From Brazil

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Behind the Scenes of the 2016 JMI Gala

Every year we host the Justice & Mercy International Benefit Gala in order to raise money for all the mission work we do in Moldova, the Amazon and South Africa. It has become one of my favorite weeks of the year. Our National Directors – Alina, and her husband Vlad in Moldova; and Sarah, and her husband Magno in the Amazon – come all the way to the United States to attend and share about the work they do. These people are so special to me personally, and to our whole church family. In addition, we have people come in from Reston Bible Church as well as other JMI partner churches and so many friends from out-of-town who go on mission trips and invest in the work. It has become like a giant Family Reunion! All united in Christ and with a common desire to make a difference in His Name.

The Gala is our biggest fundraising event of the year and there is a lot that goes into making it happen. Our JMI and our Rolling Hills Staff Teams all work hard because we believe in what God has called us to. Along with this, it takes close to 100 volunteers – most of whom go on mission trips and sponsor children through JMI. The fact is, we all sincerely love the people we go to serve. The precious orphan children in Moldova, the pastors in the Amazon, the poor and forgotten in South Africa – they are truly our friends. We love them, and we know what a difference this night can make in their lives.

But, the Gala is also a lot of fun. When you are serving with people you love, united in a cause bigger than yourself and you see God do miracles in people’s lives, of course it’s fun! It is not work, but a calling and a passion.

Here are a few of the behind the scenes fun moments as we prepare for the Gala:

Taking our National Directors out to experience some good old American fun:

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Setting up in the auditorium with staff teams and volunteers – it’s all hands on deck

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Serving with people we love

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Praise God for allowing us to be involved in what He is doing in the world. When Christ is transforming lives there is nothing like it! There is no place in the world that I would rather be than serving our God with people I love and seeing lives redeemed for His glory. Thank You, Father! Get involved. Jump in because serving God is awesome! Go on a mission trip, sponsor a child, serve locally, but do something. You will have a great time serving, and God will impact lives through you. We are better together.

“I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” Psalm 84:10

Lastly, here is a message from one of our good friends about giving to JMI:

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Pastor's Conference

Amazon Pastor’s Conference 2016 – We’ve Returned

IMG_4246I just returned from our annual Justice & Mercy International Pastor’s Conference in the Amazon! Wow! What an incredible time with pastors from all over the Amazon. All glory to our great God!

We had 88 pastors and their wives (plus, many more of their young adult children who serve with them in ministry) for a week of training, worship, prayer and fellowship. The first time this conference was held was five years ago with 18 pastors. The goal is to help train as well as refresh these amazing servants of Christ. The entire week was filled with God’s Presence, and I believe it will impact generations.

Every year, I am spellbound by the stories of these faithful brothers and sisters in Christ. As Mike Minter, Pastor of Reston Bible Church just outside of Washington D.C. (and who has taught at all 5 of these conferences) says, “We go to teach them the Bible, and they teach us about Jesus.”

IMG_4164Pastor Diogo travels 7 days by canoe to be at the conference. Another pastor and his wife drove 3,300 km from Venezuela. They are hungry to grow deeper in the Word of God and to learn how to better serve their churches & villages. They sacrifice everything for the call of Christ.

When asked “What was your most encouraging time in ministry last year?” Pastor Cosme responded, “Everything was great! So many people came to know Jesus. My house was washed away by the floods, but we are staying with friends and the work is flourishing.” “Wait!” We responded, “Your house was washed away by the flood, but everything is great?” “Yes,” Pastor Cosme replied, “We were able to help so many people in the name of Jesus, and many people gave their lives to Christ. And, I have a much better home in heaven anyway.”

IMG_4190Pastor Nome was excited because a few years ago he found a job in Manaus cleaning toilets. This gave him enough money to buy fuel for the motor on his canoe. He could then go to other villages and share the Gospel. This year, we had men join us who had been led to Christ by Pastor Nome. God is using him to make an enormous difference in this region.

