Monday, November 24, 2008

Valentina's Anniversary Conference

The church we are working at this year in Joao Pessoa just celebrated their 23rd anniversary. Every year they have a three-night conference that the church members really look forward to. This year the theme was "Perseverance of the Saints: Marks of a Healthy Church". David was the speaker and did a great of job of bringing challenging and convicting messages about sound doctrine, genuine conversion, church membership and personal transformation.

Each night we had special music presentations. I say special because it is rare to have any music in our services besides congregational singing. The women, teens and church choir worked hard in learning new songs to present during the conference.

We were glad to welcome about 30 people from the church in the city of Malta for one of the nights. They came on Saturday afternoon and left the following afternoon. They all packed into this bus to make the 5+ hour trip.

This church is special to us because it is Valentina's "daughter" church, founded by Ray Reiner just a few years ago. Their pastor is a graduate from the seminary in southern Brazil where my parents are ministering. He actually had my dad as a professor for several of his classes. Having Malta join us gave us a good reason to have a church breakfast and lunch. It was a great time to get to know them better and to have some good food.

Every night we had a great turnout for the services. The church people brought several unsaved relatives and neighbors and pastors and members from other area churches joined us as well. It was a good problem to have to bring in extra benches and chairs and still have people standing because there was nowhere to sit.

It is customary in a lot of churches in Brazil to serve tea and coffee after the service. If it's a special service, there will often be cake, cookies and crackers as well. Most people stay for a long time after the service enjoying their snack and fellowshiping together.

Because I can't resist posting a picture of Gabriel, here he is with one of our church teens. It was nice to have several of them watching after him and playing with him so I could be free to help out with different things.

Thank you for your prayers for us. We are tired but happy. Tomorrow, we plan on going on a little trip with the Reiner family to get away for a few days and to celebrate Thanksgiving together. However, this weekend David will be preaching at another conference at another church in town, so keep praying for him.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Women's Retreat

I'm a little late is posting this blog, but decided I'd go ahead and post it anyway. A couple of weekends ago, I was able to go to my first ever women's retreat. David graciously agreed to keep Gabriel while I was gone for a couple of days. The Brazilian women were impressed that David knew how to handle Gabriel on his own and I was thankful to be able to get away for a bit and rest.

The theme for the weekend was "Beautiful in God's Eyes" and our speaker was a pastor's widow. Her testimony was powerful and the challenges she brought us in the morning and at night were convicting and much-needed.

During the day, we had a lot of free time and I was able to get to know some of the women from our church better. We had a good time sharing stories and laughing. There were a couple of seminars in the afternoon and early each morning, before breakfast, several of the women would get together to share testimonies of God's grace in their lives and to pray. It was encouraging to hear how these women have stood faithful in spite of very difficult situations.
Each of us received some pretty note paper on which to write encouraging notes and give to whomever we chose. These notes were placed in a box and at meal time, they were read out loud by this lady, Jeruiza.

It became one of the highlights of the day as we all sat there and listened. She was so expressive in the way she read each note and we couldn't help but laugh.

I had a good time and am glad for the chance to go. Oh, and David and Gabriel did just fine without me. They even went to the beach together! But I think they were both glad to have me back home with them. :)