Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Total Impact: Christmas Outreach Event

This past Saturday, we hosted a neighborhood outreach event at our church in which we offered several different services, as well as clothes and other items, for free. The idea was to give of our time and resources freely as a way of demonstrating the gospel, in which God gives forgiveness of sin and eternal life to us through His Son freely.

Things didn't quite go as planned. For example, one of the things we wanted to do was a car wash. We were all set up, with a pressure washer, lots of soap and rags and tire cleaner. God even gave us a beautiful, warm sunny day. However, as is often the case on Saturdays, there was no water. The city can't keep up with the water demands, so frequently on the weekends, they will just shut off the water. But we were able to provide other services, such as ...


Manicures

Pictures taken, edited and printed on the spot, and given in a frame

Haircuts

Blood pressure checks (sorry, I don't have an "action shot" of that)

Lots of free stuff to choose from

One on one gospel presentation for everyone who came.

Our church building is located beside a bar. This is not a problem on church nights since the bar is closed. But on Saturday afternoon, there was a lot of activity over there and a few of the drunks came over to get their blood pressure checked. One joked that when he drinks, his blood pressure drops to a normal level, but the next day, it will sky rocket. So sad to see people enslaved to something that is so damaging to them physically as well as spiritually. One man insisted that God would let him into heaven because God is love and won't turn anyone away. He saw no need to repent of his sins and follow Christ in this life.

I checked one woman's blood pressure who had come along with her friends just to look around. At first, she didn't want to check her blood pressure, but her sister insisted, so she agreed. As a former nurse, I have checked hundreds of people's blood pressure, but I have never personally seen someone's pressure be so high as this woman's. It was 210/100 (normal is 120/80 or lower). I had to take it twice because I couldn't believe how high it was reading. I told her she needed to be seen by a doctor right away.

We were encouraged that all of our church people came out to help at some point during the event. It is so good to see young believers learning to give of themselves. We are praying that God will use this event to touch people in our community and bring some tangible result in the near future. One woman who agreed to have us visit her had just buried her brother that very day. Pray that God will open her eyes to the fact that life on earth is short, but it matters because who or what we believe in for salvation determines our eternal destiny.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How Christmas is a Little Different in Brazil


I thought I would do a little cultural blog and point out some things that are different about celebrating Christmas in Brazil. For example, the big celebration is usually held on Christmas Eve with a big meal (often beginning at midnight) and presents. Also, since it is summer time here, you can ...


Go swimming in your kiddie pool with friends ...

Hang up your Christmas lights outside in your summer clothes ...

Have a yummy cookout ...


Buy your Christmas decorations along with your beach toys ...


and make Christmas tree shapes in the sand.

Since we are in the tropics, you can also find palm trees decorated in Christmas balls and lights (although most of the decorations are very American-looking),

but you might have to shake the termite wings out of your artifical tree from when they took over your house last Christmas season.


One of my favorite Christmas foods in Brazil is Panettone. I think it actually originated in Italy, but it is a classic here this time of year. It is a sweet, soft bread with either chocolate chips or crystalized fruits. Prices range from a couple dollars to $20 or more, depending on the size, brand, extras, etc.




I don't know how much an 8 ft. artificial Christmas tree would cost in the States, but this one is R$199, or US$110. But if you notice on the paper on the box, you can pay for it in 10 easy monthly payments of R$19,90 or US$11. That way, you can be done paying your Christmas tree off by next September.


I hope this video works for you because you won't want to miss hearing the gingerbread men singing a traditional Brazilian Christmas song. :)

video

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Advent 2011



Black Friday is over and yet something tells me the mad rush has only begun.  What are you most eagerly waiting for this Christmas?  Better yet - what are you functionally waiting for this Christmas - sure we say one thing, but our hearts scream another. Things that compete for my joy once again this year are gifts, yummy foods, family fun, christmas tunes, and a thriving church (by that I mean a church full of people).  All wonderful gifts from God, but all pseudo joys. 

This year we have developed an advent guide to use with our church.  It is designed to help us build a sense of anticipation and waiting for two events.  One which has already happened and one which is to come.  Christ has come, and yet we want to help one another feel like Israel did as they awaited a King.  At the same time - we realize we now await a more glorious event - the coming of our Savior - redemption from these mortal bodies and joy with Him forever in heaven!

If you would like a guide like ours to help you and your family think heavenward this year, the village church has a great guide online which you can download and print off here.  It is of utmost importance that we as leaders and fathers guide our children to consider Christ above all this season.  It is our one and only joy.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Gratidão (Gratitude)

Thanksgiving Day is not celebrated here in Brazil.  Maybe it is a uniquely American holiday, I don't know.  I'm planning on putting up my Christmas decorations and maybe making a special meal for our little family in honor of Thanksgiving Day this week, but it's just not the same as celebrating with a bunch of family and friends with that big huge feast spread out on the table, and the separate side table filled with all the yummy desserts.  I want to list a few things that I'm thankful for -- big gifts and little gifts, but all of them special because they come from the hand of a loving God who cares about each one of his children.

