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Letter May 4, 2013

Dear Brethren:

It has been three weeks and a half since we touched down in Brazil, and—although we have to look hard at times to see it—the Lord’s Providences precede us on every side. We thank you for your prayers for us!

A week and a half before we left for Brazil, we discovered that the Lord has blessed us with a pregnancy! Given our miscarriage in May 2012, we considered whether we should continue to the mission field, as planned. Ultimately, we decided to continue to walk by faith and departed.

Thanks to my mom and sisters and their research into finding a doctor before our arrival, Stephanie is now under the medical care of Dr. Fernando Barreiros here in Presidente Prudente. He seems to be knowledgeable, conscientious and thorough—and he even speaks passable English! Please continue to be in prayer for us in this pregnancy. There are many unknowns, but our omniscient Lord is in control.

As a result of this pregnancy, of our finding a doctor here in Presidente Prudente, and of my desire to be closer to my family during the next eventful 7 months leading up to our December 1st due date, I have decided not to range as far south as originally planned. Rather, as a result of my father’s contacts in the area, I have made contact with a family in Londrina, about 100 miles south of Presidente Prudente. They have been praying about starting a Baptist work in that city, and they are very open and willing to meet me to consider that end. I hope to drive down and meet them in the coming weeks to discuss this matter.

While we praise the Lord for the pregnancy, our doctor and the encouragement and companionship of our family, it has been harder to praise the Lord for the immigration department, overseen by Brazil’s Federal police. This past week, after finally completing the process to register our marriage in Brazil, I took Stephanie down to the immigration department and presented the documentation that the consulate in Chicago had given us, thus completing the process of registering Stephanie in Brazil and obtaining final official permission for her to remain in the country permanently. The immigration official on duty reviewed the documentation and rejected it immediately. The Brazilian consulates, she informed us, have different standards for allowing entrance into the country, and the Federal police do not accept such. Accordingly, she gave us 10 days to pull together a whole new set of documentation.

As we spent the rest of this past week pulling together the needed documentation, we discovered why the Federal police won’t accept consular documentation. Quite simply, there’s too much money involved! For example, a simple form stating that I will be financially responsible for Stephanie during our stay in Brazil was required by both the consulate and the Federal police. The consulate’s form was free to obtain and fill out. The same form as required by the Federal police costs $150!

After spending more time and money on this matter than I care to talk about, we were able to submit the new set of documentation to the Federal police yesterday. They took our packet and told us that they will call us in 10 days with a final determination. At that time, and if the paperwork is accepted, Stephanie will be issued an ID, thus completing (we hope and pray!) this process and allowing us to move on to other things.

One experience serves to illustrate what we’re up against. We were told to show up at the Federal police’s headquarters at 2:00 PM this past Friday afternoon in order to submit the second packet of documents we were required to obtain. We showed up at 2:00, as requested—only to be informed that the immigration staff were late getting back from lunch. We waited until 2:25, at which time I went looking for someone to help us. I found the gentleman responsible for the entire Federal police unit—a military colonel—and sat at his desk. After brief introductory chit-chat, I presented my complaint that we had showed up at the time requested, and were frustrated by the lack of presence and action in the immigration department. He looked at me, grimaced slightly and said, “Sir, this is Brazil. It doesn’t work like you seem to think it should.” His words have become a bit of a mantra to us!

Given the hassle and runarounds—both as it related to registering our marriage as well as with the immigration department—I have temporarily quit pushing to find a house and a car here for lack of time to do so. Not only do we have the continued use of the guest room here at Igreja Batista Bereana, but my family has continued to allow us to use one of their cars. I am deeply in the debt of my family and the church. Without this network of support, I really don’t know how we’d meet deadlines and shuttle back and forth in this tiring, discouraging bureaucratic scavenger hunt.

While our struggles throughout these weeks often have us longing thinking wistfully of a one-way ticket home, we praise the Lord for Saturdays and Lord’s Days. Not only are we able to catch up on a little bit of rest on those days, but my brother, David, has graciously allowed me to preach on a regular basis here at Igreja Batista Bereana—both on the Lord’s Days as well as Wednesdays. The Lord is giving great freedom and fluency in the pulpit, and it is a blessing and encouragement to see the Lord’s blessings there, even when His hand seems to be veiled elsewhere. The members here are a great encouragement to us, as well.

I’m also glad to report that Stephanie is coming along in her language acquisition skills. She now exchanges simple greetings with folks, and her understanding of spoken Portuguese has increased exponentially in the last three weeks. She has even, on one occasion, caught a verbal slip I made while preaching—and later asked me about it. I married a smart girl!

Again, we thank you for your bearing with us in prayer! Looking at the obstacles that have been raised up, and which the Lord is helping us to overcome, I tremble at the thought of facing them without the faithful intercession of fellow brethren.

In Christ,

Benjamin Gardner