In Between

This Spring everything is changing. As one season in our lives comes to an end, we are in this strange place “in between” what has been and what will be. It is a time of uncertainty and a time of waiting, but it is also a time of shaping of character and realignment. We believe God is doing something special in us even though we do not always understand what it is, and the more time we spend “in between” we realise that this journey is less about what we will do in Brazil or our ability to work for God, and more about God’s shaping of us as people… it is more about who God is and who we are, and how those two things work together.

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At this time as the Church throughout the world prepares for Easter, we are reminded that before Easter there was a time “in between”. Two long nights stood between Good Friday and Easter Day. That “in between” period was painful, uncertain, confusing and lonely. However, in those two nights and three days God was redeeming, providing and saving. As the disciples wondered how to make sense of it all, God was finishing the job once and for all. Whilst many thought death had triumphed, Jesus was conquering its power and shattering the gates of hell. As it happened, that time in between, was the most important moment in the whole of time. God had redeemed His creation.

God works in the time “in between”… it is not wasted and it is necessary.

So here we stand. In between. Nothing is clear yet, but all is certain. If we trust that God has the best for us and that he will always be true to his promises, then all is certain. As in the lyrics of a song by Graham Kendrick, Crucified Man:

I have buried my life in the cold earth with him
Like a seed in the winter, I wait for the spring
From that garden of tombs Eden rises again
And Paradise blooms from his body and never will end
He’ll finish all he began
Creation hopes in a crucified man

The Christian Hope was shaped in the “in between”. Our salvation made available in the “in between”. We are the “in between people”, those who wait for that which only God can do. Like a seed in the winter waiting for the first Spring day, so we too will wait, trusting that God will make a way.

So what is happening in this season in between?

New Baby

On 6th January we welcomed our second child, Olivia, through planned caesarean section. Debora and baby are doing well and we are now rediscovering the joys of a new baby in our home! Nicolas (6) is loving having a sibling and loves to spend time with his sister. We had the desire for a second child for a long time and feel so blessed to have her in our lives. It is also such a blessing to have a placid and calm baby at a time of change and transition such as this.

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Church Visits

We have been really encouraged to be invited to a few churches to share about our hopes to work in Brazil. We have visited a couple of those already and will be visiting a couple more in the coming few months. It is great to share and feel that our sense of call resonates with others and to hear people and churches express their desire to stand with us.

One of those churches is St Michael and All Angels, Hughenden who have invited us to share our vision for Brazil on May 14th. We have been really moved to hear that their Vicar and Church Wardens have started a sponsored diet in aid of our work. They have so far received pledges in excess of £1400 pounds! It is so great to have such support, thank you! We look forward to hear how they are getting on with their diets when we come to visit.

We are also thankful to St Andrew’s Church where Levi has been working as Curate, for their commitment to us and their amazing support at this time. We will really miss them!

Move to Oxford

After over 10 years in High Wycombe, as Levi’s curacy comes to an end and we start our training with Church Mission Society, we will be moving to Oxford around Easter time. We are leaving our lovely home and giving away our belongings. This again has been an exercise of faith but it has also been releasing! It is so easy to accumulate things even without realising. As we mentioned before, God is more interested in who we are and forging our character, and we feel this detachment from material things is part of His work in us. So it has been liberating to part with stuff and realign our focus on what is important!

We will be moving in time for our training, starting 24th April. We have been told we will have 3 rooms (2 bedrooms and an office) in the house used by Church Mission Society’s Mission Partners in Oxford. There will be other people living in the house and we are looking forward to living in community. We have not done this before but hope that our practice of hospitality over the years will have prepared us a little for what is to come.

Nicolas is also very excited about the move. He has surprised us with his conviction that Jesus has called him into mission as well. He was very upset when he realised the flyers produced did not include his picture! He will be attending Emmanuel Christian School for one term and starts his new school the same day we start training. He visited the school before half-term and loved it. We are praying he gets settled in quickly.

