What a week! We just had the joy of hosting a team of ten people from our sending church, Harvest Baptist Church of the Deaf. In the seven days they were here, God did great things through them. Here it goes!
They encouraged and loved our family. Sometimes, the people we are trying to reach aren’t concerned about their own spiritual destiny. We warn them and encourage them to be saved, but it seems like the only people who care about them are our coworkers and ourselves. When the team came this week, they showed such a desire to see the deaf saved, that it touched our hearts to remember how much others care for them as well. It was a blessing to swap stories and fellowship with people from the same culture with the same mission heart.
They helped us build relationships. We are hearing. No matter how well we learn Portuguese Sign Language or how much time we spend with the deaf, our hearing status is always a roadblock. If we approach deaf clubs or deaf schools asking to do a presentation, they tell us no. However, when we have a group of deaf people from another country wanting to speak in their club or school, they are more willing to say yes. Two deaf associations let the group share, which led to some first-time visitors at deaf church. We have tried for 3 years to do a presentation in the deaf school that our son attends. God used this group to let us in for the first time. Though it is a public school, and explaining the gospel is not allowed, Pastor Rempel briefly told the students, “Jesus loves you”. Most of the students have hearing parents who don’t sign. When they go home each evening, they have almost no one who communicates with them. When Pastor told them of Jesus’ love, it was, for many, the first time they’d seen that message in their language.
They shared the gospel. Our pastor, Reggie Rempel, preached and shared his testimony throughout the week. His preaching was clear and powerful: it conveyed the urgency of salvation and the depth of God’s love. But it wasn’t just Pastor Rempel preaching. Every team member shared the gospel personally with the deaf that they met at activities and at church.
They learned about Portuguese culture and ministry. The team members came with no personal agenda. We showed them a castle, fed them pastries, and told them about some Portuguese traditions. In each situation, rather than complaining about how different things were or demanding their own preferences, they happily tried new things. When plans changed, they adapted and worked well together. Most of all, whenever they entered a ministry setting, they went right up to people and tried communicating to reach them. They were all about others rather than self.
They rejoiced when people were saved. On Saturday, we hosted a special retreat where we had games, food, signed music, and preaching. In the days leading up to this event, we invited everyone we could. On the day of the retreat, we had 13 people come. After preaching, Pastor Rempel spoke with two men, Eugenio and Carlos, about the gospel and their need to be saved. Carlos is Denise’s husband. You may remember she was baptized just this past year. Eugenio is a young man we have known for a long time. Though he has come to church frequently over the years, he has seemed somewhat ambivalent to spiritual matters. At the retreat, they asked to receive Jesus as Savior. Though they both still have much to learn, we rejoice that God is working in their hearts, and we look forward to seeing how He continues to do so.