Above, Fair Lawn congregation on October 19, 2009
Two completely different congregations
I usually preach in at least five congregations each month, but spend most of my time with two, Upper Manhattan and Fair Lawn. The Spanish-speaking congregation in Fair Lawn has an entirely different character than Upper Manhattan. The latter congregation is composed almost entirely of people from the Dominican Republic, is emotional and volatile and has a constant influx and outflow of members. Fair Lawn, by comparison, has members from at least five different countries, is more doctrinally stable and has almost no conflicts of any kind. Upper Manhattans members are squeezed into a ramshackle little cubbyhole of a building in the raucous Inwood section of Upper Manhattan. Fair Lawns members spread out in a very comfortable (too comfortable?) suburban building that is shared with the English-speaking congregation.
Since they are so different, the two congregations need different approaches. Upper Manhattan often needs calming, reminders of the need to be doctrinally pure and first principle lessons. Fair Lawn needs motivational lessons and warnings against complacency. I find myself worrying more about Upper Manhattan, but am often more exhilarated there. I ask your prayers for wisdom to be able to give both groups the spiritual grounding that they need. The rotating system of preachers that both have, makes that difficult sometimes, though it does help us avoid the "one man in charge" concept.
Upper Manhattan, as usual, has had more baptisms during the past reporting period, but again, as usual, our challenge will be to help the new members to become stable. Four new Christians were baptized into Christ on Sunday October 4 at Upper Manhattan. (Three: Pedro, Daisy and Mercedes are pictured at the left in the white baptismal clothes). Pedro visited services and studied with Roger Polanco. Daisy is the mother of Michael Monclus a teenager who has been visiting our assemblies. Martha was the friend of the visiting preacher from the Dominican Republic and Mercedes came to services first because she was the home attendant of Mercedes Suero. Pray for them.
There has been one baptism at Fair Lawn. Juan Carlos, a truck driver originally from Argentina, has been very much in the world, suffering from alcoholism and other maladies of the flesh. However, hes hit rock bottom recently, losing his job and being diagnosed with several medical problems. He decided that he needed to turn his life around and began attending Alcoholics Anonymous. He also began to notice the faith of Nelly Alarcón, a Christian from Fair Lawn, who lives in the same multifamily home. Nelly began to talk to him about God and his need to be baptized into Christ. He decided to take that step and after a study of several hours, was baptized into Christ. He is a babe of babes in Christ, but has attended services since his baptism and studied with Beto Guerrero and me. Pray that he may pull through spiritually. He is picture in the orange shirt on the right with German Ortiz (blue jean shirt), Beto (white shirt) and Charo.
Fall is usually a time recover a bit from the hectic summer. However, Beverly and I have been traveling so much that only in the last week have we been able to have a few normal days at home.
We had two good weeklong meetings in two places that are special to us: Lafayette, Georgia in September and Mt. Sterling, Kentucky two weeks ago. Lafayette is special because Beverlys parents live there and weve become close to the brethren through the years. Beverlys dad is beginning to suffer some of the maladies of old age (hes 87!) and were concerned about being there more to help Beverlys mother with him.
Mt. Sterling, Kentucky is the first place Beverly and I lived after getting married and before going to Argentina. The brethren there at Oak Hill were so very patient with us when we were learning to preach and teach. We still feel very close to them and greatly enjoyed our week there.
I spent the week before Labor Day in upstate New York near Watertown where Joe Works organized a leadership camp from young men. Those weeklong sessions of intensive Bible study, singing and prayer bring us closer to each other. I believe they will leave an indelible impression for good upon the young men who attend.
Plans for travel in November include a quick weekend trip to Canada, November 6-8, with six young men from Upper Manhattan, a quick trip the next Saturday to Bangor, Maine for their lectureship and a weekend meeting in English with the Upper Westside congregation that meets on Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan.