In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
1 Th 5:18
This year we are celebrating our 10th year of ministry here in Brazil. As we look back on these 10 years of service we have so much to be thankful for. We are thankful for:
The Gospel That Reached Us
We had the privilege of growing in Christian homes where the Gospel was lived out and taught. Erin and I trusted in Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior at a young age. Our parents having led us to the Lord. I don't ever want to take that for granted. According to the Joshua Project, there are still 3,067,466,000 people in the world who are considered “unreached”. They did not have the privilege of growing up in a Christian home, seeing the Gospel lived out, or hearing the Gospel taught. We are thankful for the Gospel that reached us, yet we are burdened for those who have never heard the greatest story ever told.
The People Who Discipled Us
Besides having the privilege of growing up in a Christian home, and trusting in Jesus Christ at a young age, Erin and I have had special people who were willing to invest in our lives. It started out with our parents. Jonathan’s parents served as missionaries in Brazil, and eventually died there when Jonathan was 12 years old. Erin’s parents came to follow Jesus Christ through the events surrounding her birth, and they have never looked back. They have an exemplary marriage and they live the Gospel - serving selflessly and faithfully as the Lord leads. We think back to the Sunday School teachers, youth pastors, pastors, teachers, professors, and missionaries who took the time to personally invest in our lives. The Lord has used many people to shape and mold us into His image. We are thankful for these people, yet we are burdened for the many who need someone to come alongside of them to help them grow.
The Calling That Directs Us
God always speaks, but there was a day when God clearly spoke to our hearts about what we would do with our lives. He placed a burden, desire, and purpose in our hearts to serve as missionaries in Brazil. He called us out of where we were to join Him at work in the lives of people in the Government Housing Projects of São Paulo, Brazil. I am so thankful for the clear calling of God in our lives. If we did not have the assurance of His calling we would have packed up and gone home long ago. Our heart's yearning is that more people will place themselves in a position where they can hear God speak. He still speaks, and He still calls because there are still untold billions who have not heard.
The Trials That Draw Us
We are thankful for the trials and difficulties that have drawn us near. We have drawn near as a family, and nearer to the Lord in our walk with Him. As children of God we have come to know that nothing happens to us, everything happens for us - for our good, for our perfection, and for His glory. It is certainly easier to read that statement than it is to live it out. We cannot say that we have never wavered, we have. Yet, we can say that He has never wavered. God has always been there - present in our today and present in our tomorrow.
The Partners God Has Given Us
We are thankful for you. We remember the very first church we visited to present our ministry for support. We were 24 years old and we didn’t have a clue as to what we were doing. Jonathan presented what he planned to do in Brazil and then mumbled through a message he had prepared. In the end, the church voted to partner with us. We were blown away. 15 months after that first meeting we were on a one-way flight to Brazil. Scores of churches and hundreds of people have stood with us over the years. Through those partnerships, God has allowed us to be a part of several church plants. Hundreds and hundreds of people have been saved and baptized. You are part of that! You might not know their names or their faces, but they are real people who have passed from death unto life through your partnership with our ministry. We are thankful for you, but countless other who have been changed for eternity because of you are also thankful.