Monday, November 15, 2010

Community Development Project Inauguration

On Saturday, November 6th, the Community Development Project on the Ilha das Flores was finally inaugurated.

The week was a testimony to God's ability to move on the community to pull together and get a seemingly impossible task done. A host of people painted, organized, cleaned, laid tile, hung decorations, prepared food, etc.

Leaders and officals from the mother church, other denominations who have been active in the project, the Porto Alegre City Government, the water department (clean water is a big problem on the island, and many residents have diseases related to unclean water), and the food safety department all witnessed the grand opening of the community kitchen. The kitchen will train local residents to prepare food, which will then be sold at low cost. This will help the nutritional needs of the community, as well as providing jobs and job skills. There will also be a project to minister to the children whose mothers are working in the Community Kitchen.

The Community Kitchen will be a valuable addition to the ongoing church planting project, as well as the currently running programs teaching local residents how to make crafts and sell clothes.

While the kitchen was dedicated, it is not quite finished yet - food had to be made in the back without any available water or gas, which was a bit of a challenge :) Please pray that everything will click into place and that the sinks and stoves will be installed very soon!

Evangelism Intensive Seminary Course

I had a good weekend at the seminary teaching an intensive course on evangelism. We had students representing the Baptists, the Assembly of God, and the Christian Missionary Alliance. Some of the students are seminary students, while others were interested lay people wanting to learn more.

Please pray that the students will be able to put what they have learned into practice, and that God will use it to HIS glory to win many to Christ, both here and around the world.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Just Another Day on "The Island"

Sometimes I think that our ministry would make for an interesting TV show, with no shortage of comedy and unexpected twists and turns. On the otherhand, some days are so out there that they couldn't fit into just one episode. The other Sunday out at the island where our family works with the community development project and church plant was a great example.

Cam wasn't feeling well, and the boys had been up late at a sleepover, so I went to the island by myself. I arrived to find chaos - kids were everywhere, and there was the usual confusion of what needed to be done and how it was going to get done. "S" who is over the project, wanted to talk to me. We went into the room where we hold services on Sunday mornings, and she began to tell me about the spiritual warfare that has knocked out numerous people who have initially wanted to help on the island. People having panic attacks and almost driving cars off the bridge across the river, freak car accidents, nervous breakdowns, depression, marital and family problems, and stalled construction work have almost been the norm. While she talked, aa large rat strolled back and forth across the floor in the room behind me. Since we didn't have any way to deal with it, I shut the door - out of sight, out of mind :)

"S" proceeded to tell me that she had just gotten back from visiting a lady who had been a model, but who went missing several years ago. Everyone assumed she had abandonded her family, but it turned out she had been kidnapped and held in captivity for years and forced to work as a prostitute. She managed to escape out of a high window and then was chased down and severely beaten by the other prostitutes as she ran away. She managed to get to the home of a relative, where she had to be taken directly to the hospital for emergency surgery on a cyst on her back. [We later found out that she finally arrived at home only to find that her family has converted to Christ. As the neighborhood children gathered around the house and chanted "hey, hey, Jesus is our King" (which rhymes in Portuguese), her family showered her with the love of Christ.]

As we started the service, we found out that there was an 11 year old child from the community who was missing. An angry relative had shown up at the house with a gun, and she fled into the night and never came back. We prayed for her safe return, and then continued with the service. As usual toddlers, dogs, and mothers freely came and went. In addition, we had several boyfriends/fathers present who were also workers on the kitchen construction project. I was storying through Nehemiah 7 and then helping them draw spiritual truths out of the text for themselves. The lesson was absolute chaos. I was emphasizing integrity and fearing God, and several of the women kept punching the men when we mentioned being faithful (in general). It's hard enough to get them to look at the Bible without constant talking, confusion, babies, and punching going on.

During the study, we heard that the missing child had been found. We stopped and thanked God for answered prayer.

We finished up, and one of the grandmothers (she's 34) said that she wanted to dedicate her new grandbaby. "S" asked me to talk about dedication vs. baptism, said she was going to get someone (who I assumed was another baby) and disappeared. I got up and explained what dedication is, that we don't baptise babies, etc., and then proceeded to dedicate the baby (I figured hey, I'll go with the ministry opportunity that's in front of me at the moment). "S" came back in some time later and said that it was time for the dedication! It turns out that she had gone to get the father, who was one of the construction workers who had left during the Bible study.

Meanwhile, a little girl comes into the room and tells us that the missing child is still missing and didn't come back after all. After some confusion, I (who have no idea what's going on and don't know any of the people involved) am asked to go figure out what's going on. I go out to find a distraught lady outside with a crowd gathered around her. I finally get her to tell me that someone said that her daughter was with the police, but she didn't really know. Someone came and got her and brought her inside, where I prayed for her daughter's return and "S" witnessed to her and leads her to Christ.

[We later found out that the child had been found by the police and turned over to her older sister, and noboby bothered to tell her mother where she was or if she was alright. So, God answered our prayers and she was returned home safely.]

Then, the father of the baby I have already dedicated came back in under considerable duress, and "S" prayed over the parents. All the while we were praying, one of the other construction workers is motioning for him to get back to work, and he is shrugging his shoulders and rolling his eyes....

It was one of those days. I teach church planting and missions, and this is not how I tell people to get it done, but sometimes it's what happens despite our best efforts. I got home mentally and spiritually worn out. However, in retrospect, a missing mother was found and ministered to, a missing child was found, a lost mother came to Christ, and a child was dedicated to the Lord. All in all, not a bad day!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Lay Leadership Course

I'm now half of the way through the evangelism/discipleship/church planting course that I am leading for area for lay leaders. We are meeting on Monday nights, with a mixture of students from various churches and denominations, as well as a mix of ages and genders. While the group is fairly small, they love the Lord and I'm optimistic about all that God is doing, and is yet going to do through them.

Please pray that God will greatly use these laypeople as they grow in their knowledge of how to minister.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Missions Strategy Intensive Seminary Course

This past weekend, I had the chance to teach an intensive course on missions strategy to the students at the local seminary. We had a good group and great discussion time as we worked through material on missionary small groups, Church Planting Movements, and church planting.

Please pray for these seminary students and ask the Lord to give them the passion, the annointing, and the strategies they need to start a wave of new churches throughout Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, and beyond.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Weird Spiritual Conversation Sunday

Sunday was the day for weird spiritual conversations.

It started off Sunday morning out at the island. The four of us walked into the community development center for to help with the Sunday morning activities. Cam and the boys stayed with the kids, and I went to talk with "S" who is the director of the work on the island. She told me that there was a couple waiting in the next room and she wanted me to talk with them. She also told me that the guy had been baptized at the mother church of the work on the island.

I walked into the next room and found a blind guy and his blind girlfriend sitting alone. I began to talk with them, and immediately began to spiritually perceive that something wasn't right. The guy told me proudly that he had been baptized, and then a time later, told me that he had a problem with the evangelical church (as a whole, none in particular) because they thought they were the only way to God. He said he was visting around to various places. His girlfriend them told me that he had been going to the Afro-Brazilian witchraft meetings. He said that he liked to go there because he had friends there. I began to share the gospel with both of them, and as I finished, "S" came in and also witnessed to them. Shortly after, the worship service began and I watched with a heavy heart as this couple proudly sang (from memory) evangelical Christian songs proclaiming their love for and commitment to Jesus. I wasn't able to talk to them after the service and they left. I later found out that he had been coming to Church and was at a baptismal service at the mother church and decided to be baptized at that very moment, without any opportunity for the local leadership of the chuch plant to intervene in any way...this is a perfect example of syncretism in action - there are better ways to do this, and we'll be working on helping them work this out!

Sunday night, Blake and I went back out to the church where we had the evangelism impact a week before. After I preached and lead in communion (surprise! - they sprung that on me about one minute before the service started - you gotta love Brazil), one of the deacons asked me to speak with a lady. He said that I needed to tell her that she needed to be in the church. I didn't really understand what was going on, but as I got to talking with the lady, she told me that she was a Christian and had been a member of the church, but that she had been attending Spiritist worship services for years. However, she assured me that she didn't particpate in the casting of spells, and that she was there to be a witness to those in witchcraft. She claimed that she had won two people to Christ from within the Spiritist community and that she felt led to be there. As we continued to talk, she told me that she had a son who was addicted to drugs and who was telling her that that they needed to rebuke his addiction in the name of Jesus and to go back to Church. She also told me that this was the first time she had been in church in years, and that she was feeling strangely led to return. It was a long, weird, complex conversation. I was encouraging her to get back into church where she could have spiritual covering, fellowship, and prayer. From that base, she could then witness to those in witchcraft from the outside and not the inside. I don't know how much I was able to convince her...We left and Blake and I talked about it on the drive home - it was interesting that Blake (11 years old) had the exact same reaction and solution for her that I did - out of the mouths of children...

So, it was a weird day, but it was also good for Blake to be able to learn about and process some of these very heavy spiritual concepts in a safe environment.

Please pray for this blind couple to be truly saved and to come out of the works of darkness into the true light. Also pray for this lady who is engaging in a very dangerous way of life to come back to the worship of the One True God and to stop playing with fire.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

"I Care" Evangelism Impact in Eldorado do Sul

We held the latest edition of the "I Care" Evangelism impact, this time in the city of Eldorado do Sul on the other side of the river from Porto Alegre. This time, my son Blake (11 years old) went with me to help out. After we found our way out to the church that was hosting the impact and got set up, I spent the morning leading an evangelism training. Blake ran the powerpoint for me and took pictures (it was interesting to see what he took pictures of!).

After the training, we had a chicken lunch, and then divided up into teams to go out and visit unsaved contacts in the community and put the training into practice. Our team was made up of myself, Blake, an older lady from the church hosting the event, and a middle aged lady from another church in a neighboring town.

We had a bit of a time finding our way, as the older lady didn't know her way around her town very well. Once we finally got into the slum and to the first house, we discovered that nobody was home, and that it was just a couple of doors down from where the older lady lived. She suggested that we go visit her son and his wife, who live in the house behind her. I was pretty reluctant to do this, as I've been in situations before where it turned into a person lugging around an evangelism team to show them off to family and friends. I finally agreed, and I was trying to encourage the middle-aged lady with us to take the lead on the visit. She didn't want to take the lead, as she had never shared her faith before, and asked me to lead out in the first vistit.

