What God called my girlfriend and I to do in Brasil isn't easy. I know that isn't a news flash to any believer reading this. Honestly that's kind of a "duh" statement. Living your life as a disciple of Christ isn't easy for anyone. He never promised it would be. And making disciples isn't easy or pretty. It can be frustrating and exhausting and hard and make you feel like you want to cry or, at times, throw up your hands and wonder if anything is happening to grow the kingdom.
Making disciples is being family. It's hard but always worth the time and effort to build relationships even if they don't end up like you thought they would. And even though it's tough we wouldn't change anything about our lives. We are so thankful that God asked us to move to Brasil to tell people about Jesus and He has taught us so much through our time here.
I am very thankful that I get to do something that I love and get to do it with my best friend. No one is more blessed than I am and I know it. I would not want to do what we are doing with anyone else in the world. God has paired me with the best spiritual partner I know. It's a daily blessing to work with someone who pushes me to be what God wants me to be and who also happens to be my best friend and girlfriend. I couldn't do this ministry with anyone else in the way that my girlfriend and I do it. God has made us to "click" spiritually. He has interwoven our gifts perfectly.
But we both have our moments when we wonder if what we are doing is really making a difference, a kingdom difference, in the lives of anyone.
Have you ever just laid everything out for Jesus on a regular basis? Opened yourself up and shared from your heart about Jesus' love? Wanted to see so badly someone give their lives to Jesus and getting more "nos" than "yeses'? And then getting more nos on a regular basis over a span of a few years?
It can knock the wind out of you after a while and I believe that is why Jesus sent his disciples in pairs (Mark 6; Luke 10). Being evangelistic in pairs does something to you. It gives you the juice to continue fighting the enemy. When one is down the other is strong. Thankfully in 10+ years here I can say that my girlfriend and I have never been fried spiritually at the same time. We've both been fried but never at the same time.
But again, just being honest, since we've arrived in Porto Alegre we've had some days where we wonder if we've really been used to make a difference in the lives of anyone. Those feelings come when we have bad days. Days where we can't physically see things with our eyes. We know in our hearts that God has used us to make a difference in the lives of a few people and we know that He is working and bringing people closer to Him but we have days where the enemy just tries to pound on us.
When we have days like that we ask God to open that visual curtain for just a bit to allow our physical eyes to see what He is doing in the spiritual realm so that our faith is encouraged to fight against our enemy another day.
Sometimes He answers and blows us out of the water with a day like yesterday.
This is our sister Leni (with our goober daughter at her side).
She did great and wanted to thank each of you for your prayers. I personally was overwhelmed by the emails and calls that we received yesterday asking about Leni after we got home from the hospital. It was amazingly encouraging.
I wanted to share a bit about the time around her surgery and what her family did for her.
On Sunday night Leni was, as you might imagine, pretty anxious about her upcoming surgery. One of our brothers in Christ, Tiago (which is James in English), called to see how she was doing. In the course of their conversation Tiago began to read from the book of Tiago over the phone to Leni. God used Tiago to calm her soul through the reading of His word. Tiago is about 30 years younger than Leni but they have a close relationship. I can't stop smiling as I think about what he did for her Sunday night! It was a perfect, God sized calming plan and Tiago followed the prompting of the Spirit.
During the day yesterday one of our sisters, Ines, called my girlfriend three or four times to see how Leni was doing. Ines was helping one of her neighbors, who has health problems, and couldn't make it to the hospital but she took periodic breaks just to call my girlfriend to check on her sister.
My girlfriend and I went to the hospital in the afternoon to hang out with Jorge, Leni's son. To just be there with him. After we found out that Leni's surgery was a success my girlfriend sent out a text to the entire church family letting them know what had happened. Almost immediately she got a return text back from our brother Freitas. It said, "That is the God that I love!" What a very cool response!
Leni got to leave the hospital, amazingly, at about 7:00 last night after arriving at 7:00 in the morning. I'm not sure any of us really expected her to leave on the same day. After her discharge my girlfriend and I got to hang out with her in the parking lot while Jorge went to get the car. It took a while, as it was rush hour, so we had the chance to hear about her day. She shared how she was very nervous but God had given her peace. How she went into the operating room literally singing praises to God. How happy she looked when she shared all this. She said, "Our God is a God of miracles."
On the way home my girlfriend and I shared the same feelings. That, in spite of us, God is moving in our city and making disciples.
I don't share to brag. I know myself and there is nothing to brag about. If I were going to brag I would brag on my girlfriend who always goes the extra mile to help any person she can. Any person. She is a woman full of God's grace and she bleeds that to everyone she meets. She has been Leni's friend, sister and partner for many years and Leni was so happy to have my girlfriend by her side yesterday.
I would brag on our teammate Sascha, who moved back to the states almost 4 years ago, and the time he spent with Tiago years ago. One on one time. Brother to brother time. Hanging out time. He led by example. He shared the Good News. He discipled. He planted the seeds in Tiago's faith walk and now we are blessed to see God water those seeds and how Tiago blessed Leni on Sunday.
I would brag on our sisters Cledi, Ines and others who are ready and willing to help Leni by staying in her house during the recovery if needed.
I would brag on Freitas who has allowed God to do a miraculous, and I never use that term lightly, healing in his life to become a strong leader in our church family.
I would brag on Leni who has allowed God to heal past hurts in her life and how she has become a spiritual rock in our church family.
I would brag on our eight year old son who loves Leni so much and who has been praying regularly for her surgery and,with the first thing out of his mouth this morning, asked, "Tell me about Leni's surgery. Did everything go okay?"
And, thankfully, I could continue bragging on our church family.
Ten years ago I remember having a conversation with my girlfriend. She told me she would rather be a part of a church family of 40 people that were on fire for the Lord and making a kingdom difference throughout the city than to be a part of a church family with 500 people who just "played church" and showed up on Sunday for their shot of adrenaline but did nothing for the kingdom during the week.
Five years ago I remember having a conversation with our brother João Spencer about how God seemed to be doing a Gideon thing among our church family. Our family member numbers got smaller and smaller but our family got stronger and stronger as we relied more and more on God instead of man.
We were reminded of those things on the way home from the hospital last night. As my girlfriend said, "We still, obviously, have a mission to reach out to the people in our city but I'm so thankful that we are part of a strong family and we know that they are going to be a family no matter what. They aren't going to turn their back on the decision that they've made for Christ."
We are blessed to be a part of the body of Christ. To be a part of a group of disciples. We are now a part of a group of 40ish people who are on fire for the Lord and that are making a kingdom difference in this city. We are part of a Gideon family. Small but strong because of our God. We aren't perfect but we don't play church. We are family and we could not be happier with where God has us and, in a lot of ways, it feels like we are just scratching the surface of what God wants us to do here in Porto Alegre.
And that's exciting.