Uruguay is known for being the “graveyard for missionaries.”
With one of the highest rates for suicide and depression in all the Americas, the large majority of missionaries get chewed up and spit out. Atheism and agnosticism rule, with only 3% of the population actively practicing any Christian faith.
Learning About Maturity
Matt and Toni Daniels moved to Uruguay as missionaries in 1997. Matt, normally a very ambitious man, fell prey to depression in 2003. This led them to start looking for help. That’s when they came across the Life Model book. After reading it, they came to realize that their problems in relationships were not just sin, but immaturity issues. It instantly removed their sense of shame while also giving them great hope. There was something they could DO to participate in their maturity development!
It is not unusual for relationships on the mission field to be lacking in joy bonds. Marriages are put under great stress and when they have limited capacity for the joy they quickly unravel. Missionary communities often experience great amounts of stress with few tools for dealing with it well.
Becoming a Joyful Family
Toni and Matt began to learn about how to quiet themselves through The Life Model. As they began to practice, they noticed a change in themselves. They realized that their daughter was still showing signs of distress and depression. In 2008, in a desperate search for more help for their daughter and their missionary team, Toni came across the Belonging course from the Life Model. She and Matt began using it to introduce everyone around them to relational skills that were missing in their family and ministry dynamics. After just a few months of intentional exercises together, including joy smiles, return to joy, and quieting practice on an almost daily basis, the norm in their family and team was no longer “tense”, but “glad to be together”.
Having completed Track II of Thrive training, the Daniels are now experiencing amazing transformations in their family life. Not only are they living in joy themselves, but have become catalysts for beginning a joy revolution in Uruguay. They began a pilot group using the Life Model that included several generations and belief backgrounds. One woman who joined the group was the atheist wife of a retired diplomat. Toni taught the brain skills to the group but did not get to the invitation to live the Immanuel Life. Still, in the last week, without ever hearing about Jesus, the ambassador’s wife began weeping and said she could no longer deny the existence of God. She was convinced that God’s presence had brought her joy, and she was ready to make room in her life for that God.
Toni and Matt have now trained 120 teachers for the largest Catholic school in Uruguay. They helped them learn to care for each other through teaching quieting, listening to Jesus, and building joy, all through training in Thrive skills. The teachers are now using those skills for their own families and teaching them to their students.
The Daniels’ church is using the Thrive skills to help develop elders. Through passing on the Thrive skills, the community is learning how to have stronger two-way bonds, experience joy, and build their quieting skills. People are growing into maturity, and it is building up the church in ways only dreamed of previously.
More recently, Toni had the opportunity to bring the Thrive skills to their annual leadership summit for Christian Associates. Leaders from all over the Americas and Europe attended and were eager to learn about and practice joy, appreciation, and sensing the presence of God.
After 16 years of feeling like they were in a drought, there are spiritual and relational trees full of fruit for the picking. Their family, church, and ministry are changing from the inside out and ripening into the life-giving community. The Thrive skills are beginning to be used to break through the kingdom of darkness and depression that has ruled over Uruguay for centuries. God is on the move and may just bring change to an entire nation.
Toni writes on her blog, “You know that feeling you get when someone is glad to be with you? Their eyes light up and sparkle when they see you, and there is a jolt of energy. This feeling we get when we are glad to be together is what I have come to understand as joy. Matt and I are convinced that this relational joy is more powerful than most of us have ever known. When harnessed and cultivated it has the power to bring strength and peace in any situation, pull people from depression and even motivate us to sacrifice our lives for the good of others.” The Daniels know that they have stepped into something much bigger than themselves. It is a revolution of joy, not just in Uruguay, but maybe all over the world.