June 1 – This Powerful Word

At Monday’s Mission Committee meeting we’ll be talking about a possible mission project in Brazil.

You may remember that our primary mission focus is on the work of Promised Land Ministries in Guatemala and Hunting Park Christian Academy in North Philadelphia.  But we also support some select secondary projects both locally and internationally.  Our list includes, among others, Abundant Life, a ministry at the Bucks County Jail and the Penndel Food Pantry of Bucks County Housing Group. We partner with the Coalition for Christian Outreach on local college campuses and Bethana’s work with children and families throughout the metropolitan Philadelphia area.

Internationally we have just begun a partnership with Dr. John Cropsey, a protégé or our own Sadeer Hannush, as he prepares for medical mission work in Burundi, central Africa. Dr. Cropsey will be sharing with us in worship later this summer.

And we’re considering some options in Brazil where I have a number of good friends in ministry. Among them is Pastor Ivan Moreira da Silva. I first met Ivan nearly ten years ago while he was still in seminary and then visited again in 2007 in his hometown of Cachoeiro de Itapemirim (the Falls of Itapemirim) in the state of Espirito Santo, north of Rio de Janeiro.

Ivan met Christ in the forests that surround Cachoeiro. When he was 18, Ivan, one of many from Brazil’s sprawling underclass, had joined the Brazilian army and was stationed in Rio de Janeiro. He served for five years, becoming a sergeant in the Special Forces. When his term in the armed forces was over he found himself once again among the ranks of the poor and unemployed. The only place he could use his only professional skill was in the service of the ubiquitous drug traffickers. He provided “security.” In time, and for good cause, a warrant for his arrest was issued by the authorities in Rio de Janeiro. Ivan fled. He went north to Espirito Santo, but was in Cachoeiro for just a few days before the authorities were looking for him. He fled again.

For the next 28 months he lived alone in the Atlantic Forest of the mountains of Espirito Santo. His brother would bring food and supplies when he could, but mostly he was alone.

Among the things left by his brother in a early cache was a Bible sent by his mother. Ivan’s mother was not particularly religious, but she thought it might help him somehow. It did.  Ivan writes, “I began to read it – all alone in the middle of nowhere. This reading led me to meet the Lord Jesus. And through this study I came to understand that God was calling me to be a pastor. It was through this lonely time with the Word that I experienced conversion.”

On the run, fleeing justice. Desperate. All alone save for the Word of God and the Holy Spirit  who brings the Word to life.

After 28 months in the forest Ivan experienced what he can describe only as a great miracle of God. His brother brought news that all charges against him had been dropped. He still does not know why.

Ivan returned to Cachoeiro and found Premeira Igreja Presbiteriana, the First Presbyterian Church. Now 18 years later, he is the pastor of the church.

This powerful Word.

This summer at LPC (and two sister churches) we are introducing a program we call Summer 60. It is a guided reading program through sixty key passages in the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation we will read five sections per week along with a brief devotional delivered daily by email and written by a member or one of the pastors of the three churches – Northampton, the Anchor and Langhorne Presbyterian.

Our encounter with the Word this summer may not be as dramatic as my friend Pastor Ivan’s, but it will be powerful, for the same Holy Spirit who enlivened the Word in that Brazilian forest 18 years ago will be with us as well. You may learn more about Summer 60 here, and you’ll be receiving more via email next week.

It is a powerful Word we read.