God’s Grace and Favor: Guatamala and Brazil


I just returned from Guatamala and Brazil in time for Thanksgiving…and am full of thanksgiving for God’s favor on our trip. It was a fruitful time of training, encouraging leaders, and sharing the Gospel in four cities. Following are some photos of highlights of the trip:

Guatamala Divine Expedition Team: Stan Gerlach, Mike Davis, Dr. Sharo Raissi, mystery person, Herbert Diaz, and Sharon’s and my grandson Branson Graf

After meeting with a group of students on our first evening in Guatamala City, we traveled to Guatamala’s second largest city and spoke at a prison where at least 70 men indicated they received Christ. With the rest of us in support, Dr. Sharo spoke on the upper level (lower security), and Stan (with Herbert interpreting) spoke on the lower level (higher security). Stan and Herbert also got to speak to the maximum security prisoners before we left.

We were touched by the response of the prisoners, as well as the prison officials who wrote a positive report about our visit and invited us back. Here we are as the warden invited us into his office.

New Life in Christ pastors, Divine Expedition team, and Prison Officials after speaking.
XELA (Quezaltenango), Guatamala

Pastor Ivan from the New Life in Christ Church where we went on to conduct our Phase 1 training (“Romans as a Life Transformation and Missional Impact Map”) arranged the prison ministry opportunity. The next day we began the first of two intensive days of training.

The city we trained in was Quetzaltenango. The locals call it Xela (pronounced “Shella,” which is much easier to pronounce). Half way through the first day of training a Guatamalan woman who came to the training realized she had not received Christ herself, and did so as we went through the first four chapters of Romans.

New Life in Christ Church Divine Expedition training with pastors from several churches attending.
As a part of our training, we send people in two’s into the area near the church to connect with people and share the Gospel with them. It was rewarding to hear the stories of their encounters and see their excitement when they returned. At least 20 people responded and prayed to receive Christ through those we sent out. We followed with a second full day of training and have been invited to return to conduct the next phase of the Divine Expedition.

Following our time in Guatamala, Stan and Herbert went on to El Salvador to speak in several prisons and universities, Dr. Sharo stayed in Xela to be part of medical mission let by pediatrician Dr. Bob Hamilton, Sharon’s and my grandson Branson returned home to his job (He was an EXCELLENT presenter, as were each of our team members), and Mike Davis and I flew to Brazil where I spoke six days in a row.

In the first night in Bom Retiro do Sul (southern Brazil), a young woman came up and asked, “Do you remember me?” Before I could answer, she quickly said, “I became a Christian four years ago when you spoke.” She then told me excitedly, “I am almost a Divine Expedition Master Trainer.”

I did remember her flood of tears the night she opened her life to Christ, as Pastor Sammy Diab’s wife, Marcia, and I met with her after the service where I spoke. (I remembered her name too, Eduarda, Duda, for short :-).  In the four years that followed she has been part of the Divine Expedition trainings conducted by the Brazilians we have trained.

“Do you remember me?” My spiritual daughter.

I spoke twice more at Hope Chapel in Bom Retiro, and on the third night, after speaking, we handed out certificates awarded to those who completed the the year-long Bible training course offered by the church. Each person being honored had been asked to bring several “not-yet Christians” with them, and 25+ indicated they received Christ that night.

Certificate of completion…to the mom, not the baby 🙂

Part of the church’s strategy is for those graduating from the Bible course, to group together in threes to form a new small group. Each of the three invites three more people to join them so a group of 9 to 12 begins to meet together to study the Bible. Here is a picture of one of the groups (with Mike, Pastor Sammy, and me).

Multiplying small groups

From the south of Brazil, Mike and I flew to Sāo Paulo where Pete and Jane Hawkins met us. That night they hosted a gathering of the greater Sāo Paulo area Divine Expedition leadership.

