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

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Pato

Alexandre Pato is a soccer player. You can simply say the name Pato and most soccer fans will know him. This is pretty incredible in that he is only 18 years old. He made his pro debut with our soccer team, Internacional, in 2006 when he was 17. He scored a goal in his first game.

He then played for us in the world championship in Japan at the end of 2006 and scored a goal in his first game, which was the semi-final game. By doing so he became the youngest player to make a goal in the history of FIFA official competitions. He broke Pelé's record.

The problem with excellent Brasilian soccer players is that Brasilian teams don't have enough money to keep them here with us. European teams will always come and pay big sums to get our best. It's a tough situation. We have to have the money and they have it. So, our best players don't stay around for long.

A.C. Milan (one of the best teams in the world) bought Pato's contract last year and in his first game for them he made a goal. He's insanely good.

If you play soccer your ultimate dream is to play for your country's national team in the World Cup (which is every four years and the next one will be in 2010.......Brasil will host it in 2014). Pato was asked to play for the national team in a game against Sweden last month. It was his first game for the national team. If you've been paying attention you probably already know what happened in this first game.

Take a look at how Nike saw it:


Here's how we watched and heard it on Brasilian television. Watch the goalie after he tried to clear the ball, failed, watched Pato curve it home and then fell to the ground. You can almost hear the Homer Simpson "D'oh!" come out of his mouth. It's a great shot considering that Pato normally kicks with his right foot. Here it is:


Like I said, he's good. So, for you people living in the United States you can remember that you heard the name Pato here first and for the rest of the world, let's keep enjoying this great soccer talent.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

It's Her World

Carys is very independent and enjoys doing her own thing. She's not scared of much and if dared will do almost anything.

One example of this happened 3 years ago. For those of you who haven't read it, you can read about it here.

Like I said, it doesn't take much of a dare to get her to try something. Benay has always said that the world is Carys's playground. She has fun wherever she goes and she really hasn't ever met a stranger.

This year she decided she wanted start soccer school. In Brasil, soccer is still a male dominated sport. It's growing among girls but it's still mainly a man's game. That didn't faze Carys. Once she decides she to do something (like climb a 9 foot tall metal fence with sharp, pointed tips) she does it.

She plays indoor soccer two times a week and loves it. She is the only girl in her class and she played her first tournament a couple of weeks ago.

She's a good player and, as this undoctored photo shows, she's really fast. This is Carys after the tournament waiting for the director to address all the players. As you go down the line you won't see another girl in this photo (although there was one other girl who played for another team with her brother). This is Carys's coach, Alexandre "the third" (she has three coaches and all three are named Alexandre), presenting Carys with her tournament medal. She wore it proudly.

A couple of weeks ago we found out that her soccer school was taking a weekend trip to the mountains for a soccer camping trip. On this trip they get to play games against other soccer schools, visit a chocolate factory, play scavenger hunt at night on the campgrounds, climb a tall tower while hooked on to ropes,etc. Really fun stuff for kids. I took Garrett on this same trip when he was 7 and we had a great time. Carys wanted to go this year. They left on Friday night around 9:30 and got home Sunday night around 9:30 at night. She had a great time. This is a picture of her, with her chocolate factory goodies she bought for her family, after she got off the bus. Right after I paid her registration fee last week for the trip I asked her if she was sure she wanted to go by herself. No one, girl or boy, her age (9) would be going without a parent and I just wanted to make sure she didn't want me or Benay or a bigger sister to go with her. She told me, in all seriousness, "No I think I need some alone time away from my family for a couple of days."


That's Carys's world.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Brasilian Music with an American Twist

As I went for a run this morning I listened to this song and thought I would share it on the blog. This is one of my favorite songs. It is of the Brasilian singer Vanessa da Mata. She is one of my favorite Brasilian singers. In this song she sings with the American Ben Harper. We think you'll like it as you'll get to hear the beauty of some Brasilian music. It can also be a bit of a Portuguese lesson for you as she sings and he then repeats in English.

Vanessa da Mata & Ben Harper - Boa Sorte/ Good Luck

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Birthday Girl

In the book of Psalms David says: "An entire lifetime is just a moment to you; human existence is but a breath. We are merely moving shadows..."

