Our family moved to Brazil in 2002. We moved with a group to plant a church.
We knew very little Portuguese so we, obviously, needed to hire a teacher. God blessed us with a great one. Her name was Dani.
We got to be good friends with Dani. She later invited our group to her wedding. She married a guy named Alexandre. We didn’t spend lots of time together but I always loved his humility and kindness. Both of them were always so warm and gracious and kind to all of us.
Over the years they built a strong bond with some of our teammates and Dani, praise God, gave her life to Jesus.
One by one all of our teammates returned to the states. We stayed and God began to dramatically change our ministry calling.
We, once in a while through messages or social media, stayed in touch with Alexandre and Dani but we rarely saw them. That all changed towards the end of 2016. I had a shoulder that was messed up. It was locked up and causing pain so I made an appointment with Alexandre. He’s an orthopedic surgeon. That visit slowly brought our families back together.
We began going out to eat together. We asked them to be a part of a prayer leadership group for Hope House. In 2007 Alexandre helped me to finish a marathon as he ran the last 10-15 kilometers with me. Without him I would not have finished. In 2018 I got to return the favor as he started running marathons and I helped him finish one of his. Benay and I were amazed at how well our kids get along. Alexandre and Dani have two girls and they are almost the same age as our youngest boys. It was like they knew each other their whole lives. Our youngest kids actually share the same birthday. We began taking trips together. We really look forward to our times together with them. We thanked God for bringing them back into our lives.
Over the last couple of years they began to go to church with us and last year we started a family bible study together. Just our families. Two times a month we would share a meal after church and then Benay would lead our Bible study. As I’ve said before, Benay is the best Bible teacher I know. She has a gift of making things simple. The Bible study, and time together, brought us closer to God and to each other.
Our church normally has 4 baptism Sundays during the year. There is a 3-4 week course before just on baptism. We’ve been a part of this church since 2015. Since that time I’d say that we’ve had close to 500 baptisms.
The coronavirus has, just like everywhere else, shut some things down for a while here in our city. We weren’t able to meet as a church family for 3-4 months. When we did begin meeting again it was only groups of 30 people. On those weekends we had 18-19 different worship times over 2 days. We are now allowed to have 120 meet together. So our church planned our first baptism Sunday on October 18. About 3 weeks before that date Alexandre got in touch with me to say that he and their youngest daughter had decided to give their lives to Jesus and they wanted to do the baptism class. Benay and I were so excited.
On October 18 there were 54 people who were baptized. We had 5 different worship times so that families and friends could come and celebrate. Our baptisms are some of the coolest things Benay and I have ever been a part of. Every time we do those we cry. Every time. October 18 was no different. Seeing our dear friends give their lives to Christ was an amazing highlight to our year.
Before the baptisms we had a celebration party in our house.
All the baptisms were shown live online so we shared the link with our old teammates, my parents and our kids who all know this family, pray for them and love them. As things happened our old teammate, Sascha, was sending me pictures that he was taking, from his house in Texas, of everything that was happening. He was just as excited as we were.
It was an amazing day. God gave us a huge present by allowing us to be there to witness it in person.
The Bible talks about there being a party in heaven when someone gives their lives to the Lord. We love our church so much because we get that and on baptism Sundays we too have a party.
I’m not sure 18 years ago, when we met Dani for the first time, that we could have imagined anything better than what we experienced on October 18. We came to Brazil to share the love of Jesus with others. I didn’t imagine we would fall so deeply in love with this city, with it’s people, with the culture, with the food and with people like Alexandre, Dani and their girls.
We came to be a blessing but I promise you that we are the ones who are being blessed by our friendships, by our church family, by our ministries, by seeing lives changed and by being a part of days like October 18.
“That’s the way God responds every time one lost sinner repents and turns to him. He says to all his angels, ‘Let’s have a joyous celebration, for that one who was lost I have found!’” Luke 15:10