Saturday, December 5, 2009
Friday was the kids last day of school. Summer vacation starts next week for the Brasileros. It is quite strange to think of having summer vacation during Christmas. It is also hard to get used to seeing Christmas decorations when a typical day hovers around 100 degrees! I must say that we have been enjoying some Washington weather this week though. It has rained every day for about eight days and today it has not let up at all. I have mentioned in the past that the only bummer about this is that we do not have any clean, dry clothes! Most of our wardrobe is hanging outside under our porch smelling like a damp dog! Ugh!!! I do look forward to having a dryer again!
We took the onibus into the city this morning with our neighbors, Patricia and Saulo, to celebrate Saulo's 24th birthday!!! We feel like the old folks around here! We are practically old enough to be their parents. I can't remember if I mentioned this before, but my age seems to really be hitting me in the face here in Brazil. The students at CTMDT refer to us as their "older friends" and sometimes even call me mom! How on earth did that happen?!!! I still think of myself as 32! What was really humbling was when I realized that the precious couple that I have been referring to as the kids local "grandparents" are exactly my age!! Oops! Thank goodness they did not realize I had been calling them grandma and grandpa! I could have sworn they had a decade on me! Guess I better take a look in the mirror!
O.K., back to school....The kids have had a great experience going to school here in Brazil. They attended a local private school called "Colegio Cramer". The boys had to get up for school at 6:00 A.M. which was a bit of a challenge, but they rose to the occasion and we are very proud of them. Going to an all Portuguese speaking school was not easy. Often times they would complain of being bored. When they did this I would remind them of their friends at school back home who came from China three years ago. It was not easy at first but eventually these girls started to speak English and are now doing very well. Most days the boys would come home with smiles on their faces, so I knew they were having a decent experience.
Gabriella went to school in the afternoon. Though she struggled most days when being dropped off, she was all smiles at the end of the day. It is hard to tell exactly how much our children actually learned this year but we know that the experience has been educating in itself. They are not fluent in Portuguese, but they understand a lot and can communicate quite well. We tried to keep up on American homework at home but we won't know until we get back to the states where the kids are at. I am hopeful that the five months of school here in Brazil has been a good thing that will have far reaching affects on them, whether or not they have managed to keep up with their classmates back home.
I have posted some pictures of each kid with their teachers and classmates. I also included a photo of Noah with his teacher, Angela, whom I particularly liked. The staff at Cramer was wonderful and we are so thankful that they allowed our kids to attend their school without a bunch of hassle or paperwork. It was just one more experience that went surprisingly smoothly for us in this foreign country.
Friday, December 4, 2009
I have been planning to blog about some of the people who have helped our transition here in Brazil to be one of relative ease. There are many people who have reached out to us and gone above and beyond as we have settled into life in a foreign country. I will only be mentioning a few of them since I do not have family photos of everyone and I want you to see, as well as hear how they have blessed us. Maisel and Marcia have been a huge help to us in many ways. I regret that I do not have a family picture of them. I posted a couple of photos of them on a previous blog; two separate photos of them with their darling son, Samuel.
Our friend, Silvia, speaks good English and helped us to get our CPF cards (equivalent to a U.S. Social Security Card). She has also helped us with translations at the school that our children attend. Silvia's husband, Gustavo, is a helicopter mechanic at a local airport. Their daughter, Anna Victoria, is Gabriella's closest friend here in Brazil.
Eliane, an English Teacher, came along side me to help me in my preparations for teaching English. I came to Brazil totally unprepared to teach English, and she generously loaned me many books and activities from her stockpile of teaching lessons. She has opened up her heart and her home to our family, and we are thankful for her. She and her husband, Geraldo, have three children: Diego, Daniel, and Sarah.
Our neighbors, Gislaine and Claydson, have been like family to us. We have spent more time with them than anyone else in Brazil. We are privileged to have them in our lives and we will miss them terribly. Gislaine, who at 26 and has the energy that I no longer have, took Gabriella under her wings and has formed a lifetime bond with our youngest child. This precious brother and sister have helped us to communicate with the landlords that we both share and have also assisted us in paying our bills when necessary. We have shared meals, laughs, vacations, and tears. Our lives have been impacted through their love.
