On January 4, a team of eleven Brazilian missionaries came to Argentina to serve God and bless our church. We spent two weeks speaking Portuñol (Portuguese + Español) with them and laughing a lot. Each one has a talent—preaching, singing, acting, teaching; but their most effective evangelism tool is their incredible joy. It was wonderful to bask in the presence of God with them.
While they were with us we prayed over the city, presented dramas in plazas, and hosted events for men, women, and teens. We, the 40/40 missionaries, also tried to include them in our daily work. A few weeks earlier, Ashley and I had started something we’ve termed a “plaza of prayer” where we have a Bible study and prayer time in a public plaza. One Thursday, three of the Brazilians were able to join us. They sat uncomfortably in the 85 degrees of dry, summer heat sipping on mate tea, a traditional hot Argentine drink. It’s interesting to watch a third culture experience some of the same culture shock we’ve experienced in our second culture. Their general mood improved when some Argentines showed up. We even had a new participant! Ashley shared a lesson about how to start the year well with discipline and patience in God. She challenged each person to think about how they wanted to grow closer to God this year. We discussed perseverance and depending on others to help us when we want to give up on our goals. Suddenly, Flavia, one of the Brazilians, began crying. Her tears clouded her Portuguese and made it even more difficult to translate; effectively proving the point of her testimony. God had called her to do mission work in Argentina six years earlier when such a calling seemed impossible. She was raising five children and life was just too busy. Out of obedience, she began studying Spanish. Then she gave it up. Then she tried again. And quit again. Over and over for six years. Regret visibly poured out of her. God had given her a promise with plenty of time to prepare for it. Now, because of her lack of faith, she couldn’t communicate effectively with the people to whom she had been sent with such great news. In spite of all this, there was hope and joy in her eyes when she finished. She was sad, but her faith had been renewed. What a good and powerful God we serve who keeps His impossible promises to us. She encouraged the others in the group to keep moving forward. Like drops in a bucket, keep reading your Bible. Keep obeying and serving in big and small ways. Keep seeking more of God. He has promised us more, and is always faithful to give.
The next evening we had a children’s event in another plaza near our church. We showed up in clown outfits carrying a puppet show stage and quickly had an audience of twenty small children eager to participate. We sang some songs and the Brazilians performed a puppet show about love and forgiveness. Rachel used the puppet story to present the gospel. As soon as she started explaining Jesus’s sacrifice, the crowd began to shrink. Parents pulled their kids out of the group and led them back to the playground. By the time Rachel finished her prayer, there were only four kids left staring up at her from the concrete. I wrapped up my conversation with one of the moms and saw one left standing and watching. I approached her and asked if one of the four children was hers. She pointed to the smallest little girl and explained that she always loves watching performers in the plaza. We chatted a little bit about the daughter and the plaza before getting to the main point – Did you hear the explanation about Jesus? Yes, she had. Big sigh. “I never used to believe in Jesus.” She had recently lost her job. Here in Cordoba, food and rent prices are increasing every month and jobs are hard to find. After losing her job, she started praying for the first time in her life. Two days ago, she had a vivid dream. She was looking at herself in a large mirror, and Jesus appeared standing behind her. He said, “I exist,” and she woke up. The next day, she got a call for a job interview. The next day, she met us, doing the one thing her daughter loves most about the plaza and talking about Jesus. Her name is Valeria, and she could use your prayers. Her whole life is changing. After the event, I told Rachel about my conversation with Valeria, and she began to cry. Rachel thought she hadn’t gotten through to anyone. She thought God couldn’t use her. She thought she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. She couldn’t have been more wrong.
In their two weeks with us, the Brazilian short term team preached the gospel, shared testimonies of God’s power, and encouraged the faith of many people. These two stories represent a lot of what our team has gone through. We have waited, sometimes patiently and faithfully and other times not. We have given up on God because we couldn’t see how He was moving. If you are feeling this way, or when you are feeling this way, be encouraged and know that it simply isn’t true. God is always simultaneously preparing, fulfilling, and completely His work in and through us. With time and wisdom, we see His faithful and powerful hand moving through all situations. In the end, it is clear that only He can receive the glory.