Merry Christmas to you!
Before embarking on the full text of this update, let me hit y'all with two ministry prayer requests:
I'll first give a family update, a ministry update divided into what has transpired since the last communique and what our upcoming plans and events are, and finally prayer requests.
Everyone is super excited about Christmas, even though the summer Christmas thing is still unsettling for some (would you believe that my West Palm Beach wife is thrown off by a warm Christmas?!). Isaac, a deacon in our church who has featured in previous updates, brought us a real pine tree from where he lives out in the country. Twenty years ago he would not have been able to provide the tree; apparently it's some southern U.S. species that in the last few years has begun to take over stretches of this region. Although it seems a small thing, having a real tree has meant a lot to the kids. It's a real blessing from God, because it's the only real Christmas tree we've seen so far!
We had an American-style Thanksgiving meal that we invited a family from the church to, and that was also a good way to "matar saudades" (kill the longing) of the U.S.
We have two new kittens in the house, a boy named Cole for Renata and a girl named Calico for Mara. As I write, Kimberly pipes in to say that they've "brought much joy and unpleasant smells" to the apartment.
The kids are currently on break from homeschooling, except for math. Kimberly's making them all do math. :-) Those of you who homeschool know what that's all about.
The school where I've been working has begun summer break. I'll continue with my private students. The whole city kind of stops for two months, which affects work and ministry (a lesson we learned the hard way last year). Next week is the boys' last week of jiu jitsu, so pray for Kimberly dealing with three boys with no athletic outlet!
We've been taking the kids to the youth group of a larger church, Batista Central. It's been wonderful for them, and they're looking forward to the meetings starting back up after summer.
Our family will be going with Isaac's to a house by the beach in the first week of January. Both our families have five kids, so it should be the best kind of zoo!
In November I had the pleasure of preaching at a Presbyterian church in Santa Maria, a university town in the middle of the state. Kimberly and I went together and got to see field after field of tobacco and vegetable farms. The pastor's wife was partially brought up in the U.S., and they've started a tradition of celebrating an American Thanksgiving, which makes sense since the origins of the Presbyterian church in Brazil are American. After the service they had a big feast with fabulous turkey and gravy. This was a milestone for my ministry and also for our church, Igreja de Cristo. Igreja de Cristo is not part of the main reformed denomination here, but we want to cooperate with them in the best spirit of reformed catholicity. So I'm grateful to the pastor of that church for sending a clear signal of acceptance; I have already noticed some positive effects of our visit in that regard.
We organized a dress-up party for All Saints' Day/Reformation Day. Everyone dressed up as saints of yore, and the children of the church had a blast.
Our Bible study on the Kingdom ended at the end of November. We will do a book study beginning in February, of Douglas Wilson's Reforming Marriage.
We had our last Brotherhood of Man meeting of the year this week. We'll not be taking a summer break, which I'm pleased about. We had three new visitors to the group this week.
Kimberly went with three of the church's women to a small town in the nearby coal-mining region of the state, about a 1.5 hour bus ride. She gave a Christmas crafts workshop at a cultural center for the wives of coal miners. There she met a woman in her nineties who was the first woman in the town to wear pants and drive a car! God blessed the work, and she has a standing invitation to return.
I am very excited about the way so many doors seem to suddenly be opening. We were told that gauchos (the people from this southernmost state of Brazil) were slow to warm up. They say that about themselves, although they usually add that once they're your friend they're a friend for life. Our efforts of knocking on doors, building relationships, and simply persevering are beginning to pay off. Thank the Lord.
On December the 28th I've organized a prayer meeting of repentance over the sin of abortion in the park in front of the Palace of Justice. The Brazilian Supreme Court has just cleared the way for abortion to be made legal through the first trimester. No laws have been changed to reflect the decision as yet, but the underground abortion business (which does not mean back-alley, by the way, there are plenty of nice clinics that cater to people with money) is now poised to become legal. It's our prayer that people from other churches will be there. A few churches have said they will announce the event, and a couple of pastors have committed to come and lead prayer. There is still plenty of work and communication to be done for the meeting.
In January I will be giving a seminar over two Saturdays on T. S. Eliot's Choruses From The Rock. It will be an opportunity to connect with literary and university types in a discussion of what the Church of Jesus Christ is. I expect it to be a small event, but several people have already signed up online, including two people I don't even know!
I hope to be able to use the extra time I'll have available during the summer to connect with more local church leaders.
1. Our family. Please pray that our kids will have more opportunity to get to know kids their own age. We will be starting homeschool up again in January. Late in January Kimberly, Renata, and Mara will be going to Florida to visit Kimberly's parents for three weeks; I will have the boys to myself. (I'm already planning on leaving the boys with one of the church families for a week...they're going to learn a bunch of portuguese!)
