Archive for August, 2008

Urgent Prayer Request from Audrey, our pastor in Ubauna (in his words):

In the last few days we were in the house of one of the members of the church and discovered something extremely sad and revolting. This sister has 3 children, each one by a different man, a girl 8, a boy 4 and another boy 1. The oldest, always the happiest and most loving, was very taken with Erin and would hardly leave her lap while she was here in July.

A few days ago, the current husband kicked the mother and the 3 children out of the house at 2:00 a.m. They managed to find a place to stay but it is hardly fit for living and has no lights or water.

During the visit we made, the mother told us about the drama and trauma of her 8 year old. Four and a half years ago, the mother started living with a monster, the father of her second child. He drugged her so he could rape the little girl. The act was so brutal that the bellybutton of the child exploded and the doctors had to perform emergency surgery and also had to construct a new anus. The little girl almost went crazy and was catatonic for months.

The courts in Coreaú (which governs Ubaúna) are considered among the worst in the state. This is the only legally registered case of rape ever reported in town and until today it still hasn’t been tried. It was to go to trial at the end of the month, but the judge “hurt himself” and delayed the trial indefinitely. It has been almost 5 years and there has been no justice.

I am asking that my brethren in the U.S. intercede for this little girl before God, asking for justice and that this monster will go to prison. As of today, he walks around Ubaúna freely.

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Please pray for this family and these children, especially this little girl that has suffered so much. Pray that God will heal her completely, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Pray that God will provide for all of this family’s needs. 

Pray that justice will be done but pray that this man will come to know Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior. We all can be forgiven and we all can be followers of Christ. Pray that whatever evil or spirit may be attached or inside this man will leave in the name of Jesus Christ and his spirit will be open to God’s conviction. Pray God will send someone or use someone, maybe Audrey or Andreia to point him to Christ.

Also, pray that God will strengthen Audrey and Andreia and give them direction on how to minister to this family and so they can be a light unto this family that shines brightly through the darkness surrounding this family and illuminates their path so that the love, mercy and grace of Jesus can be clearly seen.

A direct rebuke of Satan to be offered up to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on behalf of this family.  To be prayed by all that bow their heads for this family.

In the name of Jesus Christ, I command you satan to release this family from the darkness that you have covered this family with.  In the name of Jesus and with the authority and power given to me by Jesus himself, I rebuke you satan and take your authority and power from you to work destructively in this family’s life!  In Jesus’ name, you no longer have access to this family and all your dominions must cease all communication and activity with this family!  In Jesus’ name, be gone!  Father, I command your holy angels, your battle angels in the name of our Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ to come down from heaven and surround this family, providing complete protection so that no evil can cause harm to this family!  I command your Holy battle angels in the name of Christ to destroy any and all spirits or dominions of satan that may attempt to harm this family and do evil upon this family!  In these things we pray in the precious name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!  Amen!

“John 3: 16 – For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.  17.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through Him.”  (New KJV)

“John 3:16 – For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  17.  God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.”  (NLT)

I’ll be the first to admit that I am not a Bible scholar.  I am not going to spew forth hundreds of memorized verses, tell you what the Hebrew or Greek or Mexican or Portuguese root of anything is, and I cannot read the Bible in any other language than English.  If you engage me in an academic debate regarding the Bible, I will probably lose. 

Honestly though, I could care less.  When I read the Bible, I read it with my spirit.  I literally ask God that He would speak to my spirit through His Holy, divinely inspired, authoritative, living Word so that I may have knowledge and wisdom that can be used to glorify Him, bless Him, honor Him and reach the lost souls of this earth.  I pray that God will illuminate His Word to me and that He will correct me and grow me through His Word.  Through this process, I do learn to memorize some verses, and I do become more intellectually versed in the Bible but that isn’t my focus…just a by-product that I find can be useful.  My true focus is to get to know God and His Son, Jesus Christ.  I want to deepen my relationship with him and my spiritual understanding of who He was, who He is.  I want my heart, my soul and my spirit to know Him and His Word, not my mind. 

I can know Him and His Word with my mind but if that is my focus, then my heart, my soul and my spirit will be as spiritually dry and ignorant as an Eskimo in the middle of the Sahara.  I will be parched spiritually, wandering around in a total state of confusion looking for the right road to take me back home to the truth I knew before I took a wrong turn somewhere.

