Local Pastors Meeting

I go to a monthly pastors meeting every month.  This meeting is normally is the first Thursday of each month and is hosted by one of the pastors at their church or retreat center.  We had about 10 churches and two local retreat centers represented at the meeting this month in Ivoti.

Pastors

Conversations before and after the event

The fellowship is a very important part of these meetings.  I have talked with the pastors and each of them feels like this meeting is very important.  With only about 15 like minded churches located in a city the size of Los Angeles it is common to have these pastors feel very isolated and lonely.  The conversations that happen over the meals and before and after the meeting are vital to the local pastors.

Pastors 1

Fellowship over breakfast

Following breakfast we have a time were the host pastor shares an encouraging devotional and then we get down to business updates and prayer requests.  Typically after prayer requests we break up into smaller groups to pray.  I am so thankful for all of these men and the opportunities that I have had to practice my Portuguese with them and build relationships over the past year plus.

Pastors 2

Spiritual Encouragement and Prayer 

Ivoti was the host church and my contribution was making an egg, onion, bell pepper, bacon, cheese, and potato casserole.  I think that it turned out well and the guys liked it also because there was none left over. 

 

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Prayer: A Missionaries Lifeline

Prayer is a vital lifeline for all missionaries.  Personal prayer times are a vital part of any Christians personal walk and corporate prayer on your behalf is just as important especially for a missionary who can easily feel isolated and out of touch with friends and family.  Knowing the necessity of prayer I decided that not only would I raise financial support but I would raise 200 people who would commit to praying for me on a monthly basis.  I am under no illusions that the people who committed to pray for me will specifically pray for me daily but I know that if they take the time to pray at least once a month for me it will greatly change the work down here in Rio Grande Do Sul.  Looking back at the first presentation individual presentation requesting support, February 12, 2016, that I ever made I already had 59% of the desired 200 prayer partners.  These people who signed up to pray for me regularly early in the support raising process, I believe, are a key part of all that has happened in the subsequent years.

Prayer

First Presentation Prayer Request Slide

I quickly found out that I was going to blow past the 200 prayer partners so I upped it to 300 prayer partners because everyone knows that it is better to have more people praying for you.  By the time I made the third iteration (I changed my presentation every time there was a significant change in my support levels, financial or prayer.) of my presentation, February 20, 2016, I had already upped the requested prayer partners to 300.  Well as I traveled around and talked with people it I eventually found out that even 300 people signing up to receive my monthly prayer letter was too few so on the 17th iteration of my presentation, August 6, 2016, it was changed to 400 prayer partners.  When I finally left for Brazil, February 8, 2017, I had 400 people who were receiving my monthly prayer newsletter.

Prayer 1

Open Rate of Monthly Prayer Letter

I have seen many answered prayers over the past years.  I am so thankful for everyone who prays for me on a regular basis.  I was warned by a veteran missionary that the readership of the prayer letters would fall dramatically as the number of people signing up grew but I really didn’t believe him that it would be very drastic.  However,  I have seen the list readership constantly decreasing as the number of signups increased, the list readership has gone from the mid 60’s to the low 40’s percentage wise.  This is discouraging when I focus on what the numbers only but I take heart the bible says that “the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective,” James 5:16b.

Prayer 2

Final Presentation Prayer Request Slide

Through these past few years I have seen the LORD answer many of the specific prayer requests that have made the list.  Examples of this are raising all of the required support in one year, the ability to clearly communicate the scriptures in Portuguese, and graduating from Portuguese language school.  In the past I was guilty of telling missionaries that I would be praying for them and then not praying for them or at the very best praying for them in a sporadic manner.  Even now I do not pray every day for other missionaries but I do try to specifically and regularly (monthly or bi monthly) pray for missionaries.  I also pray regularly and specifically for all of those who are supporters of me.  Two tricks that use to pray for missionaries is to take some time to pray when I receive the notice of their update in my e-mail and then to pray when I get around to opening up and reading the update, sometimes a day or two after receiving it.  On a side note it is great to receive notes from people saying that they have read the monthly update and are praying for me.  Thank you to everyone who was and is praying for me as a missionary.

Year in Review: Great Opportunities

When I thought of the experiences that I would have in Brasil this year I never thought that I would experience all of the great opportunities that I have had.  One of the great opportunities was to get to know all of the possible future ministry partners that I have met with over the years.

