Friday, September 15, 2006

The Counter Attack - Prayer Needed!

On Sunday, I wrote about the wonderful time of worship and fellowship we had with the groups of believers that are forming in São Leopoldo. Yesterday, I learned about the concerted counter-attack by Satanic forces to try and squelch what God is doing. We urgently need your prayers and the prayers of your churches.

Nice, the spiritist witchdoctor with whom we have been studying, has been making open declarations for several weeks now about her intent to accept Christ. On Tuesday night, she suddenly backed off and said that she would not make a decision until her son Jean is cured of his diabetes. Jean is bedridden at her house, and while he reads the Bible, he tells his mom (who waits on him hand and foot and treats him like an infant) that it is her fault that he is sick because she is contemplating leaving witchraft and becoming a Christian. This beside the fact that he became sick long before she even contemplated studying the Bible. Nice will not let us go and talk to Jean directly, she only talks about him. Marta (one of our members who lives on the same street) ran into Nice on Monday and she was exhibiting signs of being possessed. Also, several of Nice's other children have started spreading half-truths and lies which are creating tension between Nice and Simão and Marta's family, as well as creating tension between them and Nice's other daughter Iara who is a new believer.

So...we have the witchdoctor who wanted to get saved, exhibiting signs of demon possession, discord being sown, and a sudden reversal of heart on making a commitment to Christ. All of this is direct spiritual warfare, and must be addressed as such.

Also, we started a Bible study with Eni on Saturday, and she and her husband Eunico and their entire family came to the service that night. He said that he felt really at home during the event. His father, who is a spiritist medium (and the father of two of our new believers), called him on his cell phone during the service and overheard a prayer in the background. He forbid them (they are adults, remember) from having any contact with us and from studying the Bible. Out of fear of crossing their father, they cancelled their Bible studies. Eni has been possessed before and was exhibited some signs of possible problems when it was time to read Scripture during her study on Saturday.

So...the spiritist medium has forbid his spiritually hungry adult children from being involved with believers.

Also, SuiLee, one of our new believers fell on Friday and was injured. On Tuesday, Lana, the teenage daughter of one of our other new believers fell and was injured.

Yesterday, in a span of less than two hours, both Cam and I very narrowly missed being in separate serious traffic accidents (through no fault of our own).

While I am not the type to see a demon behind every bush, even the new believers here have been able to identify what is going on as spiritual warfare. This battle must be fought on our knees. Please take these requests to your church prayer meetings, Sunday School classes, etc. and pray urgently for us and for the work here - God is FAR GREATER than Satan and is fully capable of resolving this,in response to the prayers of His people.

Please pray that:
That God would bind the demons so that Nice and Jean's eyes will be opened and that they and their entire family will renounce witchcraft and be saved.

That Eni and Eunico would stand up to their father, give their lives to Christ, and that their father would renounce his evil practices as well.

That God would not allow Satan to sow dicord among the believers or between them and unbelievers, and that all the lies would be revealed as such.

That God would protect our family and our spiritual family from any and all spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical attacks.

Thank you for your prayers.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Messy Church - The Return

Saturday night, we had our second worship service in which we tried to get everybody together who is involved in Bible studies. For the last two weeks, the weather had been frigid, windy and raining on Saturdays, and people hadn't even shown up for their own Bible studies. I had spent the week fretting that nobody would show up, and that things would be an unorganized mess if they did.

We started a Bible study with Lina and Cassia's sister-in-law Eni in the afternoon, then we crossed the dirt road to continue our study with Roberto and Cassia's family, who I then took to the service at Simão and Marta's house. I showed up to find 31 people crammed in and around their living room. Eni's entire family, who I had met just two hours before was there, and about half the people in the room were unbelivers. I was stunned - pleasantly.

We started off listening to a praise song, and then went around and everyone had a chance to introduce themselves. It was funny, because we had three related families there (2 sisters and a brother and their respecitve families), and they all not only said their own name but how they were related to EVERYONE IN THE ROOM (I'm Lina, and this is my husband Lucio, my sister Cassia, my cousin.....) When we got to Chileno, who has three weeks in the faith, he gave his testimony of how he was saved - it was spontaneous and absolutely incredible! Then we got to Eni's husband, who had refused to do a Bible study just two hours before, who looked around the room and said "I'm related to almost everyone here, and I feel right at home!"

Then I asked if anyone would like to share about what God was doing in their lives. Chileno immediatly shared about how his wife had left him and how God was using that in his life. Then Roberto shared about how they had been studying the Bible for three weeks, and that he could already see a change in their family. Iara spoke and talked about how glad she was that her mother was studying the Bible, and that she hoped that we could have meetings like this many more times.

