Our Vibrant Church
A Letter from Gordon and Dorothy Gartrell, serving in Brazil
Dear friends and family,
New leaders have arisen, new programs have begun and some new people are attending the church — all since we left Brazil in December 2017 for our Interpretation Assignment (IA) in the US.
“Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. Some seeds fell on good soil. It came up, grew and provided a crop.” Mark 4:3,8
In Mark 4, Jesus explains that when folks hear about who Jesus is, some understand and accept Him as their Lord and Savior, and others don’t bother to pay attention or think other things are more important. He compares those who embrace Him and His teachings to good soil, and those who don’t to rocky soil and thorns. It is beautiful to see the crop growing and blossoming in our work in Brazil!
Some folks who joined the church before we left are now active in the life of the church. One of them has become the superintendent of Sunday School. Twice when we asked her if she wanted to accept Jesus as her Savior, she said no, but later she said yes, and that she was interested in participating in the new member class. Then she made a public profession of faith. Her young daughter enjoys Sunday School, too.
New members are also contributing to worship. After we left in early December, a young adult started a choir that includes a teenager and other young people. It continued after the Christmas celebration. They sing two or three times a month.
Another new church member is a retired community leader and manager of a local mining business. He has helped the session make decisions about using church money to get a new ceiling and about writing a contract for a new non-profit group that wants to use the church building to hold classes. The public school superintendent is organizing a former classroom to allow a city counselor to hold sessions with students, their parents or both together. It’s refreshing to see the part of the building that was used for the public school for 31 years before the city closed it being used in new ways instead of remaining empty and unused. The school is being paid for by a German company, and the church is going to use the rent they receive to cover the cost of keyboard lessons for church members.
The choir — the men are new members.
The new school is being recognized by the city as an official school, and it reaches out to young people in the community who previously worked on local farms for little pay and people who live in the community. These days, the farms do not offer as much work as they used to, and the students need employment and job skills. The classes offered are Computer Introduction and Use of the Computer-Part Two. Next semester, the school will offer English as a second language and help for GED and college entrance exams, as Brazilian colleges now require a test like the SAT or ACT.
The school director is from a small town near here. His dream is to begin a program that enables his friends and neighbors to improve their lives. He is currently a licensed teacher, able to teach public school classes. He is close to receiving a master’s degree, which will enable him to earn more money and be more respected. By having a school, the church is helping him and community members make their dreams come true.
A grandmother and her 14-year-old granddaughter who previously participated in our church as a young child have returned. Because they live on the edge of town a long way from our church, they were attending a church nearer to them. The teen was not learning about the Bible and was restricted from shorts, short skirts, make-up, and activities with other teens, so she asked her grandmother if they could come back. They returned in the beginning of January and are very happy. Talita does not have a lot of peers in our church, so she was helping the children’s teacher to hand out papers and colored pencils, etc. Her grandmother is concerned about her not being taught more about the Bible, so I have invited her to help me plan Sunday School classes. Though she remembers lots of Bible stories and songs she learned in our church, this will better familiarize her with the Bible and allow her to learn more about how a teenager can strengthen her faith. Next Sunday when we talk about the books of the New Testament, Talita will help class members learn a song about them.
As you can see, our church is thriving. We are privileged to have had the wonderful opportunity to share about its ministries during our IA this past December-May. Our ministry enables us to see the wonderful changes the Lord brings about in people, and we feel fortunate to be a part of it. We enjoyed visiting churches and making new friends. Around Advent and Christmas and before we returned, we saw our children, their spouses and our granddaughter. It was a great experience, but we were very excited to return to Brazil!! Thank you so much for praying for our work and continuing to give financial gifts, enabling our work to continue.
Gordon and Dorothy