God at work in the middle of all this junk.

Every week we get a midweek email from our home church in the states, Harpeth Hills, and it usually has a note from the preaching minister. His name is Chris and I always love his notes. I love them because he just shoots straight. We got a note about a month ago that I believe pretty much sums up how some of our coronavirus days can be. He shared about a friend of his walking on the street one night just praising God and the next minute he was losing his mind at his dog who had escaped the garage. Sound familiar? It hit me in the face pretty good when I read it because I’ve definitely had days like that since we’ve been locked into our house for the past two months.

But, if I just take a step back and take a deep breath, I can definitely see God doing something in the coronavirus madness.

Like what?

Like bringing a healthy new baby girl into the lives of our daughter Bronwyn and her husband Stephen. Her name is Winifred – “Winnie”- and even though I am six thousand miles away I can tell you for a fact that she is awesome.

Winifred

Like seeing our daughter Ansley and her husband Will get a new baby, Lucy, a dog rescued from Porto Rico.

Ans and Lucy

Like seeing our son Garrett graduate from the University of Memphis.

Garrett Senior Soccer Pic

Like seeing our daughter Carys getting accepted to nursing school.

Like having regular workout times and runs with our son Anderson that would rarely be able to happen in our normal, busy life before coronavirus.

Like playing UNO, Battleship and memory games with Giovanni.

Like riding bikes together as a family on empty streets.

Like playing the guitar while Benay plays the keyboard and trying to learn a song together.

Like doing a devo at lunchtime every day as a family.

Like watching a tv show with Benay that we’ve never heard of before and quickly getting addicted.

Like doing a devotional every week with two brothers, one here and one in the United States, that I love dearly. These devos are changing us.

Like using zoom to pray with some brothers from Harpeth Hills, and one brother from Ghana, weekly. It’s blessing me more than they know.

Like seeing my wife pray online Monday-Friday with some women from our church.

Like Benay and I starting an online Bible study with one of my closest friends and his wife, from Rio, after walking with them for eighteen years.

Like having zoom calls with our parents and kids and nephews and nieces and seeing everyone smiling and laughing.

Like seeing Benay start an online Bible study with some women who were a part of the church we helped to plant in 2002 but have since stopped going to any church. Hearing them say they want to visit our church when we are able to meet again.

Like watching our church load up our car with food and clothes for us to take to the rehab farm we work at and doing it often.

Like being presented, by God, with a new ministry opportunity at the rehab farm that just fits perfectly with Hope House and watching Him provide a ministry team that feels led to join us.

Like having our worship band leader and his wife come to our apartment, unannounced, just to serenade us from the street.

Like having our pastor and his wife show up, unannounced, to bring us a note, a bag of chocolates and then pray over us, through the fence, to thank us for being leaders of a ministry in our church.

Like having teachers from Giovanni’s school show up, unannounced, to bring him a book and a note letting him know how much they miss seeing him and how much he’s loved.

Like seeing my wife bake cookies for every family in our apartment building.

Like having people who have never been a part of a church family or who have been away for a long time asking us for the link to our church’s worship service every Sunday.

Like seeing people donate money, time and food to a neighborhood restaurant so that a hot meal can be delivered to people living in the streets every day. So far they’ve passed out over three thousand meals.

Street lunches

Like seeing the joy in Benay’s face as we have been able to fix up our apartment. Something she’s been wanting to do for the nine years we’ve lived here, but have been unable to do so until now.

Like seeing our church family continuing to financially bless missionaries, widows and people addicted to drugs and alcohol during this terrible time.

Like meeting online with our cell group every week and seeing their smiling faces and hearing how much that brief time together means to them.

Like seeing people greet each other on the streets as they walk by.

Like having our sister in Christ, Clarice, who is a doctor in Rio, opening up a field hospital dedicated to coronavirus patients.

Clarice's field hospital

Like our former teammate, Leslie, volunteering to work at the Samaritan’s Purse field hospital for coronavirus patients in New York City.

Like having our family, Alexandre, Dani and their girls, come to our apartment today to bring winter clothes and tons of food to donate to our church and rehab farm. So much stuff it completely filled up the big trunk in our car.

Like having one of Garrett’s best friends stand at our front gate and talk to us about spiritual things.

Like having good, real stuff talks with one of Ansley’s best buddies from high school.

Like having time to read a book.

Like realizing how good it is to slow down and just sit with God.

Wow. I started this thought with just a few things on my mind to share. Once I started God kept reminding me of just how much He is doing in the middle of all this. He’s right here, like always, in the madness and He’s working. Man is He working!

Will I yell at my dog over the next few days or have a jerk moment with my family? Probably. Ok, more than likely that will happen. These are stressful times. Life isn’t normal right now.

But maybe in the craziness we can allow God to open our spiritual eyes. It’s been something He’s been dying to do for a while now. Maybe we needed this madness, this upside down world to do just that…….let it turn us upside down. Honestly, that’s the way Jesus lived. His teachings turned everything on it’s ear. He turned everything on it’s ear.