Danilho and Claudia, have been a wealth of information for us. I have mentioned that they own our favorite local pizza restaurant. They also run the Creche, the school I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that provides affordable education for the poor. Danilho has driven Marko around on several occasions to work out the details of living in Brazil. He has been invaluable to us and has introduced us to many people whom have assisted us in ways that are yet to be fully realized. We thank God for he and Claudia as well as their son, Danininho.
Ezra, is a dear CTMDT student who amazes us with her maturity. Ezra is a twenty two year old former Muslim who speaks four languages. Born in Bosnia and raised in Germany, she is a worldly-wise young woman! She is always there to interpret for us when we need it and she has blessed us with her contagious joy. We have enjoyed talking with her about her "boyfriend" problems and have been blessed to pray with her regarding her desires to be married and to go into the mission field.
There are many other Brazilians that have reached out to us and loved us. We are so humbled by this culture of people and their warmth towards us. We are in awe of their contentment in the little things. We have learned so much from watching their lives and from experiencing their love. We are forever changed and forever grateful for this experience in Brazil, and we believe this is only the beginning of our relationship with this little community.
Monday, November 30, 2009
This afternoon our neighbors, Gislaine and Claydson, had a birthday party for two of our friends, Gustovo and Magano. I realize you do not know these people but I just wanted to post some pictures of some of our friends/neighbors. We all live within walking distance of each other. Though I miss the tranquility of our home in the United States, I will definitely miss this sense of community. I love being able to pop my head over the wall and ask to borrow a xicara of farinha (a cup of flour)! The other day Marko Gabriel got in a water fight with Gislaine. I still am not sure who started it, but Marko had the garden hose and Gislaine a bucket of water. I heard screaming and ran out to take a picture. On Saturday we decided to have a potluck breakfast together. The kids have taken to climbing over the wall between our houses. I am not sure they realize how much they will miss this when we are back in the United States.
I had to take this picture of our friends eating American Chocolate Chip Cookies. They have become a favorite in our neighborhood and like I have shared, I have taught many people how to make them. In fact, I am teaching two more friends how to make cookies tomorrow. I need to send some chocolate chips to Brazil. They are very hard to find. I have never actually seen any. We have to buy large chocolate bars and break them up into pieces. Based on this fact, I suppose I should change the name to Chocolate Chunk Cookies.
I have to share something that we learned today about the mail system in Brazil. If you send a package from the United States you have to mark it as a "present". If you don't and it weighs over a certain amount, the post office in Brazil will charge the receiving person a large amount of money! A few weeks ago we received a box of coffee and syrup from a friend. We had to pay 130 reais (or around $70) to be able to get the package. We thought this was ridiculous, but somewhat humorous. Here we were having to pay for a care package that someone already paid for in the U.S.! We were not sure why this was the case, so we paid the money and enjoyed the contents of the box very much! It was not so humorous today when we received another box with a price tag of about $360 reais! Marko went to the post office with a friend and was told that he could choose to pay the money for the box or they could send the box back to the U.S. for free! We don't really understand the logic in all of this, but we sent the package back! We will, after all, be home in January to retrieve it! Lesson: If you ever need to send a package to Brazil, make sure you claim it as a "present"!!!
The young man in the photo with Marko and I is one of our favorite students. His name is Enrique and he is dear to our hearts. His family invited us to spend some time with them in Rio over Christmas vacation, and we hope to have him come live with us in the United States sometime in the future.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Yesterday we spent the day at our friend, Tina's, country estate. Tina was the first person to open up her home to us when we arrived in Brazil. She lived in London for fourteen years and has been a great "English speaking" contact for us. I wrote about her and her beautiful home a few months ago. As I was wandering her gardens yesterday, taking pictures of her amazing tropic fruit trees, I started to think about the many comparisons that Jesus makes in the bible about our lives producing good or bad fruit.
We are struggling as a family right now to live at peace with one another. It has been about 100 degrees for two weeks and our tiny house is like an oven. The kids have been getting on each others nerves and have been treating each other and their parents disrespectfully. Marko and I have been a bit grumpy ourselves! Yesterday was a tough morning. We sat the kids down to have a little discussion before leaving for Tina's. We told them how proud we were of them for coming to Brazil and that we knew it had not been easy. We talked about how they have been treating each other and how it saddens God's heart as well as ours. Marko asked them to really think about how they were talking to each other and what a stranger would think of our family if they stood outside our home and listened. We told them we have to be the same in the privacy of our own home as we are in public or we are not being "real". We talked about how the Lord knows and hears all things. We then prayed and began our day once again with changed attitudes. This little discussion with our kids, along with seeing the fruit trees at Tina's led me to the vision for this blog.
