One night is not enough...to capstone our time in São Luís so far, to tell of the incredible things God has done this year, to describe the web of interconnections the Creator is weaving here. One night is not enough to express our gratitude to those who have stood by us, lifted us up in prayer, encouraged us, and have followed along this amazing journey. One night is not enough to share our vision for the people the Lord has brought to us so far, or for the eventual larger congregation that will arise from this group. One night is not enough to explain our purpose for the group that will meet weekly or to introduce the importance of personal spiritual growth as we also try to grow together in Christ. No doubt Tuesday night was a glimpse, but it is not nearly enough. At the same time, it was exactly enough...of a mix of reflection, affirmation, and motivation for the work here in São Luís. And it was exactly what we needed, provided at just the right time and in just the right amount, as Father has demonstrated a propensity to deliver.
The events of the past week were a great example of ways we have seen God moving here. Last Thursday we were invited to go to the Children’s hospital with a group from another church in town who conducts a weekly worship service. One of their members started a job program for the mothers who have to stay at the hospital to care for their ill children. “Stay” isn’t really the right word, “live” is more appropriate (though the conditions they reside in are a slight to the significance of the word). This municipal hospital houses approximately 80 kids on a continuum of disease severity. One girl has been there for 4 years, her mother living in a bedside chair. That night the hospital did not have food or alcohol to disinfect. In many ways, the night could be described in several ways as “shocking.” The opportunities to serve are seemingly endless.
Saturday we met up with friends to visit an infamous neighborhood here; one where drugs, crime, and extreme poverty are present in spades. On the way, a conversation led to a connection and possible opportunity to minister (in English) to a couple struggling with their young marriage. Upon arrival, we were introduced to a man who runs a school for 104 children. He started this as an effort to provide hope in a part of town that the outside has forgotten, or left to rot. We walked gingerly, with not a little fear, along rain-soaked wooden planks fastened atop a pieced-together wooden-stick scaffolding, to shacks along the tidal river. These houses sat about 10 feet above the low-tide mud, which was covered in trash and sewer. Despite, or perhaps because of, these conditions we witnessed the creativity of the children who showed us their homemade “Beyblades” (think old-fashioned tops). We arrived with bags full of clothes that we were told would always be appreciated. (I know you are wondering how we had bags of clothes to donate after only being here a year, but it turns out we packed a few too many initially!) We learned later that the man in charge of the school was approached the day before by a mother asking for help to get her daughters clothes because they had run out. He didn’t have the resources or the prospects to help her, but her daughters just happen to be the same size as the clothes that Rylee and Addison were able to give the following day. These kinds of things are just fun to watch! The efforts there, the housing, the kids… “shocking” could also well describe that encounter. Opportunities to serve are seemingly endless.
Also, isn’t it wonderful when you open your Bible to spend time in the word and the passage (pre-planned long ago) you are reading is exactly THE passage that best provides comfort, guidance, encouragement, or a challenge to the things that are going on that day and for the emotions that are new that morning. Along with the sunrise, Tuesday morning brought with her a heavy dose of anxiety. It was satan’s lies no doubt. We heard him hiss, “Your Portuguese isn’t nearly good enough to be speaking to a group.” “People were just being polite when they said they would come.” “This group doesn’t matter to anyone else besides you.” “You are not ready, and you never will be.” “This is going to fail.” “They aren’t going to listen to you.” "But the LORD answered, 'Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say'.” - (Exodus 4:11-12)
We were overcome with a sense of humility as people started to show up Tuesday night. It was exciting and relieving and nerve-racking and an incredibly joyful moment. In some ways, it was a fulfillment of this mission. God called us to leave our homes, our jobs, our families and friends for the sake of the Gospel. He called us to get out of our boxes, to leave our ideas for the future behind, and to accept His leading. In essence, He called us to trust Him and take a walk with Him to meet people in Brasil who we could invite into joining His mission as well...and they came. Of course they came!
In still other ways it was just the beginning. All of the preparation and planning, the discussions and deliberations, just served to initiate a spark here. A moment to collect a breath and say, “ok, let’s go!” We will look back at this night, this first group of people gathered as a sort of starting line in our sense of time. But glory to God for all the things he has done in preparation for the gift of this perspective! His name will be praised through this effort, and this is just the beginning! One night is not enough, no, one lifetime is not enough to tell of how wonderful I AM is!