Friday, November 22, 2013

Religiousity and Dogma

I am someone who is a definite product of the Northwest. Rules, structure, buildings, plans are a part of church sometimes considered necessary, tolerated and employed but almost begrudgingly. I love the idea of a free flowing Jesus that doesn't need structure, that isn't trapped in a building that sits with people in town squares and parks unburdened by the details of a church. However I do reluctantly admit that Jesus did teach in Synagogues and didn't fully throw out order. He certainly taught that he was bringing new wine to a new wine skin but said you desire to loose neither. Certainly I see God is a God of order, a creator, an engineer with a clear plan. The fact that he gave us the book of Revelation whatever flawed view of the book you hold too (don't worry I think everyone is wrong including me) it makes it clear God has a plan with a beginning and end, an ordained set of happenings.

I say this to explain when I get frustrated with Christianity, with "church" I  am not advocating anarchy. Especially after living in Rio a city on the verge of complete anarchy. The police do a traffic stop here with two officers heavily armed, for war, standing guard while the other approaches the car. The other day we were caught in traffic, arriving at the end there were around 50 police heavily armed behind there cars. What appeared to be a bullet struck the ground in front of us than what appeared to be another sprayed the passenger side where Melissa and Alannah sat with little rocks. Chaos sucks, it leads to traffic, abuse of power, corruption, disaster. As I write this blog I do not want chaos in my corporate relationship with God.

What  I want is to like Jesus with the Samaratin Woman at the well, I want to bypass the image of religion and get to the heart of the issue with people. My frustration with Church is more that we have gotten so comfortable in a structure people I interact with can easily fake it. Everyone to whom I say "I am a MISSIONARY" knows what to say and how to act. To be okay, to be left alone, to feel important. It is so hard to get past the religiousity to just know someone for who they are and to be known for who I am it often feels impossible to accomplish the task of making disciples.

When she began to realize Jesus was a spiritual man, a leader the wall went up, the image. Your fathers say this mountain ours say this what do you think. I doubt at all she cared the least about religion in general. She cared about very little probably. A woman who had five husbands and living with another guy simply was just surviving, likely simply trying to survive.

This woman seamingly so uninterested in religion then leaves the conversation completely transformed, invigerated and passionate. So much so she was used by God to go back to her town give testimony of what had happened leading to the whole town going to see Jesus and believe.

Brazil is so over evangelized right now that it has been hard for me to know how to approach my "job" here. When I would say I was a missionary the look on peoples face was so apparent. I suddenly went from wearing shorts, being a bald buck toothed fat guy to a flashy suit, big hair, shiny teeth big boobed blonde wife spraying you in the face with water I prayed over for 50 bucks TV preacher. The image is all over TV, billboards on the front of churches, cars driving by with speakers blaring on the roof. As soon I become that guy in their mind they either run away or play the game. Fight or flight.

I am not saying there aren't many bible believing Jesus loving believers here in Brazil. Praise God even the worst prosperity doctrine churches have seen many people come to know Jesus.

What I am saying is I want to make disciples and that when something has become so common it becomes more difficult to find reality. We all make mistakes we all fall short but the problem when religion grows so prevalent in our Christianity, when the culture of the service becomes so routine we become in danger of becoming mechanical. Pray this, sit here every Sunday, hide your sin a bit and we are doing good. However often our building is full of people desperate to escape the bonds of sin just as much as if they never went. Everyone knows the right thing to say but still manages to go home to live with their girlfriend, be angry, fight, struggle with porn whatever it may be.

Disciples make all these mistakes too but begin to recognize change is good and that we need one another to do it. The idea of organized church should be to create an environment where we do this for one anther. Encourage, uplift, edify and exhort, confess our sins to one anther, teach and grow stronger that we might win more.

Recently I have began to make a switch in how I approach people. I tell them I am trying to open an English school or going to be offering classes next year. We will be. This doesn't mean we are no longer missionaries, that is the task in front of every child of God. We are simply adding something to the girls club, home groups, thanks giving dinner at church that hopefully allows to bypass that overly religious image and get to know more people more deeply.

A few days ago I began to see the success of this strategy or the potential success. I approached the owner of the kids school a few weeks ago about advertising and perhaps holding an English class there. I left missions out of the conversation. I offered and asked about teaching a PE class or two on American Football as a way to get more involved as a father and potential businessman. He jumped on it and had the PE teacher come out.

