First of all, we are all OK. We are renting my late Grandfather Cecil's house from my parents, which is a true blessing. Not having to worry about a place to live first thing really helped us settle in. We are very thankful for that. We took three weeks to unpack and rest, and to begin checking things out. I (Chris) have been working at Southwest, our sponsoring congregation. They have agreed to support us for one month here for each year we served, so until October. My first task is to write a summary of our work for the last ten years and what we learned from it. Southwest has been a fantastic support to us while we make the transition to a new career. I am working on my MBA, with a concentration in Human Resources, and looking for a new job in HR somewhere in the Northwest. I know recent hard times have made everyone reevaluate their giving, but I ask any of you that can continue to support us through the transition to please consider doing so. This will ease the burden of the church here that is watching over us as we make the transition and help them not to have to use finds that could go to the field.
Jonathan began Kindergarten last week. Stephanie participates in Southwests' preschool two days a week. Alessandra is busy learning a new culture, preparing to get a degree in Psychology or Communications, and handling many of the loose ends we left in Brazil like the selling of our things and the house. All in all, we are recovering from the stress of the last few months (and years) and getting settled fairly well. Shopping is still quite difficult because of so many choices. Many times, we get stuck browsing in an aisle in the supermarket, finding many things we had looked for in Brazil and were unable to find. One time I got so distracted I just walked out of the store without anything. One big loose en din Brazil is our home. Please pray for it to sell, which will enable us to truly settle here.
I would like to fill you all in on some of the details of the last months and the current Church situation in Praia Grande.
On the 9th of October, Vera was baptized. Vera is Adriana's mom, and grandmother to Isabele and Leticia Guerrero. Vera had been catholic for a long time, but after studying first with her family, and then with Francisco, and visiting our congregation steadily for the last three years, she decided to obey the gospel. She was baptized in the ocean on a rainy and windy day, and all her family served as witnesses to her confession of Christ.
Vera's daughter, Adriana, is married to Carlos Guerrero. They were in our prayers a lot while we were in Brazil. You may remember Carlos was out of work for over six months. He did finally get a good job, and has even been promoted since he began to work. Since then, they have been trying to have a third child. Adriana found out she was pregnant only 1 week before we left, and was very excited about it! We just learned that there are some significant complications with her pregnancy due to high blood pressure. She may have to be on bed rest for the remainder of the pregnancy. We ask for your prayers for her and a safe delivery of their new baby.
Adriana and Alex celebrate as their mom becomes their spiritual sister
As soon as the weather permitted we began to work on the house to get it ready to sell. I prepped the yard for turf, got the "for sale" sign made, and prepped the house for painting as well. Several walls had been broken to install our new wiring, and they had to be smoothed over before painting with something about like mud. There was a lot of sanding involved. Francisco helped a lot, working several days on the outside of the house while I prepped the inside. My mom also scheduled a trip to see us in order to help us with the house.
While she was here we all worked non-stop to get things done. In the end, we didn't
get everything done that I wanted to, but the house looked much nicer. The inside was completely repaired and repainted, including replacing some of the tiles on the bathroom wall. The outside also looked nice for the first time. Thanks, Mom and Francisco, for all the help.
Florinda, the second person that was baptized in Praia Grande, recently moved from her old house to a new place much closer to Francisco and Liduina's home. She had been wanting to move to a new home for years, but when Liduina challenged her to really ask God for what was on her heart, she began to ask for a two-bedroom house with a kitchen and some other things. After just a few weeks of turning this desire over to God in prayer, it happened. A builder offered to trade houses with her. He even helped her pay for the move, and so for basically nothing, she got the place she had been asking for, down to the specifics. She was so encouraged, and so impressed that God would care about the little things in her heart. She now is helping Liduina weekly with the children's class. Her quiet spirit and patience bless that group of vibrant children, and her willingness to serve strengthens the body. She truly loves to serve the Lord who saved her, and gave her her house.
The kids class remains impressive. We had between 12 and 24 in the little room, but thanks to Alley and Liduina's perseverance, Florinda and Adriana's patience, and the older helpers' preparation, the classes run pretty smoothly. Some of these kids are practically raised on the street, and can be pretty rambunctious. However, they need the Lord, and they need to be mentored by Christian men and women. This crowded kids class is one of the biggest long-term opportunities for the church to have an impact in the neighborhood. Please keep the teachers and kids constantly in your prayers.
Continent of Great Cities provides missionary care in most of South America, and in October Alley had the opportunity to attend their "Continent Care Connection," or CCC for women, which was very near to us on the coast. This free service to missionary women is a rich experience, led by leading professionals in missionary care--psychologists, counselors, former missionaries, and inspirational speakers. We are so grateful to CGC for providing this service. It has helped both of us as missionaries, and especially helped Alley prepare for the move. Thank you all for your service to missionary families In South America!
