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Does God Really Care?

Things felt agitated at the prison this week. There seemed to be an undercurrent of a fight brewing. Eliel felt apprehensive but we carried on as usual. Seven of the guys completed the three-column bible studies.

1) Copy the text out from the bible onto a page.

2) Re-write the story in your own words.

3) Write down what you are going to change in your life because of the story.

They handed us a thick stack of papers that were fully hand-written, all complete pages, of these studies they have done while I was travelling.

It is a miserable existance for the 25 guys in that clammy, sweaty, damp cell but they told me again that if they go to the bigger cell they will get killed. They are accused of crimes the other prisoners don’t accept. Either that, or they are not in factions. If they refuse to join factions, they are vulnerable. If they join, it is kind of a life-time commitment from what I understand. The men get coffee in the morning, and they let me try some. It is horrible. It doesn’t taste like coffee, and they say it is full of medicine to keep them calm. It tastes like bad medicine, and the bad aftertaste lasted the whole time I was there. Disgusting. And when they describe the food they start with “may God forgive me but . . . ” They don’t want to be ungrateful, but it is the same food, cooked the same way, year in and year out. It can feel nauseating. One guy told me, “I used to weigh 110 kilos. Now I am down to 57. One year and 4 months. Look how I can lift my foot up above my other knee. I could never do that before.” I asked him if he planned to keep the weight off. “Oh no. When I get out, in two weeks I’ll be right back to where I was.” I really hope these guys can get in touch with God in a way that really catches their passions so that when they get out it affects their behavior. We need transformations.

We formed two smaller groups, and about 12 of the 25 guys participated. One guy, Cesar, confided in me with our group listening. “Most people believe in God, they just don’t believe that He cares about our daily activities or prayers. They don’t think He interacts personally with us.”

This is a good spiritual observation, and I wonder if Cesar is a Person of Peace.

He hit the nail on the head. He defined a our work. We need to set up situations where interested people can connect with God in a way that feels true to them, where they sense God connecting back.

Think about it. Who wants to sign up for a religious system just because your friends are doing this, or because it is a healthy lifestyle, or out of desperation? But we long for what is real and true.

If there was a clear and easy difference between praying to God and praying to an idol, how would idol worship prosper in the old days? How would good luck charms, witchcraft, the love of money, and false religions prosper today?

On that day of judgment they will abandon the gold and silver idols they made for themselves to worship. They will leave their gods to the rodents and bats (Isaiah 2:20).

What these prisoners need is to truly sense an interaction with a living God who cares and who wants relationship.

Prayer is really important.

All the people we talked to who are having success with Discovery Groups say that prayer is really important. We need God’s Kingdom to break into our normal zones.

Please pray that the Kingdom of God will break into this jail cell in Marabá, in power.

Pray for Cesar. And for Wolverine. And António Marcos, Rodrigo, and João. These guys are from all over Brazil. They have the potential to bring the gospel to some dark places. Let’s pray they really sense God’s presence this week.

May Your Kingdom come, and Your will be done, on this earth as it is in heaven.

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Kruger National Park was incredible. I wouldn’t have even gone if the team did not have it all planned, like a package deal. This national park has been around for about 100 years. The animals are so accustomed to vehicles with people that they hunt, eat, and play as if the vehicles don’t exist. The guides warned us to never forget how wild they are. If you step out of a vehicle everything changes. You just entered the food chain.

Here are 7 more of my favorite photos.

This is a lookout point over a waterhole, where we could carefully step out of our vehicle and have lunch.

We had the best guides. They were so gracious, and hard working. They love the animals, conservation, and their jobs.

Angelita & Clenildo, Athila & Elke, Rick & Deanna, Steve & Elba, Fátima & Daide

Amazon Village Árirua – Projecto Sorriso

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Prayer? How much?