Thursday Melissa and I had the joy of a hundred or more kids piling around us excited to know us without fear of what we might want. We went and did a 2 hour class and played flag football, thanks Jody. It was great and the teacher had the most fun of all. He asked us to come next year for all the classes. The older kids that didn't have a teacher show even sat on the side and watched. Being themselves, a couple girls even dancing perversely for the boys. It was awful and awesome. We weren't the missionaries or the pastors to be avoided we were the Americans they want to know.

There are 1000 students at the school. They nearly all want to learn English. They represent about 600 families. They have fathers and mothers, brothers, sisters, step families. 

We believe this is going to be a big part of how we begin to spread the gospel here. At the same time we continue to do our traditional stuff getting involved in the community in this way allows us deeper access and more opportunity to witness to those who we other wise wouldn't. On a scale I am not sure we are prepared for. Pray for us, that our faith would come through. That we would build long lasting relationships that provide opportunity to speak into these families lives. That God would direct those that not only want to learn English but those that would be open to him our way.

We don't know what the end result of English lessons will be, of English courses but we know we can be ordered and strategic without being in a box. We know God is opening doors in the kids school through Football and that English can attract those kids closer. We just want to respond to what God is doing and what He has put in us.

Above all else, if you read nothing else pray for Melissa and her girls. She has been doing this girls club a bit over a month. Girls here have little to do and many end up pregnant at a very young age. She has one girl about 14 that has a 2.5 year old boy. She has met with them once this week, will again tonight and is doing a clothing give away together with them tomorrow. There is no person I know better at bypassing religion than her. She makes a heart impact on so many hurting people. This is a vitally important ministry. Pray for more girls to come and for some volunteers to teach dance, sports and above all disciple these girls.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Breaking Through

In the last blog I opened myself up perhaps more than I should have but I hope to always communicate with a bit more honesty than is perhaps traditional of missionaries. I have strove not just to give the stories of people coming to Christ or changing but deal with the realities of what we go through. To open myself up and share what I am learning about myself and my God as we seek to obey him. Moving here, learning to live in a city was tough. God however is always faithful and always has something more in mind than we can see.

How amazing it was to find out as I dealt with some frustration and began to grow impatient in our desire to reach out I discovered our church prayed for us 2 times a day during their advent conspiracy prayer focus. The week they were praying not only did the darkness break we began to see vision to add too what God was doing already. Prayer works!!!

In the last blog I shared my frustration in trying to really reach people and disciple them in such an overly religious nation. It was frustrating to do an English night, selling pizza and have it limited by too many Christians. What I mean is, the Christians want so much to participate and come that the ration gets thrown off. The people you want to reach don’t come in because of the wall of eager to evangelize believers sitting across the front of the building. It isn't bad and often people do wind up coming to know the Lord through those kind of events.

However Melissa and I have been long been drawn to those wounded by the church and or alienated from it. This can be a hard line to walk, we desire fellowship with believers, want to be a further extension of the body of Christ but in both our own events and those of local bodies we feel stifled by the things that often keep the non believers away. We do have two things that are working, that are connecting with those who don’t have relationship. Melissa has a growing girls club that has several girls who don’t go to church coming and learning Gods word. She is teaching them dramas and they in return have done them in the praca. Girls world wide are often left out and have far less opportunity than men. That is true here and this is a vital ministry.

The other thing we began last night is to go and join in playing soccer with the weekly Friday night group. Defiantly not your traditional church environment. Just neighborhood guys playing soccer. They didn’t talk much with us and were sure curious but no doubt this will pay off.

What we will be adding is something we have played with a little. We had an encouraging call with Jeff Jackson from Shepherds Staff. He spoke some things to us about pursuing English that definitely struck a cord with our hearts. This also was in the midst of the week of prayer from our church. We are now beginning to pursue some English students. We believe this is a way to build relationship with people based on who they and we are outside the presumptions that come with MISSIONARY.

Anyways we appreciate you all, appreciate your prayers and I appreciate your patience as I often have and will probably continue to open my heart to you as I process what is God doing and am I continuing to obey him rightly?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Jumping in an Ice Cold River

After a few months in Rio I (Ben) find myself limping. I am sure a great deal of it is kind of a reverse culture shock leaving the isolation and remoteness of Corumba for a big city. There is no doubt a system shock that comes from starting over again as well.

I grew up swimming in rivers on the west coast, fed by the mountains. I remember several times after weeks of swimming in comfortable water, showing up jumping in and getting a shock. Heart racing, body feeling like a thousand needles stuck in you. Several times, it was always after a heat wave or during one. The snow up in the mountains would have started to melt fast and ice water showed up on the valley floors. I remember one time on the kings river in California, it was about 110 out and the water couldn't have been much more than 60. I thought I would die.

