One Sunday when I was picking people up for church, I pulled into port with my aluminum speedboat and several people jumped in. When I tried to back up, nothing happened. When I tried to go forward, nothing happened. I tipped the motor up and walaa….no propeller. Now what????
I had pulled into port without any problem, so I knew the prop had come off nearby. I emptied my pockets, took my shirt and sandals off and got in the water. I felt around with my feet but the water was quickly over my head. I dove, but without my glasses I couldn’t see anything. And I am definitely not a professional scuba diver.
I came up out of the water and looked at one of the young guys in the boat. “Getu, I’m going to need your help.” He scaled down and jumped in. He’s like a fish in the water. Within 10 minutes he had pulled the prop off the bottom. What a relief!
If Gustavo, Guanano church leader in Colombia were here, he would have made a spiritual application out of this. I can hear him now: “Jesus is like a propeller. A motor without a prop can’t go anywhere. Not forward. Not backward. It sits there all beautiful on the backboard of the boat. You can rev it up and it sounds like it has a lot of power. But it is all bluster and illusion. Without a prop, it is totally useless. It is good for absolutely nothing. This is exactly what Jesus told his disciples. ‘Without me you can do nothing,’ he said. Yes, Jesus is like a propeller.”
As we disciple Guanano believers, this is a major area of growth for them, to understand how important their relationship with Jesus is on a daily basis. Just as we eat, take a bath, and sleep every day to maintain a healthy, happy lifestyle, in much the same way we read God’s Word, think about it’s meaning, talk with Jesus, bring him our concerns and express our desires to him every day. Jesus is the vine, we are the branches, everything that makes life work for us comes from our connection to him. “For me to live is Christ!”
Over the past year, Herman and his brother Mario have been teaching an evangelistic Bible study. Recently they concluded the study with a presentation of the meaning of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As a result, several expressed their desire to put their faith in Christ for salvation. This is encouraging for the whole church.
We are now organizing a program of systematic discipleship for them. We want to teach the new believers what it means to belong in the family of God. During the evangelistic Bible study they learned they were separated from God because of their sin, that in the eyes of God they were like broken branches that had no life because they were separated from the tree. They may have wanted to fix the problem, and perhaps had been doing many religious things, thinking they were pleasing God. Now they have placed their faith in God’s solution. They have been brought near to God because Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross erased the sin and separation and made it possible for them to enjoy a guilt free, loving friendship with God for the very first time.
So what does that look like in real life? Some of the new believers bring real problems into our church. Roberto is an alcoholic. He lives on his wife’s hard work and meager income. They have two small boys who have witnessed their father’s binges many times. Roberto knows he was lost, and has placed his faith in Christ as his only hope of salvation and acceptance by God. But he has expressed fear that his drunken lifestyle may be too difficult for even God to fix. Will you pray for Roberto and his wife Marsalene? They are taking their first steps of faith together. We know there will be steps backwards as well as steps forward as they learn to trust the Lord, not just with their eternal future, but with their daily life and struggles. We are now a team of believers. Along with the Holy Spirit and the Living Christ Himself we are committed to give Robert and his family the support they need to grow.
After a year of foundational Bible teaching from Creation to the life of Christ, it won’t be long before we are teaching the meaning of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and asking those who have followed the teaching to make a decision. How many have understood their precarious spiritual situation and will call out to Jesus for relief, much as blind Bartemeus did? How many will harden their hearts and decide that religous tradition and the status quo are safer, as the Jews did? We recently taught the parable of the Sower, and Herman easily identified all four types of soil, all four types of hearers from our own group. There are some who like the hard path going through the field have shown no interest in responding to or reacting to what they were hearing week in and week out. To tell the truth, we have no idea why they keep coming. Others are like the rocky soil. They started out well, excited about what they were hearing. But then someone said something, like, “You must think you’re so good attending a Bible study every week! You probably won’t even die like the rest of us. God will take you alive right up into heaven!” Their feelings get hurt and the joy goes away and pretty soon they are no longer present to hear the continuation of God’s salvation story. There are others who are like the weedy soil. They are preoccupied with everyday life matters that crowd out the time and attention required to understand what God is saying. I think every Guanano family living in this town is economically challenged. They work so hard to meet even their basic needs. No one can criticize them for caring deeply about these things. But in the end, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?” And then there is the good soil, hearts that hear and believe even the bad news, that God hates sin and exacts a costly payment: death and eternal suffering in a terrible place called Hell. But they also have hearts that rejoice and immediately grasp the significance of the Great Grace on display as Jesus died on the cross in their place to rescue them. Please pray for this season of Harvest as Mario and Herman, Guanano Bible teachers conclude the chronological teaching and give a clear presentation of the Gospel. We need God’s wisdom to identify and immediately support and disciple those who truly receive Christ as their Savior.