Belem Sunset
Jefferson and Simone are the pastors at the Mutirão Church in Altamira. Saturday morning 17 leaders showed up at their house to learn about Discovery Groups. We opened the meeting with time for everyone to air questions, criticisms, or what they hoped to get out of the morning. Since all questions were well received this raised the trust level, that this was a safe place to share doubts. This group has been experimenting with acquiring prayer partners for their groups. One question that struck a nerve was, “How many groups should I commit to pray for? When I only commit to praying for one group, my friends who are starting other groups think I don’t like them.” Prayer requests and communication among this group often happens through instant messages and social media.

I asked the group to suggest some Bible verses about prayer. They separated into small groups, each one taking one of the bible teachings.

1. Each group designated a facilitator leader.

2. The facilitator’s task was to
a) Not teach,
b) Draw out discussion from everyone in the group,
c) Write down at least three things their group discovered about prayer from their verses,
d) Share their group’s learning with the larger group in 3 minutes and,
e) Answer questions from the larger group for 2 minutes in a way that invites more questions and discussion.
(Some of  these went over 20 minutes as everyone was fully engaged, helping the group to learn about structure and boundaries).

3. The group’s task was to hold the facilitator / leader accountable to his/her job.

This is so different from a leader teaching, and a group reacting to the teaching based on their own understanding (yawn). These participants were charged with a shot of adrenaline.

One scripture that stood out that morning is Romans 8:26.

Romans 8: 26-28 MSG Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. 

“If we get a request to pray for a Discovery Group, and we groan, is that a prayer according to this scripture?”

We had to leave that discussion and move on, but it leaves people wanting more as opposed to being thankful that the meeting is finally over.

Look at the faces below, and you’ll see what I mean.

It’s the difference between “When will this be over” AND “We have to stop because time is slipping away and we still have more to address.”

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Kid’s Day

Belem Sunset

Bruna (Ivanildo and Mônica’s 17 year old daughter) and Adriana (red muscle shirt) came to my door looking for balloons, or paint, or something. The Sunday School leader had not shown up, and it was time for the Kid’s Day event to start. I was amazed at their resourcefulness and outer calm as they created plan B.

Dia Das Crianças (Kid’s Day) is a statutory holiday in Brazil, with lots of advertising in the malls, and schools. Churches usually have special events. Miriam, the Sunday School leader, had just recently moved to another neighborhood across the river. She was stuck on the local bus system for a long time and this made her really late for the event.

102 children came, and most of them from difficult situations.

Lohanny, Adriana, and Ana got the Kid’s Day event going with some lively worship songs. Bruna was in this leadership team too, getting supplies, and planning next steps, as leaders do.

Miriam has graduated from being a youth to a young mom and leader.

Other young people manned the sound booth and ran countless errands.

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October Thanks and Amazon update!

Thank you so much for your prayers for us as we traveled to South Africa to participate in their National Vineyard Conference.

Because of cost savings it was a long journey to get there with driving 530 km on very rough dirt roads to get to the Santarem airport, and then traveling another 24 hours with layovers by plane to arrive in South Africa.   We arrived very tired but it was worth it as Elba was one of the main speakers and it was an awesome privilege to be with our African brothers and sisters.  There were so many good things that happened during our trip.  The biggest highlights were meeting our Portuguese speaking African family from Mozambique and Zambia.  It was really special and we are looking forward to seeing how God will expand our friendships, and lead us to work closer together.  Brazil is committed to sharing teaching material that we already have in Portuguese.  In addition, God really used a servant named André to speak prophetically to everyone from our Brazilian group.  We were all touched in a deep and profound way.   It was also an honor to be able to go to the Apartheid museum and learn more about Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela and the amazing adversities that they overcame to defeat apartheid.  Unfortunately, change is slow but as long as we continue to engage the conversation in productive and healthy ways, and leadership continues to dream for equality and freedom, I believe it will be achieved. 

A great reminder.

At the church, we had a baptism and as always it was a great celebration at the church.  Needless to say, it was also a great celebration in heaven as well.  Praise the Lord!  We are so happy for this public decision that they made in their lives and the great adventure that the Lord will lead them going forward.  Please keep these new believers in your prayers. 

