Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The neighborhood that doesn't exist

The Condominio Maranante neighborhood in Porto Alegre does not exist. That is not to say that thousands of people don't live there amid the dirt roads and open sewers. It is also not to say that crushing social problems aren't present or that the neighborhood is not rife with gunfire, violence, poverty and witchcraft.

However, the neighborhood isn't there - according to the government. You see, the neighborhood is an "invasion area," which means that the people moved in on a piece of open land and built houses, until a neighborood was formed. This neighborhood borders two other neighborhoods which have water, sewer, electricity, and medical services. When the people from Condominio Maranante try to go to the medical clinic in the next neighborhood (which is supposedly free for all), they are refused service. The community school only goes up to 5th grade - very few people study past this level. When residents call the police, they are told that the neighborhood doesn't exist, so while the police would "like to help," they can't. The inequities between the neighborhoods have been such a point of tension that it has led to gunfights during community meetings.

The government may not acknowledge that Condominio Maranante is there, but GOD does. He sent Felipe and Ana, a couple of church planters to this neighborhood with the message of God's care for the very real people living there. Please pray that God would firmly establish HIS church in this neighborhood in a way that it can be a blessing not only there, but to all of Porto Alegre.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The CAM room

A few weeks ago, our skype rang on the computer, and we saw that it was the Lexington Baptist Association calling us. They have just set up a video conferencing room using skype and a large screen monitor mounted on the wall. The idea is that any church from the assocation can come to the offices and call missionaries on the field. They are calling their room the CAM (as in camera) room. They were in the process of setting it up and called Jeff and CAM Dunson to see if it worked. Coincidence? I think not!

Last night, we had a live videoconference with our volunteer team from Springdale Baptist Church that will be arriving in a week. It was a wonderful opportunity to spend an hour (free!) talking about logistics, preparing for the trip, sharing concerns, rejoicing in answered prayer, and praying together.

So - is the CAM room a good idea? You bet. I think that it should standard procedure for mission teams preparing to come. And if there are every any royalty checks that come out of the naming rights, well, now you know who to send them to :)

Monday, October 15, 2007

A somewhat gruesome reminder of how Gaúcho it really is here

I was teaching an evangelism training for a new church plant the other day and we went out to eat after the teaching time. I asked the church planter if he was from Rio Grande do Sul (RS), and a series of snickers went around the table, and his wife got a smug smirk on her face.

With a resigned sigh, he explained to me that while he was born in RS and his father was Gaúcho, his mother was from Santa Catarina, the state immediately North of RS. While that would qualify in almost anyone's definition of being from somewhere, it wasn't enough for the "true Gaúchos." When I asked his wife about where she was from, she told me that her father was from Santa Catarina, and that she was born there, but her mother was from RS. However, she informed me that she was a true Gaúcho. I pointed out that she was less Gaúcho than her husband, to which she replied "I was bathed in the blood of a Gaúcha when I was born, therefore, I'm a true Gaúcha!" (I.e. her mom was from here)

OK!!!....Only someone who has lived here can understand how that logic works, but it's yet one more example of how incredibly Gaúcho it is here, even in modern, metropolitan Porto Alegre.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

American and Native Christian Gaúchos

For your viewing pleasure, here's a picture of Cam and I in our native Gaúcho clothes after church on Sunday, in honor of Semana Farroupilha, the week when Gaúchos celebrate the war of independence from Brazil in the 1800's.

Here are some photos of some of the native Gaúcho worship services we attended last week.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Month of Prayer for the Gaúcho People - Week 4

Welcome to PoA, capital city of the state of RS, home of the Brazilian cowboy and the economic hub for Southern South America. The International Mission Board’s TEAM GAUCHO is responsible for targeting the 4.5 million people living in the urban area in and around Porto Alegre, as well as the Northern Coastline of the state.

TEAM GAUCHO helps Brazilians to start new churches in simple, reproducible ways so that these new groups of believers can start new churches themselves.

For example, this new congregation in the satellite city of São Leopoldo started from evangelistic Bible studies in the homes of several different adult children of spiritist mediums. A number were saved, and met as separate house churches for some time. Now, the church has rented a facility and started large-scale public worship services.

This church was started by a couple who learned how to start new churches from a member of TEAM GAUCHO. They meet in a simple home in a slum, and are spreading their faith to others in their neighborhood.

TEAM GAUCHO also works to help establish and strengthen new church starts through the use of American volunteers. These volunteers come for a week or two and evangelize through personal evangelism and evangelistic impacts in conjunction with members of the local church which is being started. These new believers are trained in evangelism by the team, and those who are saved as a result of the work of the team are folded into the new churches.

We would like to introduce you to our IMB missionaries on Team Gaucho and let you know how you can pray for them.

Jeff and Cam Dunson have served as church planters, as well in the training and equipping of new church planters and in evangelistic support ministries to help new churches in PoA get off the ground. Jeff took over the position of Strategy Coordinator in 2007 and is responsible for developing strategies to encourage the rapid multiplication of new churches.

Bill and Cheryl Arbo are focusing on starting churches among the upper class in Porto Alegre. Professional Gauchos can be hard to reach, as their circles of friendships tend to be closed and they spend much of their lives behind well guarded walls and fences. However, the Arbos have a gift for building relationships in creative ways. Whether it is by forming friendships with the leaders of the local police force, reaching out to students in an English school, or ministering to sick neighbors, God is giving them access to the upper class.

Larry and Marla Green served in the Northern Brazilian state of Pará as church planters and evangelists. The Greens arrived in PoA in June of 2007 and will be working as church planters among the lower middle class.

Will you commit to pray for Team Gaucho?

