"Preach the gospel at all times; if necessary, use words." Saint Francis of Assisi

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Carnaval - Part 3

In keeping with our 'Being church instead of Doing church' theme we changed the Carnaval plans for this year. The last two years we had a retreat at a place a little more than an hour outside the city. It was a really neat place. We could swim, hike, play soccer and we also had Bible classes and fun times together as a group (scavenger hunt, flour bomb wars, talent shows, etc). We had good times together and we had a good group both years we did it. We could have continued that tradition this year but we began to ask ourselves why we were doing it. Was it to escape the evil of the city during our Carnaval (Mardi Gras on massive steroids in some parts of Brasil)? Was it to grow our relationships in Christ? After last year we had some people complain about the place being a bit too rustic, and some complain about the spiders. Others expressed a desire to do a service project together, while others were happy to do the retreat year after year.

I think part of the reason to do the retreat was to leave the evil around the city. But as Christians, isn't our job to join together and attack enemy territory? We did grow our relationships during these retreats. We had fun together and learned more about the Bible while together. But did anything really change in our lives that would make a profound difference to win this city for Christ because of the retreats? If some people complained about the place we were at - were they unable to claim God's promises during the retreat because of their lack of desire to be where we were? Some expressed a desire to do a service project together. Could this be the Spirit's leading? Something about that called our attention to the fact that this really felt like being true church. Our team talked and prayed about it and we felt Spirit led that this was what God wanted from this church family. We began to pray about the service project.

We have a couple, Claudio and Rute, that recently moved out of the city into a new house. They have begun a new house church. They've begun friendships with their new neighbors and we wanted the entire house church network to have the opportunity to be Christ to their neighborhood to help them start an incredible house church for God. Benay and I recently read about a church family in the United States who just went out and loved people for Christ through kind acts. They would show up, for example, at a gas station and clean the bathrooms. The workers/owners of these places obviously didn't know what to do and when they asked why the people would say they just wanted to show the love of Christ. Wow. This is what we want for this church family in Porto Alegre. We found out about a day care in Claudio and Rute's neighborhood that was run by the city but the city didn't have any money in the budget to paint it before school started at the end of this month. This neighborhood is kind of a rough one but the people are very proud of this day care and take care of it. Perfect! It just seemed like God was spoon feeding this service project to us. He has a way of doing that sometimes doesn't He?

Benay blogged about how we had a couple of days growing our relationships with our day trip to the river as well as a great Celebration service this past Sunday. Monday and Tuesday were used to paint this day care. Would people show up or would they enjoy just resting on this national holiday? We realized that wasn't ours to worry about. God would touch hearts and people would show up for Him. Not for pats on backs or to make themselves feel good but to have a chance to be Christ to a hurting neighborhood. When the director of the day care was approached about a group of people who wanted to come in and paint the inside of the day care and supply the paint, brushes and everything needed , she could not believe it. We showed up Monday morning and God blessed us with 18 people who stayed the entire day to work. On Tuesday we had over 20. We began by scraping water damage off walls and then applying a sealant to protect it from happening again, followed by spackle to fill in what we scraped, sanding that, and then putting one to two coats on the walls.
It's kind of hard to see but this is a view of the day care center from the street.
The group getting started.
I am very proud of our kids. They (Bronwyn, Ansley and Garrett) worked full days both days and even Carys showed up on Tuesday and worked some of the day with us. The youth from different house churches really led the way in being an example of serving others as we had around 10 teenagers/kids helping both days.

Waleska and Matt with Gabriela (back turned) in the kitchen. Waleska did a great job of preparing lunch and snacks for both days.

Our brother Spencer applying some spackle.

Our sister Ines.

We also had fun. This is our brother Felipe who allowed the girls to transform him into "Felipa" during a snack break. He's a good sport.

I was painting on a ladder one day and saw this picture. I took it through a broken glass window from inside the day care which was overlooking a metal fence covered with barb wire. Across the street were two homeless men. It gives a small taste of what parts of this neighborhood are like.

Here is a picture of almost all the people that were there on the first day. To be honest, I think we were too tired to take a picture of everyone on the second day.

This is the couple, Claudio and Rute, and their family in front of their new house. Please pray for them that God will use them in mighty ways in their neighborhood to make a kingdom difference (they already are being used by Him) and that God will grow this house church. We pray that He was glorified through this service project and that He will use Claudio and Rute to follow up with any seed that might have been planted during our two days there.

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