Thursday, November 23, 2017

Bahia Interior Survey Trip


You know that road you see every day but you've never been down it and don't know where it goes?  That's how our trip started out, heading down a path less taken and coming home by a road few would dare to pass.  

On Tuesday, November 14, we headed out to find as many "unreached" communities within 150 miles of where we currently live.  Our method was simple:  Stop and Ask!  Most of the places where we visited are not marked on any of the maps we own.  Some are identified on Google Maps.  Most all are on dirt roads - either roads that have always been dirt or old highways in need of repaving.
 

At each group of more than ten houses we stopped to ask the name of the community, took note of how many houses there were and asked about churches.  We visited about 200 such communities over the course of our trip of seven days.  

Going was slow due to the bad roads and all the stopping.  Few places have any sort of sign identifying them.  Most cross roads also have no sign indicating what lies beyond.  We marked major crossroads and some points of interest along the way for future reference.
 

We found it very interesting that often people in one place did not know what lay ahead of them especially if any important town lay behind since there would be no need to go in the less traveled direction.  Often people gave poor information about the towns near them simply because they don't have cars and don't travel much.
 

We came across community after community with no church at all, period.  80 of the almost 200 places we surveyed had NO church of any kind - good, bad, or ugly.  Three places had only Umbanda Spiritist Worship Centers.  Many places didn't even have a traditional Catholic chapel.

We traveled simply, eating food we took, cooking some easy meals at night we a mini gas butane bottle.  We stopped at good and safe places to sleep and took advantage of hotels on two nights for a good bath along the dusty roads.

We found people to be very friendly and receptive.  Many asked the reason behind our questions.  Even though our purpose was to hit as many places as possible in a limited amount of time, we did have good spiritual conversations for several individuals and made a visit to a lady that had attended our church in Sobradinho but had moved away.

People along the roads we traveled suffer much like those in all of Northeastern Brazil from cyclical drought.  Many people live with no running water, only water collected from what little rain there is or bought from government wells with special filters because most ground water is "salty" and undrinkable.  Those who can afford it, dig wells and put up windmills to pump since many communities are off the electrical grid.  The most recent cycle of drought in our area has lasted for the past 14 years.

Continue to pray for us as we crunch all the data from this trip and look to God for direction for our next term of service in the land of Brazil.  Look for a prayer letter from Byron in the days to come regarding our trips and our furlough.  

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Looking for God's Will


On Monday, November 13, Byron and I head off on another crazy trip.  Where are we going this time?  Glad you asked!  We are heading for the middle of our state of Bahia.  Below is what our route might look like...


Most of the roads we take will look like the one above - 
dirt and dust!  

If you remember the post about the least evangelized people groups in Brazil, this area is right up there on the list - the hot, dry, desert Northeast.  But as Byron found out on his trip to the Amazon, it would seem that many statisticians haven't physically visited the areas about which they report.  Byron saw many churches in the cities along the rivers that he visited.  Definitely some were not high quality and certainly there are places with no churches at all, but the Bible is around in the Amazon.

We've done some research about the places we will visit this next week.  Presbyterians have had works in this region since the 1950's.  Southern Baptists have quite a few churches as well.  But we will look and see what there is to see up close and personal.

We have four weeks before we leave for furlough.  There is a lot to do before we travel...

Pray for us - for safety and for guidance.


Sunday, October 29, 2017

New Pastor Installed

Last night, October 28, 2017, Pastor Antonio Máximo Neto was installed as the first official Brazilian pastor of the Maranatha Baptist Church of Sobradinho.  There were well over 150 people present for the occasion.

 It was a joyous day to be able to see the end of a work. Many times missionaries don't get to see the fruit of their labors in a particular place.  We have been in Sobradinho since 2004, thirteen years of service and care.

Pastor Máximo and his wife, Lidiane, have two children - Neemias pictured here and Noemi who was sleeping on a pew at the time.  They are from the state of Ceará and he is a graduate of the Cariri Bible Seminary.
Deacons of our work's mother church in Casa Nova and area pastors dedicated the new pastor after Pastor Victor Bruno gave a challenge to the pastor with applications for all that were present.

Each deacon from the Casa Nova church prayed a specific prayer for various needs of the new pastor as he starts this immense task.  I do believe there were quite a few tears shed by all as the men prayed over Pastor Máximo.
A fine group of our young people gave a loud and well prepared and memorized choral reading about the responsibilities of a new pastor with all the church members standing to their feet to repeat the final lines.




Byron and I are very happy to have lived to see this moment and ask for continued prayer for the work in Sobradinho that it might thrive and grow for God's honor and glory.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Where to Go?

Part of the great missionary call is deciding where to go.  When Byron and I went to missionary candidate school way back in 1991, we heard speaker's from many different mission fields talk about the great necessities of their regions.  We were both convinced beforehand that God wanted us to work in the country of Brazil.  We left with the same conviction.

BMM Candidate School, 1991

Fast forward 26 years to 2017!  Here we are nearing the end of five terms of missionary service in Northeast Brazil.  We've worked with churches in a big city of millions.  We taught at a MK school.  We helped with a camp ministry.  We've worked with a small congregation in a little interior town.  And now we look towards the future and ask, 
What's next?  


To help answer that question, Byron recently attended an inter-agency missionary conference near the city of Belém on the mouth of the Amazon River.  He heard about the needs of people along the giant Amazon River system who are among the least evangelized group in our country.  He said after arriving home that with each speaker he felt burdened, but as he traveled on four different rivers of the area over the three weeks of his trip, he realized that the needs there are very similar to the needs right here nearby.  


