Monday, September 22, 2008

Gabriel's First Birthday

Tomorrow Gabriel turns 1. This time last year I was 8 days overdue and very miserable and emotional (i.e., crying all the time). God has blessed us so much with this little boy in our family. He brings us so much joy and he makes us laugh everyday. Granted, we've lost several nights' worth of sleep since he arrived, but it's all worth it. We celebrated his first birthday on Saturday afternoon with the kids from our church. I know Gabriel won't remember his big day, but we wanted to celebrate this milestone with our new friends and thank God for His blessing.

The birthday boy wakes up from his nap just in time for his party.

The party table. No, I didn't make any of the food. The plate on the left of the cake is filled with salgados (little pastries stuffed with meat and cheese), and the plate on the right is filled with doces (chocolate and coconut sweets).
Family picture ... Daddy picked out the colorful cake.
The church kids who came to celebrate with us. The American kids are Jon and Jenny Reiner's children -- the missionaries we are working with here in Joao Pessoa.
Blowing out the candle with Mommy's help (and careful observation from Jonas on the left and Davi on the right).
Gabriel with Lissandra, one of our teens who really loves Gabriel.

Yummy lollipop, and I think it's about time for another milestone -- first haircut. Baby André, the little boy who was born shortly after we arrived, and his mother Conceição.

Taking the first bite of his cake.
This was just the beginning of the sticky mess, but he loved it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

God's Spirit

I write from an encouraged and challenged heart in evangelism. Currently Sharon and I are doing a weekly evangelistic Bible study with one couple and I am doing a study with two teenage friends. I confess that my heart is never as excited before we begin the study as it is when we have finished, yet I pray to that end. May this report encourage your heart and challenge your faith!

The two teens, Junior and Kelvin, began attending our services on Sunday evenings - which is the equivalent of the Sunday morning service in America. Fernando is a teen in our church who has been faithful to invite them. Their usual pattern is to show up 15 minutes late and like many of your churches, the only available seats are at the front. To my amazement, they never hesitate to take those seats. After the service they hang around and we always have a chance to talk a bit. To Junior it is all new, but for Kelvin, he attended the church when he was a child. I'm not sure what has brought him back - potentially his parents separating recently. Nonetheless, we are meeting weekly at Kelvins house. This past Thursday, the lesson was about sin - what it is, how did it come about, who is a sinner, what are the consequences and is there a remedy? I was delighted to see these guys ask question after question looking for Biblical answers! Obviously we read many verses, and though I know the spirit blows where it wills, I felt as though I could almost see the Spirit of God opening their eyes to the truth. (II Cor. 4:6) Their questions were accompanied by moments of silence that spoke just as loud. The realities of sins consequences and even hell, seemed to humble their hearts. May God grant them repentance and faith for salvation! I will tell you that when you actively engage in evangelism, your heart begins to long for the salvation of the lost in a new and fresh way. Your attitude is one of concern and strong desire for eternal well-being, something that tends to vanish in our moments of selfish living or unsatisfied spiritual appetites.

Eilton and Lucimara have two daughters (Luidjia and Cathlyn) and live practically next door to the church. Sharon and I met Lucimara one evening we had gone out to evangelize. I remember our frustration as it was getting late, and we hadn't had a real good opportunity to share the gospel. Lucimara stood at the gate and listened quietly. We asked about a return visit and she agreed. Upon several attempts, we almost gave up going back. About a month ago I suggested we try again. This time her husband Eilton opened the gate and we had a lengthy conversation. He was adamantly opposed to evangelicals for reasons of hypocrisy. His persistent stories even made it difficult to transition into the gospel message. After our persistence I simply said that there is not one of us who is unaware of hypocrital evangelicals, but that the hypocrisy speaks of people and not the evangel (gospel). Eilton heard the gospel that night and as we left, he accepted a return visit for a study. I was sceptical, but we went. We have now had 4 studies and they just seem to get better each time. As he reads, he inquires about the verse and surrounding phrases. He has already said that he is a sinner and that without Christ he will spend an eternity in hell. When an unbeleiver begins to disern these things - my heart leaps, because this response is not evident in all or even most that we evangelize. Last night we found out that this man used to live within blocks from where my wife grew up - just another neat coincidence. But what caught my attention about last night the most was to hear him say that we are the first people he has ever let come into his house for a Bible study. His normal response was a swift bashing and a boot! This is evidence of the work of God's Spirit! I am grateful to be able to have a part in proclaiming and you should as well. Try it if you haven't - it will bring you much joy!