Mission Teams, Moving, and a New Church!

June was a busy month for us as we hosted 2 mission teams of about 40 people AND moved to a new house in a new city. The first group came from Cullman, Alabama and the second group came from Van Wert, Ohio. It was a first for the group from Alabama, but the Ohio group had already been to Brazil on four different occasions. Both groups were involved in the same types of ministries throughout the month - evangelism in public schools, evangelistic canvassing in the new church’s neighborhood and in-home outreach in the evenings. Overall, we distributed 8,500 Gospel Tracts in the neighborhood and we shared a clear presentation of the Gospel with 1,800 kids in 3 schools. More importantly, people made decisions for Christ!

Back to Brazil In A New Direction!

Read our 2017 Ministry Prospectus for a detailed explanation of our next season of ministry. 

 

We will be flying back to Brazil on April 13, 2017. It has been good to be in the U.S. visiting

our ministry partners, reconnecting with family and friends, and resting, but we are glad its

almost over. Living out of a suitcase on the road can wear you out! Jonathan has logged

tens of thousands of miles and has visited over 50 churches since July. It will be good to be

back in Brazil doing what God has called us to do.

As we have previously mentioned, we are transitioning out of our most recent church plant,

the Oasis Baptist Church. In our absence, the church has grown under the leadership of a

Brazilian Pastor. There are still many areas in which the church needs to grow, but we did

what we came to do and now its time to move on. When we go back to Brazil, we will only

be living in the same area for four months before we move to the City of Campinas.

Campinas is still within the Greater Sao Paulo Region, and is located about 2 hours away

from where we currently live. We will be partnering with Pastor Emerson in a church plant

revitalization project. Visit our website for a full prospectus on our next season of ministry in

Brazil.

Over the coming years, we still plan on being involved at the Oasis Baptist Church. Our plan

is to help further develop the leadership of the church through monthly training initiatives.

Instead of being involved with church members, we will be involved in developing the church

leadership and eventually helping the church multiply itself in other church-plants.

As we move back to Brazil, we need you to pray us. We have to find a new house, we have

to move, the family has to re-adapt, we have to figure out how to do life in a new place,

etc… We will also incur additional expenses as we make this transition. Please visit our

website for a breakdown of our financial needs. We have much going on in the coming

months and we covet your prayers and financial support.

A story of a husband's answered prayer and a church that chose to love

A story of a husband's answered prayer and a church that chose to love

The story of Marcos and Jordan is a story of a husband's answered prayer and the story of a church breaking down barriers through love and grace. This same church, which many of you helped start a few years ago, is in need of a property in the growing city of Barreiras in Northern Brazil. God has already provided $42,000, but we are only half way there. We still need $42,000 to be able to buy the property that we need. Will you prayerfully consider giving today? MORE INFORMATION

10 months / 12 States / 50 Churches

 

"Furlough," that's what our time back in the U.S. is officially called. I'm not sure why because "furlough" simply means "a leave of absence," as if we are not working. We may not be in Brazil, but there is no slowing down when we are in the U.S. Before going back to Brazil in the Spring, we'll be tearing up the highways from OH to FL to NJ to TN... then repeat again and again. 

I've written about this before but its worth repeating. As independent missionaries, we do not work for or through a mission organization. We aren't on the payroll of any organization. We don't receive a salary. This is how it works, churches and individuals partner directly with us and this partnership enables us to serve as church-planting missionaries in Brazil. Its hard work creating partnerships and its hard work maintaining partnerships. That maintenance happens through personal contact while we serve on the field and it is renewed and deepened in person when we come back to the U.S. When we are back we also need to establish new partnerships in order to accommodate inflation, living expenses and the ever increasing ministry opportunities. 

The Best News

We've been back in the U.S. a couple of months now and every week or so the members and leaders of the church back in Brazil reach out to us to see how we are doing. We small talk about their family, soccer, politics, and the weather. The same as we always did when we were there with them. Eventually, the conversation turns to how they are doing spiritually and we are thrilled at some responses and saddened by other responses. Yet, the best news we always hear is that the church is moving forward and that the church has grown in our absence. Too many times the missionary believes that he has to be present in order for it all to work out. He has invested his life into something and he does not want it to fail. He wants it to succeed. A missionary knows in his head that the church is not "his" but it can be difficult to rest in the fact that it is Christ's Church and He promises to build it. The best news is to hear that He is building it.