When I try to understand how 15 years have passed so quickly I think the words "just a moment; but a breath and moving shadows" do a pretty good job of explaining what Benay and I feel.

We've been blessed to see Ansley grow into a mature, young Christian woman who is letting her light shine in Brasil and we are excited to see what God's plans are for her and where He takes her in the future.

Happy 15th birthday Ans!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Sunday's Present....well....everything

Last week I shared what Benay and I call God's Sunday presents to us. Something really cool that He gives us each Sunday during our house church times together with Brasilians.

I'm not dedicated enough to share every Sunday but yesterday was too good not to share.

In 2003 I felt led to start a prayer meeting each week at the old building where our church family met. To have a time where we could meet together as a family and pray each week. I knew not everyone could come but I really wanted to have a time like this. We started with about 12 people for the first few times we met and I was encouraged. Then the number started to drop until it was me, my teammate Matt and our dear brother Paulo Renato. For about 3 months we literally sat in a circle with our knees touching each other and prayed together.

I confess I let human expectations dictate my mood for the first month of it being just the three of us. I was upset that "only" three people were there every week. But then God reminded me that His ways are not our ways and that His expectations are different than ours. I was "reminded", as silly as that sounds in a prayer meeting, that God was with the three of us every week. I was reminded that Matt and Paulo were with me EVERY week since we began the prayer meeting. Matt was instrumental in encouraging me to start the prayer meeting, in helping me with ways to grow the prayer lives of everyone there, to think of new ways to pray (contemplative, silent, etc) and in encouraging me with his presence every week. Paulo is one of the most humble prayer warriors I've ever been blessed to be around.

God began to show me that He would rather have 3 people who wanted to be together in His name than 100 who might be there for God's "brownie points."

He began to take away my pre-conceived ideas of what a successful prayer meeting "should" look like and He deepened the prayer lives of 3 men through these 3 months together.

What in the world does this have to do with yesterday?

We had 3 people in our home yesterday. Three.

The old me would look to make excuses: Today is a holiday (it is) and some people are traveling (they are). Or get mad: "Three people? Three? We've been here almost 6 years and only three people were here? What are we doing? We'll be in Brasil for ever because it's taking so long to get people to open their ears to the Good News."

But, I am constantly reminded on a daily basis of what I learned during my three months with Matt and Paulo. God wants our heart.......all of it! If I get so wrapped up in earthly expectations (numbers of members and/or visitors at any given church function, contribution, ongoing bible studies, hours spent in the "church office" per week, etc.) I would have missed what God did yesterday.

Yesterday God brought the perfect people to house church. It was a day Benay and I won't soon forget.

Our daughter, Ansley, is our most creative (musically, artistically, etc) child. She has fought this a little as she has grown up because she wasn't convinced these gifts were really "gifts." We've encouraged her to use those gifts for God. Yesterday as we sang in house church she left and went upstairs. She was up there for a while and I started to go and get her. When you have 10 people together (one being Ansley's good friend), and one leaves it can make a dent in the singing. Ansley and Bronwyn are, like their mom, gifted singers who really enjoy the joy of singing, clapping, and snapping (Giu introduced this one) to some of our praise songs. Anyway, she came back downstairs with a guitar. She had gone upstairs to practice a song that we sing. No sheet music, just started playing it by ear. She came back down and wanted to sing the song and play it once softly, to make sure she had it right, and then crank it up a notch on the second time around. What a blessing! She is beginning to see how she can use her giftedness for the Lord. We were all blessed by her Spirit led playing yesterday. Then our daughter Carys got up and went into the kitchen. She was gone for a while and I asked Benay where she went. She told me Carys asked to fix the Lord's Supper. Since it was taking a while I went in to check on her. She was in the middle of a grape juice mess but was so happy to be doing this for God and our church family. About that time Anderson rolled in and asked if he could help her with the crackers. They both got the Lord's Supper ready and we were blessed by Carys and Giu serving everyone. Later I asked Giu if he would say a prayer and he said "sure." I don't know if you are like me but I would prefer to listen to a new believer's prayer everytime. There are no "church" words that I grew up hearing in almost every prayer at our church ("guide, guard and direct us"........nobody spoke like that unless it was prayer time).

