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Happy Old Year, Happy New Year

by J. Randal Matheny
Sao Jose dos Campos (SJC), Brazil

The year 2003 was chocked full of God's blessings in our family, in the congregation here in SJC, and in our work as a whole across the country.

Here are only a few of the most recent blessings and news items.

Internet Ministry Reaches Out

In December, we received this email from a former denominational elder involved in adultery:

"Today, after a long time without 'losing my time' reading the devotionals of God With Us, I decided to read. And to my surprise, I felt very clearly God speaking to me, through this email so pure, yet magnificent. My question which hangs in the air is, Do you suppose there is still hope for me?"

So we began to correspond with him, and hope to put him in touch with the brethren in his city. It's a struggle to keep the emails going and the site up, but such responses encourage us in what we do.

You can peek at our main web page here.

Support to Ministries

In recent weeks we have met with the directors of the Mt. of Olives Christian Youth Camp and the Christian Home orphanage. I continue to serve as a member of what, in English, we would call the board of directors of these two ministries which do a fine job of serving children and, each in its own way, teaching them the way of Christ.

Sermon Series Concluded

On Janary 4th, I concluded in the SJC church the three-month sermon series "Why I'm Still Just a Christian." It was very well received by the brethren, and several suggested I put it in book form, which I'm working on.

Daily Bible Reading

With Vicki's help we completed, by email, a full year's daily Bible reading in Portuguese. This email list sent out a daily reading. Quite a challenge!

For 2004, we're using a weekly selection which people can distribute according to their schedules. It provides for greater flexibility, as well as cutting down on our work to send out emails. We pray it will be as effective or more so in helping people get into the word.

This schedule is available online to be printed out, and we've offered it to the SJC church and about a dozen or more people here are following it on paper.

Ladies Weekly

In mid-December, Vicki began a weekly Bible study for the women on Thursday afternoons. The ladies have a monthly meeting on Saturdays afternoons, but this provides a more constant feeding on the Word for those women who can be present during the day. She has about 8-10 women each week. She is using the book, Conquering Your Giants, published by Gospel Advocate.

Foot Forward

On December 15th, I started a Monday night Christian growth group, that will go to the end of January. After that, we see what the possibilities are. We are working through the book of 2 Peter. About 6-8 are participating.

School of Life

In the Wednesday night groups in our house, I concluded November 19th the year-long theme on "The School of Life," a loosely organized series of Bible studies that show the application of the Word to daily life.

To round out the year, the remaining weeks I devoted to the theme "Six Times," a study of six Biblical words on time.

During 2004, we'll devote the year's study in our home group to "You Decide," highlighting decisions people made in the Bible. The first quarter will take passages from the five books of Moses.

Bible School

For the first quarter of 2004, we're joining two studies to complete the thirteen weeks in the Sunday Bible school. First, ex-missionary Joe McKinney's eight-lesson Life of Christ, based on the Beatitudes. For the first time in SJC, different brethren are rotating each week, so we're having several men to teach a Bible school class for the first time -- one more sign of the congregation's maturation.

For the last five weeks of the quarter, Jorge Santana will teach using our Bible correspondence course, "Jesus Christ, the Simple Way." He has been teaching this material in a study group of family members and friends in the city of Guaratingeta, to the east of us.

Settled in for Five Years

The SJC church got accustomed to a new location beginning in September. There are still some legal registration issues to be resolved before we can publish our address, but that should be taken care of soon.

I don't have all the figures for our pre-building attendance, but our numbers have held steady.

Sept. - 47
Oct. - 48
Nov. - 51
Dec. - 50

Rackin'em Up

Last November 28th, our family celebrated 19 years of work in Brazil. Nine of those have been devoted to the work in SJC, as of December 30th.

As we approach our 20th anniversary of work, we wonder how well our support will hold up, from congregations in the U.S. But we are confident that the Lord will provide, as he has always done before.

We welcome the Mountain Home congregation in Paragould, Ark., as the latest congregation to participate in our work. They are making up some support we're losing this year. We're grateful for their closing the gap.

Writings Here and There

I have been added as a staff writer for The Voice of Truth International (J. C. Choate Publications), a magazine with over 60,000 circulation. Also, my poems continue to be published in magazines as I have time to submit them.

At Christmas, I published for some friends and family members in pdf format a chapbook of some poems written during 2003.

Family

Micah is home from college on Christmas break. He returns January 9th to Freed-Hardeman University for his second semester. He and Joel are enjoying plenty of basketball these days.

Leila continues to perfect her flute technique and enlarge her repertoire. This year, she will move to the alto flute. Joel says he'd like to go for piano or violin.

Joel will serve as monitor for the second week of Christian camp January 17-24, for ages 11-13. This will be Leila's first time during this week, since she had gone to the first week for ages 7-10. Vicki and I will have a whole week to ourselves!

Coming Up

Several teaching trips are already lined up. Please pray the Lord will use these for good.

  • Jan. 31 - Pirituba church, Sao Paulo - Couples encounter
  • Feb. 10-13 - SerCris Training Center, Campo Grande (MS) - Short course on evangelism
  • Mar. 18-21 - Centro church, Salvador (BA) - Back to the Future (Christian doctrine)
  • Apr. - Still open, but closing fast.
Seminars at Your Service

Our family plans to be in the U.S. from mid-May through June. If your congregation would be interested in a seminar, I'll be available to teach on these: Total Transformation; Why I'm Still Just a Christian; Decisions, Decisions, Decisions!

Praise All Around

We are glad the Lord has placed us here in Brazil to serve. He uses our lives and even (maybe, especially) our weaknesses and thorns to show his strength and grace. May every work and every word be done for his glory, as together we seek to bring more and more people to his kingdom. Thanksgiving will increase, to the glory of God (2 Cor. 4:15).


BZeal focuses on the progress of the gospel in Brazil and around the world. Please share this email with friends.

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