In May, a small crowd, including some who had not been to our church before, assembled on the bank of the small reservoir at the bottom of Serra da Torre quilombola community, to watch S being baptised by Pastor Neto and Hannah. S is the first person born in the community to be baptised by believer’s baptism (and the fourth overall). Doing it in the community was a powerful testimony. S described the experience of feeling that she received an enormous, long, supernatural hug on being baptised. D decided that she didn’t feel ready for baptism yet, but there will be other opportunities in the future.
Afterwards, we celebrated the Lord’s Supper together on the veranda of another believer’s home which is just above the reservoir. In the Betel denomination you have to be authorised to administer communion; this was the first time we have done it in the community, but Tim has now been authorised to do it, so we will be able to do it more regularly.
A couple of weeks before the baptism, O arrived at a church service and declared he had decided to give his life to Christ. O is mute and also hasn’t had the opportunity to learn to read and write, so although he understands us well, two-way conversation can be challenging, and this came as a wonderful surprise to us. Afterwards he returned to his family, who are staunch Catholics. In the sertão (semi-arid rural inland of NE Brazil) this usually means adhering to superstitious practices and traditions, without experiencing a transformative and life-giving relationship with the risen Christ. They thought he was ill, as he told them there was a fire in his heart and also kept pointing to his head as if he had a headache. After a while they came to understand that he had decided to be an evangelical Christian, and this fire in his heart, and peace in his head, was a consequence of inviting Jesus into his heart. They were cross at first, but came to accept the decision after only a few days, seeing his contentment and already seeing that he is less agitated and no longer picks fights with his brother. We gave him an audio bible and speaker, and he loves listening to it every day. He has already listened to the whole New Testament and a good portion of the Old Testament. He is desperate to be baptised and Tim has begun the discipleship classes that Betel requires for baptism, with S’s help who is better at understanding O’s gestures than Tim is! Hopefully he – and maybe D – will be baptised in September.
Can Christians drink fizzy drinks?
There are some funny ideas about what it means to be an evangelical Christian in the sertão. O’s family were keen to tell him what he could and couldn’t do now he is an evangelical Christian. They reckoned not only that he couldn’t drink alcohol, dance, listen to any music, or really enjoy himself in any way – but also that it was forbidden to drink fizzy drinks.
We were really encouraged by the response O received when he raised this with the small group of those from the community who have already been baptised. They told him that it’s not about having rules for the sake of it but choosing to do things which please God and love and respect others and ourselves. And we were even more encouraged when they used last year’s harvest service as proof that evangelicals can listen to good music and dance in a way which glorifies God. Around harvest time most people in the sertão (elsewhere too, but it’s a bigger thing here) celebrate São João, ostensibly to venerate John the Baptist and other saints. It’s a celebration of northeastern culture, with typical northeastern foods and music, bonfires and decorations, but alongside that often come superstitious and religious elements which Brazilian evangelicals recognise as idolatry.
Last Saturday, as last year, we had an open air harvest service at around the same time as São João. We had a Christian forró band, typical foods made from corn like canjica and palmonha, and a message from the bible. Adults and children danced and worshipped God. The purpose was to thank God for His provision, but also to celebrate northeastern culture and offer it to God without the unnecessary problematic elements, and demonstrate that while becoming a Christian is a definitive break and change of life, it doesn’t mean abandoning all cultural expression or joy. The fact that, unprovoked, local people raised it as evidence against the perception that evangelical Christianity is a rigid, joyless, rules-based religion, suggests it was a success!
Training in children’s ministry
Around 35 women and men took part in a 2-day training for children’s workers organised by Hannah for children’s workers in the church project and the 4 Betel Brasileiro congregations in Custódia. Workers shared their ideas and best practice with one another, and keynote speaker and specialist in children’s evangelism Edcleide Monteiro Da Silva delivered sessions on the biblical basis of children’s ministry and on storytelling, while another church member presented on identifying child trauma, and play therapy. (She is a psychologist who often comes up to Serra da Torre with us and does talking and play therapies with some of the children and teenagers there.) One worker eagerly reported back to Hannah a few days later: “I put everything I learned into practice in my lesson, and it went great!” 3 believers from Serra da Torre, who we hope may serve in this and other areas in the future, took part.
Mission trip to the UK in July
On 1st July, Hannah will travel to the UK with 4 Brazilian missionaries who have never been abroad before (and 3 have never been on a plane before). They will visit churches and take part in activities in Egham, Weymouth and Chard, including a mission week and a children’s holiday club, from 3rd July to 5th August. We think it may be the first Latin Link STEP team from Latin America to Europe. Hannah spends the first week with them in Egham helping them settle in before returning back to Custódia. Pray for Team Leader Isabela (23), a psychologist, seminary student and youth leader in our church, Carlos (23), a seminary student and regular preacher, Klébia (45), a mental health nurse director of the church project and worship leader, and Riselly (24), a worker in the church project and worship leader. They all have a huge amount to offer and we are sure God is going to use them massively. They are still fundraising to meet their target for the trip – if you’d like to support them, get in touch and we’ll explain how.
Prayer Requests for this month
Pray for our health to be completely restored – we have had colds, coughs and viruses for about a month now and we’re fed up of them!
Pray for the team going to the UK, that God would give them peace, confidence to use their English language, unity, and the remaining funds.
Pray for all those who took part in the children’s ministry training, that they would be able to put the training into practice – and for those who attended from Serra da Torre, that they would have the confidence to have a go helping with children’s ministry there.
Pray that O would be a strong testimony to his family and others in Serra da Torre, and that others would see and want the intimacy with God that he and S have.