Thank you! To all of you who read, pray, support and love us thank you! We love you all!
Home for The Holidays
What Were We Thinking? Winter in Canada is COLD!
Although we are questioning our sanity going back (as are many others) for apparently the coldest winter in 36 YEARS we thoroughly enjoyed being with friends and family and making some new connections during our time in Canada.
Christmas with my big beautiful family!
Our very wintery drive to Ohio
Our time in Canada was short, and we apologize if we were unable to connect with you on this visit, please know there is an open invitation to visit us in Brazil or we will have to make sure we see you on our next visit!
Winter's beauty at our home church
Thank you to all of you who loved us, kept us fed and warm and reaffirmed to us how much we love our Canadian family!
Making winter memories!
This wonderful family puts up with us and lets us call their home our home when we are back in Canada, we love you Fellmans!! or as we like to call ourselves 'Snellmans'!
The Way Forward
As we have shared our stories of what God has been doing through us during our first year in JoÃ£o Pessoa and our ideas and hopes for the future, we have been so encouraged, things have evolved and we have vision and so much excitement for the future.
We are beginning to see the girls in their homes, this gives us the opportunity to meet and begin to build relationships with their families neighbours and friends, and we know that that will only increase as we get to know them more. As we prayerfully move forward we can see where God is giving us more and more opportunities to expand our relationships and the Kingdom through these growing relationships!
We are continually surprised at how God has connected us in such a short time. A year ago we arrived in a city of almost a million people and the only people we knew left the city. We now have a large circle of friends and a ministry we love! Blessed beyond measure!
Last August Phil began running Alpha in a state University English class. The opportunity came about when one of the people who had been taking Alpha in our home suggested it might be a possibility.
The professor gave one stipulation, â€˜If even one student complains, we have to shut it downâ€™. At the time any kind of religious based study was prohibited in the University.
Not only were there no complaints, there were passionate discussions that often flipped from english into Portuguese as they asked the hard questions and wrestled with what they believed. It went so well and the students enjoyed it so much that we have been invited to do TWO classes this year! This is great news as it introduces us to new people.
When we return we will be starting a new small group and inviting the people in the class to come.
Educating Luke and Faith
As most of you know we made the decision last year to put Luke and Faith into a Brazilian school. After four and a half years of homeschooling (which is a callingâ€¦.and I donâ€™t have it!) and going from living somewhere where they were surrounded by other kids to a big city where we live behind walls, we felt that the healthiest decision for them and our family was that they start going to traditional school.
Ready Set Go! The school year just started!
It has been the best decision we could have made! They love being surrounded by people, even though it has meant a lot of blood sweat and tears as they learn to read and write in their second language. They both passed their first year which is a small miracle in itself and as a mother, I see it as fruit of the strong willed personalities they have, they persevered and it paid off!
The school they attend is private and fully Portuguese. The public school system in Brazil is not equipped to handle the kind of accommodations immigrant students need and unfortunately the system is broken in many other ways. There are frequent strikes and students suffer because of it.
The cost of schooling privately is high, but the benefits for our children and us as a family are immeasurable. They finally feel as normal as they possibly can as missionaries in a foreign field. Not to mention they are getting an education and becoming fully bilingual. When they reach high school age (only a year away for Luke!) they have the option of entering a dual diploma english program that will give them a Brazilian diploma and an American one. Both Luke and Faith want to pursue their post-secondary education in Canada, so this dual diploma will ease the transition.
The downside is that the cost is something very difficult to carry on our limited budget. We have started a go fund me to help with the cost of this crucial need for our kids.
We are asking friends, family and supporters to consider giving towards this campaign or investing in them by sponsoring them on a monthly basis. Investing in a kids education is priceless and you are indirectly helping our ministry by helping us keep them in school.
Hereâ€™s the link to give to the campaign. If you would like to help monthly with their expenses, just reply to this email and we can discuss how you can go about doing that.
As we settle in to our other home it stirs all kinds of emotions, although we love where we are living and what we get to do, having your heart in two places can make transitioning difficult, especially for our kids.
Please pray that they have a great transition back to Brazil and back to school and routine
Please pray that we are able to pick up where we left off. Leaving so early into the ministry was hard, the girls asked often, â€˜youâ€™ll be back right?â€™. We have tried to keep in touch as much as possible but we know itâ€™s also possible that we may have some ground to make up.