On Thursday, an 89-year-old Pastor from Manaus came to see what was happening. I was told that he had helped to plant over half the churches in Manaus. As he walked into the John Pac Center, he began to weep. He said, “I have prayed for the Amazon region all my life. There is so much spiritual darkness and so many lost people in this area. And, now, to come in and see all of these pastors gathered in worship and training to take the Gospel to the people of the Amazon, it overwhelms me.” Then he added, “I just wish I was in my 70’s again, so I could be more involved.” I love this!

IMG_4192Last year, Rosimar and Valdenor came for the first time. Their marriage was on the brink of divorce. They have 4 kids, and it’s a struggle to do ministry, raise children and provide food, especially the Amazon. Yet, through their time, they were encouraged and renewed their commitment to Christ and to one another. This year when they arrived, they came bounding up to the Center holding hands and sharing the miracles God had done in their marriage, family and ministry over the past year. They couldn’t wait to see us and share His story! I love these fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

On the last day, a group called Mission Aviation shared the results of a three-year study where they flew throughout the Amazon region and discovered over 1,000,000 unreached people. As they showed maps and revealed locations of distant villages, the pastors at the conference became passionate about reaching the entire region for Christ. They began to pray, committing to reaching other villages and to invest in raising up others in their churches to go.

IMG_4245These people inspire me. They jumped up and down when receiving a new Bible. They worshipped with sincere love in their hearts for God even in tough situations. They serve the people of their villages tirelessly and passionately. They know their eternity is secure, and they live every moment for Christ!

Thank you for your prayers and your investment in JMI and Rolling Hills as we endeavor to bless, train and encourage these incredible men and women of Christ. Let’s continue to invest in this region and help to reach every person with the love of Christ. My these faithful men and women inspire us to everything we have for Christ and His Kingdom. May we not just study the Bible, but may we also live it!

Pastor's Conference

Amazon Pastor’s Conference 2016 – We Have Arrived!

I am writing from our annual Pastor’s Conference in the Amazon. We have 110 village pastors and their wives here at the John Pac Center where the conference will be held. So many of these pastors were traveling by canoe for days to be here with us. Their stories are amazing, and their lives even more so. They deeply love Jesus, and they are passionate about His call to share His love with those in their villages and communities. They work tirelessly and battle in prayer for those they love. And, God is using them to bring the Good News of Christ to this dark region in the world.

As Mike Minter, Pastor of Reston Bible Church in Washington D.C., says, “We come to teach them the bible, and they teach us about Jesus.” Their passion for Christ is contagious. I am always inspired and encouraged in my time with these men who are in the front lines of ministry. They are the leaders of their churches and villages, which can range anywhere from hundreds of people to thousands. They are the ones who stand in the gap for the people by preaching God’s Word, helping provide education for children and taking care of the sick. The pastors, and their wives, are Christ incarnate in this region.

This week will be filled with teaching, worship and fellowship. Justice & Mercy International pays for most of the cost–the pastors make very little money and they do pay a very small fee to come, but then JMA (Justice & Mercy Amazon) covers the rest, which is a huge portion of it. We do everything to make sure this will be a week where the attendees feel renewed, encouraged and appreciated. This is their only “vacation,” and we want them to feel special. We provide all the meals, supplies, and send them home with materials for the adults and children in their churches & villages.

God has blessed us with a wonderful team from the States to teach, minister and love:

  • Mike Minter, Senior Pastor of Reston Bible Church, and myself teach the men.
  • Kelly Minter and Angela Thomas (both Kelly and Angela are Bible Study teachers and authors) teach the women.
  • Leo Ahlstrom, Rolling Hills Community Church Worship Pastor, and a team from a church in Manaus, Brazil lead the Worship times.
  • Breakout sessions dealing with specific topics are led by:
    • David Shedd, Recently retired head of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
    • Jim Rabelhofer, Lead Pastor of Business Operations at RHCC
    • Mike Myers, Family & Children’s Pastor at Reston Bible Church
    • Harold & Regina Pinto, grew up in Brazil and are both inspiring spiritual leaders
    • Heather Crane, Leading women studies on the PGA and at the Next Door
  • Mary Katharine Hunt, Executive Director of JMI, Francie Leslie, JMA Board President, and Kari Bidwell, Logistics coordinator for JMI, make it all happen.
  • And, Sarah Rodrigues, National Director for Justice & Mercy Amazon works with the pastors throughout the year bringing mission teams, food bags and support to their work.