As part of our reentry, we saw Christian Psychologist Leonora Temple. Leonora fast became our friend as she helped us through some issues ranging from the assault three years ago in our home to reentry and what we might expect to find (or not) as we moved back to the US. We are thankful to her for her help, and to Southwest for encouraging us to take the time to get help before the move.
Alley's visa process finally ended after several months of waiting. The consulate in Rio asked us to provide a background check from Argentina since we had lived there several years. However, it took 3 months to get the documents from Argentina and have them translated. Once the Consulate received them, Alley's permanent visa and passports arrived in about two weeks. What we had been waiting on had finally arrived, and we began to scurry looking for good airfares. Our return had become a reality.
In Brazil, the "Sweet 16" birthday happens at 15, and parties for 15-year-olds usually resemble a wedding more than a birthday party. In December, Ariane, Jorge's oldest daughter, turned 15 but was planning not to have a party since they had no money. Jorge asked Alley if she would make a cake for her, so the whole church got involved to give her as nice a 15th birthday as we could. Alley made a butterfly cake (which was delicious). Ariane invited her boyfriend and extended family to worship, and afterward we all celebrated with her. She wept tears of joy and gratitude. We were able to
make a deep impact on her and her family, who still struggle with many questions after her mother abandoned them.
Jorge praying for Ariane at her 15th birthday party
One of the visitors we have reached out to is Fanny. Fanny is a neighbor of Adauto and Jane, members of the Sao Vicente congregation. She has a little boy and was expecting their second. She came to Alley to ask about a baby shower. Alley and Liduina put together a great baby shower, including games and food. It was such a success (and different from Brazilian showers!) that Fanny has now been coming to worship. She is hungry to grow in her faith, and excited to talk about it with anyone.
In a small congregation there are many opportunities to serve. Praia Grande is no different. Here are some pictures and videos of our worship:
Francisco leading "Create in me a pure heart, O God" and Carlos leading the Lord's Supper
Jorge prays for the offering; "With Christ as my Vessel" in Portuguese!
The congregation averages about 20 adults on Sundays (plus the 12-24 kids).
Cida and Marcia; congregational singing
Lucas helps pass the Lord's Supper Francisco always helps visitors find verses
Francisco preaching in his usual fiery way
Many Brazilians move across the nation as they seek work. Sometimes they lose contact with their families. Through social media, there is a growing trend in Brazil of finding lost family members and being reunited--they even have a reality show in Brazil to help families find each other. Francisco, in fact, hadn't seen his mother Dulce for almost thirty years. She lived in another state, and moved after they had lost contact. Recently, Alley made contact through Facebook with one of her cousins, and were able to find out where she and Francisco's brothers are now living. Alley wanted to meet her grandmother for the first time before we left Brazil, so she and Francisco made a quick trip to Recife to catch up.
Alley, Dulce, and Francisco
Together after 30 years
After almost 4 years working in Brazil, the day came to pass on the work: January 26, 2011. We had a wonderful experience working with this wonderful and beautiful people. We had the opportunity to teach and to learn a lot through the years. After saying goodbye to Argentines in 2007, it was very hard to say goodbye again to our Brazilian church family. But the work is continuing without us. We believe that God's plans are superior to ours, and we know that God is in control and helping the work in Praia Grande. Francisco and Liduina, together with all the members in Praia Grande, are taking this responsibility very seriously. We all know the mission doesn't belong to us, but to our creator. We are very happy that God gave us the opportunity to spread the seed of the gospel on the hearts of Brazilians and our prayer, daily, is that the seed grows and produces many fruits for the glory of our Savior. We miss our Brazilian sisters and brothers in Christ, but we are at peace knowing a lot of good news will come in the future, and one more time, God will have the victory.
We want to say thanks to each one of you that supported us through our 10 years of mission work in Argentina and Brazil, supporting us emotionally, spiritually and financially. You were on the mission field with us each time someone got baptized, or when someone came back to the Lord to reconcile after years walking in the darkness, and when our hearts were sad and feeling hopeless. Through your prayers, we made it through hard times, and you WERE there, rejoicing in moments of joy. We want to say thanks from the bottom of our hearts for your mission spirit and love for the lost.
Our new journey has started in United States. We won't be full-time missionaries any more, but our hearts still live for the mission to spread the gospel, no matter where we are. We are very thankful to our God for loving us and caring for us each day through this transition. We hope we will have the chance to remain in contact with you. We love you very much. May God bless you every day, and continue giving to us all the strength to continue being His ambassadors, because every thing we do is for the glory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The Kelley Family