In today’s society, knowledge and intellect is valued and prized above our common sense and our spiritual understanding of the Bible and the world around us.  We “ooh and ahh” over those pastors and Christians that can recite the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, can speak 14 different languages from the Bible and have four or five “theological or religious” Ph.D’s on the wall.  We follow them and listen to them, accepting what they say as truth without even questioning our spirits as to why it is troubled at what is being said.  However, we look down on those Christians that don’t have an academic understanding of the Bible, and dismiss them when they speak of understanding the Bible from a spiritual point of view. 

Perfect example:  I was reading a post recently that stated, basically, that only a select, elected and chosen few are brought to Salvation and true redemption in God through His Son, Jesus Christ.  The author gave all kinds of scripture to “support” His understanding, and went on and on about his knowledge of God’s Word through his extensive study of the Bible.  He talked of regeneration and santification and other “tions”.  His tone was matter-of-fact…some will be elected by God but most will not, thus relegating them to an eternity without God, or with satan in his Lake of Fire.  Wow, I thought!  That sucks for those that will not be elected or chosen.  Imagine…no chance of ever receiving God’s Mercy, His Grace and His Forgiveness.  Depressing isn’t it?  Luckily for me, and of course him, that we have been chosen.  Just study the Bible, obey God’s commands and I’m home free….heaven here I come.  He went on to argue that it is self-righteous for someone to think that we can chose to accept the Gift of Salvation, therefore, the truly regenerated, forgiven, sanctified, specialified, electified, chosenfied, righteousfied are hand-picked by God himself to ensure that we don’t get self-righteous and prideful.  To hell with the others.  He didn’t say that but….

My point is not to bash this guy for his belief.  He’s free to believe however he choses but when he “preaches” this distorted truth and passes it off as fact, citing his extensive knowledge and study of the Bible, then it becames dangerous.  Not the good dangerous but the bad dangerous.  Luckily, I can discern the ignorance in this argument but new Christians, and many “mature” Christians will buy into it. 

So I began having a conversation with God about what I had read.  I believe that God’s Gift of Salvation that He gave to us through the Blood of Jesus Christ is for ALL that chose to believe and seek His merciful and grace-filled forgiveness but not being a Bible scholar, I asked God to illuminate His Word, and I asked God to show my spirit the answer to this.  I think this made God happy, and He was more than willing to oblige little ol’ simple me.  What was His answer?  Simple, just scroll back up to the top of this page and read what John stated so eloquently about God’s Gift to mankind.    Does God say that he so loved Joe and Patrick and Christy and Garry but not Suzy, Woody, Fred and Joyce?  Don’t even need a high school diploma to understand this, huh?

You see, God would not have sent His Son to this earth to die a horrific, unimaginable death for only a select few.  He wouldn’t have sent Jesus to teach us about unconditional love, mercy and grace if only a select, elected few had access to these principles, and the rest would perish everlasting in hell with satan, would He?  No!  It would make Jesus the ultimate unloving, elitist hypocrite, and that is not the Jesus that my spirit knows. My spirit tells me He is the one and only true Lord, true God, true Savior, and He died for us ALLHe loves us all and wants us all to believe and seek forgiveness.  He wants to spend eternity with all of us. No one any more or less than I. 

Someone’s studies of the Bible may tell them that God only elects a few but my spirit tells me this is complete, satan-driven lies and deception.   Don’t believe these lies!  Jesus and His Gift of Salvation is there for all to open and to treasure for all of eternity.  If we don’t believe that everyone…anyone can receive  salvation, then how effective will we be at evangelizing this world and reaching the lost souls of this world? If it’s only an elected few, then why bother?

 

 

The Heart of Darkness.  A spiritual stronghold for satan.  An area defined by extremes….extreme heat, extreme drought, extreme poverty, extreme spiritual oppression.  This describes a little village in the middle of the Northeast desert region in the state of Ceara, Brazil called Ubauna.

Four years ago in February, a woman cried out in the middle of this desert village for God to send someone that could teach her people about the saving grace of His Son, Jesus Christ.  God heard and He then placed a spiritual telephone call to Joe’s spirit, burdening his heart for the lost souls of Ubauna.  It was from these seeds that God has brought forth His Divinely inspired, Holy Spirit-driven ministry, Gospel for Brazil.

The first mission trip to Ubauna was in July of 2004.  It was just twelve, mission-naive followers of Christ (including Christy and me) that were crazy enough to trek 5,000 miles south just because God said, “Go.”

