It is amazing how much can change in only 3 months. Since our last newsletter the world has been in COVID-19 lockdown/quarantine/self-isolation...and the same has been true for us here in Belém. It has really been an unbelievable event that we are living through, truly unimaginable to see countries in lock-down, some stores without basic necessities, families quickly adjusting to having work and school at home, and of course churches going online. When all of this began, my heart was set on seeing how God would use this for His glory. We have passed through difficulties, and sufferings before and we know that with deep trials come amazing opportunities to deepen our faith and to be used more mightily for the Kingdom of God. If we allow it. This isn't said lightly, we know many people who have been sick with the virus, and some who have died. I don't want this time to be wasted...so at the beginning of this pandemic I knew God was doing something amazing for His glory through all of the hurt, loss, and confusion and we wanted to be led by Him in what would be the new normal.
The virus came to our area of Brazil about a month after impacting the US. We have been in quarantine for about 13 weeks now with 2 of those being a forced lockdown. The health care and funeral systems were quickly overwhelmed and collapsed over 2 months ago, but the state government has been doing its best to get field hospitals up and going with extra beds for the very sick, so we have managed to ward off another collapse so far. Many of the main hospitals closed their doors to normal injuries and illnesses with signs saying there were no general practice doctors available for ER things, which left only a few ER/trauma hospitals available. The grocery stores in our area have continued to have everything we need (we haven't really seen a shortage of anything) and for this we are grateful. As I write this, our state has over 67,000 confirmed cases and it seems to increase by a 2,000-3,000 every day. However, despite the alarming confirmed cases still rising, things are beginning to open here. For us and our ministries, we have continued to have our church services, home fellowship, and discipleship/Bible studies online until we can see a lessening in the amount of confirmed cases. The ministry with the Warao refugees and the individuals involved in prostitution has been dramatically impacted. We have not been on the streets for the Proverbs ministry since the quarantine began, however we have continued to minister to the Warao in a limited capacity.
Living in a foreign country during a pandemic has given us some interesting perspective; especially on the churches in developed countries. Maybe it is because our church, Calvary Belem, began in a park and we continually had to argue with the authorities that we could in fact gather for a casual church service as we had no amplified sound, and very often sat on the grass in beach chairs where Kyle would preach and people would be intrigued and would sit and listen, not really thinking they were in a church service. Or maybe it is because we had to teach the people that church isn't actually a building, but we are the church...not just saying it, but actually living it out in our church services, prayer meetings and ministries every week. We didn't just think it in our minds, but we really believe it in our hearts. So, when this pandemic hit we were very thankful for this heart and the simplicity of it, as we continue on remotely as 'normal', but we continue to pray that we will be even more family orientated as the first churches exemplified. Creating a culture of love within our church family, creating a church home that people want to be at and not just on Sundays, where they want to share their joys, trials, and afflictions, where they bring their friends and family members for meals and fellowship...people want to be at a healthy home, in fact they can't wait to get back home when something good, or bad has happened so they can share these things with their family. That is the heart of Calvary Belem...to continue creating this home and with this comes even less 'churchy' formality, and I for one am very excited to see how the Lord will use us and this work when we truly act like His church. Sadly, we noticed the opposite of this in some churches back home, their whole focus had been on Sunday services so when that was taken (except for online) things changed for them. Our prayer is that churches around the world would learn from this pandemic time and examine their hearts and motives, as we have ourselves, and return to being a family...giving up showmanship, doing away with the unnecessary aspects of the business model, sacrificing comforts in order to better serve one another, and focus on strengthening the body and preaching the Gospel. That is our plan at least.
The Lord has been extremely graceful to us and we are so thankful to Him and to all of our supporters! While we were prepared to see donations possibly decline because of job loss, and other financial hardships, that everyone around the world is facing the Lord continued to provided abundantly through you all. We have been able to continue providing for the church and its resources here, buy food and medicine for the Warao refugees, and pay our own living expenses all without worry. We have even been able to rent a small apartment for the church's use with the support we have been receiving as well. This apartment, while simple and small, will be able to provide a house for our new ministry worker arriving from Sao Paulo soon, as well as provide a place for the interns we have during the school year from a local seminary. Your financial support has also allowed us to support a new church plant that came out of Calvary Belem for its first 6 months, and 2 Brazilian missionaries who serve with us. It is truly amazing to see the Lord provide in such amazing ways and we are delighted to see how far His blessings are going. So we say a big thank you to you all!
-The gov't has moved the Warao refugees to a state run shelter and we are now needing approval from the president of this organization to continue our work with them. Pray the Lord would open the doors for this ministry to continue.
-We just learned that one of the transgendered sex workers we had ministered to on the streets is alive. We had been told he had been murdered during Carnaval, but he is in fact still alive but has had a good portion of his skull removed due to a severe beating. We continue to pray for him, his family, and most importantly that this tragic event would be used to transform this man's heart to know and love Jesus.
-Pray for our oldest son Aidan. He just graduated high school and will begin university in the fall at either Colorado Christian University or Wheaton College. Pray he would draw close to the Lord and for Godly friends in his life.
-Pray for our youngest son Liam as he is in the US this summer with his brother and grandmother. He just started his first summer job and has some important medical examines in July. He may have to need another surgery this summer so please pray for wisdom for the doctors and surgeons as they discuss what may need to be done.
-Pray that flights will continue from Brazil, even though they are already greatly limited to the US, pray that Kyle and I are able to travel to the US so we can take Aidan to college and so I can be available to Liam if he is needing surgery later this summer.
-Pray for our new ministry worker, Andrey, who is leaving his family and home in Sao Paulo to come and serve with us. Pray for his family and for his transition to a new area, and really a different type of Brazilian culture.
-Pray for the Calvary Music Fest which will be online this year, beginning next week. We pray the music reaches people far from the church and that it brings many people together. Also, please pray for the musicians involved that they would be led by the Spirit as they continue to prepare for this event.
We continue to pray for you all!
Krista and Kyle