The girls are doing well and to tell you the truth I am not sure if they really missed us while we traveled to South Africa. 🙂 Upon arriving back home we found and caught this snake.  We took it down to our local EPA for them to set free.  Before giving it to them, Alyssa mustered up the courage to hold the snake.  Pretty courageous.  Camilly is pictured with her cousin Apolana at one of our church events.  They are growing up so fast and turning into more beautiful women of God every day.  Also pictured, is just one of the many animals that we saw in Africa. 

Please pray for our city.  As I mentioned in an earlier email, it is now the number one city in Brazil for murders.  Unfortunately, things have not cooled down.  It continues and in just 2 days last week there were 7 murders, some execution style.  On top of all the other crime, it takes the level of fear to new heights for the people of Altamira.  We need your prayers that the Lord’s Kingdom will reign in this city and we will start to experience heaven on earth. 

Please also continue to pray for spiritual, physical, and emotional health for us.  

Much love, Steve, Elba, Camilly, and Alyssa

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On our long journey to get to South Africa we stopped at a restaurant in a small city.  I went to use the bathroom and I saw this “in case of emergency break glass”, with two shucked corn cobs.  I had no idea what it meant until I asked Elba.  OMG!!!  Praise the Lord for toilet paper!  Cannot believe that people actually used this as a method to get clean.  I lived such a sheltered life….in this case…..I am happy.  🙂

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Lives Transformed

Hello Everyone!
I hope you enjoyed hearing from Ronã last month in our blog. We want to give you all a chance to get to know him, even from afar.
We have some great news! We will be traveling to the States in 2018! We will be there from February 19thuntil May 16th. That’s 3 whole months! You will finally get to meet Ronã in person and also our new baby boy, Oliver. I can’t tell how much I am looking forward to introducing them to all of you.
Since moving to Brazil, I have only come back to the States for one month at a time. The trip has always felt rushed, not giving me enough time to connect with everyone that I would like to. That should not be a problem this time around. When the trip gets closer, we will give you more details of our itinerary, and hopefully start setting up some dates to meet with all of you.
As you all know, I have been taking part in a program called Living Waters, and we recently started a new semester. This semester, I am the only foreigner on our team which means it has been handed over to the Brazilian leadership. This is one of the main goals we have as missionaries. We want to train up native leaders in several areas of ministry, allowing them to take full ownership and responsibility. Art and Cyndi Rae have done a successful job of this with Living Waters, and I have had the privilege of being apart of and watching this take shape. I am constantly impressed with the wisdom and insight that has been birthed in our Brazilian team. They have a passion to see others healed of deep wounds and demonstrate the compassion and safety necessary to guide the broken on a healing journey. 
Our Brazilian Team
              I want to tell you about one team member in particular. Her name is Débora. I first met her last semester when she was one of the participants in a group I was leading for the Journey. The Journey acts as an introduction to Living Waters, and helps us identify those who are in need of emotional healing.
Débora was clearly desperate. The hurts of her past were overwhelming her. She seemed lost and helpless and lacked all confidence in herself. Throughout the Journey and Living Waters, she poured herself out to God and those around her, opening herself up to whatever God wanted to do in her life.  At the end of the program, you could see a significant change in her. She seemed lighter, more hopeful. She no longer carried around a spirit of being lost. She had been found.
Since then, I have been meeting with Débora once a week to help her continue in her spiritual growth. She has also been participating in my women’s group on Saturday mornings. What I have seen from her has been amazing to watch. Today, she is a woman full of joy and gratitude for the work of God in her life. And everything that the Lord has been doing in her, she has already started to give away.
Débora is currently training to be a Living Waters group leader. And almost every time our women’s group meets, she brings someone new with her. I jokingly asked her if she was just pulling these women off the street on the way to group! She is constantly telling me about someone she has met or knows who is going through a difficult time, and she has prayed with them and helped them connect to God. It’s as if all those around her can see the work of God in her humble heart and are immediately drawn to her.
A few weeks ago, after our Living Waters meeting, she was talking to another participant about a local orphanage. She came to me and said, “Allison, I think we should go there!”.
A week later, we were on the steps of the orphanage, talking to the attendant, only to find out that they currently had 4 babies living there. My heart broke. We went inside and spent the next few hours holding little babies in our arms and trying to give them all the love and attention we had. Since then, we have been talking to other women we know so that we can get a group together to go there and serve these children on a regular basis.
For me, it has been such a joy to watch what God is doing through Débora. Seeing someone transform right before your eyes is an incredible privilege. It is what makes all the sacrifice and challenges worth it! I believe this is what Jesus meant when he said that we are to go and make disciples. He wasn’t looking for converts or church goers, but to see others truly bearing the fruit of his likeness.
Thank you for your prayers as we serve here as missionaries in Brazil. Our goal and hope is to be apart of more stories like the one above: Lives Transformed. When you give and pray for us, you are taking apart in this transformation as well. We are all on the same team, working towards the same calling and goals. God bless you all! We love you!
The Moura Family

