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

Sunday, February 28, 2010

On Her Way

Friday night we had a surprise going away party for Bronwyn.  It was great.  She had no idea as noted by her face in between the arms.

Yesterday we took her out to eat at one of her favorite restaurants.

It was a time of reflection as it was one of our last meals together.


Okay that was a lie.  We don't really do serious very much around here.

She then came back home.

She had some more visitors (our neighbors across the street and Freitas, Auristela and Maurício) that wanted to come by and give her a hug.

Then she finished packing.

Today we got up early and took her to the airport.  Before we left we put her in the middle of a circle in our backyard and each family member prayed for her.  In typical Blume fashion it wasn't all teary, but funny.  Why?  Two family members (who will remain nameless) released noises from two different parts of the body.  That's pretty normal for us (sorry Marie and Jane).

When we got to the airport she had some friends waiting for her to tell her bye.

Garrett helped her check in.

We gave her hugs and kisses and sent her on her way.  She cried just a little.

We then went to our celebration.

After that we came home to eat lunch and then got a chance to talk to Bronwyn on Skype.

She was blessed with an internet blown kiss.

She was very relaxed and enjoying herself.  She said she relaxed once she got on the plane.

Next stop after an overnight flight: Johannesburg, South Africa.

Thanks for your prayers for our daughter!

As the trip has approached and gotten started Bronwyn has been blogging more.  Click here to read her latest posts.

Feel free to load up the comment section on her blogs with encouragement.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Tomorrow

Tomorrow we put our oldest daughter on a plane headed to Africa.

We enjoyed a great day with her yesterday.  Benay got to spend some one on one time with Bronwyn, and I did as well.  The day ended with about 20 of her friends surprising her with a going away party at our house.  She is loved and she will be missed.

Yesterday my girlfriend did a post about having butterflies in her stomach when she thinks of Bronwyn and her trip.  You can go here to read it if you haven't read it already.  Bronwyn has some nervous butterflies as well.  I'm sure they will stop the moment she gets on the plane or the moment she steps off the plane in Africa.

I think back to when we moved here almost eight years ago.  I can remember Benay and I driving our family to the airport to move here.  I told her it felt like someone had punched me in the stomach.  She had the same feeling.

We were leaving everything and everyone we had ever known.  We were going to another country where we were not fluent at all in their language.  Our team wasn't exactly clicking on all cylinders.  But we never allowed any of those things to change our minds from what the Spirit was asking us to do. He asked us to come to Brasil.  That stayed above everything else.  There have been some days and are still some days when that is literally the only thing we have to hold on to.  His calling.

That is only way to explain how when I sat on that plane, leaving Dallas, Texas eight years ago, my "punched in the stomach feeling" immediately went away.  Were the concerns still there?  Yes.  But we were in God's will for our lives and it was like we had finally gotten up the last step on the first flight of stairs.  Even though we had many more flights of stairs to climb there was a peace in knowing that God had taken us through that first big flight.

I think Bronwyn will feel the same way tomorrow or when she steps off the plane in Africa on Monday. Nervousness will leave, and there will just be an excitement about what is coming.

I confess I haven't had a nervous stomach when I think of this trip.  Am I more spiritual?  Am I more plugged into the Spirit and allowed Him to take away my fear?

I think if you really know me, my girlfriend and my oldest daughter you would know that isn't true.  If there was a way to rate spirituality I would be in third place among the three of us.

So why is this trip not making me nervous? 

When Bronwyn was around eight years old she began talking about Africa.  How she wanted to go and help people.  How the children of Africa were special to her.  She was eight when she started talking about it.  Eight!!

I think the reason I'm not worried is that 10 years later she is getting the chance to do what the Spirit put on her heart so many years ago.  She is doing just what the Spirit is telling her and as a parent there is nothing more important for our kids.  That they always follow the will of God especially when it's uncomfortable and gives you butterflies.  Honestly, we don't want to raise comfortable Christian kids.

I've focused a lot on the fact that this trip was something that God put on my daughter's heart about 10 years ago.  Benay and I didn't encourage her to go.  No one asked her to come to Africa.  God planted this seed years ago and has continued watering it in my daughter's heart.  She never allowed the enemy to quench the fire.  In some way, she has always had her heart open to go and love on God's children in Africa.

