"Preach the gospel at all times; if necessary, use words." Saint Francis of Assisi

Friday, November 30, 2007

Bronwyn in Montevideo

Hi everyone. This is Bronwyn again. My wonderful parents bug me all the time about blogging, but (as you probably noticed during my last blog) I have zero blogging skills. I wish I could just be as creative as Ansley with blogging (as you probably noticed during her last blog), but basically I only talk about the most important stuff. Well, I'm 16 and go to a different school than Ans where, unlike her, I take Spanish. I have been taking Spanish since we moved here, and every year my teacher would talk about us taking a trip to one of our Spanish speaking neighboring countries. But it never happened, because of the school not getting organized... until last year. Last year our class did a program with another school in Uruguay. They came to Porto Alegre and stayed in our houses (I had three girls stay here) and we went to Salto, Uruguay and stayed in their houses. Salto is a very very small town basically in the middle of nowhere. But this year, our class went to Montevideo, Uruguay, the capital. To get there, you have to take a bus ride. We stayed in the bus from 1 in the afternoon until 3 in the morning. When we got to the hotel, at 3 a.m., we discovered that there had been a communication problem and our rooms would only be ready after lunch. So we had until 8 to "sleep" on the bus. Normally, you wouldn't think that that would be a problem, but when you are on a bus for 14 hours with 29 other kids, you don't exactly get any sleep. At 8:00 we had to get ready, eat breakfast and go on a tour of the city to kill time with basically 0 hours of sleep. So, I would tell you all about the history of the city, but I don't really remember.

This a picture of me and my best friends in front of a marble palace. We were kind of tired.

This is most of my class that went. Some stayed in the bus to sleep.

This is the oldest official soccer stadium in Uruguay and maybe in South America (I don't remember). It is called Estádio Centenário and was built for the first ever world cup. Uruguay won. After the tour, we got a chance to catch up on our sleep. The next day, we went to a Uruguaian school. At school, we divided into groups and went into different classes. My group had music class, chemistry and P.E. This is our whole class at the school.
On Saturday, we went to a place called Colônia de Sacramento. It's an old place where catholic priests used to build homes for indians. Now it's just ruins, but you can tell that it was very very beautiful. The first picture is of one of the older houses. The second one is of my friends and I on the "beach".
On Sunday, we went to the Mercado del Puerto, which is like a public market. There, they cook the most traditional dish in Uruguay. It is called parrillada. They basically cook all this meat and put parts of it on a plate. Notice the pig in the upper right corner.
These are pictures at the end of the week of the room I shared with 7 other girls . Our excuse was that we were just too tired to clean.
We did a lot of other stuff like going to the mall, walking around the city in little groups, eating lots of food, celebrating a 15th birthday, etc. On Monday, we started off on our long trip home, stopping on the border of Brasil and Uruguay to go shopping. As you can see, we were very disappointed about that.



We had a lot of fun and for next year, we are already making plans to go to Chile or Mexico.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Night at the Opera

One of the neat things about living in Porto Alegre is getting to do things that you normally wouldn't do. Last night was a first for Kevin and me. We went to the opera. It was a "pocket opera", which means it was a smaller version of opera. We were invited to this performance by our dentist, Eliane, who sang in the chorus. She is the fifth from the left in the picture above.

Here are Eliane and I after the show. She is a great dentist who has seen us through braces, underbites, broken teeth, fillings, etc. Eliane worked in the US for a long time and has saved us so much money (compared to what we would have to pay living there.) Little did we know she was a singer as well!

The opera was called "The Elixir of Love". It was a romantic comedy about a guy, Nemorino, who tries to win a girl, Adina's, heart by drinking a love potion. The lyrics of all of the songs were in Italian, but they had a man who kind of narrated the story for us in Portuguese. The singing was excellent and the story was really cute and had some funny parts. At first I thought that Kevin was taking me there to do something nice for me and that he would just suffer through it for me. But he laughed and enjoyed it. We were both very impressed with the performance and hopefully this won't be our last time to go to the opera.


