Opportunities

May 22, 2017

Dear Prayer Partners,

Greetings in the name of our Lord!  Galatians 6:10 reminds us that, “as we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith.”  Our lives on the mission field have offered us many opportunities to do good; of course the greatest good we believers can do is to introduce people to our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Last month Jim’s evangelism students from the college held evangelistic meetings in the streets of Parque Grangeiro, and also took the gospel to a public school near our college campus.  Most of our students, who are men, had very little experience working with children, but they thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity, and the doors were left open to return to that school whenever we wish.

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Hudson teaching 8-9 year olds

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Joaquim with Kindergarten kids

In two weeks these same students will be participating in an evangelistic campaign promoted by our churches in the Cariri Valley.  Over 250 believers from our churches will be joining efforts for a three-day campaign called Proclamar! (Proclaim!).  Besides evening evangelistic meetings, we will have evangelists in the streets, counseling stations, prayer groups, and free personal services such haircuts, medical consultations, and legal advice.  Please pray for the salvation of souls through the efforts of the Proclamar!

Last weekend our missionaries had the opportunity to promote a retreat for area pastors and wives, with the purpose of strengthening their relationship to God and to one another.  In recent years we have lost several pastors because of breakdowns in their marriages.  Please pray for our national pastors and their wives.

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Cariri area pastors and wives’ retreat

A few weeks ago our church in the Parque Grangeiro met in its new building, just to give the church family a taste of what they have to look forward to when we move, and also for the believers to see what all has to be done before we move in.  Two of the members were chosen to be the church treasurers, and Jim was able to train for the job.  Julie also trained four of the church ladies to be in charge of special events and programs at the church.  Please pray for the growth and maturity of the church in Parque Grangeiro.

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Parque Grangeiro Baptist Church meeting in new building

The two families from Mozambique who plan to come study at our Bible College still have not received their travel documents.  A few days ago the Brazilian Embassy wrote us requesting a few more documents, but stating that we will not have to begin a new process for the visa requests.  We really would like to bless the people of Mozambique by helping to train some of their men for ministry.

This weekend we are planning a four day road trip to Fortaleza, mostly to care for mission business, again, since Jim is the Brazil field treasurer.  This time we will be blessed with the opportunity to receive the treasurer of Baptist Mid-Missions, and introduce him to our field of service as well as to our accounting processes in Brazil.  Please pray for our safety as we travel.

We have a couple prayer requests for our family:  Julie’s father, Everett Hansen, is going through a serious medical condition and treatments which are causing him a good deal of suffering.  Please pray for his strength and healing.  Also, our son and daughter-in-law, Josiah and Nikki, will be welcoming their fifth child in June.  Please pray for a safe delivery.  We will have the opportunity to visit the USA this summer to be with both Julie’s parents and with Josiah and Nikki.

We thank God for you, our support team, who have been faithful with the opportunities to care for your missionaries.  This paraphrase of Philippians 4:10 reflects our gratitude for you: “We rejoice in the Lord for your constant care for us. Though you don’t always have the opportunity to show it, you are concerned for us.”  Thank you!

Your Servants for Christ in Northeast Brazil,

Jim & Julie Leonard

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Showers of Blessings

April 04, 2017

Dear Prayer Partners,

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Papa and Kristi shelling green beans from the garden

Greetings in the name of our Lord!  As the Northeast corner of Brazil experiences the best rainy season in eight years, we are enjoying fresh produce from our garden.  Psalm 147:8 reminds us that it is God who “makes it to rain on the earth and causes grass to grow…”  The previous verse shows us what our response should be: “Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving.”  Even better than rains, God has showered us with spiritual blessings in the past weeks.

Last month we rejoiced in the profession of faith of João, a tractor and truck driver who has worked with Jim on various construction projects.  We also saw Deja publicly declare her faith in Jesus.  Deja’s daughter was saved at our church in Parque Grangeiro and is now the wife of a young pastor, recently graduated from our college.  Both of these responded to God’s gracious salvation after many years of hearing the gospel.  This week is Evangelistic Week at the Parque Grangeiro.  Each night we hold an evangelistic service somewhere in the community.  We had more invitations for meetings than we had nights in the week, so we have a list of homes who want a service in the street in front of their homes in the upcoming weeks.  Jim’s Evangelism class from the college is participating in these meetings.  Pray for the salvation of souls.

