So, we are now back in Cabralia. Actually, we have been back for about a week.I have been meaning to finish this blogs for ages now. On various days I have opened up Microsoft Word, just to close it again after a few hours of not actually writing anything. Our trip was really good, although we did break a lot of stuff. We broke our kindle, our little laptop (just a few moments before I was about to preach using it). We also broke a mirror, a mug, and two glasses. Although that was in various people´s houses, it was still really awkward.
Our journey started in with about 3 days in Salvador with our friend Railton, who we both met in YWAM Contagem. He was an excellent and generous host; showing us round various tourist points of Salvador. Although, originally from Salvador he currently lives in Goma, India and is just back in Brazil to rest for a while. So we are certainly very grateful that he took time out from rest to show us a good time. We loved Salvador, it´s so full of culture. But I particularly felt a pull for missions in Salvador. There are a lot of opportunities for evangelism and discipleship, and I´ve been told that it is an area of Brazil that actually doesn´t have a lot of churches. Normally when in big cities in Brazil you will see churches everywhere; we actually noticed that we hadn´t seen one church in the
centre. I know the YWAM base in Salvador is quite low of staff about this as well.
On our final night we travelled to a small town just outside of Salvador called Dias D ávila where Pedro´s church has a church plant. Pedro preached and the church was really welcoming. We would have liked to have had more time in Salvador or to visit again in the future.
We then got a flight to Fortaleza where a friend of a friend, Leide, let us stay during the day in her house whilst we waited for our coach in the evening. She had never met us before, such hospitality is so invaluable. After a long coach ride, we finally arrived in YWAM Sertão. They have about the same number of staff here in Cabralia, but the base couldn´t have been different. The base has huge grounds, even with a path for walking and a swimming pool. Although, the buildings are very basic, everything is very spacious with various little buildings rather than one big (ish) building like we have here in Bahia. We got to stay in the hospitality suit, which was not a life we were happy to give up. For the first time, we have our own little house with air conditioning and a kitchen. It was only for about a week but it was very nice.
The English seminar went well. It was a 3 months course; they were banned from speaking Portuguese during this time. They had a series of visiting teachers for the last month but I was the only non-Brazilian teacher. I was impressed by the how well they understood spoken English and hope that they continue studying. I taught about prepositions, we also made a cardboard testimonies video, prepared testimonies, taught a magic trick for evangelism. There were 17 pupils, I really look forward to hearing about their futures. A group are currently in China.
During our time in YWAM Sertão, we met pastor Marcelo. Before we even met him, he had requested that I preach at his church in English. Pastor Marcelo has an amazing testimony. He used to practice Macumba i.e. a spiritual religion with African ties. He was a professional football player for Atletico Mineiro, but left God was calling to be a pastor and so he gave up the opportunity to play for Vasco to train to be a pastor and then start a church. He is currently pastor of a medium sized church in a very poor area of Crato. We got to spend a few days hanging out with him, it was wonderful to meet a pastor which such a big heart and someone who treats every parts of his life as an opportunity to show God´s love. I preached in his church, this was the incident I mentioned above where my notebook/ laptop thing broke just before I was going to preach. It was went fine in the end apart from being an hour and a half long, oops.
We then spent the next week in the centre of Juazeiro de Norte for “impacto Juazeiro de Norte” which occurs during the Romaria de Padre Cicero. There was about 150 people, groups from
YWAM bases and from various churches. Although largely considered a Catholic event, Padre Cicero was excommunicated from the Catholic church. The relationship is a bit confusing, but huge hordes of mainly Catholics come to `pay penance´. There is a sort of a mountain thing which a big number of steps which reach an enormous statue of Padre Cicero.