Santa Cruz

Talking with Possible Ministry Partners

I have been able to preach in Portuguese once this year.  It was more difficult than I ever thought it would be but I am so thankful for being able to do it and I am looking forward to preaching in Portuguese again.

Preaching 3

Preaching in Portuguese

Being able to baptize two people during this year was awesome.

Baptism 3

Baptizing People

I was very thankful for the opportunity to join the church in Ivoti earlier this year.

membership

Becoming a Member of at the church in Ivoti

Getting to see Carlos get baptized was amazing.  I can remember praying for him ever sense I first met him towards the end of 2015.

Baptism 2

Being Part of Other Baptisms

 

Visiting Igreja Batista Pioneira

When I returned from the youth retreat last week I immediately left to go and visit Igrejas Batista Pioneira in Santa Cruz and Vera Cruz.  I was very encouraged to be able to meet with these like minded men.

Santa Cruz

Cal, Jair, Marco, and Me at the Church in Vera Cruz

One of the great things that happened during this visit was being able to hear the philosophy of ministry for these churches.  I was impressed by their articulation of the philosophy of ministry and it excites me to see these men desiring to radically pursue Christ and see the church body also do likewise.

Santa Cruz 2

Listening to a presentation on the Philosophy of Ministry

With any good church there is a group of men who lead the church.  It was great to hear the excitement of the men on the leadership team at the church in Santa Cruz.  I am thankful for the opportunity to spend the day with such great guys and to have so many good encouraging conversations about ministry and the churches.

Santa Cruz 1

Enjoying a meeting with leaders at the Church in Santa Cruz

All Brazil Conference

My first all Brazil conference was a great experience.  It was about a week long and had all of the ABWE missionaries from Brazil who were not on furlough.  It was great to have all of the visitors from the states there.  One church even sent 7 individuals to serve us at the conference.  There were also 13 other people who came to serve us at the conference.  I am so thankful for all of the different ways that these servants blessed us missionaries.

Conference

Introductions to the team from Bethesda that served us

We had a great time singing together during the conference.  It seemed like we would sing before and after each session.  It was the first time in 9 months where I was able to sing each song that was played during that part of the worship service.

Conference 2

Worship as a group

4 mornings during the week we had a training session for at least 3 hours.  The topic of this conference was Essential Mission Components 2.  During EMC 2 we learning about holistic ministry, networking, partnerships and some other topics.

Conference 1

EMC 2 in the mornings

At EMC 2 all of the different teams worked at different tables to go through all of the different topics.  It was a great opportunity to get to know my team better and to work as a group to better understand our region and how to strategically reach Rio Grande Do Sul.

Conference 4

Singing before each Session

One of the ways that us missionaries were blessed was all of the different candy that was brought from the US.  Our table especially liked the Reeses Peaunt Butter Cups.  I had some fun with our answer paddles on the table.

Conference 3

Fun with the answer boards

One evening we got to hear a story of how Al Yoder almost crashed his airplane once.  He was a great storyteller with not only great verbal inflections but also fantastic mannerisms and expressions.

Conference 5

Listening to Missionary Stories

A favorite part of the conference was talking with many of the veteran missionaries.  I was extremely blessed to have them drop some serious wisdom on me about missions and some practical tips specific to Brazil.

Wisdom

Receiving Wisdom from Veteran Missionaries

 

A Missionaries Real Day

After giving my perspective on what I thought was the ideal missionary day I want to give you a picture of an actual day in my life.

I wake up early so that I can study, pray, and exercise before class.  After reading my bible I normally begin to do some studying before it get’s light enough for me to go and get some exercise.  The bible reading and prayer times are not as rich as I would hope for.  At times it feels like I am talking to a wall instead of the God of the universe when I am praying.

Real 4

How devotional and prayer time feel at times.  Just empty framework.

The day continues with me not understanding what is going on during my Portuguese class.  It seems like I am starting to understand what is going on during class but my mind is not functioning properly.

Real 3

Pictorial representation of the mess in my brain during Portuguese class at times

I get to go and have lunch after class with friend.  We talk in English and for that I am thankful.  At the end of lunch I forgot that I had a meeting later that day.  I check my phone for the time and figure out that I can actually make the meeting on time.