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Some of Jim’s Evangelism students at the Cariri Baptist Seminary

The Parque Grangeiro church has now officially received Francisco Carlos as pastor, following his graduation from our college in December.  Francisco Carlos has begun well, by dividing up ministry responsibilities among the believers and training each one for specific ministries.  We have seen encouraging growth in the believers’ passion to serve God through this young church.  We have not yet moved into the church building, as we still lack some basic things, such as chairs and doors on the classrooms.  Pray for God’s provision of the few things that are lacking.

 

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Jorge from Cape Verde

This week our student from Cape Verde, Jorge, arrived to begin his studies next semester.  We are thanking God for allowing us to prepare laborers for harvest fields beyond Brazil’s borders.  We are still waiting and praying for the two families from Mozambique who have not yet received their visas to travel to Brazil.  We are hoping that they can arrive in late May, which would allow them two months to adjust to life in Brazil before the next semester begins.  Our Brazilian believers have furnished two houses for these families for the year they will be studying at our college.  Please pray that the needs of these two families will be met as they leave their country, culture and ministries in order to prepare to better serve God.

This weekend we are planning a four day road trip to Fortaleza, mostly to care for mission business, since Jim is the Brazil Field treasurer.  While in Fortaleza we plan to encourage a pastor and his wife who are very near to us.  Rosangela is undergoing radiation treatments for cancer.  Please pray for her recovery.  The month of April will find us enjoying several reunions with different family members who will be visiting the Cariri.  Among those visiting are Joy Anna and her family, and Jennifer.

Thank you for your faithful prayers and support as we continue preaching the gospel and making disciples in this corner of Brazil.

Your Servants for Christ in Northeast Brazil,

Jim & Julie Leonard

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Praise Will Come From God

February 16, 2017

Dear Prayer Partners,

Today in our devotions we were encouraged by 1 Corinthians 4:5:  “And then praise will come to each one from God.” This comes after Paul’s exhortation to be faithful managers of God’s message and to be motivated by God’s evaluation of our heart’s intentions and not man’s judgments of our ministry.  With Valentine’s Day in the recent past, our desire is that His love and praise be our highest motive for service!

It’s good to be home after two weeks of refreshing fellowship with missionary colleagues and encouraging messages from God’s Word during our NE Region and All-Brazil Field Conferences.  It’s exciting to see how God is working in this huge country, yet we are still challenged with so many places that need a gospel witness, congregations that need pastors and churches that need buildings.  Please pray for more workers in this harvest field.  Jim continues serving as Brazil Field treasurer and on several other committees.

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Baptist Mid-Missions Missionaries in NE Brazil and friends at 2017 conference 

The Parque Grangeiro church plant is still preparing its new building to move in as soon as possible.  God has supplied some of the supplies but the days are few when the men of the church can get together for a work day.  The lack of resources to finish up quickly is a bit discouraging.  The church has decided to not start up the Sunday afternoon Kid’s Club until it is in the new building so that the transition wouldn’t happen in the middle of the semester.  Visits are being made in the new neighborhood and preparations made to begin as soon as the building is ready.  Please pray that hearts would be prepared, as well as the physical building, as the congregation changes locations.

The Cariri Baptist Seminary has begun its 71st year of classes.  Jim is teaching Evangelism and Missions, classes which he feels are the heartbeat of the ministry.  Pray for him as he has made some purposeful changes in his class notes and methods of teaching.  Julie is taking a sabbatical from the classroom this semester to work on her book, “Magnifying Christ in Special Events”.  We have a cleaning lady help twice each week, so that Julie can concentrate on writing, but the lady is looking for a full-time job.  Please pray for wisdom, clarity of mind, quality study time and open doors as we serve Him through teaching.

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New students being introduced to the Cariri Baptist Seminary

Our prospective students from Mozambique have not yet received their visas.  We are praying that it will work out for them to begin second semester (August).  Once their visas are granted they have 90 days before they have to travel.  Various churches and groups are gathering household items and raising support for these two families during their year of study.  Please continue to pray that all of their needs will be met as they make this sacrifice to leave their country, culture and ministries in order to prepare to serve Him better.