I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.
1 Corinthians 3:6

Report, Reconnect, Recruit, Relax

As most of you know, we are back in the U.S. until next Spring. July was an awesome month for our family. It was the first time our kids had ever been in the U.S. for any part of Summer. They were introduced to 4th of July, cook-outs, fishing, swimming, and all the best of summer.. Most importantly, they reconnected with grandma, grandpa, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Many of whom they did not even remember. 

It was all short-lived though because school started back up on August 8th here in Nashville, TN. Yeah, pretty crazy. When I was a kid, I remember going back to school after Labor Day. Our down time was short-lived as well. I had my first meeting with a partnering church in July and a couple meetings in the month of August. September onward will be very busy months for us.

One thing I have been asked quite a bit since we've been back in the U.S. is why are we here? That's a loaded question that has a loaded answer. So, here's a simple explanation as to why we are here. There are more reasons than these, but these are the biggest reasons. 

1. We are church-planters in Brazil. Our goal is to start a church, grow the church, and transition out of that church as quickly as possible. We have been in Brazil for almost 12 years now and this is only the 3rd time we have come back for a longer period of time (6-9 months). Each time we came back, we were transitioning out of a ministry which we had started.. Our exit creates a leadership vacuum for the national pastor to fill. When we go back to Brazil we have a goal of planting a new church all over again. 

2. We are financially supported by scores of churches in the U.S., and we have a responsibility to periodically report to those churches in person. Before we moved to Brazil, I had to personally call and visit churches to establish partnerships with them. I did this full-time for about 18 months before we had enough ministry partners to move to Brazil. Basically, I stood before a bunch of churches, thousands of people, and said, "this is who we are, this is where we are going, and this is what we plan on doing." Churches decided to partner with us based on that presentation. So, when we are back in the U.S., we visit those same churches and give them a report on what we did. We also present what we plan to do moving forward. If we do not come back to report to churches, we lose credibility and eventually lose partnerships. Over the next 6 months I will drive tens of thousands of miles to visit scores of churches from New Jersey to Florida to Colorado to Ohio to Alabama and everywhere in between. So, to answer some peoples question, no, I am not on a really long vacation. This takes a lot of work. 

3. We always need new ministry partners. Every year we lose ministry partners. There are many reasons. Some churches fall on hard times financially and can no longer partner with us. Other churches change their mission focus to a different country. At the same time, inflation is real and the price of everything goes up month-to-month. Also, the longer we serve in Brazil the more opportunities present themselves to us, but we can only stretch ourselves so far with the resources available to us. That being said, one of the reasons we come back to the U.S. is to establish new ministry partnerships.  I do this by mail, by phone, over coffee, over lunch, in a meeting, with a committee, filling out applications, answering questions, etc... 

4. We miss our family. We miss our church. We miss America. We come back to the U.S. to reconnect with friends, family, and to do things we enjoy doing. Don't get me wrong, we love Brazil, we love Brazilians, but missionaries are real people that have real longings. After we've been here for a couple of months our tanks are full and we're ready to jump back into things on the field. Its a time for us to relax and recharged. 

5. We need to tell people that "The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few," We are on the front-lines of the battle and we need help. We need people to say "yes" to God's leading and join us. We are actively recruiting families to join our team in Brazil. God calls and leads people who are serving in local churches, and over the next 6 months we will be in scores of churches speaking to thousands of people. Who knows, maybe God will lead someone to join us as we seek to win Brazil for Christ. We remember the day when we were in one of those churches and God led us. He still leads. We are praying someone will say "yes" to His leading.

Welcome to São Paulo, Brazil

The countdown is on!

The countdown is on! On June 15th we are flying back to the U.S. for our furlough. The kids are excited, mom's excited and most importantly, grandma is excited! The plan is to stay in the U.S. through April 2017. It will be our longest stay in the U.S. since we first came to Brazil in 2005, and it will be the first time any of our kids have been in the U.S. over Summer. The last time we were in the U.S. for any part of Summer was 2004. So we are looking forward to some fun in the sun with family and friends. 

For us to be gone that long we've gotta have all our ducks in a row, both in Brazil and in the U.S., so you can imagine how crazy its been over the last few months. 

I have been leading two churches over the last two years and I started phasing out of one of those churches a few months back. We led them through a process to call their own Pastor and on May 1st they unanimously voted on Pastor Sandoval as their new Pastor. We'll assist from a distance for a short transition period, but the burden of the ministry rests on this new Pastor and the leadership of the church. 

At the Oasis Baptist Church location we have also been busy preparing the church and its leaders for the coming year. Pastor Cicero, who has been with us for 4 years, will take over. He works a full-time job to support his family and is only available on weekends, but the church will start paying him part-time with the goal of eventually bringing him on full-time. Raimundo, who has worked alongside us for 10 years in several different church-plants, is working at the church full-time in Evangelism, Discipleship and Visitation. Countless other leaders are stepping up and leading as well. A few years ago I would have been super worried about leaving, but thank God I am past that. I've discovered that most of the "control" that missionaries think they have when they are present in the churches they start is nothing more than illusion. God's in control. He is the determining factor. Period. 

Our furlough creates a leadership vacuum for these guys and others to fill. Our greatest desire is that things go so well in our absence that when we come back to Brazil we can simply step into a different role in ministry, whether here at the same church to expand their reach and impact in the community or somewhere else altogether. 

One of the questions we get when we head to the U.S. on furlough is what do we do in the U.S. for that long of time period. Well, our main goal is to visit churches who partner with us financially and update them on what God is doing through their partnership. We currently have 60 partnering churches in 10 different states. Do the math, if we visit 2 churches a week it would take 30 weeks to visit all of them. Our second goal is to get the kids in school and get reestablished in our community in Nashville, TN. We need to spend time reconnecting with family, friends, and our home church. Our third goal is to establish new partnerships. The economy, inflation, exchange rate, kids getting older, and a whole bunch of other factors take a toll on our budget and every couple of years we need to raise more money. Monthly contributions from individuals and churches enable us to do what we do. 

I have heard missionaries say that over the course of time their "country of service" becomes "home". I don't know at what point that happens, but that hasn't happened with us just yet. I (Jonathan) have lived in Brazil for 22 years (out of 37) and I still miss (like crazy) home, family, 4th of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, just to name a few things. Don't get me wrong, I love what I do, I love Brazil and Brazilians, but in the end its just not the same. 

If you are a ministry partner or want to know more about partnering with us, email me

Whirlwind, Growth, and What Comes Next

Whirlwind 

The last three months have been a whirlwind for us. As many of you know, in November we began a fundraiser to build an education building at our Oasis of Hope facility in Sao Paulo, Brazil. God’s people responded generously by giving $30,000. As if that weren't enough, we around 30 volunteers come down to Brazil to help us build. This outflow of generosity created a ripple effect among other Christians here in Brazil who are not part of our church. We had over 40 Brazilian volunteers from other churches show up to get involved in this project. It has been really amazing to see God work. We basically put up a building in a month’s time. There is still some finishing work that needs to be done, but we should have it all wrapped up in the next few weeks. We'll put out a video highlighting all thats been done in the coming days.  

Growth

The biggest thing that has happened over the last few months has happened among our church people. What we are involved in is more than just building buildings. Buildings crumble and fall, they are just tools to be used in the greater effort to win people and to build their lives on Jesus Christ. Well, that has happened in the last few months. Our church people have been challenged and they have grown through this experience. During the month of February we had evangelistic services every Saturday night, and outreach services in the neighborhoods every Tuesday and Thursday night. Many people committed their lives to Christ, many others rededicated their lives to the Lord, and we had a record amount of visitors. In fact, we have had more visitors in the last three months than in the previous year combined. In my eleven years on the mission field, I have never believed so strongly that we were on the verge of something great. At the same time, our church unity is fragile. Satan has been working to blur our focus and change our direction. We've grown wide, but we also need to grow deep. We are investing considerable time in key leaders in order to develop them as quickly as possible. You can’t speed up the maturity process though, so we are just praying for God’s grace to be poured out in the life our church. 

