Monday, February 24, 2014

China Taiwan Coming to Christ

   Ever since Michel, who works at the China Taiwan restaurant in João Pessoa, came to Christ, we have tried several methods to share the Gospel with his co-workers. It is the city's most successful Chinese/Japanese restaurant and has around 120 workers, not counting the new restaurant in Campina Grande.
    We started a church meeting earlier on Sundays close to their work, and several visited. We tried visiting their homes and families, most living in the interior city Esperança. We tried afternoon lunch break Bible Studies, but these restaurant people are pretty sleepy on their break.
    Then we did something that doesn't work well with my biological clock: we started a Bible Study at midnight. Amazing: this is the time of day that these people are most alive and ready to do something after clocking out from work.
    The restaurant would close, and we would study the Bible on the front sidewalk, not advisable in a city listed as the 3rd most violent in Brazil and 9th in the world, but God is in control, and in these years we have never had an incident, though it is about three blocks from where Jeremy got robbed at gunpoint. We did get rained on, but God controls that too.
    This Bible study has had its ups and downs, at times twenty people would stick around, and then weeks would go by with only the faithful two or three. We tried moving to their dorm, then to their dorm sidewalk. And it may not have helped, having me fall asleep while giving the study, but fortunately Michel was always there to pick up where I left off, sometimes right in the middle of a sentence. In these years, nine people were baptized, and seven still meet with the church at Irene's beauty salon, but growth is slow.
    Michel has had to deal with a lot of frustration; he is like a counselor in the restaurant. Everybody comes to him with their problem and he gives good advice about how to make changes, but people don't change, and dig deeper holes for themselves and their families, even some of the baptized.
    Being down, though, doesn't stop God from working. Reginaldo, the restaurant owner, floundering under loan shark debts in the millions last year and having banks reject his requests for more money. He made it worse by escaping each night through drunkenness and prostitution, being a terrible example at work. It got so bad, he came close to taking his life last March, had the gun, called his mother to say goodbye, about to pull the trigger when he heard a voice tell him to put the gun away and go home. He obeyed. That day representatives from another bank he didn't know about showed up out of nowhere, asking him how much he needed to help him make it through.   
    Change, though, started to come when a man eating at his restaurant, whom he didn't know, asked to pray for him, and prayed about the specific things he was going through in his life. And then Michel has spent every night this past year till three or four a.m. talking to him about God's will.

    He quit drinking, quit the partying, started spending time with wife and his twins, now he takes every opportunity to tell people about how God saved his life, the workers, the clients, people at the bank, a lady selling cloth in the street, etc.     About when the midnight study was slowing to a stop, he invited us to start doing a movie night in the restaurant. We showed movies with spiritual messages for a couple of months, and gave short exhortations along with them. And, low and behold, several of the participants started asking for the Bible study again. 
     And that is what we do now. And we invite others to come teach if they can handle the early hours of the morning; Jeremy taught till 2:30 a.m. I now try to take a nap to be fully alert!
    Michel, though, is an example of sacrifice for Jesus. He gets home each night at 3 or 4 a.m., sticking around talking and praying with Reginaldo and others that stay up. Then back to work at 10 a.m., usually getting only three or four hours of sleep. I don't know how his body can handle it. Through his example, God is calling me to spend more wee hours of the morning with this community that has formed: starting a Sunday midnight meeting, prayer and counseling sessions, and individual Bible studies.
    I have put off writing about this work at the restaurant, because there is so much happening, a lot of which I have a hard time explaining, it's like anything I say doesn't seem to do it justice, I mean, I think God is doing something marvelous, and I confess my feeble mind can't fathom it all.

     These pictures are last Thursday Bible Study (I was there from 10 to 3am - the singing, study and sharing lasted from 12:30 to 2). Present are Reginaldo, Francinaldo (the owner of the bakery across the street), Teteu (the owner of a Chinese restaurant across town), the rest are employees and their families, and even clients who stay after their evening meal. The attendance is around thirty.     Maybe I feel a little like Jesus felt when he saw the crowd, and so I ask you to pray his request: “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew 9:37