One of my favorite verses in the bible is Galatians 5:22 which says: "But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control."
I want these attributes in my life, but often struggle to have them. I especially struggle with patience! It is amazing how the weather can have an effect on our attitudes, but here in Brazil my patience is definitely affected by the heat! I have to admit that I am struggling with self control as well. The food here is so amazing and the Brazilian Culture is such that they want you to eat with them and often times they don't stop eating until ten at night! This has been a challenge for me. Saying "no" doesn't seem to be an option!
Another verse that I want to share is John 15:1-6 regarding "The fruits of the Spirit": "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit.; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned."
In the same way a gardener prunes the dead branches in an orchard to produce good fruit, the Lord wants to prune his people so that they only produce good fruit. I don't know about you, but I need daily pruning! I desire to have the "Fruits of the Spirit" evident in my life. I want my impatience and my lack of self control to be thrown into the fire and replace with much " good fruit"!
When you look at these photos of some of Brazil's exotic fruits, consider they ways that the Lord is trying to prune your life so that you produce much fruit! I have included a picture of Tina picking fruit off one of her trees and a picture of the children by the pool.
Friday, November 27, 2009
This is my last week teaching English in Brazil for the year. I mentioned recently that December is summer break in Brazil. Most of my students are either graduating or heading home for Feliz Natal (Christmas). They will come back in February to start a new school year.
One of my classes consists of the staff at CTMDT who are also leaving for vacation. Thursday was our last class together and they wanted to make me breakfast to say thank you. My theme for class that day was a Hawaiian/Beach theme. I wanted to share some of my photos with you. These students are very special to me and I am saddened to say goodbye. We will not be here when they get back from vacation. They prayed for our family and told us to please come back to live in Brazil full time. We are planning on heading home in January to spend some time resting and seeking God on our future involvement with our Brazilian Community. We do not plan to live here full time, but can see ourselves traveling here yearly and contributing to the community of Santa Luzia which we have come to love, not for its physical beauty, but for the beauty of the people and their hearts towards our family. We are still considering the job offer that has been presented to us to start and run an English Program for the Missionary College.
Just as school is wrapping up for the year, so are sports. Marko has been playing on a futebol team most Thursday nights for fun with some of the CTMDT students, as well as, local community members. The guys have nicknamed him "Renaldo" who is a famous professional futebol player here in Brazil. They have been impressed with "The white guy" from America who is twice their age! Marko has managed to keep up with the guys pretty good considering his knee issues. I have included a great photo of Marko with his teammates.
School for our children will be over by mid December. They have done an amazing job of adjusting to school in Brazil. It has not been easy for them considering the language barrier, but they have been able to meet some friends and learn some Portuguese, which was our goal for putting them into a Portuguese school. Marko spends a lot of time with his friend, Giogo, who is over at our house a couple of times a week. Please pray for Giogo. Giogo has shared with Marko that he does not have any other friends at his school. It seems that he is one of those kids that other students tease and are often mean to. He is devastated that Marko will not be here to finish the school year with him. We are worried that this young boys heart will continue to be hurt by the cruelty of other children. As in America, there always seems to be an "underdog" whom kids like to pick on. I am so proud of Marko for always loving the underdog, a prayer that I have prayed for all of my kids since they were born. I will try to locate a picture of Giogo if I can find one and will post it so that you can put a face to the name and can pray for him if it's on your heart.
We hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! We will be celebrating with some friends on Sunday. I am pretty sure this will be my first attempt at baking a turkey!
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Marko and I decided to pull the kids out of school yesterday to spend the day at a favela in Belo Horizonte. While researching our move to Brazil, we came into contact with an American by the name of Laura Bookout who was living in Belo Horizonte. Laura works for YWAM (Youth with a mission). She recently married a Brazilian and is in Brasil to stay. By the way, the locals spell Brasil with an "s". In America we use a "z", so now I tend to use both! Anyways, Laura invited us to spend the day at the YWAM base so we skipped school and hopped on the onibus to Belo.
