“I’m telling you stories that my grown children don’t even know.”
Bryan and Terry Harms are members of the Communitas regional Advancement Team for Latin America, focusing on coaching and connecting with our projects in Brazil. They also lead a new local church plant initiative in Caxias do Sul, Brazil.
For the past year, Bryan has been volunteering as the “building manager” for the homeowners association of the high-rise apartment building where they live in the city center. He has a unique set of skills that are helpful in serving his neighbors in this way, and it has created many, many opportunities for him to develop relationships not only with the other owners in the building, but also with many contractors and service providers. Terry is one of those people who is incredibly gifted in naturally getting to know people and drawing them into meaningful interactions.
Over the past couple of months, Bryan and Terry each had a few new relationships that were forming. As they were independently getting to know each of these five couples, Terry felt inspired to invite them all over for a dessert, even though none of them had yet met any of the others. Amazingly, all five couples showed up. (One of them later admitted he almost didn’t come because he thought it might be one of those pyramid schemes!)
As they went around the circle introducing themselves, a bond immediately began to develop among them. Though there’s a fairly wide age range, they discovered that they’re all on their second marriages. They’ve all had challenges with parenting. Only one person has had any significant experience with a church. Several are “spiritists” — a common form of New Age-type spirituality in Brazil. Somehow (with the Holy Spirit’s help!) Bryan and Terry created an atmosphere where everyone felt safe to be honest and open.
Felipe*, choking back tears, said “I’m sorry I’m being emotional, but I’ve never experienced anything like this before. I’m telling you stories that my grown children don’t even know.” They all agreed that they wanted to meet again, and thus began a weekly Thursday night gathering where this diverse group continues to share their lives, caring for each other, praying for one another, and beginning to explore Biblical truth in a meaningful, non-threatening way. And now, they’re starting to invite their friends.
While the format varies from place to place and group to group, this is the sort of stuff that’s going on in all our projects. Despite the fact that centuries of institutional and colonial forms of religion have bred increasing cynicism about any form of church, most people are still open to spiritual things and many are experiencing for the first time the transforming power of God’s love and grace at work both in them and through them.
*Name changed for privacy reasons