1. Pray that God would show the members of TEAM GAUCHO the best way to find and train new church planters and start new churches.
2. Pray that new churches would be started and would quickly start new churches themselves.
3. Pray that God would protect the members of TEAM GAUCHO and give them a special anointing of His Holy Spirit to reach the people of MPoA for Jesus.
4. Pray that God would pour out His Holy Spirit and bring many Gauchos to Christ through the work of TEAM GAUCHO.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Month of Prayer for the Gaúcho People - Week 3

Welcome to Porto Alegre, or Port of Joy, the capital city of the Southern Brazilian state of RS. Almost 4.5 million Gauchos live in the Metropolitan Porto Alegre area, one of the most modern cities of any in Brazil. This bustling metropolis has one of the highest standards of living in all of Brazil, world-famous soccer teams, a strategic economic position in South America, and many cultural attractions. The city has a European flavor, with a mixture of immigrants from many nations lending to a multi-cultural atmosphere. However, the background of their traditional Gaucho roots binds the people together with a fierce pride in their culture.

Despite the relatively high level of development and standard of living, Porto Alegre has the highest suicide rate in all of Brazil, and many thousands of witchdoctors and spiritist mediums freely practice their ceremonies on the streets of the city. The people are bound by an empty mixture of cultural Catholicism and voodoo-like witchcraft that leaves them afraid of the power of evil spirits. Because of their proud nature and strong sense of heritage, Gauchos are frequently slow to accept help from outsiders.

Unfortunately, the good news of Jesus Christ has often been seen as an outside, foreign religion that is unrelated to the needs of the Gaucho people. As a result, Porto Alegre is one of the least evangelized major cities in all of South America. As few as 2% of the population of the city have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. Currently, there are only 37 Baptist churches in the entire metropolitan area. There is a crying need for more churches to proclaim the saving, liberating power of Jesus Christ to this desperately lost people. The International Mission Board’s TEAM GAUCHO is working to help Brazilians start new churches in simple ways that do not require major financial commitment or outside support so that these new groups of believers can rapidly reproduce and start new churches themselves. Your missionaries need your help in partnering with them through prayer, giving and personal involvement to bring light to the 4.5 million people in Metro PoA who need to meet Jesus. Won’t you commit to help?

Will you commit to pray for the city of Porto Alegre?
1. Pray that God would raise up workers for the harvest in Metropolitan Porto Alegre.
2. Pray that God would open the eyes of the Gauchos, that they would understand the good news and be saved.
3. Pray for the church planting work of the International Mission Board’s TEAM GAUCHO and ask that God would bless and bring much fruit.
4. Pray about how God would have YOU to be involved in reaching the people of Metropolitan Porto Alegre for Christ.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Month of Prayer for the Gaúcho People - Week 2

Rio Grande do Sul is the Southernmost state in Brazil and is a land of stunning beauty. From soaring mountains to untouched beaches, majestic rivers, pristine forests and endless plains full of cattle, it is a land truly blessed by God.

RS is also a state full of small towns and cities, as well as a huge metropolis with more than 2 million people. However, RS’s greatness is not only in it’s natural beauty or its modern industrial cities, but also in its kind and hospitable people – the Gaúchos.

In the so-called interior portions of the state, or areas outside the capital city of Porto Alegre, more than 6 million people live in 400 counties – and all of them have something in common – they need a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

The people have a tremendous pride in being Gaúcho. They are a people who have a rich history and yet also have a desire to move on toward a better future.

The needs are great. There are people living in terrible poverty, tremendous spiritual confusion, people living under the power of addictions, and pursuing the things of this world, all without peace, without joy, and without hope.

The Gaúchos need Jesus. They need the salvation, joy, and victory that only He can bring. But how can they meet Jesus? Someone needs to take the message. We have the responsibility to speak with each Gaúcho about Jesus Christ.

There are less than 70 Baptist Churches in the interior and we have the privilege and responsibility to proclaim God’s Word, disciple new believers, and help churches to multiply and grow. How can we do this?

Team Interior RS (or Team IRS) is stepping into the gap by training churches in evangelism, promoting the study of the Word of God, training leaders and new teams for the work, and helping start new churches.

Imagine church members trained to better their churches, churches with a vision to reach all peoples, tribes, and communities with the Gospel, churches planting new churches in every corner of RS. Would you commit to being a part of this plan?

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Month of Prayer for the Gaúcho People - Week 1

Welcome to Rio Grande do Sul, the Southernmost state in the country of Brazil. This is a land of tremendous God-given beauty, from sweeping mountains and deep canyons to hundreds of miles of pristine coastline.

The people of RS, called Gauchos, are the proud descendants of Portuguese, German, Italian, and native Indian peoples, who lived for years as free ranging cowboys and formed their own country during a lengthy war of independence against Brazil. It is a land where past and present do not clash, but mesh. Much of the population is actively involved in traditional cultural reenactment groups that keep the dances, history, and music of the past 150 years alive and fresh. Rio Grande do Sul is a land in touch with its rural roots, where traditional cowboys still herd cattle across the plains, and rural and city folk alike enjoy meat roasted Gaucho-style on spits in the ground and the famous Gaucho chimmarrão, or green tea drunk piping hot out of a gourd. However, the same gauchos that celebrate and glorify their history on the weekends hold high tech office jobs in modern factories and office buildings in numerous large cities spread throughout the state.

Rio Grande do Sul is also a state that is well-known for its strong ties with voodoo-like African witchcraft. These spiritist practices brought by slaves from Africa hundreds of years ago are mixed with a cultural Catholicism that is completely devoid of the life-changing power of the gospel. The state has the highest suicide rate in Brazil, and its people are living in fear and darkness. It is not at all uncommon to see animal sacrifices to false gods on busy street corners in the big city. Among the upper class, many of those who are not involved with witchcraft are agnostics who want nothing to do with God. It is estimated that only 2-3% of Gauchos have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

So many are living in darkness. Will you commit to pray for the people of Rio Grande do Sul and ask God to bring them His light?