We took the one hour bus ride into downtown Belo and then had to walk several blocks to catch another bus. All of our kids have a heart for the homeless (especially Noah) so it took us a while to get to the second bus. Noah insisted that we give money to every homeless person along the way. We even had to buy a hamburger and a juice for one of them! It was precious and we are thankful that the kids care about the homeless of which there are many in Brasil.
We caught the second bus which then took us to the base of the favela where we grabbed a taxi for the remainder of the drive. We arrived at the YWAM base just in time for a delicious Brazilian lunch of rice, beans, salad, and carne. We had the opportunity to talk with the YWAM staff and find out a little more about the history of YWAM itself and of the favelas.
YWAM is in the Luzeiros Flavela and has been there for 17 years. The ministry was started by the Dutch and there are bases around the world. These bases reach out to the local community and share the gospel with the children of those communities. They also have many athletic activities for the kids to be involved in. This base had a pool, playground, and a sports court. The children come to YWAM for after school programs. YWAM has plans to reach out to the adult population as well. In Brasil, YWAM is strategically located at the base of one of the largest flavelas in Belo Horizonte.
The flavelas consist of houses and shacks stacked on top of each other in the hillsides of Brasil. They have existed since the end of the 19th century and are increasing in number. About half of the population of Brasil's large cities live in flavelas. Flavelas are run by drug lords who sadly are often teenage boys. The drug lords are in complete control of these communities and they run a tight operation. Apparently they are good to the people within their communities. They do not tolerate crime within their flavela whatsoever and will punish anyone who steels or kills violently-often by death. They protect their own, and for this reason, the members of the community do not have to fear assault or robbery within their flavela. Killing is only allowed by the drug lords themselves and is only allowed outside of the community walls. Unfortunately, crime and violence between favelas is an enormous problem and there are thousands of deaths every month, especially in Rio de Janeiro, where we just learned that there are about 26,000 murders per month!
The Drug lord's are very accepting of the YWAM base and its staff. They support what YWAM is doing for their youth even though they do not live the lifestyle that is being promoted. Often times youth that have come out of the YWAM base are the ones who end up being sought after as Drug lord's because they have the education and intelligence to do well in the drug business. It is quite an interesting arrangement!
After lunch the children played while Marko and I took a tour of the base which sits atop a hillside and overlooks the city of Belo. It was quite pretty actually. At 2:00 the children arrived and we joined the staff for a few minutes as they explained to the children that we were going on a fieldtrip to get ice cream! The kids were beside themselves and could hardly sit still long enough to be introduced to our family!
We left the base and began our walk down the steep (and I mean steep) hills of the favela. I have to say that I have never felt my age so much as when we were carefully descending that hill. I had no idea how far it was to the ice cream shop and Marko and I were both aching by the time we sat down to enjoy our refreshing treat! Ice cream never tasted so good (actually, it truly was the best ice cream I have ever had-just like homemade). We loved hanging out with these children and their teachers. The kids devoured their ice cream and were loving every bite. We finished (dare I admit that I went back for seconds?!) and took a deep breath for the climb back up the hill to the flavela.
By the time we reached the YWAM base we were steaming hot and exhausted. It was time for us to say goodbye since we had other errands to run in the city. We hugged the children goodbye and regretfully climbed into the taxi which would take us back down to the other side of Brasil: the hustling, bustling city with its skyscrapers and parks. It was a short, but good afternoon, and a fieldtrip to remember.
We spent the evening running our errands and eating dinner in Belo. We then caught a 7:00 bus back to Santa Luzia on which we had to stand for the entire hour trip home. I took a picture of the bus so you could see how full they cram the city buses. There were about 100 people on that bus(I am pretty sure the capacity is around 60!) So much for safety limits! Welcome to Brasil!
Sunday, November 22, 2009
It is Sunday evening and it has been a stifling hot day in Santa Luzia, Brasil. We just got back from the pool which was not very refreshing at temperature of about 80! Our house gets hit with direct sunlight all day and our portable air conditioner is not very effective. We also have a dead rat or some other varmit that is stinking up our house. You can just imagine the combination of a dead animal and intense heat-not a exactly a welcomed experience!
On a good note: I was able to get a few hours by myself today. I took a 6:30 A.M. bus into Belo Horizonte to go to the street fair. They start and end fairs early in Brasil because of the heat. I enjoyed walking around by myself without having to worry about keeping an eye on the kids. I ate a chicken skewer for breakfast and boy was it tasty! The fair was very crowded. I had to walk up the outside of the booths to keep from hyperventilating! The fair is several blocks long and about seven booths wide-its crazy!
