Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Abandonment and Freedom

I woke up today not feeling right. I took the car to get the oil changed and had a good coffee and chat about our future with our friend Buster. By the time I got home I realized I was sick. Alannah had already thrown up the day before and had terrible diarrhea for a couple of days. As a parent a sick baby is always hard. By tonight I was really sick and getting grouchy.

We are supposed to leave Friday morning for Rio de Janeiro to see my parents before they return to brazil. They are giving us a car they had bought for their travels here and blessing us with a few days on the beach, they scored some very cheap airfare for us. The kids are excited, we feel a bit guilty but are excited about the beach and now we may not make it. There is no way we can travel, at least all of us if anyone is sick Friday morning.

I have been laying here not able to sleep because I had slept off and on this afternoon, fell asleep and woke up to get sick myself.

I am feeling a bit convicted as we had been getting a bit discouraged or lonely this week. We are expecting to be able to buy tickets soon with some tax money. We may be able to concentrate fundraising on ministry projects instead of asking people for help coming home. This is good. However as we started planning I think it has hit us how tired we are. We have been in Brazil for almost 2 years and had about 2 years of transition before that. We need to rest and be refreshed. We have moved multiple times and been homeless half the time the last two years, living in temporary locations and other peoples homes.

I think we, or at least I (Ben) began to put some hope in our visit home, hope in taxes, hope in things of the world. I began to loose sight of what matters and what is reality.

Jesus said “to gain ones life he must first loose it”. Interesting and strong words. I have come to realize though these last few years that the greatest feeling in the world is when you truly give up your life. You don’t have to be a missionary to do that. Many of you give us a sacrifice of your money regularly or semi regularly. Many of you serve in your church, a ministry or a charity giving of your time. This is all a part of it. When we no longer consider our own lives, our own comfort, our wealth or even our children and spouses to be something we would hold back from God we begin to experience true freedom.

I was worried about my kids missing seeing their grandparents and going to the beach. I was worried about my parents loosing money on tickets. I was worried about taxes not showing up. I have worried about support drying up. I have worried about many things. I am no hero of the faith. I lack faith daily.

Tonight, sick and unable to sleep because of worry I had to one more time verbally out God pray “I trust you with my kids, I trust you with my wife, I trust you with Corumba, I trust you with ministry” and so on.

I have no choice but to abandon my life to God. There is a dying sick world right outside our doors. I am not yet doing enough to show the love of God to them. I experience joy when I forget about our needs and begin with my family not apart from them to live my life, our life not for us but for the people who are dying.

The cost we might pay to obey God could be high. God said “to obey is better than sacrifice”. What does that mean, the law demanded so much sacrifice. Obedience is the ultimate sacrifice.

Have we completely turned over all aspects of our life to God. Our we willing to trust him with our health, finances, lives, lives of our children. Our we abandoning everything we hold dear into his care and willing to go wherever that may lead.

We just passed carnaval here. A very ungodly celebration of sin that makes mardi gras look no more wholesome but does make it look small. Churches all go to retreats here and tend to be fundamentally opposed to evangelism. I got very frustrated with the attitude of people the last two years. For me when people are sinning the most it should be when they are most aware it doesn’t satisfy.

I am realizing tonight that abandonment to God may mean loneliness, perhaps the church wont like you if you start having gays and prostitutes, drug addicts and prisoners over for dinner. You will probably here speeches about how Christians shouldn’t go there or you need to protect your kids. How can I worry about what others think or how comfortable I am when the eternal state of someone may hang in the balance. Even more what if I and my family can be used or you and your family to disciple someone to live a better life and disciple others to a better life, …… How many generations of how many families could be changed if we quit thinking of ourselves?

We may begin to feel tired. We may not want to go on. I feel that way now just waiting for the next trip to the toilet. I am realizing only the hope of heaven can cure me. If I am thinking of myself I don’t have what it takes to live here, to stand against the church, to return and love the church, to see my babies sick, to see them miss a vacation, etc...…..

I was encouraged last week by 1 Peter 1:13-17

13Therefore, preparing your minds for action,a and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Please no the sacrifice you make to keep us here is equal abandonment to any we make. Please no that though I don’t always do a good job sharing stories of the lives you touch you are touching them. I am not looking to get people to pray prayers but to teach them to live like the scriptures above. It is happening. We seen some kids get saved and start showing desire to grow in Foz. We are seeing Melissa start to have even more of that impact here on our street. She is amazing.

Pray as I turn my focus back to ministry from establishing our family here that we can impact and disciple desperately lost people to a life of total abandonment and reckless obedience. To true holiness obeying what God has commanded not just avoiding some no nos like carnaval.

We love and miss you all. Hope to see many if not all of you in July and August. Let us know if you want us to try and come to your church or area.