I'm not worried because I've seen God use a "chance encounter" that I had almost three years ago to help Bronwyn on this trip.  I met a brother at a prayer meeting in Huntsville, Alabama on our furlough in 2007.  It was a brief meeting.  We literally spent an hour together as part of a group of men.  We didn't speak much that night.  Long story short, I was in a pretty deep spiritual funk.  God used that brief encounter with this brother, Murray, to speak strongly to my heart.  God spoke thorough Murray.  God has since grown an amazing relationship between our family and Murray.  He actually came here to speak to fellow missionaries throughout South America in 2008.  He's been a big part of our lives.  He is from South Africa and through him Bronwyn has a place to stay for two nights when she's on her way back home.

Chance encounter?  I don't think so.  Part of God's plan for Bronwyn that he began to set in motion 10 years ago.  He knew how Murray would play a part in not only our lives but in helping Bronwyn with a Christian home to stay in.

I'm not worried because I've been reminded, again, of just how big and how good God's family is.  Bronwyn sent out fundraising letters at the end of November.  She has had everything she's needed, and then some, for over a month.  People she didn't even know a year ago have helped.  People she has never personally met have helped her.  People she has known for years have helped her.  We've all been reminded of God's goodness and how He takes care of His kids.

Bronwyn and I talked the other day about college.  She'll get back home at the first of May and then she'll leave for college in July.

She could have gone last year but she wanted to sit out a year and get to know her new little brother better.   Giovanni was born just three months before Bronwyn graduated.

I told her how much we loved having her around and how much she blessed me and Benay as well as the rest of the family with the extra year.  It was a mature, sacrificial decision on her part to stay for an extra year.  It was  a year that none of us will forget.

We then talked about how it was time for her to go to college.  She said it's time and we know it's time as well.  Sure it's going to be tough to see her get on that plane and go 6,000 miles away to college.  Anyone who says that kind of thing is easy is nuts.  But it's time.  It's God's time for her to go.  She's ready and excited.  And as parents we are ready to see her spread her wings and be all that God wants.

We are excited about what God will do in Bronwyn's life and a new step in the journey starts tomorrow.

We ask that you pray for her and her safety as she leaves tomorrow.

We also ask that you pray for the Koonce family.  These are our friends who Bronwyn will be staying with.  Please pray for their ministry.

Of course, we'll keep you informed of what she's doing.

She also has a blog and will do her best to update it throughout her trip. You can check it out here.

As always, thank you in advance for your prayers.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Popcorn Can Head

Giovanni is an extremely independent child.  He's starting to get real upset when someone tries to feed him.

His independence makes for a happy mess.  He's very happy when he gets to feed himself.
When Ansley and I went to Chicago last year we brought my dad back a can of Garrett popcorn.  It's the name of the popcorn and my dad claimed it was the best.

After he and the kids ate all the popcorn he gave the can to Garrett.  We have nerf gun wars in our house.  Garrett has 3 or 4 nerf guns and about 30 nerf bullets.  The can has become a holder for the nerf bullets.

Giovanni found the can one day.  So what does a very independent one year old do with a can like that?  He decided to empty the bullets and put the can on his head.

It's been one of his favorite things to do since.  It even got stuck on his head a few times but this hasn't stopped him.  We don't try to stop him either.   We just let him be happy living in his popcorn can helmet land.

It really doesn't hinder him in what he wants to do.

He wears it when he reads.
He wears it when he watches television (notice the nerf bullets around and behind him that he's dumped for the 50th time).
He even wears it when he's walking. 
Who knew a popcorn can could have so many different uses?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Andersonism and Rwanda

Bronwyn and I took Anderson to an Inter game on Sunday. He talked for 4 straight hours. If you think I'm lying or if you don't think it's possible then you don't know our son. It is possible. It's always interesting when we take him to a game.

I am continually amazed at how much he can talk and the stuff that comes out of his brain. There is no filter - so if he thinks it, he says it.

Benay and I were laughing the other day thinking of the day when the four bigger kids have all moved out and we only have Anderson and Giovanni in our house. Giovanni won't ever be able to get a word in. It doesn't seem like he is going to be as talkative as Anderson.

Come to think of it, I don't know anyone as talkative and expressive as Anderson.

Here's an Andersonism (just because our Aggies buddies ask for them) from our drive to school today:

Anderson: "Hey dad, what does HPS mean?"
Me: "I don't know. Did you see those letters on a sign somewhere?"
Anderson: "No. I was just thinking of them."
Me: "Okay."

Believe me, we get those tidbits every day.

Bronwyn goes to Africa in 3 days.

She talks about what that's like on her latest blog. She also let Anderson do a blog from the game we went to.

Go here to read here to read her last couple of blogs.

She and Benay are enjoying every last minute together.  This morning the words "blueberry pancakes" came out of someone's mouth and they immediately started cooking.


Tomorrow I think I'll mention steak and see what happens. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Good Luck Charm?

