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'They Are My Daughters'
'He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,' Isaiah 61:1
Our heart is to love our neighbours, whoever they are. We want to serve them as the Lord would have us serve them, because we know that only he can truly transform lives.
One Friday night we were driving back to our house and as we turned one corner a woman shouted out to us, we all turned and my son asked, ‘Mom, what is she doing on the corner like that? And why is she dressed like that?’
I said it was a conversation for later.
Another Friday night we saw five or six women and watched as a motorcycle pulled up and stopped in front of them.
My heart ached.
Another day, in another part of the city, in the middle of the day on a Tuesday we counted fifteen to seventeen women.
We started taking these routes purposely, at different times of the day. We started doing research. Prostitution is legal here in Paraíba, but many times minors fall pray to it, the average age of a girl starting is 12-14.
They are somebody's baby girl.
They've either left home or been turned out onto the streets. With little to no education or skills, it’s often chosen as a profession because they have run out of options.
We started to realize that we were both feeling pulled in a direction that we had no idea what to do with, but it kept tapping on our hearts, invading our thoughts, that still small voice was whispering....
‘They are my daughters.'
Only one problem. We have absolutely no idea how to start or what to do.
So, we prayed. ‘Lord, if this is you calling us into this, we can’t do it without your guidance, show us how to do this Lord’.
In our research Phil came across a website for a group in Recife, Pernambuco (the next state south of us) called Shores of Grace. They started working with prostitutes and others in the streets about seven years ago. They now have a comprehensive ministry who's priority is to show these women and men that they are loved. IF they choose to leave the work they are in, they have things in place to help them get trained and on a new path. But first, love them right where they are, no strings attached.
Last week I was able to make contact with Nic Billman, the founder of Shores of Grace. I told him how we had been feeling and that we would love to have a chance to chat with them, possibly learn from them. He invited us to come for a few days, receive training and go out with them when they minister.
We still really don’t know how this will look. Right now we have committed to praying for these women on a daily basis, praying that God would continue to show us what it is He would have us do.
Leaning on Him and not our own understanding. We will keep you posted as we move forward.
Living in the Amazon basin, seeds are easier to plant. In fact, we once had several different vegetables and fruits start to sprout up where a broken pipe from our kitchen spilled onto the ground.
Similarly, getting to know people happens more easily, walk around your neighbourhood as the sun is setting and you will find them sitting outside their houses, enjoying the cooler temperatures of the late afternoon and sipping cafezinhos. You sit and begin to chat, the seeds of relationship sprout.
Living here, in a big city, a concrete jungle, it’s difficult to find soil to throw seeds on, people tile the sidewalks. Walking around our neighbourhood here at sunset we find a few people, the ones with dogs, but our conversations are shorter, in passing. The seeds of relationship don’t sprout as quickly.
So, we have to have patience and be creative. Find ways to spend more time with people.
One of the ways missionaries in other parts of the country have done this is to fill a need by opening an english school.
Learning english is Brazil is a much desired skill. It opens many doors.
João Pessoa has as many english schools as any Canadian town has Tim Horton’s. Opening another one here isn’t really filling a need.
Saying that, having native english speakers to practice your english with is hard to come by. So, we’ve decided to use this angle to fill a need and also connect us to different groups of people.
The idea that came to us was to approach one of the english schools and offer a free bonus english conversation class.
Faith’s tutor mentioned that the english school she attends, Uptime, is a smaller school and run by a Christian woman, maybe we could approach her.
A few Sundays later, we were invited to attend an English service at a local Anglican church and started speaking to the minister. He has traveled to England several times and is very familiar with Alpha. Our idea about running an Alpha at an English school came up and he said, ‘well you should meet Erika, she owns Uptime english school!’
Well whaddya know....
We spoke with her and since their church is familiar with Alpha and eager to help us get started, she loved the idea!
Our hope of course, is that from this we can begin another small group and make more connections.
We have to break through the concrete here to get to the soil. It will take longer, but we have confidence in the one who sent us here that he is giving us the tools we need.
Raising Bilingual Kids
Recently the kids got what we would call interim report cards, kind of a dipstick look at how they are doing. They are doing amazingly well considering what we started with.