Please pray for wisdom as we move forward, our greatest desire is to always be in step with our Father and what His plans are.
Please keep our friends and co-labourers Allison and RonÃ£ and their son Oliver in your prayers, they are about to start the process to fundraise and move to JoÃ£o Pessoa to join our team! We are so excited to have our team grow!
Finally, please pray for the girls we are ministering to, that they would increasingly feel the Fatherâ€™s love so deeply, that they would have the courage to take the necessary steps forward to see their lives changed!
We are coming to Ontario for Christmas! Now that our kids are in school, furloughs will need to line up with our kids’ school holidays, and in Brazil the school year ends in December. We are cold just thinking about it and you may see us wearing ‘suvets’ (see photo) to keep warm! But we are also very excited to spend Christmas with our friends and family. Being Canadian, a warm snowless Christmas always feels a bit odd.
We are looking to connect with as many of you as possible while we are back but due to our limited time (7 weeks) we will be trying to do some group gatherings as well as one on ones.
We will be sharing at the Cambridge Vineyard Sunday December 10 just two days after we land. We will be the ones with our teeth chattering! We will also be having a lasagna lunch after the service for all of you who have supported us financially and in prayer and for those of you who want to hear more and maybe even join the team, we will be there to eat, talk and hug you all.
In addition to lunch we will be holding a silent auction withsome lovely items from the tourist market here that would make great Christmas presents and will help us to update some of our limping technology. If you can help by making a lasagna or caesar salad or garlic bread please get in touch!
We are also in need of a car to borrow during our time in Canada to facilitate all the visiting we will need to do. If you have a car available for all or part of the time we are in Canada (Dec 8-Feb 4) please let us know!
If you are part of a church or small group, please let us know how we can share at your gathering. It has been an incredible year full of stories and we would love to share them with you!
We hope to see you at one of these gatherings or contact us to set up a time to chat!
Quick Look At Snell Christmas Schedule:
December 10-Speaking at Cambridge Vineyard followed by Lasagna lunch and silent auction
December 12-15- Vineyard ‘Genius Bar’ Kelowna B.C. (with national Vineyard leaders David and Anita Ruis)
January 12-14 -Ohio- Vineyard Church of Delaware County (VCDC)
January 21-Living Water Christian Fellowship, New Hamburg
January 28- Mapleview Mennonite Church, Wellesley
Church on the Beach
Early on when we started this ministry with the women in prostitution, as we prayed for wisdom, next steps and basically ‘what do we do God!’ he showed me a picture of a tent on the beach, laying out all the details for us. It was to be white, with three sides closed in, a carpet on the floor, flowers and music. We were to create another environment entirely different from the street where we normally pray.
The three sides were to be closed in so that their only view was of the beach in front of them, away from curious eyes. We are so often stared at as we pray for and with these women that I no longer even notice it.
We found the materials and began to plan when we would do it, talking to the girls about it and handing out invitations.
The day of the event felt like the first day we went to pray for them, we had no idea what to expect. Would anyone turn up?
As it turned out, 5 of the girls turned up early, a very rare thing in Brazil! We weren’t completely set up so we had to ask them to come back.
When we were fully ready they came back, entered the tent and sat down. I handed each of them a small card I had written up that said we are all hurting, broken in some way and that the world puts labels on us but that we have another identity in Christ. I asked that they close their eyes and ask Jesus to show them how he sees them while I washed their feet.
Earlier that week both Phil and I had suffered from a major crisis in our spine, him in his lower back and me in my neck. I was awake at night because of the pain. When the day came for Phil and I to go pray he asked if I still wanted to go and I said without a doubt, yes! I wanted to take the opportunity for the girls to pray for me.
As it turned out only one of the girls was there, she asked how we were and I said ‘mais ou menos’ which means, ‘so-so’ I explained what was going on with my neck and asked if she would pray for me this time. Her eyes got wide and then she looked at the ground and said, ‘oh, I don’t know…’ her voice trailing off.
I looked her in the eyes and asked if she had given her life to Jesus before. She said she had. I explained to her that she had the same authority in Christ to pray for me as I did for her, that we were no different. Jesus told his disciples that they would do everything and he did and more, and that means her too.
