This month we had a some rather fun and interesting twists thrown into our regular work schedule. For example, we made a special mission trip to Panama, had a special workday at the building, and participated in a special benevolence project. Makes you kind of feel like something “special” might be happening. We hope you are encouraged by this latest edition of our Paraguay Mission report! God bless.
Special Missions Trip
Meteti, Panama. Our sponsoring congregation, the Margaret Street church of Christ (MSCOC) in Milton, Florida has been involved in numerous mission works over the past several years to help various congregations who are growing and/or struggling. One of these, of course, is supporting us here in Paraguay. One of the others is in Meteti, Panama. The brethren at MSCOC asked if Andrea and myself would come to Panama this year to help translate, teach, and encourage the congregation in Meteti. I have made this trip before, but this would be Andrea’s first time to go on such a trip and to serve as a translator. While there, the congregation asked us to go and visit the brethren and to teach about “what is the church” with hopes to encourage the members about what their responsibility is toward the church.
In addition to this, we also purchased a laptop computer, a mobile internet modem, a projector, and a case for all of it to go in and then gave it as a gift to the church there. We also brought Spanish, Biblical instruction videos from World Video Bible School and set up the laptop with Skype in order to establish regular video communication. The plan is to use the laptop to teach the leaders of the congregation through frequent classes being offered via Skype. We hope they can even, perhaps, connect with us here in Paraguay during the time that some of the courses are being offered at the Asuncion Bible Academy.
Along with the many exciting developments that took place during the mission trip, we were also able to witness another soul being added to the Lord’s kingdom! Mrs. Valeria de Gracia was baptized during our visit there. She is 74 years old and confined to a wheelchair because of a stroke. We rejoice that not even agedness nor being crippled can prevent one from obeying the Gospel. A funny aspect to this story was that she was concerned about how we were going to baptize her because she explained that there wasn’t enough water in the creek and she begged us to NOT take her to the pond — because it was full of alligators! We alleviated her fears when we explained that we would just take her to the building where we had a sufficient baptistery.
DEVELOPMENTS AT AVENUE SACRAMENTO
Special Benevolence Project: The church at Avenida Sacramento received a special donation from some individuals in the USA and from a congregation in Brazil to go towards relief for the flood victims in Paraguay. With this donation and that of our own, we purchased enough rice and beans to distribute 2 kilo packages to about 200 families.
Special Workday: Several of the brethren came to the building one Saturday to paint, clean, and repair the dormitories in order to prepare them for an upcoming “Open House” at the Bible Academy. It looks great!
DEVELOPMENTS AT THE CHURCH IN ÑEMBY
Our sister in Christ, Zully Martinez, hosted this month’s Ladies Tea in her home in Ñemby. There were several ladies from Ave Sacramento and Ñemby that attended and, as always, the fellowship was great.
Brother Eliezer Perez returned to Paraguay August 3 and reports that his mother, who was recently hospitalized, is doing much better.
Evangelistic Contacts / Bible Studies / Activities:
I was able to connect a couple of times with our brother Ruben Castro in Meteti, Panama, via Skype this past month in order to study “Fundamentals” with him. Not only is he learning the material for himself, but he is using it to prepare lessons to teach the congregation on Sunday mornings.
We have some new ABA “Leadership Training by Extension” students that have started courses! Javier Zarate is taking the “Hermeneutics” class with me and Luis Yegros is taking it with Eliezer Perez. Enrique Albera is also taking a course in Biblical Greek with me. We are hoping to extend these courses to even more students in the near future. Perhaps, a Saturday school that several could attend.
Andrea has started her Bible studies in English again with Adriana, Martin, and Oscar. Another student, Sergia, will be starting again with Andrea real soon. Please pray for these contacts.
I am continuing to study the Bible with Beatriz Ortiz in English, as well as, with Sebastian Garcia.
We want to say congratulations to Perry and Alba Hardin on the birth of their baby girl, Abigail! She was born on July 15, just before Perry’s parents and family were to be arriving in Paraguay! We are excited for them!
