Monday, March 30, 2015

The Third Generation

         In 1978, Joe McKinney decided to leave electrical engineering to go to the Sunset School of Preaching. A decision like that is made thinking: what does God want me to do with my life right now? Little thought is given to the question: how is this decision going to affect my grandkids?

         Now in 2015, with the kids married and living on different continents, grand-kids bilingual with dual nationalities and in some cases three citizenships, all involved in missions, Grampaw can clearly see his decision has taken the family down a completely different road, one that makes family get-togethers a rarity.

         Yesterday, Samuel (15 years old) preached his first full sermon to the church that meets at Luna in Joao Pessoa (over sixty present).  He preached the last chapter of Acts, finishing up a seven month sermon series. He spoke of the five most poisonous snakes in the world, and when Paul was bitten by one like these, he should have died, but the Holy Spirit nullified the poison's power. Likewise, we are constantly assaulted and bitten by a much more dangerous snake: Satan. We hurt, but his poison, death, is nullified by the cross of Jesus.

        Thirty-seven years ago, Joe McKinney decided to be a preacher, and now the third generation is still feeling the influence of that decision. How many decisions do we blithely make without thought to how they affect our kids, our grand-kids, and one day, our great grand-kids?

Monday, March 16, 2015

The First Ever AME Graduating Class

The First Ever AME Graduating Class
            I had the pleasure of being selected as the patron by the first ever graduating class of the AME program, and I spoke at their graduation last Saturday.
You may remember that the AME (Adventurers in Evangelistic Missions) is based on the concept of the AIM program in Texas. In fact, AIM directors Kris Smith and Pat Sheaffer came from Lubbock for this first graduation. These young adults spent eight months in João Pessoa, classroom time and practical mission work.  Then they move to selected congregations throughout South America (not just Brazil) and spend one year and two months helping these churches grow.  Back to their home congregations, they will be an asset to God's Kingdom for the rest of their lives. 
The five who graduated on this Saturday, Tais, Beliza, Ayane, Jackelayne, and Adeliton say that the AME experience has changed their lives forever.  The growth in knowledge of God's Word, the experience of helping other members of Christ's body mature and the fact that they have left the nest and comfort of their homes and families has truly changed them and given them a new perspective of themselves and the world around them. 
We thank God for Raniere Menezes and Diego dos Anjos who had vision, love and perseverance to see AME become a reality.  We thank God for these young adults who have placed their trust and faith in God, giving up for a time college, jobs, and promising careers to obey God's plan for their lives.  Now that it is over, they see the world through different lenses.  It is not just a place to call home, but there is real desperation, death, and hopelessness in the world, and they now have God's answers of peace, life, and hope.  God has increased our hope for this world through the desire and love that each AME student has shown by sharing our Lord's message with others.
 
Please pray:
·         That we, as teachers, may be examples of Christ to each student, new and old;
·         That the new students of 2015 will mature in their faith;
·         That God will continue to raise up men and women willing to serve Him with their lives.

Sula

                João Pessoa seems to be a nice, calm city, but lately on lisst of violent cities in Brazil and the world, it has climbed close to the top. Now that doesn't seem to affect us much because, as brother Ricardo (a policeman) explains the most dangerous demographic bracket to be in is black youth between the age 16 to 22, involved in illegal drug trafficking.

                But sometimes tragedy strikes closer to home. Our dear sister Sula received the worst birthday present anyone could ever receive, her youngest son (22 years old) was murdered in the street in front of her house, shot three times. Sula's sole dream in life is for her children to belong to Christ, but little by little the chances of it being fulfilled are being chipped away. Her oldest son was killed in Recife four years ago, just when he was getting his life on track and even visiting the church.

                The family knows who killed this second son and why (debt-related not drug-related), but an inefficient judicial system leaves them scared for their lives instead of confident to seek to bring the criminal to justice.

                As for Sula, having suffered more than her amount in this lifetime, she says that the only thing that keeps her going is Jesus; she's hanging on to him with everything she got. At the funeral, she cried out loud a prayer to God, for him to bring her other kids and grand-kids to Jesus and eternity before it is too late.  Resurrection in Christ would change everything, even in burying a child; desperate agony would become a hopeful sadness.

World's Party vs. God's Party

          While many others from all over the world were partying hard during Carnaval, most of the churches were at camps, away from the partying, praying, studying God's Word, and sharing meals and life together.
          While many of the world were trying to forget their problems, looking for the next thrill and giving in to their lack of self-control, Beatriz and Lidinez, two young women who had been studying the Bible with Givanildo, were immersed into Christ in the small, forgotten town of Emas.  They gave their lives to Christ, and He solved their biggest problem, giving them true joy and confidence to walk with God to control their fleshly desires.  It seems like they are off to a good start. 
          The rest of the world is still searching for the next party.  I can only imagine the party God and His angels had over these two sisters.  If God is throwing the party, I want to go to. 

Please pray:
·         that your sisters in Christ will be faithful to death;
·         that God's Kingdom will advance and His followers will fight their fleshly desires;
·         that more will join the heavenly party.  

