We sat this summer and heard stories from those who have gone before us of ways that God orchestrated opportunities to meet influential people and even affect the course of laws in Brasil. We were challenged to have Big Hairy Audacious Goals for the future of the church in São Luís and Brasil. We have talked about and prayed for BIG things to happen here. You would think then that it should be no surprise that by week 8 in-country, we would have an opportunity to stand before the Supreme Court of the state of Maranhão, Brasil and share with them the love of Jesus and the reason why we are here!
Ok, we may be getting ahead of ourselves a bit, but maybe not! On one hand, we are thinking that we should wait until this really happens to avoid unrealistic expectations or disappointments from us and our supporters. But on the other hand, this is too cool not to share! First things first...we did not do anything to make this happen. This is all God, and in usual fashion, something that has had wheels in motion long before we ever knew about São Luís. That being said this story is an example of, what we are coming to expect is, how we fit into what God seems to be doing here.
A little over a month ago Jill, Melynda, and Mark were walking around the extended neighborhood when Mark felt a strong desire to go into one of the business buildings to have a look around. It was an agenda-less idea but that does not take away from how strongly he suddenly felt about it. He felt as if he was being led into the building. Once inside, the pieces of this puzzle started to fit together.
The one thing that we were having real difficulty finding since arriving here was a language school. There are plenty, an amazing amount really, of schools that teach adults English, Spanish, and French; but we were striking out on finding one that provides classes to foreigners who need to learn Portuguese. Every lead quickly stopped with a dead-end and we had exhausted our known resources with nothing to show for it. Want to guess what was inside that building? It was Top 7 Idiomas - a language school providing custom Portuguese classes. There are other reasons why we believe God directed us to this particular school at this particular time, but that will be the topic of future updates (God willing!) For now, we will stick to the details of this one.
Auricea, the owner of Top 7, is Jill and Melynda’s teacher and she approached them last week with an unbelievable opportunity! It turns out she has been friends for several decades with a man who is now a powerful judge in São Luís. In fact, this man is in charge of continuing education for the Supreme Court of Maranhão and other judges. He just happens to be taking English classes with her right now and asked her to help him develop a seminar in English that would highlight cases of common law. Currently, because of the widespread corruption in Brasilian courts, he is part of an initiative across Brasil to reform their justice system and adopt common law as practiced in the United States and other countries. In order to do that, Brasilian judges need to first become fluent in English, so that they can fully appreciate and understand common law cases and apply that approach here.
While trying to help Cea research American common law, her husband Artur had an idea - “what about our friends the Americans?!” From there the conversation has gained momentum and we are hopefully about to begin the process of creating a seminar in English for about 60 judges from the state of Maranhão, including the Supreme Court. We will present cases of American common law and highlight how difficult it is to understand the nuances of the cases without a full understanding of the English language. It is the hope of the organizer that this can be replicated and taken to other parts of Brasil.
This whole situation reminds us of another story told to us by David Ingram Sr. While serving as a missionary in Ukraine, he returned home one night to find his apartment had been broken into and he had been robbed. The police caught the criminal and one of the items stolen was a police badge David had been given from his time in the states working as a chaplain for a police station. That badge created an opportunity for him to form a relationship with the police chief. That relationship created an opportunity to develop a chaplaincy program for that police station. That program created an opportunity to stand in front of a room full of communist authorities and preach about the good news of Jesus. That speech created an opportunity for the formation of a chaplaincy training program for all of the police stations across the city! Those chaplains have been responsible for...all because of a common crook with an affinity for shiny things from America.
We haven’t had to endure a break-in yet, and Cea is not a criminal, but we do speak a shiny American English language. Because of that, we may have just received an invitation to play a role in an attempt to change the Brasilian justice system - time will tell. That change if actualized would argue for a more fair, impartial, and less corrupt system that creates standards to protect the marginalized and oppressed. These are principles that are at the heart of some of Jesus’ teachings and echoed in the psalms. “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.” (Psalm 82:3) Take care of those in need. “Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly.” (Micah 6:8 nib). "Love one another.” (John 13:34) The Creator of the Universe is still at work defending the defenseless and can help direct our steps to start a church here as well. It seems like a nice fit to do both simultaneously.
We certainly have no way of knowing what will become, if anything, of this opportunity. It may not even work out. Regardless, it has shown us very early in our time here that God is at work, sometimes even decades in advance, for the good of His kingdom. That knowledge fuels our confidence that God has called us to this place at this time for His purposes. Each day, each encounter, each situation is an opportunity to be in the best seat to watch our Creator and Father go about His work. It is ONLY “by God’s grace and mighty power, I have been given the privilege of serving him by spreading this Good News.” (Ephesians 3:7)