A new believer just "talks" to God and that is exactly what God wants. We are just talking to our dad. It was a blessing for all of us to be a part of Giu's conversation with his dad. He also shared with the group how God had spoken with him through Psalm 49 this week and helped him deal with some anger he felt towards a friend. Again, I was not like Giu when I was 17.

It was then time for Benay to lead our study. Normally we have a kid's class while the adults have a more in depth study. Since all of the kids, except ours, were gone we decided to combine our study. Every person read scripture as we spoke of God's faithfulness. Combining adults and kids in such a natural setting is something that I love about house church.

Garrett had said he would pray if Giu prayed. I asked him if he would say the prayer to end our study time together. Garrett is kind of shy when it comes to public speaking. He gets it naturally from his dad. I'm not and have never been a big fan of public speaking. So he didn't want to do it. I'm thankful there is no pressure on him of "having to" do something in public when he doesn't feel led to do it. He is learning that God has gifted us differently and each gift is special. I asked if anyone else wanted to say our prayer and Bronwyn jumped right in and said she wanted to. One more blessing as she ended our time together.

After house church Bronwyn went upstairs and got a keyboard and brought it down because she wanted to play a song with Ansley. Fabi, Ansley's good friend who had her dad drive her to our house just for house church, was assigned the singing part by Ansley(it wasn't a question- it was, "and Fabi you can sing"...and Fabi jumped right in). The three girls then spent about an hour figuring out chords and singing a few church songs together. In English this song is called "Light the Fire." Here's what it sounded like in portuguese:

Afterwards I took most of the kids and Giu to a soccer game of our favorite team. We won.
Leaving the stadium God blessed us with this beautiful sunset.
After house church Benay and I talked about how we love that our kids feel the freedom to worship God from their heart. We saw that today and were blessed to be a part of it.

As I began this blog I wasn't even thinking of the number 3 and how it related to what happened years ago in the prayer meeting and how we had 3 people yesterday in the house church that meets in our house. God has worked on my heart a great deal since moving to Brasil. He is helping me to see more with His eyes instead of my own. He has shown me that 3 people on fire for the Lord can do more than 40 people who show up but only "play church." Please pray for us to have a house full of people on fire for the Lord.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Dani

This is a picture of Benay and Carys with Dani, her husband Alexandre and their daughter Ana Luisa (with a creepy looking Bronwyn lurking in the background) at the recent Easter retreat. Dani was one of our original portuguese language teachers when we first moved to Porto Alegre. After about a month of taking language class with our team, Benay and I had to bail (my fault....I've never been much for sitting in a small room with a group of people for more than a few minutes) and get our own private teacher. Eventually the rest of our team quit taking class together and each went their own way with language teachers. Dani always stayed a part of our team. She came, with her family, to Anderson's birthday parties. She continued to teach some of our teammates in portuguese and she would, from time to time, go to a ladies retreat and do other things involving our church family but she never could make that jump over the supernatural line of faith and give her life to Christ.

Our teammates, Sascha and Jennifer, began using Dani as their language teacher when they arrived in Porto Alegre four years ago. Not only did they gain a language teacher but they gained some really good friends. They will tell you that Dani and Alexandre are probably their best Brasilian buddies. They have gone on trips together, shared meals, etc. God has given Sascha and Jennifer many times to "be Christ" to Dani and Alexandre. They were never preachy or judgemental but just loved on this couple who has become very dear to them. At the same time, it was hard to not see them give their lives to Christ. They would seem to get closer to Christ but just couldn't pull the trigger on claiming Him as Savior.

