September 26, 2008

Neighborhood churches in the making

Since my hearing returned, I've led a number of workshops and training sessions at Igreja Batista da Vitória, to prepare Christian families to start small house-churches in their neighborhoods. Even yesterday I was able to visit a husband and wife who have a small grocery store in an area of the city I had not been to. They have an upper room with 80 chairs that they envision being used for worship services in the future.

I just wanted to put some names here and ask you to pray for these families that I am training and discipling to plant new churches in their neighborhoods.

José Antonio and Evándia - He is a construction worker and she is a housekeeper. They are inviting people to meet with them in their home each week to hear the gospel. They have two teenaged daughters. José António has been to the small town several times and is a good help there.

Valdecir and Cida - This couple works together in something similar to a hotdog stand 6 nights a week, but instead of hotdogs they sell brazilian style grilled steak. (You would like it if you ate it and you would have to be here to understand why it is so popular on the street.) They have been to several workshops and are planning to reach families in their home.

Julinho and Ana - This couple is the one that I mentioned that has the grocery store. They have one young daughter. They hope to begin a church in their upper room.

Rosa - This grandmother has a beauty salon. She wants to close business one day a week and use her salon to evangelize her long-time clients and their friends. She wants to use her salon to host church meetings in the future.

Bruno - This young man is a top-10 ranked Muai Thai fighter in the world. He has traveled to many countries to fight in tournaments and has had his heart broken in eastern countries seeing the people who don't know Jesus. He wants to learn to evangelize and start a church in his dojo and then in the future, go to an un-named far-eastern country and repeat the process.

Moisés and Patricia - This couple works at the University and have two young sons. They have participated in our training and want to begin a church in their home.

Marcia - This woman is a single mother of a teenaged daughter. She came to Christ later in life and lives in a poorer neighborhood. She and her mother have to walk a half hour up and down hills to come to our church. She wants to begin a work to reach people in her neighborhood and form a small church closer to her home and acquaintences.

There are others, but these are the ones with the most potential to really begin something. Please pray for them, perhaps one family a day for a week, then repeat.

September 25, 2008

Why stories and not sermons?

A mark of oral learners is that they do not trust conclusions based on abstract or propositional statements. It is firsthand experience -- either personal or vicarious -- that makes something concrete, hence trustworthy. --Telling God's Stories with Power

September 24, 2008


We had some scheduling challenges this week, so I went in to the small town yesterday instead of waiting for Thursday. My partner is still unable to return with me. Perhaps next week.

Going on a different day has its problems. I was unable to meet with any of the regular scheduled groups as planned. I did, however get to meet with several people individually. This gave me a chance to talk through some of the things we've been doing these past several weeks.

The most interesting and perhaps deflating conversation was with the young mother De. We talked about the discipling we've been doing as a group, and I shared with her my desire for the families to be baptized and commissioned as a church. She told me that the idea was wonderful, but that there were two problems. One, calling it a church. "People will think we're changing religion," she said. The other problem was baptism. She restated the same thought that her uncle had shared two months ago. "We were baptized as babies, which we couldn't choose, but our faith now confirms that baptism."

Since this family I have been working with is fringe folk-catholic, they have assumed all along that these scripture stories they have been learning are the same teachings of the Roman Catholic church that they never learned before. Evidently I have not been good at making a distinction. I am going to need to re-evaluate some aspects of my evangelism approach.

Another aspect of our conversation was also interesting. I asked her who she thought was a natural leader in her family group. She seemed to want to indicate her father, but never did. In my questions about the family relationship, it is clear that her father has a lot of influence. He has never participated in our studies, but did hear one of my stories on the street last week. Her reasoning for him not being able to be a leader is because "He can't read."

I want to spend the next 4 weeks specifically evangelizing her father and her other uncles that stay out on the street talking at night. Perhaps this is the group that has the influence to lead this family....

September 17, 2008


Last night Loaise and I went to the high city again, to a home we have not been to before. We ended up telling a cluster of Bible stories to 8 Christians. This group was planed to be an evangelistic group with more non-Christians than Christians. The weather was bad, and I think that was a factor.