Now, four years later, Christy and I found ourselves pulling into Ubauna one year removed from our last trip.  Leaving last year, we were filled with excitement over the prospect of God placing our first missionaries, Audrey and Andreia in Ubauna to begin growing the Gospel for Brazil church and building disciples.  We knew it was a turning point in this young ministry. 

So after hearing over the last year how much God had worked through Audrey and Andreia, and how God was building disciples there, we finally came to a stop in front of the O Evangelho Para O Brasil (Gospel for Brazil) Church in the heart of Ubauna.  Before the team could even get off the bus, the kids were already excitedly congregating at the church. 

We were finally back in Ubauna.  We got off the bus, searching for our brother and sister in Christ, Audrey and Andreia.  Finding them, we hugged and talked for a few moments, so happy to be back in Ubauna with them.  We then took a small tour inside the church, and quietly reflected on how far God had brought Gospel for Brazil in four short years.  Although we knew that Gospel for Brazil was still an infant missionary ministry just learning to walk, we were filled with a deep satisfaction at the progress that had been made. 

I wish I could tell you the feeling that we had watching the geniune love and affection that was shown between Audrey, Andreia and the kids of Ubauna.  They were drawn to them, especially Andreia.  Four years ago, these kids were wild, unpredictable, undisciplined and without hope.  Now, they were calm, disciplined, focused and full of hope.  They were singing, they were dancing, they were laughing and they were worshipping their Savior, Jesus…and it was in the middle of the afternoon!  Our souls hadn’t been this happy and content in a long time because we knew that God had begun to break the spiritual oppression that had defined this area for so long.  These kids are being used by God as the catalysts in reaching their familes and other villagers for Christ.  They are little lights of Jesus that is illuminating the lost souls of Ubauna.

The rest of the afternoon was spent settling into the farmhouse before going back over to eat and then heading over to the “Bull Club”, an old nightclub that the Gospel for Brazil Church has taken over.  It’s an open air location, and the night was perfect for our first worship service.  The music was rocking and the kids danced their little hearts out.  People accepted Christ as Savior and people were healed.  The best part of the night?  The fact that our team was able to sit back and just take it all in.  Audrey and Andreia led the service and the kids took care of the entertainment, and this was the dream, the vision four years ago. 

Gospel for Brazil is about reaching the lost souls of Brazil, building them into disciples for Christ and then preparing them to lead the ministry in Brazil.  This is what is happening in Ubauna.  God placed Audrey and Andreia, Brazilians, in Ubauna to begin to heal this area and point them to Christ.  The light of Jesus is shining on this area through a little church that has become a spiritual safe haven where the kids and people of Ubauna can find forgiveness, mercy, grace, faith, love and hope.  God is leading his coup through two powerful leaders that have taken the full authority and power of Jesus, and are building an army of youthful warriors that have drawn a line in the sand, giving satan full notice that his reign is over in this village.

Hearing about this for a year…inspiring.  Seeing it first hand…undescribably awesome.

Please pray for the persecuted Church in China during the Olympic Games.  Although there are people, including some Christians around this world, that deny that Christians are still facing persecution in China, the facts say otherwise. Christians still congregate and worship our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ under the threat of constant harrassment and scrutiny of the Communist, Atheist government of China.  Leaders and followers of Christ are being imprisioned, attacked and even killed on a daily basis, even in the so-called “Legal” churches or “State-approved” churches.

Let’s unite as Christian brothers and sisters to remember China’s Christians daily to intercede in prayer on their behalfs.  Pray for their protection and for the hand of God to be upon them.  Pray that they will be given God anointed strength, courage and boldness in worshipping Him and proclaiming the Good News of his Son, Jesus Christ.  Pray that God will stir up such a passion for Him in the souls of the people in China that even the leaders will have to stop and take notice of His awesome Power, Mercy, Grace and Love. 

Pray that those who are imprisioned will be released and reunited with their families and friends.  Pray that those that have had family or friends killed because of their faith in Christ Jesus, will be comforted with the Love and Grace of Jesus Christ and God will provide for their needs. 

Got your head stuck in the sand?  Refuse to believe this?  Then go to the Voice of the Martyrs website, persecution.com. 

