I am on my way by train from Prague to a northeastern city in Czechoslovakia. I will be there for a week of ministry. After 5 hours, I will arrive in late evening to the chill of falling snow and to the warm heart of a brother and friend.
Since our last newsletter (sorry for the delay in writing this one—the pace has been somewhat at an advanced level), ministry opportunities brought us to the Azores Islands, Portugal, Ukraine, Germany on two occasions, Norway, and Czechoslovakia—5 countries over a 5 month period. Before writing about these ministries, let me first share with you some of what is on my heart!
First, we are continually reminded that the “walk of faith” (“the just shall live by his/her faith”) is a dynamic, growing, changing, expanding relationship. It involves implicit trust in our heavenly Father and an embracing and confessing of His promises (Hebrews 11:13). Such a “walk” in the power of the Spirit without the human pillars of reason, emotions, or support is a purifying process at best and a frightening process at worst. Oswald Chambers has written much about “abandonment to God” in My Utmost for His Highest:
“If a man is going to do anything, there are times when he has to risk everything on his leap, and in the spiritual domain, Jesus Christ demands that you risk everything you hold to common sense and leap into what He says … to fulfill God’s design means entire abandonment to Him (p. 151) … Oh, that we might realize in personal experience the writing of the ancients, ‘My goal is God Himself, not joy, nor peace, nor even blessings, but Himself ’ (p. 194) … self surrender is the most difficult thing (p. 238) … spiritually, we cannot measure our life by success, but only by what God pours through us, and we cannot measure that at all … ‘out of him shall flow…’ (p. 246) …the battle is lost or won in the secret places of the will before God, never first in the external world” (p. 362).
Oh, the exhilarating joy and the excruciating pain of it all! Glory follows grief as spring follows winter. The “peaceable fruit of righteousness” and the “conforming to the image of Christ” is God’s eternal purpose for us all. “Lord, let me surrender my heart and will in conformity to your gracious sanctifying work of the Spirit and help me to discern the difference between what is Your divine work in me and that which is self–imposed and inflicted through reasons of pride, position, power, or personality”.
Second, I am reflecting much these days on the future Kingdom, the “end of this age”, the events leading up to the “blessed Hope”, and the “last days”. With America all but legally and politically surrendering its global decisions to the UN, with world leaders and countries actively engaged in creating the perfect global “peace plan”, and with the desire of nations for a global police force (it has already begun), government, and economic “coordination” (control), the coming of the “end” is near. The Church and its status as pilgrim worshippers may be “forced” to live a very different lifestyle in the near future.
Lest we forget, Heaven is ready to receive only those who have been “washed in the blood of the Lamb”, even if they be sick, paralyzed, handicapped, hungry, disturbed, broken, poor, ignorant, weak, or untrained. With so much of our programming designed for the satisfaction and enjoyment of , at times, sleeping saints, let us remember the “must” of the “new birth” (John 3:7), the “must” of Jesus being “lifted up” (John 3:14), and the “must” of Jesus to missions (John 4:4). Oh, that we would hear the “woe” of Paul again, “Woe is me, if I preach not the Gospel of God … to the regions beyond”.
Azores Islands, Portugal
What a joy to be back in the land and island (São Miguel) of my birth to missionary parents, and to teach and preach in the church started by my parents over 60 years ago. The sights, sounds, food, and culture … I experienced déjà vu. All but one of the island’s Pentecostal pastors were present for a Pastor’s Leadership and Bible School.
Several evenings I preached in the church my parents founded. The preaching of the Gospel is still the power to save—even for a man in his 80’s who knew my father, had heard him preach, and respected him highly. This man responded publicly for the first time to an altar call! A pastor from Lisbon and I were able to visit some of my cousins in the island of São Jorge, where my father was born, and preach to them. I was not able to visit my mother’s family in the island of Flores due to bad weather conditions.
One of three Pentecostal Unions in the former Soviet Union opened and dedicated its rented Christian Education facility in August. The place was packed with believers and unbelievers. The facility is part of a large sanitarium complex (a Ukrainian version of our health spa). To speak at the dedicatory service together with others was a special privilege and joy—one that had been our commitment and prayer for over a year. What wonderful, warm-hearted, generous, and responsive people!
It was our longest time away from home in ministry since coming to Europe. We witnessed God’s gracious love and transforming power to save many people, heal, baptize in the Spirit, and bring many to a new level of God’s presence in their lives. In one of our classes, the “Power fell” (and so did some people without pushing, pressure, or psychological gimmicks—but sovereignly as we worshipped God)! The Spirit descended to baptize the believers and make Himself known in prophetic utterance. What an experience!
