Wednesday, February 22, 2017

From Every Nation To Every Nation

The Setup
Ok, let’s back up. What is Extreme? Extreme Nazarene is an organization that partners with the Nazarene church to plant new Nazarene churches using teams of missionaries from the United States and the country where the church is being planted. Except it doesn’t because sometimes the teams have members from three or even more countries. The church in Ibarra, Ecuador has pastors from Venezuela and the church in Antofagasta, Chile has missionaries from Brazil and Peru. And really, Extreme doesn’t send missionaries but rather social workers, baristas, 4th grade teachers, dog groomers, factory workers, and college students to be trained as missionaries on the field. So Extreme Nazarene plants Nazarene churches using teams of young people sent to make disciples and train their disciples to make disciples who make disciples.
Dr. Verne Ward, Global Director of NMI, and
Brian Tibbs, CEO of Extreme Nazarene, at this year's summit.
In the past ten years, we’ve planted churches in Paraguay, Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, and Chile, all Spanish-speaking countries. In 2017, we will plant new churches in Ecuador, Argentina, Venezuela, Germany, and Brazil. That’s right. Germany. And Brazil. Where Spanish is not spoken. In addition to expanding the Kingdom of God and encouraging the practice of making disciples, we are going into Germany and Brazil with a vision. In Germany, we hope to learn how to share the gospel in a Western, post-Christian context. Strategies we learn there will be applied to future church plants and even our current churches in Chile and Argentina where the culture is heavily influenced by Europe and the United States. Brazil is the opposite of Germany when it comes to evangelism. The Christian church in Brazil is strong and growing. Why would we want to waste money and resources on new church plants there? Because we so strongly believe in the practice of making disciples that make disciples that we know God has sooo much more He wants to do in and through the Brazilian churches. Not only that, but we know there are hundreds of young Brazilian Christians who have a call from God to mission work but don’t have the means or opportunity to fulfill the call. We want to send them to other cities in Brazil and all over the world. As a missional church it is our responsibility to not only send missionaries from the United States to the world, but from every nation to every nation. This year’s church plant will start a thriving church in the beautiful city of Cuiaba, Brazil, and will start a training center with Extreme staff members who will learn the language, get to know the culture, and share the vision of Extreme with the Nazarene churches of Brazil.

Brasilia is the capitol of the Federal District and the capitol of the country.
Cuiaba is the capitol of Mato Grosso to the west.
The Call
So, who are we sending to start this training center in Brazil? Well, me and maybe you if you want to learn Portuguese and come help us out. My time in Cordoba, Argentina, will end April 20, 2017, and I’ll be coming home to Lewiston and Nampa for a while to rest, spend time with family, and raise the funds I need to leave again. I will move to Brasilia, Brazil at the end of July and start preparing for our pilot team to arrive in October. My official title will be Brazil Field Education Coordinator, but there is a lot that needs to happen before the education part can begin. Last November, I was able to visit Brasilia for a week and start to get a sense of the task I’m taking on. We chose Brasilia for the training center because one of their larger churches has a discipleship program similar to the Master’s Plan that we use in our other church plants and they are excited to partner with us to train new missionaries. In November, we met several times with their pastor, who is also the district superintendent, and a representative from Brazil’s Nazarene Seminary to plan out the ministry training. We also visited many, many Portuguese schools and found one to match our unique needs and budget. Finally, we did a cost of living survey and checked out some possible apartment buildings and homes to house the teams while they are in training. Brasilia is a beautiful city, and I am very excited to get to live there.

The Brazilian Consulate in Buenos Aires, Argentina
The view of Brasilia from my hotel room.
The Roadblocks (also known as future miracles)

Like most other Extreme teams, the Cuiaba team will include five North Americans, five Brazilians, a married cluster support couple, and a pastoral couple. We already have three confirmed North American missionaries, dozens of Brazilian applicants, and a possible pastoral couple. We are praying for more applicants and the right applicants to come through the interview process. We will also be building the Brazil office staff over the next couple years. Please pray that we find passionate, called people to help develop this important field. We have a lot of things planned and ready to go, but we still don't have visas to enter the country long term. Brazil has a reciprocal visa policy, which means the policies to enter Brazil as a U.S. citizen are the same as the policies we have for Brazilians entering the U.S. You can imagine how strict and complicated they are. I know God will make a way, but I would appreciate your prayers as we continue looking for it. 

As always, thank you for your prayers and support. I will be speaking in a couple different churches in the Nampa area during May and in Lewiston First on June 4. Although this new job is another two year contract, I expect to renew that contract several times as we continue to build Extreme's presence and capacity in Brazil. While I do need some one time donors to help with the up front costs of moving to a new country, I'm really looking for donors who will stick with me through the long haul. God has clearly called me to work in Brazil and is currently calling some of you to participate. I pray we will all be obedient and experience the privilege of watching God do exactly what He wants with us. 