2. Isaac and Evandro, studying to be pastors.
3. Mr. Paulo, Isaac's dad, who suffered a heart attack and kidney failure. He has had surgery and as of now is still in the hospital, under sedation.
4. Please continue to pray for the historian couple in our church. I meet with them an hour or two a week to give English lessons. The husband is engaged with but very skeptical of the Gospel of Jesus.
5. The opportunity to minister at Lar Colmeia, the children's home in Campo Bom. Pray that the Lord would give the leadership there, and me, wisdom in how this might happen.
6. The opportunity to minister in poor areas of Guaiba. At first sight, this seems like an ideal fit for my ministry and Taberna São Bonifácio (Saint Boniface Tavern), which is the name of our local ministry. Obviously, we'll find out a whole lot more tomorrow (Saturday December 17).
Thank you, brothers and sisters. One-time and monthly giving at http://www.portofjoy.com/giving.html. For more frequent updates like https://www.facebook.com/SwaitsInBrazil, and make it one of your favorites so that you see more photos and whatnot! Some more photos are included at the end of the email.
Christ be with you,
Joffre, Kimberly, et al.
Hello beloved beloveds,
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition! We've hit our monthly giving goal to be able to stay in Brazil, are mightily relieved, and grateful to Jesus for his care for us through all of you.
A relationship I've developed with some local guys who started a green business co-op in my neighborhood has really blossomed. The Brotherhood of Man men's ministry now used their space monthly. Deacon Evandro and I have organized a Reformation Day/All Saints' Day celebration this Sunday the 31st that will also take place there, with the kids getting lots of candy and dressing up as saints of old. Actually, the grown-ups will be dressing up too. I'm going as Boniface, and Evandro and I suspect that a woman of our church, a high school teacher, will be coming as Dietrich Bonhoeffer!
Some of you might have seen photos of George and Little Joffre planting a garden on top of a shipping container. That was taken at the Petropolis Green Park, as it's called. Please pray for our relationship with the guys there. They're not Christians, and there's a range to how the five (!) partners respond to us, but we're liked, and they are engaging with our activities and asking lots of questions.
Our Bible study on the culture of the Kingdom of Heaven has only two more sessions this year. We'll then take a break before resuming with a new theme that I think will be enthusiastically greeted by the saints here, and will serve as an evangelistic opportunity as well. It will actually be a book study, of Douglas Wilson's Reforming Marriage, which already exists in a translation into Portuguese. That will begin toward the end of summer vacation, in February.
During the break I will offer a seminar on T. S. Eliot's Choruses From The Rock. It will be an opportunity to connect with literary and university types in a discussion of what the Church of Jesus Christ is.
English is beginning to open more doors, and I feel that being here a year has really made a difference in the quality of our contacts here. Besides Choruses From The Rock, which will be almost completely in Portuguese, I am planning some English-language events as well.
Our English-language service has hit a bit of a delay as we sort out some logistics, but those should be sorted soon.
1. If you do not yet support us financially, please consider doing so, and pray we would gain more supporters. Although we've reached our goal to stay in Brazil, we would like to have some financial flexibility added. It would be wonderful to have more funds to spend on ministry, to save for a car, and for another reason dear to my heart: although we've been in Brazil for a year, we have not yet visited my family in Minas Gerais. My grandmother has not met three of our kids, and none of them remember her. I am considering going up with one or two of the children during the summer break, but we currently can't afford to take all seven of us up there.
2. The couple in our church and Bible study who travel two hours each way to be there. The husband is not a Christian, and while he seems very interested in our Bible teaching, he is not ready to bow to the Gospel. He asks extremely engaged questions and is respectful, but sometimes simply can't stand it anymore and gets up to pace in the background as he processes what's been taught. There is emotion involved. They are both historians, with a focus on local industry and scientific development. We met at a Faith and Science seminar offered by L'Abri Brasil here in Porto Alegre. I am now their English teacher (we began classes this week) and she is singing psalms with our kids every other week. Interesting side note: the husband (again, a historian) is fascinated by the romantic figure of Stonewall Jackson and we've had several conversations about him. Stonewall's trust in Jesus might very well reach out from beyond the grave and make one more convert. :-D
3. Our relationship and proclamation of the Gospel at Petropolis Green Park.
4. Isaac and Evandro, studying to be pastors.
5. Our family.
6. Roberta, who is far away from home, and needs a church home here. She is hiding from Jesus.
7. Pastor Todd, my former overseer at OMI and a dear friend. He has recently had a severe health crisis that he is currently recovering from. He may not be able to go to the Philippines after all.
Christ be with you,
Joffre, Kimberly, et al.
It has been a busy month for us. Earlier in the month we made two big announcements to our financial supporters, that we would need to raise more funds to stay in Brazil, and that we were moving out from OMI and attaching ourselves to the Igreja de Cristo.
