James was privileged to preach at a Brazilian missionary training conference last week. Praise the Lord for this amazing opportunity to minister to these missionaries serving in the city and jungles of Brasil as well as Mozambique Africa!
MBBF – Missão Batista Brasileira Fundamentalista
Click on the audio messages below to listen:
“And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied… greatly…”
Thank the Lord for not only the increase in church attendance, but even more so for the increase of the Word of God in believers, drawing them into mutually edifying fellowship with one another. How does that play out? Every day, all over the city of Pilar, believers from our church are meeting to study the Bible and exhort one another (Hebrews 3:13). Men, women and teens are getting together one-on-one and in small groups—mature believers leading less mature Christians, new Christians and/or unbelievers. That’s Gospel growth!
One of the Bible study groups consists of men at all different levels of spiritual growth. They are able to share problems and receive biblical counsel as well as pray with and for one another.
Gospel Growth through small group Bible studies
One of the beautiful things about creating a culture of disciple-making is that people are receiving the mentoring they need to grow spiritually, and those who are mentoring are growing through the challenge of being an example to others.
In March, Amy and Lauren began leading a Bible study in a Peruvian immigrant neighborhood, because two ladies were willing to host it but did not feel capable of leading it. Amy will tell you that she felt extremely inadequate to minister to these folks because of the cultural differences. The Lord used each of the ladies in their weakness! As a direct result of these Bible studies, Daisy and Belén have come to know Christ, and are now being mentored by mature believers (Rosa and Martha, the hosts of the Bible study)!
Amy, Belén (on the day of her new birth!), Rosa and Martha
Amy, Daisy (new believer), Rosa, Martha and Lauren
What started out as a small Bible study in 2008, grew into a church in 2010, and seven years later we marvel at how God continues to work in and through this body of believers to reach Pilar for Christ. Members are growing spiritually and going out and witnessing to their family, friends, neighbors and coworkers, and there are unsaved visitors every week at church. In the past month, three folks have trusted Christ and are now being discipled. Sunday morning attendance has been at an all-time high. Those numbers are a mere reflection of what the LORD is doing in this church.
Our theme for this year is, “Each one Reach one. Each one Lead one. Each one Follow one. Each one Take one.” The idea is that every believer is actively involved evangelizing, mentoring, being mentored and taking at least one Bible institute class per year. The response has been amazing! Men, women and teens are doing just that! One of the beautiful things about this is how God is taking broken people and using them for His honor and glory in ways none of us ever imagined.
One way we are equipping our people to disciple others is by going through the Foundations book all together in our Sunday morning discipleship hour. In 12 weeks, the 60 people taking this class will be familiar with the material enough to be prepared to teach it to someone else. Please pray as we “prepare the nursery,” so to speak, to receive new converts.
Here is a breakdown of this past furlough in numbers: six months, 18 churches, 20,000 miles by car, 18,000 miles by air, 90 nights on the road and 300 Chick-fil-A nuggets (guesstimating on that one).
What we can’t put a value on, numerical or otherwise, is the much-needed spiritual and physical refreshment, precious friendships forged, significant opportunities to preach and teach and, maybe the most important, the biblical teaching we heard on disciple-making that will forever transform our ministry.
In Our Absence
We are encouraged to return to the ministry in Pilar and see the progress made in our absence—on the building and in the lives of the believers. The folks made significant progress on the downstairs bathrooms, the auditorium and the exterior parking area.
Benjamin, the deacon in charge the past six months, and Adriano, our missionary intern from Brazil, have been taking turns preaching. Also, three teens have been able to teach and preach a few times, and are chomping at the bit for more! One of our newest members, Cesar, has been helping to lead the music. It hasn’t been perfect, but the Lord is obviously at work to get this church ready for us to transition out. Please pray for wisdom as we work toward that end over the next year.
2016 began in a pressure cooker! Working long hours in the scorching South American summer heat, we were pressured to get the new church building ready in time for the April 1 deadline. God continued to provide the health, strength, labor and funds necessary to make that goal in just 13 months, with only volunteers laboring Saturdays, holidays and days off! To God be the glory! See pictures here.
