Thursday, December 10, 2009

God Is a Sky Writer

We are currently in Colorado, spending the holidays with John's family. In less than a month, we went from stifling heat in Natal to bitter cold in Golden. The kids have especially enjoyed the snow. While we're here, we're facilitating a long-distance closing on a house in Boca Raton, Florida.

We spent our first two weeks in the States searching for a house to be our new home. We found an excellent real estate agent through the Dave Ramsey Web site who began showing us properties that matched our criteria. After much fruitless searching, she informed us that our expectations might be a bit too high. On one level we had to agree with her, but on another we were sure our expectations were very reasonable. You see, we had been praying fervently for God to lead us to just the right house. We were sure that if He were calling us to Florida, He knew right where He wanted us. So we continued our search.

Just days before we left for Colorado and just when we had decided that a temporary apartment might be in our future, a promising new listing came onto the market. Our agent took us to see it but the owners weren't home and we ended up standing in the driveway while she spoke with their visiting relative. As she set up an appointment for our return, we felt a little disappointed and prayed that God would make Himself clear to us and help us to know what to do. Then something amazing happened.

Jonah pointed up towards the sky and yelled, "Look, it's a J." A skywriter was just starting the first letter of what became "JESUS LOVES U". As he was finishing the U our agent informed us that we would have to wait a day to see the house. On our way out of the neighborhood, we stopped by a Brazilian bakery where John ran in for some bread. In the time it took him to make the purchase, the kids and I watched the skywriter spell out "TRUST GOD".

The next day we saw the house and fell in love with it; it suited us perfectly. Though we had been avoiding foreclosures and short sales because they have been averaging several months to close, we made an offer on this short sale property. Despite our agents justified warnings that we might be facing a long and tedious process, we received notice from the bank that we could close during the first week in January.

I can't predict what will happen next and I don't know the mind of God, but I do have a hunch that we will soon be blogging to you from our new home in Boca Raton, Florida.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Packed and Ready

We're getting packed to leave this country again. We're excited because of the potential for ministry in a dual culture environment. The kids are excited because they know we'll be living closer to Disney World.

We plan to arrive in Miami during the third week in November, at which time we will begin looking for a home among the Brazilian population in southern Florida. It's a happy time and a sad time all at the same time. We're going to miss Natal and our friends here, but we know they will be just fine without us. We do plan to come back regularly to encourage the Christians here and to help where we can. We also plan to continue regular visits to Currais Novos until a solid church is established there.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Our Next Missionary Journey

Over the past eighteen months, we have witnessed seventeen people choose to follow Jesus and have seen changes only God could effect in their lives. With such a thriving ministry it would only seem fitting that we should stay put and continue this work indefinitely. But God's ways are not our ways. We have received an invitation to work with a small group of Christians who are trying to reach the hundreds of thousands of Brazilians living in southern Florida. Through much prayer John and I have discovered that God is opening the way for us to move there in order, we believe, to evangelize.

John and I became Christians and were married a little over thirteen years ago. Since then John received a Bible degree in Tennessee, we trained in Texas for mission work, and we worked with a team to plant a church in southern Brazil. We then moved back to the US and were involved in various Stateside ministries until the spring of 2008. That's when we came here to northern Brazil to work with a small church in the area of evangelism. Throughout all of our travels the same two churches in Tennessee and Texas have sponsored and supported us, and for that we are grateful.

What we are leaving here is a small but thriving congregation. The ground has also been worked for a church plant in a town about three hours outside of the city of Natal. We plan to make regular visits to Natal to encourage the church here and to travel to Currais Novos to continue the work there.

Please continue to read our blog and subscribe to it if you haven't already. We hope to encourage you in your life and ministry. We covet your comments and prayers.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

John's Weekend Adventure

This weekend was John's second trip to a town called Currais Novos, about three hours outside of Natal. His first trip was in December with Mike and Jerry Hall from our sponsoring church in Springtown, Texas. They traveled there because Geraldo, the second man John baptized in Natal, told them about his hometown where there are no churches.

Upon their arrival, the men discovered a rustic town where there were indeed no churches and, more importantly, no Biblical teaching. Geraldo introduced them to his family and friends and John taught them from the Bible. At the end of their stay, they invited John back to hear more.

