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Saturday, April 11, 2015

No Going Back


Do you remember those paintings, the ones that just look like a bunch of blotches but hidden within is a three-dimensional image?

When they first came out I thought it was ridiculous and that anyone who said they saw a soaring eagle or a skyline of New York city was either lying to themselves and everyone else or just delusional.  I tried and tried, blurred my eyes, stood like a fool with my nose pressed against the painting at first and then backed up, but still nothing. 

I finally gave up and decided it was exactly as it looked, a bunch of random colour blotches with no other hidden image.

Then one day I was at a friend’s house and they had one.  They gave me a few suggestions for how I could try to see the picture so I tried again.  I allowed my focus to blur, relaxed my eyes and there was a flash of something round, and protruding from the picture.  I startled me so much that I brought my eyes back into focus.  What did I just see?  I tried again.  Suddenly, my eyes came back into focus, except this time I was faced with an image jumping out of the blotches.  I was looking a full moon, hanging over a majestic pine and through the night sky soared an eagle.  Incredible!

‘I see it I see it!’ I shouted.

My sister, who was with me, hadn’t seen it yet.
'Where, how? I can’t see it!’ she was frustrated and a little jealous that I could see it, somewhat doubtful that I actually was seeing something.

I walked her through the steps again and told her how I managed to see the picture. 
I watched as her eyes went from dull to large and bright.
‘I see it I see it! Oh my goodness, how is this possible!’ She exclaimed.


After that night we were a little crazy about seeing these pictures.  We bought a book full of them, ran to the mall where there was a display of them and stood looking at all of them.  You felt as though you could reach out and touch the things in the picture.
From that day on the images that were ‘hidden’ in these blotches, were impossible for me to not see.
So, where am I going with this?

I always wondered what people meant when they said they found Jesus like he had been hiding under the couch or something.  I just didn't get it.

The Kingdom of Heaven is sometimes described as the already and the not yet, the seen and the unseen.  Before I ‘saw’ I thought that those who could see were like the people who claimed to see something in those paintings.  They were either delusional, or lying to themselves.

I was blind but now I see....

For me the moment of believing came in a flash, just like seeing the images in those paintings.  I was blind to it, and then I wasn’t.  It all became known, even though I didn’t have all the answers, I now could see what was always there, I believed.

How precious did that Grace appear, the hour I first believed.

In order to see those images, I had to re-learn how to see, I had to un-train my trained eyes, not to see what something looked like on the surface, but to see beyond it.  Once I saw the images in those paintings, there was no going back, I couldn’t un-see them. 

I once was lost but now I’m found.

Before I believed, I saw most Christians (and ironically most especially missionaries) as people who just wanted to bend you to their way of thinking, they'd been brain washed and now they were bent on shoving religion down other's throats.  Why couldn’t they just leave people to their own beliefs?

Here’s the thing.  When I was able to see the images in those paintings, I wanted to help everyone else see those images, not because I wanted to push something on them but because it was AMAZING.

When you begin to understand the magnitude of believing and see how it has changed your life from a seemingly random arrangement of blotches of colour, into a beautiful three-dimensional piece of art, you want others to have it too, because it’s GOOD, it’s more than good….

It’s AMAZING!

Now scroll back up, look at the blotches, blur your eyes and then relax.  Do you see him? He's in there, waiting, he's been seeing you your whole life, just waiting for you to be able to see him.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Video Update

Our ministries here are in full swing, kids are in school and days are full.  I find I'm without the time to let my fingers fly on the keyboard the way I would like to these days.  Saying that, we don't want to leave our followers and supporters thinking we have sailed down river never to be heard from again.

So, this month we are shaking it up and bringing you a video upate!


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Do You Believe In Miracles?


Do You Believe In Miracles?

