Thursday, July 30, 2009

Acts 4:32 speaks of the early church, and the believers were all of "one heart and mind". A.W. Tozer explained this using the following analogy:

Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers [meeting] together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become 'unity' conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Brother Jim's Mission Trip to Brazil

Brazil 2009

This is a picture of my brother, Jim, and me. Jim goes on a mission trip to Brazil every two years; I think this is about his 7th or 8th time to go. The following is his report of his trip in 2009. I love my brother as a brother by blood and a brother in Christ!

This year our team was a group of 23 people. The youngest was 12 years old and the “most mature” was 81 years young! We came from Canada, Virginia, Ecuador, Amarillo, Canyon and Lubbock. The dates were set a year ago and prayer and preparation has been an ongoing adventure for those taking care of the logistics of the trip. The group I was with would leave Amarillo Texas on June 30th and return on July 14th.
We met up with other team members at the DFW airport, 2 more team members met us at the airport in Sao Paulo, Brazil and we met as a total team of 23 when we reached Campinas, a city in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil. We arrived at the Hotel Vila Rica on Wednesday July 1st around 1p.m. Most of the first day is spent unpacking, resting, getting money exchanged, going to a store for bottled water and did I mention resting…. Thursday, Friday and Saturday are spent training the new people…(a lot of training is done before we leave the USA, but this is where they will get hands on experience sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ)….the “trainees” will have opportunity to share in the hotel, in the parks, at the hospitals, bus stops, hot dog stands---basically anywhere there are people the opportunity exists!
On Sunday morning all the teams (we break up into smaller groups that individual churches can transport—usually 3 to 5 people per team) report to the church that they will be working with for the next 8 days and nights.
This year the team I was on was made up of 5 team members and 2 translators…our translators are most valuable as they communicate the words God gives us to share with the local people. Our translators were Alan and Annie—Alan is in his twenties and I believe Annie was eighteen years old. They both did an amazing job the whole week….they are both in a group currently studying so they can go do mission work in Indonesia for 3 years…Alan hopes to be going in the next several months and Annie should be ready in the next 2 years….
The rest of our team was made up of David, a former Amarillo man who has been a full time missionary who served in Chile for 9 years, Ecuador for 9 years and is preparing to serve in India when he returns to the field next. Glenice, a lady from Amarillo who is semi-retired and does estate sales to earn the money to go on mission trips. Perry from Canada who is retired from working in television and radio for many years. Alfredo who is a missionary from Ecuador (good friend of David) …Alfredo works with some 40 house churches in and around his city in Ecuador…he is currently planning to commit to going to work with David in India after David gets there and develops plans for reaching the people in the slums of Bombay. Final team member is Jim (me) from Amarillo who works in a convenience grocery store.
An old friend who has since gone to be with God used to always give a talk as we were preparing for our mission trips in which he stated: “You will be an ambassador for Jesus Christ as you travel to your destination, while you are there, and upon your return home.” That may not be the exact quote, but I believe it expresses the sentiment of why we go on these trips—to go on behalf of Jesus Christ and to share His message with other people. I am fairly certain that it is the same thing Jesus expects of all His children whether the mission field is in another country or in our own backyard.
The city our group was to serve in is called Apiai – it is a small city of about 40,000 people located in the mountains about 200 miles south of Campinas. Because it was so far away we would be staying in a local hotel, separated from the rest of the groups that would be working in the Campinas area. The city is known for its work with pottery, and has some caves and waterfalls which make it somewhat of a touristy place. It’s not like an American “resort destination”…..we had planned to see the caves and waterfalls on our one day off, but because of rain would not have been able to make it to the sites. The homes in the developed parts of the city were typical of South America—built with clay bricks, then covered in concrete and surrounded by a protective concrete wall with each home sharing a connecting divider wall between each home.
In the poorer areas where we generally work around the church, the streets are dirt. Many of the people are still working on the homes….some are made of the structure I mentioned, but many are of much lesser construction of wood pieces and cardboard type shacks. One of the things that has impressed me each time I have had the opportunity to go to Brazil is that regardless of where the people live, whether it be one of the nicer homes or one of the much poorer homes….the people seem to be content in their nothingness. I’m sure that probably may not be the best word to describe it and I don’t want to come across as rude or haughty. I must compare the standard of living to our standard in the USA, and say that compared to our standards, the folks we visit have nothing, but they are still a happy people. They are very hospitable, friendly and willing to share what they have. I cannot help but respect them and respect the place they live.
