On Wednesday, March 27, 2019, Kraig Bledsoe and I left Cincinnati on a 33-day pastoral trip to visit prospective members, baptize two new disciples of Jesus Christ and visit congregations in Brazil and Angola. Throughout the trip we can only thank God our loving Father and His beloved Son for all the protection and blessings that occurred.
Our first stop was Três Rios in the state of Rio de Janeiro where we visited a prospective member. This young man has been in contact with me with many questions and I have been counseling him for baptism using video conferencing capabilities. I hope and pray that he may be ready to be baptized soon. After that, on the Sabbath, we met with 18 people in a neighboring town of Rio de Janeiro. There we held the first Sabbath service in Rio. Seven of those in attendance showed interest to meet more regularly on the Sabbath. We had a follow-up Sabbath gathering with these brethren just before Pentecost. We sincerely pray this development may bear more fruit so that we may be able to open up a Feast site near Rio for 2020. Please pray for this positive outcome.
After that, we visited Emerson Menezes and his son Kevim in Canoas, a city in south Brazil. Kevim is very interested in attending ABC. Kraig, who is an alumnus, had long chats with him about ABC. Subsequently we went to Brasília where we met, among others, a young couple who has decided to commit to keep the Sabbath and with whom I am having baptism counseling sessions over video conferencing. They are excited to learn the truth and have been listening to sermons in Portuguese every Sabbath since.
The next Sabbath we were with 43 of the brethren in Maloca de Moscow. During that weekend we baptized Nayara Isaac (previously Souza) who has been attending services for a number of years. We also visited the LifeNets cattle which are doing a lot better than they were before and better than the other cattle in the region. Kraig, who has worked with cattle, gave some suggestions on the types of salt and minerals to give the cattle. The brethren have already implemented these suggestions.
From there we went to São Paulo where we met Sebastião Mendes. He met us last year and has had a tough year since he was robbed in his home. His computer, cellphone and many other personal items were taken. As he lives on a meager income, it has been a long road to try to get back on his feet. He traveled about four hours within the greater São Paulo area to meet us. We were near the city center which was a safe and central location. In São Paulo, I hired a vehicle to then go farther inland to visit other prospects in Sumaré. Driving in some parts of Rio and São Paulo can be interesting and challenging.
Our next stop was in Uberlândia where we met with the Macedo family. Giovane helps me with the translations and his daughter Michelle, who attended ABC last year, is engaged to Kraig. She is going through the “fiancée visa” process and they intend to get married as soon as she can come to the U.S. I also baptized Josiane Chaves there. (I had conducted baptism counseling sessions with her via video conference.) This was another rewarding occasion.
After the visit to Uberlândia, Kraig stayed for about two weeks with the Macedo family so that the two families could get to know each other a little better. I then proceeded to fly across the “pond” (not really a pond–but across the Southern Atlantic ocean for a 7½-hour flight over the sea) to Luanda (Angola). I got there a day before Passover and celebrated Passover with 103 baptized brethren in that city.
In Luanda I visited their preteen and teenager’s school. It has four classrooms where they teach children in the local community as a Good Works service. I also observed the restroom construction they completed with the unsolicited funds UCG’s Good Works sent them for that purpose. I kept the Night To Be Much Observed with a small group of 15 brethren. We had Sabbath services during the first day of Unleavened Bread with 889 brethren and conducted a series of leadership training seminars for a full three days in Luanda. I also held a Kingdom of God seminar in Luanda with about 100 people.
After Luanda I flew to Huambo, the second largest city in Angola. This is where I kept the last day of Unleavened Bread with 217 brethren and a combined Sabbath services with 346 brethren. I also conducted a Bible study and two full days of leadership training in Huambo.
The brethren in Angola are still awaiting further instructions from the government regarding their application for legalization after the government’s latest instruction that only churches with over 100,000 adult notarized members may freely gather. The government recently issued a new “freedom of religion” law reducing that limit if the religion has at least 65,000 adult members. The church in Angola has some 5,000 members, but that includes children and is well below the government stipulated minimum number of members. Please pray for God to open doors on this long outstanding matter.
Additionally, their bank account has been frozen and I had discussions with them and with a local lawyer for them to put their case forward to the bank. They are currently working with a law firm on this matter. A separate prayer request has been circulated on this issue.
After the two-week visit to Angola, I returned to Brazil where I met Kraig and we both traveled together back home. Kraig said this about the trip: “Whether I was in the capital city of Brasilia, the industrial metropolis of São Paulo, the small villages in the north near Boa Vista, or the smaller cities like Uberlândia and Patos de Minas, I was always taken in by those individuals who would meet with us and ask questions about God’s Sabbaths and His Holy Days. It was wonderful and very encouraging to see people looking for God’s direction in their lives.”
There are more details and pictures of this trip on my travel blog below: