Andrea and I received a little help, well actually, a WHOLE LOT of help "packing our bags" from our sponsoring congregation, Margaret Street church of Christ. Martha Todd put together this very unique display in the foyer of the building, to bring about awareness of a few items that we are in need of to take with us to Paraguay. They are items that we will not be able to purchase in Asunción. So, our brethren have graciously taken it upon themselves to gather up several of the products for us. Thank you, so very much!
Andrea and I have stayed really busy since arriving at Margaret Street church of Christ in Milton, FL. We have been blessed with several opportunities to be able to serve. We both volunteer for the Food Pantry distribution every Thursday. We are also involved in young adult Bible studies, youth gatherings, and the "Golden Agers" Bible studies. I have been teaching a class on Wednesday nights, titled "They Were Fishermen and Farmers" which is a comprehensive study of the Great Commission. I have also assisted in other Bible classes and special studies. We have been able to go on several visits and be involved with the Monday Night for the Master program. It is wonderful to be able to serve in His kingdom! Above is a picture from our Family Retreat. I extended a short devotional in the evening and the next morning.
One of my dear friends asked me, "What is Polishing the Pulpit? Is that some kind of hazing ritual for a newbie preacher like you?" I laughed, and even though I am a "newbie" preacher, Polishing the Pulpit was one of the finest events I have ever attended. It is a seminar/lectureship that offers a wide variety of classes and workshop settings on various subjects pertaining to matters of the church. Each of the classes, or lectures, are taught by some of the prominent men within the brotherhood. Wayne Jackson, a well known preacher and writer, was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award for the many years of service he has given to the Lord's kingdom. Other speakers included Alan Highers, B.J. Clarke, Glen Colley, Dan Winkler, Kyle Butt, Eric Lyons, George Bailey, David Pharr, and many others including one of the most eloquent speakers, Tom Holland (pictured below).
It was wonderful weekend and a great opportunity to be able to spend time with so many like minded Christians (1,400 to be exact) and see so many good friends and brethren. I was blessed to be able to go with my friends, and fellow servants, Preston Silcox and Jason Lasure (pictured). If you ever get a chance to attend this fine event, I highly recommend that you do.
Andrea and I have been working toward a single goal for several years now - to be full time servants in the Lord's kingdom. We are so thankful that the day has finally arrived!
We arrived safely in Milton, FL on August 8th. We have since been settling into our new "temporary quarters" (until we leave for Paraguay) and also finalizing the last few details regarding the shipment of our belongings to South America. This involved driving to Nashville, TN to offload everything with Healing Hand International who will be handling the shipping container and customs documents for both the Blackmers and our household items. This past week, I spent a day planning out mission strategy and budgeting with Ed Temple, missions deacon, and also updating various documents. While here I will be teaching an evangelism/missions class on Wednesday evenings and also working alongside the ministers of Margaret Street church of Christ. I must say, it really feels exciting and good to be starting, on what I pray will be a very long career, of serving our Lord. I feel like Isaiah when he said, "Here am I, Lord. Send me!" - Isaiah 6:8
This picture is from when Andrea and I had dinner with our good friends and fellow servants, Al and Rhonda Washington, before we departed from SWSBS. Al preaches for the University Hills church of Christ in Austin, TX and we have known them for many years. They were members at Palm Beach Lakes where Andrea and I were also members for a long time.
One of the unique moments of life that occur often are those where one thing comes to an end while a new beginning takes shape. We had one of those instances tonight when we said "Farewell" to our friends and church family at Dripping Springs church of Christ. It's hard to believe two years came and went so fast. Everyone at Dripping Springs is very special to us and we will miss each of them greatly. Here are a couple of pictures that our dear friend, Beth Moore, took of the money tree they presented to us along with a fingers foods layout. It was definitely a crying time.
Now we are packing to leave for Milton, FL where we will begin working with the Margaret Street church of Christ before departing for Paraguay in January. We are excited about this new part of our work and look forward to what the future holds!
Andrea and I have a couple of prized possessions - our trophies. Not the kind of trophy you win at some athletic or academic event. You know the kind, a little gold man on top of a vase with a nice plaque engraved on the base of it. No, these are a different kind of trophy, the kind that many hang on their wall - an animal mount. Andrea has a large sailfish she won at a fishing contest and I have a deer mount from the very first buck I ever tagged.
So the question is this, when you are packing to move to South America, what do you do with those? Answer: build your own custom shipping crates from scratch. Just one of the interesting challenges we are facing with the move. Already an adventure!
We did it! We finally completed our studies at Southwest School of Bible Studies! Andrea received her "Certificate of Completion" for the Women's Bible Study Program. I received my diploma for completing the Biblical Studies Program. We are so excited and are thrilled to have the opportunity to enter the mission field. We look forward to being servants in his kingdom. THANK YOU to everyone who supported us being here! This is a little video with some highlights from the event:
Andrea and I have enjoyed watching nature in action through our newest little neighbors - a Barn Swallow and her hatchlings.
She built her nest under our back porch roof and now has four little ones she is caring for. We can watch her bringing food to the chicks from our kitchen window. They get pretty excited when she shows up at the nest!
They are about ready to leave the nest, so we are going to miss their chirping in the evenings.
One of the members at the Buda/Kyle church of Christ, brother Doug Garner, hosts an annual crawfish boil about this time of year each year. This was their 11th year to host it. He cooked over 200 pounds of the little pinchers and, boy oh boy, they were DEEELISH!
