Wayne was off the field for little over a month. This was just after the summer break for the locals here in Brazil. So how did the ministry startup go without Wayne? Not smoothly, but it is functioning. Some cracks have developed in the ministry while Wayne was back in the States. It is nice to know you are needed but the goal over time is to work my self out of a job here on the island. It is clear we still have a lot of work to do before we get to that point. We do need your prayers! Ellen is still off the field, and we are hoping she will return in October. Some of the believers I expected to step up and lead, did not. Another looks as if he might drop out. So please keep our ministry in your prayers as Wayne picks up the pieces.
It was great having the opportunity to visit with Ellen for August and part of September. We had the chance to spend time with our kids and extended family. There were a few church visits tucked in and best of all Wayne got to see his six-month-old grandson for the first time. What a great joy this was for Wayne. The time went by very fast and did not make up for the six months we were separated. Which means that when it was time to return to Brazil, there were tears, we wanted to come back at the same time, but Ellen is not yet finished with her physical therapy. Please pray that the time remaining will go quickly and without further complications.
Reaching the river delta is the hardest endeavor Wayne has ever undertaken. The challenges that he faces some days are very overwhelming, yet God is moving mountains to advance this ministry. It is a big river with communities lining its shores where there are no churches, and the Word of God is not spoken. This year we have acquired an aluminum boat with a 25hp motor to get us out on the river. This boat has enabled Wayne to move teams and reach farther than he has ever before. The deeper he forges into the river delta, the more dangers he discovers. The Amazon River is no tame body of water but a treacherous landscape of nautical hazards and pirates. There are days that the river is filled with debris that include sunken trees just hiding below the surface. Several of these have already tried to rip the motor off the back of the boat. Then there are boulders under the surface of the water you will never see that have already taken a chunk out of the prop. As you go through your day, please remember to keep Wayne in prayers as he navigates the river and the Lord takes him places that stretch him far beyond his comfort zone.
In America, it ‘s hard to get involved in people private lives. It is the same here in the river communities. The families are closed, and it takes time to worm your way into their lives, but that is the task of a missionary. To build these relations over time so that they trust you and listen to you as you share about the God you serve. As you develop these relationships, you end up deep in the middle of some of these families. One such person is Cordero. He asked me to be his best man at his wedding recently. It was an enjoyable learning experience for us. Here in Brazil, people do not get married at the church. They have civil weddings as specific locations in the city, or sometimes a judge will do group marriages for the poor. The new couple is now good friends and participating in our small church group. Pray for us as we seek the Holy Spirit to open these doors of relationships for us.
Our volunteers can get so excited about telling the Greatest Story Ever Told, God’s Story. It is awesome to see average church attendees who have shied away from evangelism because it is just too confrontational for them. They are then transformed into enthusiastic story tellers sharing their faith and truths in the Bible by just sharing a simple story. This is why we hold Bible Story Training weekend seminars out at our home. It is an environment that a couple can attend with their little ones or friends looking for an opportunity to learn how to share their faith. These seminars have not only helped people grow as individuals but have been the main stay of our recruiting efforts for our river ministry teams. At this time we have four teams working with us on river ministry targets. Please pray that we can arrange more of these events and add more ministry teams to our movement.
The foundation of our ministry is the individuals that stand behind us, that means you. Prayer is the first and most important part of this foundation we are standing. The prayers of the saints are a sweet-smelling savor unto the Lord. This is why we try and communicate with the people praying for our ministry. Now there seems to be a new building block that needs to be added to our ministry, that is a Facebook Engagement Team. For years Facebook has been a communication tool we have used to share our prayer request and the successes of our ministry. That communication channel is now under threat because of changes in the rules of how Facebook fills its news feed. Now we need your help more than ever to make our ministry successful.
Please consider taking an active role in our ministry by joining our Engagement Team. It only takes a few moments of your time when you log onto Facebook. We have put a short video together to explain what we need in more detail. Watch our video then drop us a Facebook message if you can help us out.
The river ministry is not much different than any other ministry. It is all about relationships that last over an extended period. The families that are out on the river live in somewhat isolated communities. This makes developing relationships harder than those that live in the city. When you enter a community you are not trusted, many strangers have done harm in these communities both religious and governmental. This is why they are wary of strangers special white men from foreign countries. This is one reason Wayne recruits people from the local city churches for help. They are still strangers but a lot less strange than Wayne. The color of the skin is one characteristic that sticks out along with the accent in the language. The goal in working with locals on these projects is to try and help them build a relational bridge into these peoples lives quickly. Wayne understands the process and seeks to disciple the volunteers he is working with in this ministry. It is a slow process, and many mistakes are made by these novice volunteers, but it is amazing how the Holy Spirit can use all these mistakes and turn them into advantages.
One strategy Wayne teaches to his volunteers is to use the story cloth as a contacting tool. It works so well in this culture. Through the cloth on the table and the first question out is; “What Is That?”. From there the conversation becomes very natural as the first story is told. Pray for these workers of the harvest and their story cloths.
God has blessed us with a great local teammate. Jeu is a modern day river pastor. He comes from a family that is many generations deep in Christ with an extended family of pastors and church leaders. He has his aluminum boat with an outboard motor, so he can get around quickly to make visits to parishioners on the river. This modern day boat makes him a target on the river. He has had his boat stolen a few years back. He is praising God that they only took the outboard motor and abandoned his boat on the river shore. God then blessed him with a new 20 hp motor that helps keep him moving.
As he has partnered with us and his boat is included in the deal. He no longer visits parishioners with the boat but uses it to commute back and forth from his church on the weekends. It is such a blessing for us that he can spend Monday through Friday working with us here on the island of Cotijbua and then on the weekends work at the Monkey Island Church. Pray for Jeu as he works the soil here.
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My bags are packed, and I will be getting on a plane in just a few days, August 2, to see Ellen. The seeing Ellen part is fascinating, but leaving the ministry, I have built up over the past two years to operate on it own difficult. I am deeply involved in the daily operation of the ministry and to leave the ministry to function with the leadership I have developed over the years takes planning. I have made plans for all of the kids clubs, transportation, programs and I hope I did not forget something important. The kids club is still dependent upon funding I provide for transportation and food assistance, so I have made arrangements for this aid to continue without me handing people money directly. I have a man Saba, who my administrator, handling the funds for me. Jeremias, who is a licensed pilot, will be driving the boat to pick people up and run them around to the different locations. Pastor Jeu, who I work with on the Island Of Cotijuba church plant, will be running the small groups here on the island and my hope is three of our believers will fill in telling the Bible story of the week during our small group. As you can see our ministry is full of activities with it is touching many lives. Pray that all will continue in my absence.