Sascha and Jennifer felt led recently to start a small group bible study in the south part of our city a few weeks ago. The south zone (what it's called) is where Dani and Alexandre live along with some Christians and some other of our not yet Christian friends. The south zone is pretty far away from everything that goes on around us and it can make it difficult for people to come into the city for studies, etc. Sascha and Jennifer began to feel like God may be trying to birth another house church in the south. So, they began a study there. I'll steal Sascha's words next and allow him to share what happened during a study a couple of weeks ago:

"Last Thursday night we were in our Bible study in the South Zone of the city. This is a study that Dani has been frequenting. In the study we were talking about Jesus' authority versus the authority of man's teaching. We eventually started talking about the power and the gift of the Holy Spirit. We have had many discussions in the past with Dani about similar subjects, but I don't know that they were penetrating her heart. After about 30 minutes of discussion on Thursday night though, Dani asked to be baptized!

We have prayed consistently for this over the last few years, so when the day of her decision to follow Jesus arrived we were ecstatic! We knew that we were not the ones to touch her heart. We have been patiently presenting the truth to her and praying that the Lord would touch her and that she would accept Jesus as her Lord, and she did!"

A couple of days later Dani and her family came to Anderson's 4th birthday party and I had a chance to share with her our happiness for her decision and how the angels were having a party for her. I thanked her for allowing Jesus to finally touch her heart. We'd all seen resistance to finally let him in and it was obvious something finally triggered and allowed her heart to be touched. She cried and said that was exactly what happened (isn't that the way it is for all of us?). After leaving Anderson's party, Sascha had the privilege of baptizing our new sister Dani and here are some pictures from that exciting day:
We praise God for Dani and her decision to be a Christ follower. We look forward to the day when Alexandre gives his life to the Lord as well. We believe that God will honor our prayers for him as well.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Happy Birthday, Grandaddy

April 15th. A day when we always think of one certain thing, right? Well, not in our family. April 15th is first and foremost - Grandaddy's Birthday. (Grandaddy is my, Benay's, dad.) In honor of this special day for him, I wanted to tell you all a little about why we all think he is great.
Grandaddy and Granna, with Anderson and Carys, December 2006.
First of all, my dad is really funny. For those of you who may not have spent much time around him, this may come as a surprise. To the general public, he is friendly and responsible. To us, at home, he is funny. Not funny in a sarcastic, joke-telling way. Funny because he makes funny faces, funny voices and is always teasing. He is fun-loving and playful. (Hey, that sounds like my husband. Is it true you marry someone like your dad?) One of my earliest memories is of my sister, Cheryl, and I waiting until my dad got home from work so he could play the "funnies" with us. As well as I can remember, this consisted of him laying on the floor, picking us up on his feet, and tickling us until we couldn't breathe from laughing so hard. While the floor wrestling and tickling didn't last forever, my dad's playful spirit was always a part of my life. I am thankful for that and that I see that spirit living on in me, my brother and sister, and my kids.
My dad and mom, holding my sister (the baby) and I, around 1968.
Second, my dad loves the church and the Lord. He was always active in the church and assumed several leadership responsibilities. He has a love for studying the Bible and for teaching it to others. He also loves singing. He has a great voice and loves to sing church songs, especially with other good singers. A great joy for him is worshipping in song. My dad has never stopped learning. He is open to new truths and ideas. This is rare among his generation, as many, it seems, think they have it figured out and feel threatened by thoughts that are different from theirs. What a blessing to still be learning new things from the Lord at 70 years old.

Finally, my dad loves his family. Simply put, I can accept the kind of love that God has for his children, because my dad has always had that kind of love for me. Unconditional, generous, kind and affectionate. Daddy, thank you for loving me that way and for loving my family that way, too.

So, Happy Birthday, Grandaddy. We all love you so much and miss you.

In closing, let me leave you with a picture that illustrates one more quality of my dad. He can grow the biggest, blackest mustache ever seen on the planet. (Thankfully, he only did this one time that I can remember).

Monday, April 14, 2008

Sunday's Present-Giu

The house church network that we are a part of was started a little over a year ago and since then it seems that every Sunday God gives Benay and I a little something special from Him. Sometimes it's obvious (a person celebrating with us for the first time, a person encouraging another, a person sharing what the Spirit has put on his/her heart during our worship time, etc) and sometimes it's something that only one of us caught and it's shared with the other later, but it happens every Sunday. We've begun to call these special things our "Sunday present" from Him.

