Monday, May 30, 2011


I am pretty sure I have blogged about this before but it is on my mind once again this morning. Last night, I picked up 14 kids, ages 5-16 and brought them to church. They are from a poor neighborhood that could be considered part of a small favela. They and some of their moms have recently started coming on Saturdays for lunch. Actually they have just started coming 2 weeks ago so this is very rapid sudden progression. It is forcing us to look at what it takes to meet their spiritual needs on top of their physical and emotional needs.

These kids and mothers are brothers, sisters, cousins, mothers of boys Heitor, Tim and I have met in the prison. Saturday the Mother, Aunt, and cousin of one boy in particular were at lunch. Last night his sister and cousin came to church.

This is the area Melissa and I are gifted but frankly it is a whole new culture from the church we are currently involved with. Yes it is Brazil, yes it is the same city but it doesn’t seem like the same country. 2 Sundays ago when I went to pick people up for church a very cute little boy named Luis would run out and hit the back of a passing car, he is 5. No parents around watching him, no sisters, brothers, just him playing in the street. He wanted to go with me but I couldn’t bring myself to take a 5 year old alone without knowing the parents. I doubt they would have cared. Thankfully he came with a big group Saturday. It was so cool, we went to their street to remind them and everyone there said they were already on the way.

When they come to church, I brought some last Sunday, Wednesday and again last night, they don’t understand the concept of the lesson. They ask lots of questions, they interrupt, they are curious and hungry. It is great!

It is bringing up some questions

  • These kids are at high risk, what are we going to do to offer them the life skills necessary to break the cycle
  • Does our current format and location lend itself to ministering to the kids at the same time as our service
  • Is God asking us to spend a couple years in Foz growing a ministry here
  • Do we add a kids service Sunday afternoon
  • How do we build a trust relationship with the parents
  • Do they need their own church in one of their houses

God is doing something. Heitor has been inspired by the connection with Simon’s family to go out with me to Cidade Nova tomorrow and look up more of the kids from the Prison.

We want to be relevant, we want to reach those God has called us to reach. What does that mean, we don’t know. We do know he is confirming his call on our life to the poor and broken. He is also confirming this is a separate and distinct ministry from ministering to the middle class. Can the two work together or do they need to be like our home church? One church but with 2 congregations, we make the distinction on language. Can you make the distinction on Income, education so on? It is another culture. Does our inhibitions about making those distinctions limit us from being affective?

Kevin – A real leader

Ivone – A great helper

Rafael – Sweet kid

Pamela – Intelligent, confident girl

Paula – Kind, quiet girl

Joao (John) – Big goofy kid

Everson – Reserved

Rafaela – Quiet teenager

Rafaela – The other one, outspoken and fun

Rafaela – The little girl

Vitor and Vitoria – Cute trouble making twins. Especially vitor, cute little pain

Bruno – A friend of Daniels from school

Luis – I would take him home in a heartbeat, he didn’t come last night but he is my little car slapper

I don’t remember the names of the other three who came last night but pray for them.


We love and miss you all

Monday, May 23, 2011

God is moving, time to guard our hearts

Wow, we had a real breakthrough this weekend. Saturday we have been doing lunch at church for people from the street, or whoever needs help. We had focused a lot of our efforts inviting people in the heart of the slum or off the street corners. This last Saturday I took Jerus and Ariel two blocks past the heart of the favela to a semi new area. It is hard to explain, unless you live in Albany, but the neighborhoods here change block to block dramatically. There were an astonishing amount of kids out playing. We got out and handed out flyers door to door. We always approach by asking if they know someone who needs help, that way they don’t feel looked down on.

We went on to our normal neighborhood and then the streets around Centro. When we got back to church a couple of our normal were already there. As I got them sat down and food I seen the first group of kids approaching. I went out and welcomed them in. A minute later another group came around the corner.

As that group of 8 or 9 finished eating I taught them to through an American football and began playing with them. Next thing we know a Chevy, cavalier basically, drove up with 10 or more people in it. Then more came. Really, it was amazing the turn out. I continued to play with the kids including our kids and the Roger’s kids. Several moms had came and sat talking with a few ladies from church. There was such a large group we set up a microphone so I could share a little with all of them at once. Normally we stick to one on one.

After that taste of the Gospel and our style of church I gave a group a ride home. Many of them expressed interest in coming to a service at church Sunday and I agreed to pass by and pick up whoever wants to go.

When I returned another girl had came. She really looked dirty, depressed and hurting. Melissa told me her and some of the other girls were talking to her and found out she had just left her house because her boyfriend was drunk and getting abusive. She had the cutest 3 month old boy, I wanted to take him and tell her to go on. She was only 17, they were both so dirty. She expressed some interest in changing but also looked reluctant to take serious action. We prayed with her, shared with her, tried our best to love her and give her contact information for a pastor in Paraguay. It was very interesting for me to share in Portuguese and have it translated to Spanish. Hopefully the Holy Spirit was somewhere in that process.

The day was really exciting. We have done the wordless book with kids the last two weeks and I plan to try and add a kids program at the end this Saturday. Pray God leads the growth of this ministry.

