May 2019 Puerto Rico update from Christel and James

 

A few notes from LCMS Missionaries, James & Christel

This month we had the opportunity of being a part of some of the first steps of an infant congregation into maturity. We had our first annual domino tournament, a chance for congregation members to share fellowship and laughter and spend time together. Every week we gather around God’s Word and receive His forgiveness and mercy, as well as His Body and Blood. We dug in deep into the scriptures and explored the mystery of the Trinity in our first theological intensive class, as well as launching the 3-year journey of learning how the entire Bible points to Christ with weekly Bible courses laying the foundation for next month’s study on Genesis. We worked together as a congregation to solve an issue with our government permit status, and members of the Body of Christ worked side by side to install smoke-detectors, exit-signs and emergency lighting all over our rented facility. We did community outreach for mothers-day, and celebrated the mothers in our own congregation, we celebrated birthdays, a baptism, and we reached out into the community through an art workshop. Slowly but surely, congregational life is taking shape.

One of our goals for the month was to begin forming congregational leadership by forming a council, and some of the members at Fuente de Vida asked me, why would we need a council if we are so small? They are right of course, if you go back over the previous paragraph with photos, you’ll see only a handful of people gathering in a small space in an area of urban decay. If we succeed in putting together a congregational council, it will consist of almost the entire congregation! Our offerings often do not go beyond $60 in a month. Nevertheless in preparation for a larger burden of administration, we want to put in place the mechanisms for that administration from the beginning.

This month, we had the opportunity to serve a woman who lives close to church with materials for a new roof, as hers was damaged in the hurricane. The funds for the materials came from LCMS Disaster Response, the mercy arm of a mature church body about to celebrate their second century of national conventions in Florida.  The same month, we had a visit from a short-term team of volunteers from Emmanuel in Fort Wayne, a large congregation with a long history. The members at Fuente de Vida were amazed to see what a mature congregation like Emmanuel looks like, even as I assured them that at one time, congregations in the United States were as small as Fuente de Vida is.

At the end of the month, the congregation put on its first monthly mercy event, using funds from our meager offerings and operating budget to serve outside of our own walls, and the congregation chose to serve the same woman, Edith, that our older and bigger sister in the United States provided help to, this time with replacing rotted plywood walls. The project was a tenth of the cost of the first and was done by a handful of volunteers from a tiny congregation on financial subsidy from the mission, and yet I believe in that mercy project is an incredible truth to reflect on for this month.

As much as we talk of planting a new congregation, in God’s eyes there is no difference around the world when He looks at His church. Big or small, old or young, the Church is the place where the Body and Blood of Christ is present, where those who have been redeemed and washed gather to receive Him, and where they go out into the world to share the good news with a hurting world! This is true of your congregation as well. We have much work ahead to bring stability and maturity to this new body of believers, yet at the same time we already have all the marks of the church. Where Christ is present, there is His church. Praise God that Christ is present in Ponce, Puerto Rico!

PERMISOS, or permits, are just as much a part of Puerto Rico as you would find in the mainland. In order to do anything really, you need a permit. We as a church are no different. Over these last two months we have been working as a congregation to be up to fire and health codes. 
As frustrating as it might be, dealing with a very old, historical building, high prices for electrical and plumbing certifications, we have all learned more about how the system works and have met some great people along the way. We ask for your prayers that we meet with the inspector this next week!

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We had the pleasure of receiving Emmanuel, Fort Wayne this last week to Ponce. We spent the morning at one of the residential communities sharing Psalm devotionals with a coinciding Psalm prayer card designed by Lizz Warren. 

Judy May from Emmanuel led us in different techniques of coloring and praying for specific people. One of the main ideas with prayer cards is that you pray while color, paint, etc. and then you give that card to the person you prayed for.

We have some more Spanish resources available here. Lizz and I hope to have more soon. It’s such a blessing to see the ideas we had a while back now become very tangible and a gift to our ministry here.

Support our ministry

Prayers:

  • We ask your prayers for the ongoing building search, especially as we reach a critical bottleneck in the process. Pray that God would soften hearts and open doors!
  • Pray for the formation of our congregational council in Ponce, that God would direct and lead the congregation to raise up leadership for the various activities of the church.
  • Pray for our newly assigned Deaconess intern, Stephanie Wilde, as she goes through the process of orientation and support raising to join us in Puerto Rico.
  • Pray for the process of attaining the proper government permits for operation of a church in Ponce.
  • Pray for our upcoming monthly activities, our congregational fellowship day, our two weeks of VBS children’s outreach, our theological intensive on Creation, our weekly Bible Study on Genesis, and our Mercy Workshop on depression.
  • Pray for the beginning of hurricane season, for the people overcome with anxiety and for our workshops and preparations. Most of all, please pray for a hurricane free year in Puerto Rico.

Become a Mission Sender

May was TIM Congregation month 🙂 It was a joy to have Emmanuel Fort Wayne, IN and Trinity Culver, IN with us. They were able to spend a day in Ponce sharing in ministry activities with us. We are so thankful for their prayers and support.

James is holding a banner they made for Fuente de Vida. Our first banner!

LCMS – Give Now
Mission Central – Give Now
This month we said good-bye to my (Christel) pre-school teacher, Sunday school director, VBS coordinator, mentor, mission trip leader, you name it, she did it, Mrs. Sue Thalhammer.

We have peace in knowing that she is at true rest with her Savior. We thank God for her life and all that she served. The Lord truly used her is so many ways.

 

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