Recently Mario and Herman have begun teaching the life of Christ as recorded in the Gospels to their unsaved friends and relatives. Although it is springtime and not December, they have been teaching the story of the birth of Jesus, our Savior. The miracle of the virgin birth is stated quite simply by Matthew. “Mary was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.” According to professors of communication, when we hear something new or different, in order to grasp it and understand it, one of the things we do is we match it up with something we already know or have experienced, and we put the new information in that same category. That’s what Herman was doing when he told me the following, “What happened to Mary here reminds me of what my sister-in-law said the last time she was pregnant. She suspected her baby wasn’t her husbands, but that she had gotten pregnant from a spirit that had come to her in her sleep.” He went on to explain to me some things we had heard many times from other Guananos. Guanano women are in competition with fish and animal spirits for a limited amount of life force they all need in order to reproduce. When Guanano women become pregnant, the Guanano believe all the natural world becomes angry with her and her husband for consuming the life force they need in order to reproduce more fish, animals and trees. Consequently the Guanano people fear attacks from these spirit beings to prevent them from having human children. Herman explained that his sister-in-law was actually afraid that what was growing in her womb wasn’t human, but that she would get sick and die, and her life would then go to the fish or animal house and be used to produce more fish and animals. Herman explained more: We have ladies in our church who experience these same fears. They are embarrassed to talk to their own husbands about it, let alone anyone else. But it would be wonderful if when they experience these fears, they could come together with other ladies in the church to pray and seek God’s help.” Please pray with us that as the Guanano Christians see God in action across the pages of Scripture and experience his daily love and care for them in their own lives, that these fears will be displaced by faith and worship.
Mario, along with his brother Getulio, are Guanano Bible teachers. They are teaching an evangelistic Bible study to their unsaved friends and realtives, including Mario’s in-laws. Ouch! You can imagine how delicately he must tread sometimes! The chronological presentation of the Gospel (from Genesis through the life of Christ) takes time. Mario is encouraging the group to hang in there long enough to understand the whole message. He said it like this:
“These pages that we are studying are God’s talk, where he explains what he desires for us. It’s all here in his Book. Perhaps we don’t read it during the week. If that’s so, it’s hard for us to understand what God is saying. We get it mixed up with what others are teaching and the worthless opinions of others. When we do that, we don’t get a clear picture of what God desires for us. God wants us to know answers to important questions, like, Why are we living in this world? Where are we going? Where have we come from? God wants us to understand these things. We ARE NOT like animals or fish. Fish just swim around without thinking about anything. When we throw a hook with bait in front of them, they eat and die. Animals are like that too. Walking around, they only think about what they are going to eat. When they find it, they eat. When they find something to drink, they drink. When a shotgun suddenly appears, that’s the end of them. We people aren’t like that. God desires something else for us. We are SPECIAL in God’s eyes. One day when we trust in him, we will go to His place and understand all of God’s plans for us. That is true happiness and joy.
