Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Drawing Closer to God

Yesterday a woman at our house church told me she has been trying to make some changes in her life but doesn’t seem to be making any headway on her own. I told her that’s because God never intended for us to do it alone. This led to a discussion about the importance of Christian community and the fact that this church is exactly that. I encouraged her to tap in to all God has in store for her right here in this group. She called me, excited, the next morning to tell me that she printed an online Bible study she had randomly chosen, only to find it was about the importance of Christian community in our lives. “I want you to know that you are exactly where God wants you to be right now,” she said. “He is speaking to me through you and I want to encourage you with that.” She said she wants to know more of what’s written in the Bible so she can live in a way that would glorify God. It did encourage me and I want to encourage you by sharing not only this but a few other things that are happening right now.

The single Brazilian mom among us who recently lost her husband is also facing possible deportation. Her husband was Austrian so her United States visa is not secure. They were in the application process as a family when he passed away. She can go to Austria or Brazil at any time but wants to stay here to raise her now five-year-old daughter. She told me that despite all the pain she is going through she can see that God is blessing her with this church family and she wants to give something back to Him. I shared with her that the best thing she can do for God is to study His word and live accordingly. She wants to do that.

One of the couples that has been a mainstay in this ministry from the very beginning has been struggling in their marriage since we met them. John has spent time counseling them and we have all spent time praying for them but nothing has seemed to change. Recently, the wife confessed she doesn’t know anything about the Bible and isn’t sure why she even became a Christian. She asked me Sunday to study the Bible with her so she can understand God better. In doing so, we know she is about to be introduced to the one who can save not only her marriage but also her soul. Needless to say, we are very excited to be a part of that introduction.

Another family came to us with a broken marriage and two small children - one of which has tested on the autistic spectrum. He has been oblivious to social cues and is generally inappropriate in group settings. Sunday he looked me in the eye - highly unusual for him - and asked if I had a new hairstyle. I had in fact just had my hair cut the day before and he was the only one who noticed. His mother said it gave her goosebumps to hear him ask that question. She believes God is healing him. He and his sister will be staying at our house this weekend while their parents go out on their first date in two and a half years.

Daphne and Jake, her nine-year-old son, have become so much a part of our family that he has started calling us “Uncle John” and “Aunt Sam”. He asked me one night when he was sleeping over, “Is it true that we are family if we all believe in Jesus?” I told him yes but he still didn’t seem satisfied, so I asked if something was bothering him. He said, “I already have a mom so I guess I can’t call you that. But what can I call you?” We settled on Aunt Sam and that made him very happy. When John told him he could call him Uncle John it seemed as if something very wrong had been put right in his world. That’s what we hope to see with every single person God sends our way.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bursting at the Seams

Last week we had eleven children at church. That may not seem like many to those of you who attend a big church in a big church building with a big church staff ,but to us it is significant. I teach Sunday school in Ben’s room. We push his train table into the closet and set up a utility table in the middle of the room with folding chairs around it. One poor kid was practically flush against Ben’s crib, and the child at the other end was touching the edge of the train table that stuck out of the closet. There wasn’t a clear path around the room, so the kids down one side had to crane their necks just to see the pictures in the story I was reading. Nobody complained. In fact, it was great. I’m just not sure what we’re going to do when the kids bring the friends they promised to bring next week.

The adults were in the living room. It’s a little bigger than Ben’s room but it’s on the small side, considering a church meets there. John and I talked about having the grown ups meet in Ben’s room and the children in the living room next time. That arrangement might buy us a few weeks but, at the rate we’re growing, not much more.

Since the beginning of this ministry in March, we went from thinking we were going to be a Brazilian church in a church building to being a home church with a focus on strengthening families. God has brought many broken families to us and together we are praying to restore them to what God intended for His people. You read in my last entry about Daphne and Jake. The changes in both of them are phenomenal and they are a testimony to God’s ability to transform a life. A Brazilian woman I met at the YMCA lost her husband eight months ago to a massive stroke. She has a daughter who just turned five and they call us family now. She brought her friends who have been struggling to keep their marriage together. They have a four-year-old daughter and an eight-year-old son with special needs. He has been consuming every ounce of attention in their family and they are paying a huge price. After much prayer and counseling they are headed in the right direction. We’ve used our experiences raising a special needs child to help them learn better ways to cope and discipline their son. He recently made it through his first Sunday school hour without being called out for bad behavior, which brought tears to his mother’s eyes. The stories don’t end here, but this is enough to give you a sampling of the flavor of ministry God has chosen for us in south Florida.

John is currently on a circuit to visit each of the five families’ homes to discuss the basics of Christianity. These people have come to us with differing levels of understanding of the Bible, as is evident in our prayer meetings and Sunday fellowship. In order to establish a strong and true foundation for this church, we’re going to get down to the brass tacks and make sure that each individual has a good relationship with God. We trust that investing in each person on the front end is going to unlock a sea of potential for God to bring about a revival in this part of the world. I’m ready to be a part of that.