One of the Nazarene churches we visited in Brasilia.

While in Brasilia, we interviewed and approved Pastors Dayvison and Flavia for the Salta,
Argentina team. Ruben, pictured next to me, is from Peru and was on the interview panel. We had
lots of fun exploring Brazil in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, especially when we found ice
cream with straws and realized that "ice cream" in Portuguese and "straw" in Spanish are the
 same word.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Brazilian Short Term Team 2017

On January 4, a team of eleven Brazilian missionaries came to Argentina to serve God and bless our church. We spent two weeks speaking Portuñol (Portuguese + Español) with them and laughing a lot. Each one has a talent—preaching, singing, acting, teaching; but their most effective evangelism tool is their incredible joy. It was wonderful to bask in the presence of God with them.

While they were with us we prayed over the city, presented dramas in plazas, and hosted events for men, women, and teens. We, the 40/40 missionaries, also tried to include them in our daily work. A few weeks earlier, Ashley and I had started something we’ve termed a “plaza of prayer” where we have a Bible study and prayer time in a public plaza. One Thursday, three of the Brazilians were able to join us. They sat uncomfortably in the 85 degrees of dry, summer heat sipping on mate tea, a traditional hot Argentine drink. It’s interesting to watch a third culture experience some of the same culture shock we’ve experienced in our second culture. Their general mood improved when some Argentines showed up. We even had a new participant! Ashley shared a lesson about how to start the year well with discipline and patience in God. She challenged each person to think about how they wanted to grow closer to God this year. We discussed perseverance and depending on others to help us when we want to give up on our goals. Suddenly, Flavia, one of the Brazilians, began crying. Her tears clouded her Portuguese and made it even more difficult to translate; effectively proving the point of her testimony. God had called her to do mission work in Argentina six years earlier when such a calling seemed impossible. She was raising five children and life was just too busy. Out of obedience, she began studying Spanish. Then she gave it up. Then she tried again. And quit again. Over and over for six years. Regret visibly poured out of her. God had given her a promise with plenty of time to prepare for it. Now, because of her lack of faith, she couldn’t communicate effectively with the people to whom she had been sent with such great news. In spite of all this, there was hope and joy in her eyes when she finished. She was sad, but her faith had been renewed. What a good and powerful God we serve who keeps His impossible promises to us. She encouraged the others in the group to keep moving forward. Like drops in a bucket, keep reading your Bible. Keep obeying and serving in big and small ways. Keep seeking more of God. He has promised us more, and is always faithful to give.

Plaza of Prayer

The next evening we had a children’s event in another plaza near our church. We showed up in clown outfits carrying a puppet show stage and quickly had an audience of twenty small children eager to participate. We sang some songs and the Brazilians performed a puppet show about love and forgiveness. Rachel used the puppet story to present the gospel. As soon as she started explaining Jesus’s sacrifice, the crowd began to shrink. Parents pulled their kids out of the group and led them back to the playground. By the time Rachel finished her prayer, there were only four kids left staring up at her from the concrete. I wrapped up my conversation with one of the moms and saw one left standing and watching. I approached her and asked if one of the four children was hers. She pointed to the smallest little girl and explained that she always loves watching performers in the plaza. We chatted a little bit about the daughter and the plaza before getting to the main point – Did you hear the explanation about Jesus? Yes, she had. Big sigh. “I never used to believe in Jesus.” She had recently lost her job. Here in Cordoba, food and rent prices are increasing every month and jobs are hard to find. After losing her job, she started praying for the first time in her life. Two days ago, she had a vivid dream. She was looking at herself in a large mirror, and Jesus appeared standing behind her. He said, “I exist,” and she woke up. The next day, she got a call for a job interview. The next day, she met us, doing the one thing her daughter loves most about the plaza and talking about Jesus. Her name is Valeria, and she could use your prayers. Her whole life is changing. After the event, I told Rachel about my conversation with Valeria, and she began to cry. Rachel thought she hadn’t gotten through to anyone. She thought God couldn’t use her. She thought she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. She couldn’t have been more wrong.

Puppet Stage

In their two weeks with us, the Brazilian short term team preached the gospel, shared testimonies of God’s power, and encouraged the faith of many people. These two stories represent a lot of what our team has gone through. We have waited, sometimes patiently and faithfully and other times not. We have given up on God because we couldn’t see how He was moving. If you are feeling this way, or when you are feeling this way, be encouraged and know that it simply isn’t true. God is always simultaneously preparing, fulfilling, and completely His work in and through us. With time and wisdom, we see His faithful and powerful hand moving through all situations. In the end, it is clear that only He can receive the glory.

Children's event

Children's Event

Talking to parents after the children's event

Handing out treats at the children's event

Women's event

Men's event

Prayer Walk

Prayer Walk

House of Prayer

Youth Event