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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.

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!