Last night our favorite soccer team played their first game in the biggest championship in South America.  It's called the Libertadores.
We bought tickets for me, Bronwyn, Ansley and Garrett. Ansley was too tired to go and so she bailed on us.  Benay quickly jumped on the ticket. That was kind of surprising for a couple of reasons.
First, the game started at 9:50 at night.  If you know my girlfriend you know she doesn't do late night. Period.
Second, she really doesn't like soccer.    

She is trying to learn about soccer and to enjoy it as much as the rest of us do, but so far it's been tough for her.
She struggled through the first half.  There was no scoring and she, literally, almost dozed off a couple of times. It didn't matter that there were 40,000 screaming fans around her.  But that isn't unusual.  When Garrett was around 7 he was able to walk onto the field with the Inter players (because of his soccer school).  That game started at 9:50 as well.  She watched her son walk onto the field and then she took a cat nap.  So there is a history of game nap taking.
She said the first half was boring. We both grew up in the southern part of the United States where almost nobody played soccer. Everyone thought it was a boring sport. Our thinking was no scoring=boring. We could not have been more wrong. Sure, everyone likes lots of scoring in sports but there really is so much more to soccer.
I've since confessed my sin and have been converted to this great sport. Our kids love it too. Now we are working on Benay.
Anyway, we were excited that Benay gave it another shot. (As I type that I also think she wanted to go to spend more time with Bronwyn before she goes to Africa next week.)
The second half was much more exciting for her. We played a team from Ecuador.  After their first goal you can see their two fans celebrating.  That's right, two fans.  That's dedication. We scored the winning goal with about 5 minutes left in the game.
After the game we walked back to our car (about 20 minutes) and it just poured rain. Before the game the forecast called for heavy rain. For that reason we didn't take our camera. So, our only proof that Benay went last night was this picture we took as we walked out the door.  

There is a history with Benay and late goals.  She and I went with some of our friends to a big game last year.  That was the last time she went to a game.  We scored in that one with about 3 minutes left.  If you don't remember that blog or have never seen it before then you can click here to look at highlights from that fun game.

I don't know if she's good luck or not, but we win, and in exciting ways, when Benay goes and we are happy she's learning more about soccer. We have 4 years of training her before the World Cup comes to Brasil.  She'll be ready.

Here are the highlights from last night:

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Don't rebuild Haiti; reimagine it


Last month we wrote a blog about Haiti.  You can go here to read it if you missed it.  
Jesse had a good, life changing trip and made it home safely, and it looks like my cousins will have James and Pharah soon. Thank you for your prayers for them. 


I was reminded of them yesterday when I saw a news headline on the internet yesterday which said there will probably be 300,000 dead in Haiti because of the earthquake.  I can't even imagine what it must be like there. 


The article yesterday reminded me of something I read from Steven Van Zandt.  He is a guitarist for Bruce Springsteen's band.  Other than that, I don't know anything about this guy.


I'll admit that whenever I hear some "wisdom" coming from an actor or musician I normally quickly turn off the radio or shut off the site online.  Their insight, normally, doesn't have anything to do with the way we try to live our lives.  I won't go into who my top 5 are that make me want to puke when they open their mouths.  


So as you can see it would be weird for to me to actually read something serious from someone in show business.  But there was something about this article that caught my eye and had me reading it.  


I personally would add different people to his group but his overall idea, to me, is pretty good.  


Here is what he wrote:


I watched “Meet the Press” host David Gregory recently ask former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush what it’s going to take to restore Haiti to how it was, my heart started paying attention.
Gregory was asking the normal questions, and Clinton and Bush gave the appropriate answers. But it occurred to me that, my God, unless something radical is done, that’s exactly what’s going to happen. Haiti will be restored to what it was. And that’s the last thing Haiti needs.
I won’t bore you with statistics — well, OK, just a few. From the Congressional Research Service before the earthquake:
• 76 percent of the population lived on less than $2 a day.
• 54 percent lived on less than $1 a day.
• 81 percent did not receive the minimum daily ration of food as defined by the World Health Organization.
• 66 percent had no access to electricity.
• 52 percent did not have access to clean water, basic sanitation, basic health needs and basic education.
Haiti doesn’t need to be rebuilt. Haiti needs to be reimagined.
The Haitian people need a partnership with a group of individuals that will help them, for the first time in their existence, establish a state-of-the-art infrastructure that will last 100 years, unencumbered by political and economic corruption. Then let the ingenuity, work ethic and spirit of the people do the rest.
So it’s time to call on Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, Michael Dell, Jeff Bezos, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs, Paul Allen, George Clooney, Robert Johnson, Angelina Jolie, Jay-Z, Brad Pitt, Wyclef Jean, John W. Thompson, Bono, Bruce Springsteen, the Beatles, Sean Combs, the Rolling Stones, Jonathan Demme, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, David Geffen, James Cameron, John Lasseter, futurist architects and engineers, and anybody else with expertise, vision and passion to organize a summit of Haitian leaders, with Clinton as chairman, and design a new Haiti. Let’s make it the high-tech capital of the world.
We need to start solving problems permanently on this planet instead of wasting time, money and energy on temporary Band-Aids that make us feel good.
This horrible event will be all the more horrible if we don’t learn from it. Either tens of thousands of lives have been lost in vain, or they have left us the one chance to begin to build the archetypal country of the future.
There will never again be an opportunity so obvious or a people more deserving of a chance to prove what they can do.
All the symbolic gestures are nice — and even important — but they will come and go.
Whatever money gets raised is vitally important right now, but it, too, will come and go.
For once, let’s do all those things, and then let’s do something that helps permanently.
Let’s not rebuild Haiti; let’s reimagine it.
And then make it happen.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Different Stuff