We feel privileged to be counselors, encouragers, and prayer warriors for a large group of former students and ministry colleagues.  Every day we have visitors stop by and often are asked to help resolve difficult situations.  The OASiS is buzzing with activity as we have had most of the apartments filled during the vacation period.  That means dealing with maintenance issues and even some construction, including the ten married student houses that Jim manages for Mom Leonard.

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Four generations of Leonards: Jim, Frances, Julie, Joy Anna, Hannah, Fabio, and Kristina

We were able to spend a few precious days with Joy Anna, Fabio, Kristi and Hannah in João Pessoa during our NE Region Conference.  We have had some wonderful Skype chats with Josiah, Nikki and our four sweet grandkids in Iowa.  We talk with Jennifer a few times each week and rejoice that God has provided her with a full-time CNA position in assisted living apartments on the day shift.  We’ve been trying to keep in close touch with Julie’s family as they are dealing with some heath issues.  Your prayers mean so much to us, as we serve God on this field.

 

Your Servants for Christ in Northeast Brazil,

Jim & Julie Leonard

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God’s Appointments

January 8, 2017

Dear Prayer Partners,

Greetings in the  name of our Lord!  As we turn the calendar from one year to the next, we are reminded of our great God who “appoints the moon for seasons: the sun knows his going down” (Psalm 104:19).  This same God appoints for us opportunities to preach His gospel and make disciples.

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2016 Graduates and their Families

Looking back to December of 2016, we graduated 33 students, the largest class in our college’s history.  Most of these have already been placed in local church ministries.  During the year Julie taught Women’s Ministries, Magnifying Christ Through Special Events, Raising Godly Children, and Culinary Arts.  Jim taught Personal Evangelism, Introduction to Missions, Preaching, and Cults and Non-Christian Religions.  We also served as counselors to the on-campus student missions fellowship.

Jim took two survey trips in 2016: one to Piauí, the state to our west in Brazil; the other to Guyana, a small nation on Brazil’s Northwest border.  Piauí is the least evangelized state in Brazil, with hundreds of unreached towns, villages and communities.  Guyana, though in South America, seems more like India.  The people speak English, and are mostly Hindu and Muslim.  We will be challenging our churches in Brazil with the huge needs of these two fields.  Our prayer is that God would send Brazilian missionaries to preach the gospel and make disciples in Piauí and in Guyana.  Of course, He could also send missionaries from the United States, so please pray with us for more laborers.

Samuel and Alice

In 2016 the Source of Light Correspondence School functioned under the leadership of Samuel Milanez, one of our graduates.  After serving as a pastor for a few years, Samuel felt God leading him to take over this ministry.  Samuel has some creative ideas to take this school into the future, and is currently raising support to maintain himself and the school.  His wife, Alice, will be beginning her studies at our college next semester.

Naya and Islânio

 

 

Our church plant in Parque Grangeiro ended 2016 with a New Year’s Eve service in our new building.  On Christmas day we rejoiced with the baptism of a young couple, Islânio and Naya, who have attended for years, even before they were married.  The believers are eager to make the permanent move into the building, but for this to happen we are waiting on God’s provision for some necessary finishing details and chairs.  Please pray for this need.

In 2016 God also allowed us to build our home next to the OASiS.  After living in eight different houses over the past eight years, we now have a place to call home.  We understand the meaning of being pilgrims on this earth.  We moved in December and are still getting settled. Just before Christmas, Joy Anna, Fabio and girls popped in for a surprise visit.  Though they only stayed overnight, it was fun having them as the first guests in our new home.

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Our new home in Crato, Brazil

Our first guests: Fabio and Joy Anna, Kristi, and Hannah

In addition to the opportunities we’ve described, there have been countless opportunities to counsel, speak in conferences, and serve our colleagues with Baptist Mid-Missions in Brazil as Field treasurer.

