The youth in the Marabá church are starting to experiment with the DBS model. In the last couple of weeks, they started 14 new groups. Nine stopped after only one or two meetings. Five of these new groups are still going, and many of the young people are looking for other people who may be open to starting groups. Most people who try this type of a Bible study like it, but many people are simply too busy, or not ready. We are trying to honor those who start groups that stop as much as those who start groups that carry on. We have a total of about 14 groups in Marabá now that meet each week, and several who seem poised to start soon. Starting groups like planting seeds; when they don’t take, we are learning to move on and try again.
We started experimenting with the Discovery Bible Study (DBS) process in August. We grew to 23 DBS groups by Christmas. Our church started changing so rapidly the leaders became uneasy. Things started to take off in an unprecedented way and they did not have peace about where it was all going. There were other factors also that contributed to the apprehension.
In December Deanna and I left for about 6 weeks of travelling. This was a good thing. This allowed the dust to settle and the growth to slow down. When we got back 9 groups were still going. In the months following our return Ivanildo and I had some good talks at a deeper level than we have had in the past. Now the local leaders are feeling good about leading the Marabá church forward, and using this model, though there are still many questions. We are free to help here in Marabá, to start groups in new cities, and to help other churches learn the model.
Last week-end Elba invited us to introduce this DBS model to some of the Mirante church leaders. Elba is continuing with their cell group model for some of that congregation, but introducing this as their own pilot project with other leaders. This week-end I am going to Santarem to meet with Clenildo, Angelita, and some leaders in their church. Next week-end I am going to Canaã, with the goal of going there for five week-ends during April and May.
We are still waiting to see a whole Discovery Group decide to get baptized. Deanna’s lady’s group looks like they may be the first. They are 23 lessons into the first 26. I led one group through the whole 26 lessons, but they were all baptized before we started, even though they were in a lukewarm state spiritually when they started. Two of the key players in this first group experienced great disruptions in their lives during this process. Eliete’s brother died, causing weeks of travel and disruption. Then her ex-husband died, causing months of travel as she works to pursue legal rights for her children. Her teen-age son Luan was also a key person, facilitating his own DBS group and on the verge of starting yet another. It was his dad who drowned. He moved to Southern Brazil to resolve legal issues, and his groups stopped. That was months ago. The other fellows in my group were already baptized, and they continue to serve in the church. One is facilitating a new group.
I continue to be in relationship with Tiago (who was beating his wife the first time we met) and Leila, but their group has not restarted. Jaycee (“I am so sick of sin”) and Fabio are interested, but they also have not restarted. They both told me that Fabio used to be addicted to pot, but he has not had any interested since our second DBS in their house last September or October. This has been good for their family. Fabio and Tiago would both start going on missionary trips with me if I could figure out how to make that work. Maybe to Canaã? A lady in one of the Canaã groups got her wrist instantly healed during one DBS meeting. She couldn’t wash clothes. This was last Fall. In February I went back up there and it was still healed. “See. I can still wash clothes.” I am trying to figure out a way to spend more time in Canaã. A few hours once in awhile does not seem enough. I think there are four groups that will start or restart if I start showing up regularly.
Johnny (who leads a rock band) really wants to reactivate his group. They have trouble meeting without me present. Some who come do not value him as a spiritual leader. Last week they were going to meet without me, but then his Mom got really unreasonably sick with a bad attack of dengue, and they had to cancel.
It is hard to know what is spiritual warfare, and what is just part of living in a broken world. Elba invited me to come to lead some meetings in the Mirante church long ahead of time. “I’m sorry it is so far in the future, but the is the first time we can fit you in.” The meetings were to be in early March. The day we were to meet one of the beloved young fathers in their church died, and there was a funeral instead of the DBS meetings. We rebooked and did the meetings two weeks later. Clenildo and Angelita are running hard and really stretched. Still, they wanted to fit in a couple of meetings about DBS with their leaders before we leave for the summer. A few days ago they had a bad car accident. No one was seriously hurt, but there was trauma, car damage, and no insurance. I am still going to go there this week-end, just to be with them, and to see if it is a good time to have some extra meetings. I think this is Angelita’s first big car accident. Faithfulness and perseverance enable us overcome many obstacles.
One lesson I am learning is the necessity of finding ways to hang out with the various group facilitators. Once we identify group leaders, we need to find ways to hang out together. Pizza. Mission trips. Other ways. This is the most challenging part for me at this time.
In summary, we continue to learn about how this DBS process will work in our circumstances. The adventure is back in the game.