We tromped through to the back yard and found a small wooden home and a young couple with a newborn baby. It was obvious that the daughter-in-law did not like her evangelical Christian mother-in-law and that the son, who worked as a motorcycle delivery boy, had completely walked away from his Christian upbringing. We wedged ourselves into the tiny kitchen and I shared my testimony and the gospel with them. The young man was in an obvious spiritual struggle as he heard the gospel. You could see the harshness and hostility slowly melting away from both of their faces I continued to share about God's plan for their lives. The young man rededicated his life to Christ, and while his wife did not make any kind of commitment, she was touched as she heard the gospel in a contextual way from someone close to her own age for the first time, as opposed to only hearing it from her mother-in-law.

After our first visit, we went to the other side of the slum and found a small wooden shack with a middle-aged lady who obviously had a lot of struggles. Our middle-aged partner took the lead, shared the gospel for the first time in her life, and had the privilige of leading her first person to Christ!

It was a wonderful moment, and we arranged to pick the lady up for the service that night. Since there wasn't room for us in the house, Blake and I hung out at the door, and he kept the dog from coming in and interfering with the visit. Afterwards, we headed back to the church for a snack and the closing service.

After a time of worship, the team gave their testimonies about the day. "I", the associational president's wife, who is normally a quiet, reserved person in public, shared about how they went to a home where it became obvious that the person was possessed by a demon. She wasn't the lead person on the team, and it was hilarous to hear her tell about how she was thinking to herself "well I wonder what our team leader will do now!" Then, God gave her courage, and she began to rebuke the demon and command it to leave. They expelled the demon and led the lady to Christ. As they were getting ready to leave, the newly freed believer asked where they were going next, and told them that it was a witchcraft worship center. It was another funny moment as "I" told how she thought, "well if this house was this bad, what's a witchcraft center going to be like!?" However, when they got there, the people inside refused to come to the door, and appeared to be afraid of the believers at their door. Despite their reservations and fears, the team was more than a conquerer and caused fear in the enemy camp!

All told, during the afternoon, 13 homes were visited, 30 people heard the gospel, and 14 of these made decisions to follow Christ as their Lord and Savior.

After the testimony time, I got up and felt led to embolden those present that we do not need to be afraid of the enemy - they should be afraid of us! I encouraged them from the book of Jonah to do BIG things for God and to believe HIM for BIG things (just as Jonah was singlehandedly used to bring revival to an entire city).

It was a great, but tiring day all around, and it was great to have Blake along to help! We got an email a couple of days later inviting us BOTH to come give an evangelism training at a nearby church - that was fun!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Answered Prayer from the Month of Prayer Part 2

God continues to answer your prayers offered up during the Month of Prayer for the Gaúcho People. On September 15th, you prayed for the following:

"Please pray for the social outreach efforts of the church plant in Partenon and Mont’ Serrat Baptist Church on an island in the Guaíba river in Porto Alegre. The project has involved women from the churches going and providing food, love, and practical help to the poorest of the poor who survive off of the scraps of recycled organic garbage dumped on the island for pigs to eat. Pray that God would enable His servants to show His love and care for those who have been cast off by society in such a way that they would embrace His love and come to salvation. Pray that a church would be established on the island in short order, and that it would become a shining example of how a community can be transformed by the love of Christ and His church."

Our family started going out to the Ilha das Flores a few weeks ago to see how we could help the church plant there and community development project on the island. The needs are astounding. The residents of the island have little self confidence and tremendous physical, financial, psychological, and spiritual needs.

Cam and the boys have been helping to minister to the children (there are a lot of them!) and I have been working with those who come to the church service. Many of them are coming from a variety of backgrounds and have little understanding of Scripture and how to use the Bible. We are orally storying through the book of Genesis and then helping them learn to read and understand the Bible by asking simple questions and helping them find the answers and application for their lives for themselves. We are also trying to lend a helping hand wherever possible and trying to help steer the project to be as strategic and organized as possible.

The homeless are finding shelter, malnourished children are being fed, women who have been cast off by society are being valued and empowered, and the Word of God is sinking into the hearts of a desperately needy people - thank you for your prayers!

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Answered Prayer from the Month of Prayer

It has been exciting to see how God is bringing answers as a result of your prayers during the September Month of Prayer for the Gaúcho People of Brazil. On September 7th, you prayed for F. and E., who had been church planters in Porto Alegre, then moved away, and have since returned to Porto Alegre and are searching for God’s will for their future. On September 9th, I met with F. to catch up on what God is doing in their life. He told me that on the 7th, he had an interview with a mission board about coming on staff as a Baptist missionary in Porto Alegre, and that it was astounding how things came together – a process that normally takes months took just a few hours. He was amazed and very grateful to learn that you were praying for his family on the very day of their interview.

"I Care" Evangelism Impact in Barra do Ribeiro

A few weeks ago, we held another "I Care" Evangelism impact, this time in the city of Barra do Ribeiro. Barra is a small town with a rural feel about two hours away from Porto Alegre.

I got up early, met the Associational President and his daughter at the Highway Patrol station along the road, and we headed off to a gas station to meet the rest of our team that would be riding with us from the city of Guaíba. As we were waiting, the rain rolled in and it started to pour - not a good sign on a day when we're going to hit the streets to do home visits! We drove out to Barra, and then had some trouble finding the church - we ended up going across two different rickety one-lane wood bridges to get there.

When we found the church, I spent the morning leading an evangelism training for the members of the various churches in the association that had come to participate in the evangelism impact. They had been doing impacts for a year now, but had never had any training in how to present the gospel in a comprehensive and contextual way.