We are pleased to report that we’ve got over half of our $600 more a month goal. Thank you! Please pray for us and consider helping us complete that goal. We have made a home here and would be heartbroken to leave our work after just a year. You can give here: http://www.portofjoy.com/giving.html
Early in September Pastor Uri Brito came down from our mother church, Providence Church in Pensacola, Florida to celebrate the first anniversary of our Igreja de Cristo. It was surreal for both us, me recalling hanging out in his backyard a month before leaving the country, and him remembering his previous visit, in which he’d met with just the three original families.
It was a blessed visit, with everyone encouraged, thanks be to God. Thanks to the beauty of social media, we could even see how Uri’s excitement passed itself on the rest of his church in Florida. We received a couple of letters from others in the denomination after Uri left, which is another thing that always encourages the saints of Igreja de Cristo.
Pastor Uri was present at our Brotherhood of Man meeting, which is meeting at a new location at which we can grill out and just generally man out. This new location is a blessing: it’s not necessarily easy to find a wholesome space to spread out in a compact Latin American city. We talked about how men can bless their churches and families by being more affectionate. Gauchos, unlike other Brazilians, are not given to displays of affection. So we practiced hugging.
Not really. We actually just hugged.
Game night appears to be becoming a thing at the church.
Spring has sprung here in the south. All the trees are blooming. Kimberly stops every half block to pull flowered branches down to her nose, and sometimes take pictures to sketch later.
I will be teaching Sunday School at the church for the first two weeks of the month. Bible study and Brotherhood of Man are continuing, and it appears we will be ready to launch an English-language service at Igreja de Cristo this month. The work in English is meant to minister to internationals in this city (one of the principal cities of Brazil) as well as to locals. More details on that effort forthcoming.
We are very grateful that the kids are doing well. Renata is visibly happier and is tackling Portuguese with more gusto. Little Joffre has decided that he also wants to learn Spanish on DuoLingo; we’ll see how long that lasts. I think he was inspired to become a language guy by his participation in an English lesson I gave last week. Mara bounces between Portuguese and English with me.
Prayer requests: monthly financial needs, to be able to stay in Brazil with these people we love, that our new ministry will serve to bring Christ to this city.
Please continue to follow us at Port of Joy on Facebook and at portofjoy.com. There you’ll see regular pictures of our work and of the family.
If you don’t yet support us financially, please consider doing so.
Joffre, Kimberly, et al.
Here are the happenings through August, culminating with our church's grand celebration here in the beginning of September of our one-year anniversary! Pastor Uri Brito of Providence Church in Pensacola Florida, our mother church, is visiting this week. In true Gaucho style we're treating him to lots of flame-kissed beef. He's been here two days and has been to two barbecues!
I visited a church called Manancial da Graça (Font of Grace) to give a guest English lesson from a real-life American teacher at their English-language ministry. We covered ordinal numbers (first, second, third) by talking about the Days of Creation. The grown-ups all stood up and sang kids' songs like I'm In The Lord's Army and Six Days of Creation. It was a blast and I hope to go back soon.
Kimberly hosted a ladies' tea which filled out house with women from her sewing group, the homeschooling community, and our Bible study. It was fun and loud, and Kimberly's scones were an exotic hit.
The brewery where the Brotherhood of Man group met surprised us by closing down, but the Lord provided an amazing place near our home. This very week we had our first meeting at the new place, with several new attendees and the staff of the new place asking if they could sit down with us and participate. All the guys were very excited by this developing opportunity to share the Gospel.
Renata started horseback riding lessons, thanks to her great aunt Patty. Every Tuesday she and I head down south of town and she goes for a trot. I think the teacher will be allowing her to gallop soon. Renata has really blossomed with this new interest, which was something she needed. We're very grateful for this.
Bible study is continuing, and a new couple has been attending. The wife is a believer and the husband is not.
A brother at the church and I are looking at developing an English-language ministry for the city through Igreja de Cristo (our church).
I continue to work full time between the North American School and private students. We are hoping to raise sufficient funds soon that I can pull back a bit from work at the school.
I think that's all the news that's fit to print! Thanks, y'all. We published several videos this month. If you haven't seen them yet, we'd love if you'd take the time to check them out.
1. Ministry Summary/Fundraising
2. Celebrating One Year As Urban Missionaries!
3. Personal update on life and ministry in Porto Alegre. Part 1 and Part 2.
Don't forget to follow along on our FB page, Port of Joy.
Christ be with you.
Time For Tangerines by Joffre Sr.
Now is the winter of our tangerines. Or, as they’re known in this part of Brazil, bergamotas. You know that essential citrus smell that bursts out when you pop your thumb into a tangerine, that makes your eyes widen at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils? These gaucho tangerines are the zestiest I’ve ever smelled, and peeling one of them more effectively quickens the mind than a cup of coffee. It is a winter tradition to go to the park to sip on chimarrão (yerba mate in Spanish) and eat tangerines, and we’ve decided that we should incorporate this tradition into our lives. On Saturdays you are likely to find us at the park browsing in the sunshine. If we’re not too much into herb and citrus, we might indulge in a caramel-filled churro with sprinkles.