Be Still and Know that I am God (Ps 46:10)

by Jeremy Newlin
I want to start out by thanking God for His protection every time I travel.  As I visit the church in Patos, some would look at my car and exclaim: You came in that?! And then when I get ready to leave, they say: You’re going back in that?!  I have made the trip nine times in this car, but people still show surprise when they see it.
Anyway, that is just a side note.  The real story begins here.  Every month an evangelist goes to Patos to teach intensive Bible courses to the brethren there and from other cities.  I make the trip just about every month because I am coordinating the Seara program, and it is also a good opportunity for me to visit with the majority of the workers from the interior without having to travel to each city. 
This month, Raniere Menezes taught "The Life of Christ, According to the Gospel of Mark".  The course is 15 hours (Thursday night 7 - 10 p.m., Friday night 7 - 10 p.m., Saturday 2 - 10 p.m. and Sunday - Sunday school and sermon).  The number of participants in the courses has grown. Praise God, there is more interest in studying God's Word.
The church in Patos has become more organized through the creation and delegation of ministries.  I know that seems so logical and like, dah! but sometimes it takes time for the need to become a reality.  The church had ministries in the past, but those responsible did not delegate, and they eventually died out.  But now they are ready to involve others.  Something really exciting: the two most influential men in the congregation, who don't see eye-to-eye on almost everything, have put a lot of those differences aside for the growth of the church.  Their cooperation is the main reason for the church recreating ministries.
On Friday morning Roberto (one of my travel companions from João Pessoa) and I went to the next cities West to visit two evangelists.  One of them, Givanildo, is a full-time worker. We gave him some challenges for his own spiritual growth and some others for the growth of the church with which he serves.  He accepted.  
Please pray:
·         that Givanildo will strive to overcome his fears and step out of his comfort zone;
·         that Luciano and Betinho will continue to work together and bring unity and growth to the church in Patos;
·         that more and more members of the church will be interested in growing in their relationship with God through the study of His Word.

The Latorres

         One of the speakers at the Congresso was Enio “Mel” Latorre. He and his wife Marly have a home in Bauru, Sao Paulo, but his mission is to travel the country, preparing church workers with solid Bible knowledge to better prepare them to spread the Gospel. Their trip started at the beginning of 2014, and they haven’t been home yet. They taught in Salvador, Maceio, Recife, then they taught an intensive course in Patos, PB, and are now in Joao Pessoa. Mel taught a weekend course about church unity and cooperation to several workers from here and the interior. Then he taught from Monday to Saturday, the Pentateuch in the mornings and 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus in the evenings. 

     On Saturday afternoon and night, Marly taught the women about developing successful relationships in the church and in the home, based on principles from the Bible, especially 2 Peter. Every day from 4 to 7am, Mel is immersed in Bible study. He is 71 years old, has been studying the Bible for over 50 years, and is still discovering its riches. His life and his teaching have impressed on me how essential it is for me to dig into God’s Word constantly.
         They remain in Joao Pessoa this week, a much deserved vacation, celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary, and then it is off to Rio de Janeiro to teach for five days during the church’s Carnaval camp. After that, they will visit home for a week to get ready for next missionary journey.

28 Years of Congresso

          The Congresso Cristão is an annual conference that has played an important part in the strengthening of the church in the Northeast of Brazil. Started in 1987, when we lived in Recife, at a time when congregations were small and isolated, the Congresso gave us a sense of being part of something much bigger than ourselves, and it was always encouraging. Today, because of the internet and several other events throughout the year, isolation is not a big factor to combat, but this event is still a great moment for congregations to renew ties, to share problems, to pray together, and to be exhorted through biblical teaching.

         This year’s Congresso was in Maceió (about a 6 hour drive south of us), and João Pessoa took four cars. We had over 270 participants together from Thursday to Sunday, representing approximately 25 congregations. Many more people wanted to come, but the camp limited the number. The theme was Work Out Your Salvation, Philippians 2:12.  The lecturers gave us some food for thought.

         Our Jeremy Newlin taught a workshop on Financial Peace. Five congregations invited him to give the full seminar in their cities.

         We spent hours talking and talking to people about the problems they are facing in the work. Isn’t it interesting that no matter how smooth a work looks from the outside, it is hit with challenges right and left, difficulties that sometimes seem without solution, the reality that we all are faced with in this spiritual war. Good disciples don’t give up, even when women in the congregation put down their husbands in public, or there seems to be irreconcilable differences between two preachers in the same congregation, or a church leader is controlled by his wife who is acting more like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, or the church in one city is ripped asunder when the most evangelistic worker in the church is arrested for child abuse - did he do something inappropriate or is Satan trying to put him out of commission? In Christ we never give up. No matter where we are, no matter what the enemy is doing, we work and God works it out. The word is that the brother in jail is talking to fellow jail mates about Jesus.

         And there was a lot of great news too: a congregation planting another church in a new neighborhood, news of brothers and sisters faithful throughout the years in spite of health problems, new evangelistic efforts, and people coming to Christ. 

         While at the Congresso, a young man from Maceió, Kevin, decided to give his life to Christ and was baptized for remission of his sins.

         I think the best thing about this Congresso was that my kids couldn’t get enough of it. While Edda and I were ready to get home after nights of not sleeping well, Lucas couldn’t believe that Sunday had come so soon. No TV, no internet, but they had a blast. They played hours and hours of ping pong, and had fun with dozens of other kids from other churches, listening to the Bible studies and special moments with the young people, a great way to spend summer vacation.

