This is a picture of some of the ladies who have been attending our Bible Study group on Thursday evenings. There were about 6 regular members missing that evening, not including me, so if everyone turns up there are around 20 of us!
I am so encouraged by the way the group has continued to expand and (and most of this has been whilst we were away), and by how many of the members of the group have taken it in turns to lead the sessions. They continued to meet in our home with Gemma taking on responsibility, and they decided to look at the Purpose Driven Life course, which they finished just before we returned.
God has been prompting the ladies to invite people along as well - for instance, the 5 ladies at the back on the right were invited by a lady called Vicky who is one of the first ladies to be part of the group. She is a Catholic Christian and had an amazing encounter with God when she called out to Him in desperation whilst praying in a Catholic church. These 5 ladies haven't yet received Christ in their hearts, but they are really interested in the Purpose Driven Life course, and one of the ladies called Ana, said that her son, who previously had been so hard towards anything about God, had taken the book to look at and had ended up signing his name at the front (where it asks you to commit to the 40 day journey!). Vicky's son José Luis, who is quite anti the Catholic church because of his experiences growing up, also asked Vicky if he could have a copy of the book!
Then Cari (who was baptised with her 2 daughters Lorena and Sophia) before we went back to the UK for our home assignment, invited her teacher friend - also Vicky - along to church, where Vicky prayed to receive Christ in to her heart. She has since been coming along faithfully with her sister, Ceci, who was already a Christian, and they have given a copy of the book to their aunt who lives in a different town, and are doing the course with their elderly mum at home as well!
Even our land-lord, Rafael, a staunch Catholic, whose partner Janet comes along to the Bible Study, commented to me that they had been visiting his cousin in hospital and had taken him a Bible, and that his cousin became a Christian before he died! He was almost praising God for it even though he himself is still resistant!
God just keeps reminding me over and over again of how though we may plant the seed and others may water it, it is Him who makes the 'plant' grow and flourish, and that is exactly what He is doing here - through us and despite of us! Both myself and Gemma have been taken out of the picture for different lengths of time, but that hasn't stopped God from working in the ladies lives, and it hasn't stopped the enthusiasm they have for coming and learning more about God. Please pray for one lady called Adela who is struggling at the moment as her teenage daughter has run away with her boyfriend and has severed communication with her mum. Adela is quite depressed at the moment and isn't wanting to go out of the house, so she hasn't been along to the group for the last few weeks either. Some of the ladies that come with Vicky are a bit frightened of coming out in the evening as well as they don't drive and there are always reports of muggings and violence after dark, so please pray that God would take away this fear and that they would know His protection.
We have actually restarted the Purpose Driven Life course as many of the ladies joined half way through, and some haven't been able to read the whole book yet. They have been getting so much out of it, and it has been great for me to look at it again too. I was reminded last week whilst preparing for the session that God wants us to worship Him in every little thing we do - whether it be changing a nappy or hanging out washing, it doesn't matter. We can do these things as if doing them for Him, and in that way they are transformed from mundane tedious tasks, to acts of worship and thanksgiving.