Sunday, December 17, 2006

A Dream Come True

Adson, originally uploaded by russandval.

Ever since we found our church building by the water, and even before that, our dream has been to have a baptism in the ocean. Today we had the privilege of having not one, but two! Two of our teenagers made their commitment to Christ this morning after church.

The part of our worship time inside the church ended with Gilvan and Adson's confessions of faith. Then we all walked across the street to the beach. Sunday is a big beach day here so there were people all around. But all the beach-goers were very respectful of what we were doing. The beach soccer game was suspended while the baptisms were going on. It was such a neat moment.

And now, we have two new brothers. Gilvan is related to several of our members already. His grandmother wept tears of joy. His mom doesn't come to our church but came today to experience this important moment in her son's life. Adson is one of their neighbors and the two boys are close friends.

This morning before worship, Russ, Gilvan's uncle Fernando and I took a moment to pray for them. We prayed that God would be with Gilvan and Edson in their new walk and that He would help them become leaders in the church. Please join us in prayer for the new lives our brothers are leading!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

(Not So) Shameless Plug

My brother Dave has a cool job. He's been touring with the African Children's Choir for a while now but since he's neither African nor a child, he serves as a chaperone. It's taken him to some pretty neat places--the UN, Africa, Europe--but next week he's headed somewhere new.

Next Friday night, tune in to The Tonight Show to see the ACC perfom. You won't actually get to see Dave, because he's just the big white "uncle", but it's not really about him. His kids are about as precious as you can get and are excellent ambassadors. The ACC is a really cool program that is doing a lot of good in the lives of these kids, their families and their villages.

I won't get to watch because we don't get that show here so I'm asking you to watch for me. Thanks!

(If you want a preview of how stinking cute the kids are, check out Dave's pictures.)

Monday, December 11, 2006

What a Day!

Yesterday was a day of epic proportions.

We had decided a while back that it would be fun to have a church picnic, Brazil-style, as a church Christmas celebration. That meant churrasco or barbecue. BBQ here is much simpler--no sauce, no marinade, just salted meat on big swords. When it's ready it's cut up in little bit sized pieces. You end up spending a couple of hours eating but it's all so worth it.

So we decided to make this an Event. We were going to have it at Keith and Stacey's house which is about a fifteen minute drive from the church. We made plans to rent transportation to get people out there after church. We set a price for our members and told them visitors would be free. That confused some of our members. "But then we'll have people inviting lots of people!" THAT'S THE POINT!!! (We're working on teaching evangelism and outreach!)

As the day approached, we realized this was going to be bigger than originally anticipated. We rented another mini-bus and made sure we would have lots of food. We moved the events from the Parkers' house to the party facilities in their neighborhood.

Yesterday morning when we started our prayer groups, there were only about fifteen people there. But half an hour later, the room was filling up. And when I got up during the sermon to count, there were 85 people! I couldn't believe it and had Russ doublecheck my count. Our average attendance is about 50. Our previous record (other than our inaugural service) was 60 or so.

Afterward, everyone headed out to the churrasco. I knew there were a lot of people there but I didn't realize how many until we stopped for a devotional. Again, I recruited Russ because I couldn't believe it. We had about 100 people!

It was such an awesome mixture of people: our members, members from other congregations, friends and families of our members. (We even had several people from my English class!) Some people had never visited our church before, some were truly "unchurched". Everyone hung out under the shade of a huge mango tree and visited for several hours.

We were exhausted at the end of the day but we sat for a long time sharing stories about some of the ways that God had worked that day, guiding just the right member to chat with just the right visitor. We realized that if we can capitalize on even 50% of the potential contacts after this event we will be in an incredible place. Of course, 50% isn't our goal! Please pray for us as we try to follow up with all of these visitors. There were several requests for Bible studies and many new conversations were started. Pray that God gives us the words to bring these people to faith in Him. Pray that the evangelistic spirit catches fire in our members.

What do you do after a day like that? Well, we ended the evening with an adventure--we discovered that the big toad in the Parkers' yard is poisonous! Their little dog, Chacha, had a close call but we're happy to say that she's going to be okay.

This morning I went with some members of the American Society to drop Christmas presents off at a children's home. It's run by the Missionaries of Charity. It was an awesome experience and I felt my eyes welling up several times.

When I got home this afternoon, I crashed. I slept hard for two hours. The past day and a half was awesome but there's not much time to rest! Our friends Tom and Gina arrive in a week so we've got to get ready for their visit! I'm so thankful though when I'm tired in this way. God gives us strength to get through marathon weekends like that and rewards us with blessing upon blessing. What a privilege to serve Him full-time!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Christmas Party

The Food, originally uploaded by russandval.

This afternoon we had a "North American" Christmas Party for our English students. We sang carols, played games and ate a bunch of traditional foods. It was really hard to narrow down what treats to make. The decision was affected by the availabilty of certain ingredients. Fortunately, year-old candy canes still make very yummy peppermint bark. The church ladies were funny. As I started pulling out all the goodies, they marveled, "I didn't know you were so domestic!" Yup, I'm full of surprises!

This morning our worship was incredibly powerful. I love that we're finally to the point that we can be touched by a worship service in Portuguese. (I'm glad that the guys' Portuguese is finally to the point that they can use it to touch people!)