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.