That is how I have felt here lately. We suddenly uprooted moved over a 1000 miles and jumped right into ministry. Suddenly my body is convulsing, my heart is racing and I just want out of the water.

We have been involved in getting some home groups going. We have a bible study out here in our neighborhood on Tuesdays, the church came out and did a kids event. It was fun working with Moriah to build a ski ball like game and bean bag toss. We experimented last Friday with free English lessons and selling Pizza. We are busy.

One of the most exciting things was Melissa starting a girls club. She found an unmet need and began to meet it last Saturday. Her and a couple Brazilian friends look to continue this exciting ministry.

The thing for me has been feeling like why are we doing missions over the top of Brazilian churches. We are in a heavily churched area. I will be the first one to tell you that the issue is to obey God and that every area, region, neighborhood, country, city in the world needs more missions as long as there are hearts rebellious to God.

The fact is though, Melissa and I have grown more and more hungry to reach the less reached, Corumba felt like training for going further and Rio feels like a step back. Our kids need this, it is a season but for me finding passion for what we are doing has proved more than hard. Anyone who has read the blog over the years knows that if I err it is on the side of brutal honesty.

So here it is, Brazil is more than a reached nation. It is a more Christian nation than the US. Where does that leave me? Well it isn't only a reached nation it is becoming the biggest sending nation in the world. Brazil is producing missionaries and this is where God has me with a frustrated missions heart.

How do I turn that frustration into a positive, do I decide this is pointless and go home when everything I am is a missionary? This is who God created me to be. Do I assume all the miracles God did to demonstrate the call to Rio was wrong?

As we continue to tackle tough questions. As we continue to involve ourselves in the lives of those around us. As we continue to try and socially better the lives of those around us how do I give way to this missions heart.

Pray for us as we begin to tackle taking steps foward
  • We want to seek and find the different comunities that have come here (Muslim, Chinese...)
  • We want t0 disciple young Brazilian Christians that our excited to be a part of Mission
  • We want to lead teams from Calvary Rio to Bolivia, Egypt and who knows
  • We especially want to see kids who come to know Christ in the project here grow to be one day sent where we ourselves are not yet sent
  • Pray Melissa and I will be able to go to Egypt next spring and take a group to visit Renata a friend serving there

In the end I definately need prayer. I am loosing the abiltiy to cope with the stresses and problems I face. My energy is low, I am thankful to Melissa for pulling me along. However in my spirit I choose to be excited to be in the heart of Brazil, the next great missionary sending nation of the world. I choose to be excited to be a part of what God is doing here and to participate in seeing them fulfill their destiny. I choose to rely on Him not me. I choose to know His purposes in what often feels like a step back is much more likely a great leap forward.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Lost in the Big City

There is no doubt both me and my dad are just a couple of country boys lost in the big city. It can be overwhelming, stressful and begin to eat away at your confidence and desire to live. It can also be exciting, adventurous and a real joy. You have your days at the Zoo with a Lion roaring in your face and you have your days stuck in 2.5 hours of traffic because some *%*# started a fire in the middle of the freeway to protest something.

Alannah's Birthday 2013 148

The funny thing is watching my father struggle in such similar ways. For those of you who don’t know we have been able to partner with my parents here in Rio. We wont be doing all of the same things but we have rented the two apartments in an upstairs downstairs duplex.

Alex's kids and book fir 013

The thing is God has made it abundantly clear that this is where He has called us. The last few years we have done soccer ministry, food ministry, visited people door to door, given out clothes, home bible studies and much more. We have seen fruit but as many of you who read this blog know I have felt more and more called to take more responsibility for the long term discipleship of the people we are working with.

Alannah's Birthday 2013 287

2 years ago when we were getting ready to perhaps leave Foz one of the options had been to look for a building to move the ministry we had been doing with kids and families from the favela into our own location. To grow these and hopefully see them turn into a church. The timing didn’t feel right even though the people and the pieces seemed there. As it turned out a few months after we moved to Corumba the Government moved all the people and leveled the favela. The ministry would have halted. God knew that wasn’t the location or the timing to see social ministry and discipleship incorporated into a body life.

Our time in Corumba was filled with physical and health challenges but much great ministry. We miss deeply the kids from soccer. People from the orphanage, people from the churches. As we ministered there my heart just became more burdened not to leave people to go find a church but to take responsibility for them. We began to pray how to take steps forward, were we to “plant a church" how would that be connected to a work in Brazil?