This is the traveling salesman who sold the love elixir to Nemorino.
This is Nemorino and Adina who finally got together in the end. They both had beautiful voices.
Here are some video clips from the opera:
The first one is the group of women clamoring for Nemorino's attention as he gets drunk on the "potion".
video
This clip is a very small portion of the finale. We didn't get to record much of it because we were running out of memory on the camera. I wish we had more because the singing was so good.
video

Monday, November 26, 2007

Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad

Two days ago my parents celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary. Here is what they looked like about 30 years ago. I tried to find an old picture of just the two of them but all I could find was this lovely family photo. Please ignore the handsome young man with the ginormous bow tie and his goofy looking sister and concentrate on the mom and dad. The man is Gary and the woman is Marie. In this day and age when the divorce rate is equal to or greater than the marriage rate I'm here to tell you this world needs more people like my parents. My dad taught me how to treat my wife like a queen and to let her know she is the most important person in my life. He taught me how to let my kids know that marriage is forever and that I will never leave their mom. My mom taught me the importance of having a mom around while my sister and I were growing up and what that meant to our growth as Christians.


They both showed me what a grace filled, Spirit led, Christian life looked like. They weren't preachy, they just showed me and my sister the love of the Jesus. We saw this flow from them in all aspects of their lives.


They disciplined when needed (which unfortunately was way more often for my wild sister than it was for myself.....okay, that may not be 100% true) and although we didn't like it at the time, we know now that this is sometimes necessary and, in fact, is part of God's plan for family.


I know and have seen the importance of having a mom and a dad at home. My parents molded and shaped my sister and myself growing up. We now have the joy of sharing our parents with our spouses as well as our kids. They are great examples to our kids and they have always treated our spouses like their own kids.


They would be the first to tell you that they aren't perfect. My sister, our spouses, our kids and myself would be the first to tell you that God could not have blessed us with better parents, in-laws and grandparents.


So here's to you mom and dad (even though it's two days late) on your special day. Our prayer is that God blesses you with many more years of service together as you continue to grow His kingdom.




Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Brothers

Benay and I went to the store yesterday to buy paint to repaint our den. While we were at the store Garrett called and asked if he could paint Anderson green like the Hulk. As with most 3 year old boys Anderson really believes he is a super hero. Normally he is Spider-Man and sometimes he is the Flash. He recently started wearing a Hulk t-shirt and so this week he has been the big green guy.

Anyway, back to the phone call. Garrett asked if he could paint his little brother green. I asked him with what paint and he said Mom's paint. Benay said no, because this paint will not come off of clothing etc. She said he could do it using Carys' (his sister) face paint. After all, face paint is made to come off of skin, right? Garrett quickly hung up and got to work.

When Benay and I got home a few minutes later we were met by this:

This would be Garrett's version of the Incredible Hulk, just like the T.V. series as well as the movie, complete with the authentic "I love mom and dad" message on the face.


This is the "Colorful Spiderman" pose.


Funny thing about this face paint......it didn't come off with soap and water. That did not make Garrett happy as we informed him that he would be responsible for cleaning his little brother.



Although it didn't seem to bother Anderson too much. Notice the ring around the tub, the paint hand prints, the black leg, etc. The clean up job took about an hour and Benay and I had to tag team the job to be able to finish what Garrett started as it proved to be just too much for him.

This was the damage: one ruined bath towel, 20 used baby wipes, a half roll of toilet paper and a lot less of rubbing alcohol, cleansing cream and eye make up remover than we had before this adventure started. Just for the record, pouring alcohol on the baby wipes had the best results.

Not to mention two ruined bath body scrubbies and 2 ruined rinse off bottles and an awful looking tub that needed lots of scrubbing to come clean.

Why would we allow our kids to do something as crazy as paint each other? Why the trouble? Why the clean up hassle? Let me give you two great reasons why:
Reason #1:


Reason #2:


After all, what are brothers for?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Have Church - Will Travel

Last Sunday, our church took to the road. The whole church that meets in our house went to worship with another family in our network of house churches. The family is Claudio and Rute Salgado and their three daughters, Keity, Jennifer and Lhaumar. We met Claudio and Rute (Ruth in portuguese) when we lived in an apartment during our first 2 years in Brazil. He was the superintendent and the whole family lived in a teeny, tiny apartment there in the building. After knowing them for a while, they started coming to the small group meeting in our house and to worship. We rejoiced with them as they were married and baptized on the same night about 2 years ago. Claudio, Rute and the girls at their wedding.
God has done a lot of work in their lives. For several years now they have been working hard to get out of debt and buy their own house. This was especially important to Claudio because if he had to leave his job as a superintendent for some reason, his family would have nowhere to live. About 4 months ago, they were able to buy a small house in a suburb of Porto Alegre. Since it is very expensive for their family to come into the city every Sunday, they have started a house church in their own home. They have just moved in and are just getting to know their neighbors, so they are worshipping together as a family and praying for others to join them.
Their new house in Cachoerinha, a suburb of Porto Alegre.