1. Pray that God will open their eyes to the truth of the gospel and save them from the darkness of false religion and empty philosophy.
2. Pray that God will raise up workers, Brazilians, Gauchos and missionaries alike to start new churches and take the gospel to this desperately needy people?
3. Pray for the International Mission Board missionaries on TEAM GAUCHO and TEAM IRS, as they seek to reach Portuguese speaking Gauchos in different regions and people groups of RS. Ask for God to give wisdom, protection, and tremendous fruit in their church starting efforts.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Global Impact Conference at FBC Oviedo, FL

I returned this week from a Global Impact Conference (GIC) in Oviedo, FL. So what exactly is a GIC? Well, it's a missions conference, in this case, put on by a mega-church near Orlando.

Some missions supporters might be thinking right now, "ok, I can see missionaries going to missions conferences while on furlough, but to leave the field to go to Florida? What's up with that?"

Our region allows each team of missionaries to participate in one mobilization opportunity per year outside of its geographic area. FBC Oviedo has come down to work with our team on multiple occasions, including three times since I have been in Porto Alegre (PoA). So, the minister of missions at the church invited me to come and represent our team and see how we can partner together more closely.

I left PoA on Monday and arrived in Orlando on Tuesday around lunchtime. During the trip, I had several lenghty layovers and was able to get some good, undistracted writing time in on my worldview documents for our upcoming Strategy Coordinator training. On Tuesday night, we had a general orientation meeting and told about our schedule for the week. We had time during the day on Wednesday to put up our booths before supper. Then we worked our booths for about two hours before the big missions worship service that night. We entered the sanctuary follwing the flags of our respective countries, and had the chance to particpate in the service with a missionary speaker and several missionary testimonies from current and former members of the church. Thursday was a hard, laborious work day at - you guessed it, Epcot :) That night, I had a chance to have dinner with "The Trailblazers," who were the volunteer team from Oviedo that came to work with us in May. We discussed the work and the follow up, and began to make some tentative plans for returning to PoA.

Jeff eating with "The Trailblazers"

On Friday, I was able to get some much needed writing done, and we had a senior adult missions lunch and and evangelism banquet that night with a 911 survivor from India who is now a full-time evangelist. On Saturday, all of the missionaries met together to talk about our ministries and how we could network better together. That night, I had an opportunity to speak to two separate home fellowships made up of combined SS classes. I showed a brief video on our work and was able to speak for about an hour to an hour and a half on our work in PoA. I left them with videos, bookmarks, and information sheets on our work. On Sunday morning, I met with three more classes. These small group times were very helpful, as they gave face-to-face interaction with church members and allowed them to ask questions in a very personal setting. I met two professionals who seem extremely interested in coming down to work with us in some innovative new ways. I also had extensive opportunities to discuss some ministry opportunities in English as a Second Language (ESL) with several missionaries, as well as with the head of the ESL program of the church, who has prior short-term experience in PoA. The week concluded with a prayer service on Sunday night where each of the missionaries was prayed over by name.

Jeff and Chris, one of our "Trailblazer" Volunteers - notice his RS teeshirt!

All in all, it was a very positive week. I can realistically see the possiblities of at least 4 volunteer teams coming to work with us out of the fruit of conversations I had. In addition, I was able to distribute several DVDs, as well as hundreds of bookmarks and information sheets to promote prayer for our people group. So, was it time well spent to pull a missionary off the field? I think that can be answered with a resounding yes - and not just because I got to ride "Mission Space" at Epcot.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Request your free prayer DVD for the Gaúcho People

As many of you know by now, the September month of prayer for the Gaúcho people of Porto Alegre is fast approaching. We are asking churches, small groups, and Sunday School classes to dedicate some time either on the Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights during September for a prayer focus for our people. We have prepared 5 short (3-4 minute) DVD clips, as well as bookmarks for both the city and our team.

If you’d like to request these resources (completely free of charge), just email me here with “Video request” in the subject line and a mailing address, and we’ll send it out to you ASAP. Please prayerfully consider stepping up and coordinating this special prayer emphasis for our people and our missionaries during September.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Return of The Mud Guy

I'm back! After an extended blog break, I have returned to the information superhighway.

So what was I doing being gone so long anyway? Well...that's a long story. The short version is that I've been traveling. We hosted a couple of potential missionaries and stayed busy with them, including traveling to our State Baptist Convention here in Rio Grande do Sul.

After that, we returned, and then traveled to Atibaia, in the State of São Paulo, for our the annual meeting of all of our IMB missionaries in Brazil. After a week of meetings and fellowship (including a real fourth of July fireworks show!), we continued on our way to....the United States!

We were able to take some vacation time to see family and friends, as well as continue work on my DMin in Missions degree (now I've got to write the paper for the class!). After a wonderful time, we got back to Brazil about a week ago.

I'll be heading out the door again on Monday for a week at a missions conference at FBC Oviedo in Florida. This church has been a strong supporter of our work here in Porto Alegre, and we look forward to continuing to strengthen our ties with this missions-minded body of Christ.

Thanks for reading, and come back soon - I'll be back sooner than I was last time!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Volunteer Team Diary - Day 4


This is the day I have been most worried about. The church planter in Gravataí is André, one of my former seminary students. He works for himself, and leads a house church in a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of the city. On Friday, I called André to make sure everything was set for the team, and he informs me that he'll be starting a new job in Porto Alegre on Monday and that neither he nor his wife will be present with the team on Tuesday. But it's ok, because he already has 8 visits scheduled (it was supposed to be 35) and he'll have someone meet us under the fig tree in the neighborhood to tell us where to go. Instead of having 6 guides as planned, we'll have two, both of whom are children. This is seriously stretching my ability to be flexible!