We wanted to share yesterday's present.

The thing I love about house church is that it can change from week to week as needed. It morphs as the Spirit directs. Yesterday we morphed as one of our brothers was suffering. Our brother Garigran was hurting as his mom died in her sleep Saturday morning. Her funeral was yesterday morning. (For more on Brasilian funerals click here to read our teammate Jennifer's thoughts after she went to her first one) So, instead of having house church in our house we became mobile again and took house church to Garigran. The weather was really bad (it literally rained the entire day) and the cemetery was about 30 minutes outside of town so not everyone was able to make the trip but we did have people from 3 different house churches there to love on our brother. Please remember Garigran in your prayers.

Our present for the day came on the drive out to the cemetery. Giu was with us in our car. He was sitting in the front with me and he began telling me a story from last week at school. If you remember, Bronwyn is president of the student council for her school. She has a cabinet and some of her best buds are on the cabinet. Anyway, this past week they had a meeting with the director of the school about a party that they wanted to have. Everyone was nervous as this director can be pretty unfriendly at times. Giu got there first with Julia (Bronwyn's best friend at school) and Lana. These girls have been a couple of times to house church and a couple of times to our celebrations but haven't committed themselves to a relationship with Christ yet.

As they were sitting in the director's waiting room, Giu talked about how nervous he was and the girls admitted that they were too. Giu then tells them that they need to pray about the meeting and his prayer comes in the form of songs that we sing during house church. He then encourages them to sing as well and before you know it, the three of them are singing Christian songs in the director's office while waiting for the meeting. Giu told me it was exciting because they were singing with faith. He then told me that the director had never been nicer in a meeting than she was in last week's meeting. We talked about how God had answered their prayers with taking their nervousness away and changing the director's disposition.

Later, at the funeral, I shared the story with a couple of my brothers in Christ. We agreed that we were definitely NOT like Giu when we were 17. He's got a searching heart for the Lord.

We shared, in last week's blog about Giu, that we felt God would use Bronwyn, Giu and Ansley to make a kingdom difference in their school. Praise God that He is already using these guys to share His love for their friends.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Even Spiderman gets hurt sometimes

Anderson is a dreamer. What I mean to say is that his dreams are very real to him. He will wake up and immediately tell us about his dream, and he periodically wakes up crying from a dream because it's so real to him. This is what happened last Saturday.

He woke up crying because of his dream. He wouldn't move out of his bed because he was so shook up. I went in and asked him what was wrong and he told me that "this" (his right hand in a spiderman web-shooting pose) wouldn't work. He tried to shoot the web but it wouldn't work and it was killing him. So much so that he couldn't stop crying. He kept asking us to "fix" it. Specifically his pinky finger.

Like most 4 year-olds, he really believes he is a super hero and has super powers. So, when your son asks you to fix his web slinger you have to do it. We tried several approaches (mom kissing it, imaginary bandages) and nothing worked until we tried this:
That's right it's electrical tape. We didn't have any bandaids in the house so we went with the next best thing. He immediately quit being so upset, calmed down and was happy for the rest of the day.
Don't worry, America and the world. Spiderman is all fixed up and ready for the next disaster around the corner.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Faith

Here's one reason why I love Chuck Swindoll's teaching ministry so much:

"What we often don't realize is that behind the scenes, before He ever flung the stars into space, God had today in mind. He had this very week in mind. In fact, He had you in mind. And He knew exactly what He was going to do. God is never at a loss to know what He's going to do in our situations. He knows perfectly well what is best for us. Our problem is, we don't know. And we say to Him, "Lord, if You just tell me, then I'll be in great shape. Just reveal it to me. Explain Your plan to me, and I'll count on You." But that's not faith. Faith is counting on Him when we do not know what tomorrow holds."

Sometimes we need to be reminded that if we can see it and hold it before we act in faith it isn't faith at all.

Stepping out on faith isn't always easy but that's kind of the point isn't it?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Easter Retreat Singing

This is a video of the song, "Love One Another (The Greatest Commands)." I tried to find one that was more than just watching a chorus for 2-3 minutes. Watch this one first so you can listen to the words and get a feel for the sound.

