(This is written by Ansley, our second daughter).
Hello to all who might be reading, wherever you are in the world, who have supported my family in so many ways for what has now been 17 years (WOW)! Thank you for taking your time to read this, and I hope God uses these few words to speak to you in your own life somehow.
I had to wait for a time in my life that was a little less stressful, and hopefully emotion-free, to begin writing this message (as, even by writing these first words, I am getting emotional!). I was just given the incredible blessing of going home to visit the 5 people in the photo below for two and a half weeks (lump in throat as I write this too…geez!) for the first time in over three years, and on the long flight back to London I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to write a few words about what a blessed time it was for me. I pondered for a while over to whom this message should be addressed – should I write as if I am talking to my parents? My siblings? To you, the reader? Nothing felt natural until I decided to write it in the form of thankful psalms unto God, and I hope what seems natural to me will also come across as meaningful to you.
Father, thank you for my safe travels all the way from London, to São Paulo, to Porto Alegre, and back again. Thank you that Jackson (one of my parents’ friends from church) was able to provide me with tickets at a reduced price since he works for an airline. I know that no one is ever “guaranteed” a trip home, and I thank you for what an incredible gift this was to me.
Thank you for the city of Porto Alegre. Though it is not a beach town and it is unlucky enough to be one of the few places in all of Brazil that actually gets cold in the winter, it is my home and I love it – and you love it. Thank you for the blue skies, for the delicious fruit, for the many trees and thunderstorms and cobblestone streets. Thank you for the people, your people.
Father – and for this one I smile, because it was 100% your doing – thank you for providing me with an opportunity to perform research that involved two of my biggest loves in life: Children and reading. You knew exactly what you wanted me to research, you knew exactly which organization you wanted me to work with, and you knew which children I would meet and learn from that week. I could not have chosen anything better for myself and I feel like a child who has just been given the biggest present from her dad – without even expecting or asking for it.
(Somewhat blurry picture but showing my happiness in being able to work with this amazing organization and such amazing people!)
Thank you for my parents’ church. What a vibrant community to be a part of for two weeks. I love many churches and can always see bits and pieces of you in each environment, and in my family’s church I felt a sense of togetherness. They are united in prayer for common causes, are concerned with one another’s well-being, and are true friends to one another throughout the week, meeting up for coffee, dinner, and LOTS of laughter. It is clear that if you have a desire to serve – be it through worship, through praying, through offering lessons in something you are gifted in – you can and are joyfully encouraged to do so. I thank you for how their church is a hub for learning, with people meeting outside of service hours to offer guitar, drum, violin, English, Spanish, biblical, artistic, and parent support lessons to one another and to the wider community. I am sure that – as does every church – their church has many struggles and ugly flaws and has and will continue to make mistakes, but I thank you for the overwhelming sense of community, love, and passion for your name that I felt during my visit.
The Glass family: An amazing group of family friends who now go to my parents’ church perfectly showing joyful, silly, togetherness.
Father, thank you for how you have made a way for my parents and siblings to connect with people wherever they go. From street vendors, to Pilates instructors, to gas station workers, to parents and friends from school and extracurricular activities, I thank you for the many people you have placed in my family’s life and I ask, God, that you would open their hearts to your mercy and grace. It is hard being away from family. And in my heart you know how many times I have asked that we could all live in the same place. But being there and seeing how many opportunities you are providing for relationships to be formed and for your name to be mentioned and honored – whether it be in passing or in a more in-depth manner over a coffee or dinner – makes it easier to be apart.
(Doing some Pilates with Fabio on the day of my trip home!)
Thank you, Dad, for FRIENDS! Both mine and those of my family! What a time of laughter in my life, what a time of joy! How incredible that you have let me have a lifelong friend who I met when I was 15. How merciful you are to bring my parents and siblings friends who love your name and who care for them. Who call and ask if they need prayer, who come over for dinner and stay for games, who can make jokes that have everyone crying from laughter in one second and then immediately switch to encouragement and prayer in the next. Thank you God for reminding me of your love of laughter, joy, and community through these amazing people.