This is the result of many afternoons of blood sweat and google translate as we hack through the homework. All of us are learning more portuguese, spoken and written. We didn’t go to an official language school, we just sort of learned the language on the fly as we went, sink or swim, so this has been a great crash course.
It’s also been really tough, on all of us. It’s a big time investment too, it's almost like I'm still homeschooling but now in Portuguese! But we are already seeing results. Faith started as a blank slate. She struggles with reading in english as it is so we were concerned. But the crazy thing is, she is now able to read at a grade 1 level in portuguese and her english reading has improved immensely! On Friday, Luke tackled his Portuguese homework (by far the most challenging subject) by himself!! I cried real tears!!
We are so grateful that they are doing this, that they will come out of it on the other side fully bilingual. We have great peace that this was the right choice for our family. I love seeing them want to succeed! We are so proud of them!
One Saturday morning in Canada shortly before we came back to Brazil, I was leafing through flyers minding my own business when I saw a picture of a golden retriever. For those who know us well, wed are often comparing ourselves to those overly friendly extroverted dogs.
But we also really want one and it represents home to me and to my kids who's only ever house that felt like home had a golden retriever in it.
At that moment as I looked at the golden retriever in front of a cage I felt the Lord say, 'so when you get to Joao Pessoa, you're going to find a house that looks pretty great early on. But, it's not the house I have for you so don't rush it, wait on me'.
I told Phil and then forgot all about it.
Two weeks into our time here, and the fourth house we looked at-we were in love! It was clean, bright, had an extra bedroom for visitors, a bit of space outside, great location. We were ready to rent it.
The next morning we had an appointment to see it again. I woke up feeling uneasy and couldn't figure out why. So, I said, 'what's up Jesus, why do I feel like this?'
That's when he reminded me what he had told me when I was looking at the flyer.
Seriously? But this house is PERFECT. It has EVERYTHING!
But I have something better.
I told Phil, his shoulders sloped and he sighed, 'Really?'
So, we didn't rent it. For the next week or so there was NOTHING new on the market. We started to panic a little, what if I heard wrong?
But, everything in me told me not to rent it. Trust, wait, He has something better.
Finally, one day as I was obsessively looking on the Brazilian version of Kijiji a house appeared I hadn't seen before, a new listing.
The initial picture had two large dogs that looked like golden retrievers in the drive way.
IT'S A SIGN! I joked, sort of.
I read the description, 3 bedrooms, and an 'annex'. I made an appointment to see it at the earliest opportunity.
The minute we walked through the gates and into the house we were all sold on it. It had so much outside space, which is nearly impossible find here. There was also the annex, which had a garage below for all of Phil's fiddlings, and above a full bedroom with ensuite for visitors. Separate from our own house for the visitors privacy and ours.
We really want our house to somewhere that pastors, missionaries and family and friends can come to find rest.
This place was just that.
Now that we are moved in, I am reminded every day that waiting on what God has for us is ALWAYS better. Jesus always has what's best for us, even when it doesn't look like it.
We just have to be willing to wait.....and that my friends is the hardest part.
This past Sunday we had the opportunity to share with our home church about what we feel God has placed on our hearts. I felt strongly leading up to our talk that this was supposed to be something other than a slideshow and stories from the Amazon. I felt God pressing on my heart that He wanted people to examine their hearts for the areas they haven't let him in, the 'dirty closets' they preferred to keep closed.
The worship left Phil and I undone as it spoke exactly of the message we felt pressed to share with our church family.
I posed the question, 'If Jesus asked you to say yes before knowing the question could you do it?' If you couldn't, why? Is there fear involved? Are there areas of your life that are off limits to Jesus? What are the fears? Fear of loss? Fear of lack?
When we hold back and live in fear we become paralyzed, stop listening to what God wants for us and in turn we choke off the blessings God has for us.
Our yes comes at a cost, sometimes it's a great one, but it also comes with great reward.
We shared a bit about some of the awesome stuff God has been using us for in Brazil and how we came to the understanding that he is indeed calling us to move on to Joao Pessoa where we will be part of planting a church and beginning new ministries that we are yet to discover.
We also shared our financial situation, where are we four years into this thing?