People will go up the steps on their hands and knees; there was one person who went carrying a cross and a sack of stones. There´s quite a tense relationship between evangelicals and catholics, the catholics oftens say they feel judged and accused of being idolatrous. The week was a good opportunity to show the love of God in a genuinely way. In the morning and afternoon, teams would go to various of the city squares to gives out water and evangelism. This period is the hottest for the area, which is saying something as Juazeiro de Norte is always hot. In the evenings teams, go to the same squares but do various sketches and dances telling the gospel, and some will give a short message, there will also be one of one evangelism during this time. The romaria is also a hotspot for sex tourism, at midnight a group will go work in areas of high prostitution. Another team will leave at 3 in the morning to go to where the statue is to give out water and coffee to the people go up to the statue. There were also specific teams during various points of day for awareness of human trafficking and domestic violence, evangelism for Children, trips to visit a desperately poor area of the city to help the pastor of a church there to evangelise, give out boxes of food. We really liked how all encompassing the outreach was.
Me and Pedro felt like God was saying to listen to what young people in the area were saying about their faith. So what we did was made sure during evangelism to ask questions and listen and not to just talk talk talk. We noticed that, there was a really questioning spirit, that there was searching for something deeper but also a lot of doubt in the beliefs of their parents and grandparents etc. We saw 8 people make a commitment to Christ and will continue praying for them.
We then spent 8 days in Fortaleza. By this point we were really very tired. The wife of the leader of our base is from there. So we stayed with her sister, Vivi, and hung out a lot with her brother and his wife, Renis and Luciana, as well. We are both really grateful for the generosity of both these families. We had a fair amount of time just to relax, we hung out in the shopping centre nearby, which when you live in a town that doesn´t have a shopping centre can feel like a huge luxury. We were also taken to some of the tourist centre. Fortaleza is famous for its beautiful beaches, unfortunately we only spent one morning at the beach but we do lives next to really beautiful beaches as well. We visited YWAM Fortaleza during one evening as well, there weren´t a lot of people there but it was good to speak to some of staff and to see how the base does things and serves the local community.
We also had the pleasure of being with Embaixadores de Cristo in Fortaleza. We particularly liked the heart of this church, they are working hard to be a blessing within their local community. The neighborhood where the church is situated is next to a very dangerous favela. Recently the church had run a week of events within this favela, giving out basic food supplies, organizing free hairs cut, dentist visits, doing house visits. It´s not a big nor rich church, but they really have a focus on outreach which we loved. Although the Pastor did keep calling me James :/. Pedro preached in the morning and the evening on Sunday and on the Tuesday evening I preached. We prayed for four people who made a commitment to God. It was the first time I had preached in Portuguese in over year but everyone seemed to understand it more or less.
We managed to get a last minute flight from Salvador to Porto Seguro for the same price as the coach. We were so incredibly relieved not to have to wait another 12 hours on a coach. I think we both feel a bit sick of travelling. Which is awkward because next week we will be travelling to Sao Paulo and then from Sao Paulo to England. We will have 10 days in Sao Paulo and just less than 5 weeks in England. We are looking forward to some proper rest but also good time with friends, family but also to catch up with churchlife.
We are currently at the base, there is no-one else here it is officially the Christmas holidays and everyone left a few days ago. It was very busy in the base when we got back. There were various end of term events and meetings etc. Pedro has also preached a couples of times in a local church. We have also been spending a lot of time in the indigenous village. Oh and big news. I FINALLY have my visa thank you God!!
-Thank God for all that he has done with our first 6 months here, for the relationships we have made in particular in Nova Coroa (indigenous village), at the base, and with the local churches particularly the small Assembleia de Deus that we have been working with. But also that God would strengthen these relationships.
– That we would rest in Sao Paulo and England but also that God would strength our connections to our respective churches.
-The DTS, we will be staff on the first DTS (discipleship training school)
– Nepal, as many of you know we are planning on going to Nepal at the end 2016 for an extended period. During our time in England we will start making preparations. Please stand with us in prayer for this next season, particularly as we start to make decisions.
Thank you to every who has prayed or us supported us for this first 6 months of our journey. And thank you God for giving us a journey.