Thank you God for planting a seed in my parents’ hearts a few years ago (so they say, but I believe that you planted this seed long, long before they moved to Brazil and you have guided their steps to fulfill this plan without them even knowing it) to open the Hope House. Thank you for giving each of my parents unique, yet complementary gifts that are needed to open a safe haven of housing for men recovering from addiction. Thank you Father that you knew that they could never do it alone. Thank you that you have brought them the wonderful, joyful, and courageous Lyndsay, the fun-loving and dedicated Sandro and Cátia, the strong and brave Josimar, and each and every one of their other team members here. Thank you that while I was there you provided them with the keys to a house which – through your power – will become the Hope House very soon.
And now, the part which will inevitably be the easiest and hardest to write. Easiest, because my love for these individuals flows out of a deep stream of relationship that has existed within me since I was born. And hardest as it is mainly because of these individuals that being apart from Porto Alegre is so difficult for me; they are what make the word “home” meaningful.
God, I thank you for my Dad. Thank you for his kindness, gentleness, and patience. Thank you that you have put a fire in his heart for your glory, a fire that burns steadily through commitment and discipline. Thank you for his many words of encouragement to me while I was home. Dad (Kevin), this part is to you: Thank you for running with me, talking with me, walking to markets with me, encouraging me, praying for me, praying with me, always telling me you are proud of me, and loving me. I loved being your morning green tea and quiet reading buddy. I could not – and I mean it – have chosen a better father to guide me through my life.
God, I thank you for my Mom. Thank you for her love for me. Thank you for how she has always cared for me. Thank you that you have made yourself her highest priority and have given her a desire to boldly serve and speak up for your kingdom. Thank you for her wisdom that she shares with all she encounters. Mom, this part is to you: Thank you for cooking for me and being involved with my health while I was home, for drinking coffee with me, for talking about marriage, books, music, and life with me, for praying for me and with me, for planning the book talk with me. You have been my friend throughout my whole life. I could not – and I mean it – have asked for a better mother to care for me through my life.
God, I thank you for Carys. Thank you for her true friendship to me. She makes me laugh (but mostly laughs AT ME!!), she cries with me, she makes me realize I need to have more FUN. Thank you for how hard she worked at school. Thank you that her courage and boldness has strengthened our friendship. Thank you for how she listens to me. Carys, this part is to you: I had SO much fun with you and I am SO glad we were home at the same time. Thank you for watching silly TV shows with me (John Paul JOOOOONES), for teaching me about makeup, for flipping through slides while I gave a presentation, for listening to me in a way that only you can. It really means so much to me that you stayed with me in Gramado when I had to work on my paper that whole day. I loved every minute we spent together. I admire you in many ways and I love you very, VERY much.
God, I thank you for Anderson. Thank you for his sincere heart, for the way you speak strongly to him through pictures, words, and feelings. Thank you for his openness. Thank you that he and I are similar in many ways, and different in lots of ways too. Anderson, this part is to you: I love you, my twin. Being home and getting to spend time with you filled my heart with so much joy and peace. Thank you for letting me walk to school with you, thank you for going to get ice cream with me and opening up to me and letting me open up to you. I loved studying with you. I loved watching you run the 11k race with strength and so much courage!! I loved talking about real, hard stuff together. And I love getting to know the man you are becoming. I loved every minute we spent together. I admire you in many ways and I love you very, VERY much.
God, I thank you for Giovanni. Thank you for his joy to see me come home. Thank you for the time he spent with me, and for making me feel so loved. Thank you for his maturity and growth. Thank you for his amazing gift on the drums, and his gift of reading. Giovanni, this part is to you: How happy you were to see me come and how sad you were to see me leave made me feel so special. I loved reading with you. I loved going to your drum practice and was amazed at how good you are. I loved finding out that our (weird) sense of humor is the same. Thank you for always wanting to spend time with me. And for running around the grocery store together walking like you and Anderson walked when you were younger (just like you are doing in the picture above). I loved every minute we spent together. I admire you in many ways and I love you very, VERY much.
The other 5 members of our family (Bronwyn, Stephen, Waveland, Garrett and Will) were not there, but I thank you God that FaceTime provided some moments of laughter and togetherness from afar.
To the reader: Thank you for reading this little post with the seemingly million “thank you’s” – but the million “thank you’s” seem fitting to a trip that blessed me spiritually, emotionally, physically, and mentally in ways that even I don’t fully understand yet. This was an amazing, restful time home. I thank you, God, with my whole heart.
