A Missionary is Never Alone: Introduction (Part 1)

Loneliness is something that I have struggled with off and on in my life.  There are times in the US where I remember feeling lonely but during my past year plus in Brazil at times I have felt more lonely than any other time.  In my conversations with other missionaries they have also felt the same or similar feelings of loneliness.  It is easy for a missionary to feel lonely and isolated in a country where you don’t know the language and do not have any friends or prior close relationships.  Over my time here I have learned to fight the feeling of loneliness.  There are really 4 different groups of people who have helped me with battling different aspects of my feeling of loneliness.

Before I delve into an overview of these 4 groups, I would be remis without talking about the one who helped the most with my feelings of loneliness.  God, the creator and sustainer of the heavens and the earth, is the one who has helped me with my loneliness the most.  It was important for me to really remember that God is intimately involved with all aspects of my life and is always there to talk with even when no one else is awake or present.  Knowing God and his character and nature has really helped me with my perspective on feeling lonely and how to respond well.

The first group is that of the prayer warriors who are regularly and faithfully praying for me.  There are 410 different people, families, or churches who receive my monthly prayer updates.  If you would like to sign up to receive my prayer letters or quarterly updates please use the link.  I am so thankful for all of the prayers and I can definitely see that the LORD has answered many of these prayers.  This group has really helped me not by physically being present but by continually taking my requests before the God who answers all requests.  I am so thankful for their faithful prayers prior to and during my time here in Brazil.

Alone 1

Youth Group

The second group is that of the financial partners who have been faithfully giving over the past 17+ months that I have been in Brazil.  This group is super important because without them I would not be able to do what I have been doing in learning the language and building relationships.  I am so thankful that I have not had to worry about finances during my time here in Brazil due to the faithful giving of so many people and churches.  My loneness would not be possible without all of your support but in all seriousness this group has helped my feelings of loneliness by seeing their faithful support.  It is great to know that the LORD has been working through these people/churches to provide for my needs here in Brazil.

Alone 2

Dinner with National Friends

Loneliness is part of normal life for missionaries but that loneliness is exasperated by the transformation of previous relationships that I used to count on.  I miss my friends and family greatly in the United States and that is only heightened at times when I miss significant events in their lives.  However, it is great to be able to talk with many friends and family using Skype, WhatsApp or even Instant Messenger.  The text messages or WhatsApp messages that I have received talking about exciting or daily events in life have been a very encouraging thing and have helped me to deal with my feeling lonely.  There are also the times where we are able to use these different programs to have video conferences with many friends and family that have really helped deal with my loneliness.

Alone

Dinner with Fellow Missionaries

As difficult as the first year and a half has been it is also great to make new friends in Brazil.  I have enjoyed the process of getting to know other missionaries and Brazilians.  The patience that my Brazilian friends have shown in getting to know me is amazing.  I have been so thankful for all of the relationships that I have been able to make over the past year.  These relationships have really helped me deal with my feelings of loneliness because God has created us to be social people and forming friendships with Brazilians and other expatriates here in Brazil.

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Preaching in Ivoti

I had the joy of preaching in Ivoti on July 1.  I preached on Philippines 1:6 on that God Began and will Complete all of his work.  I have seen great improvements in my Portuguese sense the first time I preached.  I am also thankful for the improvements that others are talking about sense the previous time that I preached.  I felt more comfortable preaching in Portuguese than I ever have.

Preaching

Beginning the Sermon

While preparing for this sermon it was great to feel more free in being able to express what the passage is saying and more confident that people will understand the points that are being made.  I was very encouraged in that I had only a couple of handfuls of words that I needed to look up because I didn’t know them.

Preaching 2
Making a point during the sermon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was great to feel comfortable enough while preaching to add some unplanned sentences and to also be able to emphasize different words or parts of phrases.  I am so thankful that my language abilities are improving.  It was also encouraging to hear comments from people as to how they were encouraged by the sermon.

Preaching 1

Final Prayer bringing the sermon to a close

Preaching in Portuguese

I am thankful that I was able to preach an entire sermon in Portuguese this past Sunday.  I not only prepared the message in Portuguese but I also prepared slides so that people could follow the message easier.

Preaching 3

Beginning of the Sermon

The message was written in manuscript form and was on Hebrews 2:1-4 with the title A Great Salvation.  There were three points to the passage, A Great Savior, A Great Message, and The Great Messengers.

Preaching 2

Looking Up from the Reading

There are many different errors that I can remember in my sermon.  Of the problems that I identified there were none that are not correctable.  I am so thankful for the gracious people who listened to my sermon and gave me many compliments after in spite of the miss prounced words, poorly contrasted slides, and poor reading skills.

