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    Our Pastor Bro. Ron Harvey has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Pastoral Ministries from Mid-South Bible College and a Doctor of Jurisprudence Degree from Cecil C. Humphries School of Law at the University of Memphis. He practiced law for 22 years and was a Professor of Mass Media Law at the University of Memphis for 10 years. He has been our Pastor since January 1, 2012.
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Letter May 22, 2013

Dear Brethren:

This is a quick update to my earlier May newsletter. The Lord has blessed with several additional developments of note. Following, please also find our 1st quarter financial report, which is long overdue.

First, the Lord has opened the door to our finding a small house to rent. As we had concentrated on finding a house over the past two weeks, we were originally told by various real estate agencies that since we didn’t have a rental history in Brazil, we would either have to provide a $1,500 non-refundable deposit, or a $5,000 refundable deposit, as part of renting a house or apartment. Thankfully, a real estate agency that my dad had rented from prior to buying his current home agreed to let dad be our co-signer, given his positive rental history with them. Going this route allowed for the waiving of the deposit. We praise the Lord for my dad’s good reputation with the locals—and for my brother David’s work to make this co-signer option come together.

Our new rental house is in Presidente Prudente, across town from where my parents live. This house, while small, meets Stephanie’s requirement that it have a second, adequate bedroom for use as a nursery. Given that it is only a few blocks from the main Raposo Tavares highway that connects this region to the rest of Brazil, it also meets my requirement that it be suitably positioned to allow us convenient access to Londrina and mission fields beyond—as well as to local points of interest such as Stephanie’s doctor and the hospital. And it meets one of our greatest needs in that it is far away from any tanneries. Our current guest room lodgings are right down the street from a tannery. At night, they release industrial chemicals into the sewers, covering our neighborhood with an acrid, gagging stench. While we appreciate the hospitality of Berean Baptist Church for providing these guest rooms for us during this transition period, we look forward to moving out!

As is common in Brazil, our rental house is a bare shell. It has no fridge or stove, or even lightbulbs or toilet seats! We are expected to provide all this when we move in—and to take all these with us when we move out. At this time, we will be looking to Victory Baptist’s missionary fund for assistance with the cost of furnishing this home. For the next week or so, we hope to be deep-cleaning this residence, with a possible move-in date sometime next month when we have the basic furniture purchased.

As regards ministry, the Lord has blessed with various opportunities amidst the bureaucratic hustle and bustle of this transition period. While waiting at the doctor’s office the other day, a local teacher who was also waiting wanted to talk to me about all the “Presbyterians who traveled on the Mayflower to colonize America”. That discussion opened the door to sharing the Gospel. At lunch last week, I noticed the restaurant proprietor reading his Bible behind the cash register. Since his Bible was open to Isaiah 53-55, I asked him—in the words of Acts 8:30—whether he understood what he was reading. He grinned and we spent the next fifteen minutes talking about the Scriptures. He’s a Pentecostal, but very receptive to hearing the Gospel as well as being surprisingly knowledgeable of the Bible. His restaurant is excellent, and I look forward to interacting with him, further.

Later that same afternoon, while doing more work on Stephanie’s residency paperwork, I was approached by two Federal police officials. They had heard I was a missionary and wanted to pick my brain about “mystery religions.” After chatting about Roman Catholicism for a bit, I was able to turn the conversation back to the Gospel and inquired after their souls. One is a Seventh-Day Adventist. His church is particularly wacky and teaches—among other things—that the dinosaurs sinned, this being the cause for Noah’s Flood. The other fellow was a Pentecostal, but burnt-out with denominational religion in general. Their initial zeal to talk about mystery religions cooled quickly as I moved away from the esoteric to the Scriptural. Both are carnally confident of their salvation in their own beliefs and works, and neither was particularly excited to hear about the necessity and sufficiency of Christ’s atoning work at the expense of religious zeal. Regardless, I praise the Lord for these opportunities to talk to folks and to hold forth the light of the Gospel.

Thanks to my dad’s connections, I have been contacted by several pastors here in São Paulo who have invited me to come and preach in their churches. I have been honored by their invitations but at this time, given our current stresses and our need to find a car and furnish a house, I’ve been careful about committing to these invitations too quickly. In all but one instance, I’ve exchanged contact information with these men and the ball is now in my court: as we settle into a more normal schedule, I’ll be calling them and setting up dates for these preaching trips. The one exception I made relates to a conference that I was invited to preach at on July 12-13, in the city of Sud Menucci. I committed to that two-day speaking engagement.

In the last two weeks, I was also invited to preach at a monthly home gathering in Mirante do Paranapanema, a rural community about 45 minutes away from Presidente Prudente. This service, held on Saturday, June 18th, was an encouragement. Those in attendance were very attentive, and the Lord gave great freedom to preach. The service was also unique in that the host family’s medium-sized mutt got loose early on. It was happy to see so many people sitting around, and romped through the service begging for someone to play with it. Although it figured out that folks weren’t too interested in paying attention to it at that time and soon wandered off elsewhere, when some tardy visitors showed up twenty minutes later, it decided to take another chance at finding love—and romped through the service again. It was the most excitement I’ve ever experienced in a Baptist service!

Stephanie’s residency paperwork continues to drag on. The Federal Police folks tell us they are “optimistic” her paperwork will clear “soon”. Thankfully, this updated paperwork wasn’t required to rent our house, nor will it be needed when I find a car. Since the Federal Police hotshots believe that finalizing this paperwork is a matter of “when” rather than “if” at this stage, we are pressing on with getting other things done.

Finally, we covet your prayers as regards our health. Soon after we arrived in Brazil we learned that this country is currently reaching the apex of its three-year Dengue fever cycle. Also, our doctor has warned us that July is forecast to be particularly severe as regards H1N1 flu. While we have been careful to use the means of prevention that God has made available to us—minimizing our risks of being mosquito bit, as well as getting our H1N1 shots—we are aware that safety is truly only of the Lord.

In Christ,

Benjamin Gardner