This is truly a team effort. It takes all of us here, and all of you back at home! Thank you to so many of you who sponsor pastors through JMI. As a sponsor myself and seeing how $40 a month is being used here, I can tell you that your contribution is making a huge difference! Also, thank you to those of you who tithe at Rolling Hills Community Church and Reston Bible Church – a percentage of what you give goes to help make this happen. And, last but not least, thank you to all of those who pray. Prayer is powerful! We are seeing God transform lives for Christ here in the Amazon through your prayers. We are all a part of something very special.

I ask that you continue praying for our team and all the pastors attending the conference this week.

Together, we are seeing God change the world!

Pastor's Conference

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Pastor’s Conference in the Amazon

This weekend, I will be leaving for our annual Justice & Mercy International Pastor’s Conference in the Amazon. We have a dedicated team going there to pour into these servants of the Gospel. I appreciate your prayers during this upcoming week of travel and ministry. We have pastors coming from all over the jungle to learn how to better lead in their villages, churches and families. These faithful men and women of God will go back and impact so many lives for Christ.

Let me share an example of some of the challenges many of the attendees face and conquer to be a part of this conference. This is an email from Sarah Rodrigues, our National Director of Justice & Mercy Amazon:

From: Sarah Rodrigues
2/11/16, 11:00:24 AM

Today I woke up with a message from a pastor who has been traveling for four days to arrive at the conference.
“Dear brothers, God be praised!!! We arrived in Novo Airão today in the morning after traveling on the river. The river is very dry and very difficult. Stranded boats on the beach and stuck in banks. We did not know the river we were on, a small canal in Semiraita, and we went around several times, completely lost. God saw our struggle to navigate and provided a vessel that was traveling to Manaus and we followed them. It has been a five-day trip. We were praying for God to multiply the diesel that we are to use much more than expected.. God kept us from drifting away. Cleide (his wife) now is much better by the grace of my and our good God!! however we were very sad with the fact that a thief entered her mother’s house when they were sleeping and took 350 reais and her bag with all the medicine we had bought for the treatment and other things. That is in God’s hand. And by his grace, nothing will happen to her and her mother and relatives. My brothers, through your prayers God has delivered us from evil. Pray that we can buy her medicine; that is what we are asking God now. Peace.”

What a perfect example of passion and commitment to Christ as well as the desire to grow in leadership. The river water level is much lower than usual for this time of year and may cause similar travel problems for other pastors. Please pray for God to make a way for all those that He wants to be there next week. We have 112 people signed up and 78 of those have double-confirmed. Please pray that they all make it.

Thank you for your prayers for all of us. I love and appreciate each of you.

Godspeed as we share the love of Christ with the nations…

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Clarinha

One of our Mission Teams returned from the Amazon this week. When asking one of the team members about a couple of trip highlights, he told me about all the work they did on the John Pac Center – our Justice & Mercy International (JMI) community center in the middle of the Amazon that ministers to about 29 villages. They painted, cleaned gutters, and cleared brush for a new soccer field. Then, he told me about unveiling our Children’s Sponsorship Program in a nearby village called Terra Preta with a big celebration and prayer time. But, even over all that, what stood out to me most was his description of one incredible scene…possibly because it reminded me a little of what heaven might look like.

Unknown-2Two years ago, Mary Katharine Hunt (Executive Director for JMI) and Kelly Minter traveled with me to a small village to meet a woman in her mid-twenties with Cerebral Palsy. Clarinha lived in a hammock in a small house just off of the Amazon River. For years, her mother had faithfully taken care of her, even when her father left. They lived in a small village, and over the years the entire village has adopted Clarinha as their own. On that first visit, I watched as Mary Katharine and Kelly loved on Clarinha and her mom in a very special way. We all sat on the floor around Clarinha, who was smiling ear-to-ear, as Kelly played guitar and sang Clarinha’s favorite songs. I remember Kelly commenting that of all the places and stages in the world that she had performed on, this was the one where she felt closest to Jesus. We gave the family food bags, and prayed the sweetest prayers over this precious child of God. You could clearly see how much Mary Katharine and Kelly loved Clarinha and how much Clarinha loved them. And, you could truly feel the Presence of God with “the least of these.”