So, as an encouragement to them, our church family drove out to worship with them on Sunday. Their whole house is probably about 18 x 18 feet. It includes a living area with small kitchen, a bathroom and 2 bedrooms. We had 31 people in this house. We sang together, prayed together, listened as Claudio and Rute shared their testimony, shared communion and a meal together. As I sat there on Sunday, the word that kept coming to my mind was "sweet". Not sweet like "oh, how cute", but sweet like "there's a sweet, sweet Spirit in this place....."

I read a book recently which was like a novel telling about some people starting a house church. In this story, a minister at a large congregation was asked, "What would happen if you announced this Sunday that you had sold the building, eliminated the programs, the Sunday school, the scheduled meetings, the home groups, etc......If you removed all of it, whatever you would have left is all you really have now." In other words, the building and the programs don't count. A church is the people.

At Claudio and Rute's house, we didn't have a slide show or a sound system. We didn't have a Sunday school - the kids all played together in one of the bedrooms. We didn't have a praise team. We didn't have a sermon. We didn't even have enough chairs for everyone or a camera to record the event. But what we did have was a church. Worshipping together, praying for each other, rejoicing with each other. And it was sweet.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Simple Church

This is the video we spoke of in yesterday's blog. We received a comment yesterday about the thought that we were doing something that is now in vogue in the United States. We understand concerns of doing something different than what we are used to or are comforatable with. The really cool thing about what we shared yesterday is that our team had no idea that there even was and is a house church movement in the United States. Further confirmation that this transition into house churches is not from man but from the Spirit.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

House Church-How We Got Here

We’d like to take a little blog time here and give you a report/update, if you will, on what is happening in Porto Alegre, Brazil. We realize that some of you may not be interested in this, and some may be really interested. It’s pretty long, and we still have other things to tell. But this will get you started on understanding our mission experience here.

As many of you know we are in the middle of an exciting time. We are part of a house church network. We didn’t come to Brazil with the idea of house churches but the Spirit moved in a strong way to lead us to where we are today.

In June of 2002, our team arrived in Porto Alegre. We had finished an internship together in Abilene, Texas. During these months of language study and training in church planting we learned an attractional way of doing church. Our goal was to set up a church with a nice building and try to attract people to it. The building was the main place of encounters such as prayer meetings, men’s breakfasts, youth activities, women’s activities, worship services, English classes and Bible studies, etc. We had worship services every Sunday night, a prayer meeting every Tuesday night, youth activities almost every Saturday, etc. We opened up our building on Kid’s Day (a special holiday in Brazil to celebrate kids) during a neighborhood party and had over 1000 visitors, had bring a friend worship Sundays, we passed out 30,000 flyers around the city advertising our first worship Sunday (in August of 2003), etc.

We really tried to make our building a friendly, open, loving place and I think for the people who came in and gave it a chance, they found the love of Christ. The problem we found was that most of the people we invited to come to the building had a phobia. Something about the word “church” scared them away. Some examples would be that we had 200 people from our inaugural service (photo to the right) and we never had close to 200 people in the building again except for when we had a “Bring a Friend Day” one Sunday night and had around 190 people. Not one new person returned after that day. Of the 1000 people that entered our building on Kid’s Day and came in contact with our Christian family, not one came back. Of the 30,000 flyers we distributed for our 1st worship only one person was there because of the flyers. We thank God that she became a great friend of Benay’s who later gave her life to Christ and reconciled with her ex-husband before she moved away to another city (so….the money and effort was definitely worth it for this one soul). On one bring a friend Sunday we (our family) personally invited 70 people (friends….not just acquaintances) and only 3 showed up.

We were making relationships with Brazilians, who had an interest in Jesus, but somehow weren't willing get involved with a church.
About 2 years after we opened our doors to the building one of our teammates began sharing how they just could not continue doing what we were doing. He felt as if he were just going through the motions of being church. He wanted more from his walk with Christ in relation to this ministry. We understood exactly the sentiment. For years we have said that we want to “be” church and not “play” church. “Playing church” to us means asking someone on Sunday how they are doing and getting a “good” response when things are literally falling apart in their lives. A level of Christian superficiality that we don’t want to be a part of. We also saw that when we invited people to come to “church” with us, they sometimes (literally) took a step back because just the word “church” was scary to them. But, when we invited some of the same people to our house for a cookout or even a small group bible study, they often came. The question was how do we get these people to not be afraid of the word “church”?

A short time later someone from our sponsoring church came to visit our team and asked all the men on the team what would happen if all the Americans had to leave the next day. To a man, we all said it would die. We had made, without ever wanting to do so, everything so dependent on Americans (money, preaching, teaching, problem solving) that we realized we were creating a great dependency on Americans. God has never guaranteed us that we would all be here for 20 years to make sure this could be completely independent. In fact, we don’t want to be here 20 years later because we “have to” but because we “want to.” Big difference. We were reminded that what we were doing, in the way we were demonstrating what church was (big building, big events, etc), wasn’t beneficial for the Brazilians. We believe God sent this man to us to open our eyes to think in new ways to “be church” instead of “do church.”

Over the next year, God’s Spirit began to work in an incredible way on our team. One by one and in different ways, we and our teammates began to feel a leading to make a change. We began praying and fasting for God’s guidance in this possible change. Our team had a meeting together for a few days at the beginning of 2006 to discuss the future of this ministry. All the missionaries that were committing to stay in Brazil were unified in the decision. House church was where we were being led. We then involved the Brazilians to study Acts with us. We did not want to just announce that a house church network was going to be the next step and come along if you want and if not then you need to leave. We wanted to know if what we were doing was pleasing to the Spirit. We felt that if this was truly Spirit led, then our Brazilian family would be excited about this new future. If they did not want to be a part of it, then this would be our answer. We began having monthly meetings with our Brazilian brothers and sisters as we read through Acts. We asked them to read and pray that God would share with all of us what church meant, what it looked like and how do we get there from here. We never mentioned house churches to them. At the end of the meetings we made a list of things the Brazilians discovered in Acts. They listed almost everything that our team had listed. They were beginning to understand that the word church meant God’s people and not a building. Big difference.

On December 3rd of last year, our team shared with the church family what the united vision for our church family would begin to look like. It was an exciting day. We made a committee of Americans/Brazilians to help with the transition into a house church network. We asked them when they would want to leave the building. They advised the sooner the better. They wanted to be out by the end of the year. Knowing how Brazil works in the summer months (Dec-Feb for us), it would take a miracle if anything got done in that short of time. But thanks to God, we were out of the building and had moved all of our stuff into storage before Dec. 31. Truly another God thing!

In January and February of this year, all of the church family met in our garage. God blessed us with cool weather almost every day which is remarkable for this city in the middle of summer.

On warmer days (photo on the right) God blessed us with enough shade in the garage and out to keep everyone relatively cool. During these worship times together we had some of the biggest numbers of people here that we had had in a long time. It was really encouraging to us to know that God was already blessing this new work. It was further affirmation that we were following the Spirit’s leading. After a church retreat at the end of February, we launched the new house church network in March of this year.

We began with 4 house churches with each missionary family leading and hosting each group. Each house church is, obviously, different than the other and that is the beauty of it. There is no cookie cutter way to do this. We adapt and change as needed. There are now 5 house churches which meet every Sunday. On the last Sunday of every month we have a worship celebration with all of the churches together. We praise God for his unfailing love.

We have been incredibly blessed to be a part of this. Not one Brazilian has left our church family because of these changes. In fact, God’s family has grown. God is good and He continues to add new people to His kingdom. We, personally, feel as if we have seen God move more in the last 8-9 months than we have in the first 4.5 years we lived here.

