Saturday, January 18, 2014

Youthful Energy

There is something very contagious and exciting about being around youth. For me it is those last teen years and beginning of adult hood that is perhaps most exciting. I remember as I was about to turn 18 taking our youth group to gleanings for the hungry,  a ministry of youth with a mission that dries and processes food for hungry people around the world. While there the founder asked me to stay the rest of the summer and give a hand to hosting other groups and running the plant. My farm back ground made me valuable I suppose and as I had just graduated I decided to stay. While there not only did Wally have further impact in my life an Anglican priest called Father Rob and another man Dave Hebert both had extremely profound influence on me. This was the time in my life where my relationship with God had been transforming into an adult relationship. Dave really influenced me towards doing a school with youth with a mission. These were men influencing a young man, being used by God to place the foundations in his life that would eventually lead me to where I am today and where I will ultimately end up.

As we begin to experiment with an English business as a way to connect more deeply with the culture we have faced many struggles. Not the least of which was the passing of someone who had become a dear friend in a short time. We were home less than a week before we said goodbye to Sergio, someone who had been involved in nearly everything we have done. We have had a few problems with our house which somehow are the renters responsibility. We are unsure how to pay for the kids books, tuition and uniforms. Should we be investing more money in our VW Van to try and get it licensed, it really doesn’t work for us here and we need something else but without documents could we even sell it, how much of a loss would we take. English may or may not help, so far we have spent a little money and are looking at spending more. I believe it is what God is calling me to and believe it may eventually allow us to one day be financially able to support ourselves but for now remains an expense. I know things take time.

Those are just the normal challenges we face. Those things were pretty overwhelming when we first arrived in Rio. Today though they are just details, things that will work out with time. Largely because what we have seen so far as we attempt to get some English classes going is that we are engaging that age group. I am tired, spent and feel empty like all the energy I poured out this last week may come to nothing. It feels good. I have sat in a printing office with a bunch of youth from the community next to us laughing as they attempt English. Been at a church meeting with the Pastor about the classes we will start the 13th of February as a bunch of curious youth look on. He is excited to see his church used as a way to both bless the community and allow us to perhaps make a bit of money. He wants to start showing movies in English on Mondays with subtitles in Portuguese to piggy back on the English, to attract non church kids in a non threatening way.

I find myself both spent but rejuvenated. The flesh still hopes for failure at times, that I might have an excuse to see myself with a little cabinet shop back in the Midwest on a little farm with motorcycles, chickens and a cow or two. The flesh is always going to like the sound of winning the lottery. The temptation comes as I know that if I put out this effort in the US there will be a financial reward. Here I just am not sure.

The issue is though that we don’t labor for financial gain, we aren’t doing this to make money but to be more effective missionaries. As I do this I understand why Pr. Jeff Jackson told me if he could do his time serving in the Philippines again he would teach English, I understand now why he recommended it so highly to us and to others. I have done nothing in missions so far that has so instantly connected me with that wealth of energy, excitement and passion that is young adult hood.

We have had success, soccer schools, prison ministry, girls club Melissa is still doing the girls club and is very effective with a those girls. The thing is though as youth get older they don’t want to participate. They are too cool to go to the soccer school or a girls club. To involved in sex, drugs and whatever else. It is hard to grab them.

English seems to be bridging that gap, connecting us with the age that can and will change their nation. Connecting us with rich and poor, Christian and non giving us a voice in a generation that is active, alive and waiting on the possibilities life holds for them. It gives us an identity that business men and community leaders respect. It is opening doors at the kids school. It is early but it is exciting. I love being with 17-25 year olds and can’t wait to start tutoring Renato and Rafeal next week. I can’t wait to meet their pastor who has a church full of young people. I can’t wait to start at the Baptist church in Jardim Olympio and get to know that group of kids more. Who knows who will be the next pastor, leader, business man. Who knows if I can have a similar impact that those men had in my life at such a formational time. I am thankful for the opportunity to continue to learn.

We also are thankful that Moriah will be able to start school the 3rd of Feb. That they will continue to work with her through the year to finish her evaluations instead of her being forced to finish them all first. We are thankful that the church in Jardim Olympio will be starting these movie nights, that our ministry direction may prove to be part of the cure.

Please continue to pray

  • Moriah’s adaptation to Brazialian school and teen culture
  • Students for our English classes
  • Wisdom for where and when to offer classes
  • Finances as we need provision for school and a new car

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Season of change

We were recently blessed to be able to visit family and church family in Oregon. My (Ben) grandparents were in need of encouragement and a visit as they continue to age and prepare for some big changes in their relatively near future. It was a great time, we actually were able to have my sisters, parents, grandparents and all the kids together again at  Christmas time. It used to be a normal for us but had become something unlikely as we all live in different parts of the world. It proved to be a different experience than we expected as much of it was spent helping with doctors, dentists and all sorts of other errands as my Grandfather and one of my dad’s uncles are no longer able to be alone.