9:30 - We arrive in Gravataí and there is a 7 year old guide there to take us to the house which will be our home base. I head to the house and talk with Adriana, the wife of the home where the church meets, who won't be going out with us because she's just had a baby. She tells me that the baby's hip was displaced by the doctor when she was born, and they haven't been able to get an appointment in the public hospital to do anything about it - maybe they'll be able to get in in about two months, when it might be too late to repair the damage. Despite this, Adriana had a tremendously positive attitude about it and was trusting God to bring the best for her family - it was inspiring to see such faith and trust in a new believer! It turns out that we have about 20 visits scheduled, and we spread out through the three streets of the neighborhood for visits. None of our visits panned out, including one lady who was so embarassed at the condition of her house that she refused to even come out and speak with us. My colleague Bill started talking with a child across the street, which led to an opportunity for one of our teams to go into the house and witness to the family, who ended up making a decision for Christ - thank God for the interesting ways that He leads!

12:30 - Lunch at the truck stop

14:00 - I stayed behind at the house to do a visit with Adriana's mother and another lady, who ended up getting up and leaving halfway through the visit to go get her kids from school. Adriana's mother gives her life to Christ, along with 18 others in 19 visits done by the team.

The rest of the afternoon was spent trying to communicate in English, Portuguese, and Brazilian sign language (which I don't know) with four deaf teenagers (Adriana and Daniel's oldest daughter is deaf, and these were her friends). I don't know how well we communicated the gospel, but it was a learning experience for us all!

20:00+ - Daniel (the head of the house) and André arrive from work and the service starts with standing room only in a VERY COLD living room. After music, testimonies, and a message, I had a chance to hand 19 names of new believers to André, who said that those slips were the best present we could ever give him!

22:00 - Dinner in a sandwich shop in Porto Alegre.

00:15 - Phone call from an irritated van owner complaining about the late hours of our team and threatening to charge us more for the use of the van because he'll have to pay overtime. The van driver, whom we have been witnessing to, later tells me that it was all a lie, as he doesn't get overtime, and not to worry about it.

Volunteer Team Diary - Day 3

7:00 - I'm on my third phone call of the day, and I've just found out that the interstate highway which is the only good way to get to the city where we will be working, is blocked off with a major accident. It's also raining.

8:00 - The van leaves for Novo Hamburgo, and we only end up being about an hour late to the mother church because of the accident. We hurriedly try to get organized with Paulo and Luci, the evangelists who are starting the new church in the slum. We get slips with addresses and names of the people whom we will be visiting distributed, pile back in the van, and head down to the Marrocos neighborhood. Despite a good bit of standing around in the rain on the dirt road, everyone finally ends up paired up with a church member who has at least a vague idea of where they are going, and heads out to try to get in a visit before lunch. Paulo and I go to negociate a better price for lunch, and we get the manager to cut us a deal, and to throw in 10 liters of soda for free.

12:30 - The team has their first experience in a Brazilian buffet, where we eat for $2.25 a person, with free drinks - can't beat that!

14:00 - We hit the streets agin for our afternoon visits in the Marrocos slum. Because we had more visits than volunteers, I go out with my colleagues Bill and Cheryl, and we had the privilege of leading a family to Christ during our first visit (see picture), and a mother in the second visit. After emphasizing the importance of being on time, we end up being one of the last teams back to the house which is our home base because I talked so much - so much for being a good example!

19:30 - The home evangelistic service is supposed to begin.
20:00 - The service actually does begin, with several visitors, including two children from the family that we lead to Christ just a few hours before. We met in a covered, but somewhat open-air living room area that opens out into the street. Since we had no music or agenda, Paulo introduces us and the whole service falls to the team. I quickly organized a praise team made up of three translators and we teach the assembled group the songs "God is so good" (in English and Portuguese) and Celebrate Jesus (in Portuguese). Two volunteers give their testimonies, and one preaches. I give a closing invitation, and 3 people respond saying they want to recieve Jesus. In all, the team made 27 visits and had 38 people receive Christ on a wet, cold day in the Marrocos slum.

21:30 - Dinner at my favorite Brazilian pizza buffet, including 4-5 different kinds of ice cream pizza!

23:30 - Return to hotel

Volunteer Team Diary - Day 2

8:30 - The team met at the party room in our apartment building for a time of training in the evangelism method they would be using during the week. During this time, we paired them up with their translators and we all learned how to use Billy Graham's "Steps to peace with God" tract with the added emphasis and illustrations.

12:30 - The team and translators eat lunch at a local mall food court, and then go to a local craft fair at a large city park where many people hang out on the weekends. Despite the light drizzle, we decide to spend an hour hanging around shopping. An hour goes by. Two hours go by. Team members are still missing. Jeff is deciding to practice what he preaches and be flexible. It turns out that in the meantime, three people have gotten saved as a result of the team's taking advantage of opportunities (who can complain about that?), and instead of going back to the hotel, we go straight to the new church plant in the Partenon neighborhood of Porto Alegre.

17:30 - We show up in Partenon and ask the pastor to take us on a prayer walk in the neighborhood. Despite the persistant rain, we walk down the block, stopping to pray in front of the spiritist worship site next to the church, the Prostitution motel five doors down, and the corner where sacrifices are offered to false Gods - all in a half block. We also pray for the church's witness to dependents of inmates who wait in lines in the neighborhood to get into the prison for visits, as well as that God will break down the power of the satanic church a block farther down the road. During our prayer time under the tree (because of the rain), fireworks explode all around as one of the local teams wins the final game of the state professional soccer championship.

19:00 - I'm standing around the back of the church trying to work out the order of service with the pastor. We settle on an introduction of the team after worship, followed by testimonies and a sermon by one of the team members. The pastor, who had assured me that he had plenty of pre-scheduled visits lined up, tells me that we need to encourage the church to start scheduling visits for the work on Wednesday and Thursday - we're being flexible :) After an extremely animated worship time, the volunteer team does it's part. Chuck, the new team leader, gives the message and does a good job. I follow the message with an impassioned plea for them to get involved in evangelism and to schedule us some visits. Time will tell if they got the message.

