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....