Showing posts with label Brazil. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Brazil. Show all posts

Friday, August 3, 2012

God’s Glory in Brazil

I am just now able to sit down long enough to write some reflections on this trip I’ve been on.
The last week-and-a-half has been life-changing for me and a few people and (I pray) world-changing for others. God has just blessed this time, effort, and money.

Last week I went with some in our church (including my family) to work with the church we planted in Barra (Rio de Janeiro) Brazil. They are doing an amazing work. God is blessing them with much growth and increasing influence, both in the Christian circles of Brazil as well as cultural change in Rio. Last Sunday, they had about 2600 people in their worship services. 47 people joined their church Sunday, making the total number of members 1745. That’s amazing when you remember they had a small handful of people when the church began 9 years ago. But to simply state numbers does not give an adequate picture. The church is unique in Brazil. In it are both rich and poor. Worshiping, serving, and learning together. And loving one another. Examples abound.

One of the two poor communities we worked in is called Tijuquinha (ti-ju-KEEN-ya). When I went there with a group five years ago, it was much worse. It felt extremely dangerous. Open sewage. Strong bad smell. The people we met there seemed much poorer. Lice-infested kids wore rags and scraggly animals walked the dirt alleys. Homes were dirty. It truly was a favela (Portuguese for “slum”). The church had just started reaching into the area, and we met with a small group of about 6 people, and went to the homes of several others who were new Christians. This time I noticed a remarkable change in Tijuquinha. Kids seemed healthy. I did not notice a smell. Dirt streets had been paved with cobblestones and had sidewalks. Many neat little stores and services (like hairdressers) were doing business. Homes were much neater. It seemed much safer. It’s not even accurate to call Tijuquinha a favela anymore. We were told that it is now called a comunidade (pronounced “communi-dodge,” meaning “community”)! What happened?

Darla and I after our first day at Tijuquinha watching our
group interact with the people (and watching Dara,
Addy, and Allie show Brazilian boys how American
girls play soccer. They were quite impressed!).
We were sporting our tie dye shirts. We made
hundreds of these for the kids there! An awesome day.
I think I know. There are now dozens of small groups from Central Church Barra there. I walked the streets and met many people inviting them to our program there and giving out Bibles and lists of the small groups in the community. Almost everyone knew of Central Church Barra and had favorable things to say. The church has literally transformed the community. Many of the residents I met 5 years ago who were new Christians are now leaders in the church and/or community. You can just tell they are happy and growing. They are seeing their community changed. This time I met with a small group (a couple of other groups met with us, so it was not really “small”). Four men received Christ that very night. UNBELIEVABLE!

The rest of the week we worked in a new favela that the church has targeted to transform. It has already begun. They had events designed for the purpose of showing love to those people whom the government had forgotten. It reminded me of the Tijuquinha I visited five years ago. But we (the group from Providence and Central Barra) played with kids, prayed with the people, presented the Gospel, and invited the whole community to a big event there on Saturday. At that event lawyers, doctors, professional counselors, veterinarians, physical therapists, and other professionals from the church set up stations to give free help to the people. The church went all out and we were right there with them. We made salvation bracelets (I’ll try to blog later about them) that told the story of the Gospel, and (with translators from Central Barra) told hundreds about Jesus’ love. Then some famous Brazilian musicians gave a mini concert for the people and Pastor Josué spoke of God’s love and told the people that Central Barra was just starting to show his love and would be in this community from now on. At least 47 people received Christ. I am tearing up as I recount this even now.

This week I’m in São Paulo, the third largest city in the world (according to some reports). There are many places here where wealthy and poor neighborhoods live virtually side-by-side, oblivious to one another, and oblivious to the Good News. We’re wanting to start another church like Central Barra. Please pray for us. Jesse Cragwall of GPI is assisting, Tim & Polly Sumner are translating, and John Barber is getting it all on video. More later, just please pray as we meet with pastors, denominational leaders, seminary professors, and potential church planters. Many thanks to those who are helping us make connections and getting the word out. Great things are happening.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Back in Brazil

Finally here in Brazil. I thought I'd write a few reports as I get the chance. Travel went pretty well (minus a delayed flight from Knoxville to Atlanta which caused Jesse, John, and I to have to run like maniacs OJ style through a couple of concourses. We almost didn't catch the flight to Brazil! We were sweating and wheezing when we sat down on the plane!). My first surprise was the way the church has grown! They have made use of every inch of the property that they bought and have bought more. The auditorium that had low ceilings and held about 200 people has been expanded to a capacity of 800 people with a high ceiling. They have 3 services each Sunday averaging 2400 per week! Wow!
Josue is still the humble and godly man that he was. I am almost brought to tears as I see how much God has used them.
More later. Gotta go to sleep.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Providence is going on a Journey

I know some of you who read this blog are not a part of Providence. This is a summary of what we presented to the church Sunday. It’s an overview of something we’re doing next year that we’re calling “The Journey 2012.” It’s going to be fun!