21:00 - Dinner at the McDonalds with the incredible city overlook. Unfortunately, the balcony was locked off and it was raining - oh well, we're being flexible!

Volunteer Team Diary - Day 1

We receive word from the church secretary that the leader of the team, who handpicked those who would make the trip, is sick and has been forbidden to come by his doctor - this is the first sign of the flexibility this team will require!

9:30am - 6 exhausted Americans arrive at the airport (on time!), change money, and go to clean up at the hotel.
12:15 - Team Leaves for sightseeing trip around Porto Alegre. Lunch is at the Galpão Crioulo restaurant with traditional Gaúcho dancing and food.

15:00 - Boat Ride on the Guaiba river with a panoramic view of the city

After the boat trip, we went up to an overlook over the city, took pictures, and prayed over the city. Then, we went to the old central market, which is where all the city bus lines come together, as well as a important sacred site where the African spiritist religions come to make sacrifices - in the middle of the shopping area. The market has numerous stores that carry suppplies for spiritist religious ceremonies. Needless to say, we took an opportunity to pray in the market as well.

We also took the team to the grocery store to stock up on supplies and gifts for folks back home (everyone loves Brazilian coffee, chocolate, and soccer jerseys). For dinner, we headed toward the restaurant, got lost in the dark, and got the chance to pass a city bus that had run over a motorcycle, not just once, but twice - welcome to Porto Alegre! We finally made it to the Pastry restaurant which has made to order pastries in almost every flavor imaginable. We all packed into a big booth and took the opportunity to do a general orientation before heading back to the hotel to crash for the night.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Trailblazers

This week we have had the privilege of seeing God bring in a bountiful harvest through the hard work of a volunteer team of six laypeople from FBC Oviedo, FL (shown above with their translators). We nicknamed the team the “Trailblazers” because they were the first team that we have brought into PoA using the personal evangelism method that we used in North Brazil before we moved to Porto Alegre in the extreme South. We weren’t quite sure what to expect, but could not be happier with the results.

Witnessing encounter on the street that led to an entire family being saved in their home through an evangelistic home visit later in the day.

The team worked with three new church plants – a house church in Gravataí, a house church in a slum in Novo Hamburgo, and a church with about 40 members in PoA. All of these works have been in existence for a year or less. Throughout the week, the team worked in challenging conditions in extremely poor and crime-ridden neighborhoods with little infrastructure. They slogged down muddy streets in the rain, climbed slippery hillsides in the forest to reach urban slums, shivered in wooden huts while crammed in shoulder to shoulder for house church meetings, and didn’t even do too much of a double take when we asked the drug traffickers to watch after the mission car for us! They were warriors and truly learned the meaning of the word flexibility! All told, the team made approximately 73 intensive evangelism visits, conducted three worship services, and saw 94 make decisions to receive Christ! Now, we need to pray for the crucial work of the church planters as they follow up with these new believers and begin to incorporate them into the lives of these young churches. Pray that none would fall by the wayside and that each one would become a strong, active participant in these new churches.

House Church Sermon

Stay tuned to this blog for a day-by-day breakdown of the team's trip and many more photos!

Prayer Requests:
1. Pray for the following church planters as they disciple the many new believers in their care. Ask that God would give them wisdom, resources, and time to do all of the necessary follow up: a) André and Sidneia in Gravataí; b) Paulo and Luci in Novo Hamburgo; and c) Gil and Rose in Porto Alegre

2. Pray that each one who made a decision will become a strong, active, witnessing participant in these churches.

3. Pray especially for Ester, the three week old baby of the couple in whose home the church in Gravataí meets. Her hip was displaced by the doctor in the birth process, and they are being told that it could take months to do anything about it. Pray that they will be able to get her all the care she needs, and that she will not suffer any long-term effects.

Monday, April 23, 2007

São Leopoldo Church Plant

Many of you have been following the ups and downs of the church planting work we started in the city of São Leopoldo for a year now. As you may know, we started in January of last year by meeting for prayer with 4 members of a Baptist church on the other side of the city. After several months, we moved to evangelistic surveying in the neighborhood, and then started 8 week evangelistic Bible studies in the homes of unbelievers. As people received Christ, we folded them into discipleship groups and had joint monthly meetings for all of the home groups. In November, the work was handed over to the supervision of the mother church. Since that time, the strategy was changed from home groups to a more traditional approach, and on Saturday night April 21, 2007, the mother church officially inaugurated the new rented building in which they are continuing the work.

As you can see in the video, about 75 people were present, mostly from the mother church, although a number of visitors and new believers were present. Enjoy the video, and pray that God will richly bless this church plant and use them in great ways to transform their neighborhood for Christ!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

A Reminder of How Gaucho It Really Is in Porto Alegre

Porto Alegre is a big, modern, first world city. Driving around town, you see imported BMW's and Jaguars, McDonald's and Pizza Hut Restaurants, high-rise apartment buildings, and gleaming office complexes. We have modern telecommunication and transportation systems, more trees per person than any other city in Brazil, a first-class (if small) airport, sewage treatment, drinkable water, classical music schools and world-class sports teams.

But every once in a while, you run across something that reminds you how very, well...Gaucho Porto Alegre really is. This modern city is rooted in the past. They take tremendous pride in their romanticized version of their independent cowboy roots. This proud, independent, free-range cowboboy spirit runs deep in their souls. For example, two weeks ago I was coming out of a slum with my survey team and got stuck in a traffic jam for 10 minutes - a traffic jam of horses, that is. A steady stream of many hundreds of horses and riders was coming down the street in all of their gaucho finery. One of the Gaucho Tradition Centers was out for a ride, and everything stopped. If they had been wearing armour instead of cowboy clothes, it could have been the scene from the "Lord of the Rings-Return of the King" movie where the riders of Rohan cover the entire screen for minutes with innumerable horses.As it is, I've never seen an old Western film that had as many horses as clogged up the street in front of my minivan - it was incredible.