We had another busy weekend.

Benay, Bronwyn and Auristela had a "Tea for Rwanda" at our house on Saturday afternoon.  You can click here to go to Bronwyn's blog and read the last couple of entries to find out about the tea.

Hard to believe that in one week Bronwyn will be in Rwanda.

Please pray for her.  She is very excited and a little nervous about the traveling.

Today is the first day of the new school year for our kids.  Ansley will be starting her last year of high school.  Anderson will be starting kindergarten.

Garrett, Carys and Anderson will all be starting at a new school.  This new school is actually a school we almost sent them to when we moved here almost 8 years ago.  Our final choices in 2002 ended up being this school and the school that most of them have attended since we moved here.

Carys knows a couple of girls in her new class already and Anderson has been in preschool, at another place, with 3 of his classmates for the last 4 years.  He already told us there is no need to walk him into his classroom today because, "It's okay, I can do it by myself." He's a funny kid.

We ask for your prayers for all of the kids but especially Garrett.  It's tough for a 13 year old to change schools and not know anyone.  He's a little anxious about it.  We know that by the time he gets home today he will already have new friends but that first step into a new classroom is always a tough thing for most kids.  We would appreciate your prayers for him.  We are proud of him for deciding for himself to make this change.  It seems to be a better fit for him academically.  It's a better school with a really involved teaching staff.  He hasn't really had that since we've been here.  I proud of him for seeing the benefits academically in switching.  He went to the new school, met with a supervisor, we had some good conversations and then he decided on his own.  Pretty mature.

We think this new school will be a blessing for Garrett, Carys and Anderson.  Our family has already been blessed with friends from Anderson's preschool that will be going to this new school as well.  We know that soon we will all have many new friends because of our kids.  Most of the Brasilians who have given their lives to Christ since we've been here or who have participated in different activities (house church, bible study, etc.) have come because of knowing our kids.

They don't even realize it sometimes but they are great seed planters for the kingdom.

Garrett, Carys and Anderson can also learn German and Spanish at this new school.

We had a heat index of 111 yesterday but with school starting we kind of unofficially end our summer.  Benay did a blog yesterday about our summer and the new school year.  You can click here to read it.

Should be a busy week for us.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


A bazaar was held in a village in northern India. Everyone brought his wares to trade and sell. One old farmer brought in a whole covey of quail. He had tied a string around one leg of each bird. The other ends of all the strings were tied to a ring which fit loosely over a central stick. He had taught the quail to walk dolefully in a circle, around and around, like mules at a sugarcane mill. Nobody seemed interested in buying the birds until a devout Brahman came along. He believed in the Hindu idea of respect for all life, so his heart of compassion went out to those poor little creatures walking in their monotonous circles.


“I want to buy them all,” he told the merchant, who was elated. After receiving the money, he was surprised to hear the buyer say, “Now, I want you to set them all free.”


“What’s that, sir?”


“You heard me. Cut the strings from their legs and turn them loose. Set them all free!”


With a shrug, the old farmer bent down and snipped the strings off the quail. They were freed at last. What happened? The birds simply continued marching around and around in a circle. Finally, the man had to shoo them off. But even when they landed some distance away, they resumed their predictable march. Free, unfettered, released . . . yet they kept going around in circles as if still tied.