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Devine Connections, Hurt by the Church, Cracking Down the Walls

Devine Connections

There are times in life when you feel like God is distant, wonder if he’s even aware of your existence and then there are times that you feel like He is orchestrating your every move.
Lately, we’ve felt more like we are in the latter experience.  God seems to be connecting us to key people with shared vision, goals and dreams.
Recently we felt we should meet with the minister of a local Anglican church we have been visiting now and then.  It’s a strange thing to be without a congregation for this long, the longest period of time we have not been regularly attending organized church since we became Christians.  This Anglican church is very much like our beloved Vineyard.  We have had several conversations with the minister who was recently made Bishop in the region. A few Sundays ago as we were leaving the service in a bit of a rush because I realized I had left our slow cooker on burning my baked beans, Phil was stopped by one of the ministers saying he had seen us praying for the girls.  He said they wanted to know how they could help and be involved.
This week we met with Marcio, the bishop for the northeast region and shared our story.  Half way through he shared a dream he had about giving a dinner for the women and men in prostitution, he described it as a very fancy dinner with tablecloths and nice dishes and that he was wearing a suit (rare for him). He said, ‘it was very honouring to them and it was like…like a banquet’.
At this point Phil and I started to laugh the kind of laugh that bubbles up when you realize God is speaking the same thing to others that he has been speaking to you.  We shared the fact that doing banquets for these ladies is one of the things we are working towards.
He became very excited and offered up their beautiful space to hold our banquets in.  He went beyond that and offered up the space for us to use as our Vineyard church family begins to grow and we need  space to meet in!
He believes strongly that we, as Christians, should be more about being the body of Christ than our denomination.  We can see a future of our two churches working closely together to expand the Kingdom here in João Pessoa.
I am continually amazed on this journey at the ways he guides, provides and loves us!

Image result for church
Hurt By The Church, Released by Forgiveness

What used to take us an hour is now taking about three or more hours.  Spending time with the girls has gone beyond a quick prayer of blessing and request for health and protection to the girls sharing their hearts and lives.  We talk, laugh, cry and pray together.  
Some are more open than others.  One of the women we met in the first few days is particularly closed off, she always allows us to pray but you always know that she is not really letting her guard down.  A couple of weeks ago as we were praying for her to be freed from addictions she said she struggles with, I felt I was supposed to ask her if she had been hurt by the church.
She pulled back and looked at me like, how did you know that?
Yes, I was, she said.  A pastor asked me to have an affair with him.
My heart sunk.  Oh, how the enemy messes with the people who are supposed to represent a just, fair and loving God.
I was at a loss for words so I prayed quickly….’ok God, now what?!’  I felt that Phil was supposed to apologize and ask for her forgiveness on behalf of the pastor, the church and men in general who have hurt her.
So, there in the street with cars passing, some slowing down to stare, Phil put the power of forgiveness in her hands. She forgave and then, without prompting or asking leaned over and hugged Phil.
After that moment her entire demeanour changed.  Her body language was much more relaxed, she smiled more, it was clear to see that a bit of her protective armour had fallen away.

