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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.

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….


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 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.