It has been a fairly uneventful week. This is the end of the school year in Brasil so the students seem to have all gone into hiding to study for finals. I am winding down my English classes-in fact this will be my last week of teaching for the year. School ends around December 11th and the students take off for a seven week vacation. I am feeling sad about them leaving. Some of the college students (many of whom are my English Students) are graduating and I will probably never see most of them again. They come from all over Brasil which of course is a huge country!
The director of the Missionary College asked Marko and I to come back next year to start and run an intensive English Program for the students. Please join us in praying for this huge decision. I do not feel at all prepared to take on such a huge undertaking, but I am also aware that it is an amazing opportunity. What it really comes down to is what is God calling us to, and is running an English Program in Brasil a part of His plan for our lives? If it is, then He will give us the strength and ability to do so. We find ourselves with many different opportunities at this time in our lives and we just want to be obedient to the "call".
Since there is no theme to my blog today, I will just post some random pictures for you to enjoy including a couple of photos of our favorite little guy-Samuel and his parents, Maisel and Marcia!
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Finally, the blog that I have been promising, and one of the reasons we came to Brazil in the first place; Muslim training with i2 Ministries.
We spent thirty hours a week for four weeks for a total of 120 hours of training in Islamic Studies with i2 Ministries. Our friend, Josh, started i2 Ministries a number of years ago because he saw the need for Christians to be educated, not only in the history and agenda of the Muslim Religion as proclaimed by the Prophet Muhammad, but also in the historical facts and proofs for Christianity. Josh, along with his wife, Jussara, and several other committed staff members, have created this training which is the most thorough training on Islam in the present world today.
We were blessed to be trained by four of the top experts on Islam in the world. These professors, were a wealth of knowledge. The training was intense, and the studies hard, but the education that we received in such a short amount of time was incredible. It left us with the desire to know more about Islam and its detrimental effect on all religions and cultures across the globe. The training also helped to solidify our faith in Jesus Christ and Christianity. We were left with a desire to know more about Christianity in order to defend our beliefs. We are in no way are experts ourselves on Islam or Christianity, but we feel that we have enough knowledge to educate our friends and family back home on just what the Prophet Muhammad and his followers mean by establishing an "Islamic State" in every country of the world. I will now share a brief summary on what each of the professors taught. I will use only their first or last name but not both.
Joshua spent the first week educating us on Christian Apologetics to Islam which simply means to defend the bible against Islam. Josh asked us to consider our "vocation" and to get involved with fighting Islam with love and the word of God. He educated us on the background and life of the prophet Muhammad, shared with us many contradictions in the Qur'an and other Islamic sources, and he challenged us to love Muslims enough to share the gospel with them. There is so much more that was taught but it would be impossible to relay it all. There are approximately 1.5 billion Muslims in the world today-15% or 300 million of those Muslims are radical which is around the population of the United States. Two out of every three wars are with Muslims. There are 30 wars around the world today-most of which involve Islam. Josh's heart is for the global Christian Church to be educated in regards to Islam. He has devoted his life to this cause, and he needs many people to come along side him in bringing the truth of the gospel to this people group.
The second week we were blessed to hear from Dr. Smith from London. Dr. Smith debates Muslims at Speakers Corner in London every Sunday. He is a well known and respected expert on Islam. He is also a dangerous threat to Islam and has laid his life on the line to go against the top Muslim Debaters in the world. He spoke about Muslim Evangelism Post 9-11. He gave us the resources to be able to debate Muslim Scholars. Of course we feel still feel completely ill-equipped to do so and don't intend to stand up on a ladder at Speakers Corner anytime soon! Dr. Smith opened our eyes to the vast growth of Islam in the U.K. and how Islam is now infiltrating the West.
