…That’s how long I’ve lived in Rio de Janeiro. When I stepped off the airplane in 2003, I knew no one in this city. I was being met by a neighbor who had downloaded my picture off the WMF website, and had been told that the man who was to meet me “looked like a typical Brazilian.” I had no clue what I was doing, what I was getting myself into, or what the future would look like. I was hopeful and naive, excited and a bit terrified, and a little overwhelmed by my own expectations of what “success” would look like in this city.
Fast forward a bit… Tonight, it’s finally started to sink in, to become real. My time here is coming to a close. In just under two months, I’ll be getting on a plane to fly back to the US. And, for some reason, I’ve had a hard time processing that – either through conversations, emails, journals… I know that needs to happen, and I continue to look for the proper forum for that – some of it will take place here… and the rest… who knows. Maybe a beach in the Atlantic rain forest of Brazil? Maybe the moonlit roof looking out over the favela… But it’s official.
For the few of you who don’t get my prayer letter, and are interested, here it is… now, I’m off to bed. It’s been a long day, and I’m out of rope…
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
Matthew 11:28-30 – (The Message)
Dear Friends and Family,
Greetings to you all. Last Friday I spent most of the day wandering around downtown – meeting up with two girls who live on the street to take them to the dentist, stopping by a friend’s booth at a street fair where she and a few other young women do braids and other hair styles for the tourists, and finally swinging by to visit the family of M and S.
You probably remember the story of their family – their son hospitalized for six months with a major bone infection in his leg, their home destroyed in a storm, a micro-loan that enabled them to buy a small home and keep them off the streets… One of the conditions of the loan was that each of the four boys who are living at home would attend school. Well, the school year has finally started. As I passed by on Friday afternoon, their youngest son ran up to me in his new public school uniform, darting through the cafe tables strewn across the sidewalk and leaped into my arms.
I asked him how his day was at school, and he grinned up at me and started recounting all his adventures – the toys they were allowed to play with, his teacher, friends, coloring, drawing… His joy was palpable. Please continue to pray for this family – may this be one of the first steps in breaking the cycle of poverty and powerlessness in their lives. Please also continue to pray for the Lord to work in their hearts, that they too may live “freely and lightly”. It is a slow process, but transformation is coming.
One of the lessons God has taught me time and time again since I have moved to Brazil is that his plan is bigger than I am. Through the many struggles with visa issues, loss of friends, community stressors, and the general difficulties of living incarnationally and ministering among the poor, the Lord has reminded me that he is not dependent upon me. His purposes in Rio will be accomplished. He loves those who are on the street and in the favelas – my dear friends who can make me laugh and pull my hair out in frustration at the same time – so much more than I do. He has been working in their lives long before I came to this city, and He will continue to do so long after I am gone.
That is a lesson that I have had to take to heart recently. As some of you already know, my time in Rio is drawing to a close. After 5 and a half years, and much prayer and heart-searching, I decided to not renew my contract. What does this mean? It means that at the end of April, I will be moving back to the US. It was a difficult decision. I know that leaving this place, the people that I have come to know and love over the past 5 years, will not be easy. But it is taking the next step of where the Lord is leading, and being willing to follow, even into the uncertainty.
And there is much uncertainty. I don’t know where I will end up living, or what I will be doing in the beginning. I have tentative plans to explore law school, and am eager to see how the Lord will continue to use me. But I continue to covet your prayers. Thanks to all of those of you who have stood beside me since I first came to Brazil in August of 2003. I could not have followed obediently without your prayers, your generosity, and your encouragement.
Another area for prayer is my financial situation. As of this past month, my support account is in the negative. There will be travel expenses, airline tickets, and final month’s salaries. (WMF allows me to draw up to three months of salary after I return to the US to help in the transition – if the money is in my account. At this moment, there isn’t any.) So I would ask those of you who do give to consider giving for a few more months after I leave – or for those who would desire, any one time gifts (big or small) would be so helpful. If you have any questions as to numbers or details, please email me.
These next few months will be busy and full of transition, so your prayers will continue to be needed. Thank you. Your prayers and love are truly humbling… And I am thankful to see how the Lord has provided through each and every one of you. May we continue to learn to live “freely and lightly, walking to the unforced rhythms of grace…”
Grace and peace,