Saturday, September 30, 2017

Go or To Stay: Part 3

Two months ago our congregation voted to ask a national pastor to come and start work here in Sobradinho.  It was a big decision since in many ways.  The congregation was started almost twenty years ago and has always had some sort of missionary assistance.  We ourselves have been here for close to thirteen years now.  The vote to call a pastor was a little scary for our small group because it meant making a commitment to give regular tithes and offerings to pay the salary of the man or his family will go hungry!  So far, so good!  Giving is okay.  The mother church across the lake is helping and we made a promise to give a good size monthly offering until next year.  But hence the old missionary question arises:  Where are you going now?

Seems everywhere I go people ask:  Where are you going?  You aren't leaving, are you?  So going back to the US, hey?  Going to go live near your grandbabies now?  I even had a man pull me aside a few days ago and tell me that it was okay, that he totally understood why we were turning the church over a national pastor so we could go back and take care of those beautiful grandbabies.  Okay?  They are beautiful.  He got that right!  Sorry friend, our commitment to missions isn't quite that wishy-washy.  

{Although, come to think of it?  Nah...
let's not add that to the equation.}

William had to make some tough MK choices a few years back about coming and going.  He left, came back, then left again.  Greyson had a tough choice about school and chose to go now and hopefully come back later.  Dalton's made some hard choices along the way.  Maybe God will lead him back yet!  Now it's the old folks turn.  Go or Stay?  Go where?  Stay where?

Seems many missionaries our age are heading for home - the States.  #1 reason we hear is - health.  #2 is - to be close to our grandchildren. #3 is - to be close to aging parents.  It's a big pull.  But friends, our call to Brazil hasn't changed in spite of some new tugs on the heartstrings and we are still healthy and our parents are still healthy, thank the Lord. I'm super thankful for the grand people in our little grandbabies' and our big MK boys' lives right now, and for Internet that keeps us in touch.  

So are we leaving?  Probably, yes.  We are most likely leaving Sobradinho.  We have no plans right now to leave Brazil.  No, we don't know where and we don't know exactly when.  We are actively looking!  Byron is right now sitting in an airport in a little town called SantarĂ©m waiting for his delayed flight to Manaus.  He spent three days this week at a missionary conference for those who work along the Amazon River basin.  These next two weeks he will be visiting many cities and works around Manaus as he looks to see where God would lead.  The Amazon River basin is one of the neediest areas for evangelism.

Another super needy area is not too far from home.  It's the desert Northeast especially the states of Bahia and Piaui.  Imagine that!  After Byron's big jungle trip we will be visiting a couple of cities with the least amount of biblical churches in our area just a few hours away!

There are many possibilities as Brazil is mega country with many regions that have little gospel witness.  Pray with us as we seek God's direction for our future.  We still have some good years left and want to use them well!  Here or there.  Going or staying.

 The groans of the dying rise from the city,
    and the souls of the wounded cry out for help.
Job 24:12 

The need in Brazil is still great.  
The work is not done.  
Won't you come and help.

For your information... the top 8 unreached people groups of Brazil: 

1.Indigenous people
With 117 ethnicities without a missionary presence and without the knowledge of the Gospel.

2. Ribeirinhos
In the Amazon basin there are 37,000 riverside communities along hundreds of rivers and streams. The most recent surveys point to the absence of evangelical churches in about 10,000 of these communities.

3. Gypsies (especially the Calon people)
There are about 700,000 Calon Gypsies in Brazil and only 1,000 claim to be believers in the Lord Jesus. Gypsies spread throughout the national territory in large and small cities, living in nomadic, semi-nomadic or sedentary communities.

4. Sertanejos
There are still 6,000 settlements in the desert Northeast without the presence of an evangelical church.

5. Quilombolas
Formed by Afro-descendant communities that have been living in more or less remote areas for the last 200 years. There are possibly 5,000 quilombola communities in Brazil, of which 3,524 are officially recognized. It is estimated that 2,000 still remain without the presence of an evangelical church.

6. Immigrants
There are more than 100 countries well represented in Brazil through long-term immigrants with a population of almost 300,000 people.

7. Deaf people with communication limitations
There are over 9 million people in this category in our country and less than 1% declare themselves a believer in the Lord Jesus.

8. The richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor
The eighth segment is not socio-cultural like the others, but socioeconomic. It is divided into two extremes: the richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor. In some Brazilian states there are three times fewer evangelicals among the richest and the poorest than in other socioeconomic segments.

Summarized and translated from

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Coming Home and Missionary Grandbabies...

On August 19, one of our MK boys came "home" to Brazil after a long time away.  He came with two beautiful babes and a wonderful young lady in hand, none of which we had met up close and personal.  But you know, blood is thick and it was love at first sight!

Our time was short with only the two weeks of Dalton's vacation days from his job, but we made use of every single day to its fullest.  We got to know the mommy of our grandbabies and the love of Dalton's life - Destinie.  We learned all about Paw Patrol and baby food with Chase and Mariyah's help.  