Our third week was "Church Planting in a Muslim Context" taught by Dr. Jeff. Dr. Jeff lived in Africa for a number of years witnessing to Muslims. He spoke to us about the challenges of planting a Christian Church and the steps that it takes to do so. He used the church in the book of Acts as an example of how it takes a team of people to start a church. The most important fact that I got out of Dr. Jeff's teaching was a movement that is sweeping the west. This movement is called the "Insiders Movement". This is when Muslims convert to Christianity in their hearts but do not publicly aknowledge their new faith for fear of the consequences from their own families and church. Insider Missionaries use the Qu'ran as a tool to bring Muslims to believe in the bible. They do not, however, encourage the belief that Jesus is God. They water down the gospel in order to convert Muslims to Christianity. As Dr. Jeff stated, "The problem is that when you start with deception, you become a part of the deception." Often these Christian Missionaries dress up as Muslims, go to Mosques as Muslims, in essence pretend to be Muslims in order to convert Muslims. This ends up backfiring because the missionaries themselves are not being true to their faith in Christ and are deceiving the Muslims as well as accepting this part Christian/part Islam faith. There are Insider conferences in the United States today and I would encourage any of you that would like to learn more about it to do some research.
Our last week was spent learning about "Muslim Christian Theological Issues" from Dr. Sasan. He had us read the entire Qu'ran in the span of twelve days. It was a grueling read, but necessary for our education. He helped us to understand the Muslim mindset and why they believe what they do. He talked in great deal about the trinity and the arguments that Muslims will use against it. He mentioned that "The God of the bible and the God of the Qu'ran are 100% opposed in all areas, primarily in that of the relationship between God and his people." His teachings made us love the word of God all the more and opened our eyes to the complete confusion of the Qu'ran.
These professors have devoted their lives to educating Christians on matters of Islam and its effects on Christianity today. As I mentioned before, we do not in any way profess to be experts on this topic. Our eyes have been opened, and we are committed to sharing our knowledge with other interested believers. This was only a very small look into the training that we received through i2 Ministries. We are planning to take a team of people back to Brazil in July or 2010 for another training. If you are interested, please let Marko and I know. We would love to have you join us.
I have to mention some other people who were intricately involved in this training. Casey and Erica with i2 Ministries were huge behind the scenes people who contributed hours and hours of their time for this training. They were a joy to be around, and loved by everyone. I know there were other i2 employees who's contributions also helped to make this happen. Maisel and Yuri were the main interpreters. They worked tirelessly for hours on end to make sure that everyone had a chance to hear and understand this world of Islam.
I will end by saying that Marko and I completed the training with a desire to inform the local church about the truth of Islam. We have a new love and compassion for the Muslim people and especially for the women and children who are being oppressed by this religion. Marko spent a week in Foz do Iguacu where he had a chance to talk with some local Muslims and visit a mosque. Foz is a known refuge for the Taliban on the run from the Middle East and therefore is also a location with a CIA presence. Marko handed out a tract and New Testament to a Muslim man in a local shop, had lunch with a CTMDT student and another Muslim man, and met with a Christian Pastor in Paraguay who is reaching out to Muslims and desires to have i2 training.
Overall, Marko's conclusion was that for both the educated and the uneducated, the Muslims are a very intimidating religious group. They are knowledgeable in their faith and they can usually run circles around a Christian in a debate context. With some education and training, you can begin to see the need of the Savior for this religious group. There is no assurance of faith for the Muslim. Only by taking their own life in an act of suicide bombing, are they secured a place in paradise (according to the Qu'ran). This is incredibly sad and should cause the hearts of God's people to be touched and should move them (us) to share the love of Christ with the Muslims.
Friday, November 13, 2009
I wanted to take this time to thank all of you, our friends and family, for your financial and prayer support. We are very grateful for the many ways we have been blessed. Some of you have sent care packages, and we cannot tell you how much that means to us. You don't realize all of the little things that you will miss from home until you spend some time away. The food, coffee, books, clothes, and toys have been such a blessing. The kids are beside themselves with excitement every time a package comes. Thank you so much. The biggest hits have been macaroni and maple syrup!! The things that I miss the most (besides you all) are: feta cheese, rice milk lattes, half and half, and my favorite iced tea from Haggens!!! None of which are really sendable (is that a word)?!!!
Your financial donations mean a lot to us as well. I wanted to give you an idea of how your money is helping us. It is pretty cheap to live in Brazil, but there are a few ministries that we like to support. Thanks to your generosity, we are able to be a blessing to the following people:
As you know, I am teaching English here in Brazil. I currently have about 40 students (down from my original 70). This is the end of the school year and many of my students are finding themselves too busy to "add one more thing" to their schedules. About half of my students are getting ready to graduate from the missionary school (CTMDT) in just five weeks. We will look forward to being a part of their graduation. These students, like many college students, are struggling to make ends meet financially. We asked them for a small donation for English class since we feel it is important for them to pay something. When someone pays for something it places more value on that item ( in this case-education).