P.S.- Thank you God for my sweet and kind husband who picked me up from the airport with pretty flowers!! Thank you that he willingly stayed behind in London to let me have this gift of time with my family. Thank you for his support and love and prayers from afar. This part is for him: Will, you know how much I love you, and how grateful I am for this time. I hope to show you the same support you showed me throughout our whole lives. You are my true home, and I want to be wherever you are.
On May 23rd, we finalized the purchase of the first Hope House in Porto Alegre!
(Actually, I’m not being 100% truthful here. There is one more part of the process that has to be done before we legally own it for good, but we’ve paid the money and have the keys!)
We took a lot of pictures and shared our excitement with all of our Brazilian friends. It’s been a long time coming.
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU if you prayed for us, gave money to this effort, or encouraged us to not give up. This is a victory for all of us, but especially for the kingdom of God in Porto Alegre where a lot of men will have a much better opportunity to live an abundant life and start to change our city.
We ask you to continue to pray, because now we start the process of remodeling the house and bringing it up to code so it can be safely and legally used as a halfway house and training program. This will also be a long process, so we leave you with this quote from Ann Voskamp:
“What seems like hard work that’s taking an eternity today — is exactly what may make the most difference in eternity.”
This is a blog about the word honestly.
Honestly we haven’t blogged in a while because we’ve been busy in the physical and spiritual realm.
A few days ago I read something. I can’t remember if it was a blog or an email but it talked about do’s and don’ts for missionaries.
I don’t remember everything I read, but a “do” from that list was to share the negatives in your ministry. To not only share the great things that are going on, because people will begin to believe that you live in a fantasy land. That it is just happiness all the time in your ministry. It shared that people need to know of your struggles to make things more real with what your life is really like.
So I’ve decided to share some realities of our life.
Honestly we have days where we wonder what we are doing. Nothing with the government goes quickly in Brazil. Nothing. So much red tape. So many new or changed rules. God put the idea of the Hope House on our hearts in 2016. We are trying to close on the house right now. We have the money to buy it and went to a closing where we thought we would walk out afterwards with the keys, you know, just like in the United States. We arrived at the closing with the money and left paying only half of the sales price. Apparently in Brazil, buying a house is in 2 (or maybe 3?) steps. First you sign a contract and pay half, then the authorities scrutinize your paperwork and let you know when you can come back in and pay the second half and actually own it. So our lawyers have been working for the last 2-3 weeks to get the paperwork needed turned in so we can do the second part and finally get the keys. This has been an amazingly long process and there are times it gets tiring.
Honestly it seems that our enemy is throwing everything at us to keep the Hope House from being purchased and being opened. It’s taken forever for us to be able to make a simple transfer of the funds raised in the states to our bank here. Difficult because of political corruption here in Brazil. The day the transfer was approved our banker yelled in my ear on the phone and said, “Satan threw everything at us to keep the purchase from happening and he couldn’t do it! God is so good!” We celebrated together. A week later we were waiting for our realtor to get to the closing and he called to say he just got hit by an armored car….on the way to the closing. The enemy never ever quits, and we are determined not to quit either. Just a few days ago, we saw a picture of the guys who are in a drug rehab program where we used to work. We knew almost all the guys in the picture. Why? Because they were there years ago dealing with the same problems and they are back again. There is a cycle that needs to be broken. We don’t claim to have all the answers, but we believe that Hope House will offer these men a better chance for really living an abundant life.
Honestly with things finally happening with Hope House it seems like Satan and his demons have begun to attack our family’s health. I could make a list of what has happened to us and our kids and even our parents over the last few months and you wouldn’t believe it. At the beginning of this year we had our 12 nights of calling out to God at our church. We had one night when we were told to just be still with God and see what He wanted to tell us. He told Benay to just trust in Him. That health issues were coming with us and our kids and it might seem like we would be going down white water rapids but to just keep our focus on Him. Just trust in Him. So many things have happened to our family physically since that night. We are trusting in Him.