The men in our church who work in the construction trade observed that our volunteer crew would accomplish more on a given Saturday than most eight-man crews on a job site get done in a five-day work week!
Before the building could be dedicated on April 1, we saw the dedication of many Argentine church folks and Stateside supporters with the donation of their time, labor and offerings. Thank you, once again, to all those who gave toward this project. See pictures here.
One of the men dedicated to the completion of the project also proved to be dedicated to the Lord for ministry. We were able to leave Benjamin in charge of the church plant, along with the other two deacons and a missionary intern, while we began a six-month furlough. We departed Argentina on August 4 and look forward to returning January 31 of next year. We have visited 17 churches so far, including five missions conferences. See our furlough video here.
With a renewed burden for biblical disciple making, we head back to the field eager for the next phase of ministry. During this next term, we will go through the process of handing over this church to national leadership while preparing a detailed plan for the next church plant, which should include a Christian preschool. Please pray for wisdom!
November has been another busy month of traveling, but an encouraging one! At our fifth and final missions conference in Huntsville, Alabama, we heard Pastor Tim Potter speak on becoming a disciple-making church. The two sessions that we heard him were so encouraging that we made plans to attend a full two-day ARCH Ministries conference on the subject. The Lord provided the time and finances for both of us to go, and it was a tremendous blessing. The emphasis on all the members of the church taking ownership of their biblical responsibility to make disciples is precisely the next step of the church planting process in Pilar. Praise the Lord for this biblical wisdom at just the perfect time! Pray for us as we begin to teach this and implement some changes in Pilar in 2017.
Our hearts are overflowing with joy at all the good reports from the folks back in Pilar! Men’s and ladies’ discipleship continues to go strong, five men just went on a construction missions trip to another province, the missionary intern is teach several music classes and there seems to be a good spirit among the people. To God be the glory!
Update from Lauren
“I had an amazing experience in the jungles of Peru, where I learned so much about clinical terms and procedures, medical missions, the power of prayer and, most importantly, about God and His redeeming love and power! On this trip I was given opportunities to work alongside different doctors and nurses who were so patient to teach me. This experience certainly confirmed my call to medical missions and has lit a fire in me to achieve that goal, in God’s strength. In May of next year I am praying to be able to return to Peru, this time to the Cuzco area, with Operation Renewed Hope and participate in another medical missions trip. I was definitely left with a great burden for Peru! I am now more excited than ever about going to Maranatha Baptist University in 2018 to begin my training in the field of nursing so that I may be fully equipped to reach people physically, in order to be able to then reach their more important spiritual need. Please pray that I would stay moldable to His perfect will.” — Lauren Greenwood
This month we were privileged to participate in missions conferences at Providence Baptist (Riverview, FL), Faith Baptist (Taylors, SC), Tucson Baptist (Tucson, AZ) and our home church, Hillsdale Baptist (Tampa, FL). Missions conferences are an exciting time to set aside our regular activities and focus on world-wide evangelism. As missionaries, we love to have that extra time with friends, old and new, to share what God is doing in and through us in Argentina.
As soon as we finished the conference in Tucson, we hopped on a plane and raced back to Tampa just in time to see off our daughter, Lauren, before she journeyed to Puerto Maldonado, Peru for a missions trip. The Lord miraculously opened doors for her to help translate for a Operation Renewed Hope medical missions team with Buddy and Loren Fitzgerald. Thank you to all those who gave and are praying for her trip. Please keep praying for safety and for the Lord to work in and through her during her time in Peru. She will give you a report shortly after she returns.
Words cannot express our overflowing joy at the reports we are receiving from the church leaders in Pilar. Attendance is better than ever – they even hit a new record with 117 for a normal Sunday service. The men are sharing the preaching and teaching responsibilities and the church is responding with tender hearts. Our missionary intern has added a new perspective with guitar and piano classes and a renewed burden for the youth group. We are also proud of how they are biblically dealing with difficult counseling situations as they arise. Please pray for protection of God’s flock in Pilar in our absence.
We have one more missions conference in November, and then we are back to Sunday meetings and more time at our home church. We look forward to making visits, canvassing and leading Bible studies while we are back in Tampa.