Now here is our house church family singing the same song (just the last part with all the parts together)at our recent easter retreat. This is a fairly new song for us and our Brasilian family is still learning each part but they are enjoying the challenge of it. You need to know that Brasilians, in general, don't know anything about singing harmony. In our church family, we have 2 of about 80 people who know how to harmonize. I love this video because it shows Benay's love for singing as well as her joy of helping the family get it. It's also fun to watch the Brasilians and their excitement of "getting it" at the end of the song. At the end when Benay raises her hands she says, "Perfect!" The Brasilians whistle and begin to chant, "Again!......Again!"

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Giu

This is Bronwyn with her three best friends from school. In fact, they call themselves the "Fantastic Four." From left to right is Giu, Bronwyn, Bernardo and Julia. We want to share about Giu. Giu is an amazing 17 year old. He lives with his aunt and uncle. His father passed away a few years ago. His mom lives in São Paulo. She got a job there a few years ago and moved with Giu. Giu didn't like it and wanted to move back to Porto Alegre and so he moved in with his mom's sister. In a lot of ways it's hard for Giu living with his aunt and uncle. They have 3 girls of their own and his aunt is pregnant. Giu sometimes feels like the odd man out. It's family, but it doesn't always feel like home. We've always tried to make our kids' friends feel welcome in our home and to let them know they are welcome here any time.

One thing we've noticed is that many of our kids' friends (mainly Bronwyn and Ansley as they tend to have the most church activities) don't really seem interested in being a part of a church. They'll come to our house but won't go if our kids invite them to something that seems "churchy". That sounds very familiar.

At the beginning of this year Benay and I felt the Spirit's leading to do something about bridging that gap. We felt led to begin having a supper and game/Nintendo Wii/movie/whatever night in our house once a month. We wanted to allow our teenagers to have a night to bring people here and allow our family to be Christ to them. Something not overwhelming, but that would allow their friends to sense the presence of Jesus. Our plan was to have food, to say a prayer for that food and then let them do some kind of activity together. We wanted to allow God to do His stuff as He worked on their hearts. Benay, Bronwyn, Ansley and I all felt that this is an area in which God is working and we just wanted to join Him there.

We planned on starting this in March (because most people are still traveling in January and February because of our summer break) but have yet to have the first one because of different parties, etc. that keep messing up our plans. Even with us not having one supper yet, God is showing His faithfulness and His love for these kids.

I asked Bronwyn if she ever asked her 3 buddies if they wanted to come and visit with the church family that meets in our house. She said yes and some expressed interest but that she would ask again. She did and Giu said he wanted to come to the next one.

You need to understand that Giu is a very special young man. He is not afraid to show his emotions. In fact, on his first time with us he began to cry, in front of the entire house church, while sharing a prayer request. He says what is on his mind but not in a bad way. His first time here he sat next to Benay as she shared from God's word and one time he said, out loud, "Wow, that's really cool!" It's fun being around Giu because he just really brings it straight from the heart. He has a fun loving, dynamic personality that just draws people to him.

After his first experience with house church I gave him a ride home. We began talking about that first experience and he said he really liked it and he wanted to come back every week. These talks have happened every Sunday since and it has become one of my favorite parts of the week. God is really blessing me in my time with Giu.

The next day, after his first house church visit, he called his mom to tell her what had happened. She later spoke with Benay and told her that on that same weekend she felt led to go on a personal spiritual retreat. She spent the entire weekend praying for her son to want to get close to Christ and give his life to the Lord. She got home, and the next day Giu shared with her his desire to be a part of our house church. Is God good or what?

As I mentioned before, Giu's home life here has been tough. Not abusive tough but "Spirit of God is not living in this place" tough. His uncle is Jewish and his grandmother (who also lives in the same apartment) is spiritist and now Giu wanted to be a part of our house church family. He asked if he could sleep here on Saturday nights so he could already be here for house church on Sunday. We told him yes and the next week he slept on our couch. The following week his aunt told him that wouldn't be allowed to come anymore because she thought he was being a nuisance to our family because he wanted to spend a lot of time here with us. Giu was sad because he felt like something good was being taken from him. He wasn't sure if he would be allowed to come back to our house church with any kind of frequency. Giu could never be a nuisance to us. He has a big heart that is searching for Jesus and his personality makes him like sugar to our kids. They literally flip out when they know he is coming to our house. I guess it's a Giu rush.

