Category Archives: missions

May 1, 2015 Newsletter: Big News!

IMG_0756 Sign to Fortaleza 3

Cesar* dropped in for an unexpected visit last week—he says he feels terrors at night that rob his sleep. In his teens, he has one uncle who takes him to catechism classes at the Roman Catholic Church, and another uncle who takes him to a church where the pastor wants to perform an exorcism on him. Cesar is confused. He asked about our church and what I thought he should do. Beginning with the definition of the church as a “called out” people, called by God and purchased out of slavery to sin by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, I presented to him his need to turn from his sin and trust in Christ for salvation.

The next day, Cesar returned and we studied from Scripture who God is, what is man’s position before God, what has Christ accomplished, and that sinners must repent and believe in Christ to be saved. Cesar nods that he understands, and follows up with more questions, but it appears that he is still looking for certain works he must perform to earn God’s favor. Please pray for Cesar, that God would open his spiritual understanding to grasp and to love the good news of salvation by grace through faith in Christ!

Our biblical counseling conference is coming up, June 22-24. In our February letter we announced our guest speaker would be Dr. Robert Somerville. Unfortunately, Dr. Somerville had to cancel his travel plans to Brazil. In his place, the Lord has provided Andrew Rogers, pastor of counseling at College Park Church in Indianapolis, to take Dr. Somerville’s place as our speaker. Originally Dr. Somerville was to speak on “Depression,” and we were to feature his book (already at the publishers!). Andrew Rogers is not only prepared to keep the same theme, but is also eager to give Dr. Somerville’s book a hearty recommendation! We praise the Lord for his provision, and are delighted to receive Andrew and his wife Jenny as our guests in Goiânia in June!

Big move coming up!
In March, Elsiene and I received an invitation to join a team of Brazilian and American pastors and missionaries opening a new seminary in Fortaleza, Brazil. The Escola Bíblica de Expositores (“Expositors’ Bible School,” abbreviated EBEx), will begin offering classes in January 2016.

The seminary president, Pastor Jenuan Lira, and academic director, Diego Ramos, have an excellent line-up of visiting instructors to rotate in to teach modules. Elsiene and I are invited to move to Fortaleza so I can serve as a member of their resident teaching faculty. Our local and international leadership enthusiastically approved us to move to Fortaleza to help launch EBEx while continuing with Action International Ministries. Our goal is to move our family from Goiânia to Fortaleza end of this year to help launch this new seminary to train Brazilian expositors of God’s Word.

One aspect of the ministry in Fortaleza important to me is the goal for EBEx to become a member of The Master’s Academy International (, a fellowship of pastoral training centers around the world united by a common doctrinal perspective and approach to ministry. To join TMAI, one of the requirements is that there be at least two graduates of The Master’s Seminary on the faculty. EBEx already has one graduate from TMS, academic director Diego Ramos, and I will be their second. My participation will thus facilitate EBEx’s admission to the TMAI family of schools.

2013-01-21 15.46.34 (Jenuan) (400)

Diego Ramos, Jenuan Lira, Bret Laird (representing TMAI) and I.
The Master’s College, January 2013

Another strength of the ministry in Fortaleza is it does not depend on me to launch the whole effort from scratch. Over the past two years, I have grown to where I am now teaching and preaching regularly in Portuguese. Together with Pastor Roberto, we have established an annual biblical counseling conference. (For 2016, we have confirmed Dr. John Street, and at a separate event, Dr. Tedd Tripp.) Out of our conference, we drew a group of pastors that meet for prayer and encouragement. But for the next stage in forming a seminary, I sorely felt my own lack of experience and was praying for a colleague to share the load and expand our skill set.

Then came the invitation from EBEx president Pastor Jenuan who, in addition to many years as a pastor and professor, also has experience leading a seminary. Between Jenuan and Diego, they have already assembled a strong seminary faculty. In fact, EBEx already has 10 prospective students ready to begin studying Hermeneutics, Hebrew Grammar, Greek Syntax, and the Fundamentals of Expository Preaching. By joining forces with EBEx, we will benefit from the strength of their team, and (by God’s grace) bring a valuable contribution as well. I am scheduled to begin in January, teaching Hermeneutics, i.e., “How to Interpret the Bible.”

I wish to make clear we still depend upon your prayers and gifts through ACTION. In order to move to Fortaleza to join EBEx, we need to be fully-funded for ministry. Now more than ever, we urge you to support the training of pastors in Brazil through your prayers and gifts to us at Action International Ministries!

Thanking the Lord for your partnership with us,


Matthew & Elsiene Carroll,

Action International Ministries

* “Cesar” is a pseudonym.

