We are so thankful that we were able to be home with family and friends for Christmas. We were also able see a few of our ministry partners during the months of January and February. It was too short of a trip though. We arrived back in Brazil on February 26th. Shortly before coming to the U.S. we had moved, and the new house did not have any kitchen cabinets or storage space. So it took us a few days to put some cabinets in and unpack a bunch of boxes from our move and our trip, before we really felt settled in again. Also, the kids had been off of school for most of January and February so as soon as we unpacked they went back to school, which they were not too thrilled about. Thanks to all of our friends and ministry partners who made our short trip home possible.
Oasis of Hope
Our goal this year is to launch to the Oasis of Hope Children’s ministry through our local church. To do so we are aiming at building a 1800 square ft addition on our church property that will house the Oasis of Hope ministry activities. Our goal was to raise $20,000 by the end of March, and we are $5,000 shy of reaching that goal. Most of the structure is complete, all that is lacking are some basic furnishings and equipment to make it functional. We hope to be able to put this new space to use by June – just in time for “winter break” and the FIFA World Cup.
The Cidade Tiradentes Church-Plant
In April, the new church-plant, which started a little more than a year ago, takes an important step as it will have an organizational service and be legally recognized as a “church” before the government. For the church members, the legal aspect of the whole thing is not a big deal, but it is a moment in which they take greater “ownership” in the vision and ministry of the church.
Pray for the church to grow in the Word, in their relationship with Jesus Christ, and in their service through the Church. We have faced a tremendous amount of difficulty with this church-plant, but we believe God has led us here and that He has a plan for these people in this place. Pray that we will remain faithful through the daily grind of life and ministry in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Home for Christmas
This is the 3rd time in 9 years that that we have been able to be home for Christmas. It was great to worship the Lord together with our home church in Nashville, TN, and to see family and friends that we had not seen in years.
We will remain in the U.S. for a short furlough until the end of February. We’ll take much of January and February to report so some partnering churches in the region.
Robbed and Broken
In the month we have been in the U.S. our church in Brazil has been robbed 4 times. The robberies have resulted in significant property damage to doors, windows, gates, etc…, and substantial property loss. The thieves even managed to steal the church’s refrigerator/freezer in the most recent robbery. Our estimated loss to date is around $3,000.
The church is located in a notoriously dangerous part of the city so we are used to being robbed every once in a while, but this is worst than anything we have experienced before. This is a spiritual attack on the church. The church has only been meeting for a year, and it is largely made up of new Christians. These new Christians have worked and given towards much of what has been destroyed or stolen. They are discouraged, but they are pressing on. They will spend much of their New Year’s Day at the church installing temporary lighting so that they can have lights for Sunday worship.
This turn of events is also discouraging to us because we were hoping to raise funds during our time in the U.S. for a new project, but much of what we probably raise will be designated to simply put doors and windows back on our building. Pray for the church to shine during this difficult time – God is in control!
Ever since I began serving as a missionary in Brazil, I felt the Brazilian church could do more in missions than what they were doing. For the most part, the churches get the Biblical foundations of missions, and they understand that missions is their responsibility, yet their is a huge gap in between understanding missions and engaging the world with the Gospel. Don’t get me wrong, churches support missionary projects, many churches are very missional, and some even have local church-planting projects. The church’s primary missions focus has been the home front – Brazil, and the other Portuguese speaking countries in the World. Latin American countries have been a secondary focus, and much of the rest of the world has yet to become a missions priority.
Everything the Brazilian church has done has been great. Start where they are and move out from there into the farthest corners of the world. And it is there, the farthest corners of the world, where God began working in my heart as to what I could do to mobilize the Brazilian church towards Asia. Back in 2010, I had the opportunity to take a trip to Asia where I was introduced to a people and a culture much different than the Brazilian culture I am accustomed to. God used this exposure to create a desire in my heart to be a vehicle, a mechanism, a conduit through which the Brazilian church could engage this corner of the world. I went back to the U.S. and began talking to some friends about what could be done. To make a long story short, I took a hard look at the various mission agencies in the U.S. that partner with national missionaries and pastors in closed countries within the 10/40 window, and I formed a partnership with one of these agencies. I came back to Brazil and started creating partnership with key pastors and church leaders. I wanted Brazilians to be involved in the whole project from the onset. They bought into the vision and the plan, and we set the whole thing in motion in 2013. Today we have a partnership with Faith International Partners, a mission organization whose focus is to partner with, train, and mobilize national missionaries and pastors in the Asian countries within the 10/40 window. We offer Brazilian churches an opportunity to partner with church-planting projects in Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, and India.
What do you think of when you hear the word “oasis”? I think of a character out of an Indiana Jones movie, or a cowboy out of an old western wearily traveling through a desert. As the traveler’s strength evaporates into thin air from the intense heat of the sun and the blistering sand and stones, he looks into the distance to see an island of palm trees circling a spring-filled pond. The traveler’s hope is renewed and his life restored. Merriam-Webster defines oasis as “a fertile or green area in an arid region (as a desert), or something that provides refuge, relief, or pleasant contrast.” To paraphrase that definition we could say that an oasis is “a source of life in the middle of a deadly desert.”
Our current church-plant decided on “Oasis Church” for a name because they wanted the church to be the life of Christ lived out in the midst of the spiritually dead world. The world is spiritually dead. Some places apear to be “deader” than others, but to understand the significance of the church name to these people you need to understand a little about where they live.
Oasis Church is inserted in one of the most notoriously dangerous districts in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Sao Paulo, Brazil boasts a greater regional population of nearly 30 million people, and within this region, the East Zone of the city is the most populous, and clear out on the edge of the East Zone is a group of notoriously bad districts, the worst of which is Cidade Tiradentes (CT). CT is nowhere as bad today as it once was, but the socio-cultural stigma of fear and hopelessness remains.