Unknown-3The following year, someone donated a new wheelchair for Clarinha. Although it was quite a challenge to get to her, it ultimately became a huge blessing in her life. What a difference this made! Clarinha could sit up, which made it easier for feeding and allowed her to be in a new position throughout the day. Now, however, the challenge became taking Clarinha anywhere outside the home – the ground was so sandy and soft that the wheelchair could not roll.

Then, in February 2015, at our annual Pastor’s Conference in the Amazon, many of our leaders took on the challenge of building a boardwalk from Clarinha’s house to the little church building in their village. Although this sounded easy, it was quite a daunting task. The building was about 300 yards from Clarinha’s house and all the wood and logs had to be transported in by boat. Alas, after six full days of hard work, the boardwalk was built! Now, Clarinha’s mom was able to roll her daughter all the way through their village to church. Clarinha could worship, sing and experience the Presence of God with those in her village.

During this most recent trip, it was Clarinha’s birthday. In all of her years, she had never had a birthday party, and so our Mission Team decided to change that! Armed with cake, ice cream and popcorn, our team threw what they called “the biggest surprise birthday party the Amazon had ever seen” for Clarinha and her entire village. Everyone was brought to the John Pac Center by boat, and the all had an awesome celebration. This was the first time that some of the children in the village even had ice cream and, like any child around the world, they loved it! The party also had a movie-showing of “The Prince of Egypt” in Portuguese.

IMG_3184Jesus told a story about a shepherd leaving the 99 to go after the one. I believe that Clarinha is the one. With all the great work Justice & Mercy International is doing in the Amazon – the 14 schools, the John Pac Community Center, the child sponsorships, food bags – maybe God called us here just for Clarinha. Or, maybe it was for her mother, who desperately needs the encouragement and support. Or, maybe for the village that had supported Clarinha all these years. Or, maybe it was for the one, like Clarinha, that God will lead us to in another village. You see, I truly believe we see Jesus in the heart of the poor. We see Jesus when we “Make Justice Personal.” We see Jesus at a surprise birthday party in the Amazon. We see Jesus in Clarinha.

September 10 Video – Amazon from Rolling Hills on Vimeo.

 

Pastors’ Conference in the Amazon

They come from villages throughout the region. Pastors, young and old, along with their wives, canoe for days in order to learn and grow their ministry. These are some of the most incredibly kind and committed men and women I have ever met. And, their stories are amazing! They love Jesus so much, and they serve in one of the most challenging places in the world – the Amazon!

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The Pastors

Pastors like Diegou. This pastor’s village is located on the Amazon near Peru and Columbia. He heard about the conference and he has always wanted training to help him lead his church and family. He has 6 children and 2 grandchildren. He ministers in a village where he has about 50 adults in his church and over 60 kids. When Sarah, our National Director for Justice & Mercy Amazon, contacted him, he responded that he wanted to come, but didn’t have the money. She told him that we would cover his cost if he could just get to Manaus. He prayed because he did not have the money for the boat ride to Manaus. It is 170 heias (about $65) for a boat from his village to Manuas (it takes about 3 days to arrive and 5 days for the return trip, since it is going against the current). The boat stops at different villages and carries over 800 people. He prayed about what to do, and he heard God say, “Go fishing.” So, he took his brother and went fishing. That day they caught enough fish to put in baggies and sell in the market. They had 20 baggies of fish which they sold for 10 heias each. He said, “God gave me to the money for the boat and 30 heias more!” He was so excited! I marveled at his faith and commitment. I asked him at the end of the week if it was worth it, and he responded, “More than worth it. It is the best I have ever experienced. I can’t wait to take all God has taught me this week back to my family, church and village. My cup is full.” Then, I asked him, “How are you getting home?” He responded, “I don’t know. But, I believe God will provide!” God did provide, through the generosity of others.