As His church He’s giving us a shake. He’s waking us up to be what He’s always wanted us to be.

What would that look like in your life?

Like…………………

Why don’t you let Him tell you, then go do it.

Feet washing during the coronavirus

While in the states last year I read a book from John Ortberg. The title was, “Who is this man?” It’s a fascinating book that really opened my eyes to the dramatic changes and influence that have happened in our world because of the life of Jesus. Maybe you think you know how much His life did. I would bet you don’t know a lot of the stuff that is in this book. Just how far reaching His influence has been really floored me. It’s the best book I’ve read in a while. I would encourage you to read it as well.

I’ve been thinking about this book a lot this week as our city has been shut down and everyone is encouraged to be in quarantine. The news preaches nothing but fear and bad news. Many people seem to believe that the world is about to end.

It is a different time to be sure. Our church is no longer meeting on Sundays. We are no longer having cell groups in homes. Last night we had a group meeting with one of our pastors and other cell group leaders through a video call instead of physically being together. Malls are closing up. Businesses are closing up. Soccer stadiums are empty. Our flight this week to the amazon to visit our missionaries got cancelled because although we were promised a flight there, the airlines couldn’t guarantee us that the return flight home next week would not be cancelled.

Schools are closed and kids are doing classes online. The street our apartment sits on has a school on it. Our street is usually completely flooded all day with parked cars on both sides of the street and cars constantly driving down the middle. This is what it looks like today:

Coronel Camisao Coronavirus

Times are certainly stressful.

So what should our response be as Christians? Do we hole up in our homes, wash our hands every ten minutes, stock up on hand gel and pray for all this to be over quickly? Don’t get me wrong, we have to be wise, we have to take care of our families and we have to take steps to not spread this sickness. It’s a serious deal. I get that.

But is there more that God is asking of us during this time and, if so, what?

What is going on around the world and what has arrived in our hometown here this week has made me think of that Ortberg book. His third chapter is called, “A Revolution in Humanity.” In it he talks of how some Jesus followers have acted in times of great suffering and sickness.

Ortberg shares, in chapter three, that sociologist Rodney Stark argued that one of the primary reasons for the spread of Jesus’ movement from the beginning was the way His followers responded to sick people. Ortberg shares that compassion has become the “brand” of the movement of Jesus followers, not because it has attracted such wonderful people, but because they understood from their founder that compassion was not an optional piece of equipment.

Wow. How am I doing with compassion right now in the middle of the coronavirus? How are you doing?

Over the last few days I’ve seen ways that communities are coming together in isolation especially in big cities around the world. I’ve seen a man leading exercises on a rooftop as people, from lots of different apartment buildings that surrounded his, followed his lead on their balconies. I’ve seen people on their apartment balconies play music for their neighbors in other apartment buildings and then seen other musicians, in those other apartments, come out and join. Tonight at 8:30 everyone here is supposed to open their windows and clap together for the health care professionals who are on the front lines of this. At 9:30 tonight one of Ansley’s high school classmates, Rodrigo….an amazing musician, will be doing a show on Instagram and Facebook. He told me that he wants to provide a little fun distraction for people in the middle of all the craziness.

Very cool things all of them. Great ways to bless those around us as we all try to isolate from the coronavirus.

But what about compassion? How can we do that in the middle of all this? Is it our jobs as Christians to simply stay away from everyone and, if not, how can we be Jesus right now? How can we be His compassion in this moment?

Father Damien, a Belgian priest, worked in Hawaii in the nineteenth century and created a place where lepers could be loved and cared for. He used to tell them every week, “God loves you lepers.” And then one week he got up and said, “God loves us lepers.” He died from leprosy.

The world looks at a Father Damien and says he was crazy. How many of the lepers he blessed would say the same? I believe we wouldn’t be able to find one. How about Father Damien himself? I feel very confident that he would do it all again if he had the chance.

Since when, as Christians have we become so afraid of death? Since when as Christians have we become so attached to our life here that we can’t show compassion to our brother, whether we know them or not, in a time of suffering? Believe me when I say I’m preaching to myself right now. I want to be a true Jesus follower every day and at all times. I sure don’t act like it at all times but that’s what I strive for. We can’t let fear rule.

But again, in this moment, how do we do it?

As I think of that book I think our job is to boldly look for ways to be compassionate. I also think we have to be ready for it when the opportunity comes, literally, knocking on our door.

Two days ago I was painting our bedroom with headphones on. Seems quarantine also means lots of things will be getting done around our house. The first was to paint our bedroom. Anyway, I saw Benay come in and get some money. I asked why? She said someone was at the front gate door. In Brazil it’s not uncommon for people to randomly ring your doorbell to ask for food or money. Sadly, in times of crisis like this, bad people will also use the empty streets to take advantage of others. In just the three days the city has shut down some bad people who have already dressed up like health department workers, rang doorbells claiming to be there to do coronavirus testing, getting access and then robbing people. So I went to our bathroom window to see the main gate just to make sure Benay wasn’t opening the door for anyone. We are able to pass things through the front gate. I knew Benay would be smart but I just wanted to have a set of eyes on her. When I got to the window this is what I saw:

Benay with Regina Coronavirus

Before Benay had come back up to the apartment to get money she had already taken food and clothing to this woman. This woman’s name is Rejane and she has eight kids and four grandkids. She lives in a very poor place. A place with little or no health care. A place where, I fear, the coronavirus will blow through if it reaches there. I then watched as Benay held Rejane’s hand and prayed over her.

I ask you, and I’m just guessing, but what do you think Rejane will remember most about that day? The food? Maybe. The clothing? Possibly? How about the woman she had never met before who, fearlessly and with the love of God, held her hand in the middle of the coronavirus and loved on her and prayed for her and her family? Absolutely.

After Benay got back upstairs she told me two things. She told me that she had prayed that very morning for God to show her a way to show His compassion and love during this time. She also told me that a neighbor had seen what she had done and told her she should not have done that because this isolation thing could go on for a long time and  Rejane will just keep coming back to the building asking for things. What those two things showed me is that our God is so faithful and that our enemy is not happy when we leave fear behind. In fact, he hates it. Benay and I have said for years that fear wants to control. Fear is not from God. Satan was not happy with my wife that day.

Scott Sauls wrote the following words: “In a time like now, Christian neighboring looks less like fearful self-preservation and more like servanthood toward the elderly, those with HIV, autoimmune disease, or no healthcare, fatigued and under-resourced healthcare workers, etc. Wash hands, for sure. Then, wash feet.”

I’m so blessed to be married to a feet washer.

Crackland

When we came back home from our ministry visit to the United States last year, our pastor and his wife said they wanted to talk to us about a new ministry that had been started. We met together and they shared about a young family that had recently joined our church family. The man, Henrique, used to be addicted to drugs. He’s been free for the last two years and he is on fire for the Lord.

While we were in the states Henrique started this new ministry. It reaches out to young men in prison and to people living on the streets in the worst ways you could imagine.

Olavo, our pastor, asked if we could first, meet with Henrique and his family and second, walk with him in his new role in the ministry. Olavo knows how hard overcoming addictions can be and he wanted someone walking with Henrique as he ministers to those in addiction. Jesus sent his disciples out two by two and we know the importance of having God’s family around us to walk with us and fight for us as we go into the darkness with the Good News of Jesus.

We invited this young family over for supper and loved their hearts for God’s kingdom. It was very obvious how passionate Henrique is about sharing God’s love with those who are right now where he used to be.

Last Thursday I got a message from Olavo asking if I would go with Henrique to a place called Cracolândia or, literally, “Crackland” on Friday night. Henrique had visited this place a few times in the past with a group from another church. This group of men have been going to this place every other Friday night for thirteen years. They go to take food, give hugs, share Jesus, do spiritual warfare with demons and just “be” with those who most people want to just pretend aren’t there. I would be lying if I said I haven’t been one of those people in the past. It was easier for me to live in a bubble.

Henrique told me that the men fast for the twelve hours before they leave. I hadn’t fasted in a long time and I was amazed how easy not eating was for me, but as soon as the fast started I started having pains in my body. I knew the spiritual warfare had begun.

I was supposed to pick up Henrique at 9:30 to then go to the church where the men met before then going downtown. If you know us then you know that Benay and I are usually in bed by 9:30. We go to bed early and get up early. Last Friday morning I had woken up at 3:00. I thought I would die trying to start my night at 9:30. God gave me supernatural power that day and I never got tired.

It was obvious that God was wanting me to go and the enemy was using the pain and possible tiredness to try to get me to stay home, but God won.

I picked up Henrique and we went to the church where we met with the men who do his ministry. What a group of amazing warriors for Jesus! Some had already been there for a few hours just praying for the night. They all welcomed me warmly.

On the way to Crackland Henrique tried to share what it is like there. In our ministry here Benay and I have seen some really, really bad situations. I thought I was ready for what I would see. I was wrong. It was worse than I’ve ever seen.

The first person we met was a thirty-four year old woman. She was pregnant with twins. She was already the mother of nine. Henrique had told me about her and what to expect. Even so, I wasn’t ready for her appearance. It showed the devastating effects of long term drug use. I showed our kids her picture the next morning and asked how old they thought she was. They said 70. Here she is with Henrique:

Henrique with family in Cracolandia

None of her nine kids live with her and I think they have to be better off no matter where they are. The men told me these twins would not stay with her very long. She lives under a tarp with trash everywhere. Fifteen people live under the tarp which is about the size of medium sized tent. They have no running water, no bathrooms, nothing. I asked the men where they go to the bathroom. They pointed to the street next to the tarp. I’ve never seen anyone live in a place like that. This woman also has AIDS and syphilis. She continues to use crack.