What Comes Next

We are planning on being in the U.S. from August ‘16 - March ’17. The last time we visited most of our partnering churches was in 2011. So, we need to get back and renew our partnerships and seek out new ministry partnerships. We only have a few months to get things organized well enough here at the church for us to leave. We also need your help in scheduling our meetings. Right now oure schedule is wide open.  We would love to come and share with you what God has done through our ministry here in Brazil. Please enter in contact with me ASAP to schedule a meeting or mission conference at your church. 

We Still Need Your Help

We Still Need Your Help

We’ve hit the final stretch of our fundraiser and we need our friends and ministry partners to step up to the plate and help us out big time. Our goal was $20,000 by February and as of right now we have raised $3,000. Its a big deal because we have 30+ guys who are planning on being here in Brazil in February to build. In order for them to build I need materials on hand. No one can do everything, but everyone can do something. Please help us reach our goal by giving today @brazilforchrist.com

The End of Days

Over the last month we have been teaching and preaching on "The End of Days" at both campus locations here in Cidade Tiradentes. Since it is the first time our church is learning about this we chose to take the flyover teaching approach as apposed to getting into the fine details of eschatology. This subject matter can be mind-boggling for even the more informed Christian, so we created some time at the end of each service to field questions. Here are some interesting conclusions that the church came to during those Q&A sessions:

1. The imminent return of Christ demands urgency in our evangelistic outreach and personal holiness. 

2. Since Jesus Christ promises to reward faithfulness, we should seek to be faithful in all that we do. 

3. The pre-tribulation rapture of the church should fill us with hope, joy, and praise - we won't be here for the bad stuff. 

4. We should pray for Israel because God still has a plan for Israel. God's unconditional promises to Israel will be fulfilled. 

5. Everything will end someday, and God will right every wrong in time and eternity. 

6. In our finitude we cannot even begin to understand all that God has prepared for those who will spend all eternity with Him.

What stood out to me most over the last month was how our church people were filled with shock and awe in learning of these "last things" for the first time. I pray their awe inspires a renewed zeal and personal transformation. In a way, familiarity breeds indifference. Many "old" Christians have heard it all before, and the subject matter doesn't tickle their interest any more. On the other hand, some are more fervent in their faith than ever before. Wherever you may be, get back to the place where the newness of Revelation shocks and awes you - Jesus is coming back and you need to be ready. 

 

Although not big, 3,000 square feet will be HUGE for us.

This is what we are praying for and working towards rights now - the Oasis of Hope education building. Right now we have a common meeting area where we do EVERYTHING. This small, 3,000 square foot building will give us 6 classrooms. Right now we have NO classrooms, so this is huge for us. We have building teams coming in February '16 to build. Right now we still need $20,000 for building materials to make this project a reality. Go to our partnership page and get on board if you have not already. Can't help financially - pray, and then share this with your church and friends! 

The currency exchange rate and how we live and work.

I'll preface this post by saying straight out that I am no economist, but I do know what I have experienced over the last ten years in living and working in Brazil. My comments are based on that experience. Many of our ministry partners assume that missionaries around the world can do so much (living + work) with so little ($). I am sure there was a time in which that was true. I have read the stories, and heard many of them first-hand, of missionaries going overseas and building schools, hospitals, orphanages, and churches with very little money. There still is a "cheap" world out there, but there is also an "expensive" world out there. There was a time when the "3rd world" was the "cheap" world and that everything else was "expensive". That reality is long gone. We live and work in Brazil, which still is a third-world country, but it has slipped into the "emerging market" or "developing world" category over the last 20 years or so. Our friends and family are blown away when we tell them how much we actually pay for food, clothing, and living in general. In fact, I've heard, "you're joking, right!?" more times than I can count. 