Preaching

The Power Point needs work

I am so thankful that despite all of the errors this still represented great progress in my Portuguese language abilities.  I am also thankful for all of the kind words of encouragement from not only the members of the church but also from the visitors who came not expecting an American to be preaching.  Most of all I am thankful that the LORD will continue to do his work through his word even with the poor delivery from this messenger.

Preaching 1

Making an emphatic point

 

Preparing to Preach

It takes a long time for me to properly prepare to preach.  The normal process begins with prayer and reading the passage multiple times.  Following reading the passage in English I then turn to the Greek or Hebrew and look at the passage in the original language.  Following the study of the language in the original languages I will then outline the message in English.  After that I would be ready to preach in English.  However, the process is much longer to prepare to preach in Portuguese.

Preparation

Lots of Time Typing the Sermon in Portuguese

My limited language abilities in Portuguese necessitate me writing a manuscript of the entire sermon.  The manuscript is then edited and revised multiple times.  I think that I have 6-7 different revisions that happened to help me prepare for the message.  I am so indebted to my professor and all of the Brazilians who helped me with the grammar and revisions of what I was trying to express in Portuguese.

Preparation 3

Grammar Editing by my Portuguese Professor

One of the great things was thankful for were the people who didn’t know that they were going to help me with my sermon but did anyways.  One day while I was at the Hangout, a coffee shop in Sao Leopoldo, I couple of people who came in were able to read the entire sermon that was prepared at that point and give me some pointers with my grammar.

Preparation 2

Grammar Help from Non-Christians

One of the last steps was to meet with a couple of friends for the purpose of helping me with fine tuning what I was trying to say and also helping me with my pronunciation.  It was difficult but one of the meeting was held at the local Mexican food restaurant, this was good for Brazilian Mexican food.

Preparation 1

Reviewing the grammar with a Pastor Friend

 

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

 

Church Membership and Preaching

This past Sunday was a big day in my life as a missionary.  I became a member of the local church in Ivoti that I have been attending and I also preached at the evening service.

membership

Membership Testimony

It was great to be able to begin the day with seeing about 20 people become a member of Ministerio Biblico Ivoti (MBI).  I enjoyed being able to listen to all of the testimonies of the others.  Many of the testimonies were very emotional.  My testimony, in Portuguese, was short and sweet but it was well received.

 

Preaching

Reading the Sermon Introduction in Portuguese

 

Later in the same day I preached at MBI.  This was a difficult sermon not only because of the topic (giving) but also I began the sermon in Portuguese before switching to a translator.  I was very nervous to begin the sermon in Portuguese.  I think that it was well received even with all of the miss pronounced words, miss conjugated verbs, failed gender assignments for the nouns, and the poor reading tempo.  I look forward to peaching a whole sermon in Portuguese in the future but for now only the introduction will have to do.

Preaching 1

Full Church listening to me speak and understanding what I am saying.

Results of Discipleship (Discipleship #6)

Discipleship is not always a linear process and you should not think about it like a cause and effect type situation.  Discipleship has two general categories of results those which are discouraging and those which are encouraging.  If you are discipling people you need to remember that the results which you see should not determine if you are successful or not.  Success in discipleship is determined on if you continue to disciple people no matter if the results are discouraging.  Jesus, who was the greatest disciple maker of all, disciple 13 men and not all of their results were encouraging.  Judas did not continue to walk with Christ.  Don’t be discouraged when not everyone who you disciple follows Christ closer after being discipled. I could give you personal examples of all of these but if you start discipling then you will have your own should you persevere in your discipleship.

Discipleship 4

Discouraging Results

  1. Not all Disciples will be true Disciples. Example: Matthew 27:3 – Judas Iscariot
  2. Disciples will not always turn immediately from their sins. Example: 1 Thessalonians 5:14 – Be patient with all
  3. Disciples will disappoint you. Example: Acts 15:37-38 – John Mark
  4. Disciples will not always get along with their discipler. Example: Acts 15:37-38 and 2 Timothy 4:11- John Mark

Friends

Encouraging Results

  1. Disciples will make other Disciples. Example: 2 Timothy 2:2 – Timothy
  2. Disciples will turn from their sins. Example: 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 –  Sinner needing to be welcomed back
  3. Disciples will encourage their discipler to become more like Christ. Example: Proverbs 27:17 – One man sharpens another
  4. Disciples will get along with their Discipler. Example: Acts 9:27 – Barnabas

Common Discipleship Objections: Mechanics (Discipleship #5)

