Monthly Archives: December 2013

December 26, 2013

Dear Prayer Partners,

James wrote, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothingIf any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him”  James 1. 2-5 

During the past month we have expressed our need for prayer via social media and many of you have prayed.  Thank you.  Though we can’t share all of the details of these trials, please continue to pray that God will use them to increase our patience so that we can be perfected into the image of Christ.  We do need God’s wisdom.

The Cariri Baptist Seminary, where both of us teach, has recently received accreditation by the ministry of education.  This accreditation process has been long and difficult, having begun years ago while Jim was the director of the school.  Our desire is that this will increase the ministry opportunities for our future pastors and missionaries.  On the other hand, there are some potential risks of diversion from our school’s historical purpose:  students may come for the degree rather than because of a genuine call to ministry; faculty may be added who have the credentials but not the spiritual qualifications; and teachers who don’t have the academic qualifications required by the ministry of education may have to resign.  Jim falls into the later risk, as he would need to have a master’s degree recognized in Brazil by the end of 2014 in order to continue teaching.  It is possible for him to complete a degree (though not in his area of teaching) if he works hard at it and places other ministries on hold this year.  This is forcing us to rethink our continuing ministry at the Bible College.  As you know, we love this ministry in which God has allowed us to serve for over 20 years.  We need God’s wisdom to determine how to proceed.

Another ministry which has been close to our hearts for many years has been the Source of Light Bible Correspondence School.  In recent years we were able to nationalize the operations of the school, by turning it over to our friends and colleagues in ministry, Pastor Bibiano and his wife Ivonete.  We have not, however, been successful at nationalizing this ministry financially.  Last week, because of a sin problem, Bibiano had to resign from this ministry as well as from his pastoral duties.  After consulting with a board of national pastors, together with the General Director of Source of Light Ministries International, Jim agreed to become interim director of the Brazil operations for this year.  The group of pastors has agreed to help him locate workers and raise offerings among the churches to maintain the school.  Our hope is to have this school totally nationalized by the end of 2014.  We need God’s wisdom to make this happen. 

Pastor Bibiano’s church has asked for our help in knowing how to deal with this crisis.  The church has responded well and we believe that it will come through this time stronger and more united.  The church also asked us to work with the couple as they seek to restore their life together.  Though this is something we are happy to do, it is proving to be very painful.  We need God’s wisdom.  Just one month ago another pastor of one of the churches we helped start had to resign from his ministry because of a similar sin problem.  Please pray for God’s servants, that they will be strong against the attacks from the world, the flesh, and Satan.

Many of you have accompanied and prayed for our children through the years.  Thank you.

Josiah and Nikki live in Ankeny, IA.  In October, Julie was able to be with them when Tabitha was born.  She spent good time with Jeremy and Lydia while Mom and Dad were busy with the new baby.  They are a part of Community Baptist Church in Ankeny, and Josiah continues at the workplace where he has been for several years.

Joy Anna and Fabio Volpi serve as missionary church-planters in the far southern corner of Brazil.  They were married this past April and are excited about the arrival of their first child next April.  Recently they had seven people in one weekend trust Christ as Savior at their church, which is very unusual for ministry down there.  In 2014, from September through December, Fabio and Joy Anna will be in the United States, as they join the Brazil Gospel Fellowship mission.  While they are in the USA, they would like to share their ministry with some churches.  If you would like to contact them for a meeting, their e-mails are fabiodvolpi@yahoo.com.br or joyannabrasil@yahoo.com

 Jennifer has recently decided to “follow her dreams”.  Because she has long wanted to visit New Zealand, she has applied for an “au pair” position with a family there.  She is in the process of getting her visa for New Zealand, which has not been easy.  The documents have been mailed and must arrive in Auckland by January 9th for her request to be considered.  Please pray for God’s leading in this.  If she makes this trip, it will be from February through November.  Jennifer is a blessing at home and working with us in the ministry, but we join her excitement with the possibility of this adventure.

 Thank you so much for your prayers, love, and support, especially as God brings us through these trials in ministry.  Though we can’t see clearly ahead, we know that He is in control, and we know He will answer your prayers.  God bless you, and have a wonderful New Year!

 Your Servants for Christ in NE Brazil,

 Jim & Julie Leonard

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“When I Grow Up” … Living the Unplanned Dream

Authors Note:  I should probably make a list of disclaimers here:  I’ve never before written an article for a blog, it takes me forever to write because I write, read, re-write, re-read, etc., etc.   But I can sincerely assure you that I’m not writing to show my literary skills but rather to share a teachable heart.  With the Bible as my guide and the Holy Spirit as my teacher, I’m still learning;  Lord willing, a masterpiece in the making.  *sigh*  There’s an awesomely large amount of work yet to be done…

I can’t really say that, as a small child, I remember dreaming about what I wanted to be when I grew up.  There wasn’t really anything that I knew  that I wanted to be.  I loved my family, my church, my school, my friends, my life.  Maybe at that stage, I just wanted to live that life  forever.  But since life obviously doesn’t work that way, I had to grow up. 