“That is what we want for you. We are doing what God has told us to do. This wasn’t our idea. We prayed and asked God what he wanted us to do, and we asked for the courage to do it. We also asked for his help. This is God’s teaching. You may look at me and say, `This is Mario’s teaching.’ No it’s not. God is the One who is working using me. God in the One who desires these things for us. Let’s listen to what he has to say. Maybe we ARE like animals if we ignore what God is saying and do only what we feel like doing. How is that going to end up? We die and the great fire awaits us. That’s what happens to those who go through life without thinking. We have to think! God’s teaching opens our eyes. It’s like a flashlight lighting up our path. God’s message is the Light of Life. It makes blind people see. God’s message helps us choose the right way from all the different wrong ways out there. This is what God has given to us. So let’s listen every week.”
As Guanano believers Mario and Getulio recently taught the story about Noah and the flood, they called on their Brazilian friends and relatives to listen to God’s message much the same way Noah must have.
As Getulio taught, he included his own testimony:
“We don’t want to listen to God’s Word because we don’t want to change the way we live. Do you remember the way I used to live? There was one thing that kept me from understanding what God was saying ….. my drinking. After listening to God’s word I would go to parties. I would drink and I would forget what God had said.
“This same thing can happen to you. Parties, and drinking are not what bring us real happiness. It doesn’t give us real pleasure. It only gives us sadness.
“Because of my drinking, for a long time I didn’t want to obey the Lord. Perhaps some of you are just like me. There’s something in your life that you are being stubborn about, something that is keeping you from obeying God.”
The personal testimonies of believers like Getulio have a greater impact on the Guanano people than anything we missionaries can say. They have lived the live that every Guanano lives and have found that Jesus is better.
Guanano Church Planting Team Lindy and Carol Drake, Barry and Denise Spor
Praise: Mario and Getulio, Guanano Bible teachers, have gained some good experience. They have taught the first 8 lessons of the 68 lesson series From Creation to Christ. They are growing more comfortable standing before a group and teaching without being glued to the paper lesson. As they have taught the stories of the creation of the world and the creation of the first man and woman, they have majored on the goodness, loving kindness and greatness of God. Pray: Teaching anything is hard work. Time must be set aside to prepare and think the material through so that the presentation of truth is clear and concise. Getulio said, "I get on my bike and sell bread door to door all over town. By late afternoon when I get home I’m tired. But I try to sit down and study the Bible lesson some time before I go to bed. About 4:00 am, when I can’t sleep anymore, I get up and prepare to go out on my bread selling route again. But before I go, I sit down and study the lesson some more. Do you suppose God is pleased with me?" I was a little surprised by his question. These guys have come out of such a rough background. They have been beaten down by Satan and told over and over again they are bad. In many ways they have confirmed that evaluation over and over again by the way they lived. What a change the Gospel has made in Getulio’s life! It was my privilege to encourage him. "What you are doing demonstrates to God that you think his Message is important. So important in fact, that you are giving up other things in order to be able to teach it to others. You are doing what he has asked you to do, and I think He is very pleased with you!"
Praise: We finished teaching the believers the book of Revelation. Now they have heard the whole story: how things got started and how they are going to end. They are encouraged with the good things that are ahead for them, and concerned about the fate of their friends and relatives who fail to trust Christ as they have. That’s a pretty good perspective for them to have.
Praise: Translated portions of the Old Testament from Leviticus to Judges are in the hands of Larry Richardson, the consultant, who will begin content and comprehension checks soon. Verification is in process on the book of Exodus.
Praise: We are in Manaus, on our way to Kansas City to attend Kelly’s pinning ceremony at the end of RN training. We are going to be together there with all three of our girls, along with Kelly’s husband Andrew, and our grandson Xander. Xander will celebrate his 4th birthday while we are home. How cool is that? We will also be in NY for five days to visit my Mom and my brothers Les and Lyell and their families. Carol will also get to see her sisters and their families. Pray: that we don’t get hurt with all the hugging and kissing going on.
Praise: Barry and Denise, our coworkers, in our absence, are receiving a work team headed up by their son, Evan. The church group is coming from Wisconsin. They are going to build a system for pumping well water to our houses. Until now we have depended on rain water. Fortunately, since we live in a rain forest, we have seldom lacked water but we would like to be able to have a clean source of drinking water. Pray: for safety, that the team will adjust to the different climate and culture and that their interest in missions will be refueled by their experiences.
