Monday, November 12, 2007

Our Trip to Colorado

After spending a week with John's family in Golden, we drove to Colorado Springs for Mission Training International's (MTI) Debriefing and Renewal (DAR). Among other things, it's a retreat for returning missionaries. Although we've been back from Brazil for over two years now and plan to return in January, we found it to be an invaluable experience.


The place we stayed for the week-long getaway was a lovely Christian ministry center tucked away among the trees and mountains. It was very peaceful. Here's the room where we stayed:
And the yard just outside the back door:Sixteen families were there, having returned from countries all over the world. We were divided into two groups for the sessions. Here's a photo of our group: These fine people served as missionaries in Haiti, Costa Rica, Thailand, Japan, Malawi (look it up), and Belgium.

This wonderful couple, Bob and Linda, facilitated our group. They spent time in Haiti and Africa and raised two daughters on the field. They shared from their hearts, which spoke to ours. Simply listening to the others' stories and experiences helped us more than we expected. There was a mutual understanding and appreciation of the missionary life style that encouraged us.

We worked together on most assignments but occasionally divided up then came together to compare ideas. Many revelations resulted from our brainstorming sessions. This was my personal favorite: The missionary leaves his homeland as a person yellow in color. He goes to another country that is blue in color. After living as a yellow person in a blue culture, he is forever more green. Therefore, he never again fits entirely into either culture, but instead somewehere in between. It's been observed that children of missionaries feel most at home on the plane between the two countries.

We ate three wonderful meals a day and milled around the foyer during breaks, where we got to know many other missionaries more intimately.

The kids had classes and activities all week. They couldn't have had better teachers. Jonah developed a love for drawing and Andy just asked me this morning if he could go back to his class. They even took a field trip to Whit's End at Focus on the Family.They had a great time hanging out with other missionary kids (MKs) from places like Siberia and Thailand.

John and I even got to sneak off to the Garden of the Gods without children.The whole group came together during our last evening to share talents and stories from the field. I learned that every missionary - and I do mean every - has a funny bathroom story.

The DAR program is appropriately named. We feel we finally had the opportunity to debrief and be renewed. Now we are ready as ever to make the transition back to Brazil. Thanks to all the kind-hearted missionaries we met and to the MTI staff who cared so well for all of us.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

FOR SALE

This, the first house we ever bought, is now for sale. Good bye, living room.It's kind of sad because we've only lived here a year. Good bye, kitchen.Our plan is simple: 1. Sell the house. 2. Move to Brazil. Good bye, dining room.It's a great house and we've enjoyed it, but it's time to move on. Good bye, bedroom.You'll notice that there are no people in these photos - only rooms. Good bye, office.
Yes, this is our house. Good bye, bathroom.But our home is wherever our family is. Good bye, playroom.
So, I guess we can get another house in Brazil. Good bye, Grandma's room.

Hello, adventure!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

MTI

We'll be going to Colorado soon to visit with John's family and to attend a Mission Training International (MTI) workshop. Here's the brochure:There. Now you know about as much as I do.

Here's what I do know: A family that was on our team in Porto Alegre recently came home to the States. They went through this program soon after they arrived and said it was great. They told us about it and now we're signed up to go. I think it's supposed to help missionaries adjust to the foreign mission field and also to help them adjust to coming back home.

You'd be surprised at how difficult it is to come home. In our case, we weren't expecting to return for several more years. As a result, we experienced a lot of frustration and depression, among other things. This place is supposed to help you deal with that. Hmmm...that would've been nice ABOUT 2 YEARS AGO!

Anyway, I'm not bitter or anything and I am looking forward to what they have to offer. It's not cheap by any means but some friends of ours are picking up the bill. Boy, do we have some good friends. So basically we didn't have to do anything to get ourselves into this program. One couple told us about it and another is paying for it. Ooh, I feel a little guilty about my outburst earlier. Maybe MTI can help me with that.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Americans in Natal

Look who we just met. Well, we haven't actually met them, but we have e-mailed back and forth and know that they live in Natal. We heard about some Americans living there so I got their information and contacted them. Good-looking family, huh? I have my suspicions about the mom being Brazilian. For that matter, if they've been there for a while, the kids may be more Brazilian than American. They minister at a church there. Check out the Web site at http://www.refugiodagraca.com.br/site/v3/index.php. Better yet, learn Portuguese, then check it out. I can summarize it by saying that the church seems to be thriving.