Training, Training and More Training

          I was off to Patos just two days after arriving home from the church retreat, which by the way was in Patos.  I participated in the SEARA class taught by Elias Campos, David McKinney's brother-in-law, on the role of women in the church, instruments in worship, and how to conduct one's self while directing the church meeting.  He did a great job handling questions and comments on the subjects. 
          I slipped away to study the Bible with a group of young people on Saturday night so that Betinho, who studies with them could stay for the class.  On Sunday, after three church services (one with the Bonfim congregation, one on a nearby farm, and the last with the Patos church), we traveled two hours to Cubati, stayed up talking with brother Afonso till 2:17 a.m.  I pulled up a chair, propped up my legs, laid my head back, and at 2:19 a.m. they "woke me up" to leave for João Pessoa.  We arrived at 5:30 a.m., from there I met up with Joseph who took me to help Raniere Menezes move and then I went to an intensive class on the book of Joshua Monday morning. A little tired from the trip, I stood up in class, trying to stay awake but ended up falling asleep on my feet.  Not to worry, I woke up before I fell.
          It was a very productive trip.  After two months away, many things needed to be discussed. 

Please pray:
·         that God will raise up men and women to serve in His Kingdom;
·         that God's people will live with a good conscience, doing what they know to be God's will.

A Diamond in Diamante

          Francinaldo and Ivani's hometown is about an 7 hour trip from João Pessoa, called Diamante. Ever since they became Christians, they have traveled there about once a year, longing to share the good news of Christ with their family. Ivani's sister, Solange, would round up family and neighbors, about 25 to 30, for a Bible study.
          A small town in the middle of nowhere, Diamante is not the city one would see on a mission plan. But praise God He is working on another mission plan, His!       
          Solange came to João Pessoa this month for a visit, and she said that she wanted to be baptized. We studied with her, and even though she doesn't know how to read, she had a good understanding of biblical baptism, probably from the Bible studies Francinaldo gave in her house.
          On February 8th, Solange put on Christ in baptism, and became the first Christian in Diamante.

33% Growth So Far in 2015





         When you belong to a church of 6 brothers and sisters, each conversion is a huge leap in growth percentagewise. The small Colinas congregation is excited. On the first Sunday of the year, Marcos`s brother decided to give his life to Jesus and was baptized. 6 turned into 7.
          Then on the first Sunday in February, a neighbor, Antonia, who had been eavesdropping on her daughter's Bible study, came through the door and said, "I know all that and I want it for my life." She was baptized, expressing great joy in her newfound salvation. 7 became 8.
          I jokingly said to the Colinas brethren, "A baptism on the first Sunday of January, now another one on the first Sunday of February – I like this tradition that you are starting! I can't wait for the first Sunday in March!"
          I don't think they took it as a joke, because Marcos said seriously, "We are working on it." God be praised through this small group.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Historic Week

To our Mission Prayer Companions,

 

                This week will be a historic one for the João Pessoa church. Our first group of AME students will graduate after having spent successful tours of duty in Brazil (Palmas and Feira de Santana) and Colombia (Bogota).

                Also at the graduation, the new class of future missionaries and their families will be presented to the church. Two of the directors from AIM (Lubbock, TX) are coming for the event.

                We will also have a citywide meeting of the churches in Joao Pessoa on Sunday: Family Day.

                Pray with us that the Lord will be in control and exalted in these plans.


Thank you, Joseph

Prayer Requests

    Joseph McKinney and I have been studying the Bible with Fernandes for almost one year now.  He was baptized, September 2014.  He still does not see the need to meet with the church on Sundays.  We continue to study with him and others on Tuesday nights. 

Please pray
·         that Fernandes may understand his need and the churches need for his presence on Sundays.

   

     Monica and I visited a son and mother last Thursday evening to share God's Word with them. 

Please pray:
  •  that Diego and Lourdes will continue to grow in their desire to read and understand God's Word.







Don't Forget the Eavesdroppers

     While the church in Colinas (Joao Pessoa) knocked doors in their neighborhood, they came across a house with a broken gate. It was a problem for the grandmother who kept her grandchildren and worried about them running out into the street. A brother came and fixed her gate, and her daughter accepted a Bible study.

     When we study the Bible with someone, we try to find a quiet place with no interruptions, where privacy may allow the person to open up. But the Gospel is seed, and a lot of times we can't control where it is going to fall, and that is the way it should be.

     After the God's word was shared, the daughter decided she wasn't ready to give her life to Jesus, but her mother, Dona Antonia, who had been eavesdropping from the kitchen, came in and said, "I know all of that and I want it for my life." She was baptized the first Sunday of February.

     Come to think of it, several people we know eavesdropped on the Gospel. Bartolomeu turned up the TV to drown out the Bible study with his wife, son, and mother-in-law in Caruaru, but something got through, and till today he is a faithful disciple.

     Manoel in Recife was a rude, explosive man in the other room while his wife had a Bible study. But Jesus transformed him into a gentle man, faithful to death. He passed last year.

     I remember studying the Bible with Ivani here in João Pessoa. We would invite her husband Francinaldo, but he had a Mexican soap opera on TV that he couldn't miss. But he would hear bits and pieces of the Great News, and today he loves the Lord and the church, and is a constant source of encouragement.

     So when you share the Gospel, speak up, you never know who might be listening.

Intensive

            "Intense" is a word I mainly use to describe feeling pressure from an outside source.  This past Saturday things got intense, but I hope from an inside source. I taught an intensive course to the church in Joao Pessoa with eight present.  Not a big group but it did give us opportunities to discuss in more personal ways how to practice what we were studying. 
            The course was based on the Bible, of course, but with ideas from a book called "The Mission of God's People," by Christopher Wright.  To sum up the study in one phrase: "Be a Blessing".  That is what God told Abraham to be and the mission continues through us.  I recommend the book; it has helped me in my study of God's Word.

Please pray:
·         that God will raise up men and women to serve Him in His Kingdom;
·         that each member of the body of Christ may be a blessing to one another;
·         that Christ's body will be a light to neighbors, calling them out of darkness.