Looking ahead to 2017, we plan to continue with many of the same ministries: teaching at the seminary, conference speaking, counseling, and construction projects.  Julie will take the first semester off from teaching to focus more on writing and strengthening relationships with former students who are in the ministry.  We plan to bring two families from Mozambique to study at our college for one year. At the end of the year they should return to Mozambique to share what they have learned with their fellow Mozambicans.  Pray that they will be granted student visas.  We are still waiting on God to complete the needed support to make this project a reality.  At the OASiS, we have several guests scheduled during the year, including Fabio and Joy Anna Volpi, who are on furlough visiting supporting churches in NE Brazil.

Thank you for your love, prayers, and support as we serve God in NE Brazil.  If you feel like taking a break in a very warm place this winter, come for a visit; we have plenty of places to hang a hammock for you.

Your Servants for Christ in Northeast Brazil,

Jim & Julie Leonard

Phone: (515) 257-2766

Please note our new mailing address:  Jim & Julie Leonard  /  Rua Aminadab Arruda Campos, 255  /  63132-024  Crato, CE  /  Brazil – S.A.

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Prayer and Praise

November 9, 2016

Dear Prayer Partners,

Greetings in the name of our Lord!  Because this letter is a bit longer than usual, we will divide it into two parts.  In the first part you will find two exciting ministry opportunities for which we covet your prayers.  In the second part we share a couple of praises related to our family and home.

MINISTRY PRAYER NEEDS

On our last furlough we asked you to pray for the thousands of communities in the interior of Northeast Brazil with little or no Gospel witness.  In the Cariri Valley, our immediate region, God has raised up many strong and growing churches.  A recent count revealed forty churches and church plants in the Cariri.  But as we look to the east, west, north, and south, there is still a huge need for missionary work.  There are a few church plants in Pernambuco, the state to our south, and in Paraiba, the state to our east.  Last month we were contacted by some believers who have been transferred with their jobs to Teresina, the capital of Piauí, the state to our west.  They confirmed that there are very few Bible preaching churches in the entire state and invited us to come help organize a church.  This weekend Jim and Daniel Ruley, a co-worker, will be making the nine hour drive to Teresina.  Please pray that God would direct them to the right contacts, and open our eyes to see the “fields that our white unto harvest.”  And also pray with us that “God would send more laborers into His harvest fields.”

 

Pastor Jonasse

Pastor Jonasse

A few months ago we asked you to pray for a ministry opportunity in Mozambique, a Portuguese speaking nation of East Africa.  For the past couple of years several of our Brazilian pastors have made trips to Northern Mozambique to train a group of pastors in that nation.  Many of these men didn’t even have a complete Bible, yet alone a pastoral library.  Last month thirty pastors in Mozambique completed this very basic Bible Institute offered to them by our Brazilian pastors.  These men labor in a part of Mozambique that is predominantly Muslim and very poor.  In order to take the work in Mozambique to the next level, there is a need for a few men from there with some formal Bible College training.  For this reason we have offered a one year scholarship to two couples from Mozambique to come study at our college.  Eliseu and his wife Pierina have worked closely

Eliseu and Pierina, with son, Esdras

Eliseu and Pierina, with son, Esdras

with our missionary in Beira, a large city in Northern Mozambique, and would eventually take the leadership of a thriving children’s ministry in that city.  And Jonasse is a sharp young pastor from Beira who is well respected.  He would continue helping with the training of other pastors in Northern Mozambique.  For the time being, all three of these would come for our one year Basic Bible course.  This is very little, but significantly more than what any of the church leaders in that part of the world have.  We are asking God to provide for these two families the funds for documents, air travel, and living expenses while they are with us at the Cariri Baptist Seminary.  If God should lead you to help with this project, please contact us and we will let you know how to direct your contribution through Baptist Mid-Missions.

HOME and FAMILY

One-day old baby Hannah with family

One-day old baby Hannah with family

We are happy to announce the arrival of our 6th grandchild, Hannah Joy Leonard Volpi.  She was born in the wee hours of the morning on October 29th.  Julie had arrived to help Hannah’s family on the 24th and returned home on November 8th.  She was thankful that she got to spend some time with Joy Anna before and after Hannah arrived.  Please pray for Joy Anna, Fabio, Kristi and little Hannah.  They will embark on a 8-9 month furlough and support-raising trip that will take them more than 2,500 miles ONE WAY, from South Brazil to the Northeast.  They plan to leave in December or January, depending on Fabio’s mother’s health, as she is needing to have a surgery.  While they are in the Northeast, they will make the OASiS their “home base”.  We’re looking forward to some time with them.  Julie missed two weeks of classes, and we’re getting close to the end of the year.  Please pray that she will be able to make up and then keep up with the remaining activities for the year.  Graduation will be on December 10th, with about 30 graduating.

