Monday, September 19, 2011

… Come and Go…

Things in life really do come and go. Emotions, seasons, family friends, all things. Some last a long time, hopefully family and friends, some are short but all things have an end.

Recently in my devotions I have read a few of the minor prophets, you know those books you say you believe are important but never read. The amazing thing is often Israel was in a state of disaster or impending disaster, the kind of season that overwhelms you as a person. You can’t stop thinking, can’t sleep, can’t function. Those seasons always ended. God was and is the only thing that is eternal. We are promised to share in that but we have a beginning. God always was and always will be. Those seasons of desperation must look so short to Him. He was telling Israel, look to me, this will end but they so often kept looking at circumstances, at their surroundings.

How often do we do the same thing. I know I had been. I was  continuing to try and seek the Lord, be led. I have been working on finishing the last part of our residency papers, praying with Melissa and the kids about “our calling”. At the same time I was getting discouraged about some of the ministry things that ended. Some of the hardships. Instead of being thankful for the season of fruitfulness I was getting discouraged by a different season. We are in a season of change. A season of paper work, packing, cleaning searching for a new house. We couldn’t move on to something I believe will much better match who God has made our family to be if the season of busy ministry hadn’t slowed down.

I am putting together notes to teach on evangelism. I am looking at the story of God, the bible. How do we spread our faith, what is it, what is the purpose. It comes down to answering some of life’s basic questions. Is there a God, who is He, what does he want from me?. As I looked at the story of creation,the purpose of life (to be a reflection of God’s glory, we were made in the image of God) and the fall of man I was again struck at God’s mercy in bringing death. Life is a season. When sin entered the world so did the curse. Life is hard, it is often painful and difficult. If it didn’t have an end who could take it. Imagine living eternally seeing wars, poverty, starving children, divorce, selfishness etc.… you would go crazy. Seasons are things of mercy. We were created to reflect God’s glory but because of a broken world, by us, we don’t have the ability to doo it perfectly or eternally. We need seasons.

As we have accepted the season of change, this time of difficult emotions and uncertainty we have seen God’s glory. His purpose in our lives. Over the weekend a mom and one of the girls we had been ministering with came by the church to see if I could help them pick something up and invite  us to a birthday party. When I delivered a big wooden wire wheel all the kids came to say hi. It was natural. Then at church yesterday a couple of kids came that come once in a while. Antonio was laughing just playing ping pong with me. Gabrielle a girl who lives by the church and also just shows up to play ping pong listened to me struggle to share the gospel in Portuguese, I pray something got through. These were all interactions with simpler people, all different but all simple.

Farm kids, a lonely girl, a family from the favela. All different but all a confirmation for us that God has called us to the simple places. Yes there are simple people here, yes we have been ministering to people here. Yes God is closing that and leading us to an even simpler area.

He is good. The seasons in our life have purpose. They will all end, good and bad. They will never be wasted.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Pain and Excitement

We are sure going through interesting emotions. So much excitement for what God is doing and what we may be going to. At the same time so much pain for what we are leaving behind.

When doors shut in order to open the doors to go to the Pantanal I think my fingers were in them. We had been getting to know some good kids. They were learning and growing. They seemed to have an appetite to grow. They suddenly disappeared and it hurts a lot. I don’t know if there is something we could have done different. Did we go to fast, did we come on to strong. It is almost like dating. More experience and time will probably shed more light on todays situation. I am also convinced with a little effort  we could get them back again. In the end though, I am fully convinced it is time for us to move.

Before then we plan to spend time in their neighborhood, play soccer, encourage them to get involved in one of the many churches within a few blocks and do our best to leave well. Up until now it has been a little to raw. When I think about going by I get sad, I don’t know what I am going to say, again it seems a lot like dating.

Maybe there are some ministry lessons to be learned in those similarities. I often am surprised at how similar things are to business and draw from those experiences. Today I will be negotiating with our landlord trying to end without a relationship breakdown but still protect my deposit. That is something that draws a lot from that period.

Maybe there is a time to treat people like you are chasing a girl. Christ called us his bride, he pursued us like a lost love. Maybe as ministers of the gospel that is the attitude we need. Maybe it is right and healthy that we hurt like a rejected suitor when things don’t work out.

God is good and in the end we have to leave people in His hands. It is Him they are responsible to not me. The kids and parents we had been working with ultimately need to desire God to the point they pursue Him. They need to find a church and plug in. I have to leave it in His hands.

We certainly can’t wait to get to Corumba, to scout out the next thing. There is so much to be excited about, but please pray that we leave well. That we have wisdom. That we love those we were serving.