Honestly Satan has come after me this year in a way he never has before and it’s been a bit scary at how I had let my guard down just a little and he came bursting through. I’m thankful for an amazing wife who I can share anything with. I’m thankful for a special brother in the states who I talk to all the time to share things that I can’t share with everyone. Not for fear of judgement but for fear that they might not understand. Not everyone is comfortable in talking about the demonic. Through this process I’ve realized that it’s been easy for me to not share everything in my heart. Everything is coming out right now and it feels good to not guard or play church about any area of my life no matter how messy it is. Satan and his demons are real, they attack and they want us to not share the reality of spiritual warfare. Jesus wants us to get it out. I’m getting it out with the people He is asking me to share with and it’s a beautiful thing. A definite work in progress to release pride and stubbornness and whatever else but definitely a beautiful thing.
Honestly I don’t think I could be here if it weren’t for my family, our church in the states (Harpeth Hills) and our church here (Brasil for Christ). Each of those bless me in ways I can’t even express. My wife is the best person I’ve ever known. Kind, forgiving, full of grace, loving and beautiful. My kids bless me in ways they don’t even know but they are some of the greatest role models in my life. God sent Harpeth Hills to us at just the time we needed them. The love they have for us, our ministry and our church here just blows my mind. They are actively involved in our lives and ministry and want to be even more involved by sending groups down here to work with us and to get to know our Brazilian church family. It’s an amazing feeling. I can’t count the times we’ve received notes from different leaders and members of the church of just encouragement. You have no idea how much an encouraging email, from 6,000 miles away, does to lift you up. And, in God’s goodness, those emails usually arrive on a day when we really, really need it. God sent us to Brasil for Christ when, honestly, we had no more spiritual gas. They have lifted us up and encouraged us and gotten behind our ministry in ways I’m not sure I thought possible. We are overwhelmed by God’s goodness in this area.
Honestly it’s not super fun being thousand of miles away from your kids and grandkids. People have said, “just move back” and we could. That would be the super easy thing to do but life is bigger than us and our desires. We have to do what God says do and go where He tells us to go. There is no better place to be than in God’s will for your life. I’ve chosen to be out of it before and I’ve been right in the middle of it. I never want to leave the middle of it again. We’re in the middle of it right now. We’ve raised our kids to live for Jesus and follow the Spirit. We’d be hypocrites if we left God’s will for our lives so that we could follow our desire to be nearer to our family. Our kids are following God’s will for their lives and there is no greater joy than seeing your kids look to the Holy Spirit for direction. Right now the Spirit is telling us to stay in Porto Alegre and open and work at Hope House. We have great peace about that but, honestly, the home sickness to have people you love closer isn’t much fun.
Honestly I don’t know if anyone will care to read all the “not so fun realities” of our life but I needed to share it to make my heart feel lighter. Of course we will continue to share the great things God is doing. He’s done so much and we know He will continue to do so but in order for us to be able to continue doing what He has called us to do we need your prayers to help us fight against the enemy. You won’t know how to battle specifically for us if we don’t share and, honestly, that is worth sharing from my heart.
About five years ago God put Alexandre “Xandi” in our lives. We met him at the rehab farm we ministered to. He is the dictionary picture of a big teddy bear. One of the purest hearts you’ll ever meet. He has had, like 99% of the men we’re blessed to walk with, an extremely hard upbringing which led to him needing drug rehab.
Xandi left the rehab farm in 2015. He was strong. However, not long after he left he started using drugs again. He called and asked us to pick him up. He was in bad shape. He stayed at the farm for a while and left again. He’s been clean and doing good ever since.
He told me in 2016 that he was dating someone. She was not a believer. I gave him counsel to be careful. Most people think that when these men fall after rehab it’s because of the temptation of alcohol or crack or marijuana. It usually isn’t that. Most of the time the men begin to return to their addictions after living in sexual sin and they don’t make that connection. I was worried that Alexandre might be headed that way. He thanked me for the concern but continued with the relationship.
He and this new girlfriend, Juliana, began living together. In 2017 they found out they were pregnant.
We started to get to know Juliana. Beautiful smile. Very happy to be with Alexandre but didn’t want anything to do with any church. Alexandre would always ask her to go to worship with him, she would always promise to go and then “change her mind” when Sunday morning rolled around. She told us later that she never ever intended to go with Alexandre but she always pretended she would until it was actually time to go. She had been raised to believe in a strange mix of African religion mixed with Catholicism, and had no interest in following Jesus.
And then one Sunday she woke up ready to, once again, say she had changed her mind but found herself saying “ok” to Alexandre. She told us she had no idea why she said yes but she did. She went to our church that day. As she and Alexandre got close to the building she told him she was only going once and that he needed to know she was never going back.
