Monday, October 30, 2006

Exit strategy

God has been impressing on my heart for the last month that it is time to move forward with an exit strategy for the church starts in São Leopoldo. I met yesterday with our core team that started praying for a new church back at the end of January of this year. I told them all that I would be stepping back and that the primary responsibility for the work will fall on their shoulders.

Up until this point we have mainly been doing evangelistic and discipleship studies in homes. In those studies, we have tried to incorporate other aspects of "doing church," with varying degrees of success. We will be moving toward structuring the people who have been involved into more set house churches. These churches will have their own self contained worship and will be fulfilling all of the purposes of the church (including worship, which has been a little harder) within their group each week. The house churches will also have a network between them (you might call it an umbrella church) which will periodically bring all of the participants in the house churches together for larger group worship.

This is the vision. I would like to see it fully in place by the end of the year. I would love to be able to "put a bow on the top," fully hand it over to the Brazilian leadership and move on to the next step that God has for us.

Sometime in the next few weeks, we will be bringing the core team together to meet with the mother church pastor. He seems to be wanting to exert more control and authority, and has some ideas that could potentially take the work in an entirely different (much more traditional, controlled, and dependent on him) direction. Please pray that God will help him to see God's vision for this group, and pray that he will not start throwing his weight around to try to impress, as he did in a meeting with me a couple of weeks ago.

Most of all, please pray that these churches will be established and networked by the end of the year, that the Brazilians will step up, we will step back and be able to celebrate together in the new self-sufficient, self-reproducing, and self-governing churches that have been formed.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Improvements in Dental Care in the last 4,000 years?

Yesterday, I read an article about a new archeological find in Egypt. It seems that some enterprising, but unlucky tomb robbers discovered the tomb of three powerful dentists who tended to the teeth of the pharaohs in ancient Egypt. Experts have dated the tomb to about 4,000 years ago, or 2,000 years before the birth of Jesus. According to the article, "Their location near the Step Pyramid of King Djoser — believed to be Egypt's oldest pyramid — indicate the respect accorded dentists by Egypt's ancient kings, who 'cared about the treatment of their teeth.'"

This immediatly brought to mind some of the work we did with medical volunteer teams in Maranhão, in NE Brazil, where we used to live. One medical team pulled several hundred teeth in a couple of days. The people in the town (and many other towns in the NE) had absolutely no access to dental care. They had been living their whole lives with abcessed, diseased, and rotted teeth, with incredible pain, but no relief and no solution.

So - dentists have been around for at least 4,000 years, but they still haven't gotten to parts of Brazil. Sigh...It's nice to know that we're making progress.

Gaucho Barney?

I had a really strange experience this afternoon. Here I was, dutifully shoving beans and rice into my two year old son's mouth like a good Brazilian. As usual, Parker was watching Barney (yes, the dancing, singing purple dinosaur). The kids on the show were doing some sort of international fair, and all of a sudden, they start talking about Brazil. After talking about Carnaval (of course they did not mention the fights, drunkenness, debauchery, and ruined lives) and doing a little dance, they went on to mention the rain forest - nothing too different - just the standard American stereotypes about Brazil.

But wait! There was more! All of a sudden, they start talking about Brazilian cowboys, show a picture of some gauchos, whip out gaucho hats, and start doing a gaucho dance to very NON gaucho music (they also used the spanish pronunciation for gaucho, and not the portuguese one).

I sat there, flabbergasted to see a dancing purple dinosaur doing promotional work for my people group. God truly works in mysterious ways.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

New Convert Birthday bash

On Saturday, I did a discipleship study at Roberto and Cassia's house on the top of the hill in the slum behind the landfill. They and their teenage daughter Emily have all recently given their lives to Christ.

Emily will be having her 15th birthday next month. This is like a "sweet sixteen" birthday in the USA - it's a big deal. They want to have Emily's party in the community center, invite the youth praise band from the mother church, have a devotional, and celebrate with soft drinks. They are getting considerable pressure from their family to have a drunken bash in a nightclub instead.