October 15, 2014 Newsletter

I felt that I had done everything in life wrong!

“Erica” (a pseudonym) is in our new believers’ class. We were studying Scripture to understand what happens when a person is saved. In 2 Corinthians 7:10, Paul describes a godly sorrow that produces repentance, contrasted with a worldly sorrow that produces death. I had asked if anyone in the class could relate.

Erica repeated herself with emphasis, “I mean, everything, absolutely everything, I had done wrong. I didn’t even think Jesus could forgive me—I didn’t think he would forgive me. But when I first understood my sin, I just wanted to be close to Him, to be in church where I could hear His word!”

After Erica found forgiveness in Christ, her sister also believed the gospel and was saved. The two sisters together attend our class for new believers. Teaching this class is the highlight of our week!

In our last letter, we requested prayer for a meeting with local pastors who had attended our conference on biblical counseling. At this meeting I met “Daniel” (a pseudonym) who told me of an open door for ministry in a poor neighborhood in his city. “But I’m not sure where to start; the children (9 to 14) are already involved with drugs and prostitution. What can I do?”

Frankly, I didn’t know what to tell him either, but I arranged another meeting with Daniel and our wise Pastor Roberto. When later the three of us sat down, that meeting went not at all as I expected. Almost immediately Daniel began describing how he’s about ready to call it quits on the little church he pastors. It turns out, in Daniel’s church, there is a “Diotrephes, who loves to be first” (See 3 John 9), who makes it very difficult for Daniel to lead. “I’m telling God I’ll give it two months, and then it’s either the other guy goes, or I go.” Roberto and I spent the next hour listening to and counseling Daniel. At the end of an hour, when I finally brought up Daniel’s ministry opportunity with the children, Roberto said, “Oh, you’re crippled by this leadership crisis. You can’t even walk. Resolve that first, and then do whatever you want for the children, and it’ll take off running.”

I’ll be preaching at Daniel’s church next month. Please pray that by God’s grace we’ll be able to strengthen Daniel in his pastoral ministry, and that the resolution of issues there would lead to greater progress for the gospel in his church and community.

Speaking of crises, you may recall our strained relationship with our neighbors. Originally they were spraying chemicals to fade blue jeans. Then they moved their operation elsewhere, but left two guard dogs. That was a blessing, because the dogs provided us security. The wall from our property to theirs is in bad shape, and the wall from their property to the street is easy to jump. But Friday, they removed the dogs, and warned us they’ve had trespassers.

Sunday evening, we came home from church, to find police lights, crime scene tape and a crowd of onlookers. A man was gunned down four doors from our house. Time to fix the wall!

A year ago, when we replaced our roof, we got an estimate on the wall, but it was not in our budget. The owner of the lot next door has been extremely difficult to reach and unwilling to deal with the wall. So the wall is still not in our budget, but it is no longer optional. We need to replace our wall, and we’d like to ask for your help.

We need to build a new wall, 2.3 meters (7½ ft) tall and 50 meters (164 ft) long to secure the north side of our property. To cover the cost of materials and labor, our goal is to raise US $4000… 

UPDATE: I haven’t even finished writing this letter, and God is already answering prayer! For the first time ever, we just met the owner of the lot next door. After over a year of leaving messages, he just showed up at the gate and agreed to divide the cost of rebuilding the wall. We start construction next week.

Though we still need to raise US $2000!

If even 10% of the people who receive our letter give a special gift of $35 today, we will be able to pay for our share of the construction costs!

I’m aware that many of you already support us directly, as well as other worthy ministries. But may I invite you to prayerfully consider a special gift of $35 or more right now to help us build our wall, and then also to ask God to marvelously provide the full cost of the construction?

To donate online, please click to our secure online giving page at ACTION. Under the “Additional Information” section, designate “51019.B Wall Project” in the comment box.

Thank you!

In other news, we are well. In addition to preaching at Daniel’s church in November, I’m filling the pulpit for Pastor Roberto end of October and preaching through John at our church’s evangelistic English-language service. We count it a great privilege to be here, as an extension of your ministry!

Thank you for all you do, through your prayers and generous gifts. We couldn’t do it without you!

Rejoicing in Christ!


Matthew & Elsiene Carroll,
Action International Ministries

P.S. To give online to our wall construction project, please click [here].
Surveying the wall.

Argentina—Rejoicing in divine cyber connections

Just a couple weeks ago, an elder at a church in Argentina contacted The Master’s Academy International (TMAI) to inquire about bringing pastoral training to his country. TMAI doesn’t currently have anything in Argentina (or Brazil), but his inquiry found its way to me, and I directed him further to a friend in Buenos Aires, Alejandro Peluffo. Alejandro, also a graduate of The Master’s Seminary, is planting a new training ministry, IDEAR, the Instituto de Expositores—Argentina.

