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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Some Things are Universal

Some things are very different in different countries.  Cultural differences and physical differences can divide people, it's difficult to connect to things you don't understand.  In Africa, time is a whole different concept.  Setting a time for a meeting is more of a suggestion than a definite.  In Brazil, lunch is the big meal of the day, followed by a siesta when the heat of the day makes most things unbearable.  The pace of life is slower and if you are from North America it can sometimes be extremely difficult to shift gears and flow with that rhythm.

But there are some things that transcend culture.  A mother's love is one of them.  I wrote a couple weeks ago about the tragic death of one of the youth's mothers in Maraba.  At that time all we knew was that she had been shot.  The full story has now come out.  Zeyzem's brother was involved in a gang, as I have mentioned before this is a common pattern for youth in this neighbourhood.  He was also prone to dangerous and violent fits of rage, so much so that his girlfriend and child left the home.  His mother prayed ceaselessly that he would be delivered from the bondage of this gang.  On the sunday evening before his mothers death, Zeyzem's brother came to the front of the church and surrendered his life to Jesus, asking forgiveness and promising to turn away from his former life.  His mother's prayers were answered.  I have said before, God forgives gangs don't.  Leaving a gang is not something you can do easily.  The gang came for Zeyzem's brother but as they entered the house and aimed their gun to shoot, Zeyzem's mother put herself between the killer and her son, taking five bullets into her own body and giving her life for the life of her son.

Sandy Thiessen was diagnosed with terminal cancer two weeks ago.  Her family gathered around her to spend as many of the last moments of her life that they could, their hearts in agony at the thought of life without her.  A few days after her diagnosis results of a liver biopsy showed that the cancer was treatable.  This news came on the heels of a horrendous night of pain that couldn't be quieted by medication.  Sandy had a choice to make.  Would she fight for her life or accept death?  She turned the question to her children.  What did they want?  Despite the intense pain and illness she was living with at that moment when her children looked at her and asked her to fight she said 'Yes, I will'.

Two mothers, one chose death for the life of her child and one chose life for the love of her children.

Sometimes it's easy to put to the back of our minds the suffering and challenges that people face in other countries.  They live different lives, it's hard to connect.  But the bottom line is that we are all people with hopes and dreams, and the need for love and acceptance.  Our houses, clothing and daily lives may look very different but our hearts are the same.

Friday, October 14, 2011

At the Gates...

The feeling we have right now reminds me of two things.  Horses and pregnancy.  How are they related you may wonder?  Let me explain.

Have you ever seen horses race?  There are a few moments before they fire the starting pistol while they are at the gates, and they are stomping the dirt, their nostrils flare, their shoulders press into the gate straining with all their might to do what they were born to do, to do what they have trained to do, to RUN.

Have you ever been pregnant?  There are a few weeks before the baby is born when you feel like you might be the first woman to be pregnant FOREVER.  When a woman first gets the news that there's a new life growing inside her belly there can be two feelings, elation and pure terror.  That new life growing, is going to keep growing and eventually you will have to push it out of your body!  By the time you are nearing the third trimester that fear is replaced by sheer exhaustion, discomfort and the desire to finally meet this new human being, to hold them and love them and see who they will become.

I guess right now we feel a bit like a race horse in the third trimester.  We have been preparing for this for a long time, probably since before we even went to Brazil.  We have finished renovating and sold a house, shed many layers of things we don't need/want and can't take with us and shed many, many tears.  We have prayed, had others pray and confirmed that we feel God is leading us into this.  We have started the good-byes.  Two months ago we said good-bye to the street I have called home since long before I actually lived on it.  We have said good-bye to the community that went along with it.  We have been riding this emotional roller coaster for more than a year and the fear of what's to come has now been replaced with the desire to GO!

We are trying to live in a place of expectancy not expectation (thank you Art!), we know God can and will pull all the pieces together, but it may not look like we think and it may not be when we think.  We are learning still, always, to trust that being the creator of the universe He might just know what He's doing.

So, in the mean time we continue to contact friends, family and anyone who will listen to share with them what we are embarking on and ask if it is something they want to be a part of.  For those of you who have already said yes, our words of thanks will never properly express our sincere gratitude.

At the end of November we will hold a concert to help raise the necessary funds for the pistol to go off and open the gates.  Both artists playing are amazingly gifted and we feel so blessed that they are willing to share their talents to help us.

Here are the details:

November 26, 2011
Venue TBA
Cost: $15/ticket

Some of you have responded to say you can't make it but would like to buy tickets anyway.  The easiest way to do that is to click the link at the top of this blog and it will take you to a secure paypal donation page, you will also receive a tax receipt that way, for those of you who have said you want to come, we will have tickets available for purchase at a later date-stay tuned!

Thank you to all of you who have already committed, we are seeing the mercury rise on our support thermometer to almost 1,000/month!! We need 3,000 for the green light so we are 1/3 of the way there!

We are always open to chat, answer questions or just hang out with you before we go.  Please don't hesitate to contact us we are never too busy.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


Weeping may endure for the night, 
but joy comes in the morning!!
Psalm 30:5

I can hardly believe what I just read on Sandy's daughters blog-she has been updating us all on how Sandy has been doing.  The results of a biopsy done the other day have come in and she has Burkitts Lymphoma which is a very aggressive but treatable form of cancer.  Here is what her daughter wrote:

"Tonight was horrendous. Rachel said it was the worst thing she's seen in her nursing career. Mom was vomiting and had diarrhea and was in excruciating pain. The nurses couldn't give her enough meds to kill the pain. My brother called to tell me mom might pass tonight. I cried my face off while Paul and I waited for Sue, my mother-in-law, to arrive to stay with Safiya. As we pulled up to the hospital, my sister called to tell me the results of the biospy were in and mom had Burkitts Lymphoma, a very aggressive type of cancer but treatable.