I am not going to tackle how much everything cost here in Sao Paulo, Brazil, but I do want to shed some light on the currency exchange situation and why it matters. When we arrived in Brazil in 2005, US$ 1.00 was worth R$2.65. In May 2011, US$ 1.00 was worth R$1.65 (U.S. Dollar worth 38% less vs the local currency). This week, US$ 1.00 is worth R$4.05 (U.S. Dollar worth 145% more vs the local currency since 2011). Take a look at a shorter time-frame. In January, US$ 1.00 was worth R$2.60 and as I just mentioned, it is now R$4.05 (U.S. Dollar worth 56% more vs the local currency in 9 months). Those are the numbers over the period of 10 years, but the rates changes every single day, up and down. You can go HERE to see how it has fluctuated over the years. In a year or two the U.S. Dollar could lose 50% or more. 

The whole point of this math exercise was to show how much the cost of living fluctuates. In real numbers, I paid US$ 1,038.00 for rent in January 2015, and last week I paid US$ 667.00 - in the same house in a country where real inflation hovers around 10%. Six months from now I could be paying US$ 1,200.00. The cost of ministry also fluctuates. About a year ago we started raising money for a building project. At the time our goal was US$ 60,000 to build a basic building to house some classrooms. We didn't raise the funds we needed. In fact, we are still trying to raise the money. Due to the exchange rate change over the past year, now we only need US$ 33,000 for the same project. Yeah, you read correctly - we get more bang for our buck! Its working in our favor this time, but it rarely does. I can remember a few years back when I raised enough money for a particular project in a few short months, but in between raising the money and actually putting the money to work (2 months or so), the exchange rate shifted back 20% and I didn't have sufficient funds for the project. 

As you can see, it is almost impossible to work with a neat and clean monthly budget because you are never paying the same amount on ANYTHING month to month. Someone in the U.S. recently asked me, "How do you make it with such volatility?" The answer - THE GRACE OF GOD! I can't give you a "I know what I'm doing" answer because I do not have one. We do not work through a mission board that pays us a salary, we receive free-will offerings from churches and individuals. We are grateful for what we receive, but the amount varies month-to-month throughout the entire year. We rarely receive the same amount of financial support from one month to the other. So how do we make it? Once again - THE GRACE OF GOD! God has always met our needs and even when we can't see how things are going to work out, they always do - ALWAYS!

With the positive change in the exchange rate we are experiencing an unusual window of increased opportunities to make God's money go farther in reaching Brazil for Christ. Will you pray, will you give, and will you help us mobilize others to do the same while this window remains open? 

Thank you for your partnership in our lives and ministry. 

Goodbye Winter, Hello Summer!

It has been a long winter here in SP. Most people assume all of Brazil is hot all of the time and that the mild winters aren't really so bad. I would agree that the winters aren't so bad relatively speaking. Don't get me wrong, if you live anywhere in the Northern part of the U.S. or in Canada you have it much worse. The issue here in SP is that when its 55 degrees outside, its 50 degrees inside your house. Houses here are really modern caves in terms of their effectiveness in insulating from the cold of winter. The cold is damp and the days are grey and dreary. The fact that your surrounded by concrete inside your house and outside of your house throughout the city doesn't help your winter morale. One way or another, winter is technically over THIS WEEK, and I am praising the Lord! I am ready for hotter days and warmer nights. 

Another reason I'm glad winter is finally over is because it kills our attendance. We meet in a big tent and its not an inviting environment at all during the winter months. The women at church regularly bring blankets to wrap themselves in, and most mothers with children just leave their kids home since we don't really have an appropriate space for all of the kids to meet. That all changes when it warms up. Warmer months ahead means many more visitors and a greater participation in all of our church activities. 

Many of you might have noticed on our facebook posts that we were in the U.S. for the month of August. We were planning on coming home for Christmas at the end of this year. Tickets are always around $1000/person for that time of year so when we saw tickets for $350/person during the month of August we quickly changed our Christmas plans. Remember, there are seven of us so that is a boatload of money saved right there. We arrived on August 5 and returned to Brazil on August 30. The focus of the trip was really to spend time with family and friends at our home church in Nashville, TN. The kids had a blast fishing, canoeing, horseback riding, and just hanging out with Grandma and Grandpa Hardy. The week after we returned to Brazil the kids started home-school. This year Samuel is in 5th grade, Jesse is in 4th grade, and Abigail is in 2nd grade. Hannah and Benjamin just watch and disrupt mom as much as they can. 