The youngest boy looks to be about Jonah's age. Although, I don't know these people or how old this photo is, so the kid may be 27 by now. I hope they don't mind my posting their photo on the world wide web for all my readers to see. If they do, I promise to send out hand-written retractions to both of you.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Stairmaster

Where have I been, you ask? Whatever happened to those witty blog entries and breathtaking photographs that used to make you look forward to getting out of bed each and every day? Then (when the novelty of the new blog wore off) helped you to get each week off to a good start. Why is it that now you are lucky to hear from me at all? Well, that would be because we have been working diligently to get this house ready to sell. This week, I have been the stairmaster. Here's what I started with:
Here's what I had after ripping up the carpet and doing some preparatory work:
Here's what came next:
And now...the finished product: Do you think we over-improved for the neighborhood?

OK, that's clearly not true. But I am pleased with the third picture, which is what our stairs actually look like now. On to the next project.

Don't worry, we haven't been neglecting our kids. Grandma's here and we make sure to spend quality time with them every day. By-the-way, if you want to know what's going on in their little world, you can subscribe to Jonah and Andy's blog. If you haven't subscribed to this one, do so. You won't have to keep checking the Internet and being disappointed when I choose home renovation over writing to you. It will e-mail you each time I write a new post. If you're interested in food, and who isn't, you can subscribe to my recipe blog. And for the photo enthusiast, check out my picture blog. Act now and you might even get some Ginsu knives.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Natal, Brazil

Look, we realize that you aren't quite as excited about this city as we are, and that you probably already know what you need to know about Natal, but allow me to plant a seed in your vacation-loving brain. I challenge you to take a look at the photos and information on the Wikipedia site and not make plans to come visit us. Sure, we're not there now but we plan to be soon and, before you know it, you can be too. Start saving your pennies and visit your missionaries - or at least send care packages. If you, like I, have never mastered the Celcius scale, the lows and highs in Natal range from about 66 degrees Farenheit to about 89. You can check any temperature on this temperature conversion site.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Our Destination

John found this photo of Natal on the Internet. I just thought you might like to see it.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Our House

This is where we live. If you've never seen it, now you have. So, how does this fit the theme of our blog? Well, considering we plan to move to Brazil in January, we have a lot to do to this place to get it ready to sell. Our household is like an HGTV set this week.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

It's Official

The church in Springtown, Texas has agreed to become our sponsoring congregation. Now it's time to tell everyone we know that we're planning to move to Natal, Brazil in January 2008.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

We're Back

We made the fun-filled, twelve-hour drive back from Texas yesterday and again have access to high-speed internet. Allow me to fill you in on the latest developments.

We spoke with the elders at the Springtown Church of Christ in (you guessed it) Springtown, Texas. They were all very positive about becoming our sponsoring church to send us back to Brazil for more mission work. John preached there last Sunday. My mom, her boyfriend, and my grandmother were there. The kids behaved themselves beautifully, and it was a good day. Now we're waiting to hear if the congregation meets the challenge of raising enough funds to support a family of five (John, me, Jonah, Andy and John's mom) in Natal, Brazil.

The plan was to come back to Nashville last Thursday but we extended our stay to drive to Austin on Sunday. The mission committee was meeting that evening and wanted to talk with us again about our idea to go to Natal and open a Bible school. They gave us their official blessing to go and work along side the church that they oversee there. We are going to put our plan in writing to share with them and anyone else who wants to see it very soon.

We're shooting for a January departure date so we have a lot to do between now and then.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Our Neighbor is Out of the Hospital

Tony's follow up test was clear. They told him his heart looks great. He's home now so we left for Texas this morning at about 4:00am. The trip took about 13 hours with all the stops but the kids did remarkably well. Thank you for your concern and prayers for Tony.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Our Neighbor is in the Hospital

We had planned on pulling out of our driveway at about 4:00am this morning to head for Texas, yet still here we are. We were running our last minute errands like getting the oil changed in the car and picking up snacks for the road when I got a call from David, our neighbor. He told us that Tony, the guy he lives with, was in the hospital. He was having trouble breathing and called David to take him to the emergency room. We left the kids with Bobby and Melanee and went to the hospital.

Tony seemed fine but said he felt a little strange. They had put him through a stress test and had run dye through his heart earlier in the day. It seemed he may have a blockage in his heart. They plan to run the same dye test today to confirm that. Tony said he believes in and appreciates prayer on his behalf, so I'm taking the liberty to tell about his situation and ask for prayers.

