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Sede Nacional

Yesterday I spent the day at the Igreja Metodista do Brasil’s headquarters in São Paulo. There are approximately 25 members of staff employed at the sede nacional, and I got a chance to meet Bishop Stanley Morales, the Secretary for the council of Bishops and find out more about the current state of the church nationally. It was fascinating to hear about their church planting programme in areas of Brasil that have no Methodist presence. The largest number of Methodists are located in the Sao Paulo area, so there are many parts of Brazil where there are no Methodist churches. Church planters are selected to live in these areas and start house churches from scratch, bringing souls to Christ, developing discipleship for this new community and growing the church.

I also met with their media team and learnt about some of their publications such as Expositor Cristão (expositorcristao.com.br/) , a church magazine that has won national prizes as a Brazilian Christian magazine.

Every blessing,

Sandra

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Church groups: the fruit of small groups in Itaberaba

Developing small groups has been the strategy that Revd Tiago and Laura, an ordained couple who pastor a Methodist Church in the town of Itaberaba (north of Sau Paulo) have used to grow their church numerically but crucially, qualitatively. For the last 7 years they have been doing a work of teaching their congregation about small group discipleship, training leaders and overseasing the 12 small groups that the church runs. These small groups meet the needs of all ages, from adults to youth, to children and family groups. It has been a way for the church not only to meet the needs of its existing members, but to welcome new Christians, to disciple them and help mature their faith and to help them get to the point of committing themselves to membership of the local church. It has been used as an evangelistic tool for those who would not normally step inside the church building, but initially would be more willing to enter someone’s home. Revd Tiago uses resources produced by the national church for leading small groups as a foundation for the content of their small group Bible study, but has adapted them to meet the needs of his local community. He emphasized many times that this was crucial for church growth through small groups and I was blessed to see the fruit of this growth as we stayed to worship God in the evening service. The service was vibrant and there was an obvious and vocal passion for Christ and joy at being in God’s house together. There was much joy and celebration as they welcomed over 10 new members to the church.

Every blessing,

Sandra

Tahan

To Letpanchaung District today, where it was exciting to meet Revd Sawma who returned from the US earlier in the year with a Masters degree, supported by one of our scholarships. He is now working hard in the District and pastoring one of the churches. As part of our support for the district as it travels towards self-sustainability we have helped them buy two rice fields, these are working really well, ‘One of the best things you have done for us the rice field project!’ said Revd Sawma. The district has two ‘mission fields’, remote villages where they are trying to establish a congregation. They also have three nurseries in and around Letpanchaung, two developed with grants from the Irish Church, which I visited, causing great excitement. All very positive and mission focussed!

Steve on Monday

Slavery-never again!

These are the words painted on a mural of a park in Sao Paulo that I yesterday after I arrived. My hosts Revd Joana D’Arc and Revd Andrea Fernandes were keen to take me to this park to visit a museum on the history of slavery in Brazil. They told me they felt that there was little institutional racism in the country, but that the social and economic structures in Brazil continued to heavily discriminate against Afro-Brazilians in everyday life, keeping many of them in conditions of marginalization. The leftwing governments under former presidents Lula da Silva (2003-2011) and Dilma Rousseff (2011-2016) had made significant advances in combatting the discrimination of Afro-Brazilians, but the current Temer government was causing the country to take huge strides in undoing there work. My hosts have asked us to join them in prayer for the future of Brazil.

Revd Joana D’Arc is the Methodist Church in Brazil’s National Secretary for Life and Mission, and Revd Andrea Fernandes, is the Church’s National Coordinator of Sunday Schools.Generally, Sunday Schools in Brazil are for all ages, and I experienced my very first Brazilian-style Sunday school this morning. The Sunday School this morning began with a short, lively time of worship, followed by a short message on Ephesians by Pastor Elizario, the church’s main minister. After I had brought greetings to the congregation from the UK, Pastor Elizario announced there was going to be a short coffee break before they broke up for Sunday School Bible study (I was told this is typically Brazilian-they need their coffee and often!). After drinking delicious Brazilian coffee and eating moist, Brazilian cakes, I was taken to visit each class. This local church extensively uses the material that Revd Andrea is responsible for producing in her role. The materials are always based on the theme of the national church in some way, and every age group gets to study the same theme with age appropriate material. It was such a blessing to see how hungry these local members were for the word of God, as they asked questions concerning the scriptures and shared their own testimonies. Tonight they will join one another again for a longer church service.

Every blessing,

Sandra Lopez

Tamu District, Myanmar

Saturday was a visit to Tamu District, a three-hour drive towards the Indian border.

District Chair, Rev Lalpianglawma, fortunately speaks excellent English and gave a great PowerPoint presentation. Tamu is in Chin State, where there is a comparatively high number of Christians, maybe 45%, among a total population of 115,000, and a plethora of denominations. (Why do Protestants split their churches so often?) This Methodist District is 150 miles from top to bottom and has 14 congregations grouped into 5 circuits with 8 ministers and about 4,000 members. The District has started two mission fields with a missionary in each and currently 33 converts. Mission here usually begins by establishing a children’s nursery offering education to all with no overt Christian teaching other than some stories and festivals. The Synod has just decided that a new mission field is to be started next year in Rakhine State where there is so much need and tension.

The District has taken steps over the years to buy rice fields, labour is then provided by church members and when the rice is sold the income is used for the mission work. The latest field was bought with funds from the Irish Methodist Church as part of their three year special partnership. I visited it and saw that the harvest had just been completed, stubble burnt and quick-growing greens such as mustard leaves will be sown now until the next season of paddy is planted in June. The majority of funds for mission, however, continue to be generated by a ‘handful of rice’. Each time a church family sits down to eat they put a handful of rice aside to give to the church; it generates a huge amount of money, which all goes to mission work.

The next item in the presentation had me sitting up in my chair! In 2002 my predecessor, Christine Elliott, visited the District and was impressed by a plan to begin a health ministry. A grant of £10,000 was subsequently agreed by the World Mission Fund and a vehicle was bought to start a mobile dental health clinic. I heard that every month since then, using funds from the District budget, the mobile clinic has been on the road, (including in the ‘mission fields’) treating thousands of patients, of all faiths, free of charge with dental and general health care delivered by a committed church member, Dr Sang Khama. All thanks to a small grant 15 years ago!

Steve

Mandalay

In Mandalay for meetings at the District Office about the exciting work being done in Mandalay and the surrounding areas – new churches to be built, new evangelists being trained, an orphanage being developed and an agricultural project is proposed as an income generation initiative. An impressive outlook!

Then to Wesley Church where I saw the youth and children’s centre (not pictured), to which the World Mission Fund contributed, which is the focus of an impressive array of activities both on Sundays and through the week. Their summer English club for 6-14 year-olds is looking for a volunteer or two during March and April (if anyone is interested, get in touch with me).

Forgive the lack of pictures – the internet here is so slow the picture takes hours to upload!

Steve on Friday

Partnership visit to MC Southern Africa

Cape Town is affected by drought- its official. South Africa minister for Water affairs announced on the television about the importance of rationing water as various options are being considered.

I shall continue to liaise with MCSA in monitoring the situation and consider how best to respond. The vineyards are reported to be badly hit especially with the festive season beckoning. In the meantime, we shall continue to uphold Cape Town and affected places in our prayers.

Cape Town is about 800 kms from Johannesburg and the rains are expected to return in June 2018.

Kind regards
Bunmi Olayisade
Africa Partnership Coordinator

Sent from my iPad