“I think we know our answer, we just don’t want to admit it,” I said to him over lunch.
“I think you’re right,” he confessed. We ate in silence for a while after that. There wasn’t a whole lot to say.
That is what the moment was like when we finally laid to rest a dream we have had for nearly four years now. It was preceded by praying and talking and praying and seeking counsel and praying some more. And it ended with peace.
But that doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt. A lot.
It’s hard to let go of a dream.
It was the dream of living in a village with an Indian tribe, learning their culture, living their ways. The dream of our children growing up with the village children, truly knowing their culture and language like we never could. It was a dream that we have had for nearly four years, but that had been meticulously planned for over a year.
And now the other side of our village was saying no. An adamant “no”. Myths and rumors permeate the culture as it is and somehow the idea had spread that we were there to steal their gold and their children.
Really?? After installing a water system, leading medical clinics, teaching, loving—that’s what they had come up with?? We were at a loss.
Now what? The land that our Indian brother had given to us was cleared. The wood (over $3,500 worth) was purchased, cut, and waiting for the FOUR teams of almost 50 people who already had tickets purchased to travel down in LESS THAN TWO WEEKS to build our house.
What in the world were we supposed to do?
The side of the village that did want us was encouraging us to move in anyway. ‘They will come around,’ they said.
But how do you share the Gospel and live out Christ when you start off ignoring the demand of the very people you are trying to reach? Should we really do like so many in the past who have used their status, skin color, and nationality to push their way around and earn the very reputation that so many missionaries have had in the region?
We knew that was not the answer, but the answer we had was hard to fathom: trust God was in fact closing this door that had seemed wide open for more than a year.
Talk about some BLIND faith. We had no idea what in the world He could be up to. We just had to trust He was up to something and that this new plan would in fact be for our good and His glory.
Once the decision was made to forego the house build, we decided to use the four teams to accomplish some of the other projects we had planned for later in the year at the Indigenous Seminary site. After all, we had plenty of manpower and the materials to get the jobs done.
The next four weeks were without a doubt the busiest of our lives. We hosted four teams from four different cities working in two locations on four projects. Thankfully God orchestrated each group so perfectly to fit the exact needs of the project at hand at exactly the right time. Everyone was super flexible (a must for any mission project) and despite the physical exhaustion, we arrived at the end of those four weeks feeling encouraged and so very blessed to be a part of the work that God is doing in this region.
So, where did that leave us? The Seminary site now had a fully functional bathroom and septic system as well as a five tank water system, but obviously that didn’t provide us a house to live in, as was the original purpose for these groups.
God was already on it way before we even knew we weren’t going to build a house.
Some fellow missionary friends of ours who live in the little Brazilian town of Benjamin Constant had asked a local pastor to hold onto a house he was trying to rent out to see if we would want to rent it.
We went and looked at the house to see if it would work for us.
Love. At. First. Sight.
Not only was it perfect for us, it was above and beyond what we could have imagined and the rent was 1/4 the amount that we were paying in Recife for 2.5 times the space. In fact, it was big enough to be able to host families. Its location was amazing at the end of a quiet street with jungle all behind and beside and a beautiful view of farmland out front. To top it all off, it was in a neighborhood full of kids in government housing who desperately needed the love of Jesus. And the town itself is only 20 minutes by speedboat to our village, 45 minutes to Atalaia do Norte where we work with the Javari Project. And the land that has already been purchased for the aircraft hangar with our missionary partner is less than a mile from the house.
We couldn’t believe how perfectly things had fallen into place.
Not long after moving into our house, Richard and I found a passage of scripture that really stood out to me.
“I assure you: Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces a large crop. The one who loves his life will lose it, and the one who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me. Where I am, there My servant also will be. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.” –John 12.24-26
Since moving here, I don’t know how many times we have thanked the Lord that He closed the door to live in the village. We have already faced many trials involving the Indians and their vastly different and difficult culture that we know would have only been more challenging had we lived there.
God knew exactly what He was doing and that we would in fact be much more effective in reaching these people by not living with them—something we didn’t see or understand before.
Where we are now, we have already been able to minister to the needs of our neighborhood while working with the Indigenous leadership in our village, traveling to Atalaia for Project Javari, and working closely with our aviation partner to get the program up and running.
Like the verse says, when we allowed our own dreams and plans to die—even though they seemed “good” all along—when we surrendered them to God’s best, we were able to see that our “crop” here will be much greater and more efficient.
We could have held on to that dream. It was, after all, a “good” dream. But when that one died, something even greater was born. Already we have treated medical needs, had a family in great need stay with us for four days, fed and bathed street kids, built solid relationships with neighbors, discipled new believers, encouraged leadership, and strategized to reach the unreached… and it’s only been a month!
We are so thankful that God gave us the faith to follow Him on this journey and we pray are hearts always remain open to His perfect plans—even if it means the death of a dream.