Visit From Jeff by Joffre Sr.
A friend of mine from our days back in Gainesville, Florida was able to visit us in Porto Alegre for a few nights. I guided him around the sights, which made me feel like our adopted city really is becoming our own. I mean, when you’re showing visitors not only the central market but used bookshops and the best coffee shops downtown, dilapidated old public libraries as well as cathedrals, then you can begin to say that you know the city. Some folks from our church invited Jeff out to a churrascaria (Brazilian barbecue joint) that featured folk music and dances. Kimberly and I had been meaning to go for a while, and it was absolutely amazing. We’ll post video soon of some of the wild dancing. The kids were very happy to have an American visitor, and they talked Jeff’s ear off. He was very gracious about it. Jeff was also able to worship with us on Sunday morning, taking the Lord’s Supper with brothers from far off, and singing All Creatures of Our God and King in Portuguese.
The Kids’ Adjustment Progressing by Joffre Sr.
The boys go to jiu-jitsu twice a week and have also managed to play a little bit of basketball. A new book from a favorite author of theirs arrived from the States earlier this month, Outlaws of Time by N. D. Wilson; the two older kids devoured it within a day, but also enjoyed some rereading. George dabbled in crochet. Mara talked to everyone she met, declaring that each person was either “in English” or “in Portuguese”. As I write this today, Kimberly and the kids had their first Portuguese class from a private tutor. Thanks be to God, I was able to arrange a trade in service from a Brazilian teacher. She’s a Christian sister who will work with the kids, and we’ll help her improve her conversational English. I’m very excited to see what comes from this big step in the family’s adjustment to Brazil. Little Joffre is still doing all the translating for his mom and siblings. We’re praying that he will continue to reap the benefits of his excellent attitude regarding this move, but that the rest of the family will begin to have their own adventures in interaction! Renata misses her friends and her home in the U.S. 16th Wedding Anniversary by Joffre Kimberly and I celebrated our sixteenth wedding anniversary on the 13th of this month. The boys made us scrambled eggs and coconut milk pancakes (and, importantly, coffee; Little Joffre makes me coffee every morning). We took this terrible picture to mark the occasion. In the evening we walked down to a nearby restaurant and ordered a dish meant for two, but that could have fed four. We ate it all and reflected on how glad and joyful our marriage has been. Thank the Lord and sing his praise, tell everyone what he has done!
THIS MONTH’S MINISTRY UPDATE
Bible Study Update by Joffre Swait
As I write this I’m still animated by what I thought was a wonderful study in our current series for the parents of young children, on raising multiple kids/sibling dynamics. We started with Cain and Abel, and ended in Jesus. How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity (a psalm, by the way, that I succeeded in not quoting, a feat I hope you’ll find as impressive as I do. Fourteen adults and seven kids are attending regularly, not counting our two and five, as well as some other couple who attend semi-regularly. One of the things about our apartment for which we are grateful is that the living room and dining room are one very large room, especially by Brazilian standards. So far we all fit, but it’s starting to get a little tight! There are only two sessions left in the study, which means that we’ll finish in June. Our next theme is going to be on Christianity and culture, structured after the topics laid out in a favorite book of Joffre’s, Angels in the Architecture by Douglas Wilson and Doug Jones. A School. A School?! A SCHOOL! by Joffre Swait Kimberly and I have been praying for guidance on how to proceed with my ministry to youth in Porto Alegre, especially for navigating the logistics and legality of working in Brazil. We are now praying for wisdom regarding what we believe has been God’s answer, which I’ll explain below. Please pray with us. Several times during our interactions in the last five months, the session of Christ Church Porto Alegre have talked about their desire to have a school as a ministry set alongside the church plant itself. As most of you know, I am currently teaching at an English school in Porto Alegre, the only one that guarantees American teachers for elementary through high school ages. (This is not the same as the Pan-American School here in town, which is not a language school but a complete school issuing a diploma.) They recently asked me if I would develop a plan for them to open a school to cater to the soon-to-grow American population coming in with the new consulate, as well as to Brazilian parents. In the course of preparing my presentation for them, I realized that I’d be duplicating a lot of things that would be done “somewhere down the road” whenever Christ Church decided to develop its school. In the course of talking this over with Ernesto, my elder, it became clear that he thought now a great time to start planning a school through which the church could serve Christians throughout Porto Alegre. So that’s the current wrestle: we believe that opening a Christian school is our next step.
