A Look Back

Barbara Hensley has served the Lord in Brazil, South America, with her husband AJ since 1996. They have worked with orphanages, started mission points, established churches, and are presently conducting a seminary for Brazilian pastors.

Dear friends and family,

Well, this month, we wives have been asked to write the letters. So, I have been thinking of my time as a missionary wife and all the different things I have done. But my mind returns to now and how everything has been put on hold because of the pandemic. I have been struggling with what to write in this letter so I think I will do a quick look back.

When we first came to Brasil our goal was to be helpers to Odali and Kathy Barros. We went to Vera Cruz, São Paulo, Brasil. There I walked to their house every day to help Kathy with the boys they had in their home. This was the start of the Orphanage.

Now I want to tell you that we went to Brasil without knowing the language, which is Portuguese. This is not something that I would recommend for a new missionary. So, we encountered many things that were language barriers in our day-to-day lives. For example, we learned how to say “bread”, but went to get some and did not know the word for how many we wanted, but we could hold up how many fingers. One day I wanted to make some bread and went to the store to get flour, but did not know the word for “flour”, so I looked for something that might indicate that it was flour but did not find anything. And this time, I could not figure out how to motion anything for that word. These are just two of the many challenges I faced.

I spent the majority of my days alongside Kathy, so she was my translator. But when I went home, we only had each other to communicate with. It was so funny. When a Brasilian tried to talk to us and we did not respond because we did not understand, they would just repeat it…only louder because they thought we did not hear them.

We moved later to the next city as Odali and Kathy moved to be closer to the Church and to have more space for the children. In these two places, my job remained the same: helper in the daily routine. We stayed in the house that we were able to rent for some time. Then in this town, we were to be able to get the use of an old abandoned hospital because the house that Odali and Kathy had was quickly getting too small.

In this place my duties became more intense as AJ and I became house parents to various boys. So then 24/7 we were in charge of the care of these boys. Their clothes, the managing of their chores, their studies, their bedtimes—well, you understand—all in. There were times I would sit up all night with a sick one, bake cookies at the last minute for a school party, etc.

After several years in Garça, we were invited to help another missionary couple start another orphanage. But after some time in this place it became clear that the Mayor of the town did not want Americans opening an orphanage in his town, so God moved us again.

This time we visited Odali’s brother and were invited to help him in his church. We have spent over 14 years in this town: Caraguatatuba. My work changed from a mother to boys at an orphanage to wife of a pastor. But in each phase of our lives, my main focus has been on the children. Whether it be in an orphanage or in a church, children naturally gravitated to me. It did not seem to matter that I am very strict with them; they seem to want this in their lives.

We have been just like all of you for some time, quarantined in a home in Florida, because it was from there that we were going to fly to Brasil. So, when this pandemic is over, our trips to Brasil for the Seminary will begin again.

I will close this letter with a story a Pastor here in Florida told me recently. He said when he heard at a Baptist Faith Missions Conference that AJ had been accepted as a missionary with BFM, he just shook his head. He thought AJ would make a good missionary, but he was sure that I would not last over a month. This pastor telling me this asked for my forgiveness at the Conference this year. Well I have, through God’s grace been on the field with AJ for 23 years. And with God’s grace, I think that I have a few more in me.

Thank each and every one of you for your faithful prayers and financial support—because missionaries do not do this on our own, it takes ALL of us working together.

In His service,
Barbara Hensley

Contact Info:
AJ & Barbara Hensley
Cell #s — AJ: 859-539-2302 / Barb: 859-539-1424

For ministry donations:
Pastor George Sledd, Treasurer of BFM
P.O. Box 471280 | Lake Monroe, FL 32747-1280
or click here to donate to BFM online.