Our fall has been incredibly busy. Here's an update to some of what has been happening in Amazonia.
In October we traveled to Santarém to apply for permanent visas with the Policia Federal (Federal Police). We also applied for Jonah’s Brazilian passport since he is a dual Brazil-United States citizen. Due to some recent changes in laws, we were unable to gain those. We then applied for new visas based upon Jonah’s Brazilian citizenship. We were unsuccessful because the only agent in the city for visas requested documents that we cannot produce due to changes in Brazilian laws. We then attempted to renew our current visas but have been unsuccessful due to, you guessed it, other recent changes to immigration laws.
We also traveled to São Paulo (a distance of nearly 2000 miles) to register Jonah’s US citizenship and apply for his US passport. He has since been granted both. After talking with other missionaries having similar visa problems and with Brazilian visa officials, we will be taking a six-week trip to the US in January to renew our visas in Washington, DC. This is not a trip we had planned on, nor one for which we had budgeted. We are praising God for opening doors for us to purchase airline tickets for less than we expected. We are praying that the Brazilian consulate in Washington, DC issues us new visas quickly and easily!
Jonah has received both his US and Brazilian passports!
We are adjusting to life as a family of four. Miriam is a proud big sister who is always eager to help with her baby brother.
More than 40 new believers were baptized in the Topajós River at the end of September!
During the dry season the river is low enough to form a beach allowing baptisms to take place in the river. God has created an awesome amphitheater of rocks that surround this portion of the beach allowing everyone to watch the baptisms!
We visited the Palmas, the capitol of the State of Tocantins, on the first day of the pastors' conference. We took a group photo on the steps of the Capitol building!
At the beginning of November, Church of God pastors from all over the Amazon region gathered together for the annual “Encontro Regional de Pastores e Líderes” (regional conference and general assembly). We met in the city of Porto Nacional in the Brazilian state of Tocantins, which is about 1,050 miles from Itaituba. Many of the pastors in the region traveled by bus for 50 hours non-stop one way. I (Jonathan) traveled with Pastor Jeferson by car and plane so that our trip was only about 24 hours each way! He has a new baby at home a few weeks younger than Jonah. We decided that being gone from our families for less time was a good idea. Because the distance was so far, Beth, Miriam, and Jonah stayed at home in Itaituba.
The conference lasted for four days, and it was a wonderful time of worship and fellowship together. I was finally able to meet pastors in person whom I had only met through Facebook and Whatsapp. The theme of the conference, “Agora Sou Pastor” (Now I Am a Pastor), was derived from a book of the same title. The book focuses on caring for your family, caring for yourself, and leading your congregation in a way the edifies Christ. It is a fantastic book that I wish was available in English!
The pastors who traveled by bus were on the road for more than 50 hours each way stopping only to eat. There were two bus drivers who traded off, and I had wondered how they got enough sleep to drive safely while sitting in a seat. Turns out there is a little sleeping compartment under the bus. A couple of pastors and I were looking at it and were talking to one of the drivers about it. He said AC is routed from the main passenger area down to the sleeping compartment. It has a light so you can read and a fan if you want extra air. Only thing missing is a bathroom. He said it's actually pretty comfortable.
Travel mercies not only as we travel to the US, but as we travel to Washington DC to visit churches.
That we receive new visas quickly and easily!
We have been blessed to have a new baby to gaze upon this Christmas season. My mama calls it “baby TV." It’s where you just sit, watch, grin, and marvel over all the sweet things babies do. We watch Jonah as he learns how to hold his head up, how to roll over, and listen as he tries out his first laughs. One of the wonderful developments we get to see is Jonah discovering how to use his hands. When he sees something colorful and within his reach, he works really hard to reach out with his arms, get his hands on it, open and close his fingers, and grab whatever it is that he wants. Most of the time it ends up in a swing and a miss. But he’s learning.
It makes me (Beth) reflect on another baby that we gaze upon at this time of year. It baffles me that the Lord of creation humbled Himself so much that He became a tiny baby that didn’t even know how to control His own body. The hands that would later touch untouchable lepers, that broke bread to feed the hungry, that reached out and rescued those that were sinking - those tiny hands couldn’t even bend the straw in which He was laid. What vulnerability all for the sake of love!
My prayer is that we stop and be still this Christmas. If we are too busy all we can afford to give is a glance. We need stillness in order to gaze. Gazing brings you fully present, both quiet in body and spirit, to that which you are looking upon. I pray for us all that we can find that moment, make that moment, to sit and marvel at the love that is the foundation of Christmas. You don’t even have to speak a word. Just be still and gaze at that baby, because He has you in His hands.
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