Until you give yourself permission to be the unique person God made you to be . . . and to do the unpredictable things grace allows you to do . . . you will be like that covey of quail, marching around in vicious circles of fear, timidity, and boredom.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

2 Films and a biased opinion

My girlfriend and I try to have a date night every week.  It's really important to our marriage.  It helps us, we believe, to be better parents.  We also believe it sets a good example to our kids.  So many people we know put their kids above everything else, including their marriage.

We want our kids to grow up believing that no other person in the world is more important than their spouse.  It doesn't mean they don't love their kids.  In fact, if their marriage relationship is where it needs to be then then I believe everything else will be right or on the right track in the family.  The kids will feel loved and they will see a good example of what God wants in a marriage.

Okay, back to our date night.

We try to go out on Tuesday night.  Why?  There is a new movie theater that is close to our house.  Every Tuesday you can watch a movie for 6 reais (our currency).  Right now that is about $3.25 in U.S. currency.

About a month ago we saw Avatar.  We read so much about how awesome it was and how much money it was making and how James Cameron is a genius.

We went expecting something incredible.  I, personally, really didn't like it.  The blue people just didn't do much for me.  I don't know if anyone else felt like you were getting the "Mother Earth" and "America is Evil" themes subtly and not so subtly forced down your throats but I felt it in different ways going on throughout and I didn't really like that.  Maybe I read too much into it but those were my thoughts.

A few days later I took our older kids to see it.  After a second viewing, my impressions were the same.  I hadn't said a word to the kids about what I thought before they saw it.  When I asked them what they thought after they watched it the general consensus was that it was just "okay" and nothing more.  Definitely not something we wanted to buy when it comes out on DVD.

Last week me and my girlfriend went to see Inivictus. The movie about Nelson Mandela and the 1995 Rugby World Cup.  Amazingly powerful story.  We both loved it.

I took the kids to see it this week and they loved it as well.  It was a great chance for them to talk and learn about Nelson Mandela.  It's also exciting to know that Bronwyn will get to spend a couple of days in South Africa on her way back home after her trip to Rwanda.

I did a little google search yesterday and found out that Avatar has made over 2.3 billion dollars (671 million in the United States) while Invictus has made a little over 90 million dollars (with only 36 million coming in the United States).

I realize that one is complete fiction and the other is a true story and that the thoughts above are completely my feelings.  I also realize that Morgan Freeman is one of my favorite actors.  I'm biased.  I get it.  But can someone explain how a movie (for those that have seen both) as good and inspiring as Invictus makes less money than say Beavis and Butt-head do America made 14 years ago.  Nelson Mandela draws less of a crowd to the theaters than Beavis and Butt-head?  (That double reference was just for you Birdwell.)

I'm a history nut and no movie critic.  I will go see a true story movie any day over some fictional movie (especially science fiction).  I know I'm biased.  I guess I'm having a tough time trying to understand why hardly anyone had an interest in seeing the story of Mandela and Francois Pienaar.

If you haven't seen Invictus and it's still on where you live then I (we) would encourage you to go and see it.  Incredible insights on an incredible man.  As a Christian, you will learn much about forgiveness and reconciliation from Mandela.  I know he has his faults, as we all do, but he is a very unique man and I believe that God put him at the right place at the right time for his country.  He led with humility and not anger.

You probably won't hear from me ever again about movie criticisms.  I realize nobody cares about what I like and don't like just as I really don't pay much attention to others and their movie preferences, but I found myself kind of amazed at the differences (on many different levels) between these two films and the surprising impacts (or little impacts) that they are having on people.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Security

Security is a big thing here.  Unfortunately breaking into peoples homes is pretty common.

So Brasilians, as well as our family, do all we can to deter a break in from happening.

Most homes, like ours, have bars on the windows and doors. The property lines of most homes, like ours, are surrounded by a 8-9 foot tall metal fence. Usually on top of the fences, like ours, is a 2-3 foot high electric fence. Electric wiring going all around the house set to give someone a good shock if they try to go over the fence.

We also pay for a street guard.  Most people who live in homes pay a man to guard the street.  His job is to keep an eye on the homes he is being paid to watch.  He will then call the homeowner, he will act or he will call the police if he sees something that isn't right. We are blessed to have our guard literally about 30 feet from our front door.  His guard shack is on the corner right in front of our house. He's been the guard here for many years.  He's a good man.

Most apartments also have fences and electric fences as well.  They also have guards at the doors.  No one goes in our out of the apartment complex unless you see the guard first.  Some are more strict with requirements than others.

A lot of people have dogs.  Some are, obviously, for pets but some are for the purpose of being a guard dog.  Most criminals don't like the presence of any type of dogs.  Either way its a good deterrent. In our case I'd say that right now our dogs definitely fall on the pet side and not the guard dog side.  The very pampered pet side.

