Saturday, October 31, 2015

Saying good-bye and may the Lord bless...

About two years ago God blessed us with some special friends...
One Sunday morning an American family showed up at our church...we had them over for lunch and that was the beginning of a special friendship.
Their two sons were a special blessing to Daniel and really all 3 of my kids.  
 Raquel invited the kids over often and once I think she had all three of them spend the night!  They lived on a little piece of property about an hour south of us.  It was a great place to shot bow and arrows, play in the pool, or just play video games together.  We celebrated a couple of  birthdays together, doing American cook-outs with hamburgers,Doritos, dip and  chocolate chip cookie cake!
 I enjoyed all my talks with Raquel who was a real kindred-spirit.  Trading recipe ideas like how to make pumpkin spice coffee creamer and sour cream... As well as sharing burdens and praying together.  Raquel came and participated in our ladies retreat and was a great evangelist among the other hotel guests!
Thursday we met this family for lunch at a mall for one last outing before they head back to the states.  We are so thankful for our time together, for their example of a passion for souls, for their generous love which reflects the love Christ so generously poured out on us.

Good-bye and may the Lord bless you!

Friday, October 30, 2015

New Bible Study

 I mentioned in a recent post that we were beginning a new Bible study in a small city an hour north of us.  We were able to hold two studies there in October.  The first one was with the main family that has been visiting our church over the past couple of months on Sunday nights.  We are doing a discipleship study using the book of Philippians.  At the end of the first week, we encouraged them to do the daily devotionals using a guide that was included in the study.

We were so excited as we began the second study to see that they had completed all the weekly studies and had questions and comments about what they were learning!  There was a new joy in their eyes as they shared testimony of how being in God´s Word during the week gave them a hunger for Him and strength to live the Christian life.

We were also thrilled to see our group double in size from 6 the first week to 12 the second!  Please continue to pray for this group that they would begin to glimpse the greatness of our God and the work He has begun in them!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Developing Leadership

We are so thankful for the team of workers God has brought to IBR.
This year James has felt led to invest in national leadership. 
It is really easy to always be focusing on the weak or unbelievers around us.  Doing Bible study after Bible study,  always visiting the struggling and assuming that the "mature" Christians are OK, stretching yourself thin and rarely seeing long-term growth.  
An older missionary challenged James to spend some time investing  in believers who have leadership qualifications and then divide the work with them.  So that has been our focus for most of this year.  James started meeting once a month with our deacons and wives to pray and plan and that evolved  into weekly meetings with the men to study the Word, as well as to plan effective discipleship and evangelism tools. 
A culmination of this was being able to go to a conference with two of our three main couples.  

God was so good allowing them to be away from work for the week, to provide transportation for us, the privilege to hear the faithful preaching of the Word.  It was also a special time of bonding for us as a group, laughing together, discussing the messages, and sharing difficulties.  We are so thankful for the united heart and mind that God is giving to us as a group.  IBR is growing and there are MANY needs.  James and I are not physically able to meet the needs of so many but God has already brought in the needed reinforcements!

Please continue to be in prayer for these two families as they seek to follow the call of God in their lives.
*Sandro and Gilmara
*Edinelson and Meire

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

September Church Update

Time is flying and I cannot believe September has already passed us by!  
Here is a quick update of what's happening at IBR...

 This year James has been investing in developing leadership in the church and has been working with one man on expository preaching.  In September they preached through the book of Ruth together.  It was an excellent series for all of us.  Seeing God's providence at work in the book of Ruth strengthened us as a body and I would say our preachers as well!

 September is a month of special birthdays.  Rafael and Daniel celebrate birthdays  one week apart and so we always celebrate together.  This year the boys went bowling and then came home for some cupcakes!

Since the Ladies Retreat our women have have formed a Whats App group.  It has been so neat to see how God is using technology to draw our women to Him and each other.   Sharing devotional thoughts, prayer requests, blessings and burdens as well as laughs has been very special.  It is amazing to see how God is growing our group both spiritually and in numerically.

Pray for us as we are beginning a bi-weekly bible study in a small city 1 hour north of us.  We have 2 families who have been attending Sunday services with us for a few months who live there and we are pray that God will use this study to help strengthen them in the faith.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Family Update!

Our family is doing well, by God´s grace!  Christen and I praise the Lord for unity and peace in our marriage.  The kids are growing so quickly and we are thankful to see a hunger for God and His Word in Hannah.  Recently she came to Christen one morning excited when she learned that when Jesus said he would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days He was talking about himself. his death and resurrection!  How precious it is to see fruit in the lives of your children.  Rachel, my sister has agreed to stay  one more year to help out with homeschooling and to continue her ministries in the church.  School has been going really well and we praise the Lord for her patience and dedication to our children.  Jeremiah is always full of life and this often leads him into trouble!  Recently he was playing with some friends and shot a stone into our neighbors window.  As he went over to apologize to the lady, she invited us to stay for a visit.  Jeremiah was served generously by this woman.  She poured him soda in a fancy goblet, fixed him a plate filled with various sweet treats and chose a program on TV that he would enjoy while we talked.  Jeremiah and I talked about how Jesus treats us the same way.  We sin and rebel against Him and He continues to forgive us and lavish us with good gifts.   Daniel recently went through a trial and we were so amazed at his Christ-like response.  For Christmas Daniel received a PS4 from his uncle. Due to the thefts here at home, we are in the habit of either hiding our valuables when we leave or loading them into backpacks and taking them with us wherever we go.  Last month on a Wednesday night one of the kids we take to church left our car door open a crack.  When we locked the car remotely we didn´t notice the door.  After church we found that his backpack with his PS had been stolen.  He didn´t get angry or lash out, but I could tell he was crushed.  When we got home we wrote an email to his uncle telling him how it was stolen but he knew that God had a plan and all of this would somehow be for his good and God´s glory!    Will you pray for Daniel as he has been struggling for the past month with stomach problems.  We have taken him to the doctor and are waiting to get the blood-work back for a more definitive diagnosis.  

