Saturday, March 17, 2012

We have been back in the States for over a week now.  It's been a lot of fun.  I'm just going to post some pictures with a brief explanation that kind of summarize the last 10 days or so.  

We are thankful for friends who came to say goodbye the day before we left.  It feels good to know you are loved and will be missed. 

Gabe was so excited to go on his first plane ride that he can remember.  We are thankful for safe flights and smooth traveling.
I am thankful for my little boy who loves super heroes.  This was in the Rio airport during our long layover.

I'm thankful for family who got up super early to be at the airport to welcome us back.

Starbucks ... yes, I'm thankful for that.  Had to stop there on the way home from the airport.

Our home church has graciously provided a beautiful, furnished house for us to live in during our furlough.  The kitchen table was piled with fun groceries and gifts from people in the church. I'm thankful for how the body of Christ shows love for each other in such tangible ways.

Per my request, my family went to a Mexican restaurant the first night we were back.  Chips and salsa ... how can you not be thankful for that?  Try going without it for 4 years, and then you'll understand.
I'm very thankful for my precious little girl who turned 2 on Sunday.  We had a party for her at a very crazy, crowded, loud Chuck E. Cheese's. 

I'm so thankful that I got to be here to see my dad baptize both my brother and my oldest nephew. 

My parents and siblings -- together again after 5 years or so.  I'm thankful for each of them and the fact that I can be near them for the next few months.

Here are some other things that I've been very thankful for this week that I don't have pictures for:

* Having a car to borrow while we look for one to buy

* Parks and libraries to take the kids to (for free)

* Wal Mart and Target :)

* A bag of groceries left anonymously at our doorstep one morning

* An old friend bringing bags of groceries and staying to talk for a few hours

* A cool phone provided by friends who have added us to their plan while we're here

* A dishwasher

* The kindness of random strangers

* Hearing about one of our church ladies in Brazil teaching Bible stories in her child's public school

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Four years ago, David and I landed in Brazil with our six-month-old baby Gabriel, pretty much clueless as to what the next four years would be like for our little family.  Now we are heading "home" for our first furlough and I can only praise God for his constant presence and direction in our lives.  To be very honest, if it weren't for our hope in God and our confidence that he has placed us here for now, we would probably have given up and left Brazil long before now.  But he is gracious, our Strength and our Provider, and it has been an honor to serve HIM these past four years.  Sometimes it feels like our efforts have been so meager in comparison to the overwhelming need all around us, but each soul who is converted and transformed by the power of the gospel is so very precious.  Each little seed of truth that is planted in a cold, lifeless heart has the potential to sprout and grow.  I know our work has not been in vain and only God knows the full effect the gospel will have in this spiritually dark place. 
Right now, I am praising God for building his church here in São José.  It has been so encouraging these past few months to see our little group grow spiritually, and also in numbers.  There were moments of (not so) quiet desperation in my heart that God didn't seem to be working, at least not the way I wanted him to and had asked him to.  There were times of deep discouragement for us as it seemed like prayers were going unanswered.  But all along, God was there with us, the Holy Spirit quietly strengthening and comforting us, encouraging us in unexpected ways, and lifting us up so that we could keep fighting this battle we're in for the lost. 

The past few weeks have flown by as we get ready to leave for furlough.  Here are some pictures of some happenings around here this past month. 

David went to Rio de Janeiro to speak at a youth retreat -- 8 messages in 5 days on living a cross-centered life
Our church group went on a one-day retreat ...

David's got ups!  :)

Exploring the camp site

Last Wednesday night, the power went out right before the service, so we all went to a member's house close by.  I had the intimidating task of teaching 20 kids, ages 1-12, in the living room but thankfully I had the help of several women for crowd control. 
The kids have been earning points for different things and Wednesday night was their awards night.

This is most of our church group, minus one family, who was there Wednesday night.  How would you like to unexpectedly host this number of people in your home for a church service?   

Having café da tarde with our sweet neighbor who, along with her family, has been such a blessing to our ministry.

Having last visit opportunities with our church people.  This past week, every night we either had someone over or were at church. 

Ladies' meeting on Saturday afternoon.  Our hostess invited some of her unsaved neighbors to join us, and two of them came.  One of them asked to host the next meeting at her house.

Sunday night we were encouraged to have 45 people in attendance at church.  We also had communion and the church people graciously surprised us with a going-away party for us afterward. 

Thank you to those of you who have faithfully prayed for us and supported us during our first term.  I know it's cliche, but it's true that we couldn't have done it without your help.  We look forward to seeing many of you soon!