Pastors like Lazaro. This pastor grew up with his dad as a tribal witch doctor. As a young boy he would cut himself and perform demonic rituals. His dad ultimately died, and four women in his community began inviting him to church. He was a young teenager and his life was filled with drugs and satanic ceremonies. But, these women keep praying and inviting. He went to church one week, but he grew so physically sick when he walked in that he had to leave. He threatened to burn the church down, but the women kept praying. One day, God broke into his life. He went to the church, and his eyes were opened to the Truth. He committed his life to Christ and told God he would do whatever he called him to do. A couple of years later, he felt God calling him into the ministry and he started to pray more and more fervently. God would place people in his village on this heart, and he would go tell them about Jesus. At 11:45 am one day he was praying, and God told him to go to this man’s house. He was known to be a harsh man, but Lazaro went. The man opened the door and yelled at Lazaro to leave. The next day, at the same time, God said again, “Go to this man’s house.” He went, and this time the man opened the door and put a gun in his face and told him to leave. The next day, at the exact same time, God told Lazaro to go again. This time, the man grabbed Lazaro and pulled him inside. He said he would cut him up in little pieces if he ever came back again. Lazaro said, “Okay. But, before I leave, let me ask you – God, keeps telling me to come to you every day at this time. Can you tell me why?” The man looks at Lazaro, and then breaks down crying. He said, “For the last 3 days, I have been trying to kill myself at this time and you keep showing up. I guess God really does care.” The man gave his life to Christ. And, Lazaro, is the pastor in this village.

Pastors like Gutenburg. Gutenburg had a terrible life growing up. No father. Drugs, gangs and life on the street. He was arrested multiple times. Finally, he found himself in the hardest prison of Brazil. In prison, he heard about Jesus, but he harden his heart to Christ. One day in prison, there was a knife fight between him and another guy. He remembers the knife fight, and the next thing he remembers is waking up in the morge. The mortician screamed when Gutenburg sat up and looked at him. He had been dead for a few days. He was transferred to a medical center and subsequently released from prison. He committed his life to Jesus, and is now pastoring in very poor and difficult area of the jungle – an area known for drugs and sex trafficking. Because of his background, God is using him to impact many of the hardest criminals for Christ.

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These pastors, along with many other pastors and wives, assembled at the John Pac Center in the middle of the Amazon for a time of teaching, learning, prayer and renewal. The John Pac Center is owned by Justice & Mercy Amazon (a ministry of Justice & Mercy International) and is used to service the needs of pastors and villages in the Amazon. Along with 15 schools, two boats and an indigenous staff team, our God is using JMA to impact this part of the world for His glory.IMG_2275

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Our Team

We were blessed with an incredible team to teach and serve these awesome men and women of God. People like Kelly Minter (author of “Wherever the River Runs” and Women’s Bible Teacher), George Mhondero (Worship Leader from the UK), Mary Katharine Hunt (Executive Director of Operations for JMI), Rachel Trammel (JMI Sponsorship Director), Francie (Chairman of the JMA Board), Mike & Kay Minter, Mike Weagle, Mike & Patricia Myers (Reston Bible Church in Washington D.C.), Leo Alhstrom, Chase Baker, Harold Pinto and myself (Rolling Hills); Julie Dewee (Videographer & fellow supporter of the ministry), Winston (a great pastor from Manaus), Alex (a Brazilian evangelist), and our Justice & Mercy Amazon Staff Team.

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The Conference runs from Monday evening through Friday morning. We teach sessions throughout the entire day. From theology sessions – this year, “Grace vs. Works” – to practical leadership – this year, “Developing and Multiplying Leaders,” to break-out sessions on worship and preaching. The conference really is top-notch. We try to make it as good as any conference here in the States. The days are completely full and everyone gives their all teaching as well as learning. The nights are powerful, inspirational and filled with encouragement for these pastors and wives.

As Pastor Mike Minter says, “We go to teach them theology, doctrine and how to do church. They teach us about Jesus.” These men and women have little to no money. They sacrifice everything for the calling of Christ. They truly love Jesus and the people in their village with all their heart.

