city of around 50,000 inhabitants. We talked about their difficulties and tried to help the dream of ways to spread God's Word in their city. We stopped off in Patos and visited with a couple from the church. We stopped off in Campina Grande and visited and celebrated the Lord's Supper with Café and Leila's two daughters who are in the university, but have not been participating in the church meetings because of the dangers they have come up against: they have been robbed five times, while going to school, on the way to the dentist, on the way to church services, and one time chased by a man with a knife - men from a bar stopped him. I don't guess I need to tell you that they live in one of the more dangerous parts of the city. They really enjoyed our visit and were overjoyed to celebrate the Lord's Supper with us. It was a wonderful trip back home - 6 hour trip nonstop, taking us 14 hours on this day. I almost wrote that it could not have been better. I really don't know if it could have or not, but I do know that I felt good about it.

Please pray:

  • that God will raise up men and women in Cajazeiras to serve Him by maturing the Christians that are a part of His body.
  • Ezequiel and Jessica in Pombal will be strengthened in their faith and that God may open the hearts of others to the Gospel in this city;
  • that Raiane and Rayssa, Café's daughters, will continue to remain strong in their faith and live in such a way as to influence their classmates and friends to follow Christ.

Sowing The Seed In A Different Way

A couple of weeks ago I traveled to Cubati, Areial, and Campina Grande. I spent most of my time in Cubati, where there are four members of the church. I talked about vision, the mission of the church, and prayer with the couple (Afonso and Vânia) that live in this city. The other two members of the church were weak in their faith; I say "were" because I talked with them and I think they were strengthened with my visit, but it seems to be a recurring theme for them.
            Afonso and Vânia pray for their city, but it seems that no one listens to the Gospel. There are many denominations, and the Catholic Church is also present, but these are not the greatest problem for this city of 6,000 inhabitants. This is a city full of immorality. Perhaps it is more evident because of the small population or maybe it is just really immoral. I won't go into details right now. Afonso was telling me of how they are talking to people in the city about Jesus, but no one has come to meet with them. One interesting fact he shared with me is that most of the denominations in Cubati now take the Lord Supper every Sunday because "Afonso's church," as they call it, is doing so. They don't say that out loud, but the reason is so that they do not lose any members. The denominations also started doing some other things because Afonso teaches it.  So with that insight I encouraged both Afonso and Vânia to continue teaching and to not be discouraged by numbers because God is working.  Who knows, maybe the denominations in Cubati as a whole will begin to obey the Gospel truth.  They may not see immediate results in numbers at their church meetings, but God's Word will be working to transform the lives of many and an entire city, wallowing in immorality.

If you have any thoughts on this article, I would love to hear them.

I ask for your prayers for the city of Cubati and the spreading of God's Word.

Baptisms & Other News

I am going back to Patos this weekend. I will not be teaching a seminar this time. I will be helping to plan the Grande Ceia (Great Supper) for the church throughout Paraíba in October. I will also be conducting a PORmissões meeting with the churches in the desert region of the state.
Their goal for the last PORmissões meeting was to prepare at least one man to take their place preaching, organizing the order of worship and teaching Bible studies. They all did so. The goal for them to accomplish for this meeting is to train the men they prepared to prepare another man to take his place. You may be asking why. The reason is so that they can leave their congregations and begin a new body of believers, not a different body of believers but "new" because they are "new" in Christ.
Two baptisms in Patos with one more close to picking up his cross. The names of the two baptized in Patos are Aldo and DaGuia. Anderson and Jessica, his wife, were baptized just two months before. They went after this couple, studied the Bible with them and are now meeting together in a city about 6 miles from Patos, called São José do Bomfim. A new congregation is born. They meet every Sunday. They bought 10 chairs with their own contribution and want to grow, and they have. Of course, Anderson and his wife were not alone. Two of the men that Luciano helped prepare baptized Anderson and Jessica. That is exciting!
In Cajazeiras, two teenagers were baptized, Leandro and Lucas. The church in Cajazeiras door-knocked around the church building, handing out invitations. One person came, Leandro. He never missed another church event over the 4 or so months before he was baptized. He is a quiet young man but ready to suffer for Christ. Lucas is the younger brother of one of the boys who is now a Christian through participation in the Passo Certo program (The Right Step Program) that teaches boys and girls about Christ using soccer as a means of contact with the kids and family members. The church now has around 40 members and growing.  (I don't have pictures at this time but will send them as soon as I can.)