After the training, we then had lunch, and then split up into teams to go out and do pre-scheduled home visits. Despite the rain which poured off and on all day, we were determined to go out. I got paired with the pastor of the church's pre-teen daughter, the associational president's teenage daughter, and an extremely elderly gentleman. My goal is to always have them do the evangelism after they've spent hours being trained, but they were all jittery, so I said that I would do ehte gospel presentation in the first visit.

It turned out that the first visit was in the home of a man who had just gotten home from the hospital with severe pain in his kidney and obviously needed to go back - he was groaning in pain the whole time. I gave a quick testimony, then we prayed over him and left. Our second visit was at a house where nobody was home.

Our third visit turned out to be the house next door to the pastor's house. The pastor's daughter was all fired up and said that she was going to do all the talking. We walked in the (back) door and interupted the mother cooking supper. She called her husband and we all sat down, and I was waiting for the pastor's daughter to start giving her testimony. Instead, she and the associational president's daughter dissapeared into the rest of the house to go witness to the 3 boys of the house and left me with the couple! I was able to have an excellent conversation with them, and they both made decisions to follow Christ as their Savior. The girls ended having a good witnessing experience with the boys as well. Please pray that this family will stick with their decision and grow rapidly in their faith in Christ.

We headed back to the church building after our visit for a snack and the closing worship service, where people shared their testimonies from the day, we worshipped the Lord, and were inspired from His Word.

A middle-aged lady who participated in the training and who had never before shared her faith was deeply impacted by the training and her first evangelism experience. She wrote me a note and said "Dear Pastor Jeffry, I'll never forget this day - thank you!"

Please pray that the people who made decisions for Christ will be integrated into the life of the churches in Barra do Ribeiro and grow into strong, mature disciples.

Friday, October 01, 2010

September Month of Prayer for the Gaúcho People

The Metropolitan Porto Alegre area in South Brazil is home to more than 5 million Urban Gaúchos, less than 1% of whom have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. September is a key month in the history of the Gaúcho people, as it serves as the anniversary of their failed civil war against Brazil many years ago. This war has marked the psyche of the Gaúchos, and millions will turn out to celebrate their culture and heritage in civil war reenactments and celebrations this month.
The Month of Prayer for the Gaúcho People recognizes the spiritual significance of this month and draws together believers across geographical and denominational lines to take a stand and declare that September is a turning point when through prayer, the people who have lived in darkness WILL see a great light, and that the gospel will take firm root and spread throughout this needy land. Pray that God would raise up prayer warriors this month to stand with us and the Gaúchos before the throne of God.
Please check this blog each day throughout the month of September for fresh prayer requests on behalf of the Gaúchos.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

September 30 Prayer Request for the Gáucho People

Please pray for the Whitenton family who have just begun a year of Portuguese language study in the city of Riberão Preto and are scheduled to arrive in Porto Alegre in July of 2011. Pray that God will give them the wisdom and patience to learn the language so that they can be able to communicate and minister to the Brazilian people. Please pray that they will be able to continue to learn about the Brazilian culture and people so that they can better understand how to relate to them. Pray that the recent friendships that have been formed with Brazilian nationals can materialize into opportunities for ministry. Pray that the Whitenton family will continue to grow strong in their relationship and walk with the Lord.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

September 29 Prayer Request for the Gáucho People

Please pray for newly appointed IMB missionaries Dee and Laura, who are preparing for service in Porto Alegre. They are currently in training in Virginia and will be going to mega-city training in Canada the first of October. Pray for smooth transitions with their 3 young children and for their family to grow together even when facing adversity. Their visas are still in process, so pray for God to place government officials where needed to expedite their visas and approve them without hesitation. Pray for easy language acquisition as they will be immersed in full time language learning once they reach Brazil. Finally and foremost, pray for them to have boldness to share their faith and that Christ will be glorified in all they say and do.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

September 28 Prayer Request for the Gáucho People

Please pray for IMB missionaries Mike and Donna and their two children as they serve in the city of Caxias in the mountains on the outskirts of Metropolitan Porto Alegre. Ask that God would bless their relationships with their Brazilian colleagues and give them great fruit in their work. Also ask for God’s blessing on the schooling of their children, protection over their family and blessing on their marriage.

Monday, September 27, 2010

September 27 Prayer Request for the Gáucho People

God is at work in the greater Caxias area on the outskirts of Metropolitan Porto Alegre, gathering 10 missionary couples from 4 different Baptist agencies in the last two years! We expect 2 more couples to arrive before the end of the year. Since most of these couples and agencies do not know each other, we recognize that this is not a coordinated human effort, but God at work. You have prayed for laborers in the harvest fields of Rio Grande do Sul. God is answering that prayer! Pray that the missionaries, the established churches and the new churches would sense God at work among them, that they would work together in unity, and that God would bring great fruit from their labors.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

September 26 Prayer Request for the Gáucho People

Please pray for D., a new believer planting a church in an area on the outskirts of Porto Alegre. While still unsaved, D. had a dream in which he built a church to which people fled from danger. He quit his job and began to build a building, and then shortly after, met a missionary who led him to Christ. D. is now growing in the Lord and leading a small group of believers. Please pray that D. would grow quickly in his faith in Christ and that this church plant would grow strong and reproduce other churches.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

September 25 Prayer Request for the Gáucho People

Please pray for IMB missionaries Bill and Cheryl, who work with upper-class professional Gaúchos in the Metropolitan Porto Alegre area. Pray for protection over them, and ask that God would give them clear direction in where they should focus their efforts and with whom they should work. Pray that God would enable them to group their evangelistic contacts together for evangelistic Bible studies, and that these would bear fruit in professionals receiving Christ and growing in their faith in churches spreading throughout the area.

