Posts in South America
José Carlos Pezini - Update

Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Since Odete and I returned from the U.S.A. at the end of April, we have been traveling to fulfill an intense agenda with commitments in various denominations all over Brazil. The Brazilian church faces many dilemmas these days. God has given me the privilege of being able to help pastors, lay leaders, and congregations in different areas including mentoring pastors, lay leadership training, church revitalization, and discipleship.

In all these places, I feel encouraged by God to motivate Christians to engage in discipleship by sharing their faith with non-believers as well as helping new converts grow in their intimacy with God through prayer and meditation in the Scriptures. I have also led the church to rethink its missionary action in the context where it is located and to rethink the reason for its existence.

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José Carlos Pezini - March 2019 Update

I believe that it is a good time to look back, consider, and evaluate our ministry. Let us see what God has done, using our lives as instruments in his hands, and reflect on what has been accomplished since we returned to Brazil seven years ago. We glorify God for his faithfulness and providence.

From the time that Odete and I arrived back in Brazil in May 2012, we sought to understand God's will and to discern the reason he was bringing us back to our country. We hoped that he would use us for the expansion of the Kingdom of God. God has done this, but in a different way from what we had expected.

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José Carlos Pezini - December 2018 Update

Dear brothers and sisters,

Greetings in Christ Jesus, the Lord of the Church. Another year is ending and as we look back, we can see how God was gracious to us and blessed us greatly. I know this happened because of the faithfulness of the beloved brothers and sisters who have been praying for us. We want to thank you all for your loyalty. Odete and I are so grateful for you and the care that you have demonstrated towards us.

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Bibles for New Christians - August 2018 Update

The year was 1986. The economy was thriving in the country with the largest oil reserves in the world. Still, most people in Venezuela lacked access to good education and health services. A group of teenagers had recently become exposed to the Scriptures. Somehow, what Jesus had initiated and instructed his followers to carry on sounded to them like real rebellion. Not just one seeking to replace a social elite with another but a real movement that calls people to repentance and a new life of faith and love for God and fellow human beings. The revolution was to move forward as people became aware of the unsettling ways in which the purposes of God have been carried out in history. If they could help other people read the Bible – they thought – then others too may have their lives filled with new meaning, purpose and compassion. After receiving a gracious donation of hundreds of Bibles, they got busy talking to whomever would pay attention to what they had to say.

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José Carlos Pezini - June 2018 Update

Dear brothers and sisters,

Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Let me begin by thanking you for your prayers. God has been great to us. After spending some time in the U.S., I returned to Brazil at the end of May to find that the SARA Retreat Ministry for Pastors continues to grow. In this update I want to share with you the testimony of a fellow pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Brazil, the Rev. Marcio Tenponi, whom God gave me the privilege of helping in his ministry. This is the Rev. Marcio’s testimony:

At the age of 17 I began to follow Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. I served the church as a lay leader until I received God’s call to the pastoral ministry. I surrendered to God and went to the Presbyterian seminary.

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José Carlos Pezini - April 2018 Update

Dear friends,

Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Let me begin by thanking you for your prayers. God has been great to us. In January I had prostate surgery. Thanks to God’s grace, I recovered well. Within two weeks of the surgery, I was ready to return to my regular ministry activities including my international travels. Odete and I are so thankful for your lives and the care that you have demonstrated towards us.

The SARA ministry has grown exponentially in these last couple of years. Today there are 13 mentoring core groups spread out all over Brazil. Each one of them has two retreats per year. This year alone, we have scheduled 26 different retreats. It is through God’s mercy that we have already reached around 500 pastors in 13 different denominations. We have helped them through their daily struggles. Many of them have testified that through our personal mentoring and spiritual formation retreats, they have been able to conquer depression and other signs of burnout. As they recover from their personal burnout, they feel motivated to perform their ministry with enthusiasm and great joy again.

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Gordon and Dorothy Gartrell - February 2018 Update

Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”  Matthew 4:19

Dorothy and I are in the United States for six months speaking at churches about our work in Brazil, where we are PC(USA) missionary co-workers working in partnership with the United Presbyterian Church of Brazil. We are working in leadership development in the local church as well as evangelism. We have been in Governador Mangabeira in the state of Bahia for the last 2½ years, which is a couple of hours from Salvador on the coast.

