So much has happened since our last update, and we’ve been very busy but I wanted to share with you a quick update, so here it goes! (Don’t forget, you can click on any one of these photos to see them full size on your screen. Just click the arrows on your keyboard to move to the next photo)
Sunday, October 12
Our first Sunday back to church was probably one of the hardest days we’ve faced yet. On top of all the emotions we already had; emotions we have when we do anything for the first time since Anna’s death, it was also the Brazilian holiday “Children’s Day,” much like Mother’s or Father’s day in the US. The service was filled with Children’s programs and a baby dedication. Poor Ruth cried the whole service! I was able to keep it together until getting home, and then just pored my heart out to God in terrible grief. It turned out to be a real important day of more healing for Ruth and me, but you know something? Healing hurts! But there is a great grace, a very deep, profound grace available to those whose refuge is the Lord, our Rock, our Strength! I’ve only begun to learn, really.
The rest of the week just ramped up in busyness as we were getting ready for this year’s MDA Conference. Basically it’s a conference where pastors and leaders from all over Brazil come to the middle of the jungle to learn about missions, discipleship and church growth from some of the most fruitful church planters and pastors of our time. Last year’s conference was amazing – read about it here.
Friday, October 17
For about a week representatives from ICM (a church planting partner) visited PAZ to see our works and future projects. My dad Ken took the representatives all over the Amazon – by plane, boat and Fiat (his car), visiting recently planted churches and future church planting projects! On Friday I was privileged to be able to join them and visit some of the many works going on in the jungle outside Santarém. I often see reports and hear stories from missionaries about how God is working, but when you’re able (and blessed) to see it with your own eyes, meeting the very people, standing in the very villages, it’s such a humbling, awe-inspiring experience.
One of the villages we went to was the village of São Rimundo do Mojú. The local worker there travels 21 kilometers one way just to go there and work the village. Her supervisor told her, “São Rimundo is a little piece of hell, full of prostitutes and drunks.” As she told us her story, we had tears in our eyes as, through the faithful work of this woman, heaven arrived in São Rimundo. A large cell group sprung up and grew. The lives of the citizens began to be transformed by the amazing power of Christ. Now, their large cell group is ready for a church building. Their passion to reach the whole village of about 800 people was contagious.
After getting back from the good but tiring all day trip, Ruth told me two bits of news. First, we took our car into the dealership 2 weeks ago because it was having problems that our normal mechanic never was able to fix. They gave us an estimate and said it would be about a week (this was over a week before this Friday). They called Ruth that day to let her know that the car was fixed, but when they took it out to test drive it, they crashed it!! I actually laughed when I heard, because it just seemed like another desperate attempt by the devil to discourage us, to impede us (and losing a daughter really puts things like finances and possessions in perspective).
The second thing that Ruth told me was that about her doctor’s appointment. She got her last round of blood tests back, and they looked quite good. Her doctor then told her that while she was in the hospital her kidneys were not functioning right and he feared she would go into kidney failure (which was why she was so swollen). They’re still not sure what caused the infection. They will continue to monitor Ruth and her recovery.
Once again, I thank God for all your prayers – God was so good to spare Ruth’s life. Afterward, I went up to my room and just started to weep (a pretty normal occurrence these days in the Reutter household!) – but this time out of thankfulness for God’s mercy on Ruth’s life. I just kept saying “thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you…”
Last Weekend, October 18 and 19
It’s a party!! It’s the celebration of the multiplication of our cell group, Os Corajosos (The Courageous). Our church’s vision is to win people for Jesus and train them in leadership through cell groups and one to one discipleship, and it was great to celebrate God’s work in multiplying our group. We commissioned our disciples and future leaders of the new cell group, Edson and Kelly Lee, and their helpers (and future leaders of their groups’ multiplication) Leo and Regiane. I gave them a word from Joshua 1 about being strong and courageous as they set out to do what the Lord has given them to do: make disciples of all the land God has given us: Santarém, the Amazon Basin, Brazil, the world!
In just our Central PAZ church in Santarém (a city of around 200,000), there are over 3,000 cell groups (averaging 8-20 people per cell group)! We’re just one of many cell groups with leaders passionate about reaching Santarém for Christ. When all of the cell groups of Santarém multiply, there will be around 70,000 members of the PAZ church! That’s our goal and we’re seeing it happen through the wonderful power of Jesus! (Do you see our cell groups logo? I designed it, and it has a very interesting story that I will tell at some point.)
On Sunday we celebrated further by having a churrasco (Brazilian BBQ) at one of our member’s homes. We ate until we were stuffed, and then we ate some more: beef, chicken, pork and fish. We somehow managed to get up afterwards and went for a fun walk together through the jungle.
And finally, this week (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday)
Monday, along with the 5 guest pastors we’re hosting in our home from Southern Brazil, Ruth’s sister Beth and her husband Bruno arrived in Santarém. For the next 2 weeks they will be here (for the conference and some good old fashioned family time). More tears. More healing. But more fun, too. Tuesday the MDA Conference began, and it shot out of the gate with great worship and some of the best preaching I’ve ever heard about making disciples though a spirit of faith. We’ve been so encouraged and challenged so far this week, and the conference has only begun! We’re soaking in absolutely everything we can, learning all that we can from some of the world’s most successful church planters.
Tomorrow (Thursday), Ruth’s dad and mom (Jeff and Becky) both share, and it will certainly be moving. Becky will be talking about paying whatever price is necessary for the call of the Gospel, speaking of her father Melvin’s amazing life and the incredible eternal impact the man had. Becky asked Ruth and I to sing a song I wrote. The lyrics of the chorus of the song (which only exist in Portuguese at this point) go more or less like this in English:
Only one life to live and soon it’s past.
Only what’s done for Christ will last
And so I press on, not looking behind me,
To reach the goal of the call of the Lord
In my life!
You can be sure that sometime next year, you’ll hear it in English! 🙂 I finished writing this song two days before Anna died. Little did I know it would be a prophetic message of hope for my very own life. I have no doubt now that the Lord wants to use it and our testimony to impact some of Brazil’s top leaders and pastors who come from many different denominations and backgrounds. He is raising up a new generation of Christians like that of Melvin Huber – people ready and willing to pay any price for the sake of Jesus – God’s word of “life” to a people dead in sin. And I am so humbled and honored to be a part of it. As we say down here in Portuguese: “This life with Jesus is marvelous!”