In our house we have all these security measures in place and, praise God, we've never had anyone break into our home.

We've also been blessed with an extra security measure that most people don't have.

Our very own super hero.

If you know Anderson very well then you know that he IS Wolverine.

So, if you need a body guard you can give us a call.  You can believe that Wolverine is up for your challenge.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Penn Jillette

I don't know if you've heard of Penn & Teller.

They are a magic/comedy team.

Penn Jillette is the talkative one of the duo.  In fact, I'm not sure if I've ever heard Teller say a word.  It's part of their act.

Anyway,  Bronwyn showed me the video below the other day from someone else's blog.

Penn Jillette is an outspoken atheist.  He believes there is no God.  He also, from what I've read, seems to like to have discussions with people who believe in God.  He encourages discussions, not fighting, about this because he believes it's too important not to discuss.

Apparantly a couple of years ago he made videos and posted them online.  He made the following after a conversation with a believer.

I strongly encourage you to watch the whole video and especially listen to what this atheist says about why we should share our faith (the 3-4 minute mark).

Here is someone who doesn't even believe in God and his logic for us evangelizing will smash you on your head like a hammer.  It makes perfect sense.

If you are in need of a hammer to the head reminder today of the importance of our witness to everyone around us then watch the following video from the unbeliever.  You will be amazed and, I think, inspired to go do what God wants you to do.

Simple but true words weren't they?

You may have felt uncomfortable to hear them.  That's okay.  I believe our faith grows when we are challenged and made to feel uncomfortable when our faith walk is challenged.

Let's start today by refocusing on sharing the love of Christ to this world.

Join me in thanking God for being able to use an atheist to wake up His people.

Now, let's start praying for Penn Jillette to, one day in the near future, make a decision for Jesus.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Yesterday

Yesterday was a holiday.

We celebrated by having a churrasco (Brasilian bar-b-que).

We invited a few friends over and had a great time.

Freitas gave Garrett grilling lessons.

Freitas makes some of the best churrasco you have ever eaten.

We enjoyed lots of good fellowship and relaxing.  We had a great time.

It's always good to have a holiday to recharge your batteries.

Next churrasco, Garrett cooks.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Heat

We shared how unbearable the heat was a couple of weeks ago.

Last week was still hot but the temperature was down in the 90's with the heat index around 95-100.  It was still hot but, honestly, it felt more like our regular summers.

Two weeks ago, if you remember, the temperature was around 102 with the heat index between 115-120.  Not a regular summer at all.

I grew up in Tennessee and thought I understood about humidity.  In reality I knew nothing about it until we moved here.  It was terrible here two weeks ago.  I honestly have never experienced heat like that before in my life.  No relief either unless you found a pool to stay in, drove over an hour away to get to a beach or just lived under a cold shower.

The girls got back form São Paulo state on last week (thank you for your prayers for their safety and the test that they took) and they just melted when they got off the plane here.  They talked about how much cooler it was there than here.

But it isn't just us here in the deep southern part of Brasil who are experiencing this heat wave.  Rio is getting it worse than us.  Go here to read more about it .  This is an article about their heat wave last week.

Read it and you'll get an idea of what it's been like here.  All of this is being blamed on El Nino.

The things they describe in the article are the things that we were feeling two weeks ago except we were about 10 degrees cooler than where they were. Their high last Tuesday was 115 degrees with the humidity making it feel much hotter.  The article said only one place in all the world was hotter than Rio last Tuesday.

Their heat put our heat in perspective.  I can't believe they were that much hotter than our worst days here.  It must have been miserable for anyone there.

There is a lot of poverty in Rio.  Benay and I were talking about how the poor there would have tried to cool off with no air conditioning, no breeze, etc.  I can't describe how bad 90+ degrees in your house feels.  We at least have an air conditioner that we can turn on in a room and get some relief.  Those people in the favelas there have nothing to combat the heat.

A favela (or for lack of a better term, slum) there might look like this......

....or this.....

......and be spread out like this.  They are, literally, their own cities.

There is much poverty in Rio.  There is also great wealth there.  This extreme poverty and great wealth live side by side in many ways.  It's like many big cities in Brasil.  

We have a friend that lives here but is from Rio.  All of his family still live there.  His son just got back from a visit to Rio and he said our heat was nothing compared to Rio.  I can't imagine the suffering going on in that city.

Please pray for those who live in Rio.  Especially the elderly.  We've finally broken out of our El Nino heat wave here and we are praying for it to break in Rio soon. We are actually experiencing some rainy days and temps in the 70's. Hallelujah!