We arrived in the U.S. the first week of December. We spent several days at headquarters working on our talks and being oriented by the staff. Everyone was focused on Christmas in December, so we took advantage of that and went to see our children.

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Developing South-South Mission Partnerships - January 2018 Update

One of the frequent features of Christianity in Africa, Asia and Latin America is enthusiasm for mission and evangelism. Through our “Developing South-South Mission Partnerships” project, The Outreach Foundation seeks to come alongside efforts that our partners are undertaking to bridge cultural differences with the purpose of sharing the Gospel in areas where there is less access to it.

Last July I visited with a Brazilian family dedicated to demonstrating the love of Christ in word and deed in a North African country. Having arrived in the country 16 years ago after 13 years of fruitful ministry in Jordan and Morocco, their mastery of the language and culture is exceptional. They are currently working in coordination with the small Christian community there to follow up with the growing number of people that have expressed an interest in learning more about the Christian message. They are also mentoring other missionaries arriving from Brazil, Guatemala and other countries.

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New Church Development in Brazil - January 2018 Update

Reaching Younger Generations Through New Churches

“Each church has its own style but each one of them needs to have two main characteristics: It needs to be centered in the Gospel, committed to it, because that is what gives it integrity. It also needs to engage people that are not part of any church by identifying deeply with what they are going through.” With those words, Ricardo Agreste challenges Brazilian Christians to become actively involved in planting churches that welcome new generations who are not part of any congregation. Ricardo serves a Presbyterian church that was started fourteen years ago and which has now planted twenty additional churches. He is also one of the directors for the Center for Training of Church Planters (CTPI is its Portuguese acronym) which effectively equips pastors among several denominational traditions.

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José Carlos Pezini - December 2017 Update

Dear friends and supporters,

This year has been very busy for Odete and me. We have been traveling all over Brazil, teaching, training, consulting, leading pastors’ retreats, coaching, and mentoring pastors. We have witnessed the action of God in the lives of many pastors. They have shared with us their struggles and difficulties. Many of them have thought more than once about leaving the ministry. Others are discouraged and still others are suffering from depression. During these three years we have helped more than fifty pastors get out of depression.

Our retreats have served as a place where they are encouraged and challenged to seek God first in their lives. A great number of pastors seem to be doing ministry on “autopilot.” They are tempted to read the Bible only to prepare sermons and not as a means to a devotional relationship with God. They see themselves as working for God rather than working with God. 

The good news is that pastors who have mentors through the SARA ministry and who participate in our retreats are being transformed. Their devotional life has been rescued, and their passion for ministry has returned. They have shared with us their joy and say that they cannot live without attending retreats and being accompanied by a mentor in ministry. As a result of their participation in retreats and mentoring, their churches have grown and because of this, they have regained their confidence as servants of God.

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José Carlos Pezini - October 2017 Update

Dear friends and supporters,

It is a joy to share some great news with you. Three years ago, Steve and Kay Wright came to Brazil to visit the church planting projects that their church, Zionsville Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, has supported. I had the privilege of accompanying them and during the days we were together, they shared with me about the Great Banquet, a retreat ministry which had greatly impacted their congregation. They invited me to attend a “Great Banquet,” and I did so the following year. Seeing what God was doing through this three-day weekend largely led by lay people, I heard the Lord whispering in my heart that the Great Banquet would be a wonderful gift to the Church in Brazil.

Steve Wright agreed with me, and we began planning for a Brazilian version. Zionsville Presbyterian Church started inviting Brazilians who spoke English to its semi-annual banquets to become the seed group of a Brazilian leadership team. In two years twenty people, ten men and ten women, traveled from Brazil to attend a Great Banquet. Steve and Kay returned to Brazil two years ago to guide this leadership group in preparing for the banquet. Then, with the blessing of God, we set the date for the Great Banquet in Brazil.   