Also pray that God will convict each and every heart within the American Church to get involved personally with spreading the Word and Truth of Jesus Christ to all nations, and to take each soul that dies lost as a personal failure.  America has been so blessed with tremendous freedoms and resources for a divine purpose.  We have an obligation to get involved and fulfill The Great Commisson.  We must be the leaders.  We must be the torch-bearers of God’s Word and His Truth.

In truth, the blood of the lost souls that perish without knowing Christ Jesus is on all our hands, especially those of us who live in America.  God will judge us and judge us harshly for being so passive and weak at pointing this world to His Son, Jesus Christ.

Three weeks after returning from our mission trip to Brazil, Christy and I find ourselves at a crossroads in our church life.  For the past three and a half years, we have been members at a local Southern Baptist church in Savannah.  The church has been a good home for us over that time, and we know that was where God wanted us to be during that time but since our return from our 2007 Gospel for Brazil missionary trip, we had begun to question if that was where God wanted us to be long-term.  

We sensed that the time would come that we would leave this church to find a new home but God hadn’t given us clear direction that the time had come.  Christy was on the Missions Committee, and we were teaching the Special Needs Sunday school class.  We talked a lot about finding another church but we continued to stay, primarily, because we just weren’t ready to leave the awesome adults that we had taught for two years.  They were such a blessing and had become very important to us.

However, this all changed during our last visit to Brazil.  Christy and I had finally slowed down and quieted our spirits, and we were completely focused on God and doing His Will.  The Oaks, the Department of Family and Childrens Services, phones, TV’s, bills and basically our American life had been put in the rear view mirror of that TAM airliner that had taken off from Miami headed to Fortaleza, Brazil.  This is how it is for us in Brazil.  It’s a single-minded, Holy Spirit-led pursuit of God and the work that He is doing in Brazil through Gospel for Brazil.

So, there we were in Brazil, relaxed, content and at peace with ourselves and God.  Our spirits were like a one billion Watt antenna searching for the voice of God.  Guess what happened?  We found it…we heard it!!!  God was clearly telling us that the time had come to leave Calvary and seek Him elsewhere.  It was as if the spiritual lightbulb had gone off, and we realized that our souls weren’t being fed, and we were starving ourselves by continually drinking milk instead of dining on more substantial food that would allow us to grow spiritually and become dangerous for God.  This isn’t a knock against our pastor or the church because he is a Godly man full of wisdom that we sincerely love but he was just catering to a different crowd seeking to be comfortable instead of dangerous.  Honestly, this isn’t an isolated circumstance but a growing epidemic in the American church.  We are losing the Authority and Power that Christ has given to us because we either don’t want to use it, we don’t believe it, we are afraid of it or we have diluted it because we get focused on storing up treasures on this earth.  Either way, it spells I-N-E-F-F-E-C-T-I-V-E.

We realized that our worship and spiritual experiences and growth in Brazil shouldn’t be “once-a-year” things.  They should be regular and continual.  They should be our norm, not our exception.  There are no perfect churches but there are churches who believe ALL of God’s Word and don’t teach opinions or preach “safe” sermons because they don’t want to scare off the “big donors.” 

Therefore, our search has officially begun.  We have notified everyone that needed to know at our former church and are excited about the journey ahead.  We feel rejuvenated and excited about what’s around the corner.  We feel strongly that God wants us to continue to work with the church plant that our Brazilian brothers and sisters have begun here in Savannah but we are also going to visit some other churches to see where God is truly leading us. 

Man, following Christ is gggggoooooooddddd, and definitely isn’t boring.  Pray for us as we seek God’s Will concerning where He wants us to worship and grow.  We would be appreciative and we’ll pray for you to blessed with a spiritual “cookie” from God if you do.

“Each man will be like a shelter from the wind, and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert, and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.” Isaiah 32:2

One of the special memories Christy and I hold from our 2007 trip to Brazil was our first worship experience with the Grace Refuge Church in Fortaleza.  The church had just leased a building downtown that had been the home of a used car dealership and it was just a hollow shell of a building.  There were no pews and seats except for a concrete block or two that made for makeshift resting places.  It was the congregations first worship service in their new building and we were honored to be a part of it.  Our souls were blown away by the simple but Spirit-filled worship service that we experienced that night in that dimmly lit and dust-filled place.  We had never been a part of such a powerful worship service.  We sang, we prayed, we sang some more and then we prayed some more.  That was it!  No distractions or trivial, frivolous activities that insult God with its shallow attempts to play church.  There were no clocks and no time pressures.  We started and stopped when the Holy Spirit dictated.   That service will always live in me and oh, how I found myself back in that place so many times over the past year, longing to experience that type of simple hunger for God again. 

