Debora and Levi Santana and their two children are planning to relocate to Goiania, Brazil with Church Mission Society, a move which, they admit, may not be “sensible”.
This Christmas was a special one, as it marked the beginning of a new season in our lives. We are beginning to give away our furniture and have started packing and choosing the items we would like to take with us to Goiania, Brazil. It is all getting real now.
Not because we can, but because we must
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, using and dealing drugs in broad daylight. A local pastor described the situation as a “pest” that was out of control.
When we remember those men, women and children who are considered pests, 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” (Matthew 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 but 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 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, as well as providing food, clothes and dignity through haircuts and other small treatments. As a beautician, Debora wants to teach girls how to work as beauticians, which may give them an alternative to drug dealing or prostitution. 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.
In saying yes to this challenge, we will 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 when we first arrived in England… we are a hybrid version of our former selves. So we are aware that we will have many challenges in adapting to the Brazilian way of living.
Does God have a plan B?
Many people have asked us why we are going. They are puzzled as to why we would want to leave England to live in an increasingly violent and economically broken nation. Others are shocked that we are leaving the “security” provided by a salary to live on gift income. Some are surprised to hear that we have no plan B.
Sometimes there is a huge temptation to come up with a Plan B. After all, what if we can't get ready in time? What if we can't get enough support? Maybe we should have a contingency plan? Maybe we should have our CVs ready just in case? Should we avoid the potential 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. During Advent we felt challenged – God is not a ‘plan B God’. Jesus’ advent is a testament of this. God did not shy away from his desire to save us, to deal with our brokenness and to reconcile humanity to himself. Jesus is God’s plan A.
Choosing to trust
So we have asked God for the courage to have no plan B; the invitation from God is to continue to trust him unreservedly. We trust that 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. 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.
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.
We are hoping to start our training with Church Mission Society in Oxford in April, so we can be ready to move to Goiania by July.
This article was first published in the Church of Engand Newpaper on 20 January 2017. Mission means… is a regular feature in The Call, Church Mission Society's quarterly newspaper.