* A visit from my sister Jonna.  We haven't seen each other since 2008, and the 9 days she was here were hardly long enough to get caught up.  It was so fun to show her around our city and introduce her to our ministry and have her help with the music and go shopping together and stay up late every single night in good conversation.  Her trip was really a special gift from God to our family.




Here we are drinking freshly squeezed sugar cane juice with lime.  If you've never had this, come visit us -- we'll hook you up.  :)


 * Root beer floats.  Ok, so this would be one of the smaller gifts, but still, I'm thankful for it.  Jonna brought us, I mean, David, some root beer and Dr. Pepper.  He was so kind to share it with me.  :)  Wow, it was so good. 


* New clothes for our kids.  Again, Jonna brought us several items of clothes for both Gabriel and Juliana.  Some were from her, some from a friend, some from Christen, my sis-in-law.  That was such a big blessing.  God knew what we needed and he provided.  Even a fun Superman outfit for Gabriel who wears it al the time.




* Renewed interest in a couple of people who left our group quite a while back.  It's interesting because these two were the first two to join our studies back when we were beginning in 2009.  It  was a painful loss to have both of them walk away, but recently they have come back around.  I'm thankful for the Holy Spirit who continues to work in people's hearts even when we think that there's nothing else we can do.  The woman who came back said that she was in several churches the past few months, and she missed hearing about Jesus.  She said it was so good to come back to our church with her boyfriend and be able to hear God's Word being taught and to hear about Jesus. 
Going out for pizza with some church people, including the woman I mentioned and her boyfriend on the left.  Pray that God will be working in both of their hearts.

After-church fellowship.  
* Our church kids.  We really have a great group of kids.  Sure, they have their moments and it's almost impossible to keep them completely quiet during lesson time, but I know that they are learning and growing in their knowledge of God and the Bible.   Most of the ones who come walk over 2 km to get to church.  The mother of one of the girls told me that her school teacher asked her one day, "Are you a Christian?"  When the girl answered yes, the teacher said, "I thought so."  I don't know what prompted the teacher to ask that, but I know the kids try to live in a way that pleases Jesus.  Please pray for our little group of kids, that those who haven't been saved yet will place their trust in Christ soon and that they will all grow up into godly young people, spared from the scars of a life lived without Christ. 
Gotta love those beautiful faces.







* Gabriel and Juliana.  They are so different from each other, but they both make me laugh and teach me things about life and about myself that I never knew.  Things like how my heart can hurt when a friend hurts their feelings; how feeding a very picky 20-month-old can be more challenging than finals in school, how proud my heart feels when someone compliments my son on being kind and sharing, how preciously sweet it is to see my little girl run to David and say, "book! book!" and snuggle in his lap to leaf through her favorite book.  



 * My husband.  We celebrated 7 years of marriage in July.  I think that working together in ministry these past few years has caused us to grow closer to each other.  It's exciting to be working towards the same goals together.  I'm grateful for David's generosity, his willingness to help people even when it's inconvenient for him, his passion to teach and preach and share God's Word, the fact that he eats anything I cook for him, that he doesn't complain when the dishes and/or laundry have piled up, and many other things I could list.

God is good.  I need to step back sometimes when things are hard and discouraging and analyze all that God is and has done for me.  I quickly see how much God's hand is evident in every aspect of my life.  What has he done for you this year?



Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Proposal


In light of what God is doing,  we have prayed about a proposal we would like you to consider and pray over.  God has graciously given us a small group of believers and a rental to meet in.  From the beginning of our first services we have stated the vision of our church:

·         The Exaltation of God in all things
·         The Transformation of God’s people
·         The Proclamation of God in Christ


God has been exalted, he has been transforming, and He is being proclaimed on a weekly basis.   We are looking at what God is doing, and simply trying to think ahead for what He would be pleased to do.  We realize that a church building is NOT the church, but it would be helpful for several reasons.

The Neighborhood.  Our location is in a strategic spot.  To the east there is an established neighborhood and to the west, there is an establishing neighborhood.  New homes, small businesses, schools and hospitals. 

Ministry Avenues.  Having a church building would facilitate us to accomplish outreach ministries in greater ways than we have been able to:

·         Kids’ clubs (Space for activities)
·         Hospitality events (Ladies meetings, giving out of food baskets, etc.)
·         Athletic ministries
·         Meeting spiritual needs for larger groups of people
·         Better chances to receive first-time visitors

Gospel Deficiency.  I can safely say that out of 100 surveys I have made, only one person has been able to explain the gospel to me in its simplest form.  This is by far the greatest reason to have a facility in order to shed light on the glorious gospel so as to bring men to Christ.

