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Remaining Faithful to the Challenge

A Letter from Gordon and Dorothy Gartrell, serving in Brazil

April 2018

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Write to Dorothy Gartrell

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Dear Friends,

Before we left Brazil for our six-month Interpretation Assignment (IA) in the U.S., we challenged the church where we work in Governador Mangabeira to continue to strengthen itself while we were gone. We assured them that “God goes with us to the States, but God continues to be with you here as well.”

I believe the church has taken our challenge seriously. We are hearing good reports of things that are happening in our absence. Here is a sampling of church members’ communication with us:

• Is it OK if we allow someone to use the church to have classes to help more local youth pass the pre-college exam?
• We will use that rent to pay for music lessons for people who are interested in helping the church to have a choir and teach new hymns and songs to the congregation. Is that OK with you?
• Two people who have been coming here want to take the communicants class you offer because they want to be members.
• The elders are visiting lots of former church participants and sick people.
• Jaime is teaching the adult Sunday School even though he has only been a member for two years. He is a great teacher — we are learning so much! He has filled in with preaching as well. Is that OK since he is not an elder?

We are elated that the classrooms that have barely been used since the closing of the primary school are again being used to nurture young people and prepare them for taking the college entrance exams. We are excited that people can take music lessons so they can help us in worship by playing a musical instrument.

Yes, we are happy for Jaime to be helping with the preaching in our absence even though he is not an elder. Jaime has vast biblical knowledge, which he is putting to good use.

And we are grateful to the elders and members of the church for visiting people and inviting them to come to church. All members can be involved in that. It does not need to be just the pastor or Christian educator.

The church has indeed taken the challenge to continue the work we have been doing together. Sunday School, worship and the mid-week services continue to go well. A pastor comes once a month to serve Holy Communion. The Bible study one of the members began with friends in the next town continues once a week. The church members are not sitting idly by and twiddling their thumbs. They continue in ministry — they are putting their faith into action with one another and inviting people to come to worship as well. This is truly encouraging to us.

We are halfway through our Interpretation Assignment of six months. Driving to our commitments over the past three months, we have put 7,000 miles on our car. We have spoken in 18 different locations, preaching, offering Minute-for-Mission talks, and attending committee meetings, luncheons, family night suppers, and youth groups. It has been a time to renew old friendships and make new ones. It has been a time to put names and faces on new supporting churches. Sprinkled in there we have also made time to see family and friends. It has truly been a blessing sharing our stories of how God is working in Brazil in our ministry of Leadership Development and Evangelism in the local church.

In late April, we will participate in a gathering for mission co-workers who work in Latin America and the Caribbean, which is held in three-year intervals. This time we will meet in Lima, Peru. We look forward to being with fellow mission co-workers and with PC(USA) staff.

We will be returning to Brazil the first week of June for a four-year term, which began January 1, 2018. In 25 years of mission service — during which we have lived in seven different locations in Brazil — this will be the first time we will be returning to the same place. We are happy that we did not have to pack our belongings and have them ready to move to a new location. We have wonderful neighbors. Somebody is checking on our belongings occasionally to be sure everything is safe. We are at ease about that.

Please tuck us into your prayers for safe travels as we speak in churches through May. Pray also for the leadership of the church in Brazil as they faithfully keep the church doors open in our absence. Pray that God would give us wisdom concerning the possibility of doing new work in the town next to us this second semester. We have three church families who live in that town but worship with us here.

We are excited about going back. Thank you so much for standing with us in your prayers and in your financial support, for this makes our work in Brazil possible. Please think about increasing your support or asking someone who is interested in Leadership Development to support us, too.

In Christ,

Gordon and Dorothy

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