For 2012, folks at Providence are invited to take a journey to experience biblical Christianity. Particularly in five ways:

1. Journey through the Bible in a year. You can do this in the following ways:
• As an individual. Have you ever wanted to read the Bible through in the order in which it occurred? You will be able to do this online, on your smartphone or pad, or in your real Bible.

• As a church on Sundays. Every Sunday in 2012, the sermon will cover a theme, story, or selections from the passages we’ve all just read the previous week. Sometimes hard-to-understand parts will be discussed. Obviously, it would be impractical to read and discuss every verse, so we’ll get more of the 20,000-foot view!

• Our small groups will discuss the passages too! Here you will be able to express your thoughts and questions with others who are reading like you.

• Our students and children’s ministries will be following along, bringing out the main themes from the reading on their level. Your whole family is invited to walk through the Bible with our church family! It is an opportunity for you to really get to know the greatest book ever written together.

2. Pray deliberately.
You can’t read the Bible without noticing how people talk with God regularly, yet in our busy, high-tech culture, "the average Christian spends less than two minutes a day in prayer” (Nicole Haye, iNewswire, November 21, 2008). We want to help you know how to pray, what to pray, and help you stay motivated (whether you’re structured or unstructured)!
Hand-made leather “travel journals” are available for you to use devotionally.

3. Journey together in community.
• You are invited to covenant with a small group for a year.

• We invite all of you to serve in your church family for a year.

4. Give to kingdom causes.
Take the time to pray and think about how God wants you to participate this year regarding the following 3 giving categories:
First fruits to the storehouse.

Missions opportunities.

Facility expansion.

Regarding missions, our elders have prayerfully considered exciting local and international missions that need our support. Locally we want to financially support Hope Resource Center, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Knox Area Rescue Ministries, and our local church planting efforts. Internationally, we are helping launch a new church planting organization: Global Planting Initiative, and are beginning the process of planting another church in Brazil!

5. Journey on mission for one week of your year. Instead of WorshipServe this year in which hundreds of you have taken part, we’re inviting everyone to be missional for more than just one Sunday. We’re inviting you to give a week. Because everyone is in a different situation, we’re offering opportunities locally, nationally, and internationally. The point is to make a difference and experience helping people in a different culture.

If you want to hear the whole message, click here.

For the next 3 weeks, we’re going to explain more detail and encourage everyone to pray about how they’d like to be a part. The Journey begins in January! I can’t wait!

Friday, April 9, 2010

When a child outgrows you

My son, Drew, is getting big. When I give him a hug, it surprises me how much he's grown. He's fifteen. He's driving with his learner's permit, and is getting better each time. I'm sure he thinks I'm on him about stuff all the time, I just want him to be a godly man. I'm really proud of him. I love that he loves God and people. I want him to be a better man than me. Seems that is happening. Thank you God.

Got an email from Josué, the pastor of Central Church Barra in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. That's the mission church God used us to plant about six years ago. Seems they've grown. A lot. And they're still growing! Josué emailed me that they're bigger than we are now! They're supporting 11 missionaries of their own around the world and just donated money to Haiti...just like us! I love this. I desire nothing more than for God to help us plant more churches, locally and globally, who will outgrow us!

Thank you God.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Whew! Fall is in the air.

It's just starting to cool off a bit from the summer heat. There's a smell to early fall. Maybe it's some weed or something that blooms giving off a scent that always triggers a flashback for me. I think of 13 straight years of my life when I played football. There's a feeling I get. Excitement. Hope. Enjoyment. BUSYNESS. Fall is undoubtedly my favorite season—and I promise it is not because of football season. Sure, I love football. But it's the whole season that I love. From the heat of early September to Thanksgiving, fall is quite nostalgic for me. And it's always busy. Always.

I went dove hunting on September 1st and haven't had a chance to go since—but I find myself noticing doves safely resting on telephone wires as I drive from one meeting to the next. This fall has been especially busy it seems—with good stuff.