THIS MONTH’S FINANCIAL UPDATE Money has been tighter this past month. We are spending a little more than anticipated, but within budget. Unfortunately, we also made a mistake that cost us a chunk of money. Nothing disastrous, just dumb. If you’d like to know the details, just send us a message or email. I am currently working four days a week teaching English, split between the school and my private students. God has blessed my private practice recently, and I’ve picked up three new students in the last month. I currently have 24 teaching hours resulting in about 35 hours of raw time dedicated to teaching. This month saw an increase in the private financial support of Joffre’s blog, for which we are grateful.
After a period of adjustment, the Swaits are gratefully settling into life and ministry in their adopted city. Joffre and Kimberly are hosting a Bible study for young parents which ministers to Christians of various backgrounds. Joffre has started as a weekly men’s prayer meeting for the city, which meets in a downtown park between the Palace of Justice, the state legislature, and the Roman Catholic cathedral. He was also involved in starting a monthly men’s theological discussion group which meets in a bohemian part of town. Kimberly has started a small sewing circle. Please pray that God will bless these new works.
Joffre has also been building contacts and seeking ways to begin ministering to youth in Porto Alegre. He requests prayer especially for some doors that have begun to open with local orphanages. Kimberly and Joffre request that the supporters of O.M.I. pray for their continued development as they learn to communicate and interact with Brazilians, and for the children as they adjust to their new life not only in a new country but to their new urban context. Pray for the peace and joy of the Lord in our lives and we grow and witness concerning the Good News of Jesus Christ.
As always, thank you for your prayers, and we continue to covet them.
So much has happened since the last update you received, in part because SO MUCH HAS HAPPENED, and in part because it’s been over two months since we last wrote.
Our adjustment to Porto Alegre and Brazil has continued apace, but not always to the good. We confess to having gotten grumpy several times in the last few months, especially as we faced reams of red tape in so many things we tried to do. My dad used to talk about setting all day aside to go to the post office. It’s not that bad any more, but you get the idea. Just today, Kimberly and I spent four hours in a waiting room trying to fix a glitch with our power bill.
A few weeks ago Kim and I stumbled across this graphic on the interwebs, and admitted to each other that we were smack-dab in the middle of that hostility dip, a sort of slough of despond. Like Christian, we’ve had to pray for forgiveness over our attitudes more than once. Did that today, actually.
According to this timeframe, we’re right on schedule!
All that being said, we are grateful to report that we’re now halfway between hostility and humor. We’re adjusting. Half the battle, as they say, is knowing. We’re making fewer mistakes, and have better expectations.
Of course, throughout this time the saints at Igreja de Cristo church have been a wonderful community for us.
Little Joffre could almost be said to speak Portuguese at this point. He has displayed a relentless sense of dedication and cheer during this move (he’s only broken down a couple of times), and his brothers have rallied round him. When Big Joffre is out Little Joffre is his mom’s interface with the outside world.
The boys are staying busy, between homeschooling and sports. Sports are proving to be a good ground for them to learn the language, as well. We continue to search for ways to help Kimberly, Renata, and Mara socialize and sharpen their language skills, although our bimonthly Bible study has been helpful in that regard. Kimberly will be hosting a sewing circle beginning next week.
This month we can begin to say that we are living in Brazil! Like, living like normal people, which is what we want to do.
Last time we wrote we were set to begin a couple of projects, and are happy to report that the Lord has blessed them.
We are over halfway through our eight-session Bible study for young parents on raising little ones. It has been a joy for us to host so many families from different Christian backgrounds in our home. We have been able to study several topics ranging from education to worship to education, and it has turned out to be something the original group has invited friends to. Our apartment, which has a large central room, is full to bursting every other Tuesday, with a dozen children in the bedrooms or crawling at our feet!
We have begun planning the follow-up Bible study. Our plan is for the OMI Porto Alegre Bible studies to shift topics every couple of months, in order to minister to Christians at every stage and in all walks of life.
Joffre has also begun, under the aegis of OMI Porto Alegre, a weekly men’s prayer meeting in the heart of downtown Porto Alegre. It is an opportunity for Christian men to intercede for their people and their city in a park that is faced by the huge Roman Catholic cathedral, the Palace of Justice, the State Legislature, and the great facade of a theater. Being in that location helps us to pray to Jesus for all sorts and conditions of men, as the old prayer book puts it.
The Brotherhood of Man group is also prospering in grace. Once a month men from different Christian and other backgrounds, Presbyterians, Baptists, Catholics, agnostics, meet in a pub in a bohemian part of town. At each meeting one of the men is charged with proposing and defending an idea. If you are familiar with a project of Joffre’s in South Carolina, The Bird & Baby Philosophy Club, then you have a good idea of what goes on these evenings.
Joffre has several private students and part-time work at the North American School.
Joffre is exploring options for working with youth here in Porto Alegre, especially at a couple of local orphanages. He is also in prayer about how to proceed, both in work with youth and in the ministry he is currently engaged in. There is a balance between the initial ministry goals and “playing what’s in front of you” that Joffre is trying to strike with wisdom.
For continuing cultural adjustment and language learning, especially with the kids.