After the end of the required training at the end of June, we will remain in Oxford for an extra month. This is because Levi will be doing a CELTA Course (TEFL) to prepare for our work in teaching young people out in Brazil. Most of those on the streets or at risk would not be able to afford English lessons, so we hope to offer lessons as a way to build relationships etc.

What is going on in Brazil?

The church we are going to work with has expressed how they are looking forward to our arrival. The church pastor is always in touch and has assured us that he and the church are praying for us. They are hoping we will help the church in becoming more focused on the community and to engage with the city’s poor in more effective ways. One of the things they did ahead of us arriving was to take down the church gates, which gave the impression the church was not a welcoming place.

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IV Baptist Church – Goiania (church without its old gates)

As the country’s political situation deteriorates with huge corruption scandals, a slow economy and violence and crime numbers at historical highs, the country’s poor are the last on the agenda. Whilst politicians try to save themselves from corruption investigations and companies are struggling to continue their activities (particularly small businesses ), the poor are left to their own devices. It is in times like this that people turn to drugs and crime, so we feel excited that God has called there for such a time as this.

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People taking drugs on the streets, some are very young children.

We have raised around 43% of what we need for our work in Brazil. We are praying more churches and individuals will choose to support us. Thank you for praying for us and also for all the support we have received through gifts and in other ways. We also pray for you and please do get in touch if you need any prayer, we would love to stand with you!

Does God have a Plan B?

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

The John Lewis’ Christmas advert is out, so it must be Christmas Season! As it rapidly approaches we remember how busy this season is for everyone. For us it is definitely the busiest time of our year with many services, gatherings and events to attend and help plan. So we are beginning to brace ourselves for what will be a “crazy” season at the Santana household.

This Christmas is a special one though, as it marks the end of a season and the beginning of a new one in our lives. We are beginning to give away our furniture. Starting to think about packing and choosing the items we would like to keep and/or take with us to Brazil. As we start to unload so that we can travel light, we feel that our next adventure is in full swing. It is all getting real now! However, it is not always easy to let go of most of our belongings and say good bye to those we love. We now realise that obedience comes at a cost. This journey has been stretching our faith and allowing us to grow in our relationship with God, and whilst the next few months are really exciting they are also scary!

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Levi now has an end date to his curacy at St Andrew’s Church (April 2017), Debora is preparing everything for the baby’s arrival in early January and we are also looking at potential schools for Nicolas. The challenge ahead feels monumental. Humanly speaking we are a very long way off boarding a plane. There is so much to do between now and then that sometimes there is a huge temptation to come up with a Plan B.

What if we can’t get ready in time? What if we can’t get enough support? What if we never get to Goiania? What if…? Maybe we should have a contingency plan? Maybe we should have our CVs ready in case we have to apply for new jobs? Should we avoid the embarrassment of failure and come up with a more achievable idea?

Last year at a New Wine Leaders conference Levi heard Archbishop Justin Welby say:

‘Is your vision so big that it cannot happen unless God breaks in? It must be God’.

As we pray we feel God does not want us to come up with a Plan B. We believe God has spoken clearly to us about Brazil and we trust His call on our lives will become a reality. This week in particular, we felt challenged by God as He reminded us that He is not known as the “Plan B god”. Jesus’ advent is testament to this. John 1:14 says this: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” It is a reminder that he has chosen to dwell with us.

There is no plan B. God did not shy away from his desire to save us, to deal with our brokenness and to reconcile humanity to himself. He did not send somebody else, he did not outsource his responsibilities… he came himself. Jesus is God’s Plan A. The Prince of Peace, in the uncertainties of life. He is like a father who wants the best for his children. He is a Mighty God who is strong enough to make a way through the sea. The One who counsels us on the journey.