Pray: When we return to Brazil in mid-July, there will be big changes in store for us. Barry and Denise are going home to the USA on a one year furlough the end of this month. They are extending that by an extra year in order to help their youngest son Austin. During the next two years, his junior and senior years of high school, they will be helping him make the adjustments from being an MK living overseas with his parents to being an independent adult in the United States. We will have our own adjustments to make here without the Spors. However it’s time to rely more on the Guananos and time for them to rely more on the Lord. This will create the perfect opportunity for both of us to do just that.
Thank you for your participation in the Guanano work through prayer.
Guanano Church Planting Team: Lindy and Carol Drake, Barry and Denise Spor September 2008
We successfully completed a 3 week course on Discourse Analysis along with many of our Brazilian coworkers. Why is this important? We want to tell God’s stories in the same way they tell their fishing and hunting stories. How do they differentiate between background information and the main point? How do they keep track of who’s doing what to whom? How do they keep the story moving forward without getting bogged down in unnecessary detail? How much new information can you introduce in each sentence without overloading? We have studied these things in the past. But this subject is so complex, we can always learn new things which will make us better Guanano storytellers.
Because of this course, we have been in Manaus since early August. This made it possible for us to meet the boat which brought 500 Guanano New Testaments which had been printed in Colombia. These New Testaments are a revision of the first version printed in 1987 and a result of the lifetime commitment and hard work of Nate and Carolyn Waltz of Wycliffe Bible Translators. We were able to pick up 30 boxes and move them immediately to another boat which will carry them upriver to São Gabriel. What a blessing these New Testaments will be to the Guanano church! What a tool God has put in Guanano hands to read and learn more about the wonderful God who loves them and gave Himself for them!
I wish we could live on the mountain top without ever coming down, but God’s people also walk in sad and lonely places. This past month, Delfina gave birth to a stillborn baby girl. They buried her right next to Paula, their 8 year old daughter who drowned last year. Moses and Delfina are struggling. They had resisted the advice of friends and neighbors to chant and blow tobacco smoke over the mother and baby to hide the birth from dangerous fish and animal spirits. Instead, they depended on the Lord, the Giver and Sustainer of Life. Now they will hear the harsh criticism that comes from the heart of Satan himself, "You killed your baby. It’s your fault. You should have chanted." We don’t know why the Lord would allow such a thing to happen. We have asked the Lord to show his awesome goodness and power to His Guanano people so that their faith (confidence in Him) is strengthened, and their roots grow down deep into his love. He has put Moses and Delfina on a platform for all the Guanano world to see. How will they respond? Will they cling to the Lord in faith in the midst of great pain and suffering? Will they demonstrate before all that they are following the Lord, not because of the good things they get out of it, but because He is God? How would you respond? Please pray for them.
The second act of this story is about to unfold. Mario and Nilsa are about to have their first baby. Nilsa is 15 and unsaved. Her entire family is unsaved. They are certainly expecting Nilsa to seek their help in carrying out the customary chanting and rituals during this time of childbirth. Mario is encouraging his wife to trust the Lord alone. What must they be thinking now? It certainly seems as if the Lord has undercut Mario’s position and made it impossible to defend. What will they do? Please pray for them.
We are heading home tomorrow. Lord willing, we will be with the believers on Sunday morning. We want to encourage them and strengthen them to stand firm against this onslaught of discouragement and unbelief. Please pray for us.
Thank you for your participation in the Guanano work through prayer.
