“Feliz Ano Novo!” Happy New Year from NE Brazil! “How can we thank God for you in return for all the joy we experience before our God because of you”? (1Ts 3:9 HCSB) As we reflect on 2017, we are SO thankful for your faithfulness in helping to bear our burdens before the Lord. It was a difficult year in many ways, yet God kept us from falling, through your prayers.
– Our year began with a move to our new home after a somewhat nomadic “pilgrimage” of nearly 10 years. Finally taking things out of storage and dividing them among our house and the various OASiS units was a huge undertaking! Before we were finished, this project was interrupted by the beginning of classes at the seminary, mission travels and various conferences.
Our new home in the OASiS
-In February, Julie’s Dad was diagnosed with MDS (a pre-leukemia blood disorder) which began a 9 month frenzy of blood transfusions, chemo sessions, frequent ER visits, hospitalizations and rehab in nursing homes. Our telephone conversations and prayer with Dad became very regular and precious.
-Jim’s Mom celebrated her 80th birthday in April but the joy was spread over almost 2 months with many family and friends. We managed a surprise reunion here with all 5 of her children, the first in 20 years.
Frances Leonard on her 80th Birthday, with her 5 children
-Joy Anna and Fabio stayed at the OASiS for almost two months and we enjoyed having Kristi and Hannah next-door!
-In May, Jennifer came for a two-week visit during which she sorted through her stored things for a more permanent move back to the USA.
-Jim cut his first semester classes short so that we could be in the USA for the birth of Josiah and Nikki’s 5th child. Isabelle Faith was born on June 15th and we enjoyed creating lots of great memories with Jeremy, Lydia, Tabitha and Jordan. We were able to spend some time with Mom and Dad Hansen, helping to care for Dad for a few days. His medical diagnosis was changed to leukemia.
Papa and Nana with Jeremy, Lydia, Tabitha, and Jordan, welcoming baby Isabelle.
-Early August brought us back to Crato for second semester classes. We left the US with torn hearts as Julie’s Dad had been given just a few weeks to live; his chemo was suspended at that time. The Lord was gracious and Dad rallied back. He decided that he wanted to have a “rehearsal” for his celebration of life, to be able to personally thank all who prayed for him. His party was held on September 7th at Hansen Farms. After that, Julie’s sisters and brothers took turns helping to care for Dad at night at home.
-Just a week after our arrival in Brazil, Jim came down with an inflammation in his abdominal area. After having an ultra-sound, a CT scan was ordered and the urologist discovered a large tumor on his left kidney… completely unrelated to the original inflammation. The next month was a flurry of appointments and trips to Fortaleza where he had surgery on September 26th. We stayed there for another 2 weeks as he recuperated. Some of our classes were taught via live FB Messenger. We were praising God for an early discovery and waited for the biopsy results.
-October was busy getting back into a routine of some sorts, with limitations for Jim. The biopsy confirmed that the tumor was malignant, but the surgeon was confident that the tumor was completely removed and there was nothing to worry about. Jim saw an oncologist and more tests were ordered.
-In the first days of November, it was discovered that Dad’s leukemia was back with vengeance. Julie’s tickets were bought for the 8th. Dad went to be with the Lord in the wee hours of the 7th. She was able to be with her family for his celebration of life service, to be with Mom in the days of adjustment and was able to spend Thanksgiving with them, counting God’s many blessings.
Julie’s father, Everett Hansen, watching one last harvest.
-Meanwhile (south-of-the-Equator), under student leadership and with special help from co-workers and Jim, Julie’s Special Events class carried on with the Thanksgiving celebration and making the dessert for 130 guests at the seminary.
-Julie arrived back in Brazil with just a week of classes before graduation. Another frenzy of activity followed. We received Jim’s test results and three doctors – the urologist, his surgeon, and the oncologist – all gave him a clean bill of health. (Well, the body scan showed some arthritis.)
-Two days after graduation, Jim, along with colleague, Daniel Ruley, and a group of seminary students, travelled to the neighboring state of Piauí on a missions trip. We are praying for God to send workers into that very needy field.
-The same day Jim arrived home from Piauí, we left on a red-eye flight for south Brazil. We spent the day with John, Bev and their son, Joshua, in São Paulo, then caught 2 more flights before we arrived in Porto Alegre where Fabio and the girls picked us up.
-We spent 10 wonderful days with Joy Anna, Fabio and girls. Three of those days were in the nearby mountain communities that were settled years ago by Italian immigrants. We tested lots of yummy grape juice, enjoyed fresh peaches, seedless grapes, pasta, climbed in a huge tree house and even rode on a steam train. We got back to their home in time to make some Christmas goodies and get ready to celebrate Jesus’ birth. They had just moved into their newly rented home so Papa was a big help with drilling holes to hang various things and Nana helped put some meals in the freezer.
The Leonard and Volpi families reliving history
-After arriving back in Crato just before New Year’s Eve, we got ready for the fellowship BBQ at Parque Grangeiro to send off 2017.
-The first week of the year was spent reconnecting with colleagues and some of our “adopted” kids and grandkids. The very busy last six months of 2017 made it nearly impossible to stop and just have fellowship. We enjoyed a stay in a chalet at a nearby mountain water park which included ziplines and a challenging course in the tree tops. That was relaxing fun!
Julie in the treetops
-We’re enjoying our vacation time but are keeping busy with various projects. Julie is trying to finish some decorating that wasn’t done when we moved. Jim’s office has been brought over from the seminary and there is some organizing to do in both our offices. Jim is overseeing the installment of a solar farm on our property, to reduce the cost of our electric bills.
– Next week Jim will work on the married student housing, getting them ready for incoming students. Four of the ten houses were vacated by graduating seniors in December.
-This month we’re also trying to catch up on routine doctor’s visits that were put off during our crazy months.
– Jennifer, our youngest, has joined the Navy, and will be heading off to basic training as early as March of this year.
– Joy Anna and Fabio will be planting a new church in São Leopoldo, the city to which they have recently moved.
– Josiah and Nikki continue living in Iowa. Nikki is fulltime mother of their five children, home schooling those who are of school age. Their three oldest, Jeremy, Lydia, and Tabitha have received Jesus as Savior. Their most recent home project has been a total makeover of their basement.
-Jim is part of the seminary board, which will meet in early February. Please pray for some important decisions that will be made, including a new board president. In trying to eliminate some stress and heavy demands on her schedule, Julie has resigned from the faculty and given over one of her ladies classes. She will still teach Special Events and other classes as time and energy allow, and when there is a group of students who want to study.
-We are busy preparing for two conferences this semester. One is for the Baptist Mid-Missions family in Brazil which will be held in the Amazon. The other is the seminary Missions Conference. These events will be back-to-back in mid-March, and will have BMM president Vernon Rosenau as the speaker.
-On Easter weekend, we will be dedicating the new Parque Grangeiro building, officially installing Francisco Carlos as the pastor, and celebrating the 8th anniversary of the congregation.
-We are planning a four-month furlough to visit some of our churches, some of which we haven’t visited in over 5 years. This will be from April through July. Jim will have to double-teach his first semester classes so that we can leave at that time. We both have heavier teaching loads in the second semester. Valoulie, our student from Haiti, will be graduating in December and we really want to be at her graduation, as Julie has developed a close relationship with her.
-Our two student families from Mozambique should be returning home in July, better prepared to serve the Lord, because of their year of intensive studies at our college.
We are thankful to God for giving us thirty two years of marriage; and thirty years of missionary service in Northeast Brazil. And we thank God for our faithful prayer and support team we represent on this mission field. Thank you!
Jim & Julie Leonard