Besides teaching/preaching to pastors, students, and leaders several hours each day, there were many responses by people from open-air preaching services and outreach to another city. Also, the Lord opened a door to speak at a high school of about 500-600 students that had been taken from the Chernobyl area and brought to this city in the Carpathian mountains. Many students, teachers, and adults responded to the clear and simple message of salvation. The local church will continue to follow up with other services and materials.
Many personal stories of God’s saving power, healing power, and transforming power made deep impressions on my heart. A former leading Communist in the city asked what kind of magical powers I possessed. He had not wanted to publicly declare his faith, but was “compelled” to respond to Christ’s invitation. He and his wife came to the church the next day. The night before I left, he brought me a watercolor painting of the facility that he had painted. On my way out of the country, I visited a medical doctor (who is also a published poet) and shared the Gospel with him and his wife. What a glorious Gospel we possess and preach!
I trust I will be able to fulfill the Union’s invitation to teach/preach sometime next year. The son of the leader of this Union has translated 13 of our ICI books, is a student at Continental Theological Seminary in Brussels, and is deeply involved in the process of training pastors and leaders of the Ukraine Pentecostal Union.
It was Carmen’s and my special privilege to attend the World Pentecostal Conference in Oslo, Norway. Between 4,000-5,000 people registered and approximately 7,000-10,000 attended the evening rallies. Since the Conference is held only once every three years, large delegations came from the Eastern Bloc countries as well as from the former Soviet Union. What a joy to see them together worshipping God freely!
In manning the ICI booth at the conference, we saw many friends from Europe who had a real interest in training materials for their churches. With all of the emerging countries, Church leaders want materials translated and printed in their own language and not in the language foisted upon them by the former Communist regimes.
What preaching! What excitement! Again, we were all reminded that it is “not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord”.
She had served the unregistered (underground) Church in Eastern Europe for nearly 40 years by providing Bibles, books, clothing, food, and relief aid. Her husband, who had been conscripted into the German army, was killed in the war. She was determined to help those who were unable to enjoy freedom by providing them with the spiritual tools and material goods to help them survive (see Hebrews 13:3).
We have known Katie Loos for about 15 years. She visited us during our pastorate in California. To visit this precious saint of God and to be part of the Missions Convention of Sunbeams to the East was a special, humbling experience. What testimonies of God’s grace. Now that the East is open, the Mission is sending many more tons of literature, food, clothing, and help. She and those who have joined with heart and hand will receive their reward!
I leave again for Germany in a few days to preach at the yearly Conference of Pentecostals. “Lord, may Thy Name be glorified and Thy Spirit poured out!”
A few days after our trip to Germany, I left for Bulgaria where over 400 pastors, leaders, and students were present for the opening of the Pentecostal Bible Institute of Bulgaria’s second year. A long parade headed by the flag of the Institute marched through the city to the place where opening ceremonies were being conducted. It was an impressive sight. Again, it witnessed to the conquering of faith over the godless dialectic materialism of atheistic Communism!
Teaching 5-6 hours daily and preaching some of the evenings was exhausting! However, we again witnessed the power of God in the classroom (a rented hall from the local library) and in the church meetings. God saved, healed, filled with His Spirit, and delivered from demons. Oh, the searching, powerful love of God!
On the weekend before departure, we drove 5 hours to a city to preach on Sunday morning. Again, there was a wonderful response to God’s gracious invitation. In the evening service in another city, we experienced “Church” as the southerners would say—salvation, healings, baptism in the Spirit, and renewal. It was a long service! Several students had come just to be in the service and then took the long overnight train trip back to the Bible Institute for Monday classes.
What gracious people and so responsive to the heart cry of God! It seems like I am repeating myself, but it is true! I felt compelled on several occasions to challenge the Church in Bulgaria to stand on its faith in God alone and not become dependent upon Westerners for their teaching, finances, and direction. Yes, they are in need of help, but to create dependency would be more harmful than helpful in the long term.
I returned home with a fever and stomach “malfunctions”. However, reflecting on God’s sovereign grace in this country far surpassed any minor discomfort. Oh, the surpassing joy of knowing God and His eternal plan of the ages and participating in it, even in a small way! To God be the glory!
