Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thanksgiving in Brazil

Because Thanksgiving Day is not a recognized holiday here in Brazil, we had a very untraditional day. We left on Tuesday of last week to go to the little beach town of Pipa with the Reiner family for a couple days of camping.

Our "tent"

Exploring the campground with Daddy

Different ...

The place we stayed at was beautiful and unique and we had fun spending time at the beach, exploring our campground and walking down the streets of Pipa at night.

Gabriel loves playing at the beach

Beautiful scenery

In Pipa one night

We walked by this torch and Gabriel said "ot, ot". I took a picture because it's the first word he has said without being prompted.

We celebrated Thanksgiving Day by eating some great turkey sandwiches at a bakery in town. I'm not being facetious -- these were beautiful, Panera Bread quality sandwiches and that is hard to find here in Brazil.

We headed home that afternoon on what was supposed to be a two-hour trip. But our car began to overheat and no matter how much water David put in the radiator, it would quickly leak out and the car would overheat again. After several stops, we finally found a mechanic who said he could temporarily fix the problem so that we could at least get home that night. By this time, it was dark and we were getting hungry and Gabriel was getting impatient. To add to the problems, we hardly had any cash on us and a lot of places here still don't take credit cards. We were literally looking for change under the car seats and in our pockets to get enough to pay our mechanic and get some food to eat at the mechanic's mom's little eatery beside his shop. Thankfully, food and car repairs are much cheaper here in Brazil than in the States.

On our way home ... at one point we had to cross a river and this guy rowed us across

As I sat at the table eating rice and beans and waiting for the car to be fixed, I couldn't help but think of family and friends in the States and miss them a bit more than usual. Perhaps because it was supposed to be a special holiday, I was feeling a little sad that we were at that place and in that situation. I had to tell myself that I was being given the opportunity to put the Thanksgiving spirit into practice that evening and that I have so much to be thankful for.

We finally made it home that night almost seven hours after we left Pipa. But we made it home safely and Gabriel fell asleep for most of the trip and our car is now repaired.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Valentina's Anniversary Conference

The church we are working at this year in Joao Pessoa just celebrated their 23rd anniversary. Every year they have a three-night conference that the church members really look forward to. This year the theme was "Perseverance of the Saints: Marks of a Healthy Church". David was the speaker and did a great of job of bringing challenging and convicting messages about sound doctrine, genuine conversion, church membership and personal transformation.

Each night we had special music presentations. I say special because it is rare to have any music in our services besides congregational singing. The women, teens and church choir worked hard in learning new songs to present during the conference.

We were glad to welcome about 30 people from the church in the city of Malta for one of the nights. They came on Saturday afternoon and left the following afternoon. They all packed into this bus to make the 5+ hour trip.

This church is special to us because it is Valentina's "daughter" church, founded by Ray Reiner just a few years ago. Their pastor is a graduate from the seminary in southern Brazil where my parents are ministering. He actually had my dad as a professor for several of his classes. Having Malta join us gave us a good reason to have a church breakfast and lunch. It was a great time to get to know them better and to have some good food.

Every night we had a great turnout for the services. The church people brought several unsaved relatives and neighbors and pastors and members from other area churches joined us as well. It was a good problem to have to bring in extra benches and chairs and still have people standing because there was nowhere to sit.

It is customary in a lot of churches in Brazil to serve tea and coffee after the service. If it's a special service, there will often be cake, cookies and crackers as well. Most people stay for a long time after the service enjoying their snack and fellowshiping together.

Because I can't resist posting a picture of Gabriel, here he is with one of our church teens. It was nice to have several of them watching after him and playing with him so I could be free to help out with different things.

Thank you for your prayers for us. We are tired but happy. Tomorrow, we plan on going on a little trip with the Reiner family to get away for a few days and to celebrate Thanksgiving together. However, this weekend David will be preaching at another conference at another church in town, so keep praying for him.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Women's Retreat

I'm a little late is posting this blog, but decided I'd go ahead and post it anyway. A couple of weekends ago, I was able to go to my first ever women's retreat. David graciously agreed to keep Gabriel while I was gone for a couple of days. The Brazilian women were impressed that David knew how to handle Gabriel on his own and I was thankful to be able to get away for a bit and rest.

The theme for the weekend was "Beautiful in God's Eyes" and our speaker was a pastor's widow. Her testimony was powerful and the challenges she brought us in the morning and at night were convicting and much-needed.