Although the Brazilian economy is in crisis, there was good news with the announcement of impeachment proceedings for corruption beginning against the current president. Immediately the real gained against the dollar, which was good for all Brazilians in the stability of their economy, but has meant a loss of 10% of the worth of our American support.
Thank the Lord, the month that happened was the first I received a paycheck from the North American School!
If you don’t support our ministry financially, please consider becoming a regular giver. Currently our ministry expenses (which are low right now) come out of our living expenses, and we would like to create a little more of a cushion.
The view from our church meeting room. With a romantic filter a friend added.
God bless y’all,
Joffre, Kimberly, Renata, Joffrinho, George, Ward, Mara
It’s a new and happy 2016, y’all, and already I’m looking forward to preparations for Easter! It’s never too early. Last night the family and I had a blessed conversation about dinosaurs, space, hell, and the Resurrection, and man, now I can’t wait for Easter. The Resurrection is our hope; it’s what defines us. We are sown in weakness, we are raised in power. As we have borne the image of the man of dust, so shall we bear the image of the Man of heaven.
Kimberly, the kids, and I have been settling into a rhythm of life here, although all is not yet complete. Still, thanks be to God, we’ve arrived at the point where we are ready to be active in opening our home and ministering through hospitality.
The three boys have started basketball (sports are done is “schools” here, “basketball school”, “judo school”, etc.) and Joffrinho (l’il Joffre) and George are set to become part of the first generation of youth players for Guasca Rugby Club. They’re very excited. We hope to have Renata involved in a youth activity soon as well; sewing and tennis have come up as possibilities. These social activities are very important. Since we are not sending our kids to school, they will become the primary means our kids will learn to speak Portuguese.
We have not yet begun full homeschooling, which we’ll start in mid-February. Schools are currently in summer break (that’s right y’all, it’s 102 degrees today, and Kimberly won’t be able to wear the scarf she crocheted until August!). This entire city of one million souls becomes a shell. Half the stores close, and it seems like everyone goes to the beach.
Nothing gets done until after Carnaval, which is in early February.
Work on development of the basketball ministry is in an exploratory phase. Lunches and coffee meetings so far. Beginning immediately I will be accompanying Guasca Rugby’s new director of development as he visits schools and youth programs and seeks to build a youth program for the club. I expect this to teach me a lot about working with social organizations and local government. I also have begun to make an effort to get to know the streetball scene here in Porto Alegre, but if I’m to continue to get to know it through playing, I’m going to have to lose some weight. Oh, my knees.
I turn 38 in two weeks.
Next month Kimberly and I will begin teaching twice-monthly Bible study geared towards families raising young children, but open to all who are interested. We have seen that there is a need for practical Christian instruction on family and family dynamics within the Brazilian church. Brazilian society is, we believe, more hostile to the mutual dependence and trust that the Gospel demands of us in our marriages than even American society. Married couples are encouraged by those around them to be independent from each other, and even to lead separate lives. Trust in marriage is foolishness, and divorce and unfaithfulness rampant (as in the U.S.) Couples seeking humility, mutuality, and service in their marriages are often left without teaching or role models.
We men of the church plant (Igreja de Cristo Porto Alegre) have begun a monthly men’s fellowship group, meeting at a pub in the Cidade Baixa, an ancient and hipstery district of the city. It is not officially associated with the church, and will be structured very much along the lines of The Bird & Baby Philosophy Club, a men’s group that those of you from South Carolina may recall with gladness and sorrow (you know, now that it’s gone). Every month one of the men will briefly present a theological or philosophical idea, and then the debate will flow. We’re all really looking forward to seeing how God will bless this group. We hope to see evangelicals and Roman catholics and atheists and agnostics and everybody make an appearance and participate.
Our church is receiving lots of visitors, for which we are very grateful to our Lord Jesus. I have opportunities every day to talk about the Gospel and about our church with people I meet. A marvelous thing about conversation down here is that people seldom get upset when you talk about Jesus. In truth, all things spiritual are of interest. I’ll be posting to my blog soon about the ubiquity of spiritism and witchcraft in this region of Brazil.
If you would like to give to our ministry, please visit joffre.omiinternational.org. You can give for any amount by using the buttons halfway down the right sidebar, or simply use the buttons for pre-set amounts at the top of the page.
Brothers and sisters, thank you for your prayers and support. We rejoice whenever one of you reaches out to us through email or social media, and thank you for that.
From St. Patrick’s hymn:
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
God bless y’all,
Joffre, Kimberly, Renata, Joffrinho, George, Ward, Mara
Greetings, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, tidings of comfort and joy!
This newsletter is divided into three parts: News & Prayer, Financials, and Photos.
News & Prayer
Wow, well-beloveds, what a month and what a year!
