On this icy morning in south Texas, a mission team is scheduled to board an airplane in Austin to begin their trip to Brazil. I do not yet know if their flight will be cancelled due to the inclement weather. Reflecting upon the work they are about to undertake reminds me of our own stories in Brazil. Stories people can’t make up. Stories filled with God’s grace, mercy and work.
When we arrived in Brazil, my new missionary colleague offered us the strangest greeting at the airport, “Welcome to Brazil. You could not have come at a worse time.” My wife and I exchanged quizzical looks.
We soon discovered that the president’s new economic shock plan had created a scarcity of Brazilian currency thereby infusing it with value. Over one weekend the dollar’s exchange rate against the Brazilian currency plummeted. Just prior to our arrival, more than 50% of our buying power had evaporated. We no longer had sufficient funds to pay rent or do much else.
As it turned out, events were already in play about which we knew nothing. When we had disembarked from our plane and greeted our missionary colleague, we found him chatting with his American friend who had also just arrived on our flight. We met and exchanged pleasantries.
Two weeks later that American called my colleague to say that if we had not yet secured a place to live he had an empty two story four bedroom house with two full maids’ quarters and a covered BBQ area which he would like to provide to us rent free. His only request was that we maintain the house and pay the nominal monthly tax for the residence.
Why did he make us this outlandish offer? About the time of our arrival in Brazil, the water box on top of this wonderful house had sprung a leak causing thousands of gallons to soak its brick, tile, and cement walls and floors. For over a week it had gone unnoticed and caused havoc. He reasoned that if someone were to live in this empty house, such problems could be immediately remedied.
Prayers had been answered. In his graciousness, God had provided and been faithful.
I think it was a Saturday morning when we received that disturbing phone call message. A strong wind had blown a brick wall under construction on top of a hotel next door to our church building to come crashing down. From about six stories up this wall’s descent had torn through our roof creating a large gaping hole and filling about seventy percent of our auditorium with a large pile of bricks.
Prayers of thanks and gratitude ascended to God that this had not happened during worship or even during business hours.
A young electrical engineer began dating one of our congregation’s young ladies. He asked me if I worked for the CIA. I assured him I did not. Repeatedly he asked me. Repeatedly I told him the truth. If my memory is correct, he had a bumper sticker which read, “Beware of smiling Americans.” If you don’t know me, I smile a lot.
Eventually, he agreed to a Bible study. After many weeks, God’s word penetrated his heart causing him to give his life to Christ.
At work he developed the habit of reading his Bible during lunch. It was not long before he came to me saying that a coworker had made fun of him and had denigrated the Holy Spirit with, “Do you believe in the little dove?” We talked and prayed. Then he continued to honor God with his time at work.
Faith comes by hearing God’s word. It is powerful. God can use it to transform our hearts and lives. Praise be to God.
Then there was that week when I received a phone call on Monday from my sponsoring congregation asking us to return home so that I could preach for them. We were not ready to return. We began to pray for the Lord to provide the means for us to stay.
On Friday of that same week, our American landlord called to say that plans had changed and he needed us to return the house to him. I may be thick and sometimes stubborn, but even I could understand the Lord was moving us back to the States. For the entire time we lived in Brazil, God provided a necessary tool, a house, which we could not afford. God is good.
I do not know what the São Luís Mission Team will encounter. They already have many of their own stories about God’s faithfulness and mercy. What I do know is that God is already at work and God will continue to be faithful, gracious and powerful.