So it was, one year later that we found ourselves anxiously and excitedly waiting at the hotel to head to the Grace Refuge Church to worship again with our Brazilian brothers and sisters. The nights in Fortaleza pulse with energy and life, and we were soaking it all in when I saw Joe pointing in our direction, stating, “Patrick, Christy and Garry go with them.” Eagerly waiting to take us to the service was a sweet couple from Grace Refuge. Christy, Garry and I made our introductions and off we went, crowded like sardines into the back seat.

The beginning of the trip was going quite well, and Christy and I realized that we had met them during our last worship service the year before. The guy (sorry…I’m TERRIBLE with names, especially non-English ones) touched Christy and I by asking us if we had adopted the little Brazilian girl that we had talked about adopting during our last visit. Wow!!! This was someone that we had met once, spent just a few hours with, hadn’t seen in a year and he had remembered our conversation from a year ago. Not to mention, he actually asked us about this, sincerely wanting to know. Honestly, our affection and love for Grace Refuge and for our Brazilian brothers and sisters grew immeasurably at that moment. And this isn’t the exception. This is how it is when we are with them.

Anyway, things were going well until a couple near miss accidents made me comment, half seriously and half jokingly, to Garry about how badly Brazilians drive. Our Brazilian brother turned to us and stated with confidence, “Don’t worry you are safe with me.” Whew! By this time, Christy and he were having a Portuguese speaking lesson, and Garry and I were just chatting. However, a few minutes later, he, for no apparent reason, blurted out, “I’m a bad driver but don’t worry, I’ve only been in five or six accidents.” He then added, “but nothing lethal, only minor accidents.” Great I thought…we’re about to put the “Law of Averages” and “Murphy’s Law” theories to the test in the middle of downtown Fortaleza, Brazil. To further add to the anxiety, he and his fiance began to argue about how to get back to the church. I’m thinking, “Please don’t distract him, let the man focus.” Needless to say, the car was quiet for a few minutes but remembering we were in Brazil and it’s all bom, we went back to chatting and learning how to butcher Portuguese in thick, southern accents.

Finally, we made it to the church in last place although we headed out ahead of everyone. The reunion was awesome and we greeted our Christian family members after a year away. They embraced us with so much love and geniune affection that it really touched our souls. Heck, most of the people in our own church act as if they don’t even know us and we see them every Sunday.

We fellowshipped and fellowshipped, and then we got down to some serious Holy Spirit worshipping. The worship was loud, passionate and rocking. We’d sing, then stop to pray and interact with the members, sing some more, pray some more and finally Marclei got around to preaching. Joe came up and translated for us non-Portuguese speaking American gringos, and then the Americans were called up front so the Grace Refuge congregation could pray for us and sing praises on us. They were pumped about our visit to Ubauna, and they had held this special service just so they could send us off “prayed up.” After this, they called up the Brazilian team of six from the church that would accompany us. The group was finally set and ready to rock on down the road to Ubauna. 

We finished worshipping and went out to eat with some of the members.  Marclei and Joe didn’t even make it because they stayed behind at the church to pray for one of our team members who was in desperate need of intense, focused prayer.  They prayed, they counseled and they prayed some more.  Isn’t this what following Christ and belonging to the family of God is all about?  Have we lost this passion and commitment here in America?  Being at Grace Refuge made me wonder.

Throughout the service, I’d look over at Garry and he’d have this “wow, so this is how worship of Christ is supposed to be?”  He didn’t say anything but the expression on his face showed a deep peace and contentment within his soul.  This made me undescribably happy because I knew that he was experiencing what I had told him about so many times since our last trip.

Such it is with our worship services at the Grace Refuge Church.   The church is on fire for Christ and the Holy Spirit visits intensely there on a regular basis.  I wish I could put into words the service that we had but I just can’t do it justice. The whole experience was deeply spiritual for us, and made us hungry to experience this back home.  

We could have gotten on a red-eye back home that night, and our trip would have been a powerful, Holy Spirit experience that would have renewed our spirits and refocused us on God.  But fortunately for us, it was just starting. 

Stay tuned, more to come……..

We’ve caught the wordle bug!  Our first attempt!!!!

Click on wordle to view larger. Haven’t figured out how to make it larger yet. Have patience with us.