This morning the elder e-mailed to thank me. He is in touch with Alejandro Peluffo and excited that on short notice he was able to get time off work and purchase plane tickets to fly to Buenos Aires and attend a one-day expository preaching workshop tomorrow, hosted by the Instituto de Expositores—Argentina.

IDEAR - Taller de Predicaion Expositiva 2014.07.26

Now I had very little to do with all this, but I am happy that I got to be a small link in the chain of connections. Most of all, I am rejoicing that in Argentina the Lord is providing a hunger for men to be equipped as expositors of His word, and also the means for men to be equipped as expositors of His word!

Please take a moment to pray right now that the Lord would grant His favor to the new training ministry in Argentina and that in Argentina and Brazil and all Latin America, both the hunger for word and the means to be trained in the word would grow and increase!

The Joy Set Before Us

VEFC 2014 Joy Jump

David Jump, missions pastor at VEFC

Our sending church, the Visalia Evangelical Free Church held their international missions banquet this past weekend. The theme was “For The Joy Set Before Us,” alluding to Hebrews 12:2, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

The focus of the banquet was to take a glance at past and present joys in church missions and then to take a look forward to the ultimate joy set before us, that of the marriage feast of the Lamb in Heaven.

We were invited to submit our own memorable highlights or joys, as well as something we are eagerly looking forward to in the near future.

Keeping in mind that Paul often called his converts and disciples his “joy and crown,” the following is our response:

Serving in Brazil, our great joy is the people whom God allows us to touch through the ministry of his Word:

  • B. & K.  came to us in 2011 asking us for advice as they considered getting married. Elsiene and I helped them think biblically about their questions. Today we feel great joy as we see these dear friends sharing the grace of Christian marriage.
  • M. is a new Christian, but I hadn’t seen him since December. Recently I dropped in on him at work and told him we missed him at church and would love to have him in my class for new believers. He was amazed that someone had missed him, and assured me he’d be back.
  • N. has an adult son who suffered a head trauma and has spent the past five years in a coma. By her son’s bed, I read 2 Corinthians 5:21 and explained that Christ suffered for our sins, so that we could participate in his righteousness. Through tears N. confessed that she feels God is making her son suffer because of sins she committed. (Please pray that God would awaken in N’s heart the joy of repentance and faith in Christ!)

Looking forward, our eager anticipation is that God would bless our efforts in launching the Gospel & Action Center for Leadership, and that it would be a blessing to local pastors otherwise without access to training in biblical leadership and expository preaching.Thank you for sharing in our joy!

Matthew Elsiene Carroll signature (for web)

Matthew & Elsiene Carroll



Seminary and Beyond

Wow, a lot has happened lately!

For starters, after six years in seminary, I finally graduated! Thank you to so many of you who encouraged us and prayed for us along the way. It is a great feeling to be done with this significant chapter in life, and I am extremely grateful for the training I have received while here.

Secondly, many of you may recall an e-mail I sent out at the end of March listing several potential options for us following graduation. Our main choices were an internship at a pastoral training center in Fortaleza, Brazil, or (1400 miles away) seeking secular employment in order to live near Elsiene’s family in Goiânia.

As the Lord would have things, the internship opportunity in Fortaleza did not materialize, but a dear friend contacted me with another idea for ministry. Thomas Smoak was my high school principal, athletics coach, and Bible study leader when I was growing up in Lomalinda, Colombia. In my life, he is a mentor and a hero.

Thomas is now the Brazilian national director with ACTION International. Thomas and his family live in São Paulo, where they have a ministry rescuing street children. Also part of ACTION is PLD (Pastoral Leadership Development) a ministry that provides training and resources to otherwise untrained, poor pastors. PLD reaches all over Brazil, but their main base just happens to be located in Goiânia—seven miles down a country highway from Elsiene’s house where her father and grandfather still live!

As you can imagine, we are very excited to have discovered this ministry where I can put my own seminary training to good benefit, and we can live near Elsiene’s family at the same time. We have begun the process of formally applying to ACTION in Brazil.

Thirdly, in other news, Elsiene and I have recently learned that we are expecting our third child, due in February 2011! We are thankful to God for His blessing. All the same, we ask your prayers. With our first two pregnancies Elsiene suffered severe nausea, and this pregnancy so far appears to be following suit.

It is still unclear what our schedule might be for joining ACTION in Brazil, and how our pregnancy will affect these plans, but we invite you to rejoice with us for all these developments and to pray with us for God’s will in our application to ACTION and for the health of Elsiene and our new baby.