As we were getting up to leave she said, ‘Please don’t stop coming here, we really appreciate what you do here, I always feel lighter and more at peace after you pray for me’.

All of these women have similar hurts.  God knows what each of those hurts is and when he tells us it’s like he’s giving us the keys to open the door to the protective wall they have built around their hearts.
Daily they deal with hurt, rejection, jealousy and addictions.  They are enslaved to a destructive lifestyle that, for a variety of reasons, they can’t see a way out of.  We are continuing to pray that as God works on healing them physically and spiritually, that he will also give them new eyes to see hope for a different future.
We are so grateful to be a part of what God is doing on that dark street.  There are so many stories, every time we go God moves in some way.
Next month we will begin our beach church. Stay tuned.

Below is a video of the making of a bench Phil made to install in one of the locations the girls wait for clients…


Cracking Down the Walls

Running parallel to our ministry to the women we have been trying to crack through the hard surface of this concrete jungle to find the soil to plant a church.  One of the ways to do this is using our skills as native english speakers.
Last month I started teaching at a local bilingual school where I have been able to incorporate Alpha into the curriculum, this encourages the students to have great conversations about what they believe.
Recently, Phil was invited to begin an Alpha course in the state university english class.  University is where we are more likely to find people who are not part of a church or have begun to question their spiritual beliefs. Research says that only 30% of young adults who enter University as Christians leave as believers. University is a great education but it also is a setting where people are taught to question everything and discover who they are apart from their family.
 Alpha is the perfect tool in this environment because it works best when there are people with different opinions and lots of questions.  It’s also a great tool for people wanting to improve their english because instead of repeating simple phrases or learning grammar, it forces them to express their thoughts and opinions about a sometimes heated topic.
After the first video, at some points, the discussion became so passionate that the students flipped into Portuguese because expressing themselves and their thoughts won out over speaking in English.
Our goal in this is to identify people who are interested in continuing and perhaps starting a small group with friends or family, people who naturally meet.  We are looking for ‘people of peace’ as the Bible refers to them, who will connect us to larger groups of people.
We keep following and walking through the doors as God opens them.



We have been blessed to have several visitors already in our first year here.  Last month we had Allison, Ronã and their adorable baby boy Oliver visit for two weeks.  Their visit had several purposes.  Oliver’s birth needed to be registered, Allison needed to change her name in her passport, Ronã needed to apply for a visa and last but certainly not least, they are praying about whether or not João Pessoa is the next step in their missionary journey.
Please join us in praying with them that God will speak directly to them about where they are to serve here in João Pessoa.


We were invited to start a youth Alpha in an apartment building where a member of our small group lives.

On the first night it was evident that Luke, without being asked, was facilitating the group.

It’s exciting to see him stepping out in this way!

He’s a teenager now, a time when he can either influence or be influenced, we are overjoyed to see him doing the former!


HELP! We need to build a team here to facilitate the growth of the ministry and the church.  Please pray with us that those who’s hearts are stirred will begin to surface to help us.
Kids-Both our kids are nearing the end of their first year of studying here in Brazil, it’s been a really tough year for both them and us as we learn the ins and outs of the system, more of the language etc. adjust (AGAIN) to a new city, friends etc. this is a lot for them to process.  
Finances/Resources-As a missionary one of the hardest things is to feel like you are always asking, but that is the reality!  In order to grow our ministry and church we also need the resources to do so.  Both people and finances are needed.  We need to connect to the people who can help us further the ministry and grow the church

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September 2017 Newsletter

Dear friends and family,

Thank you for your prayers and support. They have been greatly appreciated.