Our worship time always starts with music and it’s amazing. About 10 minutes into the praise time Juliana looked at Alexandre and told him, “We are definitely coming back next Sunday!!” and they have never looked back.
Last March, after studying the Bible with Benay, Juliana accepted Jesus in our home. It was an awesome night.
In May their little baby, Alexandre (we all call him Netinho, which is like a nickname for “grandson”), was born. He is always smiling and is a blessing to everyone. Whenever we are around them Alexandre and Juliana call us Netinho’s grandparents. We’re humbled and blessed by that.
Xandi sent me this picture of Netinho yesterday. Still always smiling.
Juliana and Alexandre wanted to get married and Juliana wanted to get baptized. Our church has 4 baptism Sundays per year. In the almost 3 years we’ve been a part of this church family there have been over 300 baptisms. Baptism Sundays are my favorite Sundays of the year. They are amazing. Before those days our church has a 4 week study on baptism. Everyone who will be baptized must do them and, if you are a couple, you must be married before you can be baptized.
So Alexandre and Juliana needed to get married before the last baptism Sunday of last year which was on December 2.
Our church helped them buy rings and helped with the cost of the civil ceremony. The earliest they could get a date to get married was Friday, November 30. The last Friday before baptism Sunday. Two days before. How cool is God?
So on that Friday we had a wedding. The place closed at 5:00 and the bride and groom arrived at 5:10 as they were closing the building. I was kind of freaking out. It was a close one. The wedding was awesome and the official was perfect. He was funny and serious. He could have rushed through it as if it were a number. He didn’t. He made the brief ceremony special.
We came back to our house for a brief wedding party.
That night Benay was invited by Juliana to a special dinner, sponsored by our church, for all those getting baptized. Those people were to invite one person who helped lead them to Jesus. It was a very special honor for Benay.
Sunday was just awesome. Juliana was so happy. We all were. It was a true celebration.
You can click here to see a video of that day. You’ll see Juliana throughout and you’ll get to see why those special days are so amazing. You may need to activate the sound on the bottom right hand corner of the video.
In a very short time Juliana has become such a strong, strong warrior for Jesus. Her kids are now being raised in the truth of Jesus and it’s so awesome to see. The other day Alexandre sent me a picture of their older daughter, Ketelyn, in her room. Ketelyn is a child from a previous relationship Juliana had but Ketelyn considers Alexandre her dad and he calls her his daughter. Their love for each other is amazing. In the picture she was reading her Bible in her room. He talked of how much of a blessing that was. His exact words were, “What a huge blessing in my life that my DAUGHTER (emphasis Alexandre) is studying the word of God!” Here is that picture.
Praise God for Juliana’s life and praise God for the way He used Alexandre and Benay to share Jesus with her in a way that helped her see the true light. We will be in heaven together forever with Juliana because of those 2 people.
We are blessed to be here doing what God has called us to do. We are blessed to partner with Him in our city. We are blessed to be able to do life with Alexandre and Juliana. Pray for them.
You need to understand the culture here to understand this post.
December through February/March is our summer. New Year’s Eve is a huge deal here. Summer is a huge deal. People travel to celebrate New Years Eve. Many people work 11 months out of the year, get 2 months off for vacation and get paid for 13 months so they have time for long vacations. Many people use their summer vacations to spend a month, or more, at the beach outside of our city.
When we first started going to our church we were told about the “12 Noites de Clamor” which would roughly translate into the “12 nights of calling out to God.” We were told that from January 1-12 there were meetings every night at our church to call out to God with individual prayer requests and requests for blessings for each month of the upcoming year. We thought it was kind of a crazy time to do that since our city really shuts down in January and February. It’s almost like a ghost town compared to March through December. We thought it was crazy. We were wrong. Very, very wrong. Every night looked like this.
Every single night. It was amazing.
The 12 nights go like this, January 1 the worship time is focused on January. January 2 is just for February. January 3 is just for March and so on through day 12 which is, obviously, December.
Each night we were greeted at the door by members of a different ministry group. Giovanni’s group cheered and clapped for every person as they entered the building. Like every person was a celebrity which, in God’s eyes, is absolutely true.