So while in 7th grade (called “junior high” back in the 70’s), I was positive that I had discovered my life’s calling:  interior decorating.  That shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone.  That is, anyone who knows my extremely creative and talented Dad.  It’s sufficient to say that, when it comes to remodeling projects, Dad can transform the worst into the best, the impossible into reality, tossed aside junk into gorgeous, sought-after masterpieces.  It’s in the genes, no doubt, but it also shows in the elbow grease that he so diligently taught my siblings and me to apply.  My new life’s goal became the dream of remodeling and living in a renovated barn.  I think that Dad would have loved to have helped me with that project, but it never happened.  God had other plans. 

When God called me to be a missionary, my new love became working with children; in Vacation Bible School, in AWANA, in Sunday School, at Bible camp.  That new goal was played out in various ways that brought so much satisfaction, especially after I had my own kids.   Yet God changed that love to another in a way which I never expected, never asked for, nor even dreamed possible. 

God needed to teach me a few important lessons, so He put me to teach.  That may sound counter- productive, but it’s really quite logical; a teacher learns much more in the process of preparation than any student will ever assimilate through class lectures, notes, activities or homework.  So, not necessarily realizing exactly what God had in mind, I suddenly found myself teaching female Bible college students.  

Frankly, I was somewhat pushed into the position as a last minute, maybe even temporary, solution.  It truly was last minute:  the responsibility was handed to me just three weeks before classes were to begin.  I had never prepared organized class notes or lesson plans for a 2-credit college course or anything even comparable.  It was an interesting adventure, especially since I was homeschooling our three kids at the time.  But most importantly, through that process I discovered that I was the one that needed to be taught, and on a more permanent basis! 

So here I am, almost 15 years later, still teaching and still learning.  That initial 2-credit class has developed into four separate courses:  The original, Christian Worker II (The Biblical Woman and Her Home), plus Evangelism through Special Events, Culinary Arts, and Raising Children.  Every year I try to update my class notes simply because God is still revising my heart  and my head.  Many times, there are cultural differences and linguistic challenges that are very disheartening.   Sometimes there is a lack of dedicated students or those that don’t take the Word of God seriously.  At other times I lose my focus and concentrate on my needs instead of fixing my eyes on Christ.  Sincerely, there have been many times that I just wanted to quit.  But God’s grace is sufficient and I’m still learning to depend on Him for every little detail.   Yes, there are times that I fail in being excellently prepared or in blamelessly living what I teach.  But with each short-coming, the more I desire and realize my need for a truly humble and teachable spirit.

SO, what do I want to be when I grow up?  (Wait!  Did I just hear you laugh?)  The TRUTH:  I turned fifty this year.  Yes, I do feel a bit older and much wiser, but that’s the exciting part.  Titus 2: 3-5 exhorts, “the older women likewise, be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things – that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.”   With God’s help, I’m striving to be that  woman, the woman of Titus 2.  Yes, there are days when I don’t play well the part or fit the description of a more mature, godly woman in the most excellent manner that best delights my Lord.  But I have grown, I am growing, and I desire to grow more in the grace and knowledge of my Savior.

Although there are a few downsides to what God has asked me to do, there are also some huge rewards.  When John wrote, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in the truth” (3 John 4), he expressed a grateful satisfaction to see what he had taught being put into practice in the lives of those who he had mentored.  I completely understand and whole heartedly agree.  As we travel to different places when Jim is asked to speak in churches, it thrills my heart to stay in the homes of some of my former students.  As pastor’s or missionaries wives, they share how they use recipes, practice hospitality, plan church programs, work with a family budget, train their children, and teach the other women in their congregations; many things that were taught or reinforced as they sat in my classes.  Mind you, that’s not to sing my praises, but to state the blessings of a wonderful God who will use those who are willing to be used, even when it seems that no one is listening or paying attention.  There’s no greater incentive to keep on keeping on than those faithful examples.  I have to keep reminding myself of those encouraging blessings.

Am I doing what I dreamed of being as a teenager?  No.  Am I doing what God desires of me?  I trust that I am and know that if I’m not, He’ll lead me to that perfect place.  And that’s a dream come true. 

Delighting in the Lord,  Julie            

Psalm 37: 3-8

BTW and FYI:  God has been so gracious to me.  Even though He called me away from interior decorating as a profession, I’ve had innumerable opportunities to decorate the various homes that we’ve occupied.  (Last count, it’s been 19 over a period of 28 years, ranging in time from 1 month to 13 years, not including various times at my Mom and Dad’s during short furloughs.  No joking.)  The Lord even allowed Jim and I to design the home in which we lived for 13 years as we raised our kids and are currently in the process of designing our next terrestrial residence.  We’re leaving the details of the eternal one with Him.  (John 14:1-6)

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