We should know more this afternoon and I will keep you posted.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Our Weekend: Dinner and a Yard Sale

This weekend was action packed. We had our neighbors over for dinner on Friday night. By neighbors, I mean the people that live on either side of us. To our left we have a single guy and to our right we have a couple of guys. We have, without a doubt, the best neighbors ever. I made an all-Brazilian meal and we sat and talked for four hours. Time flew by.

Then we had a yard sale on Saturday morning. We are doing our best to streamline our lifestyle so we can be ready to go at the drop of a hat. We don't know if we'll be moving to Brazil in a month or a year, but we believe it's in our future.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Ego Strokes From Natal

I know all this can get confusing so let me set this up for you.

1. We went to Natal last year.
2. Our Brazilian friends (sole leaders of the church) asked us to come help them.
3. We made plans to move there and become part of the work.
4. The overseeing church in Austin asked us to wait until we could all work out an agreement.
5. In the meantime, another Brazilian family moved to Natal to help out.
6. We met with the Austin church and agreed to the idea of a Bible school.
7. Austin asked the two Brazilian couples if they needed and wanted our help.

That's about where we left off last time.

Now... we've heard back from Austin saying that the response was positive. Hallelujah, somebody wants us! We wouldn't be working as church leadership but as administrators of a Bible school attached to the church. We love that idea! We're going to talk to the church in Springtown, Texas (the one interested in sponsoring us) to see what they think about it.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Road Trip

We're going to Texas. The church there has asked us to come visit; they're very interested in becoming our sponsor. One of the things we need to talk about is finances. They don't know how much money we need yet. The cost of living has gone through the roof for Americans living in Brazil since we left two years ago. I won't go into all the details (mostly because I don't know all the details) but I will share a couple facts I do know. When we moved to Porto Alegre in 2002 we bought a nice, reliable car for about $12,000. The same car - not a new model of the same car but the same exact car from 2002 - would cost us around $40,000 today. The exchange rate reached almost 4 reais to the dollar while we were there. Now it's less than 2 to 1.

The bad news is that we will probably need to raise more money this time around. The good news is that God is in charge and He has unlimited resources.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Natal Update

Well, we finally talked to the church in Austin. You know, the one that owns the building and oversees the work in Natal? John called them, basically to rule out Natal as a possibility. We figured since we met with them in early June and hadn't heard anything since then, that we could assume they weren't really interested in us. On the contrary, our contact guy said they are very interested. The mission committee told the church in Natal about our tentative plans to move there and work with them, and now we are all waiting to hear if they want us. Boy, I sure am glad we don't have any serious self-esteem issues. That's enough to send a person right over the edge.

Right now there are two families leading that congregation, one of which is a Brazilian family from Porto Alegre - friends of ours. We went last year to visit them in Natal. During that visit they asked us to move there and help them with the church. They were the only leaders at the time. The American missionaries had gone home. Now there is another Brazilian family who moved there from Fortaleza to help. We don't know them.

Our idea is not to go down there and become part of the leadership of the church. On the contrary, we would prefer to be under the leadership as very involved members. We would like to open a Bible school where we could hopefully convert new Christians to become part of the church. Again, we pray and wait.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Living Room Chat

We didn't have a cookout this week but we did get together with some folks on Monday night in our living room. The Bandys came over and so did a couple of our neighbors. We talked about life and love and God and the Bible. Each of us shared a little about what we believe or don't believe. It's fantastic what can happen when people get together and speak openly.

Our neighbors told us all about why they don't go to church any more. We're starting to hear different versions of the same story all over the place - rejection by the church before a person has even been introduced to Jesus. They said Monday night was as much church as anything they have ever attended.

We're thinking about setting a weekly meeting time. Some of our friends and neighbors have expressed interest, and we would certainly love to have them in our home on a regular basis. We talked about it Monday and it seems like a good idea to have some guidelines for discussion. In other words, sitting around and throwing out opinions all night would be fruitless. We're talking about reading through parts of the Bible together. Not so we can impose our ideas on the group, but so we can all discuss openly what it says and learn from it.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Why We Do What We Do

In case you haven't noticed, we believe in God. Not just any god either - the God of the Bible. We believe that He created us to have a relationship with Him and that He gave us a free will to choose what to do with our lives. It's easy to look around and see that, in general, mankind didn't choose Him. We believe that, because He loves us more than we can imagine, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to live among us as a human being and to die, taking all of our sins past, present, and future with Him to the grave. We believe that Jesus rose from the dead and that God has given us a way to be reconciled to Him by believing in His Son and living according to the precepts of the Bible. In a nutshell, that's what we're all about.