We appreciate y’all being patient with us as we’ve been more or less incommunicado for a few weeks. We still don’t have internet access at home, but hope to have it soon. Still, the fact that we don’t have internet at home is a cause for thanks. We got an apartment! It proved to be quite a challenge, but we now have a three-bedroom apartment with a large living room/schoolroom and access to a park with a sweet hill and a basketball court.
Both Kimberly and I have struggled with some frustration over the bureaucracy and paperwork that reaches into so many aspects of life, as well as, occasionally, the attitude of others about it. Kimberly made the comment recently that everything is is more difficult to do here than in the States, and that it’s one thing to know it intellectually, a whole ‘nother to experience it. We often get the feeling that the paperwork exists for its own sake, without any connection to what is being attempted. Kimberly has often made fun of me in the past for demanding “efficiency” at all times, and getting very grumpy at wasteful processes. Not that I don’t waste time, because believe me, I do. But when something’s being done, let’s do this thing, y’all. Kimberly’s often told me to take it easy in that department; well, now I’m being sanctified. We’re being sanctified. Growing in patience and whatnot. And we’re grateful.
Our new church family here in Porto Alegre has been wonderfully supportive. There are four other member families of this new plant, and they (we) do a great job of living life together, as a people. We were able, thank the Lord, to celebrate Christmas morning in our own home, but we actually spent most of the day with two of the families from the church, eating steak and potato salad and being loud. Some of the women from the church took Kimberly shopping for fabric, and the dudes and I have gotten together a few times as well for some good ol’ manly fellowship. I had the pleasure of teaching Sunday School a week ago; I recorded myself to listen to my own Portuguese, and I’m pleased to report that I sounded better than mediocre. And it’s only going to get better from here!
Now that we are finally settling in, we will be looking to normalize our family life (come on, internet, we need you for homeschooling!) and I will begin our ministry work. By God’s grace I have already made some contacts I have high hopes for in the area, and I look forward to keeping all y’all abreast of our labors.
Thanks to all of you for your prayers and financial support this year. We’re looking forward to the 2016th year of our Lord being full of work and pain and joy for us. Please pray that the Lord increase our joy and gratitude daily.
There are a few more days before the end of the year. If you’d like to get a gift in before then, you can easily do so at my OMI website, in the right-hand sidebar. Getting us all here and setting up a home was an expensive endeavor. Now that we are all set up, we would like to get a little more financial security (i.e. back-up). Please also consider monthly giving. That will enable us to use all our personal funds as a reserve, for travel back to the U.S., and, years from now, our return trip to the United States.
Currently all the funds we are receiving are designated for living expenses. We would be very pleased if we could also begin to designate funds specifically for my work in sports with churches and youth in the southern region of Brazil.
Happy day, y'all, and the peace of Christ be with you.
My grandfather with our youngest. They eat breakfast together every day.Our time in Chile has been a blessing to our family. My grandfather, who is 86 and goes into work six or seven days a week, has been enlivened and entertained by our presence, especially that of little Mara. My aunt, at whose house we're staying, has spent the last ten days in Miami and Lima, so that I've been spending much of every day with my grandfather. When I was last here he would angrily change the subject every time a word like "church" was spoken in the same room he was in; I think he was afraid I'd come to Chile to force a deathbed conversion. Now he is engaged with what we're doing, allows me to talk about the Christians I've met in Chile and our mission to Brazil, and even asks questions or makes suggestions.
Please pray for him. He's very healthy. I hope to return to Chile several times before his death, and as he suspects, I would love to be Jesus' minister in his conversion.
Kimberly told me that spending time with American family in Latin America has had the effect we hoped it would, providing her with a softer impact on landing. She's mentioned several specific things, but the difference in how ovens work and are used has been brought up more than once!
Many of you saw the post on our blog talking about the first setback on this journey. We brought too much stuff! At first we thought we would ship our stuff by boat from Chile to Porto Alegre, but yesterday we sat down and purged. We gave half our clothes away to a school run by a nearby Presbyterian church called Cristo Mi Pastor, which we have been worshiping at on Sundays. We're leaving some things behind with my aunt. And we're taking everything else on the plane and paying the extra fees. Our homeschooling books have made some of what we've packed non-negotiable.
I want to thank the many people who reached out to us after that post to ask after us, offer support, and tell us you were praying. It meant a lot to us, and it signaled to me that you guys are going to be an active part of our ministry in the years to come. So THANK YOU!
In five days the boys and I leave for Porto Alegre. On December 2nd the girls will follow.
The kids by a creek in Yerba Loca National Park, near Santiago, Chile.I'm going to lay out some announcements, including the best way to follow along with us regularly, and then mention some of our prayer requests.
1. New website #1! What?! Yes, number 1. OMI has launched personal domains, so now get all your ministry updates on what we're doing at joffre.omiinternational.org. This is where all the giving will be done as well, unless you're mailing checks in.