I read the other day that several thousand riders went on their yearly ride down the coastal beaches. If we're going to stick around, I might need to figure out how to get a horse into my fifth story apartment!

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Big Survey

Well, we're finally almost done with the big survey. Two weeks ago, we trained our team of brazilian researchers, and last weekend, we hit the streets to interview 450 residents of Porto Alegre in thirty different randomly selected census sectors to determine if they have a relationship with Jesus Christ or not.

For years, we have made "guesstimates" about the number of believers in Brazil. The numbers from the Brazilian Census bureau are grossly over-inflated and include Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and small children in homes with a Christian parent. The best "guesstimate" for Porto Alegre after cleaning up the census data has been that the city is 3% evangelical.

Once the data from our scientific survey is analyzed, we will finally have an accurate picture of the immensity of the church planting and evangelistic task that we face.

So what have we learned so far? That no matter what the final numbers may show, the darkness in PoA is absolutely astounding. We have had people identify themselves as evangelicals and spiritists, refuse to answer the question about whether they will reincarnate because they might already have done so (thereby showing a lack of knowledge about their own belief system), tell us they have received Christ, but communicate with the dead, and a host of other incredibly confused and sad commentaries of spiritually confused, blinded people. We had people began to weep when we asked them spiritual questions, people ask us to return to visit (we weren't presenting ourselves as an evangelical group, but as a generic religious survey company, so that we would not influence the results), and tell us absolutely horrendous stories about their lives.

Many of our interviewers were deeply moved and shocked by what they discovered. As I have shared with them, now that we have seen the sobering reality, they have a much greater spiritual responsiblity for their city - as do I.

What else did we learn? That PoA is not as wealthy as many want to make it appear, that rabid dogs still roam the streets (that made for a few tense minutes in one of the slums my team was in), that many of our Christian brothers don't know and probably don't want to know the spiritual reality of their own city, and most of all, that there is A LOT OF WORK TO BE DONE to reach PoA for Christ.

But - in the midst of the darkness, God has already started to shine some light. As I walked two desperately poor neighborhoods last Sunday, I desired to see new churches planted in those communities. I was in a meeting on Thursday, and met a pastor who is planting churches in those same two communities. We talked, and it seems like God is opening the door for us to bring a volunteer team in to give an evangelistic boost to their work. God is good - He is starting to bring light to the darkness, and giving us the privilege of being a part of it! But...we can't do it alone. We need your help through your prayers and your personal involvement in the work. Won't you join us?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

House Church photos

Last year, I taught church planting at the Baptist Seminary in Porto Alegre. André and Sidnéia (read his church planting testimony here) were one of the couples I taught who started a church in the satellite city of Gravataí during their time in class. They were preparing to do an internship with Shane and Erin Latham, missionaries from another Baptist agency, and the class assignment to start the seed of a new church fit in well with how God was leading them. A year later, you can see the fruit of their joint ministry as a church planters in the photos below. While we only had a very small influence from afar, we rejoice with them in what God has done. Enjoy the pictures of the new believers and seekers in this new house church.

Also, pray about our possible involvement with this group. The missionaries they have been working with are leaving for furlough, and have asked us to come alongside the work. We are praying about and investigating this possibility, as well as considering bringing in an evangelistic team of volunteers to help boost the work there.

Pray as well for André and Sidnéia, as they have recently suffered some financial losses - ask that God would provide for all of their needs. Finally, please pray that this house church will grow and multiply, and that in a short time, we will be able to rejoice in a flood of new churches spreading througout Metropolitan Porto Alegre and beyond.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Evangelism? It's a roaring good time

Last weekend, I taught an evangelism training workshop at a local Baptist church. I trained 29 members of the church in personal evangelism techniques, as well as teaching how to go about setting up an evangelism focus and how to disciple new believers. On Saturday afternoon, we divided up into groups went out to pre-scheduled homes with interested seekers to put our new-found skills into practice. The first home I went with my team was that of a lady who was the leader of a neighborhood association in a new, lower-class neighborhood that was being built. We arrived a few minutes late, and she had apparently given up on us and had taken some very powerful sleeping pills to help her get an afternoon nap. We decided to head down the street to the home of one of our team members to wait a little while and see if she would wake up.

We were sitting in his humble shack drinking chimmarrão (Gaucho tea out of a gourd) and talking when all of a sudden, there was an incredibly loud groaning, rumbling roaring sound that went on for several minutes. The family that lived there ignored it and simply shouted over the noise. The rest of us were completely perplexed, and when the noise finally stopped, asked what it was.

It turns out that there are 8-9 real live lions that live immediately behind their house! The former mayor of the town had a piece of land on the edge of town where he kept his toys, including his pride of lions. Since then, the town has grown up around his property. So, their house is separated from the lions only by their cage and a thin sheet of galvanized tin. About every 10 minutes, the lions get to roaring and fighting, and the noise is absolutely unbelievable.

I have had the chance to minister in a lot of strange and exotic places, but this was a first! The best part, though, is that the 3 member evangelism team that I went out with is planning on starting a new outreach/fellowship group in this home. Please pray that the "lion shack" will grow to be a strong, self-supporting new church to God's glory. At least they won't have to worry about any robbers coming in through the back yard....

Sunday, February 25, 2007


Last week, I got a call asking us to help with a major research project the mission is doing in Porto Alegre (PoA). We will be doing a scientific survey in 30 different areas that the Brazilian government uses in their census in order to more accurately determine the number of evangelicals in the city. While this sounds great, (especially because we will have Brazilians doing the surveys), we soon learned that it's more complicated than it appears. Each one of those areas has to be found and personally checked for potential problems, such as apartment buildings our surveyors won't be able to enter, etc.