During the day, we had a lot of free time and I was able to get to know some of the women from our church better. We had a good time sharing stories and laughing. There were a couple of seminars in the afternoon and early each morning, before breakfast, several of the women would get together to share testimonies of God's grace in their lives and to pray. It was encouraging to hear how these women have stood faithful in spite of very difficult situations.
Each of us received some pretty note paper on which to write encouraging notes and give to whomever we chose. These notes were placed in a box and at meal time, they were read out loud by this lady, Jeruiza.

It became one of the highlights of the day as we all sat there and listened. She was so expressive in the way she read each note and we couldn't help but laugh.

I had a good time and am glad for the chance to go. Oh, and David and Gabriel did just fine without me. They even went to the beach together! But I think they were both glad to have me back home with them. :)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Thirty Faithful Years

This month marks the 30th anniversary of my parents' arrival in Brazil. My dad grew up in Virginia and my mom grew up in the West Indies, the daughter of missionary parents. They felt God's call to Brazil through the ministry of missionary Russell Gordon, and came without much knowledge of the country and its culture or language, with their two-year-old daughter in tow.

After finishing language school in Fortaleza, they headed to the city of Sousa where they worked with Russell and Judy Gordon. From there, they went to the city of Patos (Ducks) where they spent 8 years and founded two churches, one in Patos and one in the small town of Santana de Mangueira (Saint Ann of the Mango Tree).

They went back to Fortaleza, where Dad served as director of the MK school where all five of us kids graduated from. He and Mom taught classes there too and were responsible for a church in town for several years and then went on to help in starting two more churches in the area.

Now they are in the city of Curitiba. God led them there about six years ago and they are both teaching at the seminary there and are involved in a church plant as well.

Throughout all these years, they have been faithful to God and to the ministry, to each other and to us kids. They have endured difficulties with Brazilians and American missionaries, with loss of loved ones in the States and with sickness. They have seen ministries flourish and converts grow and become missionaries or pastors themselves. They have also seen ministries wither and many who professed to believe, walk away, but I have never seen their faith in God falter.

Now that I am here in Brazil as a missionary myself, my love and admiration for my parents has only grown as I begin to understand a little better what all they have gone through. They are so well loved by anybody who has known them. Whether it's a supporting church in the States, peers from their Bible college days at Piedmont, fellow missionaries here in Brazil or Brazilians who were involved in one of their ministries, people are always pleased to know that I am the Nunleys' daughter and always have the kindest things to say about them. I am thankful to have such Godly examples who have gone before me, showing me what living the Christian life is all about. Showing me that loving God and giving my life in His service is a small price to pay. Showing me how to be faithful to a faithful God even when the fruit of my labor isn't readily apparent.

Mom and Dad, thank you for your example to us. I know I speak for all of us kids in saying we're proud to be your children. We love you and we thank God for you.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Dia das Crianças (Children's Day) 2008

We had the privilege of putting the program together for a day of celebrating Children's Day at camp. Our theme was David and Goliath and we tried to incorporate that theme throughout the day and not just at story time. The teens from our church all came out to help and they did a great job (you'll be able to pick them out in the pictures wearing their matching green and white shirts). There were 81 children who came this past Saturday to spend a fun day at camp designed just for them. (in case you're wondering, Children's Day is a big deal here in Brazil, with presents and all) Here are some pictures of our day ...

Some of the teens stood at the entrance to welcome the kids to camp.
At the chapel, waiting for story time to begin. We sang some songs and then acted out the story of David and Goliath. (ironically, David played the role of Goliath ...) We don't have any pictures of the skit because I was narrating the story and David had a role to play, so neither of us thought to hand the camera to somebody else to snap pictures of us. The skit went over really well and the kids were attentive. The Biblical David was compared to Christ at the end of the story, and how Christ was also a young boy who would grow up to fight the ultimate battle for His people and deliver them from Satan and sin through His victory on the cross, like David delivered the Israelites from the Philistines by defeating Goliath.

The kids were divided into two teams (the Israelites and the Philistines) and had fun playing games that were named after actual battles in the Bible. Here we have the Battles of Mizpah and Gilboa. At the end of the day, the Philistines won ...

During the Bible competition, if the kids gave the correct answer, they got a chance to hit this Goliath using a sling shot.The boys got to make sling shots for their craft. The girls made bracelets.

There were various tournaments throughout the day -- swimming, carpet ball, penalty kicks, knockout. The kids could pick two to participate in. Here, the teen guys take a break and play some carpet ball. David and one of our men from church built this carpet ball table and the kids loved it. They had never seen one before and many asked if it was going to stay at the camp. There were happy to know it is.
Lunch time! The little boy in this picture is the son of a pastor in town. The boy's mother was a little girl in my parents' ministry when they were just starting out.