Now, what would you do if you believed that? Here's what we're doing:

We're praying and making ourselves available to God. We pray for our neighbors by name and ask that if anyone wants to know God better or simply to be encouraged in their relationship with Him, that He will put us together. We have had two backyard cookouts and have become a closer community through those meetings. Recently I had it on my heart to pray for a neighbor that we hadn't met; I asked for an opportunity to meet her. The next day I saw her at the store and we talked. She came over last night and she, my mother-in-law, and I all talked for a couple more hours.

We don't have the answers to all of life's questions, and we don't pretend to have a master plan for evangelizing the world or even our neighborhood. We won't argue, debate, or pressure anyone into becoming a Christian. We just want to share with others what we have been given.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Big Churches Helping Little Churches

This house church thing is really taking off! Just look at our living room this morning. O.K., O.K., this is actually 4th Avenue Church of Christ in Franklin, Tennessee ( a beautiful town about 30 minutes from our house). They support the Blume family, Matt Rehbein (also on the Porto Alegre team) and lots of other missionaries all over the world.

We went to see the Blumes report on the work in Porto Alegre. They talked about the transition from big church to house churches. They explained that the Porto Alegrenses, as they're called, show little interest in coming to a church building to attend a formal service but are happy to visit their home. They talked about how educated people are wary of evangelists because of previous abuses by manipulative people whose only goal was to fill their own pockets.

Many people, myself included, wondered when they started the transition if they would be successful. Some of their own church members there thought they would surely decrease their numbers. That was not the case, as they went from about 80 in the church building to about 110 among four individual house churches.

As John and I consider the possibility of moving back to Brazil, we see an opportunity to become part of the house church movement in Porto Alegre. There were so many people whom we invited to church that never came. Many more were willing to come to our house for a visit. We would be honored if, in the future, we would have the opportunity to invite them to our home church.

We're proud of our teammates for recognizing the need to change something that wasn't working. We pray that God will continue to bless their efforts to introduce Jesus to the people of Brazil.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Grilling Out with God, the Sequel

We had another cookout today. John spoke about how God's love differs from worldly love. We had a total of 25 people (nine of them kids) in and out of our back yard throughout the day. Lest any of you get the very wrong impression that we are hospitality heroes, let me assure you that it's not true. Here's what our back yard looked like at 8:30 this morning, while I was still in my pajamas and without coffee. You can see that our wonderful neighbors, Tony and David, set up the tents and tables. They even hooked up some fans to combat the sweltering heat we faced last weekend. The grill is theirs too. You may also notice that we didn't mow our lawn, roll up our hose, or even pick up the kids' toys from yesterday. They were gracious enough to work around our mess. Again people brought goodies and, for a while, we thought we had more food than would be humanly possible for our group to consume. At about 7:00pm, after much socializing and even more grazing, we realized we were wrong. We had some new faces. One lady has been in poor health for 15 months and hasn't been out of her house much. We were thrilled that she spent the entire day with us. She told John how much she appreciated his sermon and said it was the best day she's had in a long time. Comments like that make us want to do this every weekend.


The kids had another best-day-of-my-life kind of day. Honestly, a plastic pool, a swing set, and some good friends rank right up there with Disney World. I guess that's easy to say since my kids have never been there.
Wait a minute, this guy has been there. What's his excuse?

Some of the guys want to meet for discussion next week, so we're planning to switch things up a bit and invite them into our air conditioning.

Friday, July 13, 2007

A Special Visit

Look who came to visit us today! This is Kevin and Benay Blume. We spent three years on the mission field in Brazil with them. They're in the States on furlough, and we were thrilled to steal them away from the people who pay their salary for a while.

The church we started together has gone from meeting in one location to meeting in individual homes. Other friends of ours, the Bandys, came over to talk to them about what they are doing and how they are doing it. We had a house full and loved every minute of it.
The kids played outside together. Jonah got a little rough with the Blume girl.
Oh, my! It looks like he got more than a little rough. I hope they will still be our friends.
Oh, wait. It looks like she got him back. "And DON'T call my little buddy 'Plumber Boy' ever again! I don't care if he IS your brother!"

They worked up quite an appetite so we made them some healthy American cuisine - sandwiches made from pasteurized, processed, cheese-flavored snack food (otherwise known as grilled cheese sandwiches). We served it up with some Doritos and Sunkist soda. Mmm mmm, their little insides should be orange for a week.
Then they settled in for a movie and some rest time.
It was a good day for everyone. It will be interesting to see in which country our next visit with them will be.