Since then, we have had Ben, spent two months in the States on furlough, and battled the swine flu for about a month. This weekend was John's first opportunity to revisit Currais Novos. He and Geraldo drove there on Friday morning and returned on Saturday morning. They decided to take Geraldo's jeep to handle the dilapidated road conditions. Here's Geraldo driving in the rain without windshield wipers:
Here's John afraid for his life:
Here's Geraldo's bumper sticker reminding John "I'm following the footsteps of Jesus":
And here's the broken-down jeep reminding them both that the footsteps of Jesus are not easy to follow:
They made it as far as Santa Cruz or Holy Cross, where they ditched the jeep and caught a ride to make the rest of the trip. A statue of Mary holding a cross and a sword overlooks this little town:
When they finally arrived in Currais Novos six hours later, they were greeted by Geraldo's in laws:
You may remember that Socorro is Geraldo's wife. These are her parents. Her dad offered John a fresh coconut:
Then they spent some time hanging out together while Geraldo walked around town inviting people to a Bible study that evening:
Socorro's dad had no interest in what John was there to teach during his first visit, but when John was leaving he promised to come to a study if John would return. During this visit he was hospitable to John and even gave him a hammock to sleep in on his porch but he didn't go to the study. Again, he said maybe next time.

These guys did show up:
As did these women:
And these kids:
In all, about thirty people were present for the study that evening:
John offered this DVD on the Gospel of John to anyone who would agree to share it with others in town. This lady was clearly thrilled to accept the offer:
John read and commented on John 3 where Jesus discusses with Nicodemus what it means to be born again. He spoke for almost thirty minutes without any participation from the group. When he asked them why nobody was answering his questions, one man revealed that the group had never heard these Scriptures and had no idea what they meant or how to comment on them. John then read 1 Corintians 2 and explained that nobody can understand the things of God without the Holy Spirit. It seemed that they had enough information to chew on so he called it a night. Again they invited him back.

The next morning, Geraldo and John caught a ride with Geraldo's cousin (the guy in pink) who is employed taking the kids of the neighborhood to school - a thirty-minute drive. The kids were on their way to extra-curricular, Saturday activities so the guys took advantage and jumped on board.
They ended up on the side of the road halfway back to Natal, where the truck ride ended, and caught another ride home.
Friday morning, which should have been a three-hour drive, turned out to be a six-hour ordeal of heavy rain and a broken-down car. Friday night was a sleepless one spent in a hammock where giant mosquitos snacked on exposed flesh. John was tired and had caught a cold by the time he made it home. I asked him if all the travel, rain, mosquitos, poor sleep, and sickness were worth it. He said without a doubt, and he plans to return to Currais Novos in the future to water the spiritual seeds that have been planted.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Untold Stories

For those of you who have been following the progress of this mission, I'm sure you have been impressed with what God has done in the short time we've been in Natal. We want you to know that it is not because of us that so many people have been baptized during the mission here but because of God's mercy to the lost.

Before we even left the States, John baptized his dad and nephew Anthony in Colorado. Since we've been living in Natal, we've experienced the baptisms of Francisco, Geraldo, Socorro, Rosendo, Ingrid, Talis, Jefferson, Tiago, Heloisa, and Noemia. During our recent furlough, John baptized his sister's friend John in Colorado and my mom in Texas. What an incredible eighteen months this has been!

I trust some of you have been praying for these new Christians since you first heard about their conversions. For that reason, I want to be sure you also know about three new Christians who were baptized while we were not here. Back in March when I was in the hospital with Ben, Joilderson became a new Christian:
Then while we were in the States on furlough, Relter and Monica were baptized:
Please continue to pray for these young Christians - not only that God will bless their lives but that he may also use them to spread the good news about Jesus and the eternal salvation he offers to anyone who will accept it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

We Survived the Swine Flu

Here we are, relatively unscathed by the H1N1 virus. It was a long battle but we are finally well. We all have a bit of residual "gunk" in our heads so each of us is temporarily hard of hearing. That's been less than amusing, but I'm sure it will pass.

Thank you so much for your prayers, and please don't forget to continue to pray for the ministry that we're involved in together - reaching the lost for Christ.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Swine Flu Update

The good news is that the kids are doing a lot better. There's still a lot of coughing, sneezing, and whining but they are on the downhill slide.
The bad news is that John and I have this virus full force. We went to the public hospital to get Tamiflu, which is supposed to minimize the symptoms and shorten the duration of the flu. I have been taking it for four days and feel less like I have the flu and more like I have a terrible cold. John just got a fever last night so we picked up his medicine today. I hope it does at least the same for him if not more than it has done for me.