Shortly after, Giu's mom called Benay and told her she was very excited that Giu was part of the house church that meets in our house. She had already called her sister (the aunt Giu lives with) to tell her that she approved of and, in fact, wanted Giu to participate as often as he wanted. She then asked Benay if she would call her sister just to reassure her and let her know our house was Giu's house. Benay did and Giu's aunt was very kind and began to understand that we wanted Giu in our house. Since that time Giu has been allowed to participate in everything he's wanted to involved with God's family. He even went on the Easter retreat a couple of weeks ago.

Here's a photo of Giu (in the yellow shirt on the right) singing at the retreat. He spontaneously started one song during our sunrise worship time, and had people snapping to some songs as well. This is after just having met most of these people and learned many of the songs just a few days earlier. Just last week at our celebration worship with all of the house churches together, a mom of some teenagers came up to Benay and told her that Giu was "something else" and that he was exactly what the youth group needed. His dynamic personality can easily draw people to him and, better yet, to Christ.On the second night of our Easter retreat Giu came up to me and, with tears in his eyes, told me he had made a very important decision in his life during that retreat. He wanted to give his life to Christ and be baptized. Here is a picture that Benay took just a few moments later. Obviously, we are so happy for Giu. He called his mom to share the news and we are going to see if she can come here from São Paulo to witness this faith walk step of baptism.

All this has happened in about a month's time. This just reminds us that God is in control. When we try to push the walls of His will (and I've done this many times) it doesn't work. But, when we join Him where He is already working, it is always blessed. That doesn't mean it's always easy. In fact, like we've mentioned before, this "being church" instead of "playing church" is the hardest thing we've ever done. Satan constantly attacks us and tries to discourage but we are becoming more aware of the spiritual nature of this battle. This is truly a war with the evil one but nothing has ever been more rewarding for Benay, myself and our kids.

We praise God for Bronwyn's influence over the years on Giu. Bronwyn, like all of our kids, lives her faith and her friends see that. She isn't a preacher and doesn't daily ask her friends for Bible studies. She's just intentional about being Christ to all her friends and her friends see this in the choices she makes, the way she talks, etc. Her example makes something unattractive, like religion, become attractive - just having a personal relationship with Christ.

I've said that Bronwyn, Giu and Ansley together can take over their school for Jesus. They now have another friend from school who has been coming to some things in our house. In fact, she came to her first house church praise time this morning. Who knows, maybe soon we'll have a blog about her faith walk as well.

Please pray for Giu as he begins his new walk with Christ.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Bronwyn's Birthday

We celebrated Bronwyn's birthday last Tuesday. It had to be at night because school, 2 soccer practices and 2 dentist appointments took up most of the day. We're not exactly a go out at night kind of family. We go to bed early and wake up early but we made it work for Bronwyn's birthday.

We first gave her presents:

Anderson really enjoys present time. Even when it's for someone else. We have a family tradition of allowing the birthday person to choose his/her meal. Bronwyn wanted to go to a new Uruguayan pizza place. When we got there it was pitch black darkness. We asked if they were open and they said yes but that a tree had fallen nearby and knocked out the electricity. This place, like many pizza places here in Porto Alegre, cook the pizzas over an open flame so we really didn't need electricity. We ate outside and the workers brought us a fluorescent light to help us see our food.


Everyone enjoyed our time together and the pizza was great.

We were even able to sing happy birthday and give Bronwyn a piece of birthday cake of "Torta de Alfajour" (an incredibly good dessert).

Anderson was fighting the desire to go to bed pretty much from the time the pizza came out. He woke up a little bit to enjoy his dessert, as shown here with a spoonful of half of his ice cream going into his mouth. But, it didn't last too long.

Like I said....we aren't exactly a go out at night family.