Springtime in Brazil
I write to you today as we are in the beginning of Springtime. Temperatures are warming up a bit but our mornings are still crisp and cool! The past couple of months have been, once again, our favorite part of the year in our part of the world.
When I last wrote to you, our city only had a couple of positive cases of COVID-19, the city was closing down for a couple of weeks, the church was new to live-streaming its services and people were crowding the grocery stores to stock up on food. Some things are different now and some things are the same. Our city is partially open and running “normally”. For the past month, restaurants, bars, gyms and churches have been closed. And the city is under a 7:00 pm curfew. So, we continue to live-stream our services on Sundays and Wednesdays. As far as positive COVID-19 cases, they have increased within the last couple of months to over 2,500, with 43 deaths so far. And for the most part, many people are living pretty anxiously.
We are in the middle of an opportunity like I’ve never seen. There are many mixed emotions about the global pandemic. Many different opinions abound. And there’s a lot of negative tension circulating everywhere. And in the middle it all, God is still on His throne and still working. He is our hope and confidence in the middle of it all.
Out of this situation, several great things have come about. To name a few…
Building a house for a family...
Back in January, one of our church member’s house began to fall during a rain storm. She and her son began to basically salvage what they could from getting soaked. Then the next day they tore down the leading block walls. So for the past several months men in our church have been helping fund the construction of a new house for this family. Another church in São Paulo also helped buy some building materials. Then, last month a loving church in Georgia sent an offering to help finish the house! We are excited to see God use His people from both Brazil and the USA to minister to a real need for Rose and Carlos. Praise God for sacrificial giving even during the pandemic.
As many of you may be experiencing also, so many people have lost their jobs or their hours and/or pay have been severely decreased. For example, one of our members is the owner/operator of a soccer school for kids and teens. He was forced to close back in March and has no income since. So, we’ve been constantly keeping tabs on our people who might need assistance. The same church in Georgia that sent an offering to help build the house was also burdened to help meet food needs of people impacted by COVID-19. They also sent an offering for us to help feed the poor. We have already packed and delivered boxes of groceries to 8 families. And we will be able to help hundreds more!
Encouraging COVID patients and the medical professionals treating them ...
We have a friend here whose dad brought cocoa farming to our region. Our friend has taken advantage of her dad’s farming skills and makes some incredible artisanal chocolate! Her siblings were infected with COVID recently and through their experience they became pretty discouraged. She wanted to help “sweeten" up the experience for others facing COVID. So, she made lots of chocolate and some of our ladies are helping her package it, along with a card that includes an encouraging note and Scripture. We will be helping distribute these sweet treats to the medical professionals heading up our city’s COVID treatment team and to people that we know who have been infected.
One of our church members has a childhood friend who is the lead doctor for the city’s COVID treatment team. About two weeks ago this doctor’s own father passed away from COVID. Dr. Thiago has been having a difficult time handling the experience. Last Sunday was Father’s Day here in Brazil. So Dr. Thiago met up with his friend who goes to our church. George had a wide open door to speak to Dr. Thiago about God and His Word and His Son, Jesus. What a privilege! I’m excited that George is bold to share his faith with his friends. We will be working with Dr. Thiago to distribute these boxes of chocolate. Please pray for more seeds of the Gospel to be planted through this process, and for fruit that remains.
We have been able to make great advances on the construction of the church building the past several weeks. The metal trusses are installed. The metal roof has been ordered and is on its way. The flooring is being installed now. God has provided for this through heartache. My wife’s cousin faced some difficult times recently. She and her husband lost one of their children after a two-year battle with brain cancer. They requested that people send donations to the ministry of a couple of different missionaries - one being our family. We received quite a few donations in loving memory of Axton. Axton’s memory will live on even here in Brazil as we worship the Lord and proclaim His truth in the church! We humbly appreciate this generosity in the midst of those circumstances.
Before the most recent shutdown, we were able to have a weekend camp for our teens. We had a great time! We learned from the life of Paul about running the race - and finishing - well. They were challenged to put forth the effort necessary to run well in the Christian life and to keep their eyes on the prize of eternal life that awaits us. We enjoyed a lot of fun games as well. As always, it is a joy to see our church members pitching in to make things happen.
Also before the most recent shutdown the church surprised me with a birthday celebration after a Sunday service. Brazilians love birthdays! Who doesn't, right?! It was fun to celebrate together with our church family here. I loved the cake topper - I thought it looked just like me. LOL.
One of the things we miss most is our weekly meeting with married couples. We enjoy being together to learn and pray and grow. It is not only a time for learning from God's word about how to invest in our marriages, it's also evangelistic. One of the men pictured here has gone to church for years but will not profess Christ as his Savior. I don't know why. He is intelligent. He's got a lot of knowledge. But we just pray that his "head" knowledge will become saving faith in the one and only Savior. Please pray for "Bigu" to accept Christ through faith.