For the last week, Cam and I have been pouring over maps and driving around trying to find an incredible variety of places. While it's been long and tiring, I can also say that we know the city an awful lot better after spending 4-7 hours a day poking into isolated corners that we never knew existed and that most people who live here have never seen. There are absolutely stunning views of the city and the lake from the slums hanging on the sides and the tops of the mountains, there are wonderful, friendly people, there are examples of tremendous wealth snugged up against incredible, abject poverty, there are wide open rural areas inhabited only by cows that stretch for many tens of kilometers, as well as hundreds of tiny urban shacks crammed together into spaces that seem impossibly small. There are wide avenues with bus lanes, and tiny winding roads so steep that they suck the air out of your lungs as you struggle for a foothold.

We have seen an area being invaded and a new slum being built with garbage bags (see above), an entire neighborhood of 605 residents that was totally demolished by the city in a mere week (see below), as well as multi-million dollar condos, equestrian facilities and yacht clubs.

So...what have we learned besides the fact that the city is, well, both bigger and smaller than we imagined all at the same time? First of all, that people are a lot nicer than they are supposed to be. Gauchos are supposed to be closed, cold and unfriendly to outsiders. Compound this with the facts that we are foreigners wandering around in their often crime ridden, violent neighborhoods in what many of them would consider to be a nice car, we didn't exactly expect a warm reception. We were wrong. We were offered more help than we possibly could have asked for - people offered to walk us to the place we wanted to go, men went into stores for us asking for directions, kids came chasing us down to clarify directions their parents had given - it was truly refreshing.

Secondly, I learned how tough my wife can be. She can go from cooking a gourmet meal to maneuvering a minivan through tiny urban slums where the road suddenly ends in a sheer cliffs without batting an eye. When I left her and the baby in the car in bad neighborhoods to go scout out areas on foot, she didn't even think to object - she's a true missionary!

Thirdly, I learned that PoA can not only be the place where I live, but it can be MY city. And this is my prayer, that God gives us a vision for how we can reach the untold multitudes in PoA with the gospel. That God will allow us to posses PoA as our inheritance, and that we will truly feel a sense of spiritual ownership as we move about, work and minister.

My heart grieved for the host of communities with absolutely no Christian witness, but with centers of witchcraft established on every corner. And how my heart lept to see an evangelical church as we explored. Won't you pray with me that in a very short time, we will have the privilege of seeing a host of new Baptist and evangelical churches beating back the darkness and winning the victory in PoA? Make it so, Lord, make it so.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

A New Role for the New Year

For the last year and a half, we have been serving under Mark Ellis, our Strategy Coordinator (SC) for Metropolitan Porto Alegre (POA). We have just learned that Mark and his family will be moving to Campinas, SP to devote full-time responsibility to Project SEDI, which is a project to record seminary classes on DVD to make them available to potential leaders who cannot attend a convencional seminary. We will miss Mark and Diane and wish them God's richest blessings in this new venture.

I was asked yesterday to assume the SC duties in Mark's place. I've already been asked by several people: What is an SC anyway?

As Strategy Coordinator for Team Gaucho, I’ll be responsible for developing and implementing the overall strategy for reaching metropolitan Porto Alegre. This means researching needs and finding ways to meet them, networking with our Baptist Partners, other missions agencies, and other denominations, supervising, training, and orienting new personnel and existing IMB folks, doing a bunch of administrative stuff like dealing with mission property in POA, recruiting new personnel, and being chief cheerleader and advocate for the Gaucho People in POA. Long story short, I’m the new IMB team leader and bottle washer for metro POA. At this point, it means that I’ve got a bunch of administrative stuff looming that I didn’t used to have to worry about just two days ago - but that's ok :)

I'm excited about the prospects ahead for Team Gaucho and the chance to serve as a bridge between believers in the USA (and elsewhere) and the needs in Porto Alegre. I'm excited about the chance to recruit and help develop new personnel to fulfill their God-given ministries in POA. I'm excited about serving as a liason with national believers and helping equip them to multiply their churches and expand the Kingdom of God. I'm also humbled by the responsibility and the gigantic task before us: 3.5 million people, dozens of counties, many people groups and a host of population segments remain unreached in POA. Won't you commit to pray for us and for the Gauchos? Please pray for wisdom for us in this new role, and ask God to raise up workers for the harvest.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Unexpected encouragement and discouragement

Last Wednesday, we took our 7-year old son Blake to his first sleepover camp. He spent five days at Palavra da Vida (Word of Life) camp in a beautiful rural area about an hour from where we live. A missionary kid from another organization whom Blake had met briefly, but didn't know well was also there. As I was talking with Shane (the MK's father), he mentioned to me that the three kids who had come with his children were the fruit of André's ministry. André was one of my church planting students at the Baptist seminary a year ago when we first came to Porto Alegre (POA). Under Shane's supervision, he has been planting a house church in Gravataí (about 45 minutes from POA) using many of the principles of ministry that I taught him. It was such an encouragement and blessing to meet three people in a totally unexpected place, that in some very small way, we helped to bring to faith.