Blessings in Christ,
– Matthew

Book Review: The Leadership Dynamic by Harry L. Reeder III

Harry L. Reeder III. The Leadership Dynamic: A Biblical Model for Raising Effective Leaders. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008.189pp. $12.99 (paper). Reviewed by Matthew Carroll.

I was once asked to assemble a book list of recommended titles on Christian leadership. Immediately, J. Oswald Sanders’s classic Spiritual Leadership came to mind, but not much else. After consulting other pastors and seminary professors, I realized that much has been written on leadership attempting to apply a corporate business model to the church, but very little has been published on leadership from a biblical perspective. Therefore, the book list project was scrapped, but just this month, Harry L. Reeder III, pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama has come out with a book on leadership in the church.

The Leadership Dynamic is the book I would have liked to have had at the top of my book list on leadership a couple years ago. Harry Reeder’s conviction is that “The Christian church must become a leadership factory and distribution center for the world, and by the grace of God, it can – if we return to both the biblical definition of leadership and the biblical method of producing leaders for the church and the world” (15). Reeder’s dream is to hear the words of Acts 17:6 uttered again, even upon the lips of an adversary, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also” (22). In order to see this come about, we need what Reeder calls 3-D Leadership: “The church must follow the Bible’s model for defining, developing, and deploying leaders while simultaneously rejecting the world’s leadership models and standards” (15).

Chapters 2 through 11 flesh out the ideal of 3-D Leadership. Christ’s threefold mission on earth was to save sinners (Mt. 1:21), to destroy the works of Satan (1 Jn. 3:8), and to purchase his church (Eph. 5:25-27). Reeder finds “embedded in achieving his threefold mission is the strategy of leadership multiplication of servant leaders for the kingdom” (35). A leader is defined as one who “influences others to effectively achieve a defined mission together” (43).

In Chapter 5 Reeder deals with the lists of qualifications for elders and deacons in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 and distills them into four requirements for leaders in the church: 1) the existence of a divine call, including an internal aspiration and an external affirmation, 2) that godliness is more important than giftedness, 3) that effective leaders must develop a grace-driven and disciplined lifestyle, and 4) that leaders are position-bearers, not position-wearers.

In this same chapter, Reeder describes three traps to avoid: indolence, immorality, and insubordination. Here, unfortunately, Reeder is unclear on whether an elder or pastor who commits adultery may ever be restored to his position. He asks the question, “Can a leader who falls to adultery or fornication be restored and reconciled in the home and in the church?” and responds, “Yes—sexual immorality is not the unforgivable sin. But it is extremely destructive to the element of trust that’s so essential to leadership, and full restoration to authority will, of necessity, require much supervised time and effort” (60). However, on the following page, Reeder describes an accountability group he has been a member of for 25 years. In this group each member has agreed that if any one of the group is guilty of “violating [his] marriage covenant, he must leave the pastoral ministry. For us, the door to leadership and ministry swings open one way and only one time” (61). Reeder’s personal conviction seems to be that a pastor or elder needs to be a one-woman kind of man; it doesn’t make sense that he allows in general the remote possibility that a Christian leader who has proven himself not to be a one-woman man could then return to his former position.

In Chapter 12, Reeder sums up his vision that through 3-D Leadership the church could once again become a leadership factory and distribution center for the world. Reeder writes passionately about a topic near to his heart, and with only a few exceptions, supports his points well from Scripture. Though Reeder includes no examples from modern corporate leadership, he takes many examples and illustrations from military history, using them to good effect throughout. The Christian life is spiritual warfare, so we should not be surprised, Reeder affirms, that biblical leadership more closely resembles a battle than a board meeting.

To cite just one example, Reeder relates the story of Lieutenant Colonel Moore, who during the Vietnam War was known for his leadership skills. One story is told of Moore that in a training exercise, a squad leader was “killed.” Moore declared, “You are dead! Now, who do you have ready to take your place?” Reeder employs this story to illustrate one of his leadership maxims that “great leaders always prepare to reproduce and multiply themselves” (68).

I left the foreign mission field to enroll in seminary in order to be equipped to return overseas and train men to effectively proclaim the Word of God. Pastor Harry Reeder is a like-minded brother-in-arms, and I heartily recommend The Leadership Dynamic as a resource to anyone who is about the work of training faithful men who are able to teach others also.

From the Publisher:
Product page: The Leadership Dynamic: A Biblical Model for Raising Effective Leaders.
Read the Preface and Chapter 1. [PDF]

About the Author:
Harry L. Reeder III earned an MDiv from Westminster Theological Seminary and a DMin from Reformed Theological Seminary. He is senior pastor of the 4,000-member Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham. He is also the author of From Embers to a Flame.