It was so neat to hear them saying "it's strange - deciding to follow Christ has been a good thing for us - it has helped our family, but our relatives are giving us a really hard time and are ostracizing us. If we were doing something bad, they would be clapping their hands for us - it doesn't even make sense." Roberto went on to say "I want to invite our friends and family so they can see that we are different now."

Amen, Roberto! I have heard people with decades in the faith express far less conviction about their ideals - it was incredible to hear the stand they are taking for Christ despite the persecution from their family. Please pray that this family will confitnue to grow and that the birthday bash for Emily will be a great witness to their family and will result in growth for the Kingdom and new members for our church plants.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Last week in Vila Baum

One of the best parts of working with the youth group from FBC Oviedo is that the team I worked with most basically "adopted" Vila Baum (where our church plant is) as their own.

On Monday night, our school commitment in Porto Alegre fell through, so I took the team out to Vila Baum for a prayer walk. They saw the places were sacrifices are made to the African Gods, they meet some of the new believers who have come to Christ in the last few months, they prayed over the school and the Catholic church where they would later present, and they prayed in front of various places where the forces of evil are openly worshipped. As they did this, their awareness grew.

On Wednesday, the team spent most of their day presenting their evangelistic dramas in various schools in the area. The school in Vila Baum itself does not have an auditorium or sports court, so we presented IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH next door. God is good! On Thursday night, we returned for one last presentation in the Catholic Church for the adult GED students, and we invited the entire neighborhood to attend. We had a standing-room only crowd, including several people who have been influenced by the church plant. It was wonderful.

We invited everyone back for an evangelistic service in the community center on Saturday night. The youth band from a neighboring Baptist church led worship and a drama and Alexandre gave an evangelistic message. We had about half of the people who have been involved in Bible studies there, plus about 10 unbelievers. One of those families and a single mother expressed interest in beginning evangelistic Bible studies with us. Please pray that they will follow through and be saved. And pray that the many seeds which were so creatively and faithfully sown last week will bear fruit 30, 60, and 100 fold. Thanks FBC Oviedo Youth!

We survived the youth team - and they survived us!

Hey everybody!

I'm sorry for the long delay in posting. We have had the blessing of hosting a youth volunteer team from First Baptist Church, Oviedo, FL for the last week or so. As such, we've been a little bit busy. This team has been faithful to come down and work in the Porto Alegre area for about eight years now. This year, the team was composed of 42 people divided up into two teams.

While I didn't blog for an extended time, the team was very dilligent and blogged every night (with pictures!). Here is their excellent blog for those who are interested in hearing about their trip from their perspective.

The genernal plan was for each one of the teams to perform three different evangelistic skits in multiple public schools throughout the course of the week. The skits are mime performed to music (and therefore get around the language barrier) and deal with the problems of drugs, alcohol, suicide, and violence, while presenting the solution for these problems that can be found in Christ. It is so refreshing to be able to go into PUBLIC schools and show students, teachers, and administrators the hope that Christ offers in the midst of desperate situations. Unfortunately, it's something that we would never be able to do in our home country. After every skit, a student would give his/her testimony relating to the skit. At the end of the presentations we would give a clear gospel presentation and link interested seekers in with a local Baptist pastor for follow-up.

It was refreshing to hear, in school after school, principals and teachers thanking us profusely for the message that was communicated. One thing a number of them said was "we got the message - it came through loud and clear - thank you!" The vast majority of these administrators and teachers are not believers in Jesus Christ, but recognized the importance of what was being communicated.

We also had the chance to present the skits in a number of church plants and in an open-air market/park right next to where a large group of "goth" teenagers were openly using drugs. Some of the results of FBC Oviedo's youth's service will be seen soon - some of it will not be seen until we reach heaven.

Please pray that the seed which was sown so abundantly will fall onto good soil. Also pray that the new believers who came to faith through the team's work will be incorporated into strong, Bible-teaching churches.