It's difficult for healthy parents to take care of three sick kids but even more difficult for sick parents to take care of any kids at all. Please keep us in your prayers and do your best to avoid this nasty virus until the vaccine is available.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Week Two in the Pigpen

Today marks the beginning of the second week that we've been battling the swine flu virus in our home. Andy has been the hardest hit and is taking an antibiotic for pneumonia. He has been responding well to the medication but woke up this morning with a fever, so we'll be taking him to see his doctor a little later this morning.

Ben and I woke up in the middle of the night with a fever. We thought we had both recovered and were on the mend. I've been advised to go to the public hospital to receive Tamiflu in case this is just the beginning of this particular virus for me. I was the first one sick but it may have been with a different illness, as this is the first time I've had a fever. The kids' doctor wants to see Ben as well this morning.

Jonah still has a cough but is impressive in his ability to ignore the virus and continue to function well. John has still not been affected and has been playing nurse to the rest of us.

This is an aggressive but erratic illness and we continue to ask for your prayers that our family will recover soon.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Our Ongoing Battle With H1N1

Today is the sixth day we've had the nasty H1N1 virus in our home. Jonah is much better and Ben is on the mend. I have only a cough remaining and John's health has not been affected.

Andy, however, is still very sick. He had a chest x-ray today that showed the beginning signs of pneumonia. The doctor started him on an antibiotic and will monitor him daily. They did not want to admit him into the hospital due to the aggressive nature of the way this virus spreads. We know he will be more comfortable at home and trust that he will heal from this but we do ask for your continued prayers.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Swine Flu

About a week after we got back to Brazil, I got hit so hard with a flu bug that it had me unable to lift my head for about an hour. I was fine after that as long as I was sitting or lying down. That evening, just as I was feeling better, Andy started to run a fever. The next day he was very sick with body aches and an upset stomach. Then Jonah caught it. Jonah started to feel better about the time Ben started running a fever.

We took Andy to the doctor today because he has run a steady fever of about 102º for over three days. After evaluating Andy and asking us some questions, the doctor sent us to the hospital to test for swine flu. He said it was standard procedure for anyone with Andy's symptoms who had travelled to the United States within the past week or two.

After leaving the hospital, we are officially under house quarantine for at least the next seven days. Ben will be seen by the doctor tomorrow and we may have more news after that.

For now, we ask you to pray for Andy because he is in quite a bit of pain and has trouble getting any sleep. Ben is doing a little better but is also having trouble sleeping and has a constant fever that Tylenol and ibuprofen don't control.

I will keep you posted on any new developments.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Another Birth in the Family

On June 26 we witnessed a birth.  It was the birth of my mother into the family of God.  She made the decision to become a child of God and, because the Bible says that anyone who believes in Jesus Christ and wants to follow him should be baptized, she did so.  On that Friday she started a new life.
John, Andy (4), my brother Mike, me holding Ben, My mom (after her baptism), Jonah (7), and Bill, my mom's boyfriend

Usually we include a photo or two of a baptism, but this time I am posting several.  One reason is selfish, because each picture elates my soul.  Another reason is because it dawned on me that many of you may never have witnessed a baptism.  

Here are most of the people who were present:
(my brother, my three kids, and Jerry, one of the elders of the church in Springtown, Texas.  He came to open the building for us because it was Friday.)

John and my mom changed into some robes that the church provides for convenience, then they stepped into the water.  John shared a few Bible verses with us:Then he asked my mom if she believes that Jesus is the son of God.  After she confirmed that statement, he baptized her in the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit:
Though it's a mystery as to how he does it we believe that God added her to his family for her faith in him:
Now my mom and I can be certain that we will not only spend this lifetime together but also the next.  And, I must admit, I can't think of anything that makes me happier.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sunday in Colorado

John invited his family over for church on Sunday.  You may remember that before we left for Brazil he baptized his dad and our niece's boyfriend, whom he later married to our niece.  Since then, his dad's wife has been baptized and is attending a local church.  His dad is now in better spirits than we've ever seen him, and our niece and her husband are happy together and being great parents to their two year old.  We couldn't be prouder.