Friday, September 24, 2010

September 24 Prayer Request for the Gáucho People

Please pray for IMB missionaries Jeff and Cam Dunson and their sons Blake and Parker. Jeff serves as the Team Strategy Leader for the IMB missionaries in Metropolitan Porto Alegre and works with Brazilians to help produce new, reproducing churches. Please pray for spiritual, physical, and financial protection for the Dunsons. Ask that God would give them tremendous supernatural wisdom in knowing how, where, and with whom to work. Also ask God to grant them much fruit for His glory and His power to proclaim His Word and the fullness of His gospel as they should.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

September 23 Prayer Request for the Gáucho People

Please pray for the church planting efforts throughout the Metropolitan Porto Alegre area. Over 5 million people live in this area of vast urban sprawl, and there is only about one Baptist church for every 125,000 people. Pray that God would raise up workers for the harvest who have a heart for starting and multiplying new churches. Pray that God would pour out His Spirit in a way that has never been seen before, resulting in unity that would propel His Kingdom forward in dramatic new ways.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

September 22 Prayer Request for the Gáucho People

Please pray for E. and the church plant in the coastal city of Tramandaí. This church has tremendous potential to impact not only the permanent residents of the town, but also the millions of tourists who flock to the coast during the Summer months of January-March. Pray that E. would be able to provide solid, stable leadership, and that God would give Him innovative strategies to spread the Gospel and grow God’s Kingdom on the coast of Rio Grande do Sul.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

September 21 Prayer Request for the Gáucho People

As part of a seminary class assignment, V. started an evangelistic Bible study with a group of elderly Catholic ladies a number of years ago. The ladies all ended up giving their lives to Christ as they studied the scriptures. Pray that this group would continue and that more would join and give their lives to Christ. Also pray that God would provide solid leadership and transform this Bible study into a self-sustaining and growing church.

Monday, September 20, 2010

September 20 Prayer Request for the Gáucho People

Please pray for P., an evangelist and church planter in the city of Novo Hamburgo, in greater Porto Alegre. P. has a heart for evangelism and church planting, but has received little support for his passions from those around him. Despite this, he has started two new Baptist works. Please pray that these works will thrive and grow, and that God would raise up more leaders to walk alongside P. in his work. Pray that God would bless P. both spiritually and financially and would continue to grow his desire to see the Kingdom of God spread throughout his city.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

September 19 Prayer Request for the Gáucho People

Please pray for A.L., the pastor of a church in the city of Guaíba who has a passion to lead his local Baptist Association to have a vision for church planting. Pray that God will give him strategies and the wisdom to know how to cast a new vision for expansion in an area where there has been little growth of new churches up until this point. Pray that new churches will be started and will thrive throughout this vast and needy area.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

September 18 Prayer Request for the Gáucho People

Please pray for V., a church planter in the city of Sobradino. V. started this new church a year and a half ago with evangelistic Bible studies. Pray that V. will be filled with God’s Spirit and will have wisdom and courage as he proclaims God’s Word. Also pray that the group will grow in numbers and maturity and will be firmly established in a short period of time.

Friday, September 17, 2010

September 17 Prayer Request for the Gáucho People

Please pray for R. and the church plant in the Vila Jardim neighborhood of Porto Alegre. This church plant started several years ago, but has struggled to take hold in an area saturated with voodoo-like spiritism and drugs. Pray that God would push back the strongholds that hold the neighborhood in darkness and that the gospel would take firm root. Pray that R. would be able to dedicate the necessary time to evangelizing the neighborhood and conducting Bible studies. Pray for much fruit.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

September 16 Prayer Request for the Gáucho People

Please pray for E. and T., who are planting a church in what used to be a carpenter’s shop in the neighborhood called “The Place of the Skull” in the city of Gravataí. E. gave up a career as a physicist to go into the ministry and is working bivocationally so that he can devote as much time as possible to the ministry. Please pray that God would bless E. with wisdom, patience, and a vision for multiplying the church throughout the rapidly expanding area where they are located.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

September 15 Prayer Request for the Gáucho People

Please pray for the social outreach efforts of the church plant in Partenon and Mont’ Serrat Baptist Church on an island in the Guaíba river in Porto Alegre. The project has involved women from the churches going and providing food, love, and practical help to the poorest of the poor who survive off of the scraps of recycled organic garbage dumped on the island for pigs to eat. Pray that God would enable His servants to show His love and care for those who have been cast off by society in such a way that they would embrace His love and come to salvation. Pray that a church would be established on the island in short order, and that it would become a shining example of how a community can be transformed by the love of Christ and His church.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

September 14 Prayer Request for the Gáucho People

Please pray for the new church plant in the Lomba do Pinheiro area of Porto Alegre. This church plant in a shockingly destitute slum was started by the new church in the Partenon neighborhood and is the result of several years of social outreach in the community. Pray that God would bless this new church start with growth and physical and spiritual protection, as well as provide them with the financial resources to help effect positive physical change in the lives of those in this needy community.