Reality is the numbers currently don't add up but we are pressing forward in confidence knowing that God has called us into this and requires our action to activate his provision.
We shared where the majority of our funding comes from, 80% from individuals who give anywhere from $25-$200/month. That maybe Jesus is asking them to say yes to joining our team, to trust that he will provide. We also stressed that although you may think what you can offer is just a bit, it's all those bits that make up the majority of our funding. Not to mention knowing we have a team of people rooting for us, praying for us and supporting us is invaluable.
I sighted Exodus 14:12-18 when the Israelites are whining that Moses should have left them as slaves, Moses tells them to be still but God responds, '“Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to MOVE on. 16 Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. 17 I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. 18 The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.”
God wants our yes AND our action. When we do that He gets the glory, people see the impossible become possible.
Sometimes being enslaved by our fear is comfortable because it's what we know. But that's only because we haven't given God a chance to show us what he is capable of. When we do, we taste real freedom and there's no turning back.
We are so incredibly grateful to the people who have been faithfully supporting us these last four years and to those who have just decided to join the team. We are still recruiting, if you want in send us a message and we'll get you set up.
We also shared a video highlighting some of the best moments of the last two years.
I walk into Walmart and am immediately feeling a duality of emotions. I'm excited because there are so many choices, and yet my heart rate quickens and I feel something like a panic attack coming on because….
There are so many choices!
We have just returned from serving as missionaries for two years in northern Brazil and although we have lived cross culturally before this is the longest stint that I have been 'away'. At some point, the scales tip and it stops being away and becomes home, or something like it.
Going to a new country means your senses are overwhelmed, you are soaking in a new climate, culture and sometimes language. You are overwhelmed, you long for 'normal' and you feel completely displaced, out of place and definitely not in Kansas anymore.
But you expect that when you pick up your life and move to a foreign land…you don't expect it when you come back to the place you used to call 'home'.
I have explained re-entry or reverse culture shock to others like this. Before you left your home country you were part of a beautiful puzzle, you had a shape and it meshed with the shapes of those around you. But then you pulled your piece out of that puzzle and moved to a new puzzle where for a while, turn and twist as you might you don't fit the same. So slowly, your shape shifts and changes to fit into the new puzzle. Trouble is, when you come back that new shape that you had become to fit in the new puzzle, doesn't just slide back in to the old puzzle. Because you are different and guess what?
So is the puzzle you left behind.
You can't just 're-enter' and pick up where you left off because you are not the same person and even though you in your mind you hit the 'pause game' button on life at home, the people you left behind didn't actually pause (GASP!!) their lives went on without you and maybe, just maybe there is a new puzzle piece where you used to be.
So although you had started to feel comfortable in that foreign land, it is in fact still foreign and now that place you call home isn't the same either so you feel out discombobulated wherever you are.
What can be done? Not a whole lot unfortunately. But for those reading this who are welcoming home missionaries or other travellers you can be patient, understand that most of their conversations will revolve around that other place, because they are trying to make themselves fit back into your puzzle by bringing a bit of the foreign puzzle into your life.
It's confusing, and emotionally overwhelming and they are feeling a bit lost.
In the end, I wander around Walmart picking things up and putting them back down again and eventually leave with nothing. The choices overwhelm.
I don't fit yet. But maybe, most likely, I will feel like I fit again just as we are about to go back.
That is life when you live neither here nor there.
For years, the Alpha resources sat unused on a shelf here in Maraba.
Why? Because they had never experienced or seen Alpha running, they didn't know how to get started.
few weeks into running the first Alpha here in Maraba, the team loved
it. The Brazilian pastor said it was ‘the best thing they had running’.
Two weeks later we were on a plane headed for Canada after receiving the devastating news that my Dad was dying.
But Alpha kept running, and growing. Without us.
then we have had two Alpha’s in the church, two youth alpha’s and an
Alpha in the Street. Alpha has become part of our churches culture and it’s bringing people to Jesus.
isn’t the only effective evangelism tool but it’s a good one. It’s the
one that took me from not believing to believing, and ultimately
brought me here. We’re pretty crazy about Alpha.
There are missionaries and Brazilians within the Xingu Mission who also have the materials but don't know where to start.