On Saturday night, we went to a fifteenth birthday party for Simão and Marta's daughter in São Leopoldo. It was the first time that we had been there since November, when we handed the work off to the hands of the nationals with whom we had been working. Apparently, the work has largely stopped since we handed it off. Alexandre, the promising young pastor in whom we have invested much, declared that he didn't want the responsibility, none of the other leaders have stepped up, and the pastor of the mother church who so desperately wanted to assert his authority appears to have done nothing since then. We will be meeting with Alexandre and his wife Tatiane on Friday to see if we can encourage them to step up and assume the leadership that they were saying last year that God was leading them to. Please pray that God will not allow the progress that was made to be wasted, that the new believers who were won would be discipled, that more people would be won, and that a strong church would be established despite this setback. was a week of church planting encouragement and discouragement. Here's to praying that we'll have a lot more encouragement than discouragement from now on!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The "John the Baptist Fast"

As someone who has fasted on occasion and realizes that I should fast much more than I currently do, I have watched with interest and some bemusement the saga of my wife Cam's blogs on food and fasting. Her Southern Baptist readership has soared when she posts yummy recipes, and yet plummeted when she posts on fasting. On the other hand, readership from other Christian groups has gone through the roof in the last few weeks as many others rush to fast in the new year (resolutions?). Many people are searching for information on the "Daniel Fast," which Biblically, would more appropriately called the "Daniel religious protest diet." When Daniel did fast, we don't have a lot of information on what he did.

On the other hand, we have a great deal of information on what John the Baptist did and did not eat while he was in the wilderness. We know that he ate locusts and wild honey. As a Nazerite from birth, he did not eat grapes, raisins, or drink wine. Jesus called John the greatest man of God who had ever lived until that point - greater even, than Daniel. So why aren't we rushing to do a John the Baptist fast?

Cam pointed out that it is difficult to find locusts in most areas. However, one can buy live grasshoppers(which are anatomically identical to locusts) and crickets in a majority of fishing supply stores and bait shops in the United States. If grasshoppers can't be found, crickets are probably a good functional substitute, as they have the same crunchy exoskeleton and succulent center. When combined with sweet wild honey, they should be a tasty treat that would appeal to even the most hard-core faster.'s to the new John the Baptist fast craze. I'm thinking of writing a book, but first, I'm off to try to track down some locusts right now - or...maybe not. All of a sudden, Daniel is looking pretty good.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Satan's Checklist

One of the huge problems in our last field of service was pastors and church leaders falling (jumping?) into sexual immorality. Practically every month, we heard of at least one, if not more pastors who had lost their ministry, run off with someone from their church, or were under church discipline because of illicit sex. At one point we realized that all five of the pastors who were leaders in marriage enrichment seminars in our city had committed adultery. A few years ago, I had a pair of beautiful teenage sisters offer to be my wives when I traveled into the interior of the state. When I told them I was married, they were quick to tell me that this wasn't a problem for them - they didn't mind that a bit. In talking to missionaries around Brazil, I have found that none of us ever faced temptations in the States like we do here. I had a pastor friend who observed that Satan had a checklist with the names of all of the pastors and Christian leaders in our state, and that he was systematically going down and checking off the names. He wondered where he, and I, were on Satan's list.

And now, we're in Porto Alegre -a much larger, more modern metropolitan area, with an even wider variety of vices available. The Baptist Seminary where I taught church planting is smack dab in the middle of an extremely explicit red light district. The students get out of class at 10:15 at night and have to walk for about 15 minutes through the almost naked prostitutes and drug dealers to get to the dorm. On the drive to the area where we were church planting in São Leopoldo, I passed at least 10 motels used exclusively for prostitution and numerous pornographic billboards. Everywhere one looks one sees flesh - and lots of it, along with a range of messages, from subtle to explicit, instructing us to give into the desires of the flesh. There is quite literally no way to avoid it, short of locking yourself in the bathroom for the rest of one's missionary career - which is not why people give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering!

So - what to do? How do I keep from getting "checked off" by Satan? I've chosen to follow the model of Joseph when confronted with Potifar's wife. First of all, I have to maintain a strong, vital relationship with God. This helped Joseph to resist temptation, and it will help us as well. Secondly, Joseph refused to sin. He decided beforehand that he would not give into temptation. Thirdly, Joseph avoided contact with the temptation. He avoided being in the house alone with Potifar's wife. While I can't separate myself from society, I can be careful. I can avoid going to news stands where porn is openly displayed, I can avoid contact with people and situations that could be tempting. And finally, when there was no other option, Joseph ran from temptation. He didn't play around with it - he split. And that is what we must do as well.

I don't want to be the next man checked off on Satan's list of conquests. I want to be true to my God, true to my wife, my family, and the mission I represent. So, if you think of it today, pray for your missionaries - not just that God will bless them in general, but that God will help them to stand strong against the full fledged, frontal assault on our purity that many of us face every day. And that our words, actions, and meditations of our hearts would be pleasing in God's sight.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

A New Attitude in 2007

I'm looking forward to what God has in store for us in 2007. That being said, I have to admit that I'm not quite sure what that is going to be. Most of our ministry wrapped up or was handed over to nationals at the end of 2006, so we are in the process of waiting on the Lord and looking to see where He would have us invest in the new year.

During this process, I have been reminded of something. Complaining is a sin. Israel whined and complained again and again in the desert, and each time, they were rebuked and judged by God. 2006 was a rough year for us. We adjusted to a new climate and culture in South Brazil, we were pulled into a theological controversy, struggled to impart new ideas to "old" Christians, faced lots of spiritual warfare, and did not see nearly as much fruit as we were accustomed to seeing in Northeast Brazil. I did my share of grumbling about it. And that was wrong.

So, what am I getting at? I want to be a more positive missionary. I want to be a less stressed-out, uptight missionary. I want to enjoy life and ministry instead of being unhappy with results or lack thereof. I want to learn to love more. I want to eliminate criticizing and complaining from my life. I want to get up and obey God each day and go to bed knowing that I walked in His will that day. I want to wait on the Lord.

Extending this a little farther, I would like to encourage our fellow bloggers not to complain or have a critical spirit. That's not to say we can't disagree, but we should be kind and respectful of others when we do so. When we started our blogs back in April, we made a commitment that they would be positive and would not contain any criticism of the IMB or the Southern Baptist Convention. We intend to stick to that commitment. Let's all commit to eliminating grumbling, complaining, and criticizing from our lives and ministries!

Ephesians 5:29 - Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Philippians 2:14-15 - Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure....