Saturday, October 20, 2012

Day One, Los Conchas, Guatemala

Work is underway in Los Conchas, Guatemala.  Roads are being repaired, schools are being improved, and homes are being restored.  But God did the real work today, mostly on the hearts of our team.  It was a grueling day of very hard labor.  Our hands were blistered, our backs were aching, and our feet were screaming, “This is just day one!?”

But all this went away when children who don’t speak English took us by the hands and called many of us by name.  When they wrapped their arms around our necks, they managed to grab our hearts at the same time. But that was only the beginning.  When a daughter asked us to pray for her sick mother and they both accepted Jesus as their Savior, when a dad who just lost his nine-year-old daughter took out his Bible and talked with our team about the hope he has in Jesus, that’s when the roads and the paint and the concrete slabs seemed like a distant memory.

It would be easy to lament the extreme poverty many in Los Conchas deal with every day.  It would be easy to say, “Thank God that this is not me,” and feel sorry for them.  But beyond the cinder block huts and the pitted tin roofs we found families full of love for one another, for God, and for us.

Team member Colon Pope has been to this village many times before.  Last night he said, “I’m excited about getting back to Los Conchas tomorrow. I have family there.”  Indeed he did. And now, we all do.

Leia Mais…

Friday, October 19, 2012

Eyes Wide Open - Guatemala Mission Journey

Eye's Wide Open
Brandon Abbott, Team member

We decided not to sleep. After all, we would leave for the airport at 3:45 AM, and there was still so much left to do. There was the obligatory Walmart run. The kids needed some extra quality time knowing Mom and Dad were leaving for nine days. There were boots to buy, bills to pay, and why is it again that I neglected to pack a single bag prior to the night of our departure?

Of course it would be our little secret. No one needed to know that we weren't Eagle Scouts on a Mission Journey. But we were too tired to realize that referring to the previous day's events as things that happened "this morning" or "earlier tonight" would find us out soon enough. It took about 4 minutes of conversation before that cat left the bag and we were demoted to Brownie and Cub Scout.

Of course I'm writing this on the plane because I can't sleep. Not that I don't want to. But if I do, the people directly (and I mean very directly) to my left and right will hear me snore. (By the way, this is Brandon, not Darlene.  She is silently sleeping two rows behind me.)

So I anticipate drooling through lunch, dragging myself into Guatemala, and enjoying the excitement that comes from going on the first mission journey ever with my wife. Can't sleep through that.

Makes me wonder though. Are my eyes really open? Am I ready for this trip? Am I prepared for what God can and will do in the next nine days? Am I prepared for what He can and will do in me?

I would hate to know I went for a spiritual sleep-walk through Guatemala and totally missed what God wanted to do through me.

Lord, give me rest, but wake me up. I'm in Miami. Next stop, Guatemala City. Help me see, with eyes wide open, your people and your purpose.

STATUS UPDATE: We made it through Miami. In the air en route to Guatemala City. We'll try to post pix and more later tonight. 


Leia Mais…

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Brentwood Baptist team in Israel

This is a photo of our Brentwood team on top of Mount of Precipice in Nazareth, overlooking the Jezreel Valley.

Leia Mais…

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Bologna, Italy day 5 and 6

Yesterday was pretty hectic, and so was today, so I am just getting around to posting the blog.  Yesterday morning we went with David to a local cafe and met with Fabio.  Fabio is an Italian believer from a Catholic background.  He came to faith in Jesus after he felt something was missing from his life.  He had been reading books important to Italian culture and asked himself, "why don't I read the Bible?"  Through reading the Bible he came to know that there was more than what he had experienced.  Through God's blessing and timing a missionary family came who had a son Fabio's age.  They began playing Basket Ball together, and through there conversations Fabio grew in his conviction and faith for Jesus.  Some time later he realized that he really needed someone to help him grow.  He called his old Basket Ball friend up to ask if he knew anybody.  With only a few degrees of separation, that conversation led him to David Hannah.  Fabio has been attending the Bible study that David and Nicole host.  For David, Fabio is the dream.  That is, he is Italian!  He knows the language, the culture, the heritage, and the history of The Italian people.  So he is much better suited to reach people.  David has been disciplining him since September.  Helping him grow in his faith and encouraging him to reach out to those around him.  It was really awesome to meet with Fabio, hear his testimony and see how God is moving.