Sunday when I went to pick up those who wanted to go to church many of them got shy and ran to hide behind their houses. It was funny. I didn’t go away though and after a while one mom and five kids decided to go. Christiana, Rafael, Pamaula, Paula, Erika, and I am sure one more. I believe they are scouts, they said they enjoyed it and I pray Wednesday and next Sunday more come.

I believe God is guiding us to a neighborhood where Melissa and I can have an impact. I believe he wants us to go there more, do some of the things on our hearts, impact some children, mothers, dads. I also believe we need to be careful not to start thinking to highly of ourselves, of our ministry, of our impact. This is a time to guard our hearts and thank God for the door he is opening.

Love you all, thank you all, miss you all

Pray for our continued growth in language, as a family, spiritually. Pray for our health as we are noticing some areas we need to be careful. Pray for continued financial provision as we have had to increase the amount we draw from shepherd’s staff. God is good, big and faithful. We want to do good work and trust Him.



Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Great weekend

We really had a great weekend. Once again having a car is such a huge blessing, we have done more since we got it then the previous two months combined.

Friday I bought a basketball and took it to the boys prison with me. To the semi free part. I had played soccer with some of the guys from church and their friends the previous Monday. It had highlighted I am getting older and need to exercise anyhow so I thought I could add in a little sport with the boys there. It proved a good choice. Sport is a big part of the culture and really brings down walls. The place was quiet that day but I got to play 21 with a boy I hadn’t really met before. He was much more relaxed with us after that. Pray I get the opportunity to start going one evening a week or so, more of them are there then and I would like to just go play sports with them.

Currently I am writing this while watching Alannah improve her crawling. She is playing with a little ball and every time she drops it, it rolls of and she has to go get it. She kind of has a sideways crab crawl, almost sitting up. A little bit of normal in the midst of living in a foreign land.

Saturday we continue our lunch ministry at church. One of the students from semiar came. A Paraguayan, Ariel, he went with me up to the favela to invite people for lunch. He was obviously nervous but excited. He told me he had never been inside one before. So I drove into the middle told him to get out, invite people and meet me at the street up above. You can’t really explain what it’s like you just have to see, it is a little group of houses and shacks that people built on once vacant land. You can drive in some places but have to pick your way between houses in others. He lived, and was quite excited. It ended up raining and not to many people made it to the church. This provided another opportunity to go into the favela. One group of kids did come though, Melissa and Fabi were able to go through the wordless book with them and the boy prayed with them and took a bible. Also Nelson a guy that comes every week has started attending the church. God is really working in his life.

We packaged the food into some aluminum dishes called “marmitex” that are used to sell lunches to go here. Melissa and I loaded up the van with Gabriel, a guy who almost made my heart explode in Jiu-jitsu last night read more later, Fabi a girl from church who has been helping a lot and Ariel. We took some to the vacant lot that we went to the week before. We were able to give some food to a few women and again who I think was a pimp. We were even able to pray for Carmen, one of the women who was there. It is really heart breaking, they were all obviously high, even the women who was about 5 months pregnant and living under a bit of plastic.

After that we took some food inside the favela and gave it too three diferent families. It is amazing the difference when you go to someone’s house then when you have them come to the church. They are natural, comfortable, friendly versus shy, nervous and guarded. I really want to spend more effort getting inside and getting to know people. God is capable of offering these kids so much more, He desires to fill them with His Spirit and use them. It is so hard to see families living that way. One very little house had to families crammed into it. Many of the people go out with a push cart and dig recycling out of the trash bins on the street to make a living. After Gabriel and I left one house we came back to find Melissa and Fabi praying for another lady. This was our best day of ministry since we have been here. The closest to what we want. The best part was taking middle class Brazilian and Paraguayan Christians and showing them there is nothing to fear when you are ministering with God.

Sunday was a bit hard. We always seem more homesick on Sundays. Church was good, but it just seems like you always have a hard day after a great day.

Yesterday I (Ben) went to with some guys from church and got together wood to build a rain awning. When it rains you have to walk through a waterfall to get in. We got it framed up in the afternoon but I need to go tomorrow and put the roof panels on.

After that I went and played soccer with the guys again. I actual played well this week. I really hope to start playing twice a week. We also are hoping to get a basketball hoop for the church. Sports here are very important and a huge part of building relationship with people. I am just starting to see that.

After that, Almost 11pm, I went and tried out Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I don’t know if I will end up liking it or not. I am a natural wrestler but didn’t really no what to do with the guy even when I had position. No one else was hitting anyone so I knew it wasn’t UFC rules, I tried chocking him but he didn’t give up. Then my heart almost exploded and I started to have an asthma problem and quit like a big wuss. I really thought I was going to have  a heart attack, what an amazing work out. It re-highlighted my need to be more serious about my health. I went running today, I guess it is time to get in better shape. I don’t want my health to prevent me from sharing the gospel.

