Disciple Making Movements Update

The Marabá Church had a training event about Discovery Groups. This group is wiser now. They have tried some things that worked a bit, and other things that didn’t work out as they hoped.

Two things I especially love about Discovery Group training:

1. It is easier for the trainer, because rather than prepare lessons, you ask the group to study a certain Bible text.

* What does it say?
* What does it mean?
* How will I respond?
* Who will I talk to about this?

2. It is easier for the group. When someone talks too long (yawn) the group gets restless. Soon there are several secret conversations going on in the background and their social media friends continue to lure them away. When individuals are engaged discovering truth from the Bible with a few friends, the study is much more enjoyable. And there is life-giving energy in the room.

Win / Win.

The Fish Project

Ivanildo put another 1,000 fingerlings in our pond . . . and then the guy threw in three more scoops of the fingernail sized fish. Here in this photo they are already several weeks old and have grown considerably. Ivanildo is planning to have them ready for market at Easter 2018. Brazilians love fish at Easter.


Discipline is like going to the store with cash in our pocket. We use it get what we want.

“Discipline your children.”
“What disciplines are you majoring in?”
“I am not disciplined enough to lose weight.”
“What spiritual disciplines are part of your life right now?”

“Discipline is doing what you don’t want to do for a result that you want” (Michael Hyatt?).

The opposite is also true. Not having discipline will get you results that you do not want.

God wants us to use discipline to develop new habits to get the good things He has in store for us.

Geice e Fábio

In 2015 I was out running at the break of dawn, far from traffic or people, when a motorbike drove up and stopped in front of me. A couple jumped off the bike, and the man started violently beating his wife. Long story short, I started a Discovery Group with them and we quickly became friends. When I first met them they had a two-month-old baby girl, Ana Yssis. Tiago had a very nice side to him but he didn’t know how to work through frustrations well, and he had developed some bad habits, like armed robbery. In spite of this I heard that he was the most beloved and youngest son in his family. Tiago was shot and killed about a month ago, leaving behind three children and two broken relationships.

Tiago’s sister-in-law and family attended the first couple of Discovery Groups with Tiago, but then they quit. When I asked them why Geice told me it was because Tiago was involved in bad stuff and if the police came she did not want to be in the room.

Last night Geice, Fabio, and I went together to a Baptist Church that has helped over 100 couples get married this year. I signed as the testimony to their marriage. This has been a process of many months. In our conversations Geice told me that she had opened a bible and started reading, and it was the same text as that first Discovery Group. She remembered the story and the Discovery Group atmosphere over two years later “where you can just say whatever you want, because I’m not good at keeping my mouth shut”. Sometimes seeds lie dormant for a long time. Please pray with me that God will bless Geice and Fabio and their family like never before, and that they will start Discovery Groups with their friends.

Mabely is a live wire.

Baby John. Fabio and Geice have four daughters between the two of them. All daughters. The first three ultrasounds all indicated they were having another daughter. And out came John.

Hannah, in the background, has a super sweet spirit. May God bless her and protect her, and fulfill His plans for her.

Ana Yssis is Geice and Fabio’s beloved niece, one of the children that Tiago left behind. She was two months old when I first met them. There are so many unfair things in this world, so I am praying for an unfair amount of blessings to protect and raise up Ana Yssis. We know that God specializes in this sort of thing.

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. Psalm 68:5

Bárbara, Fabio, Geice, João, Mabely, and Hannah.

They are a lively crew with rarely a quiet moment, unless they are all sleeping.

A Real Puzzler

When you think of people who do not know Jesus, what do you feel?

i) Hopeless, like you are losing a cultural war
ii) Anger at their activities
iii) Envious of their freedom
iv) Frustrated at their unhealthy choices
v) Nothing. They are non-people
vi) Compassion because of their lostness
vii) Other ?