The Blackmer Family has completed their five year commitment to the work here in Paraguay. Cara returned home with the children this past June to prepare them to enter American school and Josh finished up several activities here in Paraguay. He returned to the States August 27. The Blackmers were active in the work here and headed up a successful ministry which focused on marriage, family development, and spirituality. They will certainly be missed by all here in Paraguay! It seems like such a short time ago we were all meeting together at home after Wednesday night services in Florida to discuss plans of moving to Paraguay. Time flies! We wish them “God speed”, much success, and many blessings in this new chapter of life for their family.
We will be having an “Open House” at the Asuncion Bible Academy for the potential students of the next class. It will be a form of orientation in order to help many make a final decision to attend.
We will be hosting the Directors of AME next month here in Paraguay to coordinate the possibility of having interns for 2015. AME (Adventures in Evangelistic Missions) is a Brazilian training program which prepares and sends Christian youth out to work as interns with various congregations in Brazil and Latin America. Their website is www.ameprograma.org
Please allow me just a moment to brag on Andrea. I want you to know how “proud” I am of her. My “girlie-girl” from the city braved a week of being out in the jungle environment of Panama in order to translate and teach during a recent mission trip. This was her first mission trip (even though she lives in the mission field, she had never been on a short term trip like this before). Those who know about her health and food issues might also recognize the sacrifice that she was making to do this. Not only did Andrea survive, she thrived in the jungle! The locals fell in love with her (like everyone always does), she translated like a pro, and brought smiles to many, many faces! Andrea inspires me because she is a true missionary and I can clearly see Jesus in her.
We went to visit our dear sister in Christ, Mechy Smith, and her sweet mother, Estella, in Caacupe. Mechy was in town from the USA for a little while so we spent a nice afternoon with them and several brethren having a Paraguayan BBQ!
We also had a nice dinner with the Jose Yegros Family. They prepared it especially as a “Farewell Dinner” for Josh Blackmer. It was really nice evening of great fellowship.
I have been reading: Job, Ezekiel, and Daniel
“The Book of Ezekiel” by Jim McGiuggan
“The Major Prophets” by James E. Smith
“Contextualization and Syncretism” by Gailyn Van Rheenen.
I finished up another class, “Missions Leadership,” towards my Master Degree in Missions with Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver.
I am also currently taking classes in Guarani.
I preached one Sunday at Avenida Sacramento about “The Two Doors.” A sermon about those who fall away, that is, who go out the back door.
I taught “Biblical Greek” in the Asuncion Bible Academy this month.
The late, pioneering missionary, Eldred Echols, wrote, "People often argue that a nice building will attract lots of people, but church growth is more related to an evangelistic fervor than it is to a physical structure." The context of that quote was taken from his memoirs regarding some poor African congregations meeting under shade trees or rudely constructed pavilions. Some Americans were complaining about the “facilities” and even offered to finance the building of a structure. Echols went on to add to the story, “Do not do for people what they can do for themselves.” His point was that throwing money at the situation would essentially handicap our African brethren.
He also recognized that, “All circumstances are not identical ... all factors ... have to be considered before an intelligent choice can be exercised.” He is right! There is absolutely nothing inherently wrong or sinful with regard to church buildings. They can be a very useful expedient. Echols argument, however, comes from the poignant fact that we often focus entirely too much energy on buildings and their maintenance to the point that they begin to dominate every decision we make, ultimately affecting the true mission of the church. When this happens, we essentially become keepers of aquariums instead of fishers of men. Yet, the work of the church is to seek and save the lost, as commanded (Matt 28:19-20). We need to be careful when “helping” our poorer brethren with church buildings because we could potentially rob them of the proper focus they should have, that of evangelism.
Think about this: When Jesus delivers His glorious church to God, will He be more concerned about the number of souls entering in, or, the number of buildings we have built and how well we have maintained them?
I pray you find what is written here to be helpful and enlightening, thought provoking and challenging, yet always Biblically sound. “be ye nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine!” (1 Tim 4:6).
Troy and Andrea Spradlin
To see Troy’s report with pictures, please click here.