Thursday, July 11, 2013

Brazil - Day 10

This was one of the hardest days as it was time to wrap up our adventure in Brazil.  We met as a group for awhile summarizing, sharing, committing, and acknowledging.  It's pretty amazing to think that regardless of age, one can grow quite a bit in a short amount of time in the right conditions.  But that "growth spurt" must be adjoined to commitment, accountability and resolve or else it's as good as a dream on a warm summer night floating into the abyss. 

Each group gets to leave a piece of artwork on the wall summarizing their experience.  So we quickly cleaned, packed up, and signed the wall. 

The ride to the airport was long, but I sat in silence trying to take it in one more time.  I'd offer single sentence prayers on and off asking God to engage this city of over 20 million people in a way He never has before.  I also prayed for my own heart, that it would soften and be filled with courage to act and not stand by watching and waiting for others to make a move. 

We arrived at the airport and checked in with no issues.  It was time to go.  The group surrounded and prayed for our family.  They were flying out an hour after us. After the word "Amen", the next few moments were filled with hugs, high fives, and tears.  

As we walked away to go through security, I kept asking myself, "How did this happen? Was it all just a dream?" Somehow God didn't just combine my family with a group of people, but instead teamed us up with the RIGHT people.  Our boys were watched over, loved, and taught by 31 big brothers and sisters...and it was a joy to serve together. 

The flight to Atlanta was easy...finally.  Our bags actually chose to follow us this time. What a gift! We had a little extra time and sat quietly soaking in tiredness. 

The flight to Jacksonville was equally uneventful. We made it home and were happy to feel the hot Florida sunshine. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Brazil - Day 9

We spent the morning and the early afternoon at a large arts market.  The weather was dark and cold, but we had a great time seeing the amazing craftsmanship. 

In the late afternoon the students in our group held a cultural exchange for Brazilian students learning English.  

In the evening we cooked hot dogs "American Style" and then had a surprise birthday party for Jan Santos which included everyone from Castro Alves church.  It was great seeing the people again.  Our American birthday song is so tame compared to the Brazilian version.  You get done singing their version and you're actually excited about having a birthday!

We had s'mores.  Regis (Iracy's husband) had never had them before and was very unsure.  After his first taste, he looked at me and said, "I have no words!"  He had two more. 

I know I haven't written about Iracy's story yet, but it is the stuff of movies.  Stay tuned. 

As we ate our s'mores, Regis looked at me and started singing American worship songs in English. I was shocked.  One of the songs he sang was "Never Let Go" by Matt Redman.  I had to do everything I could not to burst into tears because of the context of his life...his story.  How could he sing, "Oh no, you never let go through the calm and through the storm"?  He could because He hasn't ever let go. 

The night ended with a lot of "good byes", "chau's", and hugs from the Castro Alves faithful.  After they left, we gathered around the fire and sang for a bit.  As I looked into the sky, I began thinking of our journey to get to Brazil.  We had prayed about it for years. I was thankful for the amazing lessons learned during our time in this wonderful country.  We were told many times about the blessing we were to the people here, but I think we were blessed more. 

We fly home tomorrow night. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Brazil - Day 8

My wife will be blogging again today. 

Today was all about being flexible and doing God's plan versus ours. 

We had planned to visit a Compassion International home that assist children by providing them with an education, teaching them life skills, proper hygiene, a good meal and a safe place to play. We were very excited to go and play with these children.

However, when we arrived, we learned there had been a failure of communication and there were no children as it was a holiday weekend. They told us we could tour the facility, which was kind, but to say I was bummed is an understatement. This was the day I had been looking forward to the whole trip. I have always had a desire to adopt. 

Unknown to us, attached to the Compassion House is the Compassion International orphanage.  They do not allow people to tour the orphanage in order to emotionally and mentally protect the children. However, because of the miscommunication they allowed us to go briefly meet the children. I was so excited! Our boys had brought along a soccer ball that they were allowed to play with for a minute with a couple of the boys. The little boys from the orphanage were thrilled when they got to keep the ball.

I think it's quite possible that I left a piece of my heart there.  We are praying that these boys and girls will find loving adoptive Brazilian families; but more that they will find the unconditional love of our Heavenly Father. What a blessing it was to see these children. If I'd have had my way they would all be coming home with us. 

After the orphanage we went to a very large crowded market.  It was a fun anxiety-filled experience. 

For dinner we went to Restaurant Italia in downtown São Paulo. Atop the 47th floor we got a 360 degree view of this massive, lost city. 

The harvest is ripe, and the laborers are few. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Brazil - Day 7

The morning was spent at church for "Sunday School", which was really a small group.  We got to hear some powerful stories of how God was engaging with some of the people in amazing ways. 

In the afternoon we got to reconnect with a friend who was the nanny of our next-door-neighbors in Atlanta.  It was great getting to see her and hear how her life has developed. 

At night, we headed back to church for more of a formal service since most Brazilians attend at night.  The service was wonderful as they sang in Portuguese and we sang in English.  The children who made it to church and attended VBS got to sing in front of church.  I wished more kids would have showed up, but it was still cool to see. 

