"...we also glory in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character, and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." -Romans 5:3-5
Well, these have been a trying last couple of weeks; we are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair. (2 Cor 4:8)
First, a couple weeks ago, we had a, um, necessity for a little space, so we went to Fabio's brother's house in Sao Paulo for the week. In many ways, it was a nice respite, but at the same time we faced new struggles. The nice part was that they live in a house rather than an apartment, so the children had more freedom in the house without worrying about bothering the neighbors. It was kinda funny, actually, that as soon as we arrived, Israel asked my sister-in-law's mother if he could jump? Like he had been fasting from being able to jump all this time! hehe. Here are the kids, with cousin Leonardo, at the house in Sao Paulo:
They also have a washing machine, which was really a wonderful break. :-) The other thing that was huge for me is the difference in climate. In spite of the short distance between Santos and Sao Paulo (about an hour if there is no traffic), the difference in climate is HUGE because of the altitude. It was more like Chicago summer - plenty warm, but rather comfortable most of the time, and it cooled off at night enough that I could stand to use a thin blanket. I hate sleeping uncovered, but it is so hot in Santos that I can't even stand to have a sheet on!
However, they live in a dangerous area, just a block from the mouth of a dangerous slum - a "favela". So, we could not step foot out the door, or barely even look out the window. When we did leave the house, my brother-in-law would park the car about a foot away from the door, check to make sure the coast was clear, and then quickly usher the women and children into the car without stopping for a second to stand and look around.
From the car, I could see the favelas as we drove by. Here is a picture I took from the car - a drive-by shooting (lol). How sad! How could these oh-so-needy people be reached? How could we venture into their territory without being harmed? It made my heart feel so heavy! We could not be effective in ministering to the most-needy people while being too afraid to venture out of our door. And yet, we also could not throw caution to the wind and put our family in danger. Most importantly, what is it that the LORD has for us to do here?? What is His plan? I spent a lot of time in prayer, cautiously peering out the window from where we slept. This was my view:
While Fabio was away, he emailed this to me:
I am still glad we are going through all this.
I look back and I see us living the American dream lifestyle. I am glad that God shook off the shakeable and is bringing forth the unshakable and establishing us in that way. Character. Godly character before any circumstances. It's been tough for you. It's been tough for me. It's been tough for the kids. Each one in a different manner. But I see that together we are all being refined - as a family (my joy). Not one alone. And we grow together to live what it really means "as for me AND my family, we will serve the Lord".
I'm still wondering why the second month is coming by and we are still "stagnant". Really "stagnant"? I realize not. He is building our roots deep down in the ground in different areas of our lives. Soon, we will bud. We will grow. We will flourish.
He could have done things a lot differently but he is in the business of softening and hardening people so that he may display his power in us so that his name might be proclaimed in all the earth. A power we did not know we had. The power of godliness and unconditional 1 cor 13 love is irresistible. This power will be brought forth and we as we count our own lives as dead so that the life of Christ may spring out.
Now we are learning how to pray for our dear cousins with the same broken heart and understanding. It is painful but we do not live for ourselves nor for comfort, but we live as Hosea - willing to die to our own desires and even reputation in order to become a new generation of mighty prophets in the land that will shake the empire of darkness in this place.
His words greatly encouraged me and still do.
The following week, coming back to Santos, was even more trying. First, the weather went from miserably hot to murderously hot. I know all of you in the Northern Hemisphere think I should not be complaining about the heat, but trust me, it is a little too much of a good thing here in Santos at around 100 degrees F and probably about 300% humidity! So, anyway, it was the hottest week since we got here. And, like the laundry dilemna in my last post, there is no escaping from the heat here like in the States - an air conditioned building is a rarity indeed.
Then, Fabio's parents decided to do a remodeling project: to replace the flooring in the living room/dining room area and hallway. Other than this main area, the apartment only has a tiny kitchen and three moderate-sized bedrooms, two of which were now piled high with the furniture out of the living room! So, while the apartment had felt quite snug before, we were not confined to our bedroom all.the.time....
Now, if the bedroom confinement coupled with the heat was not enough to do us in, we had to get some kind of wicked virus that went through the family one by one.... So my original strategy to find somewhere, anywhere, to go during the day to get out of the house during the construction failed miserable because of the sickness. Once again, there was no escape. We were stuck in that little room, suffocating and puking. lol.
As unappetizing as that description sounds, the Lord's comfort was sweet. I think that He does not often choose to work on our character flaws when we are in our comfort zone. And, He brought to mind so many Scriptures that just came alive when applied to our present situation. The one I started out this post with, from Romans 5, especially came to mind often and forcefully: tribulation produces perseverance, tribulation produces perseverance, perseverance, perseverance.... PERSEVERANCE! There were times I thought, "If I can survive this week, I can survive anything!" And then that verse would come to mind again: perseverance. And I would pray that verse for our family, that our current "tribuation" would product the perseverance that the Lord could foresee we would apparently need at some point in the future.
So, at this point, our lifestyle is not what we had pictured, exactly. My document that I need to take care of before being able to travel within Brazil has not arrived. It has been four weeks and counting, and we are paying a fine for every day we are in Brazil without it arriving! And not having it means we cannot leave Santos. We are stuck here! And apparently for a very good reason. We have come to believe that this time has been for us a kind of missionary bootcamp that we would not have planned for ourselves. God has it all planned out. He knows about my document, the timing of the constuction and the weather forecast and the state of our health. He knows it all and we are in the palm of His hand. We are trusting that He will work all things out for our good, and we are confident that we are here in Brazil on His orders.
Please continue to pray for us! We so appreciate knowing we are being upheld in prayer, and we have felt it so many times. Don't stop now!
I will try to post more pictures sometime soon - it is just taking too long for right now. :)
(The quote at the top by Elisabeth Elliot may not be word-for-word, because I read it years ago, and could not find it online now. But that is the general gist of it.)