Henrique and another man went right to her when we arrived. She came out of the tarp to greet them. Right next to her was a man who could barely move. He had the flu, honestly looked like he was dying and this woman was taking care of him. The guys in the ministry asked her if she went to get prenatal care from the free government health care. She said no. The guys went into the tent and prayed over the sick man.

We then went to see another woman who was also pregnant. She was late in her pregnancy and her stomach was only as big as my two fists put side by side. The guys I was with began to talk to her. She began to yell that everything was darkness. Everything is Satan. She’s ready to go and be with him and get away from all the darkness around her. She kicked a broom in the air about thirty feet. She was uncontrollable. The man she was living with just listened as we tried to talk to her. He watched and continued to smoke crack. He made a comment and she pointed to him and said, “See! Darkness all around me! Just let me go be with Satan!” The men decided there was no way to talk to this woman on that night. They were disappointed because the last time they were there they talked openly and freely about Jesus with her and she listened. She too is very young. She has cancer.

I then went with Henrique and Antonio, who is the leader of that ministry and who was also addicted to drugs at one time in his life. We walked two streets away from where the  ministry group was. We walked by drug dealers. We walked by all kinds of prostitutes that you can imagine. The two men were focused. We were going to a certain place. As we walked I was amazed at the amount of trash and cockroaches we stepped on and over. We ended up meeting five men who were living together on a corner. Trash was piled up around them for at least twenty-thirty feet. They had no covering at all. Just living in chairs out in the open. They listened to Antonio share his testimony. They listened as he shared how much Jesus loved them. They accepted Henrique’s strong prayer for them.

While many of the ministry men went from street to street visiting people there was a group of men who cooked out sausages. After the visits were done and the meat was cooked, everyone came to get the food. As they waited in line Antonio preached God’s love for them. As he spoke and prayed the rest of us went and touched every person in line and prayed over them as well. It was an amazing thing for me to be a part of.

After the food and soda was all given out, the ministry group got together in a circle. We held hands and Antonio talked to us and then prayed over us. As we prepared to leave almost every man came to me and hugged me and told me how glad they were that I had come that night to be with them. One older man cupped my face with hands and said, “Is your wife ok? Are your kids ok? Do they follow and love Jesus?” When I answered yes to all he said, “Then you are good aren’t you? You’re blessed. The other stuff is just stuff.”  He then gave me a big hug.

Olavo had asked me to go with Henrique to see exactly what this ministry does and see if it would be a safe place for Henrique. Olavo didn’t know much about the ministry and he didn’t want to put Henrique in any type of situation where he might be tempted if he happened to be alone.  I was told that night that none of the men ever travel the streets alone. They go in groups of two, but usually more, men.

Honestly, after being with them just one night, I couldn’t think of a better ministry for Henrique to be a part of. For me or any of those men to be a part of for that matter. The love those men have for the forgotten, ignored, unloved of our city moved my heart. It was incredible for me to be a part of.

I got home a little after two in the morning. I wasn’t hungry and I was never tired the entire day. God wanted me to be there and I’m so thankful that I got to see this incredible ministry in action.

After I woke up Saturday Benay wanted to know all about it. As I shared she said, “Wow. That’s what we are supposed to be doing as Christians. Shining Jesus’ light in the darkness.”

Later in the day I was sharing my experience with one of my best buddies, and old teammate, Sascha. He sent me this verse:

“This, in essence, is the message we heard from Christ and are passing on to you: God is light, pure light; there’s not a trace of darkness in Him.”

1 John 1:5

Friday night I went to one of the darkest places I’ve ever been to and I was blessed to see pure light shined on God’s beloved people who happen to live in a place called Crackland. I’m thankful for this ministry, I’m thankful for Henrique and I’m thankful for every person I was blessed to meet on Friday night. I’m going back.

Henrique and Kevin

Douglas, Cinara and Anna

“Suffering is unbearable if you aren’t certain that God is for you and with you.”

Tim Keller

About 9 months ago God brought an amazing family into our lives. Their names are Douglas, Cinara and their daughter Anna.

Douglas and family

I (Kevin) first met them at the rehab farm that we visit regularly. One Saturday, every month for the past 2 years, we take a group of people from our church to spend a few hours with the men at the farm. One Saturday, 9 months ago, no one went from our church except me, at least that is what I thought. Benay and our kids weren’t even able to go that day. There was a visiting pastor, Antonio, who spent about a year with our church. He and his wife are from another state but came here for dialysis for her with the hope of eventually having a kidney transplant. They got here and just jumped right in with our church including the compassion Ministry, that Benay and I lead, and the worship ministry. It was in the worship ministry where they met Douglas and Cinara who were new to our church. They invited them to come to the rehab farm. It was on that Saturday, just 9 months ago, that I first met Douglas and his family.

My first impressions of them were that they were quiet, kind, humble and just loved on the men at the farm. Pastor Antonio shared a lesson, I spoke just a bit and then Douglas and Cinara got up to sing. They were amazing. Beautiful voices. They blessed everyone that day.