Awhile back I was doing a Discovery Group in a dimly lit house. They had one 20 watt light bulb. I read the Bible I brought with the light from my cell phone. Some of the reasons for their poverty was because of their unhealthy choices. During our second meeting one lady said, “I am so tired of this life. I am tired of the drinking, the smoking, the drugs, all of it.” I was encouraged. But the next week this lady and her husband did not come to the meeting. Nor the next week. Finally I asked them what had happened. “Thiago (her brother-in-law) who is leading this group is into some bad stuff. If the cops come we will all be implicated. We don’t want to be around him anymore.” While this reason is logical, this couple did not want to start their own group either. So I let it go, but I still stop in to say hi occasionally. During one of these visits my friends told me more of their story. Her husband loved to smoke pot. He used up all his wages so her and their three small children often went hungry. After that Discovery Group meeting her husband never smoked pot again. He was standing right there. “I never wanted to again.” Six months later, it’s all still true. They don’t want a Discovery Group, and the husband still doesn’t like pot. A few things changed though. They got legally married, and asked me to be the testimony / best man. And she is giving birth to their fourth child this month.

The original group, with the violent brother-in-law, continued for awhile before disbanding because they moved back to his mom’s house. The environment there was not conducive to a group so they asked me to wait until they were in their own place again. In the meantime I did an Immanuel Prayer session with him. Thiago easily found Jesus in a positive memory. They were in the back of a 5-ton flatbed truck coming in from a village when the truck his a huge bump. His cousin flew over the side so Tiago grabbed him in such a way that he lost his balance, so his mom pulled them both back into the back of the big truck. Jesus was in the back of the truck with them, laughing. He could describe Jesus, and see the expression on His face. “So what was good about that memory?” His response was immediate. “The adventure.”

I told him, “Tiago, you have no idea of the many adventures God has planned for you.”

Still, we never could get a Discovery Group going again. We continued to meet every few months. We were always going to start just a little in the future. Tiago’s dad left their family when he was three. His mom never did forgive the dad, who lives with someone else in a neighboring town. Tiago was affected by this, for sure. It shaped who he became, though he is still responsible for his choices as an adult. This week-end I am travelling. I just got word that Tiago was shot and killed. I am really sad. I think God is sad too. It seemed to me like Tiago was so close to the Kingdom of God.

Jesus instructs us in Luke 10 to let go of the people and groups that are not ready, so that we have more time to find and help people who are ready to receive Jesus. This is difficult, because as we get to know people’s stories, we realize they are so close to a much better life. Jesus Himself was motivated by compassion for lost people. I realize that many people are not suffering quite to the extent of Tiago and his family, but that is even more difficult for these people to recognize their need for God. Jesus says the gospel improves our life in this age and in the age to come (Luke 18:29-30). What need can God possibly meet in your friend’s lives? Everyone is poor in some ways. It might be financial, social, mental, physical, or spiritual. When we look for People of Peace with the intent of preparing them to receive Jesus’ in their home we are 1) obeying Jesus, 2) helping people meet their needs, and 3) lining up with our purpose in life. It is satisfying. To do this in the most efficient way possible, we spend the most time with the people who are the most ready.

When I think of people who do not know Jesus I feel like I am asking the question, “Would you rather be poor and sick, or rich and healthy.” Or “would you like to suffer for nothing, or would you prefer to suffer for a boss who pays huge and eternal rewards for suffering?” I can see my friends thoughtfully pondering these questions like they are real puzzlers.

What is your attitude towards non-Christians?

São Paulo

In May (2017) Clenildo and I spent several days in São Paulo because of our Yellow Fever cards. Clenildo made use of this time to renew acquaintances with a friend from his childhood. Basilio and his wife Tatianne drove us around and helped us get our documents in order.Belem Sunset

In September 2017, Deanna and I spent an evening with Basilio, Tatianne, and some church leaders, to introduce the ideas of Discovery Groups, Disciple Making Movements and Immanuel Prayer.

Tatianne, Raquel, Deanna, Fernanda (Raquel’s daughter), Evaldo, Katianne, and Jacqueline (the 2-yr-old).