This endeavor would be impossible on our own, so here is the plan.  The Taylor Team has committed to invest as much as we are able into this project.  Our church here is also committed to this project through their personal giving. Considering the fact that many of our people make around $600 per month and this is a very expensive city to live in, it will be exciting to see what God does through their efforts.  We would also like to ask YOU to consider giving, either as churches, families, or even individuals.  

3 Step Process
Step 1:  Property and Building.
We would like to buy one property and build part of our building so as to get out of the rental.  For a property of 3,800 square feet, we are looking at $55,000.  For our first phase of building we will need approximately $20,000.  So, we are asking you to prayerfully consider giving to this need of $75,000.  Between my brother and me, we have roughly 40 supporting churches, so here is one way that could happen:
40 churches at $1000 + 200 families at $100 + 200 individuals at $50 + 200 individuals at $25 = Step 1 Complete!

Step 2:  2nd Property
As one property would be small, we would like to buy an additional property.  We have considered some options to get the second property, but they all include money.  This second step would cost another $55,000 (R$90,000). 

Step 3:  Auditorium
The final step would be to build an auditorium and adjacent classrooms.  We are asking the Brazilian Christians to play a larger role in this step.  

If God leads you to help, you can send any gifts to our mission address designated as Building Project.  

God bless you all and thank you for all you do!  David, Sharon, Gabe and Juliana

Feel free to post any questions in the comments area.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Gabriel is 4!

I became a mother four years ago yesterday. I was thrilled, exhausted, thankful, relieved, excited, scared, happy and clueless. I had no idea what being a mother to that baby boy would do to me. It has probably brought out the best and worst in me as I grow daily in learning who he is and trying to parent him in a God-honoring way. Somedays I am overwhelmed by how much I love that little boy and somedays I am ashamed of how impatient I can be as a mother.
For his birthday this year, we treated him to a Happy Meal at McDonald's. Yes, that is a treat here. I think he had a Happy Meal back around Christmas time last year. So it was a big deal for him to get that special little toy and have his own food to eat, instead of sharing Mom's (i.e., mine). As we were sitting there eating, he said, "Wow, this is a fun party!"
(Gabriel took this picture of his Happy Meal toy)
Then we took him to a toy store and let him pick out a gift he wanted. It took him a while
(maybe that was kind of mean of us to do, to give him all those options and say "you can only pick one."), but he finally settled on a Cars bat and ball set.
(Um, no, you can't have the $350 jeep)
Today, we invited our church people over for a little party. I made cupcakes and little hotdogs and we had a great time.
(Another picture I found on the camera that Gabriel took of one of his toys)
Mommy and Daddy love you, little son. You are God's precious gift to us. We had no idea what to expect when you arrived, but you have turned our world upside down. You have taught us what it means to love someone unconditionally, to set aside our desire to eat/sleep/shower/go places whenever we want to attend to your needs, to humbly admit we were wrong when (before children) we used to think "my kid will NEVER do THAT", to feel almost physical pain when you are hurt. We love your love for books, your facility in learning numbers and letters, your silliness that makes us and Juju laugh, your excitement over even the simplest things, your attention to detail. And while your insistence that things be done the same way every time can be a bit frustrating, that is part of who you are, and we love that too. But maybe you can ease up a little on having to have your blankets tucked in just so at night. :)
Tonight, after everyone had left, Gabriel said, "I got 4 now, but I'm not big! I'm still little!" I guess he was imagining he would have a huge growth spurt to show that he is now a big 4-year-old. He can never understand that to Mommy and Daddy, he is growing way too fast.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Let's Do Some Good Works!

I firmly believe that the Bible teaches that salvation is by grace through faith in Christ, not by good works (Eph. 2:8,9; Titus 3:4,5; Rom. 4:5, Rom. 10:4). I also believe that good works are emphasized in Scripture as a natural consequence of this transforming, saving faith and should be practiced (Matt. 5:16, I Peter 2:12, the book of James). Sometimes I wonder if we don't practice good works enough because our salvation is not dependent upon them. We have even been accused recently of not caring enough about people's physical needs. This is not true because we regularly help people out in tangible, material ways out of love for Christ and for them, but I can understand some of our accuser's frustration with religious groups who go door-to-door witnessing but whose churches are not known for their social helps.

Anyway, the point of this post is to tell you about an outreach event we are hosting at our church next month. We will be giving out bags of food and clothing to people in the church's area. We are encouraging our own church people, many of whom have limited funds themselves, to be contributing towards this event. After all, generous giving should be a result of salvation.