Over the next couple of months we would see this couple from a distance in our growing church but didn’t really have much connection. That all changed when our pastor, Olavo, asked Douglas, and anyone fighting cancer, to come to the front for prayer. Olavo then asked his wife, Antonella, and others who had beaten cancer to lay their hands on those currently fighting it and ask God for healing. God touched my heart that day as I saw Douglas weep and cry out to the Lord for healing. I spoke to him after the service and that began our deeper walk together.

Douglas was on fire for the Lord. He wanted to be a part of Hope House. I had already asked him to be a mentor to the future residents. He was so excited to be a part of that. He visited young men in prison. He sang with the church band and in the coral. He was an incredible husband and dad. He was a role model to me.

Not long after our friendship began our family went to the states for a little over 3 months but Douglas and I stayed in frequent contact. His treatments were going well and he was feeling great. God was healing the liver cancer.

Our family got back in December. Douglas was doing great. He was excited to tell me that God was blessing them with a house. Just last month the doctors said they couldn’t even see the tumor because it had almost gone away. They were blown away. He called me one day to tell me that the follow up treatment was an amazingly expensive drug. Douglas had no way to pay it. His doctor told him that a previous patient had paid for the drug but was cured and ended up not needing it so he told the doctor to just give it to the next person who needed it. It was about $13,000 of our currency which is a little over $3000 US. Douglas was that next patient. God just seemed to heap blessing upon blessing on Douglas.

Two weeks ago he and his wife helped to lead singing. Every Sunday they were either in the coral or they were part of the back up singers with the band. This is a picture, from the church’s Instagram account, of that day. Benay was giving the welcome thoughts to start our second worship. Douglas is behind her ready to sing and Cinara is behind Carmen who is doing sign language.

Douglas and Benay

He left worship that day and began to have some discomfort in his stomach. He asked for prayers.

He hurt for 2 days before taking a bus to the hospital. They told him he had fluid in his stomach that would have to be drained. They also told him that he had an infection that needed to be treated with antibiotics, there at the hospital, for 7 days. I went to see him the Thursday before last. He was doing great. Missing his family but just praising God. No matter what was going on he was smiling and praising God. He told me about some amazing ways God spoke through his daughter Anna. He speaks to her through dreams in a powerful way. I just sat in awe listening to things God was doing through this 6 year old.

The morning of my visit they went to drain the fluid but decided to do an ultrasound to see exactly where it was. The ultrasound showed absolutely no fluid. No draining needed. More blessings. We praised God together. Now he just needed to finish the antibiotics and he would be ready to go home 5 days later.

I had no idea that my visit that day would be the last time I would see Douglas awake and alert.

Last Sunday night he called his wife and asked her to come back to the hospital because they were taking him to ICU. He had fluid in his stomach again and the fluid was blood. The area of his cancer treatments had begun to bleed. The doctors said it was too delicate for them to do a surgery. They told Cinara that they didn’t think Douglas would make it through the night. Our church went to work in prayer. The prayer request was sent out through all of our churches throughout Brazil. Douglas made it through the night.

Benay and I went to see him in the hospital. Benay talked on the way there and then talked to Douglas, who was intubated and sedated, about the woman in the Bible that had been bleeding for 12 years. She just touched the hem of Jesus’ robe and was healed. I began to pray for the hem of Jesus’ robe to come down and touch the spot of the bleeding. Benay sang over Douglas with her hand resting on his chest the entire time. She left and I talked to Douglas for a few minutes. I had asked the Holy Spirit to translate as I felt led to speak in my heart language of English. I know He did because Douglas only moved 2 times as we spoke. Both of those times were when I spoke the same specific words to him but at two different times. He moved right where my hand was both times. I know he was responding as best he could because other than those 2 times he never moved.

That afternoon I called my dad to share about Douglas and to ask him to have him in his prayers. He said, “Let’s just pray right now.” He began to pray for a man he never met and knew he would never meet this side of heaven. But he prayed as if he had known him his whole life. He thanked God for Douglas and his ministry and asked him to heal him because, “we need him.” Those words brought tears to my eyes and became the focus of my prayers. We need him God. Please heal him.

The next night Cinara called and asked if she could come to our house to take a shower and sleep a bit. She got to our house around 8:30. Around 1:30 in the morning I was taking her, and another sister from our church that we picked up, back to the hospital. I am so proud of our church for the way they loved on Cinara through every step. Our church loves so well.

About 8 hours later we got word that Douglas had gone to be with Jesus. We were crushed.

Brazilians don’t embalm the dead so most funerals are within 24 hours of the death. Less than 24 hours after Douglas had gone to be with Jesus we were at his funeral. We’ve been to a few funerals in our 18 years here. I’ve never seen so many people at one before. Douglas and his family are deeply loved.

Our pastor did an amazing job sharing at the funeral. His words were straight from the Holy Spirit as they blessed Cinara and every one that was there. Benay and others in the worship ministry sang. There were occasions when everyone there sang and sang loudly. The walls were literally shaking. Here is a picture of just some of the people following Douglas’ body to the burial site.