At that time Pastor Alex of Calvary Rio began to again ask us to consider moving to the greater Rio area and minister here in the district of Xerem. We came and looked and even though this country boy didn’t want to live here eventually God changed his heart.

Where we are now. The same or similar necessity of social ministry exists. People need food, kids need something productive to do, families need counseling it is all here. We have a small house we are preparing for ministry. We have a local church that will cover the work with the desire to see it become a church.

I am nervous and struggling with the realities of living in this city. It is expensive, consumes time, energy and much more. I know I need to be more disciplined, have a clear schedule for study, for communication, for prayer, for ministry, for fun. It demands a step forward personally.

We don’t have a lot of ministry to report so far but we have connected with the family that owns the house we will minister in. The owners are a stable successful business owning family. They have blessed us tremendously. Her sister who lives near us and her husband are sick. She has chronic arthritis and can’t work, her husband is a truck driver who has aids and can’t find work anymore, they have a 15 year old daughter and 20 year old son. We have begun a bible study with them that various others come too.

We have begun to connect with the young couple across the street. They have just opened a shop to work on motorcycles. It is starting slow and they often just sit out front. What an opportunity to just do something simple like take them cookies or invite them to have lunch here.

I have been working to build relationship with a guy who is a community leader. Works, has a little restaurant, building something for his family.

Also very importantly we are part of the leadership at Calvary Rio. A small church that is growing. As the leaders of the ministry here and leaders with youth in the church we are part of a team that looks to grow our impact on the overall city. We are teaching a youth  class, helping with a home church close to us and leading the ministry here.

We are just getting going but everything we have done the last 3 years seams to have built towards this opportunity to bring it al together. To see what we are good at result in something needed. New body for new believers.

We appreciate your continued prayers, we couldn’t be here alone.

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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Only God

Today marks 2 weeks in Rio and tomorrow will be 1 month that we decided to move. I seriously am in a bit of system shock. We have 4 kids 2 dogs and had more stuff than we knew what to do with.


The Journey itself was adventurous but mostly uneventful. It was supposed to pour down rain every day but our plastic didn’t work out so we simply asked God to keep our bags dry. We drove 3 days seeing rain in the distance on all sides. The fourth day it started to rain and we weren’t able to find a store to buy a tarp so we again “resorted” to asking God to protect the bags. It rained the 5 hours to Rio but when we pulled up and opened the bags our clothes were only damp.


We know we will and already do miss many people and thing in Corumba. Melissa and I need to make a trip back at the end of this month to say good bye and get the last of our things. God lined up people to buy our furniture or spoke to us to give certain things. We sold the boat and were gone in a whirlwind. This gave us the ability to get into a house here and buy our appliances, a mattress for Melissa and I and a couch. We have many things we still need but know God sees all and will open up the doors of provision.

missing corumba


We pray God is using Ricardo and Larissa with the kids in Corumba and look forward to a  better good bye. It was amazing how God brought people in to take everything over.



One of the clearest things God laid on our hearts in this move was the need for our family to be in a place for the kids to have better educational and spiritual opportunities. The first night we were here Sylvio and Celeste took us into their home and immediately began to be another set of grandparents for the kids. The second night we were here we were in a home group. We have been to a church party, Alannah is learning to play with other kids. Daniel and Juliah have started school and love it. Moriah has a meeting today with the school to get her in. The majority of kids in this school go on to the federal education system, free college education for kids who get good enough grades.


On top of meeting our family needs we feel this is a clear step forward in ministry. We are taking more responsibility to disciple the people we are working with. We will be leading a work of Calvary Rio here on the outskirts. We were at a non Christian families home until 10pm last night with a Man from the neighborhood who has some connection with the church in Centro. Thursday they will come to a home group bible study at his home with some others. Anyone who has read our blog knows God has been moving me more towards “church planting” if you will. Taking more responsibility to build community and church with those we interact with. Melissa hopes to start girls soccer this Saturday, I am taking some men from the neighborhood in to a Men’s breakfast at the church Saturday morning.

The point, we are new and know God will refine and redirect much of the ministry we are jumping into but we can see he has prepared a balance here for us. Balance of helping and supporting the local Church, Calvary Rio and building new community, a work of Calvary Rio here in the Xerem area. We are very excited to see where all this goes, just don’t want the little boy from last night trying to kiss Alannah anymore, going to have to start breaking knees early with her.