Greater Saõ Paulo Divine Expedition Leadership

In the photo above, Jane thought I was taking a selfie…but I was really trying to get a shot of Mike and Carlos sitting next to me without it being obvious…honest :-). After the meal, those present shared the impact the Divine Expedition training had on them. Wow!

The next day was an all afternoon retreat with those progressing as Divine Expedition trainers or interested in the Divine Expedition training in the greater Sāo Paulo area.

Retreat outside of Sāo Paulo

The focus of the retreat was on Sharon’s and my journey of following Christ and some of the Scripture passages that guided us along the way. Here are the themes I spoke of in interview format: FUN (Nehemiah 8:10, Ecclesiastes 3:4, Hebrews 12:3), FRUSTRATION (Matthew 6:33), FAITH (Matthew 28:16-20), FORGIVENESS (Philippians 3:7-14), FRUITFULNESS (John 15:5; 2 Timothy 2:2) and FINISHING (2 Timothy 4:1-8).

It has been my privilege to connect with so many in the retreat photo in past years, none longer than Pete and Jane. They were part of the church we started in Amsterdam. After Pete’s job took him back to England, then Indiana, and finally to Brazil, I was able to visit them in each place, and then coach them to start a church in Sāo Paulo. After Sharon and I joined Global Training Network, Pete and Jane became part of our Divine Expedition team and leadership in Brazil. At the end of the retreat they ambushed me with a kiss.

Ambushed (lovingly)

The last night of our stay in Brazil, I spoke at Bethel Church in the city of Jacarei. Part of the evening was the awarding of certificates for those who have completed all four phases of the Divine Expedition training, plus several who have taken Phase 1 four times, thus progressing from Participant, to Contributor, to Co-Presenter, and are now Lead Trainers.

Jane and me awarding a certificate for completion of all four phases.

The frosting on the cake, so to speak, was that several more of those present at Bethel stepped forward to receive Christ.

Praying for those responding to the Gospel at Bethel in Jacarei

Mike and I returned on the 22nd after an all night flight from Sao Paulo to Chicago and then a connecting flight to Los Angeles. Mike traveled on to Phoenix (he was a tremendous teammate) so I got to spend Thanksgiving yesterday with four of our daughters and some of our grandchildren. Looking back we had a fruitful trip to Guatamala and Brazil, and saw over 100 people come to Christ. The trainings were great, the team was great, the people we met with were responsive, and our teaching and preaching were graced by God’s favor.

Thank you for being part of God’s grace and favor in our lives (and my life), and for partnering with us to spread His grace and favor around the world.

With gratitude in Christ,


P.S. Below are some prayer requests:

  • Pray for the seed of the Gospel to take root and grow in the hearts and lives of the prisoners we spoke with.
  • Pray for those who received Christ as a result of the Global Training Network Divine Expedition Phase 1 training we conducted in Xela, Guatamala.
  • Pray for those who came to Christ in the cities of Brazil where I spoke.
  • Pray for the leaders we have trained and are training.
  • Pray for the challenging situations of those I spoke with in Brazil who came up to me to ask for counsel (fortunately I was with Brazilians who will follow up).
  • Pray for the Divine Expedition trainings that took place in Cuba and El Salvador, also in November.
  • Pray for the other Divine Expedition trainings conducted this year (2022) in Serbia, Armenia, Uganda,  Brasil, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador.
  • Pray for the Nepalese team that will continue our training in Nepal
  • Pray for the Brazilian team planning to launch the Divine Expedition training in Mozambique.
  • Pray for the Divine Expedition training to resume in Ethiopia (on pause due to the war there) and for the course I have been asked to design based on our training.
  • Pray for Abel, one of our Brazilian Master Trainers, attending medical school in Argentina, who would like to launch the Divine Expedition training there.
  • Pray for the upcoming trainings in the countries above planned for 2023.
Our desire is to raise up national leaders who will train others to train others to train others. It is happening to the glory of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.

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