I get to my meeting and the person that I am meeting is going to be getting there late.  We had a great conversation and I eventually look at my watch and realize that we just spent 3 hours at the meeting and not 1 hour like I planned.

Real 2

Empty Parking Space means I get to walk to class

After the meeting I run to the auto mechanic to get car fixed.  The day before I noticed that my air conditioner was not working and my car wouldn’t two minutes after I turned it off.  I get to the mechanics and thankfully he is still there.  I then called uber for the first time in my life to get home.  I am now going to have to uber back to the mechanic tomorrow to pick up my car in the afternoon.

Real

Time to clean so I can study

When I get home I remember that I still have to clean and do laundry today before I begin to study for class tomorrow.  I am actually hungry and open my refrigerator to reveal that I have some pasta left over from earlier in the week and not much else in the fridge.

Real 1

Home to an almost empty refrigerator

I was able to study for 2-3 hours at night before I got too tired and began to watch the Thursday night football game until I went to sleep.

 

Building Dedication Service

Dedication

Outside of Church Building

Last Saturday evening we had a building dedication service.  It was a great event that is the culmination of lots of work but the beginning of lots more.  The building is awesome.  When I visited South Brazil in 2015 the church was in the process of purchasing the land for this building.  I can remember talking with the missionary about his dream for the building.  I think that this building is different than his dream but it is still awesome.

Dedication 1

Pre Service Conversations

The dedication really showed off how large the church building is.  There was plenty of room to have 200+ seats for a service and then to also have enough room to have an after service hang out area.  It was very encouraging to see people from 5+ churches attend the 8 pm Saturday night service.  I was so encouraged to see all of excitement that the church body had at this dedication.

Dedication 2

Packed House – Church members brought their own chairs

I am looking forward to all of the different ways that this building is going to be used.  It is my prayer that the LORD would use this building for his glory and many opportunities for ministry would be facilitated through this building.

Dedication 3

Someone Wanted a Picture with Me

Culture Shock: Battle for Control

I still battling culture shock on many different fronts.  One of the fronts which I have seen the war rage is that of control.  When I first arrived in Brazil I was warned by other missionaries that control would be one of the areas that I struggled.  I have strived in my life to be under control in many ways.  It actually scares me to not be in control.  In Brazil I am not in control in many ways.

food 1

Cheese Stuffed Bacon Avocado Burger

The lack of control has been difficult to deal with.  I find myself complaining when I am not able to control the situation.

food 2

Grilled Chicken and Pad Thai

I am able to control what I eat when I cook the food.  It is good to be able to cook different kinds of food that feel like eating.  I really enjoy using all of the fresh ingredients and great meat which are available around here.  The only draw back for all of this cooking is that I have to do all of the cleanup after cooking.

food 3

Steak with Bell Peppers and Onions

As I battle culture shock by exerting control I am continually reminded that I need to trust that the LORD is in control even when I am not.  I have found myself thinking of Proverbs 3:5-6 continually and trusting in the LORD to work everything out.  I am also thinking lots about Romans 8:28 where simple truths are presented that are a great comfort to me.  The truths which bring me comfort are “God is actively at work,” “God is working these events together for good,” and “God has made a plan.”

food

Chicken Fritters and Rice

Church Building Dedication Service

Lots of work has gone into completing the church building for Ministerio Biblico Ivoti.  I have had the joy of helping with many different parts of this construction.  I am looking forward to the dedication service which will take place on July 8th.  However before the dedication service the church will be hosting a missions conference on June 30-July 2.

 

building

Dedication Service Poster

 

Church Building Construction Continues

Over the past few weeks I have had the opportunity to work on different parts of the church building.  I have enjoyed constructing some of the cabinets.  I am so thankful for having the tools that I brought with me from the United States they have been very helpful.

construction 5

Constructing Cabinets

The second floor is a great place for ministry.  There is a huge room which is great for ministry.  The picture below also shows the two offices on the second floor.

construction 4

Second floor Ministry Room

One of the most beautiful parts of the new building construction is a mural which was painted by a short term missionary.  I know that the little kids and especially the teachers/parents are going to love viewing it.

construction

Mural in Kid’s Room

There are two beautiful bathrooms in the building.  It is great to see the church coming together.

construction 1

Beautiful Bathrooms