Another praise is that God has sent the ideal person to help with the house cleaning!  Francinalva is a hard worker and leaves things spotless, even when there’s a lot of construction dust all over everything.  She and her husband are moving to Crato from an interior town in the state to the south of us, and both of them are looking for work.  They would like their 15 and 9 year old sons to study in the Cariri Valley.  They have both heard the Gospel and they came to our church a few weeks ago at our invitation.  They were introduced to us by a good friend of theirs who is working on our house construction.  We’d love to see a chain reaction for many to come to know Christ as their Savior through them!

May God bless you for your faithful service to Him, which includes praying for those of us who are on the mission fields of the world.

Your Servants for Christ in Northeast Brazil,

Jim & Julie Leonard

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God’s Word

September 18, 2016

Dear Prayer Partners,

“For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and is sharper than any two-edged sword, … and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”  Hb 4: 12.  How thankful we are, that in a day of slanted media reports, misinterpreted quotes and all sorts of other miscommunications, our God and His Word is effective and true.  Even more so, we are grateful that the Holy Spirit helps us to apply those truths to change our lives and the lives of others.

We were reminded of these truths as we helped examine 24 graduating students in the oral defense of their Biblical beliefs.  It was a long 2 weeks with 3-hour exams each day, but they did well.  Please pray for these graduates, some of whom have not yet confirmed a place of ministry.  After the stress of the doctrinal exams, the seminary family enjoyed a refreshing retreat up in the mountains near our town.  It was encouraging to hear the testimonies of the graduates and what God has taught them.  It was a blessing to realize that we have had a part in preparing them to live and teach God’s Word.   All of us would appreciate your prayers as the weather gets hotter each day.  It’s hard for both teachers and students to concentrate on class preparation, assignments, and the class itself.  Pray for us all as we teach and learn the precious truths of God’s Word!

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Some of our 2016 graduates

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Francisco Carlos

Francisco Carlos, our student leader at the Parque Grangeiro church, is among these graduates.  Because of the demands of his studies this year he has had little time to invest in the church.  Please pray that as he finishes his formal course of studies he would devote more time to the leadership of this young church.  Jim is working with him on developing a philosophy of ministry for 2017.  Please pray that the Word of God will not return without eternal results, specifically in the neighborhood of our new church building, into which we plan to move yet this year.

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Luis and Janet Meneses with daughters Rachel and Debora

On September 7th, Brazil’s Independence Day, we laid to rest one of our co-workers, Luis Meneses. Luis was a Brazilian co-worker with Baptist Mid-Missions, who faithfully served for over 40 years  in church planting, a Bible Bookstore and camp ministries.  God used Luis in the lives of many, even though he preferred to be behind the scenes.  He was faithful in sharing the power of salvation through the preaching of the Word.  Please pray for his wife, Janet, and their 2 daughters and their families.  Luis will be greatly missed!

We continue to pray for the Source of Light Correspondence School.  God has brought Samuel Milanez, a seminary grad, to take the leadership of this ministry.  He is raising support among the area churches, as the school only has the finances to support him through December.  Please pray that the national church will be able to take on his support.  God’s powerful Word has been shared with thousands through SOL lessons and lives have been changed.  Pray that the distribution of these lessons won’t have to stop!

We’re excited for the speaking opportunities that God has given to both of us.  Besides our regular classes, Jim is preparing for 2 conferences in October.  Julie has a bridal shower and a ladies meeting scheduled.  As we share God’s Word, pray that people will be challenged to live out that Word in their everyday lives.

We are praying for several supporting churches in America who are without a pastor.  The number is unusually high and some have been in that situation for a few years already.  We’re also praying that the Church will stand strong on political issues that will determine the course of our nation. We are confident that God is in control, but there are many areas of concern, both in the USA and Brazil.  May we be ever faithful in sharing His Word!