I can’t state enough how amazing it is that in less than a month we have sold everything and began again 1200 miles away. We have been amazingly blessed. We know finances will be tight here and we have a lot of needs remaining. Not the least of which is a better car for the amount of driving we are now doing. Pray for us, we need wisdom first and provision second. We are considering some English lessons as evangelism and to help financially.


The move has been incredible and we know it was God all the way. I told Alex the day before we arrived God would provide a house when we arrived. We pulled in unloaded our stuff had a cup of coffee then met Sylvio and Celeste here to look at this house. The next day we paid the deposit. God is so big.

It reinforces what God has been teaching us. Abandon ourselves to him, free ourselves from the love of this world and the things of this world and He will abundantly bless us. Not always with comfort or easy living but with the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. The two trips we have made to the beach haven’t been bad either. Nothing like swimming in the ocean when it isn’t 50 degree Oregon water.


Love you all, visit any time


The Lyon family

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Making Decisions in Missions

We have had such a busy year, it seams to have flown by. Soccer, prison, neighbors, orphanage it is almost impossible to think of all we have been involved in. At the same time we have been praying about an invitation we received to move to the Rio de Janeiro area and run a ministry in Xerem, a small city that has a very hard inner city feel.

At first we were very closed but as Pastor Alexandre was asking we continued to pray. This has been one of the first major decisions we have made since really beginning to come into our own as missionaries. We spent a year in Foz working on language and getting used to the culture and on top of that having a baby. Then sensed the Lord moving us to Corumba, we were still very green though and really it mattered little where we were going.

The difference we see now, we have a decent handle on the language, we have learned who we are in ministry as a family and feel much more professional. When Alex invited us to go it was because of the track record we have been establishing of usefulness. We have established that we can learn language though we have work to do, that we are comfortable in cross culture situations, that we can just enter into peoples homes and be normal. This invite then came as what you might think of as a job offer with another company or a promotion.

The difference is as missionaries it seems more confusing than if we were just deciding whether to move across country for another job. Our salary comes from supporters, many of you. Our leadership advises but in the end we have to sense God’s call for ourselves. I remember friends working at HP and deciding whether to take contract buy outs, or move to Texas. They looked at things very pragmatic like, is this better for my family, do I like Texas, can I find another job here? We have all those same concerns.

On top of those though, we begin to worry. What will people think? Does this make us flaky if we move? Are we abandoning those we care about here?

After a time it began to seem the best option for the family issues would be to move to a larger less isolated area, the kids were beginning to show sings of stress from the isolation of Corumba. Also the job offer if you will was like a promotion or moving up. However we had felt like we would be here longer, we had communicated that, in fact we had even been thinking of buying property here. God began showing us it was time to be open so we went to Rio for a bit of vacation and to look at Xerem.

Coming home we sensed that would be the direction we would take later this year. The concerns remained, how do we decide that as missionaries, do people need to agree, what will happen with support? We decided to take some steps as if to move and I went to Rio to help host a team from Canada. It was a great opportunity to see how I would work with Alex and the people from the church, including a guy named Marcio who just moved there with a similar heart for ministry with his wife and child. It went fantastic, we really functioned as a team without much need for communication. Each one stepped into a role that fit his gifts and just did his job.

I came home thinking that we would move there at the end of the year. We quickly though realized we have some momentum going in Rio and in Xerem, while there I was able to do some soccer with Marcio. We were able to share the gospel with a large group of young men. One of whom happened to be a drug lord and went to prison a few days later. At the same time we continue to have locals stepping up here to take over what we have going including Ricardo, Larissa and Pastor Braz.

God also has touched our landlords heart to release us from our contract, the kids school suggest we move sooner and offered to return tuition. Kind of makes you feel like people want you to go, joke. So we have begun taking steps towards moving, boat is for sale, organizing things for a massive moving sell in a couple weeks.

The thing we are learning is our boss is clearly Jesus and our best possible decision making is to just abandon our hearts to obey, not to think to far ahead and continue to work hard to affect those around us with the hope that is in Him. This isn’t all easy, Rio is not as wonderful as it may sound. Crowded, horrible traffic, violent, dirty yeah the beach is great but even that can be hard. The simple truth is it is just because God is calling us. We don’t have the money, don’t have a place to live, not sure how everything will work out but the team we have been praying for is there, the house for ministry we have wanted is there and above all Jesus is calling us there.

