We arrived in São Paulo, Brazil in January 2005 with a few pieces of luggage and a two month-old baby boy. A group of guys from a local church picked us up in a VW Van and dropped us off an hour later at a hotel downtown. I'll never forget the hotel because it was the first and only hotel I have ever been in that had a set of bunk beds in the room. We were scared stupid yet we were confident and sure that we were exactly where God wanted us to be. Somehow we made it through those first few months. In that first year, Erin had gone to language school, and I had worked hard at figuring out where in the city I was going to start a church. I researched different parts of the city and then I'd go out there to see it for myself. When I wanted a closer look into a neighborhood I would throw my bike on the top of my car, park the car somewhere safe and then spend hours riding my bike around in order to get a feel for the neighborhood and to meet some of the locals. Through a series of divinely appointed events, God led me to a small group of people who wanted a church in the government housing district of São Paulo. The first man I met there was Raimundo.
Raimundo grew up in a town called São Jose do Rio Grande in Brazil's northeastern State of Bahia, over 1,000 miles away. He had an extremely poor and backward upbringing in a small fisherman village of 2,000 people. He studied in the local school a few years but like most of the kids his age he had to work, and like most teenagers his age he left that small village for the big city when he was 18 years old. He first traveled 600 km to Brasilia, the nation's Capital, but he eventually made it to São Paulo, the nation's largest city. A few years after arriving in São Paulo, a missionary from Dayton, OH led Raimundo to the Lord. This missionary died of a heart attack on the field a short time later. Raimundo grew in the Lord. By the time I met him, he had already helped start a church in his own home a few years earlier and now he was praying about starting another church with the people that I had met.
I joined God at work in Raimundo's life and in the lives of those people in the government housing projects of São Paulo. God did an amazing work in the life of that church. As I worked alongside Raimundo, he would alway mentioned his home village of São Jose. He would talk about the people and their needs. He would talk about taking the Gospel to those people. He had a real burden to go back, and he would always ask me to visit there with him. He had not been back there in years. Eventually I said yes, I'll go.
Looking back I have no idea what I expected to come from this trip. We traveled over 1,000 miles cross country before we arrived. We spent 10 days surveying the village and the surrounding region. When we came back to São Paulo we prayed for God's direction and we were led to start a church in that region of the country. We started a church in Barreiras, a main city near São Jose, and eventually an outreach ministry was begun in the village as well. About two years after my first trip to Barreiras, I sat in a Panera in Chattanooga, TN with a missionary who was raising support to go to Brazil, who would eventually partner with us in the work in Barreiras. There are a thousand untold and unbelievable details to that story, but isn't It crazy how God brings people together from different places, from different walks of life to fulfill His purposes.
There is a church there today that is alive and growing. The church meets in a store-front room and it has used all of the available space. The church is in the middle of several growing neighborhoods, in a city that is expanding.
Together with our ministry partners, Josh and Melissa Daniel, our goal is to purchase property so that we can accommodate the church growth and to pave the way for future ministry opportunities in the city. This is what we need:
A 1/2 acre lot will cost $84,000
God has already provided $42,000
We still need $42,000
Over the course of the last 12 years we have seen God work in supplying our ministry needs. He has done so through our faithful ministry partners, and we would like to ask you to prayerfully consider partnering with us to reach our goal. We are asking you guys to come together and help us move forward with this project that God started.
Over the coming days and weeks we will be sharing more about this project and more about the people that have already been changed by the Gospel in Barreiras, Bahia.