Saturday, June 19, 2010

Ana Paula was baptized!

We report about people converting to Christ and being baptized. Seeing the picture of a person in the water makes it look so easy. It doesn't tell the story of months, sometimes years, of prayers, Bible studies, counseling, patiently working through sinful, knotted-up lives, plus the stories of the majority that don't ever come to a faith that surrenders to Christ.
Ana Paula was baptized! If you want the full story, please read Lori Hagewood's newsletter below.

"There aren't many who can scream at me all night long and still make me smile in the morning."

                                                            Quoting myself – in reference to my 9 month old on Sunday May 16.


May 2010

            There are some simple things in life that really thrill me. My acerola tree, that I have been anxiously watching, scrubbing off insect nests, and spraying with tobacco water to repel bugs, has flowered and produced it's first little acerola berries. That is so exciting! Then there are other things that… well… you just can't compare them to anything else in life. I have a story with a great beginning. But first some background…

When we arrived in João Pessoa in 2003 we moved into a high rise apt bldg, on the ninth floor, # 901. The family in #903 were an interesting bunch: a tall, big boned grandmother in her 40s named Clea, her daughter Ana Paula, son-in-law Jorge and their 2 year old boy Yury. This family was from Rio de Janeiro, they were loud, spontaneous, argumentative, boisterous, and they loved to have parties. They never went to bed before 11:00pm, including the two year old.

Yury gave new definition to the terrible twos. He was hyperactive and destructive. Most toys did not make it through the first week in his hands. Their main child rearing tactics involved yelling very loud, giving the boy what he wanted (he ruined his grandmother's best set of pots and pans), and threatening him with the dinosaur that comes around when children are naughty.  We invited them to church and they came once. I have a very clear memory of Yury being given the Lord's supper by his mother in hopes that he would settle down at that moment.  A year and six months later Jorge was transferred so they put the apt up for rent and moved south.

 Beginning of 2008 they returned. We then had Sabrina, they also had a two year old girl, and Yury had grown out of some of his unruliness. Ana's mother, Clea had moved back to Rio to live near family, when she found out in the Fall of 2008 that she had cancer in her throat and some spots in her lungs. Clea is single and Ana is her only child, so this news took her and her children almost immediately to Rio. Clea underwent cancer treatments and surgery with determination. She was not the type of woman who gave up what she wanted without a fight. In fact, ever since I've know Clea she has been suing someone. She had recently returned to college to pursue a law degree. 

In the spring of 2009, Hunter made a business trip to Rio and stopped by to pay them a visit with a brother from one of the local congregations.. Hunter describes the visit as more of a therapy session where he listened to the hardships, the fears, and the struggles they have been facing at this time. He helped them locate a nearby congregation, prayed with them, and delivered cards and little gifts I had sent. They did visit the church and Clea started studying the Bible.

In July 2009, Ana and her children moved back to João Pessoa (her husband had remained here due to his work). She came to church the day after she arrived and announced that her mother's cancer was in remission and that Clea had been baptized. Chills ran up and down my spine and I had to cry. Glory be to God for all things wonderful! Ana continued coming to church with her two children (her husband was supportive, but not so interested), asking lots of questions and expressing how she wanted to change.  

October 2009 came around with bad news. Clea's cancer was back. Treatment options were bleak. She was weak and needed surgery. Ana did not know what to do – go back to Rio or stay here. Her conflict was resolved early December when her aunt called and told her to come immediately. One week later, after spitting up a lot of blood and a traumatic rush to the hospital Clea's body did not make it. Her spirit soared home. Glory be to God for all things wonderful.

This hit hard. Ana Paula, being the only child to a single mother, spent the following 2 ½ months trying to sort out her mother's legal and inheritance issues (and is still trying to do so) before returning to João Pessoa with her husband and children. She called me the day she arrived and we talked. In spite of it all, she spoke of feeling strength and peace from God. She credited God for her ability to be rational and hold up during such a terrible time. She spoke of confidence that God's plan is greater than her desires and that her mother is resting with Him. And now, as soon as she got herself unpacked and organized, she wanted to study the Bible.

Well, it was another 2 months before she gave up being organized and made time to study, but she continued to attend church services and couples meetings. One Sunday, after a very poignant sermon by Jeremy Newlin on the book of Hebrews and the promises for those who are in Christ, Ana came up to me and said, "I have a question… what do I need to do to be baptized?" We studied together a few more times, Hunter and I spoke with Ana and her husband about this decision, and then I told her, "Ana, I have no reason to keep you from being baptized." To which she replied, "good because you would not be able to." Glory be to God for all things wonderful!

So this is where we finally get to that great beginning I mentioned. Sunday, May 16, Ana Paula died to herself and was raised, clothed in Christ, to live for Him. There's a lot she still needs to learn and work on, but I can say that of everyone I know, and most certainly of myself. Pray for Ana, that she will remain strong and will grow each day in the likeness of Christ. I called her last night: she was visiting a friend and talking about God. I really love it! Pray for her husband Jorge to open his heart and be wiling to give up all for Christ. Pray for Christ to continue being victorious in this family, so that Satan may have no foothold in their lives. Glory be to God for all things wonderful.


Lori Hagewood


PS:  We cannot wait to see you and hug you in less than 1 month in your part of the hemisphere! Pray for safety and strength to travel with three little guys – this is a new number for us on a plane.

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