International Ministries

Healthy and Faithful – And New Beginnings!

January 14, 2010 Journal
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Feliz Ano Novo [Happy New Year] from summertime in Brazil! We hope you had blessed Christmas and New Year celebrations. This year our holiday season was extra special: not only did Ann come home from her long West Africa trip (the subject of our last prayer letter), Bruce’s father came for a month-long visit and only recently left. We had a great time introducing him to the people and places he has heard so much about these last five years. We even spent Christmas day on the beach! Everybody loved meeting Bob, and it seems he enjoyed himself, too. With his permission, we include here a photo that proves it.

This January we are preparing for several new beginnings. At JAMI (the Brazilian mission agency where we serve) everyone is getting ready for the arrival of a new class of students for the cross-cultural missionary training program. We will once again head up the three-week orientation when the course begins in February. Our intensive English for Missions course runs the entire month of March, and in May, June, and July we’ll teach three other intensive courses while also providing pastoral counseling to our students. Please pray for these new candidates. It isn’t easy to pick up and move to a new city and a new life – we know!

Another new beginning is happening at our local church, Igreja Batista Reviver. We have written several times about this small, family-oriented congregation, most recently in July when we led a short-term mission team that blessed a remote rural community in the semi-arid north of our state. As a church, we are discovering that God has a unique mission for us in our bairro, state, and world.

This year begins a new focus for the church based on a study and evaluation of the marks of a healthy and faithful church. We worked with Pr. Marcelo to translate and adapt a tool developed by our friend Dr. Lee Spitzer for congregations in the American Baptist Churches of New Jersey. It is a Scripture-based evaluation and planning process that identifies seven marks of a healthy congregation (unity, worship, discipleship, relationship with pastors, spiritual gifts, caring, and future-faith) and seven marks of a faithful congregation (evangelism, social action, global mission, new church planting, youth ministry, accessibility, and giving).

Our church spent most of October studying and praying through the Healthy and Faithful marks as they apply to our congregation. Then at a retreat in November we facilitated a large group evaluation and discussion of our healthiness and faithfulness as a church family. Dr. Lee analyzed the results and graciously prepared a report with recommendations. In December, along with Pr. Marcelo we presented the survey results and led the church in a visioning and planning exercise for 2010.

When folks return from summer vacation at the end of January we will meet with the church leadership to review all the information and ideas generated. This will be the basis for the church’s action plan for 2010 that will identify concrete steps to build on our strengths and address our weaknesses as a church body. Our goal is to become even more healthy and faithful as God’s ambassadors in this corner of the world (2 Cor. 5:20).

Already there are many exciting things on the church calendar: the youth/young adult program we coordinate, “meeting of friends” evangelistic services, neighborhood outreach ministries, a short-term mission trip, a mission conference in November, and monthly mission emphases during worship. Ann was recently asked to serve as Christian Education Director, and has plans to develop cell groups and other discipleship opportunities.

So the New Year has started off with a bang for us! As we look ahead in 2010 we are grateful for YOUR partnership in all this, and your support in prayer and through financial gifts to International Ministries. Thanks for praying with us for:

       The new missionary candidates who are leaving their family and friends to begin JAMI’s training course in February

       The leadership of Igreja Batista Reviver and Pastor Marcelo, as they guide the congregation to be more healthy and faithful.

 

Grande abraços em Cristo,

Ann, Bruce, and Asa

Belo Horizonte, MG, Brasil