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.
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.
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.
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 die.
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.