Jon Reiner, the camp director and missionary we're working with here, arranged for a horse to be brought for the day for the kids to ride. He also had someone set up a trampoline and had a lady come and make popcorn and cotton candy all afternoon for the kids.

Cake and pop to finish out the day. The kids were exhausted (and I think the teens and adults were even more exhausted), but they had a great time.

I think this little boy sums up how the kids felt after their day at camp. We hope to see many of them back at camp in January for their summer week-long camp.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Gabriel's First Birthday

Tomorrow Gabriel turns 1. This time last year I was 8 days overdue and very miserable and emotional (i.e., crying all the time). God has blessed us so much with this little boy in our family. He brings us so much joy and he makes us laugh everyday. Granted, we've lost several nights' worth of sleep since he arrived, but it's all worth it. We celebrated his first birthday on Saturday afternoon with the kids from our church. I know Gabriel won't remember his big day, but we wanted to celebrate this milestone with our new friends and thank God for His blessing.

The birthday boy wakes up from his nap just in time for his party.

The party table. No, I didn't make any of the food. The plate on the left of the cake is filled with salgados (little pastries stuffed with meat and cheese), and the plate on the right is filled with doces (chocolate and coconut sweets).
Family picture ... Daddy picked out the colorful cake.
The church kids who came to celebrate with us. The American kids are Jon and Jenny Reiner's children -- the missionaries we are working with here in Joao Pessoa.
Blowing out the candle with Mommy's help (and careful observation from Jonas on the left and Davi on the right).
Gabriel with Lissandra, one of our teens who really loves Gabriel.

Yummy lollipop, and I think it's about time for another milestone -- first haircut. Baby André, the little boy who was born shortly after we arrived, and his mother Conceição.

Taking the first bite of his cake.
This was just the beginning of the sticky mess, but he loved it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

God's Spirit

I write from an encouraged and challenged heart in evangelism. Currently Sharon and I are doing a weekly evangelistic Bible study with one couple and I am doing a study with two teenage friends. I confess that my heart is never as excited before we begin the study as it is when we have finished, yet I pray to that end. May this report encourage your heart and challenge your faith!

The two teens, Junior and Kelvin, began attending our services on Sunday evenings - which is the equivalent of the Sunday morning service in America. Fernando is a teen in our church who has been faithful to invite them. Their usual pattern is to show up 15 minutes late and like many of your churches, the only available seats are at the front. To my amazement, they never hesitate to take those seats. After the service they hang around and we always have a chance to talk a bit. To Junior it is all new, but for Kelvin, he attended the church when he was a child. I'm not sure what has brought him back - potentially his parents separating recently. Nonetheless, we are meeting weekly at Kelvins house. This past Thursday, the lesson was about sin - what it is, how did it come about, who is a sinner, what are the consequences and is there a remedy? I was delighted to see these guys ask question after question looking for Biblical answers! Obviously we read many verses, and though I know the spirit blows where it wills, I felt as though I could almost see the Spirit of God opening their eyes to the truth. (II Cor. 4:6) Their questions were accompanied by moments of silence that spoke just as loud. The realities of sins consequences and even hell, seemed to humble their hearts. May God grant them repentance and faith for salvation! I will tell you that when you actively engage in evangelism, your heart begins to long for the salvation of the lost in a new and fresh way. Your attitude is one of concern and strong desire for eternal well-being, something that tends to vanish in our moments of selfish living or unsatisfied spiritual appetites.

Eilton and Lucimara have two daughters (Luidjia and Cathlyn) and live practically next door to the church. Sharon and I met Lucimara one evening we had gone out to evangelize. I remember our frustration as it was getting late, and we hadn't had a real good opportunity to share the gospel. Lucimara stood at the gate and listened quietly. We asked about a return visit and she agreed. Upon several attempts, we almost gave up going back. About a month ago I suggested we try again. This time her husband Eilton opened the gate and we had a lengthy conversation. He was adamantly opposed to evangelicals for reasons of hypocrisy. His persistent stories even made it difficult to transition into the gospel message. After our persistence I simply said that there is not one of us who is unaware of hypocrital evangelicals, but that the hypocrisy speaks of people and not the evangel (gospel). Eilton heard the gospel that night and as we left, he accepted a return visit for a study. I was sceptical, but we went. We have now had 4 studies and they just seem to get better each time. As he reads, he inquires about the verse and surrounding phrases. He has already said that he is a sinner and that without Christ he will spend an eternity in hell. When an unbeleiver begins to disern these things - my heart leaps, because this response is not evident in all or even most that we evangelize. Last night we found out that this man used to live within blocks from where my wife grew up - just another neat coincidence. But what caught my attention about last night the most was to hear him say that we are the first people he has ever let come into his house for a Bible study. His normal response was a swift bashing and a boot! This is evidence of the work of God's Spirit! I am grateful to be able to have a part in proclaiming and you should as well. Try it if you haven't - it will bring you much joy!