She agreed to try. I told her to put her hands on my neck and just simply tell the pain and inflammation to go in Jesus name. She did and I felt a warm sensation run through my neck. I also felt I heard the Lord say that he had given her a gift of healing. Afterwards I tested it out, the pain had diminished slightly. I encouraged her that sometimes we are healed completely and instantly and sometimes it takes time, and sometimes it doesn’t happen. But what is important is that we try. I also told her what I thought I heard. A smile crept across her face and she said, ‘that’s not the first time I’ve heard that. Another missionary in a church prayed over me once and told me that God gave me a gift of healing.
The next morn I woke up and my pain had almost completely disappeared. I messaged one of the other girls and asked her to tell the girl who prayed for me what happened.
Back to the beach church.
As I was washing the girls feet, behind me was the girl who had prayed for my neck. She was quietly sobbing as she read the Father’s Love Letter. I made my way around the chairs praying and washing their feet and finally came to her. After I washed her feet I asked her what was going on. She said she felt as though God was pursuing her, that she had once been very close to Him had been baptized in the spirit, spoken in tongues and other experiences but now, because of her shame she is afraid to face him. The other girls began to encourage her and she then started to passionately talk about how this life they are living isn’t pleasing to God, that they need to get out, that she would rather sell food on the beach than her own body. She had been to church the week before with her mother and she said she felt as though the sermon was directed at her, she said she could barely lift her head because she felt as though she would see the face of God and her shame was so heavy she couldn’t do it.
I spoke to her about the fear, that it is a tool of the enemy to keep us far from God and that her sins are no different from my sins, that not one of us is perfect and capable of living a sin free life, the only one who ever did that was Jesus and then he paid for all our sins when he died for us, so that we could be free. The important thing is that we recognize that we are not perfect and always lean on the only one who can free us.
One of the girls then suggested we all stand and pray together, we held hands and asked God to show them what he created them for, how they can leave the life they don’t want to live, that he would fill all of them with his unconditional love, that they could all feel that they are loved no matter what they have done, they can always turn to their father.
To say Phil and I were overwhelmed would be an understatement. In such a short time we have come to love these women and feel privileged that God has invited us in to what He is in the midst of doing.
We are now working on how we can begin to help these women takes steps forward to a new life. Explaining to them that the change will not be fast, but that in the end it will definitely be worth it.
This is just one of the stories that have come out of this ministry this month. There are so many more and we look forward to sharing them with you or your small group or congregation while we are back in Canada.
Documentary in the Making
Creative Impact Ministries is comprised of an American couple and their son, making documentaries to help missionaries tell their stories. This month we were blessed to have them with us for six days, filming interviews with us and documenting our story as missionaries.
It was a fun, busy few days and we are looking very forward to seeing the final product!
In the mean time, you can watch this scene...we might have had a little too much fun with them!
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!
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...
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.
LUKE FACILITATES ALPHA YOUTH
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
When we moved here in October we had a plan, so did God....they just weren't the same.
‘We Don’t Want to Be Here, We Need To Be’
It’s a phrase we hear often now, a prayer request to be freed from the life they are living. The women we are praying for twice a week have begun to open up to us more and more since we were robbed. What used to take about an hour now takes more than two as the women want to spend time and share their hearts.
When we introduce ourselves to girls we haven’t met before (and there are ALWAYS new girls) one of the first things they often ask is, ‘was it you guys who got robbed?’ The story is making it’s way around and, we believe, that because we have come back they are opening up to us more easily.
What could have scared us away has actually opened their hearts.
Before we go down we always spend time in prayer. We pray for protection for them and us, we pray for God to go before us and we pray for words of knowledge, things that only God can know about them. If God knows of any physical pain or illness or emotional need we ask that he would show us so that we can pray for them to be healed.
It’s always fun to see the look on someone’s face when they have been physically healed. There have been many of these in the past month and each one immediately goes and tells someone else what just happened. There is something spiritual that happens when someone is physically healed, that persons faith is increased immensely almost instantly and their trust in God and us is strengthened.
The walls they have built begin to tumble.
One particular story stands out. One of the days we went down I felt like someone was suffering from some kind of lower abdominal pain or infection. When we arrived we asked the first group of girls if any of them had this issue. They immediately said no, but that one of the other girls who usually waits with them has been in a lot of pain in her abdomen from a surgery.
But she was out with a client. We said we would make our rounds praying for the other girls and come back.