Nothing really new going on in our ministry. We are just focusing on our game-plan and pressing forward. Every week we teach, preach, and train as we try to move the church closer to maturity in Christ and closer to leadership autonomy. Sometimes it seems as if it is a two steps forward and a three steps backward process, but in the end I think we are making as much progress as God wants us to be making. There is no way to speed up the discipleship process through innovative methods or tactics because it is ultimately up to God. Of course we do what is within our power and responsibility to do, but God orders the rest according to His purpose and plan. 

Here's something you can pray for and give towards: We have been raising money over the last 6 months or so for a building project. We have 3 building teams from the U.S. that are coming to Brazil to assist us in February '16. We have money for the footers but we need funds for the rest of the materials - rebar, cement, cement mixer, cinder blocks, roofing materials, etc.... We have ministry partners coming down to do the work but we need the materials. Would you prayerfully consider giving towards the building materials that this group needs in order to get the job done?

Right now is the time because we have a great opportunity to nearly double our investment in this project. The currency exchange rate between the U.S. Dollar and the Brazilian Real has nearly doubled over the last year. That simply means that everything is nearly 50% cheaper than what it was just a year ago. Your money will go twice as far as it would have gone a year ago. Give as the Lord would have you give. 

As always we are grateful for your partnership in our lives and ministry. 

Quechua for Christ

Well, I am back and thank God I am alive and well. For about an entire month before I traveled to Peru I was sick. Real sick! I think I had a case of dengue fever followed by a severe stomach virus that hung around for nearly two weeks. I took some strong antibiotics a week before traveling which barely made me travel-ready. Nonetheless, I made it to Peru and back. 15 of us (Americans, Peruvians, Dominicans, and Brazilians) met up in Lima, Peru and took an 8 hour bus ride to Huaraz, a city northwest of Lima in the Cordillera Blanca region. We stayed in Huaraz a day and a night to acclimatize to the altitude before taking a bus another 10 hours to Pomabamba. We stayed the night in Pomabamba before hiking to the first Quechua village the following day. The leaders of AWI, the mission we were working alongside of, had never been to these villages so distances and trek times were pretty uncertain from the onset of the trip. We hiked through passes at an altitude of 15,000 ft. It was epic, dangerous, but extremely rewarding because of the privilege to share the Gospel message with people who most likely had never heard a clear presentation of the Gospel in their lives. We trekked to three villages through unbelievably harsh terrain over the course of 4 days. All in all, we had an excellent public turnout in each village, and we were able to distribute 800 Bibles to Quechua families. Each family waiting in line, in the cold, in the dark to receive their very own copy of God's Word. If it weren't good enough to just be a part of this great work, God changed me, and every person on the trek, in the process. I mentioned in my last post that two Brazilian guys were going with me and that my prayer was that God would work in them as He worked through them, and it is safe to say that He did that and much more. Pray for the Quechua who heard the Gospel and who now have a copy of the Word of God in their own language. Pray for the missionaries who remain there to follow up on this work, and pray for every team member of the 2015 Andes Trek who are going home different than when they came.

"How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?" 

Romans 10:14

Mobilization

Tomorrow morning at 6 AM I will be traveling to Peru to meet up twelve other people from New Jersey and Tennessee to minister among the Quechua. We will be assisting the ministry efforts of Ade and Rachel Yanac who have worked in Peru among the Quechua for many years. I had the opportunity to go last year (our campsite pictured above) and I came back to Brazil with a goal to return in 2015 with a group of Brazilians. Yes, I am a missionary serving in Brazil and my primary focus is Brazil, but within that focus our goal is to see Brazilians mobilized on mission throughout the world. I am taking two guys with me this year, Junior and Heitor. I am praying that we will be used to minister to the Quechua in a special way, but I am also praying that God will work in these young men's lives through this mission experience. I don't have any real statistics on this but I would say that most missionaries are called to full time missionary service through the exposure of being on the field or exposed to a need that God moves in them to fill. I know that is how it worked with me and my wife. 

Over the next 10 days pray for our safety, our health, and pray that God will work.

Next year, I'd like to take 10 guys from Brazil!