Douglas' funeral

I spoke earlier about Douglas telling me how God speaks to his daughter Anna. One thing Olavo shared at the funeral was how two weeks before his death Anna came into Douglas and Cinara’s room during the night. Douglas woke up and asked her what was wrong. She told him that God told her He was about to take Douglas to heaven. When Olavo said those words Benay gasped out loud and began to weep. Olavo shared that even that was God blessing as He was giving Anna time to get ready for what His will was.

The last lesson that Douglas heard Olavo preach was about heaven. It’s like God was getting us all ready for the coming days. One thing I know is that what the enemy hoped to use for his glory, with Douglas’ death, was used to glorify God’s kingdom.

The day after the funeral Cinara sent me a note. It said, “Look what I found.” It was a picture that Douglas had taken of us when I had visited him at the hospital. That picture was a present straight from God. It was healing for my heart.

Last photo with Douglas

This family has had so much suffering over the last few months but they never took their eyes off of Jesus. They have some of the strongest faith I’ve ever seen.

The day Douglas went to the hospital, in the middle of his pain, he sent a video of himself praising God to a ministry group that we’re a part of together. Click here if you want to hear his amazing voice.

Today Cinara and Anna were at church. Cinara sang with the coral during both worship times. I, honestly, don’t know how she did it. I imagine she was imagining singing with Douglas in heaven. Lots of tears today for all of us. Lots of hugs. Lots of love. Lots of prayers. It was all Jesus. Here are some pictures of those 2 being loved on and loving Jesus.

Cinara 1st Sunday without Douglas

Anna Praying

Cinara First Sunday without Douglas

The day before Douglas went into a coma and into the ICU he sent me this selfie…..

Douglas' last note to me

……with these words, “With Jesus on our side everything is going to be fine.”

We’ve had a very hard week. We lost someone we loved dearly, but Jesus is on our side and no matter what happens everything is going to be fine. Douglas wouldn’t trade places with us now for anything. He had such joy here. There is no way to explain to us how his joy has multiplied since he left us on Wednesday. He’s whole now. He’s with Jesus and we will see and sing with Douglas again!

The picture we shared of them at the beginning of this post was taken just 4 days before Douglas’ death. Life can change so fast. If you need to make things right with someone do it now. Forgive, ask for forgiveness, hug more, laugh more and love each other well.

“Joy is not necessarily the absence of suffering, it is the presence of God.”

Sam Storms

 

FAQ’s

As we’ve traveled around the states over the last three months, visiting family, friends and churches, God has brought new people into our lives who are just learning about our ministry. They, of course, are curious as to what we do, where we live and what our ministry plans are. We try to share as much as possible but sometimes things are so hectic during those meetings that the conversations are too brief to share much. So we decided to share some here. So here are some “Frequently Asked Questions” and their answers.

Tell us about your family:

Kevin and Benay met in college and were married in 1988.  Kevin grew up in Memphis, and Benay in Huntsville, Alabama.  Before moving to Brazil, Kevin worked as a physical therapist and Benay worked as an elementary school teacher.  We have 6 children:  Bronwyn, married to Stephen, lives in Texas. Bronwyn and Stephen are the proud parents of Waveland who is 2 years old, and another on the way, due to arrive in April of 2020.  Ansley is our second daughter. She is married to Will and they live in the Washington DC area. Garrett, is the oldest son in the family.  He plays soccer for the University of Memphis.  Carys is the youngest daughter in the family and she is a nursing student at a university in Texas.  Anderson and Giovanni are the Brazilian-born Blume sons who still live at home and go to school in Brazil.  They both love soccer and hanging out with their friends.

How did you end up being missionaries in Brazil?

As mentioned above, our original careers were in physical therapy and education.  However, Kevin took a 3-4 week mission trip to Ukraine in 1994.  During this trip, he fell in love with the experience of meeting, serving, and growing to love people in another country.  He felt the desire to become a missionary at that time, but circumstances led our family in another direction for a while.  One day, we received a magazine in the mail called “Church and Family”.  In this magazine there was an ad for an organization called “Continent of Great Cities” (now known as Great Cities Missions) recruiting families to join a mission team to go to South America.  This ad stirred up all of those longings to become a missionary that had been planted in Kevin during that first trip to Ukraine.  So we began the process of praying and taking tiny steps in the direction of moving our family to Porto Alegre, Brazil to work as missionaries with a team that was being put together to plant a church.  It wasn’t an easy or fast process, but God made His will known and provided what we needed physically, emotionally, and spiritually to move to Porto Alegre in 2002.

What is your ministry like?

