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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Choose To Believe Anyway

Grief is a funny thing.  If you've ever lost someone close to you you'll know this.  Some days you feel just fine, others grief tumbles over you like heavy waterfall, the force of the waters threatening to pull you under.

Today in Canada it's Father's Day.  Although I think of my Dad every day, days like this are harder than others.

My brother Kevin-died June 2012
Before what I affectionately call the 'tsunami' of deaths in my life, I wondered how my faith would hold up if really put to the test.  Would I hold onto the truths I have learned or would I shake an angry fist at God and run for the hills? Questioning all I had come to believe?

I think this past year was a pretty good test of that.

Nephew Craig died Oct 2012
Best friend Rob died Dec 2012
Dad, died Nov 2013

I have seen grief ruin people.  The crushing weight of the pain of loss is something they just can't seem to get out from under.  I have also seen people bury it so deep in their hearts that the pain comes out in different ways, against other people, or needs to be quieted with numbing effects of drugs and alcohol.  Some turn off all feelings towards others to protect themselves from being hurt again.

The truth is we will all face loss in our lives, it's how we face it that can change our lives.

I've seen Christians turn away from God when suffering comes, feeling betrayed and hurt 'Why would a God who loves me allow this to happen?' They ask.

I can't profess to have it figured out, not even close.  I only know what I've learned through the storm in my own life.

Your faith is, was and will continue to be a choice.

This means that when you don't understand why things are happening the way they do, you choose to believe anyway.
When the gripping pain of loss comes, as it inevitably will in this life, you choose to believe anyway.
When financial strain seems to crush you, you choose to believe anyway.
When nothing makes sense and you feel alone…..choose to believe anyway.

This has been my experience.  In my darkest of days, when grief threatened to drown me, I chose to believe anyway.

What happens after you choose is where the incredible gift lies.  When grief sits on my chest pushing the tears out of my eyes, there is someone there to give that pain to, to pour it out to….and incredibly, each and every time I do this, the pain lifts, I feel light and free and full of an inexplicable peace and hope.

I know the pain of grief without faith and it's a dark place, a long road, a deep hole.  I don't want to stay there.

There is a faithful God who loves you more than you can imagine.  In your pain, He is there, with you.  He will redeem what is lost, restore what is broken, and help you to stand again.

But first you must choose to believe anyway.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Independence Day-VW Kombi Purchased!

Moving to a new country has many challenges.  Especially, when you don't know the language.  Just shopping for groceries becomes a whole new experience, never mind having a meaningful conversation with anyone.

You feel as though you've regressed to being a small child, you need someone to help you do most things, speak for you and take you where you need to go.

This process is both humbling and frustrating. I have developed a whole new appreciation for those thousands of immigrants new to Canada, struggling with all the same things.

About an hour before we had to take the only other english speaking people here at the mission to the airport for their three month furlough, something happened that would change our lives here in Brazil.

As you may remember a number of months ago I wrote about the very generous donation we received after speaking at our church.  With it, along with others we were able to purchase a 2012, gently used VW Kombi here in Marabá from a friend of the church.

We've already used it for a number of things, including picking up some very excited kids on their way home from school, moving a stove for one of our neighbours from one house to another, carrying building materials and taking a tiny baby just a few days old for a hearing test.

This past Sunday we took two loads of youth to the streets to sell car flags and T-shirts as a fundraiser for the church.  It was loud and fun and we're going to do it again next week!

This vehicle changes our lives, helps the mission and will allow us to begin to spread out and explore, help our neighbours and eventually move in to the community or to another base.

We are incredibly grateful!

Survey Trip to Sao Luis

Sao Luis (Saint Louis) is on the North East coast of Brasil. It's a large city of about one million inhabitants.

I had the opportunity to travel along with our pastor Ivanildo and a member of our church Jackiline to this city last weekend.  We travelled by train for sixteen hours on the way there and thirteen on the way back through small towns where for some, the passing train is a source of income as they sell the passengers food and cold drinks through the windows of the hot dusty train.  Some of the local dogs find it quite lucrative as well.

One of the main focuses of the mission is to spread out to new areas, to plant new churches and see more lives transformed.  Sao Luis is on our horizon as a possible new place to do this.

One of the small villages we passed through

Jackiline is from Sao Luis and as we walked the sunny and hilly streets of Sao Luis it was clear that she is well connected.  It's important to start somewhere that you already have relationships.  

Ivanildo & Jackiline
World Cup Fever
Sao Luis seems to have three faces.  The face where Jackiline and her friends and family live looks a bit like Marabá.  The other side is has tall apartment buildings, restaurants and office buildings.  As they say here in Brazil it's 'chici chici' or what we would call 'ritzy' looking. The central part of the city is the historical part with old tiled buildings and a colonial feel to it.

We stayed with a young family and their three boys, Joao Lucas, Joao Philipe and Joao Pedro, who wanted to sneak into my suitcase and come back to Marabá with us.  I would have gladly taken him, he was adorable! 
Joao Philipe, Joao Pedro & Joao Lucas

We visited with one of Jackiline's friends in her apartment above a store.  Her husband and adorable little girl were resting from the days intense heat in a hammock or rede (pronounced hedgie) swinging above the bed.  Jackiline explained to her why we were visiting Sao Luis and it was clear by her reaction, although I couldn't understand her words, that she had some strong opinions about the church.  The part of the conversation I did understand was that in the past she has felt very judged, for her clothing or her life, when at church.  She was visibly agitated.

Ivanildo & I 
Ivanildo (who thankfully speaks clearly and slowly) explained that our church, the Vineyard, isn't about religion.  It's about relationship with Jesus, and that the Bible clearly says it's not our job to judge.  He also explained the second most important commandment in the Bible aside from loving our God with everything we have, is to love others and that God doesn't care about your clothes he cares about your heart.  We believe that it's important not to get your life in order and then give your heart to the Lord, but to give Him your heart and then let him transform you.

We've been fortunate enough to see this happen many time in our own lives and in the lives of others.

There are lots of churches in Brazil, people here are no stranger to religion.  What we want to introduce to people is the very personal, very real, relationship with a living God.  A God who loves us far beyond our clothes, has the power to heal wounds so deep they physically hurt, and who has a plan for our lives bigger and better than we could imagine.

The plan is to visit Sao Luis with a team monthly, developing a small group there and possibly using Alpha has the spring board.  These are early days and first steps towards something new.  It's exciting to be a part of it!
A View of The 'chici' part of Sao Luis and the Ocean

Futebol (a.k.a soccer)