We've been getting emails from people in the states saying they will send us some cold if we send them some heat.  A few days ago we got an email from our brother-in-law (who lives on the outskirts of D.C.) and he said they got about 35 inches of snow in 5-6 days.

I can honestly tell you that for people in our city and Rio, we would make that trade in a second.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Weekend

We had a really good weekend.

On Friday Benay and I celebrated our 22nd anniversary of the night we got engaged.  I can still remember calling her dad and asking his permission.  The drugs I put in his food must have worked because he said yes.

I was in my last year of college at the time and Benay had already graduated and was working in another city in another state.  We only saw each other on the weekends.  We met that weekend at my parents' house which was kind of in between where she and I lived.

We got there on a Friday (the 12th).  I think my intention was to try to wait until Valentine's Day to ask her but that ring was burning a hole in my pocket.  I knew I couldn't wait once I saw her.

We got there and that night I asked her if she wanted to take a walk with me.  We walked down the street (Okay not that romantic. Like I said before, the ring was on fire.).  It was cold and snowy.  I asked her and she said yes.  Still unbelievable. I put the same drugs in her food as I did her dad.

After we got home, and they found out she said yes, my mom pulled out a "congratulations" cake.  The kids asked me the other day what my mom would have done with the cake if Benay said no.  Good question.  Cake for dessert for a few days.

I guess I was walking by faith then more than I realized.  That someone as good as Benay would actually consider marrying me and who I was then.  Wow.  God is good.

I am a much better man because of my wife.

People who knew me in college still laugh when they think of me as being a missionary.  It just doesn't fit who I was in college.  I'm sure there are people that are also still shaking their heads in wonder that Benay said yes to me.  I'm so glad she did.

On Saturday we asked some of our very good friends (Freitas, Auristela and Maurício) to get out of town with us for the afternoon.  They own a hardware store in our neighborhood and rarely get the chance to get out of town and leave their work behind.

They closed their store around 12:00 on Saturday.  We loaded up old Blue (our 13 year old school bus) and headed off to a place about an hour and a half outside the city.  It's really good to get out of the city and the noise and the heat and the traffic every now and then.

The place we went is an amazing escape from all of that.

It has waterfalls.  One that is 16 feet high:

And one that is about 8 feet high.  Anderson said he was going to go off this one this year and he did.  He actually went off twice.  Hard to believe that a year ago he was scared to get his face wet.  Now look at him.

This place also has a little creek that runs through the entire camp and provides the water for all the falls.

At the top of the creek it gives the little kids a chance to go down a natural water slide.  It's not fast or dangerous but the kids love it.

The creek is also a great place to just hang out and talk.  Which we did.  Some other people from our church family also went with us (João,Clarice and their son).  It's always good to fellowship together.

We had a lot of fun.

Yesterday we had our house church.  Almost everyone is out of town because of the Carnaval (we've explained it before but if you don't know what it is then think Mardi Gras on massive steroids) holiday.  Most people went to the beach.  Freitas and his family were the only ones who were a part of house church.  We were very happy they were here.  They are a blessing to our family in many ways. We had a very laid back worship time together.

When it was time for them to leave, Giovanni wanted to go with them.  Freitas made the mistake of inviting Giovanni in his car.  He didn't want to get out.

Just say the words "boom-boom" (car) and Giovanni is walking towards the car.

Last night Ansley made milk shakes for everyone to celebrate Valentine's Day.  Anderson came in, as he was sucking his down, and said, "Oh boy this milk shake is out of a world!"

Later Benay and I made the kids shut their eyes and stick out their hands.

We then gave them all some little candy for Valentine's Day.

I was the deliverer.  While the chocolate deliverer was being attacked with hugs of happiness.....

.......a certain one year old was in deep thought as he thought of ways to open up his M&M's.

Like I said at the beginning, we had a really good weekend.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

"In living out our union with Jesus one day at a time, the most decisive issue is believing.  In contrast to the domesticated, feel-good Jesus of TV evangelism, who is committed to our financial prosperity, the Christ of John's gospel who has made His home in us invites us to walk with Him daily in humble service even unto death."

From The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning

Friday, February 12, 2010

Chile Video

As we were getting yesterday's blog ready to post, I was reminded that Deanna has a blog of her own.

I started checking it out again and came across a video.  I liked it and so I mooched it (I'm definitely not above mooching stuff) so that we could put it on here.

As you continue to pray about this mission team going to Chile, and if whether or not you feel a prompting to help them financially, we thought it would be good for you to see and hear these guys instead of just looking at a picture.  They made the following video to use in their fund raising and to show to anyone who might be looking for some general information about who they are.