Each night different people got up and prayed for specific holidays and dates in that month.
Each night we prayed over each person who has a birthday in that month.
Each night we prayed over our prayer requests for the upcoming year.
We had amazing times of singing praises to God together.
We had testimonies from lots of people about how God answered their prayers from the previous year’s 12 nights. Cancer cured, babies healed, new homes, new jobs, new beginnings….just powerful stuff.
Each night we had a different, powerful speaker.
We learned so much and had times of laughter as well. Somehow our family got invited up a few times to participate.
Each night ended with pastors and their wives making a little corridor in the front of the church. They prayed a blessing over every person every night. It was awesome.
One night the lesson was on forgiveness. We were encouraged to write down on a piece of paper everyone we needed to forgive then dump it into a trash can at the front of the line and allow God to allow us to forgive those people as we were prayed over as we went through the line. Benay and I didn’t share who was on our lists. We both didn’t feel like we had many people to forgive. We were wrong. God revealed some hurts in our hearts that we needed to release to Him. Later we found out we had many of the same people that we both needed to forgive.
Another night was about being anxious. What was the one thing, or many things, that was causing anxiety in our life. Again, Benay and I didn’t share what we wrote down. Again those papers went in to the trash can. After we went through the line Benay started telling me how she was going to give this one anxiety to the Lord and was really getting into it. I stopped her mid sentence and told her God had put that one thing on my heart too. We both had written one thing and it was the exact same thing. I love it when the Holy Spirit does that.
I’m not sure a blog post can do justice in sharing how awesome those 12 nights were and how much the Spirit moved. I’m pretty sure no blog post could do that. It’s something you have to experience for yourself. We just wanted to share what happens every January at our church and how it blesses and sets the tone for the rest of the year.
Before the 12 nights were over some people shared with me how God had moved already this year. During these 12 nights. Prayer requests they put down on the first night God had already miraculously answered.
You may be asking why this post is titled 15 days if it’s mainly about the 12 nights? It’s because the 30th of December was a Sunday. We had our normal worship together. The 31st of December was a Monday and we always have a worship time at church on the 31st and ring in the new year together. The 13th of December was a Sunday. We, again, had our regular worship time together. So our church family spent 15 straight days together and it was awesome.
I’ve heard before that maybe the reason there were 12 baskets of food left over after Jesus fed the 5,000 men, not counting women and children, in Matthew 14 was that it grew the faith of each disciple. The theory being that each of the 12 disciples had his own basket and he filled it up with the food that was left over. We have no idea if that’s true but I’d like to think it is.
On the Sunday worship the morning after the 12th night of calling out to God a few people came up to give their lives to Jesus.
12 to be exact.
This piece of paper is what we’ve been waiting on for so long.
After months of our lawyers and accountants, who are amazingly strong warriors for the kingdom, turning paperwork in to the government, turning in more paperwork and then turning in second and third copies of the same paperwork, we have finally been approved by the government with a business social security number for the very first Hope House in Brazil.
When this number was delivered it had a note attached to it from our accountant along with an encouraging bookmark with scripture on the back.
Her note says, “Congratulations and Success! May God richly bless you all!” I love how God has put the perfect people to partner with us in every aspect of this ministry.
We praise God for each of you for your faithful prayers through the months and years that it’s taken to get to this point.
We are now working with our brother Gean at our bank to open up a bank account in the name of Hope House. He’s a pretty awesome brother in Christ who is excited to help in this new ministry.
Once the account is open we will be able to transfer the money from the states, that has been raised so far, to Porto Alegre and purchase the house. Please pray for this part. Here it is not as easy as just opening and transferring the funds. While we were with Gean yesterday he began writing a lengthy defense that he will present to the bank board on why the bank would want to do this, and why it should be done quickly. Why? Because there has been so much money laundering in this country and much of it has been done in the name of Jesus and churches and ministries. Great right? Gean told us yesterday of a pastor who was in partnership with a drug dealer and was using his church to launder drug money.
If this process goes its normal course, just opening an account and transferring funds from the states can take weeks or months. Gean has asked us to pray and fast about this so that it can be opened in the next week. He’s going to fight for us and Hope House. I love his giant faith. Feel free to pray and fast with us.
God put this dream in our hearts years ago. The spiritual is finally becoming physical. We praise God for His faithfulness.