Thank you all for praying. Love you much,


Ben and family

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


After a little more than a year in Brazil, and a few years of planning to be missionaries we may finally be beginning to understand what that means for a family of 6. We left for Brazil with a lot of different ideas in our minds and hearts but little idea of specifics. Little idea of how to bring those things together. At times it made it very challenging. We would be sharing with people, raising support and our best answer for what we would be doing was go to Brazil and give glory to God. Our hearts have always leaned towards the poor, hurting, lost people who need Jesus.

When we first came we thought perhaps we would connect with the street peoples of Sao Paulo, perhaps work in a favela there. As we looked at apartments there it became clear our family wasn’t ready to live in a city of 20 million plus. We moved on to Foz to do a missions training school we had been planning to do a little later. It was a great time of learning, getting comfortable being a family in a second culture, Alannah being born and much more. We finished the school and settled into the process of learning language and getting our residency. Foz has been the perfect place for that. We began exploring some ministry options and learning who we are as a family. We discovered a heart for tribal peoples as we had some of our first experiences with them. We began to dream of maybe one day going to Africa, perhaps one of the Portuguese speaking nations like Guinea Bissau. I believe that may still be a part of our future, a country that has a much smaller church presence.

We then began to see some ministry open up here and satisfied ourselves with that. We began to understand God gives us dreams of the future but leads, guides and prepares a large family gently and slowly. There is a point where calling, preparation and timing come together. Until then it is a lot of fun but often painful success, mistakes and sometimes embarrassing learning experiences.

One thing that has been clear from the beginning is that we have a goal and desire to move further. To go closer to the edge of the frontier. We even considered changing our minds shortly before we came and heading to Jordan to do a school with YWAM. Not out of flakiness but because as a missionary your desire is to give the gospel to people who don’t have it. Everything in our lives is preparation for something further down the road at the same time as an opportunity to see God do something in the moment. We had been thinking of doing a school of frontier missions here in Brazil or in Argentina with YWAM but have come to the understanding our family needs to settle for a season. It isn’t easy to move and change.

Because of that, we had been thinking we would just settle here in Foz, grow the ministry we were seeing with the kids. Reach out here, open a youth center, perhaps see it grow into a church in a poor community. It wasn’t going to completely fulfill our desires but it seemed to be what God was doing. We left for a vacation to get some papers we need for our residency. When we got back the kids had disappeared. It quickly became clear God was shutting a door.

Over the last year our desire has grown to live in a more rural area. We love being with simple people. For people that have been to Mexico with WCC the area of San Luis is a perfect example. A small city in a rural region with lots of little towns around. There was a point several years ago we seriously were considering moving there to work with Caring Hearts. It is the perfect example of what we would want to do.

As we processed the shut door coupled with the last paragraph we began to see God clearing up our vision. We feel it is time for us to pick an area to settle into. Clear up our vision for people. We appreciate the way people have supported us just getting settled in. Getting our feet under us but now it is time to go somewhere.

Our hearts are clearly to be in a more rural region and we are going to go. We are going to begin by terminating our contract on this house. The year is up so we will give the owner notice tomorrow. We then will turn our focus onto the final paperwork for residency. These two things allow us to move out of Foz.

We believe God is calling us to a region known as the Pantanal. We have been researching a city Corumba, in Mato Grosso do Sul. It is on the edge of the Pantanal and the Bolivian border. North of the city is an area where some tribal people still live. It is full of Anacondas, big ones, Caymans (kind of a little crocodile), big fish, probably spiders and lots of other scary stuff. Not to mention being one of the major cocaine trafficking ports of the world.

Our hope is to find a place to rent in that area. We want to move there in December or January. My parents will be spending the winter in Brazil with Calvary chapel. It will be nice to spend Christmas somewhere with family. We then will focus on building relationships with local churches and scouting the region for a good property. We hope to visit the States and maybe Canada next June. We will be raising more support and hopefully funds to buy the property.

Our desire would be to build something like Caring Hearts in Mexico. Starting with building a shop for a vocational school as well as class rooms for tutoring, English classes and bible. Eventually we would like to see dorms for kids camps and for teams to come down. The location if it ends up Corumba is perfect for outreaches to poor simple people in both Brazil and Bolivia. Bolivia is the country in South America second in my heart. I have never been there but am very excited about the idea.

We have a Paraguayan friend, Ariel (not the little mermaid though he is little) ready to go with us. Nothing is 100% but we are praying together every week. He speaks Spanish, Portuguese and Guarani a native tongue. He has quickly become my best friend here. It is exciting, communication with a friend in both our second language.

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We appreciate you all and want to give you an idea of our direction. For prayer but also so you know we have visions, dreams and goals. God is putting it in our hearts that now is the time to run after those dreams. Look at this passage from Isaiah 40

28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.