Note: This is the text of our most recent newsletter. If you would like to receive these updates, send me a message and I will add you to the list.
We have some big news to share with you as we begin 2024, but first, here is a summary of the major events on our field in 2023
Last year dawned with us finishing up building projects at camp and preparing for the 2023 camping season. We were working at the Good News (Boas Novas) Baptist Church, among other things, helping set up their pulpit committee after their pastor resigned at the end of 2022.
All Brazil Field Conference
In February we went to São Paulo, where we enjoyed fellowship and cared for business with the other Baptist Mid Missions missionaries serving in Brazil. This meeting was a watershed event, as dwindling numbers are forcing us to make wide-ranging changes as to how the business of missions is carried out here. Our next conference is schedule for March, and your prayers are appreciated as we are faced with important and far-reaching choices.
While in southern Brazil we took some time out to visit friends and see some of the interesting things that part of Brazil as to offer, which you can read about here, and here, and here, and here, and here. Oh…and here too.
Easter Retreat at Camp
One of our long-term strategies with the Mount Zion Camp is to make it pay for itself by renting it out to other church groups. In April of 2023 we rented the camp out to an area church for the very first time. There are already a few such prospects for 2024.
Construction Projects at Camp
This year we received donations which enabled us to build verandas on both side of the dorm, and to make significant upgrades to our swimming area, including the addition of a water slide. I’m pleased to report that both projects have been completed, and we are looking forward to making more progress at camp in the coming year.
Maranhão Missions Conference
Our state association of churches organizes a missions conference every year. This year one of our BMM colleagues, Jim Leonard, was the speaker. The event was a blessing to all who attended.
Maranhão Bible Institute
As we mentioned in our last prayer letter, this year saw an uptick in participation in our association’s Bible Institute. In the first semester I had the privilege of teaching Church History. Last month we had our very first graduation ceremony.
Starting in March of this year I will be teaching Old Testament Survey. Please pray with us that this institute will be instrumental in raising up a generation of church leaders, pastors and missionaries from our field.
The Maranhão Field
We are very pleased overall with the progress of the Regular Baptist Churches here in Maranhão. Besides the Bible Institute and the camp, we have seen growth in other ministries, and are excited about the new church being planted by Pastor Francivaldo.
One area of concern is the difficulty in finding pastors for this region. The Good News Baptist Church is still without a pastor. The Bible Institute is designed to help with this, but it will be a process of a few years before we can see results. So please pray that God will send good men to be pastors and missionaries in our area.
As we moved into the middle of 2023 the highlight was the boost we received from the presence of groups from two of our supporting church: Fellowship Baptist Church in Lakeland, Florida (our sending church) and Open Bible Baptist Church in Orange City, Florida. Fellowship Baptist did a lot of physical work at camp, then turned around and hosted the camp’s very first English Day. Open Bible Baptist worked together with the Good News Baptist teens to put together an outstanding VBS program. Both groups were able to spend a day at the world-famous dunes that are found near the camp.
Besides the use of the camp by an area church mentioned above, 2023 was a record year for events either sponsored by the camp itself, or hosted by churches or groups in our association. In addition to English Day, we also hosted our area Ladies Association for their (and our) first-ever ladies retreat. Then in December we hosted the fourth annual teen retreat. Pastor Rob Ingmire and his wife Becky, from Independent Baptist Church in Blairsville, PA, were a tremendous blessing during the later event.
In 2024 we will, Lord willing, host our first Carnaval Retreat in February, turn English Day into an English Retreat this summer, continue to host the ladies and teen retreats, and, in January of 2025, have our very first kids camp. We also have a group of teens from another state planning to use the camp this May.
Major Ministry Change
Back in August of 2023 I published a short devotional on our website from James 4:13-15, about how we should always include the sovereignty of God in our plans. Little did I realize how much I would need to be reminded of this passage by the end of the year.
When we returned from furlough in 2022, we had our future ministry pretty-well mapped out. We would dedicate the following ten years to camp and the Bible Institute. God in his Grace allowed us to follow this plan for about two years, during which time we saw immense progress in both ministries.
Then, in December, everything changed. The pastor of the church we started back in 2012, Ebenezer Baptist, suddenly resigned. In the days following this unexpected development we talked with many church members, and came to the conclusion that the only viable option for the church would be for me to return there in a pastoral role.
The departing pastor had originally given February as his official departure date, but at the beginning of this week he once again surprised the church by saying that he was leaving immediately. The upshot of this is that, almost as soon as I hit “send” for this prayer letter, I will be going to a meeting with the church board to iron out details for our return. Our first Sunday back at Ebenezer will be this weekend.
This will obviously involve a rather significant change in plans. The camp will have to share time with the church – and in retrospect God was preparing us for this by providing for us to hire a caretaker who is caring for some of the weekly chores that occupied so much of our time before.
This will also have an effect on our more long-term plans. Among other things, we were tentatively planning a year-long furlough in 2026. However, it is doubtful that the church will be in a position for us to leave it for a year at that point.
Itacyara and I are saddened that Ebenezer will need to regress to a “missionary” status, but at the same time we are excited at the prospect of working with these dear people, and are very optimistic as to the prospects for the church. One of these prospects is the acquisition of a piece of property for the construction of a new building in a much more visible place. We covered this project, begun by the former pastor of the church, extensively in our last prayer letter, and we intend to see it through to fruition.
We know that we can count on your prayers as take on this new challenge.
Our pickup truck has been a tremendous (and essential) blessing to our work at camp. Recently I had to do some extensive work on the engine, and in the next month I am going to have to replace all four tires. Would you pray with us that God would supply the funds to keep our workhorse on the road?
On the Web
The latest from our series on James: The Constant God-ward Focus of the Believer
Some interesting links for your edification.
Best of Brazil: A three-part series from a friend on his adventures in the interior state of Piaui: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3
The latest snapshots of missionary life.
As we move inexorably into 2024, we can only praise God that we have such an army of people who pray and invest in this ministry. May God bless you all as you serve Him!
Andrew, Itacyara, Michael, and Nathanael
Header photo: Campers and staff at the 2023 teen retreat.
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