3/4/02 Report on Work in the
New York City area
Gardner Hall, P.O. Box 123, Port Murray, NJ 07865-0123,
Tel. (908) 850-5389
Jesus said his disciples would be known by their love (John 13:35), and yet the goal of an intensely loving and close congregation is often elusive. Several things are helping the Spanish speaking congregation in Fair Lawn, New Jersey to grow rapidly in love and in number, but there are always "growth pains."
Factors in growth
Saturday nights have been almost as important to the church as Sundays. Thats when a good portion of the congregation crams into the home of German Ortiz or some other Christian for a period of Bible study, singing, prayer and a meal. The singing is always enthusiastic, the prayers fervent and the friendships that are developed are close. We had over 40 people in Toribio Quiñones home this past Saturday, including several lost people who are seriously considering baptism. (pictures to the right and below) I worry a bit about the affect of these gatherings on the food budget of those who host them, mainly German Ortiz and his wife, Annie.
With the growth in love comes growth in numbers and then, associated challenges. Three out of the past four Sundays we have had more than 80 in attendance. One Sunday we had an especially large number of visitors and surpassed 100 in attendance for the first time. However, with the growing number of children, preadolescents and teens, it has been more difficult to avoid small problems with the building that the English speaking brethren in Fair Lawn have so graciously loaned us. Therefore the brethren have decided to find another place to meet. This is no easy prospect. Small store buildings which would have been acceptable for us a couple of years ago are inadequate now. We eventually want to buy a place, but real estate is very expensive in this part of the world. To complicate matters, there are several different ideas about how to proceed and it is hard to build a consensus. The key is to maintain our love while going through this stressful process. As of "press time," we are looking at the possibility of renting a building in Elmwood Park which would be very nice but very expensive. If that does work out, we may rent a large house.
Harold Comer talks about a plateau that a congregation often reaches when it has about 75 members, because some begin to feel that they have less control and power and complain accordingly. Two brethren who have been with us for years have decided that they arent getting enough pulpit time have decided to start their own congregation in Passaic. We have done everything we can to avoid hard feelings in this process and I dont think their departure will hurt us very much. We need prayers and leadership in this exciting, but stressful period.
* The congregation at Upper Manhattan continues to hold its own. The work in Fair Lawn is keeping me from being involved quite as much at Upper Manhattan. However, the spiritual growth among brethren in Manhattan such as Victor and Rosi Grado makes me feel better about not being able to spend quite as much time there as before.
* There are several new studies with the lost. Ive begun a new study on Tuesdays with Oscar Benitez, the husband of Norma Benitez, a new member at Fair Lawn. A new study has begun on Saturdays with Carmen Benatzen. She is the daughter of Rosa and Teodoro Gutierrez and has just moved here with her family from Peru. She and her family come from a Pentecostal background but have not become upset when hearing Bible teaching which contradicts previous beliefs, taking a "lets think about it and study it further" approach. They attend most of our services. Violeta Pacheco has several lost friends who study with me on Saturdays. On Sunday nights I study with her sister and brother in law, who are staunch Catholics. Others who visit our Saturday night home studies and our services on Sunday, like Esperanza, Argentina and Myra are considering obedience and counting the costs. Esperanza and Myra have husbands who do not want them to obey. Pray for them
* We plan to have a weekend Bible study for single Christians May 10-12. All single Christians are invited.
* I have meetings coming up in Lexington, Kentucky (Eastside) from March 17-22 and Blanchester, Ohio from April 21-26. I hate to be gone from here when things are "popping", but those weeks will give me time to get some letters and paperwork done, and the brethren in Blanchester are like family.
* No more space for additional news. Thanks for your prayers and support.