We will also say that we have never done anything harder in our lives. We know that this is because Satan is becoming more and more uncomfortable with what is going on here. Lives are being changed. We are “being” church instead of “playing” church. He doesn’t like it and he is mobilizing his forces. Just in this last week we have been in the middle of an incredible spiritual battle but, just today, we have seen God give the victory and we know it’s because we have a real family praying specifically for each other’s needs.

We share all of this with you to let you know that God is still in control and our team is actively pursing His will for our lives and for the life of this house church network. Our team has never been more unified. We no longer feel as if we are a part of a church family that is reliant on Americans nor do we feel that this is a Brazilian church. We feel that we are a part of God’s church and He is leading and directing our path. Our goal is to become a self-sustaining, easily reproducible house church network. A family that reacts when someone is hurting and a family that is learning to actively seek the lost and share God’s word with our not yet Christian friends. A family that is learning to ‘Walk across the Room’ to give a hug and introduce ourselves because we realize every single conversation has the potential to change someone’s eternal destination. We aren’t perfect and never will be but we are thankful to be a part of a group who is learning to confess our sins and help each other on this faith walk.

We hope to be blogging soon about more exciting things going on here in Brazil. We will start tomorrow by sharing a video about House Church and what it can look like. We hope it will give you a better idea of what we have tried to share in this blog.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Spiritual Birthday

It's hard to believe it was 5 years ago today that Ansley shared with the world her faith in Christ through baptism. It was a special day for all of us. I asked her if she felt like a 5 year old today and she told me, 'No, I feel like a one year old.'

I gave my life to Christ almost 30 years ago and, sadly, I still have days where I feel like a one year old.

Thank God for His grace and and His unfailing love!



On this special day, we thank God for Ansley and how as a 9 year old she completely gave her life to Christ and reminded us of how important childlike faith is in the Father's eyes.


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Halloween

Just a quick note to tell you about our Halloween. Halloween isn't traditionally celebrated here, even though some groups do like to have parties. We weren't participating in any of those, which are kind of "witchy", and thought about having an American style Halloween party here at our house. But predictions of really bad weather, nixed that idea. Thankfully, Sascha and Jennifer Terry, our teammates invited the kids to trick or treat at their house. Carys went as a vampire girl, Anderson as Batman, and Garrett as an injured soccer player. Here are our trick or treat shots:

A fierce Batman.......


Everybody in costume.....

Running in capes is fun!

Trick or Treat!

Carys, the vampire girl, and Elisa Terry, dressed up as a cute baby.


I know what you must be thinking. "Those poor Blume kids! They only got to trick or treat at one house!" Well, let me put your mind at ease. The most exciting thing we did was two days after Halloween. We traveled to a city two hours away to eat at a really cool Halloween-themed pizza restaurant. This place is Halloween on steroids and is like this year-round. The pizza is great and we had a blast. We love pizza in Brazil, especially the dessert pizzas. Two interesting ones that you will see in the photos are a green one called Shrek pizza (really lime), and a chocolate one with nuts and m&m's called......um, Viagra. Ansley ate that one, but we didn't notice any strange mood swings afterward. We all did get a little crazy, as you will see. I'm sure this will be a family Halloween tradition from now on. Have fun looking at our pictures!


Monday, November 05, 2007

Out for the Season

Sometimes, when you do this.........

And this...........
And this............

And this............ EVERY SINGLE DAY.........










This happens.........


Hairline fracture to the tibia. He will have a cast until the end of November. But now he has more time for this...........




STUDYING. (Wonder why we don't have a picture of that already?)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

My Chorus Trip

Hi everybody! This is Ansley, Kevin and Benay's second child. I'm a little crazy, as you can see, but I get that from my dad. I'm fourteen and in the eighth grade (if I lived in the United States I would be in the ninth). I go to a different school than my sister who posted before, and I play volleyball and sing. I'm just going to tell you a little bit about a recent trip I made with the youth chorus I sing in. I left on Friday, the 26th, and got back last Sunday, the 28th. The first thing I need to tell you is that I am the second oldest person in the chorus, the oldest is fifteen. Everyone else goes from about six years old to thirteen. So I was never really excited about going to chorus practice; it was that sort of thing that if I went, I liked it, but if I was given the chance not to go, I wouldn't.