Sunday, August 23, 2015

IBR Ladies Retreat

Redemption Baptist Church was privileged to host our 1st annual ladies retreat last weekend! 
We had 21 ladies, which included 6 ladies from a small church over 8 hours away on the boarder of Paraguay.  I am sharing photo highlights from our weekend!  Hope it will be a blessing to you as it was to us! 

 Our theme was Women of The Word...being transformed daily into the image of Christ.

We asked my mother-in-law to be our speaker for the event and she did a wonderful job.

I had prayed specifically for good weather as the hotel we stayed at is in a beautiful valley filled with hot springs and an amazing river.  God answered and as you will see in the pictures, we took advantage of God's magnificent creation all weekend!

 Often times at retreats we run from one event to the next with little time for personal bible study and reflection.  We planned those quiet moments into our program so the women could really take advantage of the weekend for Spiritual retreat as well as physical retreat.  Here, my friend Meire is doing a Personal Vitality Plan that helps us evaluate our lives and prioritize growth and change.  I have attached a link to this plan that is published by Revive our Hearts.  Excellent resource!

 We were blessed to be able to give bags full of goodies to each lady, which included a book of their choice, our conference booklet, soap (to use in the thermal baths, originally installed in 1845 imported from Italy!) pen, candy and more!  

 Saturday afternoon we had a craft time filled with laughs and creativity!  

Me and two of my right-hand ladies enjoying a quick coffee on the patio overlooking the river.  

 We are so thankful for these two young-men who drove 6 women to our retreat from more than 8 hours away!  
One of these ladies went home greatly encouraged in the Lord to find that one of her sons had spent to weekend doing drugs with a friend, and the other who is unsaved but attends church occasionally, decided that he wasn't going to go to church anymore because it only made his life worse, not better.  
She shared how she has been able to deal with her sons in a Christ-honoring way in part because of the teaching from the retreat.  She also has never had the habit of personal devotions and since the retreat has been reading the Word daily and sharing with her sons what she is learning.  

 One of these ladies shared a prayer request on Wednesday with the women...
"Pray that my husband and I would not let this desire to know the Lord grow cold.  
Pray that we would continue to seek Him daily."  
 Times of singing, times of prayer, times of testimony, times of studying the word in small groups...I praise the Lord for all that He did and continues to us in us, the women of IBR!
One final blessing to share...
we rented space in a hotel, but often were rubbing shoulders with other guests.  
Because of this we had many opportunities to share the gospel with others, including the staff.
Saturday night we had four women sit with us during our study time and two stayed  afterward to request prayer for their adopted son.  
God is good!  

Many women shared what a challenge it was to leave their families and homes to spend the weekend away...Many almost didn't come...but in the end, they all praised the Lord for His provision and strength in making the way possible!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Ups and Downs... Trusting God with the outcome

Ministry is always full of ups and downs as you really have no control over the outcome of your "work."

André, whom many of you have prayed for over the years, has been in and out of our lives for five years now.  A husband, and father of three teens, he was a humble but hard working man.   He only completed his education up to the second grade and thus cannot read.  But what he lacked in formal education, he made up for in hard work.  His family never went hungry and he was well known in the community.  James has done many Bible studies with him, for a time even worked with him to teach him to read as André wanted to read the Bible.  His wife and oldest son have accepted Christ as Savior and the family is very involved in the church.  
But, the last three years he has become more and more involved in the local drug culture.  He no longer works a regular job, and any money he does make goes straight to his habit.  He treats his family as a burden and there is no peace in the home as they struggle weekly to survive.   He has had many scares as his brother was killed for a R$10 ($3 dollar) drug debt and more recently a well-known  woman in the community was murdered over a drug debt.  But after short times of remorse which include going back to work, attending church, and treating his family better, he always reverts back to drugs.  In his mind, he needs no help, he is not addicted.  He can stop anytime.  
Then, last Saturday, a miracle happens... he shows up at our door asking for help  to be taken to a drug rehab facility.  
James spends the afternoon on the phone getting everything set up for him to go.  He is at church on Sunday.  He and his family spend the afternoon with us and Sunday night he is at church again.  The family is it real this time?
Tuesday James and another pastor drive him 100Km to the Baptist rehab center.  He takes two Bibles along with him. By 5 pm on Tuesday he is checked in and ready to go.  We all pray that he will stay, it is a 6 month program, but it is voluntary.  

Thursday at lunch time we get the call...
He wants to come home.  He is all better. It is just too hard.  
James spends another hour trying to convince him to stay,
to choose God's way.
to choose his family.
to choose life.

By 5 pm Thursday he is back home.  

What do you say to the children who have prayed in faith for years that their father be saved? 
To the wife who slaves alone to support her children?
What do you say to the man who chooses death?

Pray for André that God will save him before it is  too late.
Pray for Teresinha as she fights to trust God in this situation
Pray for Rafael, Guilherme and Larissa that they will not lose faith in an all-powerful and all-loving God.