While we moved to Brazil to help plant a congregation, we don’t work as church planters anymore.  In 2013, we felt that we weren’t being effective any longer in that ministry and began a season of prayer and fasting to decide what God wanted us to do.  Did He want us to return to the states as our teammates had done over the years?  Did He want us to move to another city or country?  Did He want us to stay in Porto Alegre and do the same thing?  Or do something different?  At the end of this time, the only clear answer that we had from the Lord, was a feeling in Kevin’s heart that he should begin volunteering at a drug and alcohol rehab center that was located about an hour outside of our city.  So he began visiting there a few times a week.  Garrett later began to accompany him, and then Benay began to visit as well to teach Bible and addiction recovery classes at the center. We also began to do a counseling/spiritual warfare ministry to help the men release some of the wounds from their past, so they could move forward in recovery.

Over time, we began to see the great need for a second step program, or halfway house for the men who were leaving rehab.  We saw that even the most enthusiastic, dedicated, God-fearing men weren’t able to maintain their sobriety when they returned to their homes after their 9 month stay at a rehab farm.  They simply didn’t have the skills or the community to support a drug-free life.  So, our dream for Hope House was born.

What is Hope House?

Hope House will be a training program to help men who are leaving rehab gain skills and support to live a drug-free life and contribute to society.  Men will live in the house and, for the first few months, participate in classes and counseling.  The classes will be focused on what it will take for them to live an abundant Christian life.  Subjects will include Bible, financial responsibility, family relationships, addiction recovery, anger management, sexuality, job skills, physical fitness and health.  The men will be provided with individual counseling opportunities and mentoring with Christian men from the local church.  After a few months, they will still live at the house but will begin working during the day, returning to the house for evening classes and activities.  The entire program will last for 6-9 months and opportunities will be given to stay even longer to participate in a leadership training role.

Is Hope House open yet?

No.  We have purchased a house that will be used for the ministry and are currently remodeling the house to fit our needs and to be able to accommodate up to 16 men.  We plan to open the house next year, 2020.

In front of Hope House - May 23, 2019

Who will help you in this ministry?

In 2018, we were blessed to be joined by Lyndsay Phillips, who has a doctorate in Organizational Leadership.  She works with us in a leadership role, getting Hope House up and running.  We also have another ministry partner, Josimar, who is a Brazilian man. We met him in the rehab facility several years ago. He has since married and worked in ministry in a rehab facility in Sao Paulo.  He and his wife, Aline, will be working with us at Hope House as well.

We also rely very heavily on the volunteers from our local church, O Brasil para Cristo (Brazil for Christ).  This is a dynamic congregation with capable individuals who are ready to serve as teachers, mentors, cooks, and whatever else is needed in this ministry.  You can check out the church website here.

Do you have a cookie company also?  How does that tie in to your ministry?

We do have a cookie company called “American Cookies”, where we sell homemade american-style cookies.  We work in this business with our Brazilian friends, Vanderlei and Luisa Fraga, who are pastors in our church.  A very generous donation was given to us in 2016 to formalize our cookie business which we had been doing informally for several years.  That money was used to construct an industrial kitchen from a shipping container. As we get further in the remodeling process with the Hope House, we plan to move the container to the site of the house and it will be used as a job training program for some of the men in the house.  A good portion of the proceeds from the company will also go to support the ministry of Hope House.

Cookie containerMaking Cookies 2017

How can we help you?

We need your prayers for these ambitious endeavors which are God-sized and beyond what we know we can do on our own.

We would love for you to visit us, or lend your particular skill to what we are doing if the Lord leads you in that way.

We need financial support to get these projects off the ground and for our family to continue to live and work in Porto Alegre.  If you would like to support us financially, monthly or otherwise, please get in touch with us at kbblume06@gmail.com.  If you would like to donate to Hope House, or our family online, you can do that through the website of our sponsoring church, Harpeth Hills Church of Christ, by clicking HERE. Just go to the part of the page that says “fund.” Then scroll down to either “Missions: Blumes” or “Hope House Building Fund” and make your donation. You don’t have to create an account or do any type of log in. We need both personal support as well as support to get the Hope House up and running so any monthly or one time financial gifts would greatly bless the ministry.

If you have more questions about this ministry please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

Sandro

My name is Sandro Oliveira. I am married to my first girlfriend, Cátia Oliveira. We have two children. A seven year old named Stefany and a 4 year old named Matheus.

