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.