When I heard about this trip, the first thing I thought was: "no. I am SO not going because I wouldn't have ANY fun at all and I would probably be bored the whole weekend long, not to mention that I would have to sing a bunch of songs in front of five hundred people... no way." I thought that from Friday to Sunday I would be at home, sleeping, reading, getting on the computer, catching up on my studies, going to the mall, relaxing... But God had a change of plans for me. I went on the Wednesday before the trip to sing with my chorus in a small "preparation performance" in Porto Alegre (where we live). I sang the songs, said my goodbyes and was getting ready to leave when my mom mentioned something about if I was sure I didn't want to go on this trip. I was about to say yes when something inside me told me to say no. So, I ran up to my teacher and asked her if there was still a way for me to go, and she was delighted! Right then she gave me a list of things I would need and thanked my mom for letting me go on the trip. I don't know what it was, I didn't know how to explain it, but I just felt like I needed to go. It didn't matter that I didn't really want to, or that I was worried that I wouldn't have fun, it just didn't matter. I had to go.

So Friday I missed school and got on the bus that would take us to Erechim, this cute little town about 7 hours from our city. Here are a couple of pictures from the bus ride:














This is me, Laura and Victoria. They are both so nice!






This poor feller fell asleep on the bus. Everybody started taking pictures. Let's just say he got a little angry when he woke up.





On our first day there, we got settled into our lovely five star hotel (as you can see from the pictures below).....
The bed on the left was mine. The room was almost the size of my bathroom. Listen, I know what you're thinking. But trust me, the hotels in Brazil are not like this! This is an exception. At least now I know why the trip didn't cost very much.

This was our "bathroom". No toilet. The only bathrooms they had were 3 little ones in the hallway that were for everyone in the hotel to use. I sort of avoided them.

Ah, and here we have the view from my window. Gas tanks and mud. Lovely, lovely!!

Okay, but here is the funny thing. Our hotel was right beside this HUGE and fancy hotel called "Hotel Climax". Observe the picture below:

The little blimp surrounded by red is my hotel. Funny, huh? The good thing is, according to my dad, that I will have a lot of good, funny memories when I get older; If I had stayed in a really nice hotel it wouldn't have been as much as an experience. The very first night there we had a presentation in front of about 600 people. I wasn't nervous at all though! It was really fun. I don't have any pictures of us singing, but trust me, it was very cool. On Saturday, we paraded around the streets of Erechim, singing songs and inviting people to the second presentation that night, for the chorus that had gotten there that day and hadn't had a chance to sing yet. I made a video of one of my favorite choruses singing, and you can see it in the video below, all you have to do is click on it twice and then hit play.

video

This young gentleman played a very important part in my trip. He is from Argentina, and he speaks Spanish, which is very different from Portuguese, which is what we speak in Brazil. He, along with all his other buddies, helped me decide which school I am going to next year. Currently I'm going to a very strict school, that only offers English as a second language(which for me is very easy), but where I have a lot of friends. But going on this trip and finding how easily I was able to communicate with these guys, even though not knowing hardly any Spanish, I decided I'm going to go to the school that my sister and brother go to. It offers Spanish as a second language, and the school is always offering trips to go to Uruguay and other countries in Latin America. So next year I am going to be very nervous about leaving my friends and making new ones, but I feel it's for the best, I feel that's what God wants me to do.
On Saturday night, after the 2nd presentation (here is the chorus from Argentina)...

We partied!! Here are some pictures of us before the party:

Kenie, Santiago and I, in the bus headed to the party!

Luiz Andre and I. He is so sweet!



Pablo and I! He is SO funny.

Here is part of the gang. Santiago, Luisa, Luiz Andre, Leticia, Helena, Brenda, Carla, me, Pablo, Lucas and Kenie.

On Sunday, on our way home, we stopped at a beautiful park, and I took a TON of pictures. I'll only put 5 on here though, because you are probably already tired of reading.


Me and Carla.

Laura and I.

Me and Kenie.

My family and I. I think I fit right in, don't you??

Kenie and I.
I got home tired and happy from the trip!! I'm glad I didn't let fear get in my way of having fun. Thanks for taking the time to read this!
-Ansley Blume