We still have things we are doing here but God has all in His perfect timing. Today we did soccer, I helped with a couple things at the orphanage and will be to the prison a couple more times. I pray God uses us to bring teams here from Rio.

At the same time as we are sad we see the promotion God is giving us. A ministry in Xerem serving a Brazilian pastor who has a long term vision for the ministry. Helping him establish home groups for his body that spread across the city. Better education and fun opportunities for our kids who are becoming teens. Opportunity to work with the youth of the church providing a healthy spiritual atmosphere for our own kids. It is a step forward but a scary one.

Please pray for us, for a house, for the boat to sell, for provision and for us to get along through a stressful process.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What’s Important

Over the last 6 months we have had some of our most successful, fruitful ministry. We also have seen some of our biggest disappointments. So many times I am amazed how much ministry and missions reflects what it was like to own a small business. You couldn’t make any money without taking some risk. You can’t touch any lives without the same.

Relationships aren’t easy, they take time and work. Our relationships are what we are investing in. When we do soccer for the kids it isn’t to run a big soccer program, the goal isn’t to see that succeed though that would be nice. The goal is simply to build relationship with the kids, with people.


I have seen this so clearly demonstrated the last couple of weeks. We needed a break from the soccer ministry after about 5 months. We took a little trip to Rio to visit the beach and scout out what could be a future opportunity, future not today. Some how we returned from vacation missing the beach and with one more dog. Missionary friends of ours will be moving to an area they won’t be able to have a dog so we are in the process of welcoming Fritz to the family, a miniature Schnauzer.  By the way this was 5,000 kilometers in a VW bus.


Having a dog that has to be walked not just turned outside is new. As Melissa walks him every night we have gotten to see just how much relationship was built through soccer. Several of the boys follow her up and down the street walking the dog with her. So much more ministry happens in these moments than we can know. It isn’t the 10 minute lesson, though I believe God’s word never returns void, that impacts a life. It is the time spent just loving.

It is the boys coming to our gate to get their balls filled with air. It is TT and Kaela desiring to go to church, to visit, giving us bread instead of just selling it. It is seeing people want to know you, want to be near you. The moments we get to be like Jesus and demonstrate the Father are rarely the moments we are up front preaching.


Sometimes though they are. The day after we got home I was able to run the boys from the orphanage up on top of the hill with the Jesus statue overlooking the Pant anal. Every time I get to the orphanage they still talk about what I shared from them out of Corinthians about being the body of Christ. How they are called by God to be family, being built to be a unit not just kids living together because they have no place else to go. It was one of those moments God gives you something very specific and powerful. They needed to know and hear that God is constructing a home and family unit for them.

preaching cristo

At the same time I am heart broken. A large part of the reason I attacked the baseball field project was Aluizio. A young Brazilian helping us train the kids telling us it has been his dream to do a soccer ministry in the neighborhood. For us a ball and an indoor court to play with the kids and share was enough. We joined, attacked the field, began communicating with the Baptist Association to look at a bigger long term program. We were looking at getting him in a seminary program.

Suddenly he begins to back off. More suddenly he stops. I paid him out to bless him and his family with a new baby. Heartbroken wondering what I could have done better to bring him along. I could see the roots were spiritual, attack, stress and marriage.

Sadly his wife came to clean yesterday. They are under a lot of pressure. He has left town to work in another city. She doesn’t want to live there and is thinking of leaving with her parents to live in Rio. Their marriage with two kids under 3 is on the brink. Honestly I am a little crushed.

At the same time I had the joy of seeing my dad visit the prison again last week. Seeing the joy on the faces of the prisoners knowing they are loved. Especially Martin who my dad connected with last year. I have the joy to go there almost weekly and preach one or two times a month. Sharing that with Ricardo, or more him sharing with me. It is a pleasure to see relationship thrive.

In the end, a bit heartbroken at the pain in the lives of Aluizio’s family. Unsure of where to go with the soccer ministry. Unsure if I am good at anything. Beat up by the enemy I can wake up and think about all I see and realize we have success. Simply because in the middle of a hard city a hard neighborhood we have been able to crack into peoples lives in a deep way and begin to implant the seeds of the gospel in their lives. The seeds of hope that Christ can bring life into their lives now. People here make very little, struggle, live in shacks but the hope they have is that Christ loves them and wants to satisfy the purpose to which they were created. Relationship with God and others.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Let it Simmer

Often I am sure it seems to some I mostly write about challenges, that is probably true. However that isn’t because life here is so hard and challenging, or that we aren’t doing well. It is more because it is in the midst of the challenges that we learn most. That is often what I focus on because I like learning and growing. We have been doing a lot of that lately.