Praise: A year has passed since Moses and Delfina’s 8 year old daughter Paula drowned while taking a bath in the river in front of our house. It was a horrible day for all of us, but especially for her parents. In church, Delfina gave this testimony: "As I stood by Paula’s grave, many thoughts came to mind. Sometimes I get angry with God for letting such a thing happen to us. We worship him, we try to do what he says, he is our heavenly Father, how come this happened to us? But then I remember his words to Adam. ‘Don’t eat the fruit of that tree. The day you eat it you will die.’ They disobeyed God, and just as he said, they died. Because of their disobedience, we sin, we get sick, we die today. It is happening just like God said. God doesn’t lie. In this world there is much suffering. And then I think of how God sent his son Jesus to rescue us from the suffering. The innocent one, bearing our sin, suffered so much himself. He was beaten, whipped, insulted, nailed to a cross, and as he hung there, they screamed at him, "If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross." He could have come down, but he didn’t. He suffered like that to rescue us from this world of sin and suffering, and to take us to a land where there is no pain, no hurt, no crying. When I think of that, my joy returns."
Pray: Delfina is about to give birth again. They don’t know if it will be a boy or girl. How nice it would be to have a little girl. Her two oldest are young ladies now, followed by 4 little boys. Please pray for a safe delivery.
Praise: Barry has been teaching 1 Thessalonians. According to the record in Acts, Paul was only in Thessalonica 3 weeks before riots forced him to move on to other cities. And yet Paul praises them in this letter, that despite severe persecution, their faith was real. Their witness of the Gospel was having an impact, not only in their city but in the entire region of Macedonia and Achaia where they lived. They had turned from their idols of wood and stone to serve a living God in the power of the Holy Spirit, and everyone was talking about it! The impact of their lives and testimony continues today, even on the Guanano church. The believers keep saying, "They accomplished all that, and they only had three weeks teaching? Certainly we can do more."
Pray: The Guanano believers have suffered little for their faith, other than some nasty comments from their relatives and friends. Even so, that has been sufficient for the most part to keep them quiet about what they believe. Please pray that they may be moved by faith and love for others, produced by the Holy Spirit, to become a dynamic witness for Christ in this town.
Praise: We sat down with some of the military commanders here to hear what their perspective might be regarding our return to Colombia. They were kind, professional and very helpful. They assured us they had no information which would make such a trip unreasonable. We have received similar news from friends who have interviewed Colombian military leaders as well. We are looking at an open door the Lord has set before us.
Pray: We aren’t quite sure how to organize a visit to Colombia while we are working full time in teaching and Bible translation here. We will need a larger boat and motor to carry the gas and a month’s worth of food and supplies. We will need to take others with us who know the river and how to get through the dangerous rapids. Who? What? When? How? We need the Lord’s help.
Praise: We have received word that the revision of the Guanano New Testament, done by Nate and Carolyn Waltz of SIL, has been printed and is ready for shipping from Bogota to Brazil.
Pray: The shipping process is a little complicated. Please pray that these new Bibles will be in Guanano hands soon.
Thank you for your participation in the Guanano work through prayer.
Praise: We have made good progress on Old Testament translation, mostly in Exodus with portions from Leviticus thru Judges. I am especially grateful for Mario’s daily help. He continues to develop a translator’s mind for detail. I would be lost without him.
Praise: We have completed teaching 1 Timothy. This month we will teach Titus. The emphasis continues to be on the leadership in the church: how leaders are chosen, what qualifications they need, how to honor them, how to discipline them when necessary. Pray: Please pray that God may engift various ones in the church to lead. We will need his help in leadership training. There is much to do in this area before we can call our work complete.
Pray: This past week I asked Mario to help me teach the book of Titus. We sat down for 3 hours, read through the book, and went over how we would teach chapter 1. Then he politely informed me that he would be glad to help me teach the unsaved, but he is learning these things for believers for the very first time, along with everyone else. He didn’t feel he could stand in front of everyone and act as if he knew this material well. Fair enough. It has been my experience in ministry that when the Lord puts his hand on someone to teach, he fills that man’s heart with His message and a burning desire to deliver it. We have yet to observe this kind of desire in anyone other than Gustavo. We need God’s help to identify the men he is preparing to lead the Guanano church in the future.
Pray: We continue to need God’s wisdom for a possible trip back to Colombia. The believers there are in great need of consistent teaching and discipleship. It seems that there is more liberty to travel in Colombia than there has been for many years. We certainly want to take advantage of this window of opportunity.
Thank you for your participation in the Guanano work through prayer.