I told 3 stories from Luke.

Jesus tells the story of the pharisee and the tax collector Luke 18:9-14
Jesus and the rich religious leader Luke 18:18-27
Jesus and the rich tax collector Luke 19:1-10

These stories work well together because the two men that Jesus meets in the second two stories represent almost perfectly the two men in the parable he told. Luke probably planned it that way as he wrote the gospel.

Since the evening ended up being just a meeting of church members, I modeled once again how to tell a story from scripture and ask questions to help people think through the story. Hopefully these two families in the high city can evangelize a dozen or so people in their homes.

September 13, 2008


The last two homes I visited on Thursday were homes of men who were running for town council. I've been unable to meet with either of them because of the political stuff they've been doing on Thursday.

One, an unbaptized convert, (the man in the wheel chair in the picture on the sidebar) was saddened to learn that he was barred as a candidate because he had not been registered in his political party for more than a year. This hit him pretty hard because he is nearly quadriplegic and he had seen this as a way he could work again. He did, however, say that he is happy that he will begin again to meet with the rest of the families on the hill. (I have two more baptism stories to tell and then I will ask them to plan on being baptized)

The other man, the singer, as I've called him. Did not turn in his application before the deadline and can not be a candidate. He did successfully make the move from the big city back to the small town to be with his family. I told him that I wanted to tell him the stories of the Bible. He said he was reading a little of the Bible this past week and wanted to make a song. We agreed that we would meet each week for me to tell a story and for him to try to make a song of it. He and his family are very strong in folk-catholicism, so we must go forth in much prayer.

I made it home a little after midnight with no more car trouble.

Oh, yes, on Friday I also continued the Old Testament narrative at Loaise's workplace in the city. I told the story of Abram's call. There was one client who also stayed for the story.

So that's why the Bible is 70% stories....

After climbing small mountain, I went to meet with the families on the hill. I passed by a group of men who are all related in some way to those families. Every week they are standing around talking and always invite me to stay a while. Since the chance of having scheduled meetings was lost due to the time, I accepted the invitation.

These men are all illiterate. They are truly what we call "primary oral learners." I chatted with them about the car trouble I had and about my friend who died last week. Each one told a story of losing a loved one. I decided to tell that same story of the rich man and Lazarus for this group. As I told the story they all payed close attention.

When I finished the story, at once they all smiled and nodded in agreement. Some laughed and all began to talk at the same time. I couldn't follow what they were saying. All were smiling and talking, all at the same time; all listening to the others and talking. Wow. They talked and talked and talked and talked. I've never seen such a response to a story before.

After a while I excused myself and climbed the long staircase to meet with the families. I just went in to each home briefly and told them why I was late. I chatted with each family for a few minutes, prayed and agreed to come back next Thursday. After a half-hour had passed I finished these visits and returned to the street. The men were still talking about the story and telling it again to the other men who had just arrived.

There were some things about the story that they didn't "see" the way I'd hoped, but it obviously touched them. I've made a mistake in not sitting with them for 15 minutes each time I go to the families on the hill. I will tell a story every time I pass by from now on.

10:00 PM and still two visits left. . .
more later

September 12, 2008

A Ceramic Jesus or The Living Word?

Yesterday I arrived in the small town to find that some of the main streets were closed. Hundreds of people were carrying and following a 4-foot ceramic statue called "Good Jesus of Green Cane." It was the 7th day of a 10 day festival where this statue is carried through the city to the cathedral and a mass is held each day. Afterwards, in a tent on the side of the cathedral, there is a drunken festival.

I walked the street and had a look at the worshipers and then began to climb the hill. I saw a young man seated alone on a corner. He is a homosexual and friend of another homosexual I had witnessed to last year. I sat for a moment and we began to talk. The Lord impressed me to tell the story of the rich ruler that asked Jesus about eternal life. He then began to talk about his upbringing being raised to worship at the cathedral, but thought that there was too much falseness in religion. He said that he'd been thinking of becoming a believer and wanted to, but hasn't done it yet.

