JAMI missionaries in training threw a surprise good-bye “churrasco” (Brazilian barbeque) for us.
Everyone laughed in amazement when Asa was lifted onto the shoulders of the young adult group.
Asa with his buddies, Gustavo and Pedro, Bruna and Stephanie along with, Pr. Marcelo.
“How good to have you here with me to talk with and get to know you. Come into the circle, come with me. Only those who have friends are happy.” (Lyrics from the song that the young adults dedicated to our family).
Do you remember a time you had to say good-bye to a dear friend or a beloved home? In our class for new Brazilian missionaries called “The Missionary Life,” we talk about the importance of saying “excellent good-byes.” One of the greatest joys of the missionary life is the opportunity to say hello to new people in new places, people who soon become our colleagues in ministry, our second family and some of our dearest friends. The flip side of this is the sadness and pain when sooner or later we say good-bye to those very same people.
We have come to that point in our missionary journey in Brazil when we must say excellent good-byes to the friends who have become our family and the apartment that has been our home here in Belo Horizonte. While we plan to return to Brazil next year after our Home Assignment, it is likely we will move to a different city. So, we are now turning over sets of keys, selling household items, and sorting and resorting everything. A cabin on the JAMI campus is now home. Most importantly, we are in the season of “despedidas:” Good-bye parties and last gatherings filled with laughter, full of memories, and usually awash in tears at some point.
Part of saying excellent good-byes for us is reflecting on what these last 7 years in Brazil have meant, and what God has done in and through us. What an amazing journey it has all been, and how grateful we are to you and the Lord for what we have been able to be and do here!
Through JAMI the Lord has used us to touch the lives and shape the ministries of 73 Brazilian missionaries. We have developed five intensive modules that have measurably improved its missionary training program. We have been pastoral counselors for both missionaries in training and many now serving around the world. We have been mission mobilizers in scores of Brazilian Baptist churches through mission conferences and consultations.
The Lord led us to a new home church at Igreja Batista Reviver and used us to make a major difference in many ways. The youth/young adult group has tripled in size, has a vibrant program and a trained and committed leadership core. The Mission Mobilizers Team is involving church members in a community school program, a Saturday program for kids in a nearby poor neighborhood, evangelism outreach programs, and a new church planting effort in a small town outside Belo Horizonte. Members have discovered their spiritual gifts and are putting them to use. And the church is using the Healthy and Faithful Church self-evaluation and planning model developed by Dr. Lee Spitzer of ABC-New Jersey to guide its growth.
Especially poignant right now are Asa’s good-byes. He’s leaving to go to college in the US and doesn’t know if or when he’ll be coming back here to live again. This is the place where he grew up and where his closest friends are. Going back to the US isn’t exactly “going home” for him!
We will soon get on the airplane after all these good-byes, more than ready to say “hello” to many of you! We praise the Lord for providing a house in Bremerton, WA that will become our home for the next 12 months. We have started to schedule ministry and deputation trips and are looking forward to lots of hellos and opportunities to share the good news of what God is doing in our world today. We are planning trips to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Indiana, Washington, and Oregon, so please contact us if you would like us to speak in your church in these or other states. Our calendar is filling up fast!
What happens after 12 months of hellos in the U.S.? Good-byes once again, of course! In May of 2012 it will be time to say hello to the new adventure the Lord has in store for us. We asked you several times in the last year to pray that God would clarify our thinking and help us understand His will for our next missionary journey. We are grateful to say that your prayers were answered. We have been invited to return to Brazil to develop two brand new national-level ministries for our partner Baptist convention here (more on that in our next prayer letter!).
Good-bye … hello! … tchau … oi!: this is the rhythm of life for all followers of Jesus Christ. We are people on a spiritual journey led by God; we are truly people of “the Way.” As God works in and through us we grow and change, we help others to do the same, and we change our world. We are grateful that you are companions with us on this journey, and we look forward to seeing you some time during this next year in the US.
Que o Senhor os guie na jornada, (May the Lord guide you on the journey)
Bruce, Ann and Asa