New Church Plant
Our church voted on a vision for 2007 with three objectives. One of them was to begin a process to intentionally plant churches. Since we adopted this vision, a group of people from Kingston approached me who were exploring the possibility of start a church. Long story short, they sensed God leading them to become members of Providence in order to gain our DNA until they launched a church with our guidance and support. Of course, a vital part of a successful new church plant is a planting pastor. Another long story short, since the vision was adopted, I have gotten to know a guy from Mississippi named Kevin who began sensing God leading him to plant a church that reaches the culture with the word. This whole process has been both incredibly complicated and exhilarating. It's one of those amazing set of circumstances that really makes me say, "Wow. God is wonderful." We will know soon (after the church votes and Kevin senses God's call) if it really is of God, but no matter what I can't wait to see what happens. [UPDATE: KEVIN DID NOT SENSE GOD'S CALL, BUT GOD MOVED IN A GUY NAMED MELVIN SWAFFORD, WHO I HAVE BEEN TALKING WITH FOR YEARS ABOUT PLANTING A CHURCH--IT LOOKS LIKE IT WILL HAPPEN--GOD WILLING, OF COURSE!]

In a hundred years (should Christ not come first), I think thousands of people will have been reached because of the church that is being born through this effort.

Mission Trip to Brazil
Darla and I have sensed God's leadership to take our whole family to Brazil on a mission trip this fall (October 22–29). This is something we have been hoping to do for years. Why? We want to instill in our kids an understanding of God's call to take the Good News to the nations. We have been saving as a family, have decided to not take a vacation this year, and are actively trying to raise money together so that Drew, Duncan, and Dara can appreciate the sacrifice for, and priority of this trip. Needless to say, they are ecstatic about being used by God in Brazil.
Secondly, we will be accomplishing important Kingdom work. The purposes of the trip are threefold:
1) We will be helping a church (that our church started three years ago) to secure land and plan the building of a facility in which to worship. This strategically placed Bible-believing church is in a fast-growing area of Rio de Janeiro, one of the largest cities in the world. They are successfully reaching hundreds for Christ. They currently meet in a small rented facility, which is a hindrance. We are taking three contractors from our church to help them in this effort. 2) We will be helping the same church begin a ministry to families that focuses on making disciples of kids, not unlike Kidstuf, which God has used to bring many families to Christ and deliberately equips parents as the primary disciple-makers of their kids. God used Darla to bring this ministry to Providence and all of our kids have taken part in it as well. They are so excited to help our Brazilian friends get this life-changing ministry started there. 3) We will be doing ministry in a poverty-stricken area in Rio. Even though the church we planted is in a middle- and upper-income area, they have a heart for missions and ministry to the many poor in their own city. We will assist them in their work and experience with our own eyes how those in extreme poverty live. There are other kingdom tasks we hope to accomplish as well.
Obviously, the trip won't be cheap. It'll cost about $7000 for our whole family to make the trip. We've budgeted and saved but are still trusting God to help us find this large amount. It makes it a little more challenging that I am the teaching pastor of Providence. I have thought it wise not to ask individuals in our church for donations. Please pray that we'll trust God to help us find the rest of the amount we need to go. There have been a gazillion complications. Airlines seem to be in chaos and so are the passport office and visa process. But other than coming up with the money, it looks like God has allowed everything to fall in place.

New People
Fall is always the best time for church growth. People get settled back into a regular schedule. For whatever reason, we have seen more new faces in the last few weeks than at any other time I can remember. This is great! However I find myself stressing over details: is the facility clean and inviting? Do we have greeters? Are we helping people take the next step (receiving Christ, membership, Life Group, etc.)? Am I communicating the word accurately and effectively?

New Elders
We're at the end of a long process of examining men for eldership. This is VITALLY important. We can't afford to make a mistake here. There has been much prayer and discussion involved in this process. [UPDATE: GOD CALLED KENNY SMITH, TIM TUCKER, AND DAVID ZELEM TO BE ELDERS!]

Kids Activities
Before I am a pastor, I am a dad and husband. Drew is in seventh grade, playing soccer (scored two goals in the last game!), is really involved in Technology Students Association (he competed in the state and nationals last year), is a ballboy for Carson-Newman football, has lots of homework, and at church he is volunteering in Preschool, Kidstuf, and is in the middle school ministry! Duncan's in sixth grade (experiencing a new level of homework), is playing softball (their team won the league championship last season), and at church she is volunteering in preschool, dancing in Kidstuf, is in middle school ministry and is an active part of her small group. Dara is in third grade now and is a big soccer player. She's also involved in church (getting baptized next week after recently receiving Christ!). Her birthday is coming this month and is a big deal! She's been watching too much "Extreme Home Makeover" and has asked us to give her an "extreme ROOM makeover" while she is at school. That's Dara. Going for it all.

Normal Schedule
Other than all of the aforementioned activities, I really don't have to do anything except lead our church through a study of tongues and spiritual gifts as we tackle 1 Corinthians 14, counsel people, meet with many pastors, continue efforts for area-wide transformation, work with and mentor leaders in our church, plan future sermon series, and read and study and pray.

Whew! Smell that scent in the air? It's fall. It's exciting. It's BUSY. I don't think I'll be doing much more hunting this year.