They would like us to help them. An Alpha kick-start if you will.
in the coming year it looks as though we could be traveling quite a
bit. Right now, there are four bases that would like us to come for two
weeks, train their team and get them started.
We are excited!
We also need your help. Traveling so much will increase our monthly
expenditures and we will need extra funds to make it work.
consider whether or not you would like to partner with us in spreading
this ministry. We are training people who will train others and spread
Alpha, and the message it brings throughout Northern Brazil.
Last year shortly into
our new homeschool year I had a horrible day that was part of a series
of bad days. I’m going to be completely honest. The hardest part of
this move to a place full of new things, new climate, new culture,
snakes and tarantulas has not been the adjustment to all these new
The aspect that has been the biggest challenge, the one that
has brought me to tears and had me consider packing up and
There, I said it.
So, one very trying
day I cried out to God, I vented to Phil and I probably yelled at my
kids that if something didn’t change, if something didn’t shift I
couldn’t do it any more.
Every day was a battle of wills, and it was mine that was breaking.
was in that moment of desperation that I heard that still small voice
saying, ‘help is on the way’. I looked to the sky, eyebrows raised and
replied, ‘Really? From where?’
Oh me of little faith. Shouldn’t I
know by now that he always has a plan? Shouldn’t I know by now that
when I hear that still small voice I ought to listen? Didn’t I name my
own daughter as a reminder?
And yet, the frustration continued.
People were put in their rooms (me included) tensions mounted. I
scoured the internet for ideas, ways to change what we were doing, new
curriculums, maybe that would be the help I longed for.
Then, on another terrible, awful, no good horrible day again that still small voice came and said, ‘google exactly this: help me homeschool my missionary kids’. So
I did and there in front of me was a web site that linked missionaries
in need with people looking to serve missionaries, voluntarily, no cost
to us and on a tourist visa.
Exactly what I was praying for!
story short I applied. In April in the wee hours of the morning I
couldn’t sleep for some reason and checked my email. There in black and
white lighting up my dark bedroom was an email from someone who wanted
to come and help.
Help was indeed on the way.
After a series of emails, skype calls and more emails we decided we liked each other and wanted to give it a go.
In less than a week, Madeline, an eighteen year old highschool grad taking
a GAP year will come to help us with homeschool for three to six
Oh Jesus how sweet your answered prayers taste to this dry mouth!
The black water of the river is like a mirror, reflecting
the intense green of the foliage that surrounds us.The canoe lies low in the water with less than an inch
between the eight of us and the river.We all joke about what might be watching us from the banks.Michael Hansen of the Delaware Vineyard (VCDC) comments
that he is in awe of the colours, ‘so
intense they seem fake’.
my first time traveling with a short term team on a river trip and it’s our
last day on the river.We’ve taken
the canoe down one of the smaller rivers to visit an elderly lady and her
husband of over sixty years.Their
small wooden home lies at the end of a ‘dock’ comprised of small tree trunks.I try to imagine them navigating this
pathway after paddling away from the service the night before into the
Michael Hansen has been to Brazil with Xingu Mission at
least four times, and beyond that their senior pastor Danny Meyer has been
involved for eighteen.The vision
for partnership with missions at VCDC is to go ‘Narrow and Deep’ building deep
relationships with a few missions as opposed to spreading support thin and wide
For five days the team of twenty travels along the rivers
near Portel delivering water filters and the gospel together, sleeping in
hammocks on the boat and getting to know the habits of people who, for me, were
strangers just days ago which always leads to good memories and funny
At each stop we meet with the families from the surrounding
houses to worship and share the good news of the gospel.Team members share their own stories of
how God has changed their lives.The
services are simple, and the fragrance of God’s love is heady and sweet and many
are touched by His presence, including those on the team.
It is often said that a better use of resources would be to
send money instead of teams.I
whole heartedly disagree.Not only
is the team a blessing to all the lives they encounter (including mine) while
they are here, but the lives and hearts of the team are transformed and become
bonded to the people here in way that money could never accomplish.
Money can build churches and Sunday
schools but it can’t pray for a wizened face old lady living in a wooden shack
somewhere in the Amazon basin.
Teams build relationships and partnerships that span years and
continents, something no amount of money will ever do.