One prayer concern is I have been having a lot of problems with insomnia lately. It seems to be effecting my overall health. I haven’t had a normal nights sleep in a couple of weeks now. Also pray for the kids to really get comfortable with Portuguese, especially Moriah. Also pray from Melissa to find more opportunities. She did meet a mom from the school who speaks English and is having some hard things in life.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Back in the saddle/seat

Wow, how good it is to drive again. I can’t thank everyone who prayed, gave and encouraged us through this process. God is so good. We are excited to see how God uses this new tool to further our ministry.

After our near accident a month ago I woke up burdened to raise the money. Based on what I had been seeing I thought we needed $5,000 to buy a decent car. When we started to look closer we realized that to truly get a car that would meet our needs and bless the Lord we would need much more. We had exceeded our goal and had $6,000 but when I seen this van I knew it was the one the Lord had for us. Unfortunately it was almost $10,000. I knew God didn’t want us to borrow money in Brazil, the interest rates are high. We kept looking and praying. My dad arrived, wanted to see this van and we began to go look. Within an hour of his arrival we received a text that we had the rest of the money and had a deal to buy it. God is amazing.


Saturday, the first day of ministry with a van, I was able to go buy the food for our lunch ministry at church, pick the family up, go get started cooking in the time I normally spend walking to the grocery store. It is so exciting to see how much more we will be able to accomplish now. I made fried cabbage and calabresa, a type of sausage, and my friend Raphael Palazzo made rice with corn and peas. We were a little short handed so I didn’t get to talk to many people but we did give out a lot of food.

The most exciting part was seeing the parents of some kids who come every week finally getting close enough to see the building. The dad was too shy to come all the way onto the property but the mom sat down and ate. Pray for them, I don’t have names at the moment but they have agreed to come to church Wednesday. I plan to pick them up near there house. They live in a small favela and go out with hand pushed carts to dig recycling out of trash for a living.

Also, our church shares a location with a car wash. The people who work there don’t have a lot of money and aren’t paid well. This week several of them finally accepted food. It is amazing how difficult hurt people are to get close too. So guarded, it makes me think how good it is to walk with Christ. It makes me want to work and strive to be an instrument of life and healing instead of hurt and death. The gospel is for today, not just heaven. Life starts now.

After lunch we had a good amount of food left over. Maybe 15 lunches. Melissa, the kids and I took the rest of the food up to a small favela. There is a vacant lot where some people sleep and some apparent drug dealers spend there days. We decided to give them the food. We invite them to lunch every week but they never come. There were 3 or 4 girls there, fairly obviously prostitutes, one of whom was cross-eyed, pregnant and I am pretty sure high on crack. They were shockingly grateful for the food and kind of stormed the van to get it. They were very friendly until I began to invite them to church and tell them where and when. Amazing how that always pushes people away. So clear, the need to be consistent in location and build relationship.

I by no means speak good Portuguese, but oh how good to be able to communicate. I make a lot of mistakes and people don’t always understand me at first, especially the Paraguayan Spanish speakers who came to church last night, but God is giving me the ability to begin sharing His love with people. It makes everything better. With language and a car I feel we can finally begin to do what we have been called to do.

After church last night we gave a ride home to six students from a kind of missions training center. Most of them were Paraguayan. Pray we can connect deeper with this group. Last year we were working with them on Saturdays. Doing children’s ministry in a very poor community just outside of town. It is an exciting ministry to me. People from south America learning Spanish, English, Portuguese, French and studying the bible and ministry techniques. During our little vacation with my parents we went into a small Paraguayan border town. In one of the stores a Paraguayan girl asked me what language my parents and Melissa were speaking to each other. I told her English and she was amazed. She asked what we were doing here. I told her Melissa and I are missionaries and asked if she had a relationship with God. The answer to that is always yes here so you follow up with do you go to church. She said no, Paraguayans believe in God and have some superstitions too but don’t like church. That fits with the semiar students because how cool would it be to develop relationship with the students coming from that country and go on outreaches with them back to there homes to see them come to Christ. One of the students told Heitor and I that he is the only Christian in his family and he lives just on the other side of the river. Hopefully we can see that change.

Some areas for continued prayer

  • Tim, the pastor of our church feels called to leave Brazil and prepare to go to Asia. He leaves in August. We had been looking at opportunities in other cities but perhaps we should remain here for a time and help the transition to Brazilian leadership.
  • Also with a car we are seeing ministry open up here but also costs increase. The exchange rate is low and inflation has been high here. We need wisdom as to whether or not to fund raise, look for tent making opportunities or move to a cheaper smaller town. Cities always cost a bit more.
  • Wisdom in ministry direction. Right now I am beginning to be able to communicate better. We do lunch at the church, I go to a boys prison, have neighbors, and other things. We want to be effective and I think this means we need to pick some areas to minister consistently and frequently.
  • I am beginning to desire to teach more. I am going to apply myself to more study of God’s word in preparation and perhaps start a video blog/devotional. Pray God would confirm this with opportunities.

God is so good. He is doing a work in us and preparing us to impact many people. I can feel it, I can feel my family growing. I want to remain close to the Lord and walk with Him. Do what He does and see what He sees.