Well folks, this is the prayer letter I sent out this month… it’s been a long time in coming, but I thought I’d make it available to ya’ll internet-folk as well. As always, I love feedback… =)
Dear Friends and Family,
I remember discovering the above verse shortly before graduating high school. With the decisions I felt looming over me, I grasped the promises it offered – that things would work out. Ultimately, I could stop worrying because things would be OK. God would work out the details of my life, I would prosper, and have a hope-filled future. Little did I know…
Upon meditating upon it recently, I began to see how limited my understanding was. God has plans, hopes, dreams and desires – for my life, and for the world, yet I am free to accept or refuse them. He invites me to be a part of them. They are for my good (prosper and not harm), but my understanding of what is “good” has deepened. It doesn’t necessarily mean comfort, safety, or success. It is intimacy with God and his people, love, sacrifice, peace-making, seeking justice, dying to self. And ultimately, learning to rest in the knowledge that my hope and my future do not rest on my shoulders, or even in what happens to me. My hope, my future is in the character of God. And he has been faithful.
As I thought more, my sphere of application widened – not just me, but others: those who support me in prayer and financially, those who encourage and email, those who are here in the favelas, those on the streets who have been told they are worthless and trash. We are all being told and shown over and over again, “Jesus loves you. He has plans for you – to prosper, to not harm, plans of hope, plans with a future…” Many hear and only a few respond, but it is beautiful to watch and be a part of.
One of those families that has begun to respond is Bruce’s. You may remember Bruce. He is a young boy we’ve met whose family lives on the streets. Bruce suffered from osteomalitis (a deep bone infection in his tibia) culminating in over six months in the hospital and seven different operations last year. Through this time we grew close to his family – his parents (Sebastian and Marina) and his siblings. (There are 11 of them, but only the 4 youngest live at home.) About three months ago, a huge storm hit Rio and destroyed the home they were living in – a small, one room wooden shack high up the hill in one of the favelas.
We felt we wanted to do something to help them tangibly meet their need so they wouldn’t end up back on the streets full-time. So we were able to loan them the money to buy a small, two room (sleeping room and living room,) brick house down the hill. They made their first monthly mortgage payment two months ago, and were so proud. They’re a sweet family and we love them dearly. God is working in their hearts – pray that it would continue in all of them. Pray for softened and receptive hearts that they might see the hope and future the Lord has in store for them.
I would like to thank you for your prayers. You may remember that in February I asked for prayer as I was discerning whether or not I would extend my time in Rio for another three years. These last few months have been a mixture of praying for discernment, waiting, silence, and striving for certainty. In the midst of that, I have been reminded over and over through Scripture, conversations, prayers, and books that life is not like that.
It has been humbling to see clearly how deeply I long for control over my life, how I desire to know with clarity and no room for doubt where God is leading me, how I fight against surrender. “Yes God,” I think, “I will follow where you lead. Just let me know where it is, so I can give my approval to your plan or not…” It is painful to surrender. It is difficult to walk out in faith. And, like Thomas, I can only say “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.”
I’ve come to see that both life and growth require change. They ask and demand, cajole and entice. The Spirit works as we walk. I usually resist change. I want to stick with what is comfortable, known, and “safe.” The familiar entices me to stay put, which only leads to stagnation. Yet God calls us to walk with him in faith. It is exciting to think what he might do.
As far as what future changes might hold in my life – I don’t entirely know yet. I’ve not felt a peace about leaving Brazil yet. So I talked with the WMF office and have decided that I will be here at least until next spring (’09.) My most recent commitment was to be in Brazil for three years – due to all my visa complications, I’ve been gone almost 10 months out of that time. So, I will be finishing that out at least, and praying that if God wants me here longer, to open doors and make a way. At the same time, I’m looking at some of the dreams that have been building in me over these past few years here, and growing excited about how God might allow those dreams to come to fruition.
I would love to talk more in depth – answer any questions, provide more insight into how you can be praying, etc. And, as always, I send out more frequent email prayer updates. Email me at email@example.com if you would like to receive those. We’ve been having some email problems recently, so if you haven’t heard from me, please try again. I do love hearing from ya’ll. Or stop by the blog for stories and reflections (www.beninrio.blogspot.com) that are updated more frequently.
Please continue to hold our communities up in prayer – Bruce, Sebastian, Marina, and their family, our WMF community, the kids on the street and in the favelas, and the local church here in Rio. Also continue to pray for provision as I am here. I have felt in need of emotional resources as well as financial ones lately – these last few months have been draining emotionally as well as discouraging financially. It’s been an opportunity to learn to lean on the Lord more, but I wanted to share where I am at in this area.
Thank you all for your love and support, for standing with me and partnering with me to share God’s love with the poor of Rio. Let me know how I can be praying for you…
“I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) These are Jesus’ words – to the poor 2000 years ago in Israel and the poor today in Rio de Janeiro, Burma, or the Congo – and his words to me and to you. Pray we might all experience that life more deeply, more fully, and more in tune with the Spirit.