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Glimpse into Brazilian Mentality

It's been a while since we've posted a blog - we apologize! We have got into the routine of daily life here in Brazil, and there's not always much different going on to inspire a new post.

Most of you who read our blog are familiar with Brazilian culture, but I wanted to share a few incidents that illustrate the Brazilian mentality. A couple weeks ago, we got into the car and drove up to the back gate that opens onto the road (our only way out). We were shocked to see the entire street had been dug up and the dirt and cobble stones were piled at least a meter high all the way across the entrance to our gate. There was no way we could get out with the car. David asked to speak to the man in charge of the operation and he told him that we had to leave because we had somewhere we had to be. The workers around us laughed and one of them said, "well, there's nothing we can do about that." David told them that they needed to advise the residents before digging up the street and blocking exits. (we ended up calling someone to give us a ride)

The road has been in a semi-drivable state since then until a few days ago when they dug things back up. Thankfully, our neighbor across the street was smart and befriended the workers, giving them water and such. He asked them to fill in part of road with dirt so he could at least drive in and out of his drive way. This benefited us too, as well as our church members who would have no other way to get their cars onto church property.

Today we left our house for a few hours and when we came back, wouldn't you know that things were dug up again and we couldn't get inside our gate. David called a worker over and explained our situation and after a few minutes, we had a path we could use to get inside. Who knows how long this will go on because Brazil is notorious for taking their time with such projects. As David told somebody recently, "That's Brazil for you. If things were any different, it wouldn't be Brazil."

Here's another story. Because of problems we've been having with people jumping over our wall and stealing our stuff and beating up our dog, we had an electric fence put up all the way around the walls surrounding our house. That was a situation in and of itself that I won't go into. After it was put up, we still had the problem of our gates being too short since the walls were raised for the electric fence. The space between the gate and the fence was too big and somebody could get through it, so we hired a guy to lengthen our gates. (in case you're wondering, our other gate isn't big enough for a car to get through -- otherwise, we wouldn't have the problem or getting in and out of our house) Back to the gate guy, David paid him part of the fee in advance at least two weeks ago. Everyday, the man would say he would be here at such-and-such an hour and everyday, he wouldn't show up. The one day he did show up, it began to sprinkle slightly and he said he couldn't work in the rain so he left and, you guessed it, didn't come back. I guess David went and talked to him and was pretty firm with him about finishing the job because yesterday morning, a few minutes before church, I heard loud banging on our front gate. It was the man with two of the gate extensions which he had brought over on his bike. I told him we had church in a few minutes and wouldn't be back until later. He said he wanted to go ahead and get started on the job since David was "aperriado" (annoyed/frustrated) with him. This was two weeks after he was supposed to do the job! So he left the gate extensions in our yard, promising to be back later on in the day. He finally showed up this morning and got the job done. Who knows how long he would have taken had David not kept after him.

I could tell you more stories, but then this post will get too long. :) It's not the easiest thing to live here in Brazil as adults responsible for our home and our family. We were just talking today about how we didn't realize a lot of things about Brazil when we were here as kids growing up. We still love it here, but we're still learning things about this country we now call home. Keep praying for us.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


God blessed us with two excellent weeks of camp. A group of 14 came from West Cannon Baptist Church in Michigan. The theme was "The Rules for Life" based on the Ten Commandments. Pastor John Nixon's messages were excellent placing emphasis not only on the Ten Commandments, but also the practical implications of submitting to these commandments as God's authority and for our greater good. Many children and teens recognized areas of weakness and sought the Lord for help in specific areas. This past week, Bia repented of her sin and trusted Christ for salvation! Pray for her as she lives with her grandmother - a staunch Catholic. Many times she will not allow Bia to attend church. May Bia follow the Lord as a testimony of the grace of God.
You may know that we have a particular interest in camping ministry. These two weeks were good for me. I learned many things as program director, one of which is that I am only one person. It is really impossible to do it on your own, and to go that route is nothing short of absurd. God gave me a good group of counselors and musicians who took their role seriously. They were servants of the Lord and worked hard without complaints or issues. In fact, the look on the faces of the three girl counselors after they dealt with Bia was priceless. They were amazed with the power of God. They even offered Bia something in the canteen if she would rather not become a Christian. She refused it all and made herself clear with the desire to follow Jesus. The grace of God combined with the power of His Spirit is indescribable!
I am also extremely grateful for my wife! She has been a faithful help meet as well as mother and assistant to many of my needs at camp. She is ready and willing to give of herself and her ability an any role necessary. I am indebted to her and I thank God for 4 years of marriage as of this past Thursday.
Thank you all for praying as we have taken some follow up measures with the teens this year. They all jotted down a few things they learned during the week and placed them into an envelope and labeled it to their home address. I plan to mail those out in a few months as a reminder and encouragement to them! My prayer is that they will come to camp in January having had spiritual victory and maturity!
We currently do not have a camera, so if you would like to see some pictures and a running commentary of the two weeks, you can go to: http://stepbrazil08.blogspot.com/ This is West Cannon Baptist Church's group blog.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Current Events