I want to first say though, we have had 4 or 5 months of great ministry with our soccer school. We are arriving in winter hours and going to have to slow down a season but we have had around 100 kids participate, listen to a bit of God’s word, begin to obey and even a few begin visiting the church. One very nice girl who is about 13 and has never been to church before.

At the same time our experiment to support Aluizio in order for him to be free to help has been much more of a learning experience. We are having to end that, slowing down the idea we had of investing more time and energy, perhaps a bit of money in the baseball soccer field. It had began to feel like I was expected to shell out money but that there didn’t seem to be a need to produce. It wasn’t all bad, there was a season he did a small tournament when we were out of town, he made some efforts to move the project forward, was great help cleaning the field but it felt it was changing, there was an expectation or a sentiment that we owed something instead of appreciation.

At the same time we had began to “cut off” or cut back investments we had made in TT and Kaela. Around Christmas we had began to get the same feelings, there was an expectation. Now, we live on others gifts, we understand that we too could suffer the same attitude. I am not good at remembering to write and  thank all of you. I hope people understand it isn’t a lack of gratefulness or expectation I simply feel I need to do good work and God will take care of us. That does not mean I am ungrateful. Anyways, as we felt the “you owe us” attitude growing I began to remove myself a bit from there lives, not out of anger but it limits our ability to disciple when money becomes an issue.

About the same time we began to feel that a bit with the soccer project, not just Aluizio others also, we began to see TT and Kaela seek us out. She had been mad, sent her sisters and kids down to tell us, acted childish, he is more mature and really never was as much an issue. She began to miss the relationship, to have her perspective change. Now we again have relationship with them on a regular basis but it is a much healthier point to disciple.

I like to cook and I make a pretty good chili. The thing with making chili is it takes time, a lot of time. If you really want a good chili it takes several days. If you compare this to a hamburger or hot dog it is a monumental difference. I like hamburgers and hot dogs but how much better are they with chili on top. With the chili you get all your vegetables and peppers, fry them in butter at a real high heat and season them. You get your beans sort them and put them in a mixture of water and tomato sauce to slow cook for many hours. Then you add the veggies and if you like meat in it you also cook the meat, season it and add it. After bringing all of it to a boil you let it simmer. After simmering for many hours you put it in the fridge for a few days then simmer again. That is when it gets good.

God has been speaking to me how much our ministry reflects making chili. We invest in individuals, projects and things. We want results, we want to eat the hamburger but God is often making chili. Just like with TT and Kaela our story with Aluizio isn’t done. Just because we are cutting soccer back to Saturday when we can doesn’t mean it is done. This fall for you, spring for us it is likely to be even better because of the simmer time. We simply don’t have lights, enough people and aren’t ready to get the thing functioning during the week without causing problems with the kids school, time to put it in the fridge.

At the same time I am seeing this in the people we are ministering too I am realizing this is largely what God is doing in us. Our role in the body of Christ is too bring new people into relationship with Him. We have always been better moving on the fringe of the church. What I mean is we function in our gifts better when we are investing them into people who aren’t yet a part of the body or are barely there. We become frustrated when we are focused in the church. Neither is bad, just where we are more comfortable ministering.

For a long time I have felt torn at how to be “outside” and “inside” the church at the same time. We minister to people on the street, neighbors, kids, people at the military club. Yesterday we got invited to join a group of about 10 military families every Sunday who bbq together because they don’t have family here. None of them go to church, know God or really have much knowledge of what a Christian is. It is a great opportunity to let our family both get refreshed and minster at the same time. We are beginning to sense the way to cure the problem of where we fit in the church may be to plant a “church” of new believers.

To get involved in the lives of a group of people who don’t know Jesus and take the church to them. The book Radical by David Platt was very influential on me. I was going yes, finally, on every page. For a long time I haven’t wanted to build body around what I am doing, what I like, what I feel called to do. To attempt something that is a bit different. We like helping people, helping them meet there own needs, food, income and so on. We like sports, playing, watching, we like eating and bbq’s. I don’t like going to church quite honestly.

We are not in a rush and not sure but why not plant a “church” that is about incorporating things of our normal life into the life of the body instead of having a building we try and get people to leave there normal life and go to. Why not take the church to the military club for example, get to know them, bbq with them, share with them and then eventually seek to teach and share a bit right there, have that be the church. Or start a community garden, sports project where people work and play together and that is the church? Is church not body? Is body not living together and meeting one another’s needs?