Last year, we had two of these events, and were able to have several follow-up Bible studies with some of the ones who came. Of course, most people came only to receive their food, but all who came heard the gospel. We have people in our church group now who are a direct result of those events last year.

I don't usually do this on our blog, but I'd like to see if some of you reading this would like to contribute towards this event specifically. The more bags of food we give out, the more homes can be affected by the gospel. For about US$20, we can buy a premade bag of food at a local grocery store that has many basic items -- rice, beans, pasta, flour, sugar, coffee, you get the idea.

I promise you that even a simple bag of food like this goes a long way in helping out someone who needs it. And there are many people we've come in contact with here who have serious physical needs. If you would like to help out financially, let us know. If you're State-side, you can mail a tax-deductible check to our home church, and they will get the money to us. The address is:
Grace World Missions
3305 Peters Creek Pkwy
Winston Salem, NC 27127

If you are Brazilian, we can give you our bank account information. If you cannot contribute financially, please be praying for this event. I know that sounds cliche, but if there's one thing I'm learning more and more, it's the truth that God works through the prayers of his children. We long to see people come to know Christ as their Savior, and maybe the simple fact that we are loving them enough to meet a physical need of theirs will open up their hearts to the true gospel.





Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Total Freedom/Liberdade Total




Because we changed our church name recently to Redemption Baptist Church (Igreja Batista Redencão), we decided to incorporate the idea of redemption and freedom in Christ in the theme for our kids' club. We played games involving being tied or connected to others (giving the idea of bondage), sang songs about God setting us free from sin and the joy we have in Him, and taught the story of the Israelites being freed from slavery in Egypt. I'd love to say that we had no distractions in preparing for the club, lots of help from our church people, beautiful sunny days, a big turnout for the club, and parents show up for the Sunday evening conclusion. The truth is we had to deal with a crashed laptop (which we use regularly for ministry purposes), a blown transformer, little help from our church people in preparing for the club, COLD wind and rain (it is winter, after all), small turnouts each day and no parents on Sunday night. As a missionary, it's often tempting to present only the bright, positive aspects of our ministry efforts. But we all know that things aren't always as wonderful and exciting as we'd like them to be, and we have to guard against being discouraged and frustrated when things don't go as we hope. However, we continue confident in the sovereign God we serve who uses even the cold wind and rain for His purposes and doesn't need a computer in order to accomplish His work. Here are a few of the ways in which God blessed us this weekend during the kids' club:

1) The few kids who came seemed to have a great time and several brought friends back the next day.

2) The gospel was clearly presented and the seed of God's Word was sown in hearts that probably had never heard it before.

3) My parents were able to come help us out. Mom was indispensable in taking care of our kids at home to free us both up, and Dad taught the lesson on the last day and preached Sunday night.



4) We did see many of the church people show up on club days and help out in different ways -- bringing snacks for the kids, helping out during game time and being an adult presence during song and lesson time. One older lady enjoyed it so much, she said she had more fun than the kids.


5) We have 15-20 new contacts and plan to visit these families soon. Pray that they will be interested in visiting our church and open to a potential evangelistic Bible study in their home.




6) Several kids returned Sunday night, and were able to see what a regular service is like.



7) Our crashed lap top was fixed, but only the day after club was over. We know God had a reason for that ...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Evidence of Grace

Last night we had a good group in our service. The regular group was there along with 8 visitors. The numbers certainly are encouraging, but they point to something much greater: evidences of grace. You might assume then that the visitors were believers in Christ, but most of them were not! The evidence of grace we are seeing is in the lives of those who have believed in Christ and are bringing their lost friends. Anderson and Valéria, a family of 5 picked up his sister and family - a family of 4. Can you imagine 9 in a 2 door Ford Escort?


Kelly shows evidence of grace in another way. She has begun to contribute a lot like the Corinthian church. She brought some clothes and the believers were all able to benefit from them. So she brought more along with a waterjug the church was needing. On top of that she had a ceiling fan that was not being used and thought the church could benefit from it. You should see the joy in her face as she contributes.

Several have offered their help to clean the church weekly, including Anderson who went to another man that has been attending and asked him if he would help him clean the church this week. Two men cleaning the church - can you believe that?


Last night, a 72 year old lady came uninvited. She has been looking for a baptist church close by and really enjoyed the service. She told me after the service that she will now be attending our church saying that she was affected by the message. "I actually understood the message because it was well explained and very clear". May God be glorified.


My greatest joy last night was to see the power of the gospel. The message centered around: "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink." (Jn. 7:37) Adriano and Gislene were affected and commented on the message with me. May God awaken thirst within them and may they be saved. Lord willing there is a personal Bible study in the making there.


There were more evidences of grace - these are just a few. Glory to God.