The Need

One pastor’s wife thanked us so much for the bar of soap we gave out. She said that they do not have soap in their village. One wife told us that she borrowed the nicest clothes from all our neighbors in order to look her best for the conference. Many talked about when the Amazon floods (5 months out to the year) and how this impacts their church and community. They talked about the water coming into the church, the problem with snakes and having to take canoes around because the roads are covered. Then, they told us about the clean-up from the receding waters and the erosion of the church buildings, and even their own homes.

Yet, through all the struggles, they never complain. They continually say what a joy it is to serve the Lord. They talk about the people who are coming to know Christ and the difference they are seeing in their village. They pray with passion and thanksgiving.

Impacting one pastor ultimately transforms hundreds in a village and thousands through the generations. These pastors are the gateway to the villages and to the entire Amazon region. They let us know about special needs children in their area. They share with us who needs food bags. They meet the physical and spiritual needs of so many.

 

The Human Chain

One of my personal highlights from this year was the human chain. Feeding 80+ people 3 meals a day in the middle of the jungle for the week is not an easy task. So much food has to be brought in by boat. The other challenge is that the John Pac Center sits on top of a hill about 100 feet. There are close to a 100 steps to the center at a 45-degree angle. It is steep!

Our team arrived before the pastors and their wives in order to set up the center. We brought up the sound system, established the office, registration center, kitchen and more. When the pastor and wives arrived, we went down to welcome them and to begin the long haul of bringing up the food, water and supplies. The task was overwhelming. There was so much, and it was steaming hot out in the jungle.

However, what happened was amazing! A human chain began to form. The pastors and their wives saw what was happening, and they wanted to help. From the boat on the Amazon River to the top of the 100 steps, we formed a human chain. Those of us from the States and the UK intermingled with jungle pastors and wives as well as more well-off volunteers from churches in the city of Manuas. We started passing up cans of food from one person to the next. Bottles of water, chairs, tables, fruits, vegetables and even a grill all came up the human chain. It was hot and the boxes were heavy. Yet, through the sweat, there were smiles. For over an hour, we worked and it set the tone for the week. We are all in this together. All loving Jesus and called to a ministry of service. Learning from one another. Everyone is important and needed. This is the Body of Christ!

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Foot washing

The last night we had an awesome experience. We had an amazing worship time followed by Alex sharing an encouraging word from Luke 10. After this, I read from John 13 about Jesus showing His disciples the full extent of His love by washing the disciples feet. We told the pastors, and their wives, that we wanted to wash their feet. This was one of the most powerful times we had all ever seen. These pastors could not believe it. The men, of our team, washed the pastor’s feet while the women, of our team, washed the pastor’s wives feet. They wept. No one had ever served them like this. They sobbed. It was transformational and honoring all at the same time. God overwhelmed us with His Presence, and none of us will ever be the same.

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How you can help:

  1. Pray for these pastors and their wives. They are on the front lines of ministry. God is using them in an incredible way, and lives throughout the Amazon region are being impacted for Christ. Pray as they return to their families, churches and villages to love and serve those in the Name of Jesus.
  2. Sponsor a pastor or a child in the Amazon through JMI. Your donation will make a huge difference! This Pastor’s Conference is not cheap, and it happens because of generous people like you. You can go to www.justiceandmercy.org to find out more.
  3. Go on a mission trip to the Amazon. The region is beautiful, and the people even more. As you share the love of Christ with others, your life will be changed. Come experience what only God can do! Our God is at work in the Amazon – thank you for joining Him!

Jungle Pastor’s Conference in the Amazon

Brazil- Boat on AmazonI recently returned from being in the Amazon. We hosted a Pastor’s Conference for Jungle Pastors of villages throughout the region.These pastors are amazing! It took many of them days in their canoe to come to our Community Center (the John Pac Center) for the conference. Can you imagine weeks in a canoe? Sleeping and eating just to hear more about Christ, His Word and how to be a better pastor of the Gospel? Many people in the States will not even come to church in their air conditioned car if it is raining outside.