Tatianne and Basilio pulled out all the stops and prepared a big bar-be-que supper.

Fernanda and Deanna

Raquel, Basilio, Tatianne, Deanna, and Rick.
Raquel and Mario (who is taking this photo) are working together to plant a neighborhood church.

Innovation and Legacy?

Innovation: In 2008 we innovated a new way to establish a regional church-planting hub here in Marabá. It was risky and involved a retreat center in a disadvantaged community. So far it is not produced the results we are looking for, at least not at the speed we were hoping for. Rather, it sometimes feels like we are on the outside of the circle of the real results. I am young enough to keep pursuing innovation, and I am grateful for the health of the mission and churches as a larger organization. But what if I had been 60 or 70 when I moved to Marabá? Would I have been as willing to risk innovation? And what if my new, risky, innovative concepts did not work? Would I feel like a failure?

Legacy: On the other hand I remember the church I grew up in. Back in the 1980s there was a season when most of the young people left to join an innovative new church movement which was just starting up. Thinking about this now, I suspect the pillars of the older more-traditional type of church wanted to retain their legacy for future generations. They did not want to risk innovation. Safety, not Risk. When I came home from the Yukon the church was full of old people and adolescents. Most of the teens, young adults, and young families had migrated.

Think about the Old Testament elders at the city gates. The young people do the work and have the culturally relevant and creative ideas. The elders weigh in and point out danger zones. I wonder if God was designing an adaptive community to be a combination of Innovation AND Legacy?

“Clarify and cling to our core convictions and let go of everything else that keeps us from being effective in the mission God has given us” (Bolsinger, T., p. 46).

“This is what adaptive leadership is all about: hanging on to the healthiest, most valuable parts of our identity in life and letting go of those things that hinder us from living and loving well”(p 101).


Bolsinger, T., (2015) Canoeing the mountains: Christian leadership in uncharted territory, InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.


In 2007 I was doing a survey trip with Clenildo. When we got to Marabá he wanted to look up a young girl named Aline who used to go to his church hundreds of kms away. When we moved to Marabá we drove an hour before and after church to bring her to our meetings. Eventually Aline moved closer and became the Youth Pastor. Then Eliel joined the leadership team. They modeled godly dating and marriage for the young people in our neighborhood.

This week their second baby was born. Eric.

Aline and Nicolas (the big brother)

Next Gen Missionaries?

The 25 prisoners in the cell we got to are from many different states. Some have committed crimes years ago. Many do not have anyone who comes to visit them, to encourage them, to bring them new sandals, or clothes, or basic hygiene supplies.

When I realized I would be away for several weeks and no one from our church would visit them, I prepared an 8 week plan with the 3-column Bible studies and offered a hygiene kit to those who completed all the lessons. When I got back from Africa seven guys had completed the studies. But there was quite a turnover too. Several men were transferred in or out. Eliel suggested that because it felt like those who completed the studies did them out of a hunger for God, we give everyone hygiene kits. Tuesday we went to the grocery store. Two bars of personal soap, two bars of laundry soap, a toothbrush, toothpaste, and two disposable razors. We also bought a few chocolates and 7 cans of aerosol deodorant as extras for the guys who completed the studies. Thursday we gave them to the prison director. We discovered the aerosol deodorant we bought was in metal canisters. This in not allowed because the guys might use these metal cans to commit suicide. We gave the aerosol spray to the guards. The director said that after we were gone he would call the guys out and hand out the kits one by one to avoid mass confusion. He is a Christian and sympathetic to our cause. He later WhatsApped me and said that was a really good day for those prisoners. They were very happy. Staying as clean as possible is one way these guys try to preserve their eroded dignity.

Thank you to those who pray and give to make this possible.

If God captures the hearts of these guys, and if they catch on to the idea of Discovery Groups, they will go from here to all over Brazil with the gospel.

Then there will be next steps, like forming these groups into gatherings or churches.

I am ready to get to the next steps.

“Hunger is the best spice.”