Discipleship is something that every Christian should be participating in.  In this series I began with giving some principles, followed by setting some expectations, then I answered some maturity questions, after the maturity questions I answered some of the life stage questions, and am now following with some mechanics questions.

discipleship-mumper

Rich and I met weekly to discuss how the bible applied to my current life situations

This is the area of objections that seems to have the most misconceptions.  Discipleship always looks different.  Discipleship is based not only on the gifting of the discipler but also the gifting of the disciple.  The difference in the spiritual gifting of the discipler and disciple will have a huge impact on what discipleship looks like.  For example: If the discipler is a gifted servant than discipleship would likely take place while serving someone else in the body rather than if the discipler is a gifted teacher than discipleship will likely take place over an open bible.  Discipleship will have a different flavor depending on the culture, season of life, and maturity of both parties.  For example: If the discipler is a married man with small children discipling another man with small children than discipleship may happen at the park while they watch their kids play or if the discipler is a married man with lots of kids and the disciple is a single than discipleship might happen at the discipler’s house while he spends time with his family.  It is my desire to be able to point out some principles to answer each of these questions.

discipleship-garrison

John would meet regularly with me and some other men to teach us from the scriptures.

DISCIPLESHIP MECHANICS:

  1. I have never been discipled so I don’t know how it should look.
  2. I think that discipleship comes from the pulpit.
  3. I can do biblical counseling but I don’t know how to disciple someone after counseling is over.
  4. Discipleship is only going through a book of the bible.
  5. Discipleship is supposed to be a 4 part 2 hour long meeting: 30 minutes of catching up on life, 30 minutes of prayer, 30 minutes of bible study, and 30 minutes of application.  I don’t have time to do this.
  6. I can’t be like the guy who discipled me.
  7. I disciple people between church services when we are talking.

discipleship-spiers

Peter and I would connect over a meal to talk about life and how the scriptures apply to it.

RESPONSE TO EXCUSES

  1. Not having someone to disciple you is a hardship to discipling others.  However, it is not a crippling blow.  There are many examples of discipleship found in the scriptures, in fact the two greatest examples of discipleship can be found with Jesus and the Apostle Paul.  If you have not been discipled then look to them as the greatest examples of discipship.  The Apostle Paul was a disciple maker extraordinaire and set a great example for us to follow in 1 Thessalonians 1 and 2.  Applicable Verses: Matthew 28:18-20, 1 Thessalonians 1-2, 1 Corinthians 11:1
  2. Discipleship that comes from the pulpit is lacking at least one of the three leg’s that discipleship stands on.  Discipleship is defined in Matthew 28 as having 3 fundamental parts: 1) Life experience together, 2) Public identification with Christ, and 3) Application of the Scriptures.  Discipleship from the pulpit can at best encourage application of the scriptures in a general sense and encourage someone who publicly identify with Christ.  Discipleship is not about calling others to generally follow Christ but to specifically and purposefully apply the scriptures to the current life situation.  One of the greatest strengths of a disciplemaker is his or her ability to identify where the disciple is in their walk with Christ and how to apply the scriptures to help them deal with that situation.  Enjoying life experiences together really helps get people to build a relationship which will give them specific scriptures that would help each one deal with their life situations.  Joint life experiences are hard to come by when you only listen to the discipler talk from behind a pulpit.  Applicable Verses: Matthew 28:18-20, 1 Thessalonians 1-2
  3. Biblical Counselors will define biblical counseling as purposeful focused discipleship.  This sell’s discipleship short, discipleship is not only focused on one issue or sin pattern that an individual has but is focused on all aspects of a person’s life.  It is sad to have heard multiple times from Biblical Counselors that they don’t know how to disciple.  It seems to me that the root of this excuse is that they don’t want or have time to get involved with more people.  Discipleship necessitates a relationship that goes both ways and that scares some biblical counselors.  A biblical counselor who wants to start discipling should open up himself/herself to building a relationship with the disciple that is more than a simple meeting time and some pointed instruction.  They need to build a relationship with the one whom they are trying to disciple.  Paul dealt with many hard issues in all of the churches that he helped start but most of the most difficult work came in correcting  issues that were present in the life of people who he evangelized and discipled.  Applicable Verses: 1 Thessalonians 1, Matthew 28:18-20
  4. Discipleship has three major aspects: Relationship with other believers, Commitment to publicly follow Christ, and Practicing what the scriptures say.  If you are discipling people you will eventually touch every section of the scriptures but there is no bibilcal mandate to only go through one book of the bible at a time. Applicable Verses: Matthew 28:18-20
  5. Discipleship does not have a pattern that is so rigid to follow.  Discipleship is driven the principles found in the scriptures and very much shaped by the gifting of the individual, the culture of the church and the culture of the people.   Paul’s discipleship took on different forms in each location.  There were always the same principles that were practiced but some of the methods changed.  Applicable Verses: 1 Thessalonians 1-2, Acts 20:17-38, 1 Corinthians 11:1
  6. Discipleship is not about making people more like yourself but making people more like Jesus.  The one discipling you should not be out to make an exact replica of himself or herself but should be exhorting you to become more like Christ.  All of our gifts are going to be different and all of the way’s that we are going to serve in the church will never all be the exact same way.  Discipleship is very much saying to others imitate me as I imitate Christ.  Applicable Verses: 1 Corinthians 11:1, 1 Thessalonians 1-2, Matthew 28:18-20
  7. Discipleship has a few simple parts like relationship building, calling others to repent of their sins, and teaching people to obey all that the scriptures  say.  Discipleship between services does not allow for the relationship to flourish.  Talking with people between services is a start to discipleship but does not allow for someone to practice all three aspects of discipleship.  Paul’s example of discipleship was that he shared his very life with the people.  Applicable Verses: Acts 20:17-38, 1 Thessalonians 1-2

