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.
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.