We then took time to do some Soularium training.  Soularium is a tool used by CRU (aka. Agape in Europe).  It is primarily a means to engage people and get them thinking about life and spirituality.  It is a series of five questions about life, God and spirituality that the participant is asked to answer using one to three of the fifty images that are on cards.  The conversations that happen around these cards, if nothing else, gets people to think about things that they wouldn't normally think about.  But it also fosters opportunities for relationships to develop and even deeper conversations.  After our crash course in Soularium we headed toward campus.  Matt, an intern here in Italy with CRU, helped us get our feet wet and very shortly after we had set up the board with all of the cards we had people showing interest and engaging with us.  It was very interesting to see the wide range of pictures that would be chosen for each question and the reasons given for the choice.  One of the persons we had an opportunity to speak with was a you woman who spoke pretty good English, which she had learned entirely through movies and television.  She spent some time answering the questions and talking with Alissa and I as Matt was working with some Italians who didn't speak English.  Who knows what will come out of that conversation, but she had stated that she handed thought about religion since she was 18, but now she is.

Matt going over the finer points of Soularium with Forrest and Kim

It has been hot here, the whole time we have been here.  There are few places with air-conditioning for any relief so David said that we would only stay out in the heat for a few hours.  We also rotated.  We finished up about mid afternoon when things really die down for "the pause," which is a period of about two hours when stores and shops close down to head home for a nap or break.  So we headed in.  That night the team decided to take David an Nicole out to a nice meal.  They have been preparing for there return to the US for  furlough so we hadn't had a whole lot of time to just fellowship with them and hear what the last year had been like for their ministry.

Forrest and Alissa doing Soularium with an Italian art student while
Kim plays with Shine, the young ladies dog.

This morning we got up and David took us down to the University district where we set up the Soularium board once again, but this time it was just us.  David headed off to take care of some last minute business, and we paired off.  One group did Soularium while the other group headed off to do some prayer walking around the campus.  During this time Alissa and I had a really great conversations with a young girl who was Catholic.  Her answers to the questions seemed to suggest that she would be a really fertile soil for the Gospel.  She seemed to have really thought about things and was seeking things that Jesus could really answer in her life.  We invited her to the Tex-Mex dinner that was tonight and got here contact information to pass on to the Hannah's and CRU.  We then switched and as Alissa and I went prayer walking Kim and Matthew had there own great encounter with a young man who said he was an atheist, but was really seeking.  They talked with him for a while and invited him along as well.  Soularium gave us an opportunity to be on campus and see a small part of how some of the ministries look here in Bologna.

After that it was time for some packing and a last swing by a couple of places to get some stuff for friends and prayer partners back home.  We then headed to Nuova Vita to set up for the Tex-Mex dinner party.  This was a CRU thing that they do at the end of their six week summer project.  It is an opportunity to meet bring the people that they have been developing relationships together and solidify those bonds.  Our role was primarily to help set up and to interact with people touched by these ministries.
I can tell you.  It is night and day between the last time that I was here and now.  It was rare for us to be out with David and him not run into someone he knew from the university or the community.  There have been people come to a faith in Christ, ministries have begun and lives are being changed.  It has been really encouraging to here stories of how God has moved in ways that no person can claim credit for.  He is an Awesome God!
David and Matt "manning" the grills

Meet and Greet

Madison, here with the CRU summer project teaches 
some Italians how to Line Dance

As i wright this it is nearing midnight in Bologna.  We have to be on our plane in about six and a half hours.  But think all of us can say, even me who was here last year, that the same people are not coming back to Nashville.  We have been challenged, encouraged and convicted by our experience here.  There is so much to pray for, so many people to lift up, so much work to be done.  It is a good thing that we serve a Big, Big God.

God Bless!


Leia Mais…

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Bologna, Italy Day 4

Day 4 in Italy took us to Florence. We were shown Florence by Mark Brucato, son of the missionaries who helped begin the church in Bologna, "Nuova Vita". Mark shared his love of knowledge and history of the Italian Reformation. He used a verse, Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes..." Mark established his tour of Florence around three words from this passage, "Gospel, Power, and Salvation". Our first stop was at the cathedral or the "Duomo" and discussed Gospel and how the Gospel was not existent within the extremely artistic facade. The cathedral was not erected for the Gospel, but for the Church. Next we ventured over to the plaza of the government and down a street dedicated to men known in history and discussed the word Power. Ultimate power comes from God, not intelligence or education. While many philosophers, artists, and powerful men came from Florence, their power was not eternal. Mark shared that the power of God was the only source to Salvation. It was truly inspiring! The rest of the day was free time in Florence, seeing the city. Tomorrow is another busy day as we start working on connecting with the college student at the University of Bologna!