It was great to see how the family is growing together since our last visit.  John reminded them that together we are the church and suggested that they meet together regularly to worship God and encourage one another. 
John's sister Gina invited her friend, who was baptized in the bathtub that same morning.  It turned out to be the best day of our furlough yet.  
If you want to see some more photos of our travels so far, go to "Furlough Photos"

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Our Temporary Phone Number

You can reach us at this number until July 25th, while we're in the States: (615) 584-8810.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Our 2009 Furlough Schedule

The Jewell family will be on furlough for two months.  Part of the time will be used to visit our families and friends and part will be to report to our sponsors, with a little vacation time thrown in.  If you're going to be in the same place at the same time, please let us know.  We are trying to work out the details of our stay in each place.  

Here's our travel schedule:

May 25
from Recife, Brazil to Miami, Florida

May 30
from Miami, Florida to Denver, Colorado

June 12
from Denver, Colorado to Dallas, Texas

June 28
from Dallas, Texas to Nashville, Tennessee

July 12
from Nashville, Tennessee to Dallas, Texas

July 24 
from Dallas, Texas to Miami, Florida

July 25
from Miami, Florida to Recife, Brazil

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Youth Impact III

Last Night was a special night at the Comunidade de Cristo.  It was the third annual Youth Impact.  The young adults invite their friends to see a theatrical presentation and hear a biblical message about what they just saw.

They did an excellent job presenting a piece in which three armed men enter the church and force members at gunpoint to admit their sins in front of the congregation.  The leader of the three insists that there is no such thing as true conversion, and tells the congregation that everyone who claims to be a Christian is only wearing a mask.  He says that they only act Christian at church but have secret lives outside of church.  For the first several hostages this is true.  But the last one the gunmen force to confess is a true Christian who has been genuinely converted.  This drives the gunman mad.  He cannot accept that it is possible because he doesn't believe in the power of Christ.  In the end, he turns the gun on himself. 

John had the honor of following the play with a message about wearing masks in church.  He talked about the fact that the world loves us because of something we have to offer but that God loves us in spite of the fact that we have nothing to offer.  He said God is not impressed with our masks and loves us just as we are.

There were over sixty people at the event last night.  Over thirty of those were visitors.  We were very impressed with the great job the young adults did to prepare the evening and we were very happy that they managed to get so many of their friends to attend.  If just one of them is reached for Christ, the whole evening will have been worth the effort.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Our Return to the Hospital

What looks like "Baby's First Tanning Booth" is actually a special bassinet to treat jaundice.  
Just two days out of the hospital, we took Ben to the pediatrician to see about treating acid reflux.  Jonah and Andy both had it and we saw signs of it in Ben.  We just needed to confirm the dosage of medicine to give him since he's smaller than either of them were. The doctor took one look at him and said we would have to deal with acid reflux later.  She said his color didn't look good and she ordered an urgent blood test.  Two hours later we discovered that his bilirubin level, which was supposed to be between .8 and 12, was 21.  He was severely jaundiced.  We immediately took him to the hospital to be admitted for phototherapy.

When we arrived they said they didn't have any vacancies.  They called the only other hospital in town that takes infants, and they also said they didn't have any vacancies.  John put out an a.p.b. for prayer and within fifteen minutes we had a room.  Ben spent three days and nights in the light bed that simulates sunlight.  I stayed next to him the whole time.  It was my job to make sure he stayed in the bassinet when he wasn't nursing or getting his diaper changed.  A canvas mask was taped over his eyes the whole time.  

His levels have returned to within the normal range and we were released yesterday afternoon.  I've heard it said that babies don't smile this young but I know Ben smiled at me when the nurse took his mask off.  Monday we will have his blood tested one more time to be sure his bilirubin levels aren't rising again.  Then he'll finally be free of all the poking and prodding until his next vaccines are due.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Welcome, Baby Ben

We just got home with this little bundle of joy:

He was born Tuesday night, March 3 (one year to the day that we left the States for Brazil).  His name is Ben Marshall Jewell and he weighed in at six pounds and four ounces.  I was induced a couple weeks early due to complications involving gestational diabetes and an unexplained intense itch.  After a ten-hour day, Ben arrived at 9:44 pm.  He and mom are doing great.  Jonah and Andy are thrilled, and Dad is on cloud nine with boy number three.  Thank you all for your prayers and your concerns during the difficult pregnancy.  I knew the minute I saw baby Ben that it was all worth it.