Monday, September 13, 2010

September 13 Prayer Request for the Gáucho People

Please pray for G. and R. and the church plant in the Porto Alegre neighborhood of Partenon. This church started several years ago in a neighborhood which contains one of the largest prisons in the state and is dominated by spiritism, drugs, and violence. The church has been characterized by vibrant worship and an active outreach to the poor and destitute around them. This new church plant is currently planting another new church and has a social action project in another area of the city. Please pray that God would keep G. and R. strong , and that He would continue to grow the work in Partenon and expand their vision for starting new works and reaching more people for Christ.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

September 12 Prayer Request for the Gáucho People

Please pray for E., who is currently serving as the Executive Director for the State Baptist Convention of Rio Grande do Sul. E. took office during a period of chaos in the Convention and brought fiscal and administrative stability and accountability. His vision for church planting has helped push the Baptist Convention forward. He will be stepping down because of health reasons as soon as his replacement is found. Please pray that God will heal E., and will guide those who will be selecting the new Executive Director to choose someone with strong ethics, good interpersonal and organizational skills, and most of all, a vision for church planting and the expansion of the Kingdom.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

September 11 Prayer Request for the Gáucho People

Please pray for A. and S., who are starting a church in the downtown area of the city of Gravataí on the outskirts of Porto Alegre. When they first started the work, they sold homemade baked goods out of the trunk of their old car just to have money to eat. The church currently meets in a storefront and is drawing a mix of people from both the downtown area and the outlying slums. Ask God to bless A. and S.’s evangelistic efforts, and to give them wisdom in knowing how to move forward and meet the spiritual needs of a diverse group of people.

Friday, September 10, 2010

September 10 Prayer Request for the Gáucho People

Please pray for B. and B., a young couple with the Brazilian Baptist Home Mission Board who are working to plant a new church in Porto Alegre. Pray that God would give them wisdom and maturity, as well as great favor with the people in the community they are trying to reach. Ask that God would multiply their efforts and give them His power and grace as they face opposition from spiritist and other religious groups.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

September 9 Prayer Request for the Gáucho People

Please pray for R., who was involved in helping start several new churches in greater Porto Alegre. He is currently on staff of a church and seeking to recruit and mentor new church planters in the city. Pray that he will maintain his vision and focus on church planting and that God would bless his dedication with a flood of new churches spreading through the Metropolitan Porto Alegre area.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

September 8 Prayer Request for the Gáucho People

Please pray for G. and his family and who are planting a church in a slum area in the city of Gravataí near the capital city of Porto Alegre. The church has been meeting for several years in the open courtyard of a local public school. The church has excellent relationships with school officials and has more children than adults, but has not seen much numerical growth since their initial beginnings. G. and his family have sacrificed much and are involved in helping another church plant more than two hours away. Please pray that they and the church would grow in maturity and numbers, and that God would bless them with more strong leaders to come alongside G. and his wife.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

September 7 Prayer Request for the Gáucho People

Please pray for F. and A. This young couple planted a church in a slum area on the outskirts of Porto Alegre and then handed the reigns over to another couple and moved on to a staff position at a large church in another state. They have since returned to Porto Alegre and are searching for God’s will for their lives, including whether God would have them plant another church in the Gaúcho capital.

Monday, September 06, 2010

September 6 Prayer Request for the Gáucho People

Please pray for E., a new believer in the Italian immigrant community of Alto Caraá on the outskirts of the Southern Brazilian megacity of Porto Alegre. E. was the first believer in Jesus Christ in the history of his county, and has since been involved in leading a few of his neighbors to Christ. He is being discipled and is learning how to lead the new church that God is forming in his community. Please pray that he will remain strong in the Lord, and that the Holy Spirit will bless his testimony and life with great fruit. Also pray for the new believers as they are facing persecution from their Catholic neighbors.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

September 5 Prayer Request for the Gáucho People

Please pray for R., a new church planter in a poor slum on the rural outskirts of the Southern Brazilian megacity of Porto Alegre. The church plant started several years ago, and has met in homes, a school, and rented facilities. They are currently meeting in a former grocery store. R. and his wife A. moved into the community and stepped into leadership at the church plant a few months ago. Please pray that they will be able to provide stability and build relationships which will enable them to share the gospel and build a solid foundation in Christ for the work. Pray that this church plant will soon begin to birth other church plants and that R. and A. will be encouraged and stay strong and holy in the Lord.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

September 4 Prayer Request for the Gáucho People

Please pray for the church planting work in the Menino Deus neighborhood of the city of Porto Alegre in Southern Brazil. This upper middle class neighborhood is strategically located and the residents have shown openness to the gospel. Several church small groups and outreaches to athletes have proven to be successful, but actual church planting has not yet gotten off the ground. Please pray that God would raise up workers for the harvest, and that in short order, we will be able to celebrate in how God has raised up a vibrant, reproducing Christian community in Menino Deus.