We have settled down and our ministry is taking shape. The bulk of our time is spent in connection with the church we are assisting - Valentina Baptist Church. Tuesday evenings is evangelism and Wednesday evenings is prayer meeting. On Thursdays Sharon and I have tried to make visits to get to know the members and be of encouragement. On Saturday afternoon the men play soccer, and then Saturday evenings the men, women, and teens each have their own meeting. Of course there is Sunday's regular events and services.

I have an increased awareness of Communion as I have performed it twice now. Performing vs. participating has a humbling effect. Watching Dad perform it as I grew up was one thing. Stepping in as the leader in a congregation brings a great weight of responsibility! To realize that as a shepherd I am directly under the "Chief Shepherd" (I Peter 5:4) attempting to carry out His will for His church through this ordinance is no light task. Each communion my mind goes back to Christ and his disciples and I wonder why He would allow me to perform such a glorious reflection on the most incredible act of love ever! As a child, it seemed like Dad was always so joyful after communion. I understand now as this is the only possible response to such an event "as often as ye do this in remembrance of me".

Camp season is coming up and we are excited to help out there. We will host a teen camp, and a children's camp in July. A church out of Michigan will bring their youth group and the pastor will speak. The theme is "Rules for Life" based on the Ten Commandments. May the Lord use this camp to edify His church and bring souls to a saving knowledge of Himself!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

What Gabriel Has Been Up To

Gabriel is adjusting to life in Brazil quite well. The Brazilians love him, especially because he's very chubby and white, "branquinho". I often have to stop when I'm out with him so that people can talk to him and ooh and aah over him. He usually gives a big smile and tries to talk back to them. Everyone at church loves to hold him and sometimes the younger girls even fight over whose turn it is!
It didn't take long for the mosquitoes to discover his sweet American blood! We quickly learned that he has to sleep under a mosquito net over his crib every night.

His johnny-jump-up is one of his favorite toys. We like it too, since it keeps him occupied for a bit while David studies and I do housework. He jumps all the time, even if he's not in it. If we hold him in a standing position, he uses our legs as a trampoline and continues jumping.We splurged and bought him a walker. At first, he wasn't quite sure what to do with it and would just play with the toys on the "dashboard." Very soon though, he discovered it could take him just about anywhere he wants to go and he zips around the house getting into all kinds of trouble. His favorite place to be in the kitchen if I'm in there is right at my feet. That or by the trash can, trying to pull the bag out.

Once in a while, Gabriel enjoys some cartoons on TV. It keeps him occupied for a few minutes but then he's ready for the next adventure.
His latest new adventure was going to the beach for the first time. At first, he wasn't too excited about being there. Everything was so different for his little mind to process! But he soon began to enjoy himself, playing in the sand, splashing in the water and even eating some sand before I could catch him! Oh well, it's good for the immune system, right?

It's not all fun and games though. Gabriel goes with us everywhere since we don't have anyone to watch him at home while we go out visiting. He is a good sport though and only gets a little grumpy if it's way past his bedtime. Here he is visiting a one-day-old baby at the hospital three weeks ago whose family goes to our church. He wanted to hold the little baby boy (Andre) and he stopped long enough to pose for a picture with Andre's big brothers, Mateus and Davi.

Bath time has become a favorite activity for Gabriel. He's very glad that we put in an electric shower head so he can take a bath with warm water. Even though it's hot here, taking a bath with cold water isn't the most pleasant thing and I was having to heat up a pot of water to mix with his bath water.

Sometimes he does take a break in his busy day to settle down and relax a little. Here he is enjoying my new hammock.

At last he's asleep! But then I'm tired too and take advantage to catch a little shut-eye with him.