2. New website #2! Sorry to give them both to you at once, but that's just how the timing worked out. The family has a new site, from which we'll talk about our living experience as a family in Brazil. Domestic stuff, homeschooling, language acquisition, culture shock, etc. It's at www.portofjoy.com. So to recap, nuts and bolts of ministry work, site #1, family and life in Brazil stuff, site #2.
3. And lastly, Kimberly and I have started a new home registry! You can get us a housewarming gift by clicking here until December 20th. Search for "Joffre Swait" or "Kimberly Swait" where it says "Procure uma lista". Then click "Ver lista" to see our list! If you'd like to get us a housewarming gift or help us set up our home, this is a great way to do that. Unfortunately you have to do it in Portuguese, so if you decide to buy us something send us an email and we'll get you detailed instructions.
1. Please pray that we find a home quickly. We are staying with the Hochikubo family when we first arrive, but want to honor their hospitality by getting out of their hair quickly! Pray in particular that red tape (Brazil is the land of red tape) will not delay the process.
2. Please pray for our family's adjustment to our new situation. Of course, it will be a months-long process, but ask for God's grace on us in this regard even now. Pray especially for our twelve-year-old daughter, who often wishes she were "home".
3. Pray for my family's miraculous conversion.
4. Pray for the saints at Christ Church Porto Alegre (Igreja de Cristo Porto Alegre). They have been worshiping together now for one month. Pray for the families as they deal with all the trials of planting a church: Ochikubo family, Barcellos family, Dorneles family, and us.
Thank you, brothers and sisters, for partnering with and praying for us. I am so excited to arrive and begin our work. Don't forget to check out Port of Joy so you can get an extra-personal dose of our life, or follow us on Facebook.
The peace of Christ be with you.
Joffre, Kimberly, et al.
Dear brothers and sisters,
Thanks to God's kind providence through your prayers and financial support, I am pleased to announce that we're leaving on October 14th! Huzzah and praise Jesus!
This is going to be a relatively long missive, so let me go ahead and lay down a layout here at the beginning for you:
1. We're trying to sell and give away all the things before our departure.
2. We will be spending our first month in South American in Santiago, Chile, with my aunt and grandfather.
3. The boys and I will go to Porto Alegre (our mission field) in November to prepare for the ladies' arrival.
4. If you have been considering giving, please consider doing so now. Sure would be timely!
That's it in a nutshell. Read on for the details.
1. We're trying to sell and give away all the things before our departure. And trying to keep the packing to a minimum. We're making the move only with what we can carry in our suitcases, maybe 10 or so. Homeschooling is going to be very Kindle-heavy these next years, but still somehow the tree-pulp books we need to bring seem to be multiplying. Also, clothes and shoes for Big Joffre are going to be pretty hard to find down there. You'd be amazed how much room those shoes take up!
The house is slowly but surely emptying out. We've had a garage sale, a couple of thrift store drop-offs, and a hugely successful book sale. Thanks to Downtown Presbyterian Church and all out brothers there and throughout the Upstate for making that such a huge success!
When we told the kids last night that we'd bought the tickets, the boys looked excited and terrified, but played it cool. Renata excused herself quietly so she could go have a cry; Kimberly gave her a big hug. This morning she was happy and engaged, thank God. Please pray for all of us during this move, there will be plenty of stresses. Mara, the two-year-old, is starting to wonder where all our stuff is!
2. We will be spending our first month in South American in Santiago, Chile, with my aunt and grandfather.
This will enable us to make the trip in two easier legs, instead of having to go through multiple Brazilian airports with our small army of children carrying our house in suitcases, and will allow me the chance to go to Porto Alegre ahead of time to stage everything for Kimberly.
My aunt and grandfather are not Christians. We rejoice not only that we and our children can spend time with them, but that we have this opportunity to show the love of Christ to them. My grandfather isn't accustomed to having children around, much less five! Please pray for all parties involved, that the visit be a joy for us all.
I've already told the boys from Stade Francais' old boys rugby club that we're on our way. I'm looking forward to throwing the ball around with them during our visit.
3. The boys and I will go to Porto Alegre (our mission field) in November to prepare for the ladies' arrival. We haven't yet purchased passage to Brazil. We'll do that in Chile, where it will be a little cheaper. I'll take a couple of the kids and do some house-hunting (probably apartment hunting, to be realistic). The folks at Igreja de Cristo (Christ Church) in Porto Alegre are ready to help us with that process. I will also dare to purchase a few things for our new home before Kimberly and the rest arrive. Most of that, of course, she'll want to have a hand in.
This morning the kids and I cruised around Jardim São Pedro, the bairro/neighborhood we're targeting, on Google Maps. The blooming myrtles along some of the roads hopefully helped them to feel at home. The climate there is actually very similar to the climate we experience here in South Carolina.
4. If you have been considering giving, please consider doing so now. Sure would be timely! This is two-fold:
Joffre & Family