Please pray:

  • that these new Christians will grow and teach, at least, one more person about their Lord in the next year;
  • that God will continue to open people's hearts to believe and obey His Word;
  • that God will give us wisdom to train men and women to live a Christ-like life and share this life with others;
  • the church needs vision to guide those who do not know Christ back to their Creator.

The Great Plain

       A couple of weeks ago I traveled to Campina Grande, this time to visit the church and spend time with the supported workers, as well as with Raianne and Rayssa.  Adeliton, Ayane, my AME travel companions for the next two months, and I stayed with Danny and Lee Bratcher. What wonderful hosts they were! Danny and I grew up in the same congregation at Joelton, TN, so we always have a good time together.
        Júnior and Kátia came over to visit with us on Friday night. Júnior was going to travel to another city in Pernambuco to teach and visit with the church in that state. They used to travel with me quite often before becoming missionaries to Campina Grande. It was great to sit and visit with them and talk about past travels and dreams for the future of the church, as well as present needs and plans.
           Saturday, we went to visit Isac and Solange, who also work with the church in Campina Grande. We talked about plans for the church in Campina Grande, vision for the church and support for workers. These are all men and women to be honored for their dedication and sacrifices made for the growth of the Kingdom. It is a joy to be around all of them. That afternoon we picked up Raianne and Rayssa went back to Danny and Lee's house to spend the afternoon and night playing games and talking. I took the girls home around 10 p.m. and it is a deserted and dark place where they live. I can see why they are a little scared, although they don't show it.
            Sunday morning I went and picked the girls up and took them back to Danny and Lee's house where we spent the day together. Lee made some marvelous meals and peach cobbler. Thank you, Sara, for teaching her how to make it. You taught her well. That night we met with the church; there were a number of visitors, and only a couple of empty chairs in the whole place.

Please pray:

  • That God will protect Raianne and Rayssa from harm and that their faith in God may grow each day.
  • The church in Campina Grande may continue to dream and work to reach the dreams as they are in line with God's.
  • God may open the hearts of people in Campina Grande, which is in desperate need of His Word.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

God At Work

  At the end of April, I traveled to Patos, Emas, and Catingueira. The purpose for this trip was to teach the book of 1 John, teach a finance class to a Christian couple, visit two brothers in other cities, encourage a new church plant being done by the church in Patos, and I also wanted to talk with two of the church leaders who do not always see eye-to-eye. I was able to do everything except have some one-on-one time with the two eye-to-eye brothers. The trip was productive, encouraging and faith building.
This was the first time I had ever taught on the book of 1 John. What an amazing letter! It is simple and profound, straightforward, and insightful, and faith-building, as well as an alert to those who do not practice God's Word. I have read the letter many times and even taught Bible studies from it, but I have never sat down to study the book in depth as a whole. The idea of fellowship with God and our brothers and sisters in Christ through the Holy Spirit is one of the main points of the book. If I may make a suggestion, read 1 John, but don't just read it, study it.
Spending time with Christians who have a sincere desire to grow in their faith is the best encouragement one can receive. The church in Patos has had for a long time problems getting along with each other, although not all of the members have these problems. In most of the members one can see a sincere desire to follow Christ and that creates in me a yearning to be close to them in mutual encouragement, to help them grow as they help me to grow in my faith.
          Productive can be a deceptive word. How do you measure growth in a spiritual sense? When I say that a trip was productive, I am saying I was able to do most of what I went to do. What I went to do were things that I think will help four evangelists from four different congregations with vision for their work and members. I believe that more steps were taken in the right direction because we are working more closely together, we are more sincere with one another, so correction, encouragement and confession of sins are all easier and if that was not the greatest of things to happen, we also are beginning to have the same vision for the future of the work of God's Kingdom. Vision is something hard to pass on to another person. You have to be patient and persistent, but if you see it through, the "pay-off" or benefits are tremendous. I see the evangelists throughout Paraíba beginning to have a similar vision for the work of the church, we can now begin working more closely together and helping one another take greater steps in the same direction.  I am excited to see what God is going to do in the next two or three years through His church in the state of Paraíba. God is the one moving us forward. It is not the act of any one person or his or her ideas. God is working; truth be told, He has never stopped.

Please pray:

  • that God may continue to give His church vision for where He wants to take us;
  • that the church in Patos, Emas, Catingueira and São José do Bom Fim (the new church plant) can grow in their relationship with God and with one another;
  • that God can work in the church in Patos so that the members can work out their personal differences for God's Kingdom to grow.