Grace and peace to you all,



Friday, February 17, 2012

Coming together

It was at least 4 years ago we began to feel it was time to close the business and begin preparing to go into full time missions. It was something that had always been in our hearts but we had a bit of things to go through first. It seemed like it took us a long time to get where we are now.

There were times in Foz where it seemed like things were taking off. With the kids in the Favela I often thought it would lead to a church plant or a youth ministry but it never quite satisfied. It felt like it would have been settling and yet we knew it was what God had for the moment. There was much to do with Alannah being born, getting residency, attempting to learn a language que e' bem dificil.

When we arrived here in Corumba time began to stand still, in a good way. It often stood still in foz but in the what am I going to do today kind of way. Here we are busy, all the time, but it feels like we have been here forever when it has barely been three months. It is the kind of forever that is good, wonderful and peaceable.

Recently we have first been busy getting the kids going in school, our good friend Buster, another American crazy enough to live here, brought us. We are using a computer based homeschool program. It is easy to monitor and the kids enjoy it. We are trying to put a good priority on setting up the house. We bought a freezer, a cabinet for under the TV, bookshelves and I built a desk. I couldn’t find material to build a plywood desk so I bought two interior doors and they worked good.

We also got another opportunity to go out to Porto Esperanca, but this time alone. It was exciting to see what our family would react like in that environment without a guide. We had been there before and there are some decent people there in the church but it is still a little intimidating.

I told them to do the service like they normally would if no one came out. I didn’t have a guitar with me and am not in practice, I can’t sing anyhow. I didn’t have a translator, we didn’t have a plan, we just wanted an idea where they are at. They asked me to preach, I had been prepared too, or so I thought. After a nice visit with them in the afternoon the service time arrived. They took turns leading a little music and reciting a scripture, often giving a bit of a fire and brimstone sermonette they had heard. It got a little chaotic and all over the place. By the time it was my turn I could no longer speak Portuguese much less preach. I think I did terrible, I couldn’t understand me how could they. Sadly it showed the lack of discipleship that has been done over the years. They do there best, I loved their hearts to lead worship and be together but they need better understanding of the story of God, the word of God. It was evident earlier in the day that they don’t have a great heart for evangelism but instead look at their neighbors as “sinners”.

The best part was seeing Melissa and the kids realize church would go forever and take all the kids back to do a Sunday school. I love seeing her get more confident and take charge of creating ministry opportunities. Tomorrow she is having all the neighborhood girls over again. After I shared we did have one boy come forward for prayer that I believe was wanting to give his life to the Lord. It really was a bit long and chaotic. Melissa did great keeping little kids busy while one of her own hung off her.

Daniel and I got a chance to go on what thankfully wont be a once in a lifetime fishing trip even though it should be. What amazing beauty. As we went down river fishing I noticed remote Fazenda (ranch) after ranch. I believe we will be spending a lot of time out getting to know some simple people who need Jesus. When we got back we ate popcorn piranha and bbq cow. Next time he said he will buy a gun in Corumba so we can hunt an alligator at night.

Last night we had the chance to meet Walter and Carol Ponder. He is a retired pastor who has realy only changed jobs. He is building churches in Brazil. He is building them in remote locations, trying to raise a million dollars to build another 40 before he quits. He had the opportunity to build one for a semi local tribe. The chief had been saved as a kid and prayed 38 years for a church and a pastor to come to him.

They blessed us with a restaurant bought lunch, we didn’t have to cook today. Then I got to go look at a potential project site here in Ladario. In a very, very poor neighborhood. I got to meet the pastor of the church who has started the work there. I think both these men are good contacts.

Thank you all so much for being behind us keeping us here. Your prayers and finances really do reach far. We are planning a trip home in July to share more specific vision and what we need to have a greater impact here. Be praying and perhaps saving to see how you can touch more lives.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Life on the Edge

We were a bit afraid my last blog seemed a bit whiny to people. It is just that life on the edge of the world can be hard but God’s grace is so much bigger. I was just wanting to illustrate how without it the challenges would drive us back the the US. Because of grace this is home.

That is the wonderful thing. Through the many challenges this becomes more home. Through the good times this becomes home. All the experiences we have here good and bad begin to build a new history. The reason Oregon, the US hangs on as home for so long is the history you have there. I wrote about some of the hard things then we had a couple weeks of the good.

The last 10 days have seemed like a month. First I finished the roof I was building. They seemed much more blessed and it really brought Fabio out of his shell. I wish I had a magic cure for the damage done by sin but it isn’t magic. It is God’s grace applied on lives and He goes about it gently and slowly. That we might learn and be able to apply it to others. I don’t know what abuse Fabio faced to be so repressed. To give him the maturity of a 12 year old when he is 18 but I know time, love, patience and above else the Word of God can open him up, God wants to make him a new creation.

