A letter from Gordon and Dorothy Gartrell, serving in Brazil
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Happy Birthday to You,
Happy Birthday to You,
Happy Birthday Dear…
Birthdays are occasions to gather together to recognize and share the lives God has given us. This year, we have had the privilege of coming together with others to celebrate the life of the church and its precious members.
The United Presbyterian Church of Brazil (IPU) celebrated its 39th birthday this year. Our church, the Governador Mangabeira IPU, held a worship service for the presbytery, the Presbytery of Salvador. It was a wonderful time when all seven churches of the presbytery led in different parts of worship. One church provided a guitar player and a choir, while the other churches led in the call to worship, adoration, confession, offering, sermon and Holy Communion. Worship was followed by appetizers and birthday cake.
Thirty-nine years ago, during the military dictatorship of Brazil, the IPU was born. It was created with the desire to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, and in doing this to address social injustice; to be ecumenical by maintaining a respectful relationship with other churches; and to ordain women to all offices of the denomination. It was a church ahead of its time in many of its goals, and was the first Presbyterian denomination in Brazil dedicated to women’s ordination. It is a small denomination, with a big voice for the goals it established 39 years ago, from which it has not wavered. Even through trials and difficulties, it has met its challenges with unwavering dedication to the goals of proclaiming the good news through word and action. It is a privilege to have a part in the life of the IPU, to use our gifts and talents as we proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ alongside our Brazilian brothers and sisters, and to celebrate another year of its existence! We celebrated who we have become through our spiritual growth and relationship with others. The food was delicious and everyone enjoyed special fellowship with each other.
Within our congregation, we have recently been blessed with opportunities to become closer to one another through celebrating together. A longtime church member celebrated her 87th birthday with her extended family, church friends and childhood friends. We filled the house and spilled out into the yard as we held a celebration of her life, took lots of pictures and then enjoyed many delicious snacks and a beautiful cake. She has taught her family how to host parties, so they love to open their home to many people for birthday celebrations. Everyone enjoys this time when God’s love for them is revealed through the opportunity to be with friends, meet new people, taste the good treats and have a fun evening.
A young mother celebrated her birthday by having a lunch after Sunday School for others. It was fun to break bread together and enjoy the rich foods she made. Instead of cake, she offered pastries, as she did not want to be the center of attention. She saw her birthday as an opportunity to bring friends and families together to visit with each other. We got to see friends we don’t often see and visit with them. To this young mother, serving and bonding with guests were more important than the number of presents received. She celebrated the blessing of another year by celebrating relationships.
Two elders celebrated their niece’s 4th birthday. She lives in another town, but is regularly here for the weekend, including Sunday School and special church events. She feels very welcome and important in the church. At her party, she enjoyed passing out horns and candy. It gave her a chance to give the people a fun day like she receives at the church. Everyone blew their horns as she blew out the cake candles. She helped all to celebrate with her. There was LOTS of food, so people took home different types of goodies, which made to help everyone feel special.
Church friends threw a wonderful surprise party for Gordon. His birthday was on a Saturday. A few people called to wish him “happy birthday,” but he didn’t get much attention from church people. It was rainy season, but the Sunday afternoon of Gordon’s party was dry and sunny. Though Gordon didn’t know it, when he was finishing plans for his Sunday evening sermon about 10 people were setting up for the party in the dining room outside his office door. When everything was ready and the guests had arrived, Dorothy called him from his office under the pretense that someone who wanted to see him was at the house. He was overcome with joy and surprise when instead he saw over 25 people there. They led a time of worship, praising and thanking the Lord for Gordon and that he is a part of the local church. As we all celebrated the fact that God brought us together, many shared personal wishes with Gordon, lots of pictures were taken and cake and refreshments were served. Gordon enjoyed this meaningful celebration of the life God has given him.
More important than celebrating any mortal’s birthday, however, is celebrating the birthday of our Lord and Savior. In our church, one way we celebrate in December is having a birthday party for Jesus. We offer activities using the Bible to learn more about Him, we color pictures and do word searches and puzzles. Naturally we have delicious birthday cake and local pastries, too. This form of holiday celebration is not only fun, but it helps us to feel united and recognize the meaning behind Christmas.
We will spend most of this Christmas season in the U.S. We will also celebrate many more birthdays, many precious new and old relationships. We will be visiting some churches for our first birthday, since they are new to us. Other places have seen our work develop over the years, so we will celebrate more mature birthdays with them. It’s wonderful to meet new folks and see the people we have communicated with for years.
Please contact us at our email address, listed below, if you would like us to visit. We want to share with others how our work has grown during this term. We are grateful for all the support we have received through prayers, letters (snail mail and computer messages) and financial gifts. Gifts enable us to serve the Lord and Brazilian people in our ministry, so please continue supporting us in the above ways.
May the year 2018 be a wonderful year for each of you.
Gordon and Dorothy Gartrell
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Tags: anniversary, birthday, Celebration, christmas, ipu
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