So we have asked God for the courage to have no Plan B and no contingency plan… the invitation from God is to continue to trust him unreservedly. So we trust God’s plan for us. We trust He will make a way, and that he will be faithful even when we forget the essence of his nature. Even when we lose sight of what he is doing. He is good and we trust Him! We are not sure when, how and if everything will happen as we imagine. We are not entirely certain what God’s Plan A for us will actually look like, but we are choosing to trust Him.

God has blessed us and so far we have raised around 25% of what we need. It is so exciting to see God move and very humbling to see people like you partnering with us at this time. Our heart is to serve the people who live on the streets of Goiania, who haven’t yet heard of God’s plan for their lives. We cannot wait to share the love we have received with them and to tell them they do not need to be stuck in a plan B, they can live God’s Plan A for their lives. God’s only plan!

Jesus is our Prince of Peace! This Christmas we also want you to remember that God’s plan for your life will come to pass. We want you to know that His plan is still to prosper and bless… Obedience is costly but we can ask God for the courage to stick to His plan. We don’t need to devise alternatives… we just need to trust. In trust there is peace.
We would love to pray for you this Christmas. Please let us know how we can pray for you and we will pray, trusting that his Plan A is the best for you and us.

Fill the form below to send us your prayer requests:

“All change please, all change!”

In the coming few months a lot of things are changing for us as a family. We are welcoming a new family member in January, Levi’s curacy is coming to an end and we are joining Church Mission Society as Mission Partners, to work with those living on the streets in Goiania-Brazil. As you can imagine we feel a mixture of things. We are saddened that we are going to have to say goodbye to our family and friends in the UK, and particularly sad to leave St Andrew’s. However, we are also hugely excited for the next season in our journey with God. It is a season of change, but it is also a season of growing in faith, believing the impossible and learning to trust that the God who calls makes a way.

The challenge

According to a UN-Habitat study (2012), Goiania is the 10th most unequal city in the world and the most unequal city in Latin America (in terms of income distribution). According to recent research, it is also considered the 29th most dangerous city in the world. All of this added to the oppression of the poor, lack of education and health care provision makes this “prosperous” city a horrible place to live if you are “invisible” and at the margins of society.goiania_favela1

In January 2015, during a short visit to Goiania, we were struck by the huge number of people (many children) who were living on the streets of the city centre. In Goiania, formerly known as a sleepy city with a countryside atmosphere, people are now using and dealing drugs in broad day light. We talked to a local pastor about it all and he described the situation as a “crack epidemic” that was out of control. It was also clear that although there are many churches in the city centre, and in fact all over the city, very few organisations or churches are doing work to support people who are living on the streets or struggling with addiction.

Our aim is to reach out to the most marginalised living on the streets of the city centre (particularly crack-cocaine addicts and children), support and train local leadership, and equip the church for local mission. In partnership with a local church we hope to set up a food bank, and to form and train a team to work on the streets looking for ways to share the Gospel of Jesus with them (Street Church), as well as providing food, clothes and dignity through hair cuts and other small treatments (Social Bank).

What do we need?

We hope to move to Oxford in April 2017 (for 3 months) to go through the required training provided by Church Mission Society, then move to Goiania in July/August 2017. Hence, in the coming months a number of things need to happen ahead of the move:

  • We are selling up, and giving most of our personal belongings and furniture away.
  • We need to raise financial support as we move from paid work to living from gift income as missionaries – this needs to happen before our training starts in April 2017 (we have raised a fifth of what we need).
  • We need to find a new school for Nicolas both in Oxford and Goiania.
  • Oh yeah, and we need to have a baby in January!

How could you help us?

You can help us in at least two ways:

1 – Pray and sign-up to receive our Link Letters, with up to date prayer needs.

2 – Support us financially, making our ministry in Goiania possible.

To sign-up to receive Link Letters and to give towards our ministry please go to http://churchmissionsociety.org/people-in-mission/debora-and-levi-santana

If you have any question please do get in touch, we would love to hear from you!

Because we can… and we must!

Because we can… and we must!

