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.