The past several weeks have been, well, different! I am sure you can all say the same. We have had to make a few adjustments to our daily family routine and several to our church routine.
Our church began live streaming services from our home on March 22nd. We did this through the end of April. Our Sunday School class, worship service and mid-week prayer services were all transmitted via our church’s Instagram page. And during this time Melissa, our children and other children’s ministry workers recorded lessons for children’s church, which were posted to our church’s YouTube channel. This has all been going well and we are thankful that we have technology that allows us to be able to preach and teach the Word of God.
Fortunately, live streaming the services enabled us to reach a much broader audience than holding our services together as before. Many people, including family and friends of our church members, regularly tune in to watch the services. And we have been getting comments on how they have been uplifted during these uncertain times. We definitely praise the Lord for these opportunities.
However, we have also noticed the effects of the “virtual” church in our context. The Brazilian culture is so much more people-oriented than our own. Our people here thrive on being together and having fellowship with one another. And it has proven to be challenging over the last several weeks to maintain meaningful connection with everyone. We have attempted to do that through our church leaders maintaining contact with the church members. This has helped us remain aware of needs and prayer requests and made us feel somewhat connected.
Another way we have noticed the effects of not meeting together is the decline in offerings the church receives. They went down quite a bit. I’m pretty sure that’s normal where you are, too. But this has forced us to look at some alternatives such as encouraging on-line giving. However, here unless you have the same bank as the church you have to pay a fee to transfer money to another bank. Or you have to wait in an especially longer-than-usual line at the bank. This is a big draw back for most people.
It has also led us to look at some other options for saving money. Through this situation, we suggested to our church leaders that we leave our rented building that we were not able to use and as soon as we could begin meeting again as a church, do so in our home. Our house has a large outside carport type area as well as three rooms downstairs that work well for Sunday school and children’s ministry classrooms. Our main purpose for this move was to invest all the money that we were paying in rent and utilities into the church construction.
The leaders and church members embraced the idea. Many details worked out beautifully. Such as storing all of the “stuff”. A lady in our church has an older house that she used to rent out. It needs quite a bit of work and she is unable to rent it for now. So, she offered for us to store everything from the church there! It was a great solution.
For the last two weeks our city has been returning to normal. Basically everything is running except for schools. Churches were allowed to begin meeting again (with no limit on number of people). We do have some restrictions and precautions to follow. For example, maintaining a safe distance between everyone, and wearing face masks. So, this past weekend we had our first “house church” service! It turned out quite well. Probably 2/3 of the church attended. There are some logistics that we have to work out, but the first service was very encouraging to everyone. Many of our members are readily available to give rides to those without cars and help with setup and tear down before and after the services. Many people commented on how they were encouraged to be back together again.
We ask that you continue to pray for us as we adjust to this new location temporarily. And pray that the Lord will continue to provide for the ongoing construction of our building. We need approximately $12,000.00 the be able make the building useable. My goal is to hold our first service in it on our church’s anniversary celebration at the end of November. Will you pray about helping us make that a reality?
We also have been able to continue with some other ministries here. Melissa is finishing up a Bible study with some young adult ladies. I continue with men’s prayer breakfasts. These are encouraging for us as missionaries. We enjoy seeing people hunger for the Word. We ask that you also pray for Ítalo, an unsaved man who has faithfully attended church these last few months. The Lord is working in his life. Pray for him to accept Christ.
As far as our family is concerned, few things have changed. The kids’ soccer school is still suspended. Four of the boys play soccer and are really missing that weekly activity. But, we can still ride bikes, go for walks and runs, and visit the parks. As far as school, they are carrying on as normal with homeschooling. Joshua and Liam just finished their school year. Troy, Eli and Alec have two weeks left. All of them are doing very well. Melissa is very excited for a well-deserved break.
Thank you for praying and giving faithfully!
Taking the Light of Christ to Brazil
Josh, Melissa, Troy, Eli, Alec, Joshua, Liam & Lívia