Three weeks ago we packed up our Kombi and with our family and four youth from our church drove the bumpy dusty Transamazon Highway to a conference on Healing in the Streets in Altamira.  I had no idea that one of the first miracle healings I would witness would be my own.
 The day before it happened, I admitted to someone that I was a bit of a 'doubting Thomas', that I would have to see or experience something like a limb growing in order to believe it.  The next night at the conference on 'Healing in the Streets', the speaker, who was from Ireland and therefore being translated, asked if anyone in the audience had one leg shorter than the other.  My hand seemingly involuntarily shot up.  Because everyone else didn't understand what he said until it was translated, I was the first one.  He called me up and I was immediately surrounded by 300 people and regretting having put my hand up.  He explained that Christ gave all His disciples the authority to heal the sick.  Just as the Apostles did, they spoke to the problem and to it told go in Jesus name, and that because we are disciples we have the same authority.  At that he gently held my feet in his open hands and told my back to be straight (I was diagnosed with mild scoliosis when I was twelve) and I felt something shift in my back and I think I stopped breathing.  He then told my leg to grow and....well....it did.  There was a loud collective gasp from the crowd as they watched my leg extend to meet the length of the other. I was in shock, my leg just grew, I felt it move through the leg of my shorts as it did.  Turns out that even when I experience something I still have a hard time believing it.
This visual miracle was a great faith booster for our youth (and me!) and they were excited to hit the streets the next day praying for the sick.  We lined chairs up in a busy market street and offered to pray for passersby.  We saw many people healed of pain, bone growths shrink, eye infections disappear and hearts that were broken revealed and healed.  We are bringing this ministry to Maraba, with hopes to visit different parks every month, with worship, dance and theater performances followed by prayer.
In the Bible, when Jesus healed someone he often told them not to tell anyone about it-and of course they did the exact opposite and shouted it from the rooftops.  Many have discussed why He might have told them not to tell anyone.
I posted about my miraculous leg growth experience on Facebook and to my dismay found that it led to a huge debate about the reality of the love of God and miracles between my Christian and non-Christian friends.
In Kevin Dedmon's book 'The Ultimate Treasure Hunt' he says "most people do not come into the Kingdom through a well-developed argument.  They come through an encounter, whether it is a personal testimony of how someone else encountered God in some way, or a supernatural encounter in which God revealed Himself to them in a specific way.  The reality is a man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument." Although I believed that God could heal anything, clearly before my own encounter, I still had some unbelief.  Because of my own experience, my own encounter, that unbelief is gone.   When God demonstrates His love through physical healing, the veil between heaven and earth is opened and we are able to experience the 'not yet' in the here and now.
We want to introduce the people in our neighbourhood, in our city to a loving and living God, through personal encounter.



Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Alpha Hits the Streets

"Tia Jennifee, tia Jennifee!" shouts a small voice.  I look over the hot pan of beans I'm carrying from the Kombi to see little Emily running towards me, arms outstretched.  In the absence of her beloved 'tia Deanna' she seems to have taken a shine to me, and I am not complaining.
Emily (Eliete's daughter) and Ruan (Kita's son)

She's hands down adorable.

I put the pan of beans down on the blue satin cloth covering a table outside the house of another friend of ours, Kita and bend down to scoop Emily up in a big abraço (hug).  She chatters away to me about this and that and I nod but unfortunately since she's only three and I'm still learning Portuguese, she's hard to understand.  But we hang out anyway as we wait for the people we invited to attend our Alpha Na Rua (Alpha in the Street).

The tables are adorned with red and white checkered table clothes and set up right in the dusty street.  There are few cars in this neighbourhood so blocking off one area is not a problem.

The sun is starting to set at it's usual time, life near the equator means equal amounts of dark and light.  Unfortunately, in this neighbourhood there is more darkness than light, something we are hoping to change.

Seven o'clock comes, and as I do every week, I worry that no-one will turn up.  It's in that moment I have to remember that God will call those who he's working on, it's not a worry I need to have.  But, as it also happens every week the minute we lift the lids off the pans and start to serve the food, our guests arrive and soon our tables are over-flowing with people and children, and the bubble of conversation mixes with the chirping crickets, barking dogs and cicadas still buzzing in the night heat.

By doing this on the street, we hope to remove some of the barriers people have between them and 'the church'.  We've taken down the walls, invited them to our table to eat, talk and question life's biggest questions.  Alpha is a twelve week, non-denominational introduction to Christianity.  It allows people to ask questions, discuss and wrestle without judgment.

