Monday, February 24, 2014

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.

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