the Duomo

Plaza with the seat of the Government

The group with Mark Brucato


Leia Mais…

Monday, June 18, 2012

Bologna, Italy Day 3

Praise be to God! What a marvelous day! We started our day having breakfast with Nicole who shared with us, the details of "Vite Transformate", "Transformed Lives", the ministry for prostitutes that Nuova Vita has here in Bologna.  Prostitution is legal here, and unfortunately many of those involved are the victim of human trafficking. Today, the church held a luncheon for a few of the ladies who expressed interest in the Bible. We went to the church and helped set up everything.  And, even in so small a thing, we saw God at work.  Before we left the states Alissa, Forrest and Kim got decorations for the luncheon.  It was ultimately decided to go with red and yellow streamers.  The table cloths the church had were blue.  Blue, yellow and red just happen to be the colors of the Romanian flag, which happens to be where the ladies who attended are from. Even the gift bags and scarves the team brought matched this scheme.  This threw the team for a loop, but God is like that!  While Forrest and I went to find lunch elsewhere, Kim and Alissa, stayed for the luncheon with these ladies. One of the ladies had just had a baby boy who was passed around and loved on.  This was very touching and an encouragement to the mother. The ladies were shown love and generosity by the ministry team. The meal that was prepared was Romanian in honor of the guests. The group had also brought gifts from the U.S. to give out at the luncheon with some going to be given later by the ministry team. We were all very excited to be a part of His plans and work. We also brought gifts for the young mother including clothes, a baby shoulder carrier, bibs, and more. The young mother had brought her new born in a dish towel and left with her child in blankets. Through tears, she later told one of the missionaries of "Vite Transformate" that this was one of the best days of her life and that she plans on coming to church next Sunday. We pray that God will bless today's efforts and that, not only has the lives of these women been touched, but also the life of the young boy. During the luncheon, Forrest and I had our lunch at a small cafe nearby and did some prayer walking in the neighborhood of the church along the same road that many prostitutes walk nightly. After lunch, we regrouped at our homestead, took a quick rest, and then began to venture to the San Luca.  San Luca is at the end of the longest portico (the covered walkways that Bologna is famous for) in the world.  Depending on how fast you are taking things it can take 45 minutes at a "work-out pace" to a bit over an hour to climb.  In ages past priests, monks and other "pious" individuals would make the trek on their knees and believed that by doing so they would get closer to God.  Fortunately for us we used our feet, but that was difficult enough.  After the long trek, however, we arrived just short of our goal to discover that a gate blocked our path.  The gate is closed around 7 or 8 in the summer.  But it was a good walk and gave us a bit of an insight into a culture that so desperately needs the Truth of Christ.

God Bless
~Matthew and Forrest

Table Decor for Luncheon

San Luca

Leia Mais…

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Bologna, Italy Day 2

Day 2 here in Bologna was another exciting adventure. David led us to their church which is actually held in a car wash building. God has blessed them as they are about to celebrate 25 years as a church. The Italian believers reminded us of a family as they greeted and spoke with everyone. The worship was outstanding and we saw the desire in the hearts of Italians for Christ. We recognized the songs they sang in worship: "Io M'arrendo a Lui" or "I surrender all", "Santo Santo Dio Onnipotente" or "Holy, Holy Lord God Almighty", and "No Mi Lascerai Mai" or "You Never Let Go". It was a great time of worship even for us who don't speak Italian. During the message, we had a friend, Paulo (sorry if I misspelled that), who sat with us and translated the sermon into English. The preacher, Gian Luca, called for believers to stay strong in Christ because without Him, we cannot succeed for the bettering of His Kingdom. After the worship service and lunch we took a bus tour of Bologna to get a better sense of the city and its history. After the tour and returning to our homestead for the week we were given free time to do dinner on our own. We decided to venture out and found a nice little restaurant, Ristorente Pizzeria. We carefully tried to select dishes from an Italian menu, as they did not have any in English, nor did our waiter speak any. During dinner, which was fabulous, we discussed plans for the next day. I will type on this more in tomorrow's blog, but to prepare you and to ask for your prayers, we are serving a luncheon for some ladies who have expressed interest in the Bible. This is with a new ministry in Bologna, "Vite Tranformate", "Transformed Lives", a ministry to prostitutes in the local area. Thank you for your words of encouragement and your continuing prayers! We have a full schedule for this week and I hope you will stay posted by this blog and continue to pray for our outreach and the Hannahs'. Thank you and God Bless ~ Matthew

    Worship at Nuova Vita (New Life)