By the time I got up to her floor, mom and dad were in her room trying to decided if mom wanted to go ahead with the treatment or if she was ready to die. If she chose not to go for the treatment, the doctor estimated she had two weeks to live. Mom said she didn't know if she can handle the chemo but said she would do it if all of us kids wanted her to. We do want her to so she is going to go through with it.

This does not mean mom will live it just means she may live. So please pray for her. Pray that God gives her the strength to live. We want her around so badly but we also don't want undo suffering for mom."

Friday, October 7, 2011

For Sandy

Last January, shortly before I started this blog, Phil and I and the Kilborns shared five days with a couple by the name of Dan and Sandy Thiessen.  They were sent by the Xingu Missions board of directors to 'evaluate our readiness' for missions.  GULP.

Let me just say it is a little nerve wracking finding out that two counsellors are coming to 'evalutate' you.  They weren't going to do any deep light in your face inquisitions, no, they were just going to MOVE IN WITH US, for 5 days.  I think, given the option I probably would have taken the inquisition!  Not that we had anything to hide, but the thought of someone watching you for five days to see if you are fit to be a missionary is more than a little unnerving.

We went as a family to the airport to pick them up, which is strange when you've never met someone-thankfully it was the Kitchener airport which is quite small, and  I had had the presence of mind to send a photo of us before we left so they knew who they would be looking for.   When they came through the doors and waved at us we welcomed them and Sandy immediately paid attention to the kids.
Dan admitted that he was tempted to send us a photo of a completely different couple, just for fun and we knew then that we would get along just fine!

Within a very short time we felt completely at ease with them as they moved into our 'crazy commune' with us.  Sandy's ability to engage children and make them feel important made me so aware of how busy my life was and how little time I spent actually playing with my children.  I watched as they lit up whenever she was in the room.   Dan shared with us how they had had a difficult past 10 years as Sandy had suffered from chronic fatigue.  The hardest part he said, was that he always felt like part of him was missing when he had to travel without her, that they were so much more as a team.  They shared with us about their own experiences as a missionary family in Israel when their children were small.  We laughed, we hung out and just got to know each other.  We packed a lot into those five days and it felt like we had new family members.

After the five days were over we had to say good-bye but with assurances that we would write and stay in touch, that they would help us with any problems or issues we might be having with the transition.  And with their full recommendation that we were ready to be missionaries.  We have kept in touch over the last 10 months,  Sandy has often been the first to comment on these blogs and we have been able to skype a few times.  The last time we spoke she said she was feeling better than she had in years and was even thinking of coming to Brazil with Dan in January, I was overjoyed!

Two days ago, again on facebook I noticed a tag on Dan's status that said 'for updates on Sandy please see our daughters blog'.  I clicked the link and what I read shocked me to the core.  Sandy had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.  Even as I type this now, tears are streaming down my face.  I was immediately so heartbroken for her, for her family and grandbabies that I know she absolutely loves with all of her heart.

The latest update said that she was still in hospital after a biopsy but would be returning home, where she chose to be.  Her family is gathering close and they are praying for peace and for as little pain for Sandy as possible.

I know you may not know her or her family but trust me when I say it would be impossible not to love her if you did.  So, could you please pray for her, for her family, for the love of her life as they have to face the unspeakable?

Sandy, if you are reading this or having someone read it for you, we love you and we are praying for you, and hopefully people who read this blog will be praying for you too.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

News from Brazil-Zezym's Mother Has Been Killed

As I settled into bed friday night I was flicking through my facebook news feed and noticed a post from Monica, the Brazilian Pastors wife in Maraba to Rick, Deanna and Chelsea:

"Oi como esta, tenho uma noticia ruim para da, mataram a mãe do zezim hoje de 9 pra 10 hora da noite."

Just last week I had learned the word 'ruim' which means bad and that word was in her post. I could decipher that it had something to do with his mother and happened that day at 9 or 10 at night. I translated the other words I didn't know and worked out that Zezym, one of the youth who plays drums in the worship band, and was almost always smiling when we were there, has lost his mother, she was shot and killed.  Zezim is only 17 years old.

I understand this pain, I lived this pain.  Just the other day I was sitting at the table with Faith and she asked if 'Nana' was my mother.  I said, 'No, hun remember I told you my Mommy died a long time ago' she then asked, 'How old were you when she died?" "18" I replied.
Her face grew sad, and she looked at me with those giant brown eyes of hers and said, "but when you're a teenager, you still need your Mom".  Wise words from a five year old.  Her words echoed a clear memory I have from my mothers funeral when someone said exactly that to me.  I had to step away from the table for a moment so she couldn't see I had tears welling my eyes. The truth is you do still need your Mom when you are 17.

This morning at 8 am Brazil time (9 am our time) they will take the body to the cemetary, Art and Cyndi will go with them.

My heart aches for Zezym as I think about the long road of grief he will have to navigate.  Thankfully, with Monica and Ivanildo, Art and Cyndi and all the youth in Maraba he has a very LARGE family that will surround  him, council him, love him and help to carry him through this tragedy.

Please, would you pray for him? Pray that God would heal his heart, bring him comfort.  I know (from experience) that God brings great things out of deep sorrow.  But the pain in the time it takes to see that good is great.