Friday, September 03, 2010

September 3 Prayer Request for the Gáucho People

Please pray for the church planting efforts among the urban poor in the city of São Leopoldo in the Southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. A simple church was planted under IMB leadership several years ago that ended up not surviving long term. However, one of the leaders who was trained in that church planting effort later started a new group in his home using what he learned. That group is now thriving and has twenty people participating in weekly Bible study and church life. Please pray for A. and T. as they lead this group, and ask the Father to multiply their reach and to use this group both as a mother church to other simple churches and an example to other leaders of how to plant new churches.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

September 2 Prayer Request for the Gáucho People

Please pray for L and L, a church planting couple in the unreached Mega City of Porto Alegre, in South Brazil. After completing an internship in a simple church plant on the outskirts of the city, L declared that he would “plant a church in Porto Alegre or die.” This couple and their young child are now looking for the most strategic place in the city and the best way to plant to make the biggest potential impact. Please pray that God would lead them to the right location and strategy, and that they would have tremendous wisdom to go along with their passion to reach this vitally important city.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

September 1 Prayer Request for the Gáucho People

The Metropolitan Porto Alegre area in South Brazil is home to more than 5 million Urban Gaúchos, less than 1% of whom have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. September is a key month in the history of the Gaúcho people, as it serves as the anniversary of their failed civil war against Brazil many years ago. This war has marked the psyche of the Gaúchos, and millions will turn out to celebrate their culture and heritage in civil war reenactments and celebrations this month. The Month of Prayer for the Gaúcho People recognizes the spiritual significance of this month and draws together believers across geographical and denominational lines to take a stand and declare that September is a turning point when through prayer, the people who have lived in darkness WILL see a great light, and that the gospel will take firm root and spread throughout this needy land. Pray that God would raise up prayer warriors this month to stand with us and the Gaúchos before the throne of God and declare that Porto Alegre will become a place where God is greatly glorified.

Friday, August 13, 2010

"I Care" Evangelism Impact

I got a chance to participate in the "I Care" evangelism impact in Guaíba last week. Guaíba is a city of nearly a hundred thousand people with just a few small Baptist churches. Believers from around the area showed up to minister alongside and encourage a small congregation which meets in a converted house in the Cohab neighborhood. The neighborhood is crowded with small houses with a very dense population.

We got there in early afternoon and divided into small teams. I led a team with two ladies, one of whom was switched onto my team at the last moment. As she looked at the slips with the names and addresses we were to visit, she exclaimed "that's one of my relatives!" We spent a long time searching for the first house, and finally found it, only to find nobody at home. We went straight to the second house, and found the young woman who was the realative of the lady we were with ready to receive us. I walked her through a presentation of the gospel and she received Christ on the spot with no hesitation. When we talked to her about speaking to her husband, she said that he was already a believer, and that he used to go to the Four Rectangular Church (she meant Four Square, but it was hard not to laugh, especially when she was so sure of the name). We got a chance to talk to them both together at the end and encourage them to begin walking together in their faith.

It was so touching to see the lady I was with, who was not originally scheduled to go on that visit, begin to cry as she told her relative how much she had prayed for her over the years, and how God was so faithful to answer her prayers - it was a priceless moment!

After we got back from the visitation time, it was time for a snack (coke and hot dog pieces cut up in sauce on a bun), and then the service.

After the music, everyone gave testimonies on how the afternoon went, and then I got a chance to bring a message from Matthew 4 on how we need to catch Jesus' vision and methods for reaching our people with the gospel.

There was a lady in the service who had been visited by one of the teams who has cancer and had an oxygen tube taped to her face. I felt led to encourage her to believe God for her healing, and we gathered around her at the end to pray for God to do a miracle and bring her complete healing.

Another wonderful moment was when Andre Luís, the president of the association, brought over the evangelist and his wife who lead the congregation and blessed them and prayed for them.

It was a great day of ministry, and I'm looking forward to doing it again soon!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The "key" to keeping your cool

Thanks to Cam's tireless efforts involving about 12 solid hours of work, a technician coming to the apartment, the purchase of a new modem, and multiple phone calls, we are now online - yay!

This whole process illustrates smething that we have observed time and time again - everything takes longer than we think that it should. Cam's car key is another good example. For some reason, her key did not start the car any longer. We spent a good bit of time going from alarm store to alarm store looking for someone who could help, and finally ended up at a car key technician (yes, there is such a thing). After spending quite some time there, he told us that the transponder in the key was totally wiped - he had never seen it happen before, but with the proper key code that came with the car (which of course, I didn't have with me), that he could fix the key in about 20 minutes for a bit over 100 DOLLARS - ouch! That was half a day.

A few days later, I took Cam's keys (with the key that didn't work) and my keys and drove to the key tecnician. When I got there and parked, I discovered that I forgot the key code at the apartment. I drove back to the apartment, got the code, and drove back to the technician. Whereupon I spent the next several hours with him struggling to first remove, and then reprogram a transponder about the size of a watch battery. While I was leaving Cam called and wanted to know where I was, because she was locked into the apartment building and couldn't get out of the building to let the lady who was going to look after our cat while we were away into the front gate. I finally got back and went to get another building/gate key made :) That was another half day.

Altogether, I spent an entire day just trying to get a car key to work. It's days like this that are reminders of the importance of walking in the Spirit at all times. Sometimes the missionary life is just about finding the "key" to keeping your cool:)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Porto Alegre is still on the Table

We are back in POA after our meetings in Atibaia, SP. We made it through with only minor injuries - Blake got a pretty significant scrape on his chin from a bamboo stick while sword fighting (hey, he's a ten year old boy - it happens :). He’s healing well.

The short version of our meetings is that our mission in the Americas is in the middle of a massive transition. Everyone is up in the air with what is happening. What we are hearing now is that the Brazil cluster will be dissolved. This means that almost all of our missionaries currently working with Portuguese-Speaking Brazilians will be reassigned to other people groups or areas of the world. Eight mega-cities in the Americas will go into an “Urban Cluster.”

