Many things have changed for us over the last few months...many things that we didn't expect to change. And, then many things that we planned on changing stayed the same, much to our surprise. Here's some of what I mean...
In January, we put our house up for sale...for sale by owner. All we did was put a sign in the front yard. Within about 3 weeks, we had a contract on the house...easy breezy. We made plans to go to Dallas for Joel to get his flight instructor's license. We sent in a deposit to secure a place in a flight training program in Missouri...a Christian program where they teach pilots how to do missionary/bush flying. We had a huge garage sale and sold most of our things (we still have our beds and some personal things).
Then, the sale of our house fell through due to family illness (the buyer's family). So, we just kept our "for sale" sign up and headed to Dallas.
After Dallas, we headed back to Longview and then to Saline for Easter weekend. We had really been praying about the direction God wanted us to take. Joel, through a series of events, had begun to kind of question whether or not MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship) truly was the organization we were supposed to go with. He really had 3 desires...to be a missionary pilot, he really kind of wanted to go back to Brazil and serve there, and he also wanted to be involved in more than just flying. The week before Easter he did a search on the internet, typing in the words "amazon missionary pilot." Asas de Socorro popped up.
Asas de Socorro is a Brazilian organization that actually started out as an MAF branch, but then became Brazilian, which, as stated on their website, "was important in gaining the trust of the Brazilian government and people." They are now considered an MAF affiliate. Joel's dad took him to visit their headquarters which was about 30 minutes from their home when he was in his pre-teen years...that, and his parents reading "Into the Glory" to he and his siblings, is really what sparked Joel's desire to be a missionary pilot in the first place. So, Joel has always known about Asas, but not until his internet search did that dawn on him as an option...to just go straight into that organization.
This organization really struck a cord with us and seemed to fit us like a glove from our first glance at it on the web. Then we called them and spoke to them personally for a couple of hours, which just seemed to add to the perfect fit. Here are some things that we just really liked about Asas:
1. It's in Brazil. That is not only a great thing because of our hearts to go to Brazil, but also just logistically. Joel has dual citizenship and so do the kids (well, Grady does, but we still have to get Hadley's)...since their dad is Brazilian, all you have to do is file some paperwork. And, same with me. Since I married a Brazilian, it's just a matter of paperwork for me to get a permanent visa. Also, Joel of course knows Portuguese.
2. Asas de Socorro is a smaller organization. This allows for more flexibility in some areas. For instance, if we go with Asas, we foresee (and daydream about) being a contact for missions groups to come down from the States to work with us. It also provides a very tight-knit unit/family environment.
3. The pilots that work for Asas not only fly people into the hard to reach parts of the Amazon, but they also get to stay and be a part of the ministry at times. For the most part, MAF pilots fly people in and out, but flying is the big part of their day. With Asas, more ministry opportunities are open to you on a daily basis...and on a long-term basis. They are heavily involved in church plants, medical/dental clinics, showing of the Jesus film, etc.
4. They provide their own specialized training for pilots there in Brazil. Therefore, there was no need to go to Missouri for the missionary/bush pilot training.
So, after we spoke to them, we prayed and felt that they were indeed the organization we should apply to go with. We sent in our applications 2 1/2 weeks ago, and they still haven't gotten them in the mail. So, we are awaiting word as to whether or not we will be accepted.
In talking with them on the phone though, if we are to be accepted, the likely date for departure going to Brazil would be February 2007...yes, 8 months from now. That would be the earliest that we would probably go. So, what do we do from now until then, provided that we are accepted? Here is our answer: ??? :) We don't know. That is where you come in and can help play a part.
If accepted, we will have to raise up partners...both prayer partners and financial partners. So, those willing and wanting to be our prayer partners, start now. :) Here are some of our prayer requests/concerns:
1. Our hope was to sell the house and move close to Joel's family in Boston for a few months before going to Brazil. If this is God's will, please just pray for the sale of our house, smooth transition to Boston, a place to live in Boston, and a wonderful midwife for us while we are there.
2. If we don't sell the house and are to stay here, pray that God would make that very clear...that we would have wisdom and favor concerning getting a job here.
3. Pregnancy - We absolutely LOVE our midwife here. Oh my gosh...best ever. So, that would be a definite advantage of staying around this area. Even if we move away for a time, that is still a possibility...just coming back here for the last few weeks and the birth. So, pray that we would have wisdom and direction concerning that; and for the health of me and the baby.
4. Transportation - If we are to do a lot of traveling this year, we will most likely need a new vehicle. My '96 Saturn just wouldn't cut it, especially after we have to add a 3rd carseat. So, wisdom is needed concerning that issue...and provision as well.
5. That our base of support, both prayer and financial partners, start to be established...that God would bring that about in the coming months.
Obviously, all of these prayer requests could be blanketed under one big prayer that just asks for God's direction to be made clear to us. But, I wanted to be sure to update you all in each area of concern and explain to you some of our many options that we are being faced with.
As you can tell, there are many things to consider in this time. So many things are very much up in the air. We really appreciate your prayers and please let us know if you get any direction that you feel is from God for us.
If you are interested in checking out Asas de Socorro, here is a website that one of their pilots has put together of some of his work with them: http://www.homestead.com/amazoncurrents/. He has great pictures of the missions he and his wife have been on and some of the work that Asas de Socorro does. Asas de Socorro has 6 bases in the Amazon basin and their headquarters is located in central Brazil...the map below, at the bottom of this post, shows the locations of each base (even though it's in Portuguese). For all of you Portuguese-speaking people, there is also a Brazilian website: http://www.asasdesocorro.org.br. And you non-Portuguese-speaking people, if you google "Asas de Socorro" then you will have the option of having this website translated into English.
Thanks for all of your prayers. Let us know if you have any questions at all. We will definitely keep you posted.