In recent months many people have asked us why we are going to Goiania, Brazil. Many are puzzled as to why we would want to leave our life in England to live in an unfair, increasingly violent and economically broken nation. Many others are shocked to hear that we are leaving the “security” provided by having a salary, soon with two young children, to live from gift income. Some are surprised to hear that we have no plan B. And in many ways we agree with them! We agree that it is not sensible to exchange what seems certain for the uncertain, that which we know for the unknown. But we also know that God’s plans are not always “sensible”. The cross is not sensible. God’s choice to partner with us to fulfil His mission on earth is not sensible. God’s Word is full of examples of people who were not sensible and yet experienced God’s provision in amazing ways. So we have decided that we will not live a “sensible” life, if that means we will fulfil God’s purpose for our lives.

In January 2015, during a short visit to Goiania, we were struck by the huge number of people (many children) who were living on the streets of the city centre. In Goiania, formerly known as a sleepy city with a countryside atmosphere, people are now using and dealing drugs in broad day light. We talked to a local pastor about it all and he described the situation as a “crack epidemic” and a “pest” that was out of control. It was also clear that although there are many churches in the city centre, and in fact all over the city, very few organisations or churches are doing work to support people who are living on street or struggling with addiction.

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Central Goiânia

When we remember all those men, women and children who are considered to be a sort of pest in society, we are reminded of when Jesus looks at the crowds and has compassion on them, ‘because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd’ (Matt 9:36). When confronted with such brokenness Jesus tells his disciples to pray for more workers to help in the harvest. We find this fascinating, Jesus did not see the crowds as a pest, he saw them as a harvest in waiting… This is how we feel about the people we saw in Goiania. They are precious to God and we have a heart to see many of them set free from addiction and given new dignity by the Good News of Jesus. So we said yes to that challenge not just because we can, but because we must!

In saying yes to this challenge we will have the opportunity to return to the country we both grew up in. The place is familiar, we speak the language, and we will be near family and friends, but we do not feel we are going home. We have changed. We are less Brazilian than we were when we first arrived in England… we are a hybrid version of our former selves. So we are aware we will have many challenges in adapting to the Brazilian way of living, but we are excited to recover the good elements of our first culture. Having said that, we shall look forward to seasons of rest at “home” in England, an opportunity to see our friends and family, and to reconnect.

 

So what is it we hope to do in Brazil?

Our aim is to reach out to the most marginalised living on the streets of the city centre (particularly crack-cocaine addicts and children), support and train local leadership, and equip the church for local mission. In partnership with a local church we hope to set up a food bank, and to form and train a team to work on the streets looking for ways to share the Gospel of Jesus with them (Street Church), as well as providing food, clothes and dignity through hair cuts and other small treatments (Social Bank).

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Young people on the streets of Goiânia

 

Debora wants to serve through her work as a beautician, by showing love to women through beauty treatments. She also wants to teach girls how to work as beauticians, which may give them an alternative to drug dealing or prostitution. Levi hopes to train people for local mission, teach English to disadvantaged kids, and to set up a network of organisations and professionals who can offer different services and skills to those who most need. But his focus will be to walk the streets to get to know people, offering opportunities for them to leave the streets in partnership with local rehab centres.

We are passionate to see people coming to faith in Jesus and this is our primary focus. All other activities will flow out of this primary passion and hope, as they are a response to human need inspired by God’s love. We are excited and cannot wait to see what God will do, after all, he is in the business of multiplication, taking the little we bring to feed thousands (Mark 6:41-44).

We are hoping to start our training with Church Mission Society in April 2017, so we can be ready to move to Goiania by July 2017.

Please pray:

  • That God will continue to speak clearly to us in this transition time
  • For wisdom in all the important decisions we will have to make about schooling, housing and finances
  • For those who are living on the streets of Goiania, for dignity, freedom and salvation
  • For our health and safety (Goiania is reportedly the 29th most dangerous city in the world)
  • For our children, Nicolas (6) and Bump (baby girl due in January 2017)
  • That we will successfully raise all the financial support we need