What to share? How do I express God at work except to give you a few examples of the visits we made in Apiai, Brazil. As I mentioned earlier about being an Ambassador for Christ, I think the best way to describe our actions is that we must constantly be in tune to what the Holy Spirit wants us to do and where He wants us to go. One of our first visits was to the home of an elderly church member, a blind lady who lives about 2 blocks away from the church on one of the dirt streets and in one of the lesser homes. The day was cool and there was a wood burning store in the house that was obviously used for cooking and for warming the “room” of the house. We visited with her and before we left Glenice prayed for her health and other concerns. As we left the home and went out into the streets there were two ladies that we were able to share with and they both prayed to receive Christ. After the two ladies I saw a man sitting at the end of the street and went to talk with him. I shared the gospel with him through our translator and with the use of our God/Man Visual aide that was developed many years ago and has proved to be a good visual tool we use in sharing Christ. This man prayed to receive Jesus into his heart. We learned that he was the son of the blind lady we had visited with earlier in the home…..she had expressed concern about him during our visit with her. Some would say it was just by chance that I was able to speak to him…I think maybe God had lined it up just that way, perhaps an answer prayer for a Mother…you decide!
We had many opportunities to share the word of God…..there was a local radio station and the first Saturday we were there, we went and shared on the radio in the morning and then again in the afternoon. In the morning we shared where we were from, what we did for a living in the USA and one of us gave a word of testimony. When we went back in the evening, David was able to preach a message. This is not a “Christian” radio station, but as it is the only station in town, it reaches a lot of people. You never know what chances will come our way to share.
We went one evening to the local town council meeting….and were invited to address the council…we did not offer an invitation, but the news of Jesus Christ was shared in this very public forum.
One day we were on the street and I stopped at a house on the corner…the lady invited us into the home. I shared with her and she prayed to receive Christ……while we were still there, a man came in and she introduced him as her brother who lived just next door. I asked him if I could share with him the reason I have come to Brazil and he said yes, so I shared with him and he also prayed to receive Jesus into his heart. As we were getting ready to get back into the cars, people were on the street as they were coming home from jobs etc…and I stopped a young man and asked if I could talk to him. He said yes….we shared with him, and he prayed to receive Christ into his life also. When he left the corner I watched and he went to the home where the man lived that we had just shared with……that made 3 people from the same family that all prayed to receive Jesus into their hearts ---all separate, yet at the same time! I’m sure God watches us and laughs at the things that we tend to marvel at  He had it planned that way all the time!
One last instance I feel compelled to share was when the whole team was on the same street, going door to door, and both sides of street. I was walking up the hill towards the next house when I looked to my left at a vacant lot on the street, but then Holy Spirit says “look up”….so I look wayyyyyyyy up and see a little old man watching us from his house wayyyyyy up on top of a hill. I looked up and saw him, thought about climbing that hill and thought “be a lot easier to keep going straight”…..Spirit says “are you sure”…..don’t try to argue with the Spirit as He is pretty convincing……..when I got through climbing to the top and then balancing on his garden wall to get to where he was….I told the little man I’d like to talk to him, but he would have to wait just a minute so I could breathe again! He was a 61 year old who was happy we had stopped to talk to him and he also prayed to receive Jesus Christ into his heart.
One more last instance…David had the chance to share with the son-in-law of Pastor John, our host, early in the week…he did not pray to receive Christ…however he did agree to show us around the farm where he worked the following Saturday….there would be some 80 families on this farm….well it rained and the roads would not allow us to make visits to most of the people…we did visit with one of the first men to settle there and then we went and were able to share with 1 man who did receive Christ… is amazing how sometimes you can see the countenance of their face change while you are sharing and this was one of those times…all that to say this….we had a service at church Saturday evening and the pastors son-in-law came to the service…when David gave the invitation, he came forward and received Christ into his heart. What a wonderful God we serve that would allow us to witness a family coming together in Christ !!! Our hotel manager also came to the service, heard the Word and did NOT respond. This is another amazing thing we witness yes is yes and no is no, but we keep praying for those that chose to say no, that God will continue to work on their hearts……the seed has been planted….who will water and who will harvest….it just might be YOU!
God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes might not perish but have everlasting life……the gospel in one verse….
If you’ve never prayed to receive Christ into your heart you can—right now!
Dear Jesus,
I know I’ve made mistakes and have sin in my life, I’m sorry for my sin and want you to forgive me for all my sins. Please come into my life and be the LORD and SAVIOUR of my life. Be the center of my life. Thank you for forgiving me and coming into my life. Amen
Respectfully submitted,
One of your ambassadors for Christ,
Jim Smith