Every year the Baptist Mid Missions missionaries in Brazil present a report of our activities to our colleagues. Here is our report for 2020.
To say that 2020 was a challenging year would be to guilty of criminal levels of understatement. Due to China’s unexpected gift to the world, we were forced to cancel major events like Music Week and English Day, as well as five groups that had planned to visit us from the US. Our furlough, originally scheduled for November, had to be postponed until April of 2021.
Fortunately, “challenging” is not the only adjective that can be employed to describe it. Other descriptors could include “exciting”, “profitable”, and “blessed”.
All three of these counterintuitive adjectives were repeatedly applied as we watched God at work in the Ebenezer congregation. As the New Year dawned, Andrew and Pastor Francivaldo “switched places”, with Francivaldo taking the helm as senior pastor, while Andrew moved into the assistant’s role. As the pandemic spread its sinister tentacles into the state of Maranhão, Pastor Francivaldo demonstrated a cool-headed and consistent leadership, with the result that the church actually grew during this period.
At this writing, all normal services have resumed, and a new men’s ministry has begun. Having outgrown its provisory auditorium, the church now meets outside under a tent – the purchase of which was made possible by the AMF fund.
Though Pastor Francivaldo and his wife, Gessica, are MAB missionaries, the Ebenezer church is rapidly approaching the place where they will be able to realistically support a full-time pastor. Great progress has also been made towards securing a CNPJ, a process which, in the state of Maranhão, resembles a game of Monopoly where every card reads “Go to jail.”
Besides his support role at the church, Andrew has also been involved teaching Sunday School, and Itacyara taught a baptismal class for teens. Andrew and Pastor Francivaldo had the privilege of baptizing three of her students in September.
As if the blessings of watching Ebenezer “bloom and grow” were not enough, 2020 turned out to be the year where we saw more progress in the development of the Mount Zion Baptist Camp than ever before.
As we watched COVID-19 smash through our plans like a wrecking ball through a condemned neighborhood, Itacyara and Andrew, together with a group of like-minded individuals who form our “camp development team” began to ask “what now?” We decided to take a risk and plan our first ever teen retreat for November.
But for that to happen, there was a lot of work to be done.
First, we had to finish the kitchen. Armed with a grant from the AMF fund, we were finally able to complete the construction. Our area churches, completely on board with the project, were able to purchase a used drinking fountain and a brand new industrial stove. Other work included enlarging the swimming area and laying down sand for beach soccer.
With the date for the retreat quickly approaching, Itacyara took charge of the kitchen, making sure all needed equipment was in place and functioning, and seeing to all the logistics of feeding hungry campers.
On the first weekend in November, around 80 young people gathered for the first ever official event of the Mount Zion Baptist Camp, including around 20 who traveled from Ceará to attend the event.
As the first notes of the first chorus to be sung in the first service wafted into the night air, Andrew and Itacyara stood to the side and silently praised God for bringing this day to pass. Seven years of hard work and sacrifice were fully rewarded in that one moment.
2020 saw Michael, now 19, graduate from High School, and Nathanael, now 13, enter high school. Both are home-schooled, with Itacyara doing the lion’s share (or “lioness’s share, as the case may be) of the teaching. Michael has continued to develop his skills in the area of graphic arts, and has taken courses to increase his abilities in this area. For the last couple of years he has been the “AV guy” for the Ebenezer church. Both Michael and Nathanael are active in the church youth group.
No, 2020 did not go as we planned. But it did go precisely as God planned. And for this we are truly grateful.
Andrew and Itacyara Comings
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