He began to talk about the Pentecostals in the town (a small closed group) and said that they weren't all as good as the look. As we talked I told him the story of the Pharisee and the tax-collector, the story of the wise and foolish builder, the parable of the sower, and the story of Zacchaeus. We began to talk about the way God's message can change a person who repents. I asked him what he is lacking (alluding to the words of Jesus to the rich man). He began to think about it. I told him that the rich man honored Jesus as a good teacher and lived according to many of God's commandments, but held part of his life back from God. Jesus told him to give away everything he had and let his treasure be in heaven.

A friend of his came up to us while we were talking and she heard part of our conversation. She said: "I want to know about the evangelical church in the city, but my mother scolded me for it." I began to share more of the gospel with the two of them and told the man: "If you deliver up to God all your sin, even the ones you treasure most, he will save you and your family and your friends. God will use you to begin the church that you want so badly to be a part of. You have to be like the wise builder."

We agreed to talk again next week. At this point it was 9:15 PM and I had not gotten beyond the base of the hill.

more later....


Yesterday I went to the small town alone. My partner is working construction in another city this week. I went in our car for the first time since before going deaf. About 15 minutes before arriving in the small town the car began to accelerate on its own. It was as if I was pushing the pedal to the metal. I stomped several times on the gas pedal, but it made no difference and so I tried braking, but that wasn't helping either, so I turned off the ignition. I kept the key slightly turned so the steering wheel would not lock. As the car began to slow down I started it again, and, once again, full tilt. So I turned it off again. Black smoke came out the back of the car.

I coasted to a stop and put the hazard lights on, set a reflector about 10 yards behind the car and opened the hood. The accelerator cable seemed to be fine, but that's all i knew to check. I waited for a while for someone to pass and stop. Finally someone stopped and told me he would advise the mechanic in the small town. About 20 minutes later he came. As it turns out there is a little lever on the side of the carburetor, behind the one the cable pulls. It was stuck. He flipped it back into position and that was that. He followed me to his shop and then got some lubricant and worked on the part for a while until it was loose and good to go.

I arrived an hour late.

What is obvious to us is not obvious to them

I am going to post three entries today, simply because we've had a lot to do this week and there's a lot to write.

First, on Tuesday I was invited to observe and then tell a bible story at the home of a family that is trying to reach their neighborhood. Another family that is wanting to do the same also participated. I told the simple story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19) and began to ask questions based off of the story. As I asked them to think about the story and find answers to the questions, the Christians began to see the power of teaching through narratives and stories. The non Christians were very engaged.

Here are some of the questions I asked:
What were the two men like?
What were their lives like?
What happened to the poor man when he died?
What happened to the rich man?
Were they in the same place?
Were these places similar or different?
Is is possible to go from one of these places to the other?
What did the rich man ask for Lazarus to do once he realized that Lazarus could not comfort him?
What did the rich man hope would happen?
Did the rich man understand why some people go where Lazarus went and others where he was?
What does this scripture narrative say is necessary for someone to avoid going to the place of torment?

I coached the Christians to try not to draw from other Bible knowledge, but to stay within the story and other stories that have previously been told to the group. This was obvious when I asked that last question. The Christians said "You have to receive Jesus in your heart." The story says that the rich man wanted his brothers to repent and turn from their sins. This is what those hearing the story for the first time understood. When the Christians began giving their answers, the others didn't understand where they were getting those answers and did not trust them.

This is a story that highlights the need for repentance and the reality of reward and punishment after death. To take the message of salvation one step further another story must be told about Jesus and his death and resurrection. The group learned a lot and I will go next week to the house of the other family to tell another story.

September 6, 2008

After the storm

My family and friends had to deal with some significant storms because of hurricane Gustav. I've only heard from one friend since the storm (most are without power and phone, I guess), and he had a tree fall on his house and 3 fall in his yard.

We've had our own storm here. A friend of mine, the associate pastor of Igreja Batista da Vitória died of a heart attack on Wednesday. He was a beloved man and he loved the Lord. I stayed with members of his family and our church the whole night, until the burial late Thursday morning. We will miss him.