Desafio Jovem

The last time we posted here we mentioned lots of good things that God was doing in the midst of the coronavirus.

We’ll confess that it seems harder to see some of those good things as we move into month 4 of quarantine.

We miss our church family. We miss our friends. We miss having people in our home. We miss our kids not being able to come home as planned. We are extroverts. We definitely get our energy from being with people so these months being mostly isolated has been tough on us both spiritually and mentally.

But even before this madness began God was opening up a door for us for just this time. We just didn’t realize it.

In 2017 our pastor, Olavo, asked us to be the leaders of the compassion ministry at our church. The ministry mainly consisted of working with men from a drug/alcohol rehab farm about 45 minutes away from our house. The name of the place is Desafio Jovem. At that time, in 2017, our church would bus in 15 men from the farm to worship with us every Sunday. A different cell group would then serve them lunch. The men ate, got back in the van and went back to the farm. That was the extent of the ministry. Olavo told us to make any changes we felt led to make. He told us that he would support anything we wanted to do.

We made some changes. Nothing too drastic. Just some ways to make the men feel like our church saw them as more than just a charity ministry. We began scheduling monthly visits to the rehab farm with people from our church. Along with the help of our co-workers in the ministry, Sandro and Catia, we changed the way the lunches were served to encourage more interaction with the men so that they would feel more a part of our congregation We needed to change the way our church treated them. We needed the church to see these men as having been made in the image of Christ. We needed some walls to get broken down.

The connection betweeen church family and rehab farm men improved. People from church would go up to talk to these men before worship. The men would do the same. We were learning together what being real family looked like.

As we visited the rehab farm we got to know Carlos. He is the president of the ministry. We love this man. He cries easily as he talks about those men and that ministry. His heart is so good and he is so passionate about the rehab farm. He’s become one of our favorite people.

In February of this year we were out of town. Sandro called and told me he had some news. Carlos had said he wanted Benay and myself to take over the day to day operations of the rehab farm. Benay’s first reaction was, “No way!” We have a lot on our plate already with the Hope House ministry, trying to get the American Cookies ministry started, our church responsibilities, our family responsibilities, etc. My first reaction was, “I like this idea.” I knew Benay was right but I just couldn’t stop thinking about how we could use our gifts there. I tried to play it down with Benay but I was already excited.

Last year was a hard year for me spiritually. Really hard. I/we were blessed to get some counseling from Harpeth Hills last year to help me get through the spiritual darkness. God, in His goodness, also brought unexpected people into my life during our U.S. visit who specifically dealt with spiritual warfare. It was kind of crazy how He moved. I came back renewed.

While there, as the missions committee was helping me deal with my stuff, our brother, Phil, encouraged me to start going to the rehab farm every week. He knew that would bring life. At the time I was still in a dark spot and I didn’t really fully embrace that advice, but I knew he was right. Being with the men at rehab farms has always lifted me up and been a blessing to me. This ministry is our passion.

Anyway, back to February. We were shocked with the request. We were not expecting it at all. We got back home and we got in touch with Carlos. We went to see him and talked about what he was thinking and feeling. He told us that he had been praying for a long time about changing things at the farm. For different reasons he didn’t want to turn it over to a church. He felt God tell him that he was supposed to ask us. That we were supposed to take over the day to day operations.

We were very open and honest about where we were and what our doubts were. He was open and honest and told us to take all the time we needed to pray about it.

So we did what we have learned to do when facing any big decision. We commited to pray and fast from something for 30 days to seek God’s response. We’ve done it many times and God has always been faithful.

As we began we knew that if we decided to do this we would never be able to do this on our own nor did we want to. God immediately put a few people on our hearts to ask to join us. We asked them to pray and fast with us and that at the end of the time period we would get back with them and see what everyone felt God was saying. We didn’t tell them but we had decided that if God did not unite all of us then we wouldn’t move forward. For this to be all that we envisioned it to be, we needed each one of them. At the end of the 30 days we called each individual, or couple, separately to see what God had shared. To a person they all said they felt we should do this and that they wanted to be a part of it.

We met again with Carlos. He was thrilled. So were we.

So we have begun to go there weekly over the last month. I can’t tell you the joy I have again to be doing what God has put on my heart. We are learning everyone’s name. We are spending much time with the leaders there. We want everyone there to know how special they are to us and to God. We are learning how things are done. We are letting the leaders know how much we value their leadership and counsel. We are letting them know that every new leader loves them and cares for this place. I’m blown away by the humility on all sides. We are already united in the Spirit.

The main person, Celito, is salt and light. He has been the leader there for 11 years. He cried last week as he talked about what the rehab farm means to him. He is humble and kind and eager to walk with us. God has blessed us with great people to join us.

It’s a beautiful place and we are excited to see what God is going to do there.

Every couple of weeks we also take a lot of food and clothing donated from our church.

In February it might have been hard to see how we could do this with everything else going on. God knew that when this was offered up the Hope House would still be stuck waiting on documentation. He knew that American Cookies could not be open until Hope House was open because the shipping container, where we make the cookies, will go on Hope House property. Until then we can’t get documentation to start the cookie company. He knew that our church responsibilites, kids’ school responsibilites, soccer practices, etc would be cut down to nothing because of the coronavirus. He knew that we would have the time right now to begin this ministry and begin it slowly and do it right because many of our other responsibilities would be on hold.

When we first talked to Carlos he told us that he had been praying for a long time. Asking God to show him who was supposed to take over that ministry. He told us that God told him that it was Kevin and Benay. When he shared that, I’ll be honest, we weren’t so sure. After praying and fasting and so much confirmation from God we have His great peace moving forward. His timing is perfect. Unfortunately, Carlos is now in the hospital with the coronavirus. He’s doing okay, but please remember this godly man in your prayers.

Please pray for the men at the farm, the leaders at the farm and for our ministry team. That we will always listen to the Holy Spirit, that this place becomes everything God wants it to be, that we will always be united in the Spirit, that there will always be love and humilty and kindess and eyes on kingdom as we move forward and that all that is done blesses everyone who comes in contact with this place. I know that it has already been an amazing blessing to Benay and myself.

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