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.