This weeks Alpha is an introduction to the Holy Spirit.  When the video ends instead of having our small group discussions, we gather everyone in a circle and pray for them.  As I'm praying for woman,  I notice a group that has gathered across the street, watching from a distance.  I ask my husband and one of our young adults to go and pray for them.  Our young adult is a bit reluctant, I'm nudging him to the edges of his comfort zone.  They offer, and only one accepts, it's the lady who lives in the house directly opposite to where we are and she has been watching every week, this week she's decided to take part.  I offer to pray for her and she accepts. After I pray her eyes are bright, and her smile is wide (the first time I've seen her smile) and she thanks me, says "I really needed that prayer".

As we finish for the night and pack up the chairs I notice, that sitting in the dark is a woman I've begun to know.  I ask our pastor's wife Monica to come with me to pray for her.  As we sit and chat with her two men who are sitting with us chat with us too.  We pray for the woman, and afterwards one of the men says something quietly, I can't hear him.  Monica asks if he would like us to pray for him.  He nods.

We rally the troops and surround him.  As the others are praying I see a picture in my head of this man in the dark, so dark he can't see the hand in front of his face.  Suddenly, there is a light so bright it illuminates everything around him, and there's path in front of him. I sense that there is some fear of this light.  I explain the image to him and tell him not to be afraid, that the light is good, the light is Jesus and he has a plan for his life.

We finish and he thanks us and heads home.  Monica asks 'Do you know what he said to me?'.
'No, I couldn't hear him' I respond.
'He said yesterday, he wanted to put a rope around his neck and kill himself', she says.

My eyes widen and I think of the image I had in my head, of him in the dark, and then in the light.  I say a silent prayer for him, I hope that something in his heart just changed, that the light is illuminating a path for him out of the darkness.
.

There's a story about a child throwing starfish who've been beached, back into the ocean and someone asks why the child is bothering, there are thousands and thousands of starfish he can't save them all.  The child picks up another starfish and puts it back into the ocean saying, 'No, but I just saved that one'.

There are thousands and thousands of starfish in our neighbourhood, we can only pick up the ones God puts in front of us and put them back in the ocean.




Here is a 3 minute video about Alpha in the streets and how you can help.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Taking Samples to the Lab-Another Adventure in Learning Portuguese

Something microscopic seems to have taken up residence in my GI tract.  Sorry, that's the cleanest way I can put that.  I   have been feeling unwell on and off and then it took a turn a few days ago.  I was advised to take some 'samples' in to a local lab to see if we can get to the bottom of it...pun intended.

My darling husband was kind enough to go pick up the containers for me but that's where his kindness ended.  Once the samples had been collected, I had to take my woozy, pale and sweaty self to the lab to drop them off.

One problem.  I forgot to look up the medical terms for the...uhhh...samples.

So here's how it went down:

I entered the clean office and the cool of the air conditioning washed over me like a welcomed rain.  I felt a little better already.  I approached the counter where two women sat and greeting them with a perfunctory, 'bom dia'.

That's when I realized I was stuck.  I had a bag, two containers with bodily fluids and no idea how to explain what they were.

I stumbled along with, 'I need to..umm...make a test...'  I stopped there hoping she would immediately know what I meant and free me of my bag and my humiliation.

I was wrong.

She blinked, smiled and said, 'what?'  

It was in that moment that I realized the only words I had for what was in the bag.

I continued, sweating a little more now even with the air conditioning, my face I'm sure had gone from a pale shade of greyish pink to a sun drenched red in seconds.

'I, um, I have to make a test....I umm...I have...' I was putting off the inevitable. I thrust the bag forward over the edge of the counter and blurted, 'Pee pee, and poo poo' in portuguese, and then giggled a little, I mean what else could I do?

I apologized and explained that I was Canadian and I was learning Portuguese.

Thankfully she returned the giggle and asked if I would like to test a stool and urine sample (those words are now indelibly imbedded on my brain).  I nodded.

She freed me of my samples and I made a hasty retreat to the Kombi.  