Saturday, February 28, 2009


Jaqueline (wearing green) has been studying the Bible with Marta, one of the Brazilian missionaries, for some time. She feels like she needs more information before she makes a decision whether or not to follow Jesus. She recently started bringing her mother, Noémia, to church with her. Noémia has been frequenting another church where she studied the Bible and decided to be baptized to begin her life as a Christian. They told her there that she would not be allowed because she has lived with a man for eight years without every legally marrying him. She asked to speak with Marta and explained her situation. She said she understood that she needed to make some changes in her life and was ready to do so, and she felt that Jesus was just the one to help her with that. She said she has wasted enough of her life and wants to start living for Christ. Marta agreed and her husband, Osmildo (far right), baptized Noémia.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Thursday Evenings at the Jewell House

Recently John and I were talking about what to do with all these new converts. It's not our goal to just baptize them and then leave them out to dry (no pun intended). John started out meeting with each one on a weekly basis, but that has become logistically impossible, so we had to come up with a better plan. We decided to start having them over as a group on Thursday evenings for discipleship. We don't really know what that should entail other than sharing with them what we have learned over our twelve short years of Christianity. The idea is that we know at least a little more than they do and want to share it with them. We talk about everything from relationships to integrity and are currently studying the book of Ephesians. The group is composed of various walks of life from the highly educated to those who struggle to read. Some have dark skin and others light. It makes for interesting discussions and everyone agrees it's how the church should be.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Thirty Days of Prayer

Before the new year began, John posed a challenge to the congregation here. He asked each member to find a partner to pray with every day in January. Throughout the month we have heard stories of what God has been doing in people's lives. Perhaps the most obvious result of all this prayer has been the four baptisms we were blessed with.  But it didn't stop there. Heloisa was just baptized on the first day in February.She has been coming to the church for several years and has studied the Bible for most of that time with Marta, Osmildo's wife.  (Osmildo is baptizing Heloisa.)  She has wanted to be baptized before but her mother, who is a spiritist, has not allowed it.  Her mother demanded that she not be baptized until she turned eighteen so that she would have plenty of time to decide between Christianity and spiritism.  Heloisa's grandmother is Catholic and her aunt belongs to the Universal Church, known here for taking advantage of the poor.  They all live together.

Heloisa just turned fifteen and insisted she knows what she wants.  She promised her family that she wouldn't preach to them but said she was ready to become a part of the church with or without her family's blessing.  They actually did come to her baptism but asked to not be introduced.  Luke 14:26 says "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters-yes even his own life-he cannot be my disciple." Heloisa's story is a great illustration of this difficult passage.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Triple Dip

John baptized these three people on Sunday.
Socorro (far left) is Geraldo's wife.  She was actually very happy but she never smiles in photos.  The boy standing next to her is Rosendo, their son.  He's fourteen and helps with the family business of selling popcorn.  John has continued to meet weekly with Geraldo since he was baptized and Socorro and Rosendo began to study with them.  They were all ready to change the way they've been living for the better and to become a part of God's family.  Geraldo still brings more people to church in the back of his truck than any other church member.

On the other side of John is Ingrid.  She's twelve and one of our boys' best friends.  Andy might marry her if it weren't for a little girl named Hannah Beth in Texas.  Ingrid asked us to study the Bible and said she wanted to be a Christian.  When John asked her what she planned to do after her baptism she said, "Sin less and tell my friends about Jesus." 

Monday, January 12, 2009


Tiago is the guy in the middle of this photo and he was just baptized at the end of December.  He's standing next to his girlfriend Kelly, who is one of the original church members at Comunidade de Cristo.  Kelly is a lovely girl who came to the congregation through a ministry outreach feeding neighborhood children many years ago. 
 She started dating Tiago in September and invited him to church.  He began a Bible study with Osmildo (standing on Tiago's left side) and ended up asking to be baptized.

 Tiago recently passed the very rigorous college entrance exam known as the vestibular and plans to study physics.  He lives on his own and currently works for an energy company in Natal.  Tiago's only 25, which makes him exceptional because most people his age still live at home and are dependent on their parents.  Since his baptism he has plugged into almost every activity available to the young adults at the congregation.  He and Kelly have also made it known that they are considering marriage.

John and I especially like this good-spirited couple and hope for the best possible future for both of them.