Seems there are people who need the Lord all over the place!  So how does a missionary choose?  Through much prayer and some counsel of colleagues and elder pastors!  In November we plan to visit another area of the least evangelized of Brazil, the middle of our own state where the days are hot and dry - the desert Northeast. 

We know this region and who knows that God might not want us to go too far away after all.  But, we are open to God's will and still searching for what He would have us do with the remainder of our healthy years in His great service.   

Byron is still organizing the notes from his travel diary.  He plans to post some excerpts shortly with photos.  We'll most likely post them here or on the Big Brazil Trip blog.  This weekend the new national pastor will be installed at our work here in Sobradinho.  Prayers as we make our trip to the area around Irecê, Bahia in early November and get the house in order for furlough that starts in December.

For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise

Hebrews 10:36 

 

Going to need a new prayer card soon!  Lots of info to update! Email is the same.  We are still working with BWMOM.  Camp is closed.  Camp website is no longer.  theathas.com is gone.  But we are still the same good looking people working to serve the King of Kings in Brazil and beyond.

 


Saturday, September 30, 2017

Go or To Stay: Part 3

Two months ago our congregation voted to ask a national pastor to come and start work here in Sobradinho.  It was a big decision since in many ways.  The congregation was started almost twenty years ago and has always had some sort of missionary assistance.  We ourselves have been here for close to thirteen years now.  The vote to call a pastor was a little scary for our small group because it meant making a commitment to give regular tithes and offerings to pay the salary of the man or his family will go hungry!  So far, so good!  Giving is okay.  The mother church across the lake is helping and we made a promise to give a good size monthly offering until next year.  But hence the old missionary question arises:  Where are you going now?



Seems everywhere I go people ask:  Where are you going?  You aren't leaving, are you?  So going back to the US, hey?  Going to go live near your grandbabies now?  I even had a man pull me aside a few days ago and tell me that it was okay, that he totally understood why we were turning the church over a national pastor so we could go back and take care of those beautiful grandbabies.  Okay?  They are beautiful.  He got that right!  Sorry friend, our commitment to missions isn't quite that wishy-washy.  

{Although, come to think of it?  Nah...
let's not add that to the equation.}



William had to make some tough MK choices a few years back about coming and going.  He left, came back, then left again.  Greyson had a tough choice about school and chose to go now and hopefully come back later.  Dalton's made some hard choices along the way.  Maybe God will lead him back yet!  Now it's the old folks turn.  Go or Stay?  Go where?  Stay where?



Seems many missionaries our age are heading for home - the States.  #1 reason we hear is - health.  #2 is - to be close to our grandchildren. #3 is - to be close to aging parents.  It's a big pull.  But friends, our call to Brazil hasn't changed in spite of some new tugs on the heartstrings and we are still healthy and our parents are still healthy, thank the Lord. I'm super thankful for the grand people in our little grandbabies' and our big MK boys' lives right now, and for Internet that keeps us in touch.  


So are we leaving?  Probably, yes.  We are most likely leaving Sobradinho.  We have no plans right now to leave Brazil.  No, we don't know where and we don't know exactly when.  We are actively looking!  Byron is right now sitting in an airport in a little town called Santarém waiting for his delayed flight to Manaus.  He spent three days this week at a missionary conference for those who work along the Amazon River basin.  These next two weeks he will be visiting many cities and works around Manaus as he looks to see where God would lead.  The Amazon River basin is one of the neediest areas for evangelism.

Another super needy area is not too far from home.  It's the desert Northeast especially the states of Bahia and Piaui.  Imagine that!  After Byron's big jungle trip we will be visiting a couple of cities with the least amount of biblical churches in our area just a few hours away!

There are many possibilities as Brazil is mega country with many regions that have little gospel witness.  Pray with us as we seek God's direction for our future.  We still have some good years left and want to use them well!  Here or there.  Going or staying.



 The groans of the dying rise from the city,
    and the souls of the wounded cry out for help.
Job 24:12 

The need in Brazil is still great.  
The work is not done.  
Won't you come and help.





For your information... the top 8 unreached people groups of Brazil: 

1.Indigenous people
With 117 ethnicities without a missionary presence and without the knowledge of the Gospel.

2. Ribeirinhos
In the Amazon basin there are 37,000 riverside communities along hundreds of rivers and streams. The most recent surveys point to the absence of evangelical churches in about 10,000 of these communities.

3. Gypsies (especially the Calon people)
There are about 700,000 Calon Gypsies in Brazil and only 1,000 claim to be believers in the Lord Jesus. Gypsies spread throughout the national territory in large and small cities, living in nomadic, semi-nomadic or sedentary communities.

4. Sertanejos
There are still 6,000 settlements in the desert Northeast without the presence of an evangelical church.

5. Quilombolas
Formed by Afro-descendant communities that have been living in more or less remote areas for the last 200 years. There are possibly 5,000 quilombola communities in Brazil, of which 3,524 are officially recognized. It is estimated that 2,000 still remain without the presence of an evangelical church.

6. Immigrants
There are more than 100 countries well represented in Brazil through long-term immigrants with a population of almost 300,000 people.

7. Deaf people with communication limitations
There are over 9 million people in this category in our country and less than 1% declare themselves a believer in the Lord Jesus.

8. The richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor
The eighth segment is not socio-cultural like the others, but socioeconomic. It is divided into two extremes: the richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor. In some Brazilian states there are three times fewer evangelicals among the richest and the poorest than in other socioeconomic segments.

Summarized and translated from
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