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Gordon and Dorothy Gartrell - August 2017 Update

Dear friends at The Outreach Foundation,

The grace and peace of the Lord be with each one of you. Dorothy and I are doing well. In July, we attended the General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church of Brazil (IPU) which was held in São Paulo. Our Regional Liaison, Dennis Smith, and Valdir França, PC(USA) Mission Coordinator for the Caribbean and Latin America, were present as well. The IPU invited us back for another term beginning in January 2018. This will be the first time in over 23 years of ministry in Brazil that we have been invited back to the same location (Mangabeira) in which we have been serving. We are comfortable with that decision. We have served in seven different locations during our time in Brazil as a couple.

During our first two years here in Mangabeira, the adult group at our church lay dormant. This year they decided to come alive and participate in the life of the church. They plan special events and commemorations and are in charge of making things happen. They were instrumental in helping one of the ladies of the church, Dona Maria, celebrate her 80th birthday with a devotional and cake. She was most appreciative. For Mother's Day, the ladies in the adult group made aprons to put clothespins in to make it easier to hang clothes to dry since folks where we live do not have dryers. 

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José Carlos Pezini - May 2017 Update

The ministries in Brazil are going well. In fact, they are growing more quickly than I can handle. When I started working with pastors here, I had no idea that so many of them were experiencing burnout. About a third of the pastors who participate in the three-day SARA retreats suffer from this, and many of them are taking anti-depression medication. So, there is a real sense of urgency for a time of healing and wholeness for God’s servants within the SARA retreat ministry.

SARA is working in three different areas. Our main focus, of which the retreats are part, is mentoring more than two hundred pastors. In order to be able to care for each of these 200 pastors, I have trained 40 other mentors but even this number is not enough to meet the great demand. The mentors offer to their mentees one hour of conversation per month, while the mentees commit to participate in two SARA retreats each year. 

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Gordon and Dorothy Gartrell - March 2017 Update

Dear friends and family,

We are south of the equator, so this time of year is our summer. It has been very hot and unfortunately seriously dry. Our church work, however, has NOT been dry, but lively and refreshing. Presbytery meetings here are held yearly and last from Friday to Sunday, beginning with committee meetings on Friday afternoon. We have only seven churches in our presbytery spread out over this large state. The last few meetings have been in a meeting center in the capital, Salvador. We hosted the January 2017 meeting. It was a wonderful experience for us and those who attended. There were about 40 people there. Our church members have the gift of hospitality and are realizing they can serve the Lord by opening their hearts and homes to others. They are good cooks, so their meals are delicious. The attendees spent two nights and ate five meals with us. They slept in our homes and ate together at the church. Our church used to have an elementary school, so it has a small but nice kitchen in which large meals can be cooked. The presbytery meeting began with a meeting of the Adult Group on Friday afternoon.

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José Carlos Pezini (Outreach) - December 2016 Update

Dear brothers and sisters,

Greetings to you all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. This was a very busy and stressful year of my ministry here in Brazil. SARA Ministries is growing so fast that it is almost impossible to respond to all the demands. The number of pastors who are being mentored is growing day by day. This year I have trained more pastors to be mentors, bringing the total to thirty-eight. Each one of these new pastor-mentors serves an average of five pastors. 

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José Carlos Pezini (Mission Staff) - August 2016 update

It is truly amazing what God has accomplished through the SARA ministries this year. The number of pastors in the mentoring program is growing every day. In this update I would like to tell you about a mentor training retreat we held in May in Curitiba.There were thirty-three pastors from six different denominations in attendance. SARA works with the Presbyterian Church of Brazil, Independent Presbyterian Church of Brazil, Lutheran Church, United Presbyterian Church, Bethany Evangelical Church and Congregational Evangelical Church. 

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Philip and Bacilia Beisswenger (The Antioch Partners) - September 2015 Update

Greetings in Christ from the Beisswenger family! On Pentecost, Peter said, “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off.” Acts 2:39 Though we tend to emphasize “your children” more than “all who are far off,” the scripture is clear that both are crucial to God’s covenant. Our circle of faith stretches dramatically from our closest kin to envelop people whose culture and circumstances differ sharply from our own. 

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New Church Development in Brazil - September 2015 Update

Dear Friends,

For many years the principal partnership of The Outreach Foundation with the Independent Presbyterian Church of Brazil was in relationship to the IPIB’s church-planting initiatives in the semi-arid interior of Northeast Brazil (Sertão), in the river communities of the Amazon Region, and in the largely unchurched southern (Gaucho) part of Brazil. 

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