A year ago on June 9th we went out on a limb and trusted that God was calling us to reach out to show His unfailing love to the girls and women in prostitution here in João Pessoa. We had no idea what to expect, how we would be received, or what it would look like going forward.
We have been amazed and encouraged by God’s constant guidance, the openness the girls have had with us, and the relationships that have blossomed. There have been many mountain top moments and recently some very deep valley moments.
In our last update I shared that one of the girls who had left prostitution had returned, this month we had another blow. The girl who left prostitution six months ago whom we have been meeting with weekly, trying to help her find work, figure out education, is back on the street. This was a really hard hit, even though we knew it was a great possibility, there are often many false starts before someone is able to really break free, it's hard not to feel like we should have done more.
But the situation she found herself in was almost impossible.
Her husband had been shot, miraculously he wasn’t killed since the bullet passed through his groin, narrowly missing his artery and vein. But because he wasn’t killed, he needed to go into hiding, they had to move from her Mom’s house and into his mother’s house which was at the end of a impassable bumpy road governed by a gang faction that would mean at least the people who tried to kill him couldn’t get at him. We visited with them there, prayed with them and encouraged them to pray together. But they were stuck, he is a fugitive from prison and now escaping gangs.
I sat with her to go over her education and work experience (grade 4, no work experience), and monthly expenses and income. We are trying to connect with other organizations that also connect people to work while also finding out how we could help her get back on to sorting out her education.
They have little to no income. She was helping her mother sell snacks at the market to the truckers who were unloading in the middle of the night, asking for fruit and vegetables or finding some that had fallen, unwanted to the floor. We were helping where we could with some basic food goods, but also trying to find a balance between helping become independent and her becoming dependant on us. A very desperate situation that ended with her back on the street, feeling like she was out of options and us feeling a lot like we had failed her.
Despite the fact that we know women who are trying to leave prostitution often make several attempts before successfully transitioning, we still felt sad and disappointed, not in her but in ourselves, in the system, we want to be able to do so much more but it takes time, resources and more people to do it.
The next time we saw her on the street I was intentional about having a very frank conversation with her, I could see she was acting differently around us. I assured her that nothing has changed about the way we feel about her, the hope we have for her or that we are walking with her. She cried and I hugged her and we promised to continue to fight with her.
I recently read an article about women trying to leave prostitution, this is a quote from it,
Prostitution, if it is anything, is a choice between homelessness and having men we don’t like, do things we hate, to bodies we don’t know how to love.
For this reason, those in prostitution have a tendency to boomerang in and out of it, like the jaded wives of an unfaithful or cruel husband. We pack our bags, we leave in a triumphant storm. But we find few options available to us.
Leaving Prostitution and Staying Out-Nordicmodelnow! The article was written By Alice Glass, a survivor of prostitution
We dream of a day when we see these girls freed from this emotional, spiritual and financial slavery.
Not long after we moved to Joao Pessoa we were introduced to a couple who care for young at-risk girls. Over the past 20 years, they have cared for over one hundred and eighty girls. Some of which have been adopted by other families, some have been returned to their extended families, others lived there until they turned nineteen and then they were helped to find work and a living space.
It was obvious from our first meeting that this couple has poured a lot of their life into these girls.
We decided early on that we wanted to help, we just weren't sure how. Homes like this for girls can prevent them from ending up on the street.
Working alongside another group called Ezekial 47 who had been looking for an opportunity to serve, we have started an Alpha and games night. We go once a week with a snack and a fun game and then we watch a video and chat. The girls are loving it and every time it's over they say, 'already?'.
We look forward to continuing the relationships with these girls long after Alpha finishes.
Three weeks ago we held our first Sunday with our wee baby church. Right now it's more like a small group but the times we have had together have been rich. We are forming the foundations of a leadership team, so we are focusing for now on getting to know each other, the values we hold, and praying about what God wants for this new gathering. We all want to see a strong foundation built so we will take it slowly in these first steps.
For a month or so before we began we had been meeting with Ricardo and Nadir, current pastors of the Recife Vineyard, as well as a family from Joao Pessoa who are very eager to take part in planting a church with us.
Sunday, June 3rd was our first official service here in our house, in our outside kitchen that God has so abundantly blessed us with. We sang and prayed together, discussed the values we want to carry in this church and ate lunch together, it was a rich time and we are so excited to see this seedling of a church being planted.
Faith: Dyslexia+ADD+Central Processing Disorder + Second Language= A Layer Cake of Learning Challenges
Faith turns 12 on Monday! She celebrated early last week.
A month or so ago we were asked to meet with the coordinator of Faith’s grade. She sat us down to discuss Faith’s performance in school. She had been helping her on her tests and noticed that Faith couldn’t remember the context of something she had read, that she read very slowly, and that had difficulty writing as well. She felt strongly that this was not only because she is working in her second language.
She was saying what I had already suspected for a while. She recommended a psychologist and we began the process of having her assessed for dyslexia and Attention Deficit Disorder. At the end of the testing we sat with the psychologist and she told me what I already knew in my heart; Faith, like her Daddy, is dyslexic.
I cried. Not tears of sadness or disappointment but instead of relief. Now we knew why- now I knew it wasn’t because I had failed her as a teacher. We now knew what we were dealing with and could confront it appropriately.
We were referred to a psychiatrist to complete the evaluation for Attention Deficit, she then referred us to an audiologist to see if Faith also has something called a Central Auditory Processing Disorder, which basically means her ears and her brain is not communicating properly. This can happen with kids who had a lot of ear infections or who had hearing issues early in life.
When Faith was two her eustachian tubes were full of fluid, she heard as though she was underwater, for more than a year while we went through the process of testing and waiting for surgery.
This disorder can show itself with many symptoms that look like dyslexia and ADD. The good news is there is a cure. Several sessions of training will help to rewire her brain. It doesn't rule out the possibility that she also has dyslexia and ADD.
On Wednesday we started the testing for this issue. For those of you on Facebook, that is the explanation for the photo I posted. Faith is in the little sound booth trying to decipher different sounds. One of the hardest parts about this disorder is being able to hear in loud places. Faith has often complained she can't hear what the teacher is saying when there is noise in the class.
This week Faith will finish the testing and we will know more.
We prepared her for this possible outcome by ensuring her that dyslexia, ADD or this new possibility doesn’t have anything to do with her intelligence, that in fact, most dyslexic people are smarter than your average bear, Einstein, for example, was dyslexic, Phil likes to emphasize this fact.
We have already begun working with a psychoeducational therapist to help Faith with reading and writing.
Please pray with us that she can find her way with the help of the specialist and that we can help her too.
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