These things are just simmering or perhaps being chilled. Perhaps it will mean a step back from the frontiers to experiment in a city more ready for our ideas. It certainly would mean moving a bit away from these local churches who we and God love that we wouldn’t offend them, I would never want anyone to feel I am saying their church isn’t good enough. It is more of what Jesus taught about wine skins, you don’t want to loose either so you put old wine in old wine skins and new wine in new. It may also mean a step back to formalize my education, a bit of seminary. We just wont know until God begins to take it out of the fridge. We know today we focus on what is here, nothing is changing tomorrow except us.

What I do know is I am encouraged to tread on, to keep ministering, to attack what is before us knowing God is neither done with those I minister too or with me. He will be faithful to complete this chili.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Understanding Our Role

As I sit here we are rapidly approaching 3 years living in Brazil as full time missionaries and at about 4 years including the year spent preparing to leave the states. I am still young but realizing I am not as young as I approach 36 this June. After a lot of hard work the last month and a very busy fruitful few months of ministry it leaves me wondering just what have we learned?

We have learned to cope, to persevere, to have joy in difficulty, to survive on a little and also to manage occasional abundance. We are learning that it is okay to do things our way but that we must learn to respect those with a different style and strive to make each other better. This can be hard as so often in ministry ego plays such a large part.

Right now as sports ministry, primarily soccer has been so successful we are learning many more lessons. Thankfully most of them joyful but still there are a few painful. We have seen so many kids participate, so many willing to listen to the lessons. Their respect and obedience has grown. It is a joyful ministry. We have been out to farm country where we truly enjoy the people, played soccer with more quiet diminutive kids. We are getting to know Brazilians both youth and men from the local churches and are learning to work with them.

We “hired” Aluizio and are enjoying learning from this relationship. It isn’t always easy and I am unsure what my role should look like there. What is right to pay someone versus what is culturally accepted, how to disciple someone and yet have friendship. How to promote someone else in ministry without doing to much for them. So many lessons.

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The more painful to learn is about our role as missionaries. Investing time and  money in the soccer project and the baseball field my desire was to demand more control of the direction. I wanted to build it my way and in my time, to use gifts I have to grow a program. This week as a meeting approached with the Baptist association God began to change my heart. We are passing by, we are not permanent members of this community. We were wanting to buy a little farm, set down roots, “own” the sports ministry so to speak. Have something that is “ours”. God is challenging me especially but our whole family with this is not ours, none of it is. Brazil is for Brazilians. My way, my ideas, our visions, our whatever must take a backseat to them. I may lead for a season or step in front for a time but must do it in a way that leaves something behind they can and will continue on.

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This means that as I was prepared to go to a meeting and fight to keep control of what my sweat has done I wound up just handing over some of my ideas and letting go of my frustration with a pastor who though I know he has had this dream for a year or more it was just that a dream. Know one has made an effort to even cut the grass much less attract kids. My flesh wants to scream I cleaned the field, we have been doing the ministry how can you just step in front when it is easy. Spiritually I know I don’t matter but my flesh wants to do the ministry. This isn’t all bad, this is why we are here. Much more though we are here to inspire Brazilians to do things.

The reality is the way this is happening isn’t right. We may be left out or robbed of what we have done so to speak. There are no assurances. This may go fine, they may go in the front, we do the ministry and end up leaving Aluizio in a position to be a sports missionary. Or some one’s son or friend will suddenly be in charge and we will never have existed.

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Does it matter? Yes, but not for us. It matters, it always matters how God’s people do things. If wrong is done here it matters for the leaders who are mismanaging or being inappropriate in how they minister. What matters for us is how we respond. The truth is right or wrong in how “they” act we are here to support them. If we work to see them have a sports ministry it may last a long time, if we run one for five years then just hand them the keys it will surely field 052

The point of all this is to realize we are here to be behind Brazilians, to encourage and support them. To lead in attitude and discipleship. To do what is right with our lives. To do what isn’t being done but always to give way to the locals. I want to move forward from this however things go with a better perspective on how to build things that last, how to inspire locals, how to work with them. Not how to promote Americans as the solution. I don’t regret what we have done I regret that I didn’t sit and build more relationship with this pastor from the beginning, that I didn’t understand in December that I could have better engaged the association at that time. I have more gifts and ability to pioneer and run a self sustaining sports program but it is theirs to do not mine. I must come behind and partner in a more healthy way, the burden is on me.