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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Letting Him Lead-Finding Our Home

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.

Can You Give Your Yes?

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.
Here's the link:

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Neither Here nor There-Why Re-Entry Is Harder Than Culture Shock

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.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Taking Alpha On The Road

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.

A 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.

Since 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.

It 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.

So, 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. 

Prayerfully 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.

We are VERY excited about this new chapter!

Help Is On The Way!


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 things.

 The aspect that has been the biggest challenge, the one that has brought me to tears and had me consider packing up and leaving…is...HOMESCHOOL. 

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.

It 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!

Long 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 months. 

Oh Jesus how sweet your answered prayers taste to this dry mouth!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Narrow and Deep with Vineyard Delaware (VCDC)

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’.  

It’s 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 impossible darkness.

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 with several.

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 stories. 

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.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

I Want To Go Home

Standing in our hallway, my daughter looked up at me with her big, brown, tear filled eyes and asked me, ‘Mommy, where is home?’

I paused, took a deep breath and told her that home is wherever we are, that our family is home.  Four walls don’t make a home, a country doesn’t make a home, a family does. 

“But Mommy,” she protested, “Canada feels like home, but now we are here and we are here for two years and then we only go back for a few months and come back here again.  So, it’s like Brazil is home but it’s not, because I don’t feel normal here," a tear left a wet trail down her cheek.

I fought my own tears.  It’s a battle I have in my own heart almost daily.  I have a heart in two places.  As a child, a missionary kid, she’s considered ‘third culture’ a mixture of where she’s from and where she is she isn’t strongly part of either one.  It’s a tough place to be in some days. 

Yesterday was one of those tough ones.

Faith lay with her head on my lap, tears fell from her eyes and I wiped away each one.  She cried for the friends she left behind, for the family she longs to see at holidays, she cried for the way kids make fun of her when she speaks English, she cried for the middle ground she lives in. 

I held her and whispered in her ear that some days, Mommy feels exactly the same way.

‘I just want to go home, I just want to feel normal’ she said through tears and a trembling bottom lip.

What I couldn’t bear to whisper in her ear is that the reality is, there is no going home. 

Even when we land in Canada a year from now, home will no longer feel the way it did.  The comfort of ordered streets that are well paved, clear of litter and stray dogs will be replaced with a feeling of estrangement.  It will feel oddly sterile.  Friends have made new friends.  The landscape has changed.

The puzzle you once fit into with ease, is still there but you, the piece of it that flew away to a far away land, you are no longer the same shape.  Try as you might, your shape no longer fits the same way into the void you left behind.

No, I couldn’t tell her that part.  She’ll learn that on her own.

Many times, often daily, I have to remind myself that God called not just Phil and I into this adventure, he called our kids too.  They aren’t skin tags, along for the ride. They are part of this thing.  There is purpose in it for them too.

This week our base leaders took there two youngest daughters to the airport to see them off, back to Canada where one will stay to go to University and the other visit with her sisters before returning to Brazil for her last year of high school.  Another missionary family recently took their oldest son back to the U.S. for the same reason.  My heart aches for the mothers who now live with thousands of miles between them and the children who have been beside them, working with them, doing life as a family in a way that most don’t get to experience.  They have been together for every victory and every tear.  

But all that closeness, it comes with a high price tag.  One day, if we are still doing this missionary life, we may have to do the same.

My own words ring in my head, ‘home is our family’.

But what happens when your family is now in two places?  It’s normal for your kids to grow up and find a life of their own, but normally they move maybe a couple hours away, not a continent.

The gifts in this life, they are enormous.  The sacrifices are too.

The daughters of our base leader wrote a children's story for their Mom.  About a Momma bird and her four babies and how the Momma bird feels like her heart is flying away with her babies as they leave the nest.  In the end, the Momma bird learns that she can learn to sing a
gain, she finds her song.

One of the biggest challenges as parents is letting our kids fly, letting them go and figure out this life. Even if they are still doing it with us.  When Faith's heart is breaking for home, I want to fix that hurt, I want to get on a plane and take us back.  But that would be robbing her of the richness God has planned for her, that the pain and the struggle are some of the best nuggets in life.  

 Not only so, but we[a] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:35
I know in my heart of hearts that the things she is learning here, the character that is being built in her at such a young age will prepare her to fly higher than I ever have or will in my life.  And isn't that what we want as parents?  For our kids to fly higher, live larger? 

If only it didn't hurt so much in the midst of the struggle.