The interesting thing  about this trip is that it wasn’t necessarily refreshing. The other time we have visited the US we had longer, we were able to see Melissa’s family as well, we weren’t in a hurry. More than that we weren’t in the season of change we have been in. We had been fairly well established in Corumba, were tired and needed a good break. It was exciting, full of bbqs and camping. Summer in Oregon is great. This trip happened shortly after a big move with little settled as to what life in Rio will be for us. Yes we have some things going with Calvary Rio, a girls club locally, involvement with local families and getting the kids in school. However culture shock to living in a city of 12 million is going to take a while to get over.

This sense of uncertainty and flux wasn’t helped by leaving 95 degree weather arriving in Oregon for a record breaking cold storm that wound up with –5. Don’t miss understand it was a great time and sad to leave but it was full of uncertainty, change and uneasiness. We had little time to adjust to being in the states, I went from the airport to grandma’s to fix a broken pipe, next day we were sliding around in the snow, sitting with grandpa while grandma went to the dentist. We or I never had that sense of our feet being under us, my parents no longer maintain a home there, my sisters have moved out of state, our church was full of new faces, has two services instead of one, friends were busy with Christmas and we just seemed a bit lost, out of place in time.

As we have arrived home it doesn’t go away. That is the interesting thing about a season of change, every small decision becomes a monumental task. One of the big challenges for us is to finish the process of getting Moriah into school. This has been a major battle, the school is being very helpful but her fear of going to school here has blocked her from fully committing herself to preparation. It is hard for me to feel like I have to fight my little girl to get her to study. I want to hold her on my lap not push her to concentrate. This isn’t an abnormal experience for a parent of a new teen but an abnormal situation. Part of the stress is normal part though is the fact that our first calling is to our kids. We have no energy left nor ability to fulfill any call we may have here if we don’t get her in a better educational and social situation. Our future may ride on her getting into school and developing relationship with others.

On top of this our growing desire over the last four years has been to move a bit more towards some sort of business in mission. Not that we necessarily could become fully self supported but more to be able to engage the community more as a part of it than an implant. Especially here in Brazil where we can see the church growing more and more capable before our eyes. I first came to Brazil in 97, there was a solid church and many solid Christians but nothing like there is today. Brazil for both good and bad is becoming a global church leader. We love it here but must question the validity of staying as a traditional missionary, in that we had and continue to see great possibility to learn about and become foreign business people here while providing a great resource to help people.

We would like to begin English classes that may lead to an English school. English is a door to a better life for many people as they can use it for better work in oil, in tourism and many other areas. Especially with World Cup and than the Olympics to be in Brazil and Rio.

This by no means we would quit to do many of the things we have been doing. Melissa will continue to grow her club to try and motivate girls to stay in school, have good friendships and avoid a lifestyle that is often self destructive. Girls have little to do here to keep them out of trouble and spend much of their time trying to be the most sexy. Also as we look to meet our own kids needs we see the possibility to use flag football to get more involved in the kids school but also perhaps to do a mini league in the area.

These things all are good and may well be the Lord. The challenge is that until we see more stability in Moriahs life it is more than difficult to gather energy to apply ourselves to them. To recruit English students, to start a football club or anything else new takes pep, spark. When you are overwhelmed by doubts as to whether your doing the best for your daughter, whether she would be better off to spend her high school years in the states. Should she live with your sister, should you all move back? Where does the energy come from when these questions hang over head.

This is our home, we are happy here. We are more a part of Brazil than we are the US. However Moriah isn’t. She isn’t making friends, she isn’t engaging others but in fact has seemed to close up more. This was the big reason to move to Rio. I will say at church here she is more comfortable, doing a bit better. Pastor Alexandre and his wife have noticed and make great effort to help. We have the support structure here we need to deal with this if she will soften.

None of us would be upset to have a greater change. The US is easy and comfortable. I personally am always up for a new challenge, one of my strengths and weaknesses’. The idea of the kids in 4h playing sports and speaking English with friends is always appealing. However one does  not easily walk away from that which he feels called. That sense of purpose being in doing the work of God. I am aware though that kingdom mindedness is not dependent on location.

Now I have some similar experience to Moriah. I grew up partially on the farm than my parents went into YWAM. This was fairly traumatic to me, new schools I wasn’t much of a friend person anyways and we often traveled. When I was about the same age as Moriah my parents left YWAM not because of me to my knowledge. They moved back to the farm to help my Grandpa manage it to a point at which he could retire. I had a great difficulty adjusting back in school but looking back can see that it probably made the difference in keeping me able to become a semi normal person. Those teen years I was able to make a few new friends and stayed connected to one that I had made while we lived in YWAM. I had the farm, family and a bit more normal to get me through those confusing years.

We have little worry about Daniel, Juliah or /alannah. They are equally adapted here and there. We simply need much prayer for Moriah. We need great wisdom to know these next 6 months if she is adapting here, what is normal teenage stuff or if we need to be willing to take a break, to change direction more drastically for a season. If we are to stay in Brazil we need to see her healthy to see God provide students, finances for the kids school and a better car more suited to the city. I also want to make it clear Moriah isn’t asking to leave. She isn’t sure what she wants and knows she likes it here in many ways. She is just not as adapted as the others and school is a place that is hard enough for a teen girl much more so when you just aren’t the same.