It is looking like 2016 will be a real “leap” year in more ways than one, if you consider it in the sense of church growth. It promises to be the year that the Iglesia de Cristo of Asuncion begins stepping out on its own. What a milestone to celebrate!
Every missionary’s job is to work himself out of a job. That is exactly what is taking place in Paraguay! At the first Men’s Business Meeting of the year, I announced to the church that Andrea and I will be ending our duties as resident missionaries and will be returning to the USA in March of 2017. Why such long notice you ask? Simply put, preparation time. Since this congregation was planted in 2004, there has always been someone on the Asuncion Mission Team that was involved with making decisions for the church, or handling church business on one level or another. For the past three years, the church here has been taking on more and more of its own responsibilities. The time has come for the church to now handle each and every aspect of its own business. This means I will no longer do things like handle payroll for the church secretary, nor handle construction projects, nor other such items that the church previously leaned on the missionaries to do. It will be as if I were already back in the USA. I will, however, certainly continue to fulfill all my duties as Director of the Asuncion Bible Academy until graduation and I will be happy to preach, teach, and conduct personal Bible studies as needed just like any member of the church at Avenida Sacramento. The men responded with great enthusiasm to the news and at the end of services that day they announced, “If we want the church to continue forward, then we must become more responsible for ourselves in fulfilling our duties - because this is our congregation!”
Brethren, these are exciting times! When the first mission team planted this congregation in 2004, it was this moment that they were working toward!
Praise the Lord it has come!
We were also blessed to have Karen Bennett, from the Central Avenue church of Christ in Valdosta, GA, return to Paraguay this past month and be our guest speaker at the Annual Ladies’ Retreat. Her lesson was about “Prayer” and they also watched the movie, War Room. Karen has become really close with many of the brethren here so lots of visits were in order, even though she was nursing a sore throat the whole time. We always enjoy her visits and greatly appreciate her servant attitude!
Developments at Asuncion Bible Academy
As part of our quarterly campaigns, the students of the Asuncion Bible Academy made a special survey trip to the city of Hernandarias (near Ciudad del Este) with the purpose of gathering information and exploring the possibilities for planting a church in that area. They were able to talk with many of the local citizens and with several people at the local municipality offices. As a group project, they will now take all the information and compile it into a report that will be delivered to the men of Avenida Sacramento to help them make some sound decisions. The Margaret Street church of Christ in Milton, FL, has also been working with the brethren in Paraguay to help them accomplish the goal of planting new congregations.
This information will be useful for determining next steps in moving forward with those plans, as well. This is now the third survey/research trip that the Academy has made in the past year and a half in our efforts to see more churches established in Paraguay.
Since many of the students had never even been to the other side of their own country, much less into one of their neighboring countries, we took advantage of the opportunity to go see the enormous Iguazu Falls in nearby Brazil (which, at one time, was once part of Paraguay). The students were really excited and thoroughly enjoyed the excursion. It was a well deserved reward for lots of hard work they have put in for the past few months.
This is the last quarter of the first year of the two-year program. The students are finishing up with short courses with Luis Camacho (1 Corinthians), Osvaldo Rodriguez (1 and 2 Samuel), Ike Yegros (Acts 2), and a research week. This will be followed by a month long break before diving into their second year of studies. We couldn’t be more pleased with the progress of the students, along with their good attitude and their diligent work ethic. Please keep them in prayer.
Contacts / Bible Studies / Activities / Opportunities
We were able to have another Bible study with Juan and Natty Candia. We have started a study on “Fundamentals of the Faith” that we will be using over the next few months.
Our interns from AME - Brazil, Italo Rocha (pictured, above) and Pablo Yuri, have completed their commitment for one year of service with us here in Paraguay and have now returned to their homes in Recife and Joao Pessoa, Brazil. It was a real blessing to the church to have them here and they served in many areas, especially in helping develop an adolescent youth group. They would frequently visit our widows and other brethren, helped Eliezer in Ñemby, organized a weekly soccer game and devotional, and would preach or lead singing whenever needed. We appreciate all the work they did and wish them God speed!
Personal Developments and Activities
I know it may seem hard for many of you to believe by just looking at her, but we celebrated Andrea’s 50th birthday this past month! (I know, she certainly doesn’t look 50!) We wanted to do something special, so we invited 30 of her closest brethren and friends to one of her favorite restaurants. We rented out the entire room and Andrea made all the decorations for the occasion (those of you who know her know how much she loves to make things!) The festivities included an 8-course meal, brought out in stages, and a Cirque du Soliel style show with live music and acrobats. It was followed by lighting the candles on her cake (I have never seen so many candles on a cake before!) and singing “Happy Birthday” both in Spanish and English. It was a wonderful evening for such a wonderful lady!
We also had a nice, traditional American New Year’s meal on January 1st. In the past we’ve celebrated this day with others, but this year it was just a special meal for two, complete with a delicious Pork Roast, Hoppin’ John, Sweet American Cornbread, and some local greens. Mmmm mmmm!
“Chake! Bache!” is a phrase one often hears when traveling down the busy streets of Asuncion. It means “Watch out! Pothole!” and you should definitely heed the warning, because some of the potholes have been known to swallow the whole front of a small car! With all the rain we’ve had the past few months and the constant flow of traffic, Asuncion has turned into a mine field. There are literally thousands of potholes throughout the city. Also, it’s not like the USA where cones or warning barriers are set up to signal drivers of the danger. Here, one must keep an eye out for a constant threat. At times someone might drop a tree branch or wooden crate over a real bad pothole to warn others. Regular car maintenance obviously requires changing the oil, filters, and perhaps rotating the tires. But, in Paraguay, we also add suspension parts to the list because the roads are so bad that something will inevitably be destroyed in the course of just a few month’s driving!
Personal Studies: Currently Reading/Have Read:
“Planting Churches Cross- Culturally in North America and Beyond,” by David Hesselgrave
“The Book of Philippians” by Wayne Jackson
“A New Commentary on Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon” by Wilbur Fields
My current Bible reading: Matthew - John.
I have also begun preparing my lessons for classes for next quarter and I am still working diligently on the “Fundamentals of the Faith” workbook in Spanish to prepare for sending it to the publishers. The last details are almost finished!
Troy and Andrea Spradlin
To see their report with pictures, please click here.