My wife and I got to share what God was doing in our life with the church.  At the end, we took pictures with new friends and wished them well. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Brazil - Day 6

It was the last day of VBS, which meant that we had to say, "Goodbye" to many of the kids.  You never know when or how long you'll be able to influence someone.  We were blessed to have five days with these children and pray that they caught something that will change their lives forever.  

My oldest son got to share about his nasty accident in December when he got catapulted over the back of a car resulting in stitches to his hand and knee.  He shared in his true style and drew up a comic strip showing how God spared him since he wasn't wearing a helmet. 

Sunday night, we will have a service where we invite the parents to come and listen to their children sing.  If you remember, please pray for lives to be changed.  The service starts at 5pm EST on 7/7. Thank you. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Brazil - Day 5

We arrived at the church a little earlier to hear Iracy's story.  I will be publishing separate entries on her story as it is the stuff we watch on the silver screen.  I don't know when or if it will ever leave my memory.  

Another good day was had at VBS. We let the older kids play soccer the whole time.  What a joy to watch them smile, laugh, and celebrate.  

In the evening we went to a churrascaria (Brazilian Steakhouse).  If you like meat, this is your place to go, and in the words of Dave Santos, we packed it in till it hurt. 

After experiencing this the last time I was in Brazil, I tried to find them in the U.S.  Their popularity has grown over the years and you can typically find a few in most metro areas, but.....not with the complete assortment of traditional Brazilian selections. Chicken heart and brahma bull hump are a couple items that don't make it to America.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Brazil - Day 4

We spent some time in the morning listening to Jan Santos' story.  It was encouraging as I noticed my wife had some of the same feelings on a smaller level when we moved to Georgia years ago.  

We had another great afternoon at VBS.  Our boys LOVE playing with the other kids. 

In the evening, we ventured out to a local mall.  Everyone was challenged to go in groups of four and find a place to eat dinner.  We were not allowed to choose any American restaurants either.  I'm typically more adventurous with food when I travel, but it was totally different having my family with me.  We had loaded, baked potatoes and gelato - not too bad. 

After dinner we wandered the mall looking at soccer jerseys, toys, and books.  Our youngest son bought a book for a friend of his in school whose mother is from Brazil.  She'll love reading "Cinderella" to her daughter in Portuguese. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Brazil - Day 3

My lovely wife will be my guest blogger for day 3 of our Brazil trip. I was away for the day in another city doing business for my company and was unable to be with them.

Wednesday was a great 2nd day of VBS. The sun was shining which brought out double the amount of children as the first day. Two little boys gave their lives to The Lord !

It is so enjoyable to watch our boys connect with the children even though they don't speak the language. A pick-up game of  soccer with a can or broken piece of PVC pipe connects them enough to share smiles, laughs, and high fives.

We took a 15 minute walk through Castro Alves for lunch so the boys were able to get an up close view of the area.

The church group that is here from Michigan has been so great to our boys. Our boys are loving it, it's like having 30 big brothers & sisters.

For dinner we went to a restaurant that had at least 30 different types of pizza & our middle son tried almost each one, showing up several of the high school guys.

Our tender, youngest son loves being here & says he'd definitely move here to tell others about Jesus. It's been touching to hear him singing the songs from VBS in Portuguese while he's getting ready for bed.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Brazil - Day 2

After much needed sleeping and eating we sat down to listen to some friends talk about the difference their faith has made in their life. 

The story that will stick with me is Dave and Jan's maid, Sandra.  She raised 7 children alone.  I have the utmost respect for single moms and the dual role they have to play.  The reality for single moms in Brazil is that the males completely unplug and walk away providing no support.  It is not uncommon for women to have many children with many men.  Sandra's 7 came from 3 men. 

Sandra's 18 year old son, Johnny got stuck in the drug scene and the church paid for rehab.  Shortly after he returned, he overdosed and died.  This was the first time she had talked publicly about Johnny's death since it happened 2 1/2 years ago.  Even though I don't speak much Portuguese, it was easy to see that the pain was still fresh, but it was accompanied with a significant peace.  That's where her faith comes in.  Sandra still goes to church and puts all of her trust in God.  What a tremendous example of having faith in a maker who still holds the world in His hands. 

That afternoon we started day one of our vacation Bible school for the Brazilian children.  We had about 15-20 kids and expect the number to increase as the week moves along. 

The night ended with my wife and I talking about what God has  done in our lives. She was healed from a significant illness and we had to make some very hard choices throughout the process, as many of you know. 

More to come....

Brazil Day 1

My family and I are spending some time in Brazil working with our dear missionary friends, Dave and Jan Santos. I will be blogging as much as possible over the next week. Enjoy!!!

Our trip here wasn't as easy as you'd expect. We dealt with flight delays, missing a connection, spending an unexpected night in Atlanta, and losing our two checked bags. The aggravation has been a significant test on our attitudes and outlook.  I've been surprised at how these inconveniences have easily "pushed my buttons".  Our boys have kept my attitude from getting worse.  The wonder they find in the little things has given me more smiles and laughs than I can count.  

The lesson I'm continuing to learn is to keep my outlook a bit more simple.  Don't get held back by the complication.  Instead embrace the little, simple successes.  You ought to see how excited they get when we take off in a plane.  I don't get that excited....and maybe I should.