I spend most of the money that I make on school supplies and providing snacks for my students. I love to spoil them with homemade chocolate chip cookies. They have fallen in love with American cookies and believe me when I say that I make A LOT of Chocolate Chip Cookies. I have had several cooking classes where I have taught my students to make this popular dessert!
I mentioned in a past blog that there are favelas (poor villages) on the hills behind our house. The people from the favelas walk through town every day there is garbage pick up (three days a week) and search through everyone's garbage to salvage whatever they can. Occasionally, we like to put out a bag of clothes, dishes, or food for them to take. They will take ANYTHING. One day I put out several dirty, worn out pillows that had been left at our house by the previous renters. The next morning they were all picked up by someone from the favelas. This was when I realized the truth in the statement "One person's garbage is another person's treasure." Now I don't throw anything away that is even only partially functional. Your money helps us to buy food for the poor in our community.
We support two local ministries. Our friend, Claudia, runs a small elementary school called The Creche. This school was opened to provide affordable, Christian education for the struggling families of our neighborhood. There are several families from the favelas that attend The Creche. They are charged a very minimal amount to attend school (again, there needs to be a price tag attached to create value). The Creche often struggles to pay the monthly bills. It is necessary for this school to remain available for the local families so we would like to continue to support The Creche even after we head back to the United States.
The final ministry that we support is one that our friend, Leo, started just out of the goodness of his heart. He rents a house a few blocks from us and is one of the CTMDT students, as well as one of my past English Students. Leo is an artist. He calls it "workmanship". He makes jewlry and sells it on the streets. This hobby has allowed him to meet many street people and other artists. He often befriends these people (many of whom don't have homes) and offers them a place to stay. At one time he had nine people (including a baby and a toddler) living in his two bedroom home. You can imagine the cost of feeding that many people. Milk for the children alone is a small fortune. They are all struggling artists and our heart is to help them out when we can. Thanks to your donations, we have been able to provide this household with food, milk, and even a Hedge (hammock) to sleep on.
Our own personal ministry is yet to be defined. Marko continues to pray about his involvement with i2 Ministries, and I consider my ministry to be teaching English to the local Brazilians. Beyond that, we know that we have been called to bless people in whatever way the Lord shows us, and you have been a part of that blessing.
I will leave by saying that we appreciate you all very much. I cannot begin to explain what your prayers, emails, care packages, and donations mean to us. Above all you are an encouragement to us- to our hearts, and to our spirits. Thank you and Deus abencoe voce(God Bless You)!
Thursday, November 12, 2009
This will be a very quick blog as my family is waiting for me to get home in order to watch a movie! For those of you who have been wondering, Marko did not go to Nigeria. We knew that it would be a miracle if his visa got accepted, but it did not even make it to the Nigerian Embassy for review. I think we were both somewhat relieved considering the last minute planning that was involved. It is highly likely that he will have another opportunity to travel to Nigeria with i2 Ministries in the future.
I flew out to meet my sister, Kristin, in Rio last Thursday morning for some "girl" time. We had a fun, but very busy three days! The only relaxing we did was to spend one hour in the sun on Copocabana beach! We managed to do lots of touristy things including: The Statue of Christ, which is the most amazing piece of art I have ever seen, Sugar Loaf, The famous Rio Futebal Stadium (at the moment the name is escaping me), the famous "Carnival" street, and a local Catholic Cathedral. We listened to Samba music at a local restaurant, drank Coco straight out a coconut (well Kristin did anyways), and even went to a futebal game where we sat in the direct sun. It was about 95 degrees and we were dripping with sweat! Lots of fun!
Kristin then flew into Belo Horizonte with me where we went directly to the local street fair which is very crowded. Our excursion did not last very long as we had to carry our luggage around the sales booths and we were not exactly popular!!! Kristin actually got shoved and sworn at. I had a backpack which was slightly easier to manuever in the narrow streets. We decided to leave before causing a riot! We hopped on the local onibus and headed for home. Kristin spent the next three days with us, experiencing life in Santa Luzia. It was so great to have "family" around for a few days. The kids loved seeing Auntie Kristin, but I think it made them yearn for home. Saying goodbye was tough but we know we will see her again soon.
I did not have my camera in Rio so you can thank my sister for these photos!