Back in November of 2017, my wife Julie and I had decided that we would work especially hard toward preparing our family for our second furlough, by October of 2018. As you can imagine, this involved taking care of numerous matters related both to our family and to this local church. The pressure was on to develop stable national leadership, take care of any documents necessary for our travels, determine who would pastor the work, save for plane tickets, and make sure not to miss our deadline, as that would force us to make an expensive trip in-country by plane to renew our US passports.
We prayed, planned and put our hands to the plow, but every door closed. Plus, while working on establishing leadership from the membership of the church, the membership actually experienced a noticeable purging—several people chose to leave and turn back to the world. We thought it good to contact men of God to see who might be a good (temporary) fit here, but none were able to help us.
The hope of taking a furlough by October faded away a few months back.
Of course this was disappointing, but not necessarily discouraging. In fact, on the bright side, several new attendees are with us now, and some are already talking of becoming members, and others are expressing concern about the salvation of their souls. (Please pray about that!) Just this last Sunday (Brazilian Father’s Day), without any special promotion we had a full house. I had left some chairs at home from an event the night before, and thus became a bit concerned that we might not have seats for everyone. It was a great service and all worked out!
We have also seen the Lord blessing our Independent Baptist Bible Institute, through which we are offering a two-year diploma, (though auditing the courses seems to be the major interest right now). A fellow missionary, Sam Rogers, agreed to come from his city to ours each week to teach for the next two months. I am teaching “Biblical Hermeneutics”; he is teaching “Life of Christ.” Most students are simply laypeople from our church, but we regularly see others attend the classes.
As far as our family is concerned, since furlough has been postponed, we are not sure what to do with our children’s homeschooling. They have nearly gotten an entire year ahead in school to prepare for the furlough, (thanks to the dedication of my wife), but we do not have books for the next school year! Please pray about this too!
But, that’s not really why I am writing this lengthy post. Just a few weeks ago, a (miraculous) offer was made to our church. Across the street from us is a building several times larger than the one we currently rent. We have dreamed of having it, seeing as it is in the same location and much larger. They were asking R$4,500 per month, which was entirely impossible for our little group to pay. Then, out of nowhere, the owners came to us expressing their desire to rent it to us. We said that the maximum we could pay would be R$1,500! They accepted our offer! That is nearly identical to the price we are paying now for a building just a fraction the size!
(On a side note, apparently, due to the size of our current building, we have learned that many people have been hesitant to enter our services, because the building’s smaller size gives it the appearance of a special club. In other words, for some, it is not the most inviting scenario. The more spacious building should eliminate that excuse.)
I met with the men of the church, and after discussion and prayer we have complete peace about this building, but to make use of the space, we need to put up walls and install some bathrooms and a kitchen. The owners are perfectly fine with the changes we seek to make.
Not everything is visible in this shot, but there is room on the main level to install a handicap accessible bathroom, two regular bathrooms, a wash area, a storage area, a kitchen, an office, a classroom for the children, and still have room to fit quite comfortably a congregation of over 100 people. The owners have agreed to giving us the first three months rent free so that we can fix it up.
The owners would ultimately like to sell us the entire property, which could actually be bundled with a property in back on a lot of equal size, but for now that is (financially) out of the question. We believe that the Lord has opened this door so that our church may grow numerically in a space much better suited for a larger congregation.
(If you would like to see just how we plan to renovate the building, the blueprint is at the following link: Church Renovation Blueprint – PDF)
What is so interesting about all of this is that right around the time that we would have been going on furlough, the Lord opened the door for us to expand. This will help our ministry in various aspects, including services, youth activities, the Bible institute, visitors during our conferences, and so forth.
We have developed a list of phases for the renovation of the building, and have discussed the matter with Brazilian pedreiros (construction workers) in order to know how to approach this project. We have started campaigns in the church, and offerings are being raised.
This is a project bigger than us. As we pray and look at this, the facilities could be a tremendous help to what we would like to accomplish, but their renovation will be very demanding on our congregation. Your prayers for this—the largest project our church has ever attempted—are very much encouraged! We need the Lord to help us!
We hope that in some way through this post you can share in a little (if not a lot) of our excitement. God has seen fit to encourage us just after we saw several people walk away from the church, and our furlough get postponed.
God’s will is always better.
I am reminded of the words in Isaiah, “Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert” (Isa. 43:19).
If you would like more information about this important phase of our ministry, please get in touch with me. We can be reached through Skype, Email, and many other means, most of which are found on the prayer letter. You can also click here to find us on Facebook.
We hope to hear from you! Thank you for all your prayers! God is still answering them!