We then listened to another praise song and then Alexandre led a particpitive Bible study/sermon. We then celebrated Lina's birthday with a snack of grilled sausage and mini french bread.

As I took Lina and her children home, they marveled at the positive reactions of their family, and she told me that during the service, that she felt extremely hot, and that as soon as we started to eat, that she then felt very cold. She said "it was as if the fire of the Holy Spirit was really hot during the service and then when it ended, it went away."

It was a messy service - long pauses between people speaking, a disastrous singing attempt by a couple of embarassed teenage girls, kids and noise everywhere, but it was an absolutely marvelous experience. To see people with weeks in the faith giving their testimonies without any prompting, to see a witchdoctor's daughter grateful for God's work in her mother's life, to hear an unbeliever saying he felt at home in a service, to hear another say that God was changing his family - it made all the messiness and all of the sacrifices worthwhile. If this is what messy will be, then it's ok with this church planter!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Family Ties

A few months ago, Simão (one of the members of our core team) and I were out doing evangelistic surveys in the neighborhood. We walked up to a crude, unfinished brick structure next to the graveyard and found Lucio and Lina in the middle of an arguement. During the course of our talk, Simão and Lucio discovered that they served together in the army years ago. They agreed to study the Bible with us, but moved that week to the next city up the road. Lina came into São Leopoldo the first few weeks and we held the Bible study at her sister Cassia's sewing hut in the slum by the landfill. Cassia was uninterested, but Lina gave her life to Christ after her sister-in-law became demon possessed and we studied about the power of Jesus over demons.

Four weeks ago, Lina asked Cassia if she would be interested in continuing the Bible study. Cassia said no, she had no interest at all. Four days later, Cassia called Lina and said that she had a hole in her life and that she thought she might need God. We showed up and found her crying and shaking. We presented the gospel to her, and she gave her life to Christ. For some reason, I felt compelled to tell her that she might come under attack from Satan, and that things might get worse before they got better. That week, she lost her job as a seamstress, which was the only income for their family of six (including two very young children). She told us all of this very calmly, affirmed that she believed that God would take care of things, and then proceeded to tell me that she didn't feel any different that she had before accepting Christ. I pointed out to her that when she had a way to support her family, but didn't have Jesus, she was a nervous wreck. With no job, food or money, but with Jesus, she was perfectly calm - I could see a difference!

So, please pray for Cassia, her husband Roberto, and their four children - that God will show Himself strong for them and provide something even better than they had before, and that they would not suffer lack. We are doing a study with the whole family now, and trying to help meet some basic physical needs.

Interestingly, Lina and Cassia's sister-in-law Eni, who was (is?) possessed wants to start a Bible study with us on Saturday - pray hard for her, and thank God for Lina, who is reaching out to her family to win them to Christ.

We will be trying to get everyone involved in Bible studies together tomorrow for a worship service / Birthday party. Please pray that the weather will be warm and dry - bad weather really messes us up, and we REALLY need to get everyone together in one place at one time to build some group dynamics. Also pray that God will be glorified in the service and that it will go well.

Thanks for your prayers - they are being heard!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

What A Difference A Year Makes

September 2, 2005 - The Dunson Family leaves São Luís, Maranhão in Northeast Brazil to move to extreme Southern Brazil. Health problems with our youngest son led the mission board doctors to tell us that we had to move to somewhere with more advanced medical care. As we searched for a place, God led us Porto Alegre. Little did we know how big of a change it would be.

We returned to say our goodbyes to many dear friends and pack our things.
Shortly before we left, I had a chance to return to the Baixada (the area where we did the majority of our work) with a volunteer team from our home church, Springdale Baptist. There, the Brazilians presented me with a flag of the city of Santa Helena, a present that I cherish to this day.

Then, it was back on the boat to return to the city and prepare to leave a ministry that had been exhausting, but in which we had seen God pour out His blessing.

The last thing that we did in São Luís was to preach at our friend Elmo's church plant. I remember standing in the pulpit of the little storefront where they met, with sweat pouring down my back, and wondering what was in store for us in the South.

Just two weeks later, I found myself shivering in a church pew in Porto Alegre, wearing long underwear, a leather jacket, and surrounded by children wearing mittens and wool hats. We had moved from heat to cold, from the "third world" to the "first world," from a place where we were known to a place where we were unknown (and often unwanted) newcomers, and from a place where we had seen God bring tremendous fruit to a place where each and every person who comes to Christ is highly cherished - because they have come few and far between.

It has been a year of changes and challenges. A year in which I have been reminded that fruit comes not from my abilites, gifts or talents, but from the hand of God. A year in which God has shown me that my sense of self worth must come not from ministry results, but from Him and Him alone.

We are enjoying Porto Alegre - but what a difference a year makes! I wonder what God has in store for us this year?