We had a great time eating, visiting with our fellow brethren, and just enjoying the wonderful Texas springtime weather. There were lots of people there to enjoy the feast! All the kids had a great time playing together, too.
When one is enrolled in a theological studies school like SWSBS, there is not much time for "extra curricular activities" like just going sightseeing. There is simply too much work to do to keep up with the workload. It is one of the many sacrifices that must be made in order to prepare oneself for entering the work of the Lord as a minister. This is a little sad considering there is so much to see and do in the great city of Austin, TX. Thankfully, there are a few breaks in the study quarters of school. So this time, Andrea and I spent the weekend together .... sightseeing. We went to see and tour the Texas State Capitol, the Texas State History Museum, and a few other sights around town. One of the unique sights is the Austin Bat Tour. Yes, a bat tour. The South Congress bridge in Austin is home to one of America's largest Mexican Freetail bat colonies. (I know, weird right?) But it was truly fascinating to see about one million bats come pouring out from underneath a bridge at dusk. Quite an interesting experience!
The apostle Paul said, "I planted and Apollos watered, and God gave the increase" - 1 Cor 3:6
We are indeed, in the "sowing" business - sowing the word of God in the hearts of a lost world. The mission work that Andrea and I are about to engage in will be the "watering" aspect of sowing. The current team that is in Paraguay (pictured here) planted the church at Sacramento Street 5 years ago. When they formulated a plan to work in the mission field, they committed to five years. At this time, a few of the team members have already returned to the states and others are preparing to do the same. The church is growing and thriving in the city of Asuncion. But now, they need faithful Christians to come and work with them and "water" the congregation in teaching and instruction. This is what Josh, Cara, Andrea, and myself will be doing in Paraguay. What an exciting process that God has put in place! But, just as He is the one who gives life to all things, including seed, He is the One who will provide the growth in the hearts of this young congregation. Pray for us, pray for the church! (In the picture: on left are Chris and Vickie Fry, with Walker and Emma; standing in middle is Perry Hardin; Brittnae Dye, sitting; and on right, Enoch and Laura Rinks)
Here are a few pictures from Andrea's trip to Paraguay. These give just a small glimpse into what the city of Asuncion looks like. (You can click on any of the pictures to see a larger version of it) A view of a quiet street in Asuncion from an upstairs apartment.
The residential roads are made from these "pavement" of rocks pictured here. Pretty to look at, but rough on the ride!
This last picture was taken at a new park created in the city. It's a "health" park for jogging and biking. The city officials are making attempts to attract more tourist to Paraguay. One way is by cleaning up the city with places like these. (Reminds me of some of the parks in Florida)
OK. Maybe not everyone thinks Paraguay is picturesque. But, just as some think a desert is "pretty" while others abhor the thought, or others who prefer flat land over mountainous regions because of their unique inherit beauty, so shall one find something picturesque within his own eyes. That very thing happened to Andrea on her recent visit to our "soon to be" resident destination. On her first visit to the country, she was more overwhelmed with the aspect of being in a foreign country for the first time, and the difficulties of communicating in a foreign language, than taking time absorbing the flora, fauna, and cityscape around her. This time she saw it. Some of those unique little features of a unique little country. In the next few days, I will post several of her photographs along with a few of my own to try and illustrate a little of what is to be seen in Paraguay.
The Capiata Iglesio de Cristo (pictured on top) and the Sacremento Street Igesia de Cristo (bottom picture) are merging into one congregation today.
Although it doesn't sound promising when we lose a congregation within His kingdom, this may be one of those rare times when much good comes from it. Capiata is a smaller congregation on the outskirts of Asuncion made up of about 30 members. Many of them have been mature, faithful Christian for many years. In fact many of them drive out to Capiata to worship there. Sacramento is made up of about 60-70 members, many of whom are converted within the last five years. This merger will provide an opportunity for some of the older, more mature Christians to teach, guide, and influence several young, growing Christians. What a wonderful opportunity! Also, the two congregations will now be able to pool their resources, which will allow them to concentrate their evangelistic efforts.
It is our prayer and hope that elders will soon be appointed within the congregation and that evangelistic training will flourish within this growing church. Please pray for our brethren in Asuncion and these efforts.
In addition, Andrea and Cara are there on a survey trip and will get to witness this historic event in the history of the church in Paraguay. It is indeed an exciting day in Paraguay.
Josh and I are currently traveling around to various congregations in the Texas area presenting the work in Paraguay to the brethren. We have been a part of the Shenandoah Lectureship in San Antonio, presented at University Hills and Dripping Springs, and will be at Buda/Kyle on Wed. Sunday we will travel to Marshall, TX.
This is a video presentation regarding the work in Paraguay: PART ONE
This is the PowerPoint that goes along with the presentation:
Andrea and I went to San Antonio for her birthday to check out the sights. One thing we absolutely love to do together is explore new places ... so, San Antonio it was. It's only an hour or so down the road, but we finally made it down there. The Riverwalk is really beautiful, the Alamo is inspiring, and the market place is very cultural. It was a great day!
This is our little blog space so that all of our friends and family can check up on us from time to time to see what's happening with the Spradlin's. We are members of the church of Christ who are currently serving as missionaries in the Lord's Kingdom in Paraguay, South America.