Whew! Yesterday was the first time we spent 24 hours at home since Feb. 24. The sequence was 2 days at the Aratu Church, 4 days ministering at First Baptist of Feira de Santana (an hour northwest), particles of 2 days back here, then 4 days at camp for a family, Carnaval retreat.
Tiring? To be sure. In fact, as far as the retreat was concerned, exhausting would be a more-accurate word. (More later.)
The couple days in Aratu provided a special treat. Due to a schedule change in Feira, we were able to attend Aratu's Sunday-morning service. Hadn't expected to be there, so had arranged for a substitute preacher. That man had been saved as a teenager in the early years of the Aratu ministry. He was an outstanding Bible-college student, then pastored one of the Church's congregations several years. For reasons we never understood, he resigned, and never more was active in ministry.
When God called us back to Aratu in 2009, John began attending services occasionally. Dick saw him as a reclamation project. He asked, "John, if I need you to preach here sometime, would you be willing to do so?" "Sure," John replied. He's lived up to that each time he's been asked over more than a year. And, as we discovered that Sunday morning, John still knows how to preach well. He misses being in fulltime ministry, and we trust that God might take him back someday.
After that service, off we went to Feira. What a difference! Nine days earlier, we'd made that trip on a Friday afternopn. For reasons not discovered, it took 2 1/2 hours! This time, just one. As a certain commercial used to say, "Oh, what a relief that was." Four evening services took place to celebrate First Baptist Church's 64th anniversary. God blessed as Dick preached about "The Foundation of Sanctification," "Sanctification of the Life, the Home and the Church." To God be the glory, many testified of having been blessed.
There was an extra dimension to the Feira visit. We enjoyed precious moments of fellowship with a pioneer family from the Aratu Church--that included countless grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Then another day, we rejoiced in renewed fellowship with a family from another Church we'd started. This contact brought the delightful information that the 20-year-old son was dating a young lady whose mother we knew as the daughter of a pioneering pastor in Bahia. Beyond that, we enjoyed frequent contact with the Pastor and longtime friend, Jamir, his wife and year-old daughter. Thank you so much, Lord.
After a 24-hour stopover in Salvador, we were on our way out of town again--for camp. What a happy surprise awaited us on the northbound highway there. The road was in the best conditions we'd ever seen. In recent times, it was so bad we'd had to take an alternate route involving an hour of extra driving. Thank you again, Lord.
Speaking of surprises. Wow! Aratu and 2 other churches had planned for 120 to 150 people. By 10 p.m. Friday, our numbers were 180! That increase caused a momentary lodging crisis. We had to do some juggling which wasn't happily accepted by some of those involved. But things were settled after some tense moments. From there on, things went smoothly in all areas. Due to some switches, we ended up with 5 preachers, each speaking once. Dick was among those.
The messages and other aspects of the programming went a long way toward satisfying the retreat's theme, "Restoring Broken Fellowship". A main phase of that brokenness was the fact that the Aratu and Faith churches, less than 2 miles apart, long had been far from one another in their relationships. There was enough blame to go around. Dick was uncomfortable with this situation from the time we assumed Aratu ministries in 2009. He chatted with Faith Baptist's incoming Pastor in October of last year. Pastor Gilvan was highly sympathetic to the idea. Other steps have been taken--and will be taken--to heal this rift totally.
As for the 3rd Church, it's farther away, and had been isolated because of geography. It soon will receive a new Pastor. We trust that he quickly will become a part of this new togetherness.
There'll be new excitement in Aratu near the end of March. That's when the Church will receive its 2nd--and hopefully final--candidate in seeking to fill its pastoral vacancy. Sinfrônio, his wife and teenage daughter arrive March 29 for 4 days of ministry and fellowship. Please pray with us that God will confirm them as His choice.
Thank you for all your prayers that enabled us to do our best during these hectic days. After arrival from camp late Tuesday afternoon, Dick was in bed by 7:15. He slept till 8:15 Wednesday. Mavis did slightly less. We both napped that day. By now, praise the Lord, we're feeling back to normal.
May you rejoice in all He has done here, and in all He is doing for you.
Joyfully serving Christ,
Dick & Mavis