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.
We are receiving positive reports on the ministry in Pilar. Our Brazilian missionary intern, Adriano, is preaching, leading the music and teaching piano to some of the teens. Benjamin is preaching, teaching and taking care of the administrative duties, as well as working his full-time job. Pray for godly wisdom for the leadership team as they counsel two families who are going through some trials right now.
During the month of September, we will be reporting at Mikado Baptist (Macon, GA), College Park Baptist (Cary, NC), Valleyview Baptist (Northampton, PA) and Bible Baptist (Shickshinny, PA). Please pray for safety and good health while traveling.
A time to break down, and a time to build up
Sixteen teens and six sponsors from Faith Baptist (Taylors, SC) left a remarkable and lasting impression during their ten days in Buenos Aires. They stayed busy tirelessly helping with our teen leadership retreat, passing out over 7,000 tracts and VBS flyers, working our winter VBS and demolishing most of what was left of the old building. While they did some tearing down, they also built up our community, church body and us personally. We thank the Lord for their very encouraging visit. Please come back anytime!
Despite the rain and cold at the beginning of the week, the Lord brought more and more kids each day of VBS. One of our ladies brought up to 30 kids all by herself on the city bus! (Praise the Lord, the bus driver only charged her for two fares each time!) Six children made professions of faith during the week. The ladies also had a craft table to encourage the mothers to stay. One of those ladies trusted Christ on Sunday morning!
Going out with a splash
On the last Sunday of this term, we had the incredible blessing of baptizing 11 new believers and adding 11 new members to the church body! It was a glimpse of what our heavenly reward will be like as we heard each one’s testimony, how they were saved and discipled through the faithfulness of our church folks.
But continue thou…
We thank the Lord for the capable leadership God has blessed us with three deacons, as well as missionary intern, Adriano dos Santos Silva, to preach and serve in our absence. Please pray for the spiritual protection of the leadership team and the flock in their charge during our time away.
Would you like to take a virtual tour of the new church building to see how God has provided for this project? Here is a video so you can do just that! This video also explains the projects that are still left to accomplish before our furlough beginning August 4.
This past week, we presented the following list before our church to ask for folks to sponsor projects. Their commitments and/or donations are reflected in the “Amount Given” column below. At an exchange rate of $14 pesos to US $1, that is a substantial amount!
If the Lord is leading you or your church to sponsor one of these projects, you may send a check to Baptist World Mission marked “Greenwood Church Land Fund.”
In the short six-year history of the Pilar church, we have had the heartbreaking experience of having to discipline several members at different times for various reasons. Our desire is that those people would repent and seek restoration, but that rarely happens. This past year we asked you to pray for a former deacon who was one of those disciplined. With much tears and rejoicing, he has repented and returned to his family and the church. Praise God! Pray for him and his family as they seek to regain trust and establish new habits in the home.
Praise the Lord that He has provided housing near our sending church during furlough! We are also working with a ministry to purchase a mini-van. We will arrive in the States on August 5, yet there is so much to do before then— building projects, a teen missions team from Faith Baptist in Taylors, South Carolina, packing up our house to make room for Brazilian missionaries who will be staying here and all the other details you can imagine if you were to leave the country for six months. Please pray for the Lord to help us accomplish these things and for His continued provision while we are in the States.