         As brothers and sisters work out their salvation in Brazil by never giving up in spite of huge difficulties, let us remember that our Father, who loves us immensely, is bigger than any problem or any enemy that attacks His church. He is our Refuge! He is our Defender!

At the camp there was a tree growing in the middle of the ocean,
 talking about hanging in there in a difficult situation.

Monday, February 17, 2014

World Cup

This is the year of the "Cup", the "World Cup". There will be no school on the days that is playing. Businesses will close for the games; everything will be different for a little over a month.
The first time I came to , the world cup was being played in the . I had no idea what the world cup was. I had never seen a soccer game. I watched the final between and to crown the first ever four-time champion, won. Now, 20 years later, is looking for its sixth title and for the first time in 64 years the games will be played in .
There is a lot of excitement building up around the games, and the entire country will be turned upside down. There will probably be protests, strikes, and a lot of other unpleasantries happening while the games are being played. Most of the reason for these will be because the government set a budget to spend a little over $1 billion and have already spent over $4 billion on the stadiums, while health care and other areas that would benefit the Brazilian population have been put on the back burner.
Let's remember that one day, there will be a bigger party, where everyone will stop what they are doing and bow at the feet of the returning and reigning King. Until that day comes, let us turn this world upside down, like the first Christians did.
Please pray:
that God may protect His church from violence;
that God may help His church be as bold and excited for His Kingdom as the world is for these games.

Families: Strength in the Church

I traveled to Patos a couple of weeks ago to study 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon with the church. We talked about elders, deacons, evangelists, taking care of the needs of others. We defined a good conscience and piety, which is the word in Portuguese used for godliness. They had a lot of questions and a few ideas from denominations, which needed to be corrected.
We learned from the teachings of the apostle Paul to Timothy the best way to counteract false teachings. In summary, we must exhort men to exercise their role in the family, women to fulfill their role in the family, children and grandchildren to take care of their parents in need. In other words, structure the families to live the way God always intended, and the church will serve God in this fallen world of broken families.
Some really good news: while in Patos, a brother, who had been losing the battle with sin, came back to Christ.
Please pray:
that God may strengthen in his new resolve and repentance,
that God may help His church mature and produce families who live within the will of the Almighty.

Campina Grande Team

David and I have been traveling to Campina Grande to work more closely with the team. We want to ask for your prayers for the work in Campina Grande.
Please pray:
that God may open hearts of people who are searching for His truth;
that God may continue to give the team courage to reach out to the lost around them;
that God may help the members of the church to grow in their faith in His Word.

Finances In The Light of The Bible

Guess what I was invited to teach at the Northeastern Christian Conference? You guessed it, Finances! I taught on the Biblical model of giving; the motives, the purpose and the grace of giving from various passages. I also gave an introduction to Dave Ramsey's material on Financial Peace. His material gives people a step-by-step method to organize and control your personal finances so that you are able to give like you want to give.
Most people that I have taught have had difficulty understanding what the Bible teaches about giving. Most people that I have taught have also had difficulty managing their personal finances, so this course is very much needed in the church in Brazil. The church is beginning to support missionaries and they want and need a better understanding on giving.
After the classes at the Conference, I was invited to teach the finance course at several different congregations throughout Brazil. Dates are still being set-up. My hope for beginning this class was to help the church in Brazil take another step towards maturity by learning to give and give generously. I believe they are taking this step.

Please pray:
that the church in Brazil may trust in God for all of their needs;
that each Christian may believe in Jesus' words "It is more blessed to give than to receive";
that God may give me wisdom to direct each person's focus on the provider and not what is provided.

Carnaval Camp

Hey all,

Thank you for your patience.  I know it has been a while since you received news from me.  Things have been busy and it has been hard to find a time to sit down to write.

Thank you for your love, prayers and support,

Jeremy, Monica, Nicholas, and Dylan

When I first came to Brazil, I participated in a carnaval camp. I enjoyed spending time with the Christians, playing games and praising God together. I confess that I did not understand the importance of such a camp until years later.
After spending years in and seeing Christians struggling with temptations and sins during this five-day party, I now see how important it is for the church to be together, away from the noise and temptations of the world.
Some of us from will be going to Cajazeiras to participate in their carnaval camp. I will be teaching, the others participating, and all of us will be enjoying time in purity, kindness, goodness, joy, and love.
What a different life we live in Christ. Ain't it good? May God be praised for His wisdom and love in saving us from this perverse and sad world.

Please pray:
that God will protect us on the road;
that God may use our time together to give us more boldness and courage to tell others about Him.