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.
- 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.