The Lord was very present in the preaching in the churches and in the ICI seminar. Anyone who has taught knows the sheer joy of seeing “lights go on” when people respond to the teaching of God’s Word. The response was gratifying. I have been asked to teach in the newly started Bible Institute next year.
The Church in Czechoslovakia will experience a change during the planned separation of the country into Czech and Slovakia. Do keep this country and its political and spiritual leaders in your prayers. Great strain will be placed upon the Church to maintain its spiritual unity over its cultural and nationalistic independence.
Our two oldest sons, Reuben and Paul, came to share the summer with us, as did some of their friends and other guests. Reuben had graduated from Westmont College with his B.S. in Physics/Engineering and a second major in International Studies with a Middle East Emphasis. He turned 22 on October 25th. Thanks for the cards and encouragement.
(By the way: Anyone needing an extremely handsome, extremely intelligent, and extremely eager young man looking for employment that pays well and can offer educational benefits to pursue further studies? We are interested! He is now staying with us in Belgium, studying part-time at Continental Theological Seminary, tutoring, teaching a swimming class, studying French, and assisting with the youth group at the Church.)
Paul is now attending the Institute of Holy Land Studies in Jerusalem for one semester before graduating in May 1993 from Westmont College, the Lord willing. He plans to spend Christmas with us before returning to the States in January. Paul joined the ranks of “adulthood” on September 24 when he turned 21. Again, thanks for the cards and encouragement.
Nathan will be graduating in May of ’93 from high school. He was a National Merit Commended Student, and was among the top 5% of more than 1 million that took the PSAT! He is also taking AP courses. He has scored a 4 and two 5’s (5 being the highest possible score) in three of these difficult tests already. We are all praying for God to direct him to the college or university he should attend (the offering of a full scholarship may help in the decision)! His main interest is math and computer science. It is our plan that some of us will go back to the States during the summer of ’93 to attend Paul’s graduation and participate in the process of college enrollment for Nathan.
Stephen has become part of the Youth Council at the church and is doing quite well in school. He is taller than me at 6’2″. He had his birthday on August 17th. Thank you for your cards of recognition and encouragement to our 15 year-old who is going on 30.
Carmen and I had our 23rd wedding anniversary on August 10th. I was away in the Ukraine. It seems I have been away for most of our “special days”, yet the Lord has blessed our marriage! Carmen continues to host a Spanish Bible study in our home. What a joy it has been to see the gentle work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of these women.
My mother had her 92nd birthday this year. God only knows when He will take her home. After she had a fall and close call with death this spring, my sister walked into the hospital room only to see Mama’s hands raised and hear her praying in tongues. I knew that even at her age, her ministry was not yet over here on earth. She will soon go to her eternal reward when her prayers here on earth are over.
I am concluding this long (even my wife thinks so) “stockholder’s report”. I cannot help reflect on the recent presidential elections. Whether you are Republican, Democrat, or Independent, the moral agenda that has been clearly outlined by our next President is a clear choice to abandon some Biblical standards and authority. The evidence of history reveals God’s unalterable choice of judgment to a nation whose leadership forsakes and flaunts His moral laws. From my perspective, the judgment has already begun with the imminency of further judgment to follow (II Chronicles 7:14).
Let the Church “wake up” and “put on its beautiful garments”. Let the Church “shake up” from groveling in the “dust”. Let the Church “rise up” in repentance and holiness. Let the Church “loosen up” from its lethargy and ritual without substance and reality and deliver itself from the yoke of bondage. It is God’s desire for the Church to truly know His “name” and to “sing with joy”. The “feet are beautiful that brings good tidings” so that “all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God” (Isaiah 52:1–10).
During this Thanksgiving Season, we are conscious of God’s greatest Gift to mankind in Jesus Christ and His redemptive work affecting man and the universe. Also, we are daily aware of our partnership with you. To say “thank you” again is to be redundant. However, know that it comes from sincere hearts and with tears and prayers for you all. Some of you receiving this letter may not support us directly. However, being in the Family of God, to support in prayer and finances any member of the Body of Christ is to support the Body.
We shall, by the grace of God, continue to be faithful to the Harvest Master as we hear and interpret the Spirit’s voice. We really do covet your prayers. The Churches in Europe that I have visited, both East and West, send their Christian greetings and thanks for your support. We plan for the future but live by the imminent moment. We “follow the Lamb” step by step as we receive His “daily bread”. We are His and so are confident in Him for the future.
Servants & pilgrims,
Reuben & Carmen Sequeira
II Corinthians 9:15