Brazil #4: Fresh fragrance of life

by Celia Stone

Barreira, a Brazilian village of approximately 16 families and the least populated of the four we visited along the Amazon River, was the second stop of our medical/dental boat. It appeared that most families had basic long, narrow fishing boats or canoes, some with standard outboard motors and others with motors made from what looked to have been weed eaters. The people we encountered throughout the week fished regularly and grew a few vegetables. Lush fruit trees seemed to grow naturally.

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Brazil #3: "No doubt it is the work of the Holy Spirit"

by Rocky Stone

On our second day in Brazil we met with Pastor Francisco, the senior pastor of Manaus Pres. Church to discuss the church’s missional model and experience. I was a bit surprised that he would make time to meet with our little group of 5 people representing our churches and The Outreach Foundation, but I was more perplexed as to why we were meeting at 11:15 am. I knew that the church had several pastors and shared preaching duties, but why meet on Sunday morning at this time? Well, as it happens they have three Sunday services at their two main locations, but none at 11:00. The most attended service is at 6:15 pm. We later attended this very lively worship service in a large converted warehouse (former car dealership). The sanctuary seated 2,600 people and majored in functionality vs. aesthetics. That, like most things at this church, was very purposeful.

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Brazil #2: The Great Commission in Brazil

by David, Arredondo- La Mirada Community Presbyterian Church. Ca

If someone would have told me I was going to be in Brazil for 10 days in a mission trip to the Amazon River, flying for almost 14 hours, sleeping in a boat for six days in an 8x9 room with bunk beds for 4 people, I would have told that person he was delusional.

I could not believe I was waiting at Los Angeles international airport for my flight to Brazil. When Pastor Juan Sarmiento from the Outreach Foundation invited our church, Community Presbyterian Church of La Mirada, to be part of Amazon river mission in December 2018, I was clueless of the magnitude of the mission trip and how our Lord could use someone like me on this trip.

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Brazil #1: Manaus Presbyterian Church:  A church that is both missionary and missional

by Juan Sarmiento

Presbyterians have a long history of partnerships in the Brazilian Amazon. Considered to be in a remote area of the country with the most diversity of indigenous communities, it seems to be an unlikely location for what today may be the largest Presbyterian congregation of the Western Hemisphere, Manaus Presbyterian Church (IPM, by its initials in Portuguese).

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Lebanon #10: Opening the Eyes of the Blind

by Julie Burgess, for the team (West Hills Presbyterian Church, Omaha, Nebr.)

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. (Mark 10:51-52)

I have arrived safely home in Omaha, but have the great privilege of wrapping up our series of blogs for the 2019 faithful women trip to Lebanon. Our last visit before coming home closed a circle that Susan Parker began when she led her devotion about starfish with the story of blind Bartimaeus, the end of which appears above.

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Lebanon #9: Mourning into Dancing

by Rev. Kate Kotfila, for the team (Cambridge United Presbyterian Church, Cambridge, N.Y.)

“You have turned my mourning into dancing” Psalm 30:11

I always thought that the Psalmist was describing a linear experience. First comes mourning at loss, calamity, or heartache and then through the gauntlet of grace, mourning is transformed into joy. First mourning, then joy. Today I learned that each can overlap; not first and second but both at the same time.

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Lebanon #8: God Loveth the Joyful Giver

by Pamela Dellinger, for the team (Bethel Presbyterian Church, Cornelius, No. Car.)

“Let each man do according as he hath purposed in his heart: not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” II Corinthians 9: 7

After coming down the mountain from Dhour Chouier, wondering what God sightings we would see next, the ladies and I spent a wonderful night at Casa D’Or in Beirut.  After sharing rooms, it felt almost strange to have a room (and bathroom) to myself and I missed the company and companionship of my sisters, the shared reflections of the day.

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Lebanon #7: A Mountaintop Experience

by Joy Boone, Pamela Dellinger, Vangie Lodwick, for the team (Bethel Presbyterian Church, Cornelius, No. Car.)

“And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them.”  Mark 9:2-3

As we snake our way down the mountain from Dhour Chouier into Beirut, there is a quiet peace about all we have just experienced. We talk among ourselves and begin to peel through the layers of this week’s journey with all its meandering paths and often-awkward connections with our new friends. We speak of the places they call home, to which they are returning, and wonder how these dear women from a distant land called Syria can be so much like us.

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Lebanon #6: Under the Tent of Jesus

by Nancy Nicholson, for the team (First Presbyterian Church, Lake Forest, Ill.)

This morning, on our last full day, we sang, “You are my hiding place. You always fill my heart with songs of deliverance. Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in you. Let the weak say ‘I am strong in the strength of the Lord.’ I will trust in you.”

Never has this song inspired by Corrie TenBoom’s book been so relevant as here in Lebanon with 70 Syrian and seven or more Lebanese Christian women who have seen and heard and experienced terrorist attacks, destruction of their homes and churches, or have been personally impacted by the war in Syria. They have been put in positions of fear for themselves, their loved ones, and their possessions, but have been held tightly by the love and strength of the Lord. This is not human power but the power of God to uphold us when we are weak and to be our strong fortress.

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Lebanon #5: Starfish

by Julie Burgess, for the team (West Hills Presbyterian Church, Omaha, Nebr.)

Our day began with a poignant team devotion led by Susan Parker, our team member who has lived ten months of every year for 32 years on Mercy Ships. (Please Google Mercy Ships 60 Minutes to read more about this amazing ministry in Africa healing those with many medical needs. What a gospel story!)

Her story revolved around her own brokenness which brought her to Mercy Ships. “Tumors of the heart,” was the way she described the brokenness of our lives that is not seen by others and not healed with surgery or antibiotics. In our time here with our Syrian sisters, we have heard stories of some of those tumors.

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Lebanon #4: Gifts Given, Gifts Received

by Rev. Toby Mueller, for the team (Historic Franklin Presbyterian Church, Franklin, Tenn.)

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ‘tis the gift to be free, ‘tis the gift to come down, where you ought to be; and when we find ourselves in the place just right, ‘twill be in the valley of love and delight! -“Simple Gifts,” an Amish song 

Each one of the American women came bearing gifts. We each contributed ten pink lipsticks, ten pink nail polishes, and ten packs of 24-count colored pencils. The pencils, plus small bags of (what else!) pink candy, stickers, and faith-themed coloring books were piled into gift bags (over 100!) to give to the Syrian and Lebanese women who came. But the gifts did not end there. Each day more pink gifts were handed out: pink leis, pink Mardi Gras beads, pink post-it note pads, pink pens, and even pink cotton candy were all brought over by the Americans. And that is just what has been handed out so far!! Gifts upon gifts upon gifts, given and received. It has been a bit like Christmas here!

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