    Left to right: Forrest, Kim, Paulo, Alissa, Matthew

   City of Bologna

Leia Mais…

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Bologna, Italy Day 1

Well we have made it to the end of day one in Italy. It is strange to think that it is only about 3 PM in Nashville while I am writing this. However, for our team it is the end of two long days of travel and our introduction to Bologna. We arrived at, for us, 4:10 AM Saturday morning. It was 11:10 local time. David an Jesse (The head of CRU in Bologna) met us at the airport and got us to where we would be staying. After a brief reprieve we set out with David to get lunch. I can't remember what exactly we had but it was a traditional regional Panini with prosciutto, arugula and a regional cheese. We then headed into the heart of the city for a brief tour, which included the Piazza Maggiore, the University district and the place where David has his ministry. While we were in the city center we ran into Anna, Juliana, and Bruno who are Italian Christians who David knows and works with. This was a really unexpected but exciting part of our first day. After a really great meal, lasagna by Nicole Hannah, we topped it off with some gelato. As I finish writing this there is an air of excitement amongst the whole team as well as David and Nicole. We are all hoping to get a good night's sleep. Tomorrow morning we will experience worship and preaching in Italian. More to come tomorrow. God Bless! ~Forrest

Leia Mais…

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Day 9 in Rio

Our final day in Rio, was not what we had expected. It was raining steadily. Originally, we had plans to go to the Christ statue. However, with the rain and wind blowing, the statue would be closed. Even if we could get up there, there's no guarantee that would be able to see anything.

At the beginning of the week, Raja gave everyone an elastic bracelet, known as our flexibility bracelet. It was to serve as a reminder to be flexible in all situations. Things would come up and we would need a reminder. This was one such occassion.

We ended up taking a bus tour of Rio instead. Our guide, Gus, did a great job of sharing the history of Rio. It was interesting to hear the heritage of the people that we spent all week serving.

Rio is much bigger than New York City. Even this picture, doesn't take in the width and breadth of how large the city is.

The closest I ever got to the statue.

One of the places our tour guide took us was the Grand Stands. They have these huge Carnival parades each year. They look similar to something you would see in the opening ceremonies at the Olympics.

These stands line either side of the street for a half a mile. Different schools will parade down the middle, performing, and competting against each other.

Cassie, trying on one of the headpiece costumes.

In each team meeting, Raja would hand out awards for that day. Kelly and Cassie realized that Raja had never received an award because she was always the one giving them away. So, they gave her the Dancing Lady award. She really has been an excellent leader, preparing us well.

All the sidewalks throughout Rio have this mosaic! It's hard to believe that someone laid all these! The patterns change based on what part of town you're in.

This is one of the Catholic churches we visited.

One of the places we visited where people will go for high tea.

They had all kinds of pastries there.

This was another Catholic church that we visited. The outside is built like a pyramid, taking inspiration from the Mayas and Aztecs. They said that 20,000 people could fit inside!

They had stained glass going down four sides of the walls.

We stopped at a Brazilian steakhouse. This was nothing like what I pictured in my mind.

Men would come around, asking if we wanted a particular cut of meat. Then, he would start cutting and then we would use our tongs to grab the meat of the skewer. -- This is Kara with chicken hearts.

We got to the airport at 5:30pm for our 10:00pm flight. The flight home felt longer. I think it was because I knew what to expect and I was ready to get home. We all were.

Leia Mais…

Monday, June 11, 2012

Day 8 in Rio

One of my favorite things that we do here, is we sing on the way to clinic. Beth put together booklets full of lyrics. Then, she'll pull our her iPhone and take requests, playing it over the bus's sound system.

By beginning the day off with worship, it ensures that we begin with the right perspective. It is a weird paradox, though: singing about hope, as we drive through traffic, surrounded by people without hope. If only they knew.

Once we got to site, Whitney led us in a rap devotional. She definitely wins in creativity.

Today, was a half day at clinic.

The medical team. (L to R) Joan, Interpeter, Janel, Kathy, Kevin, Paul, Kathy, Mandy, and Rebecca.

Some of our interpreters.

Evangelism team. (L to R) Tony, Roger, Ilce (interpreter), Betty, Kelly, and Jonathan (interpreter)

We saw as many people as we could in the few hours that were open. I had the opportunity to sit in with the evangelism team. It was so neat to hear Betty present the Gospel. It's amazing to me how simple and yet complex the message of the Gospel is. If you strip out theology and religion, it's simple = BELIEVE!

This is one of the evangelism groups that I sit in on. The man on the left and the little 13 year old boy made a decision. The lady on the right, was already a believer, had been to clinic earlier in the week, but wanted to hear the message again.

As I said before, we have never been about numbers, but it is exciting to celebrate and quantify our efforts: We had 157 decisions this week!

Then, we handed out our gift bags and tried to tangibly express our gratitude toward the church, their volunteers, and our interpreters.

The church provided our final meal and then we worshipped together, one last time.

Pastor Wellington read Philippians 1 over us. Never before has that passage seemed more real, sounding just as Paul intended it:

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Many left this afternoon with tears in their eyes, leaving a piece of our hearts, forever changed.

Leia Mais…