Every day was long as we tried to squeeze in lots of bonding and gobs of quality moments...

Our house was full of guests every day, lots of laughter and lots of love.  Fifteen glorious days.  

Was it worth the long flights and the costs of airfare?  I think we each would say, Oh, Yes!  And hopefully these little grandbabies of missionaries will have a little bit of Mama and Papa imprinted on their hearts when we show up for furlough later this year. 

Being far from those we love is one of the great sacrifices of missionary service.  Recently, many of our Brazilian friends have been asking when we are leaving.  Leaving?  Yeah, you're leaving soon to be with your grandchildren, aren't you?  

Seems that's the trending thought of nationals and it's common practice for many missionaries - retire before it's too late to "enjoy" your grandchildren.  

When I think of the great sacrifice that my parents made to visit their MK boys on the field time and again... when I consider the pain of good-byes at airports of my dear mother-in-law... who am I to not be willing to also make a choice to stay on the field to do the work to which I was called.  Who am I?  And of course, it's all because of who HE is, and not me.  HE is the Great Lord, God Almighty who called Byron and I years ago to missionary service in Brazil.

What does the future hold for us?  I'm not sure.  We are at the end of our time in our current location.  But I know I have a great example in the three grandparents my boys have and I plan to live up to that call - being present in every way I can for my grandbabies AND continuing to do that to which God has called me wherever that may be - near or far.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Leaving on a Jet Plane

This afternoon my babe will leave on a jet plane and fly off to the U.S.A. with no mama and no papa to accompany him, with no one to hold his hand, with no one to say "go here" and "get in that line over there" or "get your passports out."

He's had his share of traveling experiences with family and without, by bus and by plane, so his mama and papa won't worry -
 not too much.  

on our way to Belem in 2010

Fortaleza Airport, 2007
But as a mama, I reserve the right to be slightly concerned as he charts his own way through major hubs, immigration, and customs along the way.  Yes, he's been well versed and has a packet full of all the right documents, but I'll be relieved to know that he's made it through just fine on Tuesday morning.

As the last to leave the nest, we've had some good times and enjoyed some grand travels in the USA and all around Brazil.  We have had a good relationship and hopefully given this Third Culture Missionary Kid what he needs to make it in the big world out there.

There are always some worries and concerns for a mama, anywhere, but especially when the "drive" will be rather long in the case of any emergency.  Thankfully, Greyson will have two big brothers, grandparents, a great host family and a slew of people to give him direction and care over the next school semester until we join him in the states at the end of the year for our furlough.

This year has been incredible as we worked hard to squeeze in lots of good memory making moments - like sleeping in the back of our truck on our Big Brazil trip and living to tell about it.  You can't just do that kind of crazy stuff with just any crazy teenager, but Greyson is a unique young man with a special grace and maybe a little love for his old parents.

We've had a good run.  And it's not over yet.  Perhaps our futures will go along together on the mission field, perhaps not, but regardless, we rest assured that God gave us these past three years with just one in the nest, together in ministry and home as a special blessing.

Pal, you've given your old parents some sweet memories over the past three years with just you in the house.  We are very thankful.  When you made the decision to go early and start your senior year first semester instead of waiting for our furlough at year's end, your mama was a little worried, but you've proven yourself to be ready.  You are going to be very missed because of all you do in the ministry here in Brazil, and because of the happiness you add to our every morning. Our prayers and thoughts go with you.

"Painful though parting be, 
I bow to you as I see you off to 
distant clouds." 

Emperor Saga

Friday, June 16, 2017

Good Father


Happy Father's Day 2017 to the father of our three sons.  
You deserve all honor and respect as a good father, a fine Christian example and an incredible mentor.  

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Dear Byron,

Piedmont Bible College, 1985
Do you know what attracted me to you when I found myself sitting near you in chapel at Piedmont Bible College all those years ago?  You had a certain style all your own and that quirky, pun filled humor.  I thought you were a good-looking guy especially riding on that motorcycle you had.  I thought you had cute hair, and your ideas for dates were always so cool - circuses and picnics in the mountains.  And you were going where I wanted to go - the mission field.

We weren't really all that much alike in some ways.  You were Southern Gospel and I was more like Christian Rock.  You had high standards and I was always pushing the rules to the limit.  Opposites might attract, but something called love drew me to start listening to your music and try to live within the scheme of things.   I guess you grew on me.

May 30, 1987

We didn't always see eye to eye and still don't, but we learned, often by the hard way, to compromise, respect and work it all out.  It's taken a few years to find that perfect place  and it's not been easy, but I'm so glad we stuck it out in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish.  Thanks for not giving up on me.

I can truly say that I'm still attracted to that cute hair, that punny wit, and I'm still happy to be going where you are, wherever that might be.  I'm looking forward to the next thirty years and taking that cruise I always talk about together.

Happy 30th Wedding Anniversary to my best friend and the love of my life...

Byron W. Atha, II

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