Hopefully the results will reveal the uninvited inhabitant and I can free myself of it and my humiliation.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

You Can Change The World By Doing This One Simple Thing


There are a lot of horrible things going on in the world right now, wars and disease, things that can make us feel like the world is falling apart and that we have no power to change it.  But I say we can change it, and it's simple.

Love people.

If we expanded the circle of people we love and would do anything for to include more than the people in our immediate family, if we truly loved our neighbours as ourselves, I think the world would be a different place.  Instead of focusing our energy, time and Facebook posts on things we can't change, I challenge us all to have the courage to change the things we do have the power to change, the things that are right in front of us.

My friend Rob Hall who died in Zambia while helping people there learn how to use a small piece of land to grow their own food used to say 'lean into the things in front of you, and there you'll find the Kingdom of God'.

The Kingdom of God IS love.

There's a reason why the second greatest commandment in the Bible is to love your neighbour as yourself…we have the potential to change the world, we just need to tap into it.

It's a well known fact that the power of love is the greatest force known to man and each and every one of us has it living inside of us.

So, I challenge you, in the days and weeks to come.  Open your eyes to the things around you, look for ways to love your neighbours, and by neighbours I mean anyone in front of you.  Maybe the elderly lady at the grocery store needs help with her bags.  The single Mom who lives next door, offer to babysit (for free) so she can have a much needed night off.  There is more than enough need and more than enough love we just have to be willing to see and do.

I think you'll be blown away how simple acts of kindness to others will not only shine a light in their lives but in yours too.
-- 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Aliens In The Grocery Store

Normally, I shop for our food alone.  Just little old me, silently and swiftly moving (now that I know what to buy) around the grocery store and as far as anyone is concerned I'm just one of those 'branquinhos' or light skinned Brazilians.  I am incognito as long as no one asks me to speak.

Unless of course, my kids come with me. For those of you who know my children, they are anything but quiet.

They blow my cover every time.

As we stand at a display of school workbooks Faith is chattering away at the speed of light and I look up to see not one but five staff members hovering around the table we are near, all of them staring.  They gawk actually, mouths agape but they are quick to smile when I make eye contact and smile at them.  But it doesn't stop their eyes being fixed on the rapidly moving mouths of my children.

We get to the cash register and I speak Portuguese to the woman at the cash, but again my kids are there, making a game with the packages.  A new woman comes over to pack our groceries and Faith says, or more likely shouts, something in English and the lady packaging our groceries freezes, empty bag in one hand, package of sugar in the other.  She's looking at my daughter like she just arrived off of a space ship.

I laugh and explain that we are Canadian and that they are learning Portuguese.  Everyone smiles, but the staring continues.

It's a good thing it doesn't bother us because it happens all the time, whenever we leave the house as a family, actually.

Yesterday, three girls in the river thought we were from India.  I had a good laugh at that one.

Learning a new language is one of the hardest things I've experienced in  my forty-two years.  When you've reached this ripe age, you've been through the trials of childhood, the self-discovery of your teens and twenties, acceptance of who you are in your thirties and arrived in a place where you feel like you know who you are and what you stand for.

Take away your ability to speak and suddenly you feel like that person you've come to know is trapped in a plexiglass box.  People can see you but they can't hear you.  Your thoughts, opinions and stories all fall silent. You long to connect with other human beings at a deeper level but when all you can say is 'how are you' and 'it's hot' you're always skimming along the surface.

For an extrovert, this is a special kind of torture.

For the past three months our family has been the only English speaking family on the base here in Marabá, which has pushed us, immersed us and challenged us, but more than that it has HELPED us.

A couple of weeks ago as the sun was setting, I sat with Monica, the church's pastor.  We watched our kids paint, first on paper and then their whole bodies grunting like apes and running around the soccer field.  We swapped stories, laughed, talked about our families and things we'd learned about life in the past.

After the sun had set and our kids were scrubbing their skin pink to get the paint off,  I felt like the 'real me' was out and able to tell stories, make jokes and share my heart with another person.

It was like coming up from a deep dive and taking a big breath.

I'm far, far, FAR from fluent in this new language but I am finally feeling more and more like getting there is not impossible.