Denise and I are just over halfway through our time here in the States. We are having a great time! We have met with many people, visited a handful of churches, had friends from Brazil visit us here and took a family vacation. Best of all – we have had a wonderful time doing it all.

Our time here has been great for the two of us. Once we head back to Brazil we will send a more in-depth recap of our furlough and some of the things God has done. But for now we thought we could share some pictures to highlight our time here so far. Enjoy!

It has been awesome to see so many of you while we are here and look forward to spending more time visiting. Thanks again for your prayers and support.

In His Service,

Christopher & Denise

Contribution link:

Hanging out with my dad’s side of the family.

Vacation with my family. We had an amazing time!

We had the opportunity to get together with Buck and Luciene Schmidt. Buck and Luciene planted the Vineyard in Macapá back in 2004. We had a great time with them!

Our Friends from Macapá, Diego and Sid, came and hung out with us for 3 weeks!

Denise and me being interviewed by Dave DiYanni at Vineyard Community Church on the east side of Columbus.

Me being interviewed by Michael Hansen at Vineyard Church of Delaware County.

Denise and me

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It’s a Big Jungle

Recently I had lunch with a friend who has been working for years to launch an aviation ministry in the Amazon.

“In my observation the church is working hard at bringing the gospel to the river people of the Amazon Basin who live within one day’s boat ride of the major cities here. And then it kind of stops.”

I opened Google Earth, and drew a circle that has a 100 mile radius / 160 km radius around each major city, thinking that an average river boat might get that far in one day. Outside of these circles my friend says there is significantly less knowledge of the gospel.

These places are hard to get to, hard to live in, and you might wonder if it is worth it.

“How small do you think a community is before the people no longer matter? What if there are 2 or 3 families living way up a creek? Do they count?”

I remember flying over the jungle with Luke Huber, in his ultra-light. We lifted off the river, flew over a stretch of jungle. Hidden in the jungle was a creek with a few stilt houses. Luke yelled at me over the roar of the engine,“I didn’t know people were living out here. We need to get out here with the gospel.”

I thought, “Really? You just get a boat and show up at somebody’s place with the gospel?” Since I was new to Brazil I filed my thoughts away on a back shelf. As time went on I realized we actually can do this. Many people receive us and our message gratefully. The bottle-neck for us became how to train the workers. With great effort we got to some remote locations to start a church with a key family and developed a support network for that little group. The key family learns from the teacher who lives in the city, and the others learn from the key family.

Two challenges we encounter are:

1. How to maintain a sufficient support links to a city church.
2. If the key family moves to another location the church often ceases to exist.

This is where Discovery Bible Studies may really shine. 

In a Discovery Group (1) everyone changes something in their lives each week because of the gospel, and (2) everyone has a spiritual conversation in a natural way each week with an acquaintance. Weekly the Discoverers (disciples) share their experiences with each other. Imagine the potential. These people get to experience the joy of a daily, personal walk with God. This is different than hearing someone teach and trying to obey that person’s council about how it works. This is more about everyone connecting with God and interacting with what they are learning.

Jesus says the bottle-neck is laborers. In my experience laborers don’t usually have all the finances and the big picture figured out. They are the disciplined people who get up early, put their work boots on, make their lunch, and go do what they can all day long.

When He [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:36-38).

We know that in God’s economy spreading the gospel to everyone in the Amazon is within reach. I suspect God has many people willing to give their lives to a career that is deeply satisfying. Imagine the books and stories that will come from the group that reaches into these remote locations.

So for you, if you are interested . . . are you willing to bring your loaves and sardines to Jesus?

Imagine if this was true, if it really was this simple. What if, in a act of obedience, we brought our little selves to Jesus, believing that He could do amazingly impossible things?

1. What would be your next step? And if the Lord encouraged you on, what would be your next step after that? What would you have to actually do?

2. What is the risk? What would it cost you?

3. What is the potential gain, in this world and in the next?

4. Are you willing to take your next step?

A 100 mile radius around the major cities of the Brazilian Amazon is more evangelized.

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