Even though Porto Alegre is on the borderline as far as the current definition of an unreached mega-city, they are going to make a special exception because of the lostness in the area. They are calling us “Special Ops.” We will probably have five missionary units on our team, two of whom will be new (The Whitentons, who got to language school two weeks ago, and the Wards, who are about to start orientation in the USA). There is a possibility that another couple currently in language school could also be assigned to Team Gaúcho. We will be responsible to mentor and lead these units when they arrive in POA. Depending on when we personally transition to the new structure, our new boss will be in Mexico City. So…it looks like we still have a job offer for the near future, but with a new boss, structure, etc. We’ll see what happens!

Blake and Parker got to enjoy a VBS with a cowboy/Western theme put on by the folks from FBC, Oviedo, FL. Their closing program was last night, when Cam and I also received our 10 year service pins from the IMB.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Getting ready to head North to the Southeast

We've been back in Porto Alegre for less than two weeks, and we're getting ready to head back out. Things are slowly coming together, but we don't want to make any long-term commitments to anything here until we know more from our mission leadership about whether or not they want us to stay in Porto Alegre.

We're leaving tomorrow for a week or so of meetings in Southeast Brazil (a thousand or so miles North of us - hey, we're in the deep South here). The first two days will be at a hotel with the other Team Leaders, and then the rest of the week will be at the Word of Life Camp in Atibaia, São Paulo with the other missionaries working with Portuguese Speaking Brazilians in our area of Brazil.

We know that there is a lot of change going on, including changes in structure, leadership and strategy. Hopefully, after this next week we will have a better idea of what leadership sees as the future for our mission in Brazil.

On a good news note, we got a phone line today - we're still waiting for internet, although now that we have a phone, all of the local internet providers are peppering us with phone calls telling us that they are the provider for our internet service that we don't have and that we can't get it if we don't sign up with them RIGHT NOW! - it's hard to know who is telling the truth.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Back in Brazil

We're back in Porto Alegre and working on getting settled in.

Since we left our apartment locked up for a year, we came back to the same things out of place, pictures on the wall from the kids that we hadn't seen in a year, etc. It's been sort of a weird time-warp kind of experience.

We got to enjoy nice cold baths the first day (we used to do that all of the time in North Brazil, but it was never Winter there :) Fortunately, we got a guy to come out and fix our water heater the day after we arrived, which was a real blessing!

Our friends the Blumes got our car started, put food in our house, and picked us up at the airport, which helped A BUNCH!

There's still a lot left to do to get life here restarted, but we're getting there!

Thanks so much for all of your prayers - we both need them and appreciate them!

Friday, July 02, 2010

Getting ready to go back to Brazil!

Dear Prayer Partners,

As many of you already know, we have been enjoying a wonderful furlough here in the US. It has been a great time of re-connecting with friends and family and we are so blessed to have each and every one of you in our lives.

We are frantically packing now to return to Brazil tomorrow night. We will fly out of the Philadelphia airport around 7 p.m. to arrive in Porto Alegre, ironically, on July 4th.

As far as we know, we are returning to our same assignment. Despite major structural changes at the IMB, we are—at least for the time being—headed back to Porto Alegre to our same position.

We ask for your prayers as we return to Brazil:

--for our families as we say goodbye,
--for Café, our cat, as she makes the trip with us,
--for our trip through Brazilian customs. Ideally, we’ll just walk through without any delays, searches, notices, or charges,
--for our arrival at our apartment, which has been closed up for a year in a semi-tropical climate, and
--for our internet and phone service to be connected quickly.

We also ask for your prayers as we return to our ministry in Porto Alegre, that our steps would be ordered by God towards His assignments for us.

And, finally, we ask for your prayers for our mission leadership as they make difficult decisions and announcements in these times that are trying for most people and organizations.

We are so thankful for your prayers. Truly, they enable us to continue to live, serve and minister on the mission field.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Jeffrey Pine

Cam and I went to California for a conference this week. While there, we went to Lassen National Park, where there are volcanic peaks and plenty of snow, even at this time of year.

We discovered the Jeffrey Pine, a tall tree with purple cones (the color of royalty :), with resin scented like vanilla, lemon, pineapples, violet, or apples (fruit of the spirit :). According to Wikipedia "Jeffrey Pine is tolerant of serpentine soils, and is often dominant in these conditions." Serpentine conditions (warfare, anyone?).

So, even though the spelling is a bit off from my name (although it is the same as my driver's license, which is spelled wrong), I'll be happy to claim a tree named after me that is the color of royalty, gives off the scent of the fruit of the spirit, and dominates in spiritual warfare conditions!

Monday, February 01, 2010

Training in Guatemala City

I just got back from a great week in Guatemala City. It was an opportunity to receive training and mentoring from a senior IMB leader in how to be a more effective leader. After several days of devotionals, case studies, email etiquete, and decision making training, we visited a Mayan religious shrine and then went on to Antigua for dinner. You wouldn't believe how good hand made corn tortillias can be when they are only a few minutes old!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lottie Moon Christmas Offering Season

Well, the Christmas missions rush is finally slowing down. Last night was our last speaking engagement directly related to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Thank you so much to all of the churches who invited us to speak over the last several months. Thank you as well to all of the faithful believers who have given so generously to make it possible for us to serve in Brazil.

Please continue to pray for the finances of the IMB and for a good offering to be received.