Also Melissa had the neighborhood girls come over for a bible story, snack and some games. It was fun to see them interact but man, it is harder to keep kids organized in your house. They just have never had structure. One of the big needs is to just teach discipline, structure, obedience of rules. Many groups have came through, there are pastors here, many of these kids have heard the gospel and have prayed prayers. Getting people to take the time to get close and teach them how to live is always the hard part.

Why is that necessary? Why is that worth your dollars? Why is that worth our family living here on the edge of the world?

Our neighbor was 9 months pregnant and had never went in for prenatal care. Medicine is free here. The public system is slower and more crowded but if you have no job it is still good and you have time to waste. The problem is it is inconvenient and you don’t see the need. Why take a taxi or the bus to go wait in line when you could just sit home and wait? She didn’t know she had preclampcia and ended up going into cardiac arrest and quit breathing. Her boyfriend had to pull her tounge out of her throat and give her mouth to mouth. She went to the hospital after being revived and had an emergency c section. A few days later she came home.

She had been prescribed medicine for both her and the baby but again it is work to go get it. So she didn’t. Melissa was holding the baby and noticed he had a fever. She commented on it and began praying. The adult daughter of the boyfriend was there and convinced them to take the baby in. The baby ended up in the hospital a few more days and the mom was at home. Melissa was down there visiting them that night and I went down to check on them. They were nervous, scared and weren’t too sure of anything. I prayed for them and the baby in Portuguese. I encouraged them to trust God and that he cared about Joao as much as them. Kayla the mom seemed a bit more at peace and we left them to rest.

Joao ended up making it through the fever and getting to come home a few days later. What a joy to see Melissa holding him and Kayla smiling. To see Alannah’s big eyes looking at the little guy. Kayla's 2 and 3 year old still run naked in the streets, still need some education but at least Joao will have the opportunity to run naked too.

Also this week Kayla’s brother brought someone to the gate and called Melissa. I am the big meanie that says no to everything so they always try for the sucker. They wanted to sell us their blanket. It happened to be well over 90 and was almost 10 at night. I didn’t mean to but I laughed. I couldn’t imagine buying a blanket. I felt bad right away as they left discouraged. Obviously they needed something. After I went to bed and realized I wasn’t going to sleep I walked down the street and called Wallace. I asked what she really needed. He told me school supplies so her son could go to school but that an aunt agreed to buy them. I told him if they had used furniture to sell or found some I would help them refinish them for sell and left.

I told Melissa what they needed and she told me the kids of the worst mother on the street don’t go to school because they don’t have the supplies. You need a uniform, pants, lots of notebooks and pencils. The mother may be a prostitute because the 13 year old boy tries to take care of the girls 8,7 and 2.  She is never home and always dressed to party. I have compassion on her too but am very frustrated for those little girls. They jump up on any table, block of concrete, grab poles and dance like strippers at the drop of a hat.

I couldn’t sleep thinking of those kids repeating the life of the mother. What chance do they have an a nation so rapidly growing. Growing more expensive and more globally competitive. If they don’t go to school they are doomed to stay in the dark ages while the nation around them buys big TVs, cars and all sorts of newly available toys. Brazil is a rich nation where 30% of the population lives in absolute poverty. I was really bothered, with school it is hard to climb out of that without it is impossible.

I had coffee yesterday with our Pastor here. Altair told me the moms can go to the school and register them and ask for assistance. There is a way for any kid to go to school and get an education but the mom has to do some work. That is why we are here. The kids, the moms, the ones who are willing to change need to be taught the biblical importance and disciplines that can lead to changed lives, to changed family histories. These kids will grow up to reproduce. Either reproduce poverty or reproduce believers. It is not about the amount of money but about the mindset. Only the power of God’s word can change the mindset.

Be praying for us and whether God might want you to join us. We are living ok. We still need many things that cost a lot here but they will come over time. What we are short is the extra funds to bank roll ministry. To buy materials for the kids on the street. To buy wood for projects to teach kids how to build furniture. We need a bit more personally to buy a medical plan for our family but really we just want to grow in effectiveness. We have time, we are here, we aren’t short money for food or bills. We would like to take on more projects like the roof. You  can donate once or sign up for monthly below.

Also we need to visit the states. We both have Grandparents that are ageing and would like to meet Alannah. We need to visit our church. We need to broaden our support base and we need to rest. It is going to take a good chunk of money, around 10k for airfare and some more for travel in the US. My parents are donating a car they bought here that I should be able to sell for about 5k. Pray about giving as they would like to see this function as a kind of matching gift. We plan to be in the states July 2nd – Sept 2nd. We need to firm this up and buy tickets in March. It is very important. If you want to take part in this email me at and let me know. I will be making information available on how to designate for a special fund.

Thanks and God bless you all.