As with any mission trip, we go to serve and yet we are the ones who are transformed in the process. Seeing the passion and commitment of these pastors and their wives was inspiring. For instance, Pastor Cosme. Pastor Cosme told of preaching one Sunday when the river was at flood stage. The people gathered in the church, sitting on planks near the roof, because the water was so high. Pastor Cosme held his Bible in one hand and killed 10 snakes with the machete that was in his other hand. In the States, sometimes we complain if it is too cold in church, but at least there is no snakes!

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jeff-brazil-pastors2Then there was Pastor Delmo. When asked what he needs to do even greater ministry, Pastor Delmo and his wife responded, “Transportation. There is an Indian tribe several hours from our village that have never heard about Jesus. We want to go share Christ with them.” Then they added, “We heard that they ate a priest who went, but we know someone needs to tell them about Christ.” They ate a priest! And, you still want to go? There was Pastor Gnome who cleaned toilets during the week in Manaus, so he would have enough money to go pastor his church in the village on Saturday and Sunday. Wow!

I fell in love with these pastors. Their commitment to Christ is so authentic and contagious. Jeff-brazil-conference As Mike Minter, the Pastor of Reston Bible Church, who was with us said, “We teach them theology and the Bible, while they teach us Jesus.” I love this. So many times we measure spiritual growth simply by knowledge, but these Pastors (many of who have never been to seminary or Bible college) demonstrate an incredible spiritual maturity. Jesus took “ordinary, unschooled men” (Acts 4:13), and changed the world. It is truly “Christ in me, the Hope of glory;” God’s Holy Spirit working in us and through us. Mike Minter inspired me as well. He has pastored Reston Bible Church for over 40 years! And, here he is in the Amazon, at the age of 69, teaching pastors. He could be retired on a golf course, but he knows God is not finished with him (and the word “retirement” is not in the Bible).

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The Amazon is beautiful and enormous. It has been called “the lungs of the earth.” Somehow you feel so alive when you are there. Maybe it was the large sloth outside our room hanging in the tree or the jungle sounds that lulled you to sleep at night. Maybe it is the dolphin you see or the incredible amount of stars because there are no lights. Everything is so beautiful and majestic. You truly feel like you are in another world, and God is very close.

We went to several villages to deliver food bags, to love on the people and to assess the Jeff-brazil-girlschools. For the past three years, we have sent mission teams from our church to the Amazon. Last year, John Pac gave all the assets – the Community Center, 14 schools, the Discovery Boat, Staff – to JMI (Justice & Mercy International). I have seen the pictures and heard the stories, but this was my first time to experience it myself. $1,000 will pay for a school teacher for an entire year. $50 will provide a food bag that will feed a family for a month. $150 will pay a pastor’s salary for a month. For more information, visit justiceandmercyamazon.org.

I saw it, felt it and tasted it, and it is good. I saw Clorena’s, a 38 year-old woman with cerebral palsy. Clorena lives with here mother and siblings in a two-room shack in the middle of the Amazon. No electricity and no running water. Clorena spends most of her life in a hammock in the middle of their home. Yet, when Mary Katharine Hunt (our Ex. Director of Operations for JMI) and Kelly Minter entered her village, she lit up. She smiled, laughed, and thrashed in her hammock with joy. Kelly pulled out her guitar, sat on the floor by Clorena and sang her the most beautiful song. This is where Jesus works, and this is life-change for us all.

Jesus is among the poor, the brokenhearted, the lonely and the forgotten. We go to help people – and we do – food bags, medical care, education (building schools) and more. But, in the process, we are the ones who are helped the most. Helped to see that life is not all about materialism, schedules, and things of this world, but that God is present with us all. Present with the forgotten and present when we step out in faith to be His hands and feet.Jeff-brazil-worship

I love what God is doing through JMI and through His church here at Rolling Hills. It is an amazing ministry of love and grace. Lives are being helped and transformed by the Spirit of Christ. Come and see. Come be a part, and experience what only God can do. You will go to give and God will use you. However, you will be changed in the process. You will become more like Christ, and somehow I pray, we all all become more like a Jungle Pastor. May our faith, commitment and love grow exponentially.