On the home front, the construction of our house is nearing completion.  We hope to move in November.  It’s fun to see the daily progress on the finishing work.  Our daughter, Joy Anna, is going into her last month of pregnancy.  Julie will head to south Brazil in mid-October to help care for grand-daughter Kristi and the housework.  Pray that she will be a blessing to Joy Anna and Fabio during this important time.

Thank you for your love, prayers and support as we share God’s Word in NE Brazil.

Jim & Julie Leonard

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This world is NOT my home!

This world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ through…

So, will we spend the rest of our lives in Brazil?  I think some of the following facts have prompted that question…

– we’re now closer to 55 than 50,

– we’re no longer the “green-horns” but are considered veteran missionaries (we just completed 30 years with Baptist Mid-Missions),

– we are “empty nesters”,

– we have 4 precious grandkids in the USA (and we love their parents, too!),

– our youngest (whom we love very much) also lives in the USA,

– Julie’s parents aren’t getting any younger,

– some of our supporting churches are having a hard time finding a pastor, including our home church.

 

On the other hand…

– there are fewer and fewer missionaries on the field to whom we can ask advice or counsel, or that can take care of mission business (…are we it?),

– we have 1 adorable granddaughter who lives in south Brazil and another one will soon join the family (and we love their parents, too!),

– we both teach various classes at the Carirí Baptist Seminary and count ourselves privileged to have a part in training the future Baptist church leaders of Brazil and missionaries who serve in various countries of the world,

– Jim’s mom lives nearby and she’s not getting any younger,

– our latest ministry endeavor is the OASIS, a restful place where Brazilian missionaries can stay when they return to Brazil on furlough,

– we’re currently building our (2nd) dream house at the OASIS.

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Dream house #2

Either way…

– sometimes we’re so busy we usually don’t know which end is up.  (Jim thrives on that, I just try to keep up.)

 

Wow.  It sounds a bit crazy, but that’s us at the moment.  More experienced, wiser, grayer, older?  When I look back at the past 12 years, it’s been a wild ride that I wouldn’t change for the world.  Some of the crazy curve-balls the Lord threw at us weren’t always pleasant, but I wouldn’t change the learning curves for anything.  Those curves have brought us to where we are today.

 

Let me share some of the quick details about some of those curves.

 

Twelve years ago, I was diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma.  To make a REALLY long story short, I had a very successful surgery to remove it.  The results:  total deafness in my left ear but still smiling, with no facial paralysis.  Oh, and I was left with only one balance system.  That’s been a bit tricky at times, but God has kept me on my feet (literally) through a lot of stressful situations.  The best thing?  I came out of that experience more spiritually balanced than ever.  God taught me how to really, truly trust Him.  What a precious lesson and a much needed one for the approaching curves…

 

A few months after my surgery, our first-born (Josiah) left for college.  Multiple curves.  I don’t think I  need to go into any more details.

 

The next year, our middle child (Joy Anna) left for college.  I think you understand…

 

The next year, our first dream house almost became a nightmare.  It was way, way too big

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Dream house #1

without two of our kids.  On top of that, God drastically turned the Dollar/Brazilian Real exchange rate so that we lost 50% of our buying power almost overnight.  Then it became too much to maintain.  But we never lacked and He always provided, which in that case meant giving us a buyer.  God sold that dream house for us.  The money went into a savings account and we became “homeless”.

 

I’ll use that term very loosely, for we never lacked and God always provided . . . seemingly countless times.  Here’s a quick run-down.  🙂

 

1)  A year was spent as house-sitters for missionary colleagues who were on furlough.

2)  A year was spent in Faith (Baptist Bible College) apartments while we were on furlough.

3)  Two months were spent in another colleague’s guest bedroom when we returned from furlough.

4)  Six months were spent house-sitting for other colleagues while they were on furlough.

5)  Two years were spent living in an adapted dorm on the Carirí Bible college campus.

6)  Five months were spent in a gorgeous farmhouse that my Dad remodeled.  We were privileged to be the first to live there while we were on a short furlough.