SUMMARY

Discipleship will always look a little different for each individual.  There are no specific mechanics or pattern which you can use to disciple others.  There are principles which are necessary to follow in discipleship.  These principles were discussed in the first post from this series.  Do not get stuck on the different mechanics of discipleship but actually practice doing it.  For example I discipled one young man who has started discipling another.  He tried to follow the pattern which was set by me but it turns out that it doesn’t work for him.  He had to modify some of the mechanics of discipleship so that it fit his gifting better.  He is now discipling men and will continue to do so.

Common Discipleship Objections: Life Stage (Discipleship #4)

The second most common objection of discipleship is a persons Life Stage.  Life Stage is closely related to the maturity excuse but I will try and  make a clear distinction.  Life Stage refers to an individual’s external circumstances while Maturity relates to a persons internal character.

discipleship-silverman

Family Men can Disciple Others

LIFE STAGE OF THE DISCIPLER

  1. I am too young to disciple someone older than me.
  2. I am too old to connect with this younger generation.
  3. I don’t have kids, wife, ect. so how could I disciple someone with kids, wife, ect.
  4. I am too busy with life to disciple anyone.
  5. I have done too many things wrong.

RESPONSE TO EXCUSES

  1. Age is a convenient excuse for not discipling.  Each of us in the body of Christ has a different role and we all learn from each other.  Discipling someone older than you requires reviewing some specific verses on how to relate to those older than you, 1 Timothy 5:1-2. Younger men discipling older men need to treat them like a Father.  Younger women who disciple older women need to treat them like a Mother.  Discipleship is simply defined as purposefully and intentionally encouraging others to become more like Jesus.  Someone who is younger can always encourage those who are older to become more like Christ.  Applicable Verses: 1 John 2:12-14, Matthew 28:18-20, 1 Timothy 5:1-2
  2. This is similar to the prior excuse.  People think that they need to connect with the younger generation with experiences or the same likes.  Discipleship is not about having fun together but is about walking through the different seasons and issues of life with others.  Enjoying your time with those who you are discipling is a byproduct of spending time with those who are in the family of Christ.  We are called to teach individuals to observe/practice what the scriptures say, there is scripture no that says we are to only do this with those who we connect with easily.  Applicable Verses: 1 John 2:12-14, Matthew 28:18-20, Titus 2:2-8
  3. Man’s wisdom comes from experience and living through different life stages.  However, God’s wisdom is found in the scriptures and teaches us about how to handle every situation through not only specific direct teaching but also different principles.  God has granted to the believer everything pertaining to life and godliness, 2 Peter 1:3, so the one who has not experienced different life situations can still minister to and encourage those in that particular life situation.  The scripture is complete with everything that the man needs to equipped for every good work.  As a discipler you are to exhort others to know scriptural principles and practice them not to simply teach your experiences.  Applicable Verses: 2 Timothy 3:16-17, 2 Peter 1:3
  4. Busy with life does not qualify you to ever not do what the LORD requires you to do.  The call to make disciples in Matthew 28 does not have any exemptions for life business.  A busy life is a normal life for almost every christian.  Some of the best disciple makers that I know are also some of the busiest people I know.  Paul was a very busy man however he always found time to make disciples, 1 Thessalonians 1:4-7.  Applicable Verses: Matthew 28:18-20, 1 Thessalonians 1:4-7
  5. This at first might be a maturity issue but instead it is typically used by people who think that they have made only wrong decisions during specific life stages.  Doing things wrong can cause you to have afflictions that will make for a more difficult life but experiencing the difficulties can help you see the grace of God more clearly.  Experiencing difficulties and doing things wrong can provide an example for what not to do and how God’s grace brought them through the trials.  God’s grace has abounded in the life of people who have made many wrong decisions.  After receiving the comfort from God believers are able to comfort others who have been similarly afflicted, 2 Corinthians 1:4.   Having experienced the consequences for not doing things scripturally some times helps us have compassion in dealing with others who are suffering through the same afflictions.  A discipler who can show compassion towards those who have made poor decisions is rare but one who is able to restore such a person is even more rare.  Applicable Verses: Galatians 6:1-2, 2 Corinthians 1:3-11
discipleship-perez