Sandro:Catia:kids

My family and I have been a part of Jesus’ church since 2014 when we became Christians. I work together with my wife as a commercial sales rep. I am also a realtor which is how I met Kevin and Benay. In 2017 I was asked by one of our pastors, Vanderlei, to show them houses for sale. I chose five houses for them to look at and we agreed to meet up at one of the houses.
After we looked at most of the houses, Kevin and Benay said that they all had very good characteristics but none were really what they were looking for. When we finally got to the last house we all agreed that it was exactly what they were looking for in terms of space, safety, location, the fact that it was on a calm street, in front of a park and the possibility for expansion and construction.
I then found out that the house would be used for a social purpose, and would be called Hope House. Kevin patiently explained to me the reason for the initiation of this project and explained the story of how God placed this project on their hearts. I found out that they had little to no money for this project, which to me, as a realtor, would normally seem kind of crazy. But this time it was different. I truly did believe that God would provide the necessary resources for the purchase of this house.
I was greatly impacted by the abundant love the Blumes had for the men in the rehabilitation centers here in Porto Alegre. I had worked at our church helping with the media and as a small group leader, but I had never fully understood the grandeur of a ministry that takes care of people that are truly in need like the men in the rehab centers.
I knew of Desafio Jovem, the rehab facility our church ministers to, because the men from there come to our church every Sunday to be a part of the service. They would always have lunch offered to them after the service by one of our small groups. I had personally made and served them lunch two or three times since I started going to church but I had never had this love of Christ for them that the Blumes have.
The invitation made by Kevin to work in this ministry was something I truly didn’t expect. I even said that I didn’t think I was ready for this mission which was when he told me that he wasn’t looking for perfect men but men who owned up to their mistakes, could give an example of reconciliation with God, and could be an example of how to treat your wife and children. I then realized that Kevin’s calling was God’s calling, which is to exemplify that it is not the able ones who are chosen but the chosen ones who are made able through Jesus Christ. The transformation of our lives is through Him.
I told him that I would pray about this decision to find out what God’s will was for me. Whether or not I should be a part this ministry which was totally different from the type of ministry I imagined for myself when I was converted.
A short time later, the church organized a retreat for church leaders. It was on the same date that I had chosen to invite the Blumes over to give them my answer. So, my wife and I decided to go to the retreat and during the retreat we let Kevin and Benay know that we would accept the invitation to begin this new mission. We had just begun a relationship with the Blumes that would completely change our lives forever.
As we all know, before big victories, the enemy prepares big obstacles and wars and this situation was no different. My wife and I had to ask for help with our marriage which seemed like it would collapse at any moment. I will never forget when Benay said that she clearly saw the enemy using my wife’s and my mouths and words against each other. She explained that she clearly saw the enemy laughing at how much territory he had gained. We analyzed the motives of our many conflicts and realized that they weren’t so big after all and we only needed to make minor adjustments that were being heavily overestimated.
We began meeting with Kevin and Benay.  We used, studied and discussed a book called “His Needs, Her Needs.” We used it as our guide. We would meet weekly in the mornings at the Blumes apartment to talk about our marriage, our relationship, our children, our house, etc. I must say that these American-style breakfasts were impressive both in the spiritual, intellectual, and cognitive sense, and in the delicious North American customs when we would have peanut butter or donuts, for example.
We began helping with the Ministério Compaixão (Compassion Ministry) where we were responsible for the interaction between the church’s small groups and the men in the rehabilitation center. We would monitor and take care of the lunches and all interactions always seeking communion and brotherhood between both groups.
We created strategies, modified the way we serve, modified where the men would sit during service. We began to talk to more people and found out that the love of Christ was spreading, working between us and we truly began to feel like we were a part of our church when we saw the significant improvement in the behavior and attitudes of our brothers in the rehabilitation center and our brothers in our small groups.
Each day that passes by in this ministry our love for these men grows. The more we dedicate ourselves to them, the more the Lord rewards and blesses us. Today we are part of a ministry in which we can extend love to the men in rehabilitation and are able to give more support so that this battle, which we fight every day with our flesh, is overcome and we can, all together, complete the good race and reach the end with our sense of duty fulfilled, always maintaining faith and hope in Christ.
I praise the Lord for the life and work of the Blumes, through which we can see the true love of Christ, where economic, racial, or intellectual differences don’t matter but the truth that we are all brothers is highly exalted.
The love that the Lord teaches us about is heavily shown through the Blumes and reaches out to all members of the church and is clearly shown through the countless testimonies of members of small groups talking about how they were so heavily impacted by the work the Blumes do at the rehabilitation centers. I am sure that the love of Christ is also moving the hearts of those who observe from afar the way we treat the men from the rehabilitation center and how we are treated by them.
I wish the Lord would send more couples like the Blumes to plant the love of Christ in all of the churches here in Brasil. I would love to thank those who allow this brilliant ministry to happen, who let themselves be used by the Lord to provide for the lives of these missionaries and the ministry they have created.
Glory be to God for all of your lives who have taught me how to love my neighbor, and especially to Kevin and Benay, who have dedicated their lives to the city of Porto Alegre, where me and my family have been transformed by their example of Godly love.
Peace.
Sandro Oliveira

Home

(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.

Ans visit Family May 2019

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.

Cristovao Colombo church

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.

Ans in POA May 2019(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.

Fofonka pic GramadoFofonka goofy pictureThe 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.

Ans with Fabio May 2019(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.

Ans with Friends May 2019Ans, Carys and Claudita

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.

In front of Hope House - May 23, 2019

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.

Ans, Anderson, Dad post race Gramado

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.

Ans:Anna:Carys:Benay May 2019

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.

Gramado Race 2019Ans:Anderson POA May 2019

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.

Ans with Quigs Beira Rio May 2019Ans at Paulinhos May 2019

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.

Ansley:Will London welcome home

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.