If you are interested in looking at their video then just click here .

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Fundraising

Note:  (This blog is going to be a little longer than normal.  Please don't bail out before the end.  It takes a little setting up to get there, but it's important that you read to the end.  Thanks in advance.)



Last year Benay did a blog and she got a very encouraging comment from someone named Deanna.  It was the first time we had ever gotten anything from her. You can go here and read Benay's blog if you like .


Deanna wrote the following:


"Thank you so much for this post and especially the link to your 2007 post. I am on a team training with ACU to go to Concepcion, Chile and we are currently wrestling with the issue of church models. All we hear is that churches in South America need a building, so it is encouraging to hear of a house church network that is thriving. What ever direction our church plant goes, this inspires me to think out of the box and not do things they way they have always been...while being culturally sensitive of course.

Thanks for your thoughts. Blessings to you, your family, your team and your church!"



I'm not even sure how she found our blog but God used her greatly to encourage Benay and myself and our team through her comments.  Not that we need continuous pats on the back to continue on but, as we've shared before, being real church through house churches is not exactly an easy thing to do.  One comment like that can really lift your spirits as well as negate negative (is that a double negative?) comments or actions.  Thanks Deanna. 


Anyway, we became friends with Deanna through Facebook.  We also traded emails and stayed in touch.  Through those emails we have found out a little bit more about where her team is going:


"This is a town of a little over a milllion and it is about a 6 hour car drive south of the capitol, Santiago. We have all visited the city and love it and feel strongly that God is already at work there and we are exited to join him. We plan to arrive in Santiago January 2011 for a maximum of 6 months language training before transition to Concepcion."


She found out that we would be coming to their city on our last furlough.  She said the team would love to talk to Benay and myself about our experiences if we had the time.   


While we were in Abilene, Texas we were blessed to spend a night with some from their team.  We loved their hearts and their willingness to be open to whatever the Spirit leads them do, irregardless of what it looks like. 


I don't share all of this just to be sharing.  This team, like any mission team, has a need.  They all have differing levels of financial needs that need to be met for them to be able to move to Chile next year. 


Benay and I understand how hard fundraising is. We've been here almost 8 years and because of changes (inflation, devaluing of the dollar, etc.) that we can't control, we've had to fundraise a few times.  I don't know if it's pride that makes it so tough but, for some reason, it's hard for us sometimes to ask for financial support.  It's good to be reminded that a group of women even provided financially for Jesus' ministry (Luke 8:2-3). 


God has been very faithful to our family.  As you can imagine, the financial needs of a family of eight are quite large.  Our family has actually grown by two since we moved here in 2002 and yet we have never had a financial need that has not been met.  It has been hard at times but God has always provided for our family.  God has blessed us with so many different people (small groups, individuals, families, churches, businesses and church classes) who faithfully give sacrificially so that our family can be here.  We understand how much it means to have people support you.  It's a humbling thing and a powerful faith builder of God's goodness.  


Even though we only spent a brief evening with some of these guys, we love their hearts and how they are confident that God will provide.  We would love to see their faith-filled walk be blessed and encouraged by financial supporters.  


We told them we would do a blog about them to see what God might want to do through this website.  So, we just wanted to ask that you prayerfully consider helping these guys in any way possible.  


Maybe you support our ministry financially, but your church family isn't currently supporting anyone and is looking.  Maybe you don't support our ministry financially but you've been praying about helping in some way on a more personal way than just tithing on Sunday.  Maybe you do both and still want to do more.  


If just one of these guys get some or all of the support they need through this blog then it will, obviously, have been worth it.  


Here is a picture of the entire team:
Their names from left to right are Wes and Ellen Shutt, Meriden and Reid Overall, Deanna Meredith, and Sara and Chad Lukkason. 


Okay, we ask that you pray about it.  If you then feel led to support them in some way or if you have questions you can contact us and we'll get you in touch with them personally, or you can also go directly to them . The team has an email.  The address is: conceteam@gmail.com  If you go to their email they can then put you in touch with who has the most pressing financial need or to a specific couple or Deanna if you feel led to someone specific after praying.   


As I looked at their team picture I realized they had the same number of people that arrived here with us in 2002 (minus all the kids).  We also arrived with three couples and one single person.  It's a hard thing to leave family and friends and everything comfortable and move to  another country and culture and learn a new language.  Those things are enough to create a little anxiety in your life as you prepare to move.  Lack of funds, as you can imagine, doesn't help that situation.  


As always, thank you for praying about this.  We believe that God is going to bless these guys.