Looses Sleep to Disciple Young Men

LIFE STAGE OF THE DISCIPLE

  1. I am too old to be discipled.
  2. I am too young to be discipled.
  3. I need someone to disciple me who has already successfully completed my current life stage.
  4. No one would understand the difficulties that I am facing right now with my family, job, relationships, etc.
  5. I don’t have enough time in my life to be discipled.

RESPONSE TO EXCUSES

  1. Being too old to be discipled is a convenient excuse for not wanting to be discipled.  Typically this excuse is being driven by two reasons.  The first is that they think that they have arrived and the second is that they think that they are incapable of learning anything new.  No person has ever completely arrived at maturity, or complete Christ likeness.  Those who think that they are unable to learn anything new do not understand the gospel which says that those who were sinners can be made righteous.  Applicable Verses: Matthew 28:18-20, 2 Timothy 3:16-17
  2. Being young is not an excuse to not be discipled.  Being young is a great time to be discipled.  Titus 2 encourages the older to disciple the younger.  The younger you are when you get discipled means that you need to be humble.  Applicable Verses: Matthew 28:18-20, 1 John 2:12-14, Titus 2:2-6
  3. The biblical mandate is not to share with others your own wisdom as to how to handle a situation but to give God’s wisdom.  An individual does not need have their own wisdom but know the wisdom that is found in the scriptures.  An individual’s knowledge of the scriptures and it’s practical application to that persons life are key’s to discipleship not one’s personal experiences.  Applicable Verses: Matthew 28:18-20, 2 Timothy 3:16-17
  4. Not thinking that others will understand the difficulties that you are facing is one of the greatest lies that people tell themselves.  This denies that God’s grace has helped others through similar situations.  One of the greatest things about discipleship is being able to walk another through the hardships with the same scriptures and biblical principles that the LORD used to comfort you.  The very reason that someone uses this excuse to not be discipled is the reason why they need discipleship the most.  Applicable Verses: 1 Corinthians 2:3-11
  5. Not having enough time to be discipled is like cutting off your own nose to spite your face.  Discipleship is something that all of us are called to participate in.  Making time for discipleship in your life will help you to better honor Christ.  If you don’t have time to do what Christ calls you to do than make time.  Applicable Verses: Matthew 28:18-20

SUMMARY

Life stage is not an acceptable excuse to either disciple or be discipled.  Every believer is called to disciple others.  If we want to honor Christ we will not continue to use excuses such as life stage to make or be discipled.  Life stages are great opportunities to make disciples through bringing people along with you as you walk through the life stage.

Ark Encounter No.2

The interior was awesome.  I had always had a simple perspective on what the intrior of the ark looks like.  However, a simple child’s perspecive would not have allowed for all of the animals and humans on the Ark to survive for about a year.

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Example of Small to Medium Animal Cages

One of the ways that these animals were able to survive was the way that they were caged.  Each of these animals were kept in their pair.  There were small, medium, and large animal pens which had both food and water dispensers so that the animals didn’t need to be fed and watered every day.  The design of all of these cages also allowed for the waste to be easily collected and disposed of.

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Example of Large Animal Cage

There are many different animals in the world and it might have been physically impossible for each and every one of them to fit on the ark.  However, there was an explanation offered on the ark.  The explanation was kinds of animals.  Below is a picture of the different types of the dog kind.

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Kind’s of Animal Example

One of the things that I did not think of as a child was the ventilation problem.  How can you get fresh air into an enclosed ark in an efficient manner which would allow for all of the animals to survive?  The ventilation issue was solved in a very ingenious way as described in the picture below.

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Ventilation Plan

Another issue that I didn’t think of as a child was that of water and waste.  How do you store enough water or get rid of all of the waste that the animals on the ark would need/produce?  The picture below described how water and waste could have been dealt with.

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Water and Waste Plan