When we came back she was there and she explained that she had had a c-section three months earlier and that the incision still gave her pain, she had to start back to work soon after the baby was born. It was her second c-section in less than two years.
I asked her to put her hand where the incision was and prayed for it to be healed. After praying twice she poked around and said the pain was gone. This girl normally is very cold, she tolerates our presence there and usually allows us to pray for her but as I pray she usually stares me directly in the eyes, like she’s looking for the real reason we are there. There was a strong distrust.
After her physical pain left her body she started to share her emotional pain with us, she opened up her heart in a way she hadn’t before. She said she often feels that people are either hurling abuse at her or she feels invisible. We prayed again, this time for her emotional healing, we assured her that she is not invisible to us and definitely not invisible to God.
Before we left we gave her a copy of the Father’s Love Letter that we give to all the girls we haven’t met yet. She said she would read it when she got home.
When we drive home we have to drive down the same road where they work. As we passed her she was reading the letter.
The next time we saw her she looked like a different person, her face was lit up and she smiled at us with a warmness that I hadn’t seen before.
‘I loved the letter you gave me! Thank you!’ she said beaming.
I’m not a psychologist and I don't pretend to be an expert on what these women face every day, but I believe that they have to create an armour of defence mechanisms and that trusting people must be very difficult.
Before I left for our annual conference in Altamira Phil and I went down again to pray for them. As we were praying for one of the girls we met on that very first day, a car stopped and someone got out. It was another of the girls we have gotten close to. Her face lit up and she ran over to us.
‘I didn’t miss prayer did I? Because I want to pray for my enemies, the people who speak bad about me and who I have conflict with. I want God to work on their hearts, and our relationships.’
We often are asked, ‘where is your church?’ I have begun to tell them we are standing in it.
Our church right now is with these women, hearing their stories, praying for them and with them, sharing the gospel with them and seeing God begin to transform their hearts.
We are so grateful for how God is using us and blessing us with their trust to open up to us and how he is already moving in these women’s lives.
We are praying about next steps and how we can spend a bit more time with them, somewhere away from their work environment where they are often distracted.
One idea that the Shores of Grace project does in Recife is a banquet. Once a month they host a dinner, in an upscale hotel with a full buffet, the women and men are invited to take part and feel special. There is worship time, someone shares a testimony and there is lots of time for prayer and conversation. We had the blessing of being invited to one of the banquets last month. The thing that stuck out the most to us was listening to women who have left the streets pray for and speak into the lives of girls still in that world.
We hope to have the resources to some day host this kind of event here.
We are praying for knowledge and connections and ideas for how to help those who truly want to get out.
We appreciate your prayers along side us!
Right now we feel as though we are supposed to keep doing what we are doing, keep showing up and listening and praying and showing them the unconditional love of the Father.
NO PICTURES PLEASE
You may notice that our updates are a little void of imagery these days. For obvious reasons we don’t bring anything valuable to the streets when we go, just ourselves and our prayers. I also don’t want to, in any way, disrespect the women we are working with who are quickly becoming people we love. One day, when they are on the path to freedom I hope to have photos of their graduations or weddings or other triumphs. So for now, you’ll have to paint the images in your heads. I hope you understand.
Intervinha 2017 Regional Conference with Gary and Joy Best
I had the joy and privilege of spending a week with my Brazilian family and friends in Altamira last week. The only down side was that my family stayed behind in João Pessoa. We are finding the cost of flights makes it difficult for us to stay connected physically with the rest of our mission and church as they are more than 2,000km away.
This years theme for the conference was ‘Naturally Supernatural’ and we were so blessed to have Gary Best and his wife join us as the speakers. Gary was part of the founding fathers of the Vineyard in Canada was was the national leader for many years. He shared with us God’s desire for us to partner with Him in what he is doing, looking for where heaven is already breaking through and joining him in his work in those times and places. He spoke too, of servant leadership and that our whole point as Christians is to ultimately be ‘little Jesus’’ here on earth.
It was a pleasure to meet and spend time with him and his wife and my beloved Brazilian and missionary family.
Please pray with us for....
A team! We need people and resources here in Joao Pessoa to help us move along with our ministry and church plant
Pray for our kids as they continue to transition and study in a foreign language
Pray for provision for our ministries and in country travel to remain connected to our Vineyard family