7)  Eighteen months were spent in married student housing near the Carirí Bible college campus.

8)  Two years have passed since we moved into one of the house/apartments at the OASIS, originally meant for other missionaries, not us.  😉

9)  Six months of those last two years were spent in an apartment in Austin, MN, (and on the road) while we were on a short furlough last year.

 

So why is all of this important?  No, we’ve never been truly “homeless” and certainly never without places of ministry.  God has been ever faithful to provide SO many places to stay and serve.  But the lesson and the truth of being a pilgrim has been well ingrained and duly learned after living in so many different places.  This world is not our home, we’re just a passin’ through.  Believe me, those words have a whole new meaning because of the past ten years.  If He hadn’t sold our first dream house in 2007, I would probably still be chasing after the wrong things.

 

We really get attached to things in this terrestrial life.  Houses.  Family.  Friends.  Ministry.  Jobs.    Cars.  Pets.  Places.  Stuff.  None of it will go with us, except those souls that we can lead to Christ through our testimony and example.  True pilgrims don’t count the things of this world to be dear because they won’t last.  Investing in people will.

 

I’m still learning all of the facets of being a pilgrim.  But I can confidently say that God brought us to NE Brazil.  Then He took us from church-planting on the east coast to bring us to the desert oasis of the Carirí to serve at the Bible college.  And while we’re still serving at the Bible college, we’re serving in different positions than when He originally led us here.  He can change that again or take us to another place in Brazil, to any other country in the world, or even back to the place from which we were sent:  Austin, MN.  That’s up to Him.  It’s up to us to trust and obey when He leads.

 

So, no, we’re not planning on going anywhere until He leads.  But if and when He does, the house (and all the stuff!) will stay where it is with no regrets.  Believe me, that’s not exactly how I felt ten years ago when I had to leave my first dream house with glass windows and screens, hot running water in the kitchen and baths, a real dishwasher (beside the kids), plenty of space to decorate, and lots of space to entertain and receive guests!   Our new home will have a few of the same amenities but the way that I look at them is so different.  Yes, our prayer is that our home will continue to be used for His glory to encourage others who have made sacrifices to “go”.  But now I have a much better understanding of what true contentment is:  to focus on Christ, His purpose and plan.  The curves have become much easier to manage when God is in the driver’s seat because HE knows what’s around the bend.    

 

The move ten years ago was the beginning of a lesson in the life of a pilgrim.  Sacrifice, yes.  Giving things up, yes.  Letting things go, yes.  Learning what really matters, yes.  Investing in the eternal, yes.  Most importantly, the example and instruction that has been passed on to others will have hopefully landed on listening ears and teachable hearts.  Not to our acclaim, but for the glory of the Lord  and His eternal kingdom.  ‘Cause I’m just a pilgrim.  And I’m just a passin’ through.

 

P.S.  The well-know hymn, Anywhere with Jesus, has been running tough my mind lately.  It was sung (in Portuguese) on August 9th, at the commissioning service of one of our former students, Criselite Siebra.  Cris is headed for Bolivia as a missionary in a few months but had to say good-bye to her family on Wednesday evening.  (If you want to peek in on the moment, check out the video post on my FB page.)  It was humbling to hug her mom and try to encourage her as she struggled to say good-bye to her beloved daughter.  I shared with her that my life as a pilgrim would never have begun had my Mom and Dad not been willing to let go.

They gave up a daughter,  a son-in-law, and the privilege of having three of their grandkids close to them during the formative years.   There are some sacrifices that are made daily, on the part of many, not just the ones He calls to go.  Thanks, Mom and Dad, for being willing to parent a pilgrim!  Thanks for understanding, Josiah, Nikki, Jeremy, Lydia, Tabitha, and Jordan; Fabio, Joy Anna, Kristi, and Baby V.;  Jennifer; our siblings and their families; our sending church family.  Part of our hearts long to be with you every day and to live a “normal” life.  But normal needs to be measured by the standard of God’s will.  Going anywhere with Jesus is one of the possibilities, and it does have great rewards in spite of the sacrifices.  Thanks again for being willing to make that sacrifice.  Because we’re all pilgrims, just a passin’ through.

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