It was not a direction that I had chosen, but God has His fingerprints all over this..
The Visit of 2008 –
In June of 2008, I was a part of a “Journey to Transformation” training with the Sentinel Group in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Part of the time there was what is called a “Fire Tour” (First Hand Inquiry into Revival Experience), visiting communities where transforming revival is active and present. The presence of God in each place was powerful and life changing.
All of this, I am sure, was preparation for when I would arrive in the North Eastern Brazilian City of Joao Pessoa. We arrived at 3:30 AM, and were greeted by a crowd of men, women and children from the First Baptist Church of Valentina, a suburb of Joao Pessoa.
They invited us to kneel on their country and state flags while they prayed over us to welcome us to their city. An overwhelming welcome that touched all of the team that had come from various cities in the U.S.
For me personally, this visit would be such a personal spiritual experience that I would later describe it in the only terms I could find to illustrate the work God did within me… my very DNA had been changed!
In some way, at a very deep level, God had captivated me, and there was a supernatural connection with the story, and the people of Joao Pessao and Algodao de Jandaira. (You can read this story in my book, “When God Transforms the Desert” click to order ).
The Call to Write –
In October of that year, I had throughout the night the same dream four times, of being welcomed back to Joao Pessoa and Algodao. When I awoke the next morning, the Lord in very clear terms told me I was to write a book, that would tell this incredible transformation story.
So in March of 2009, I headed back to Brazil to interview these incredible people that God had touched and used so powerfully. Along with a friend and former missionary to Brazil, David Jones, we sat hour after hour listening to the background and the details of how God had worked in their lives, and how sometimes despite them, God was unfolding His amazing plan to rescue the small dying town of Algodao de Jandaira.
As I recorded hour after hour of interviews, it was like God reached down and just “sucked me up” into the lives, and the destiny of these people and their story. The DNA transplant was taking hold of my life. During that time, the bonds that had begun the year before grew stronger, and we felt a greater affinity with each other.
The Visit of 2010 –
In 2010, my wife, Marilou and I decided that we would make a “spiritual pilgrimage” to Brazil. I wanted her to meet the people that had taken hold of my heart, and experience the power of God’s presence in those places where I had visited.
We could not afford the trip, we could not afford to be gone for three weeks, but we knew we needed to be obedient to what God was speaking to us, so for three weeks we prayed and sought God… no agenda except to seek Him, and hear from him.
It was a powerful time for us both. I was thrilled for her to visit Joao Pessoa and walk on the mountain in Algodao de Jandaira. It indeed was providential.
The experiences Marilou had that summer instilled in her a hunger for God’s presence that gave her the strength to endure a battle with pancreatic cancer that eventually took her life on September 3, 2011. God had used that trip to Brazil to give her the vision and strength she would need. It was incredible to look back and realize God’s faithful, gracious hand in all of that.
December 2011 –
In December of 2011, I made a very different kind of trip back to Brazil. There were two purposes for this trip. One, was to deliver copies of my now finally finished book to the folks in Joao Pessoa and Algodao de Jandaira. in Algodao, they were dedicating a memorial at the entrance of the city to commemorate what God has been doing in their city. I HAD to have the book there for that wonderful event.
The second reason for my visit, was to re-visit the places where Marilou and I had prayed together, and leave a picture of us, and scatter her ashes in each of those locations. It was something we had agreed on together before she died. A way of sealing what God had started. So in Sabara, in Belo Horizonte, in Joao Pessoa and Algodao de Jandaira there is a part of Marilou I buried a laminated picture of the two of us in that place, and the buried or scattered her ashes.
It was during this visit, that Bishop Eneas, Pastor of First Baptist Church in Valentina, Joao Pessoa asked me to consider coming to Brazil to work with his church. It was the next step.
My last night of that visit, after preaching in the two evening services in Bishop Eneas’ church, after packing my suitcase, and making ready for the early morning flight home, I laid my head on my pillow, closed my eyes, and the Lord revealed to me a picture. Not like a photograph but like a pencil drawing, done in blue pencil. It was of a motorcycle and a side car. A man was on the motorcycle with his helmet on, and in the sidecar was a young man, also with his helmet on. Each had a big grin on their faces, like they were really enjoying this. And the Lord spoke to my heart and said, Now, we are going to have an adventure together. It was the beginning of the next chapter.
Click here to go to the next chapter of this adventure – The Call –