Spring Prayer Letter

Byron's most recent prayer letter...

Dear Folks,

Greetings from Brazil.  I've been trying to write for awhile without success. I've got a little break so I'm going to go for it.

There are several new things happening in the Atha household. Just don't know where to start. I feel like the donkey that starved between two bales of hay because he couldn't decide which one to eat.  Our oldest, William has officially flown the coop.  He wasn't satisfied with the options here for the courses he wanted to study so he decided to go to the US.  He is taking some of the basics at a community college and then he'll transfer to the college of his choice.  Someone commented that our hearts must be heavy, but the reply came back, "yes, but our wallets are heavier, too".  It's a necessary part of growing up and it's what we spent 20 years preparing him for.  Still, even though I got my office back and my desk back (etc), most days I'd just as soon have him back.

William with grandparents in NC
We've started a recorder (flute) orchestra at church.  Over the years I've tried to teach basic music theory from time to time with varying degrees of success failure.  Music in the church has always been a problem here as it's a small group and most are musically declined.  At first we just squawked it out.  One day I was outside during a service and discovered one explanation for few visits.  I couldn't tell if they were singing or had just laid an egg. So I wrote a computer program to play background music and display the words on the wall. That helped - when it worked.  The boys played some specials, but didn't get to the point they could do the service until during furlough. William did excellent programming and Greyson and a member have taken up the job and are doing well. But then what… Well, I hope that the recorder will be a stepping stone to other instruments and maybe even a regular orchestra.  I was going to let Greyson do the whole class, but ended up splitting it with him. I didn't anticipate how much time preparation would take up. I guess it would be easier if I actually knew how to PLAY one of the things…

Probably before you get another letter from us, Dalton will have graduated from high school.  The program is supposed to go for a full year, but at 18 it's hard to legally keep him there, and his birthday is in August. We hope he'll stay at least a little longer to iron out some of his problems but I think it unlikely. He has applied to the welding course at the same community college as William.  He has made some outward progress, but I fear the internal changes needed to make a long-term difference have not yet been effected.  Most importantly, there is no sign of spiritual change.  But there is still time, and God is able.

Thankful for friends and family who have made monthly visits to see Dalton at the boarding school.

The other exciting story is a bit longer.  It is unlikely that any of you remember a young man named Givanildo ("Gi") who fell into immorality 5 or 6 years ago. He was disciplined and though he remained faithful for awhile, he eventually drifted away.  I counseled him several times and sometimes he would make an effort to reform but it never lasted.  He started working major construction jobs like a large dam in the Amazon where he lived in a dorm and only visited home every 3 months.  When in town he'd visit church with his live-in girlfriend.  She suddenly started coming faithfully to every service and one day said "Gi" wanted to talk to me.  He finally tired of his life and decided that he was going to live for God.  I was initially apprehensive, but he began to talk of the changes he was going to have to make - including giving up his unsaved girlfriend, Priscilla (see, we do have some easy names). Now the church attendance made sense. 

Michele offered to have Bible studies with her and she fit in well at church.  We were very careful to not only not pressure her, but to make salvation a non-issue. Once when Michele went for the Bible study the family was upset about a cousin who stole from a store to pay for his drugs.  We got involved to try to get him into a Christian rehab (we are still trying). Then on Easter, the sermon was a bit different as I told the Resurrection as part of the first-person life of Peter.  At the end William gave an invitation and Priscilla raised her hand.  Michele spoke to her after the service. We have concerns of a "convenience conversion" but the changes we hear of and the joy we see in her face certainly point to the working of the Holy Spirit.  Priscilla has already made public her decision at church, is talking about baptism and they are committed to abstinence while working toward a wedding on his next trip home. Gi has begun witnessing to some of his friends on the job and seems to have "turned the corner" in his walk with the Lord.  This has been a 5 or 6 year process. Praise the Lord with us and pray for them because they have difficult days ahead.  Pray also for the young drug addict cousin.

Pray for Luis in the red shirt and see Michele's last post for more info.

Two more quick mentions: Since our last letter the youth hosted all the regional youth rally.  Some didn't come thinking a small church couldn't do anything good, but our youth worked long and hard and I believe it turned out well. I am most proud that instead of concentrating on "fun," they complemented the theme of evangelizing by taking everyone out in small groups to practice what they'd learned.  Two weeks later we had an anniversary conference and two days after that William left, somewhat exhausted.

Thank you for your prayers,
Byron Atha and family


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