Christmas 2010

My mom and dad arrived here in Brazil on the morning of the 22nd and we loved all 194 hours with them. They were able to bring the boys Legos and Nerf guns and all their favorite candy from the states.We had a fabulous time with them! It was all bittersweet though since they felt they needed to buy a two-way ticket. ;) Yesterday afternoon, when we took them to the airport, we all decided we're getting pretty sick of goodbyes.

After my dad nodded (secretly) behind my mom's back that it was time to go. We started walking to security. Mom had already begun crying and given out enough hugs to last her for at least one more year but as we gave one last hug, dad lost it too. We watched them head through security and once on the other side, we peaked through the door and waved one more goodbye. We started to leave but when I looked down at Jayden, I realized his face was really red and had tears behind his great big fake smile. (Understand this is how my BIG BOYS act now in order not to cry) But, as he made eye contact with me, he just melted into the wall and couldn't be tough any longer. To which, I finally began sobbing and holding him. UGH!
I decided to pick him up and walk him to the car as he cried so we wouldn't be stared at. (usually that happens without the tears because we're gringos but with all of us sobbing right there in front of everyone, I figured the car would be a better place to lose it.) I think Mike offered to carry Jayden for me, but I didn't stop long enough to discuss it. We were gone.

In the car, after a few moments of hugging and encouraging, I looked Jayden in the face and promised him he would have eternity with his grandparents. (I think I was trying to remind myself of this fact too.) We also talked about how big God is and how certain that we are in the middle of HIS will for our lives. After my big pep talk, he asked what we were having for dinner so one can assume he's gonna survive this most recent bout of drama in his life.
The two big guys held it together pretty well but were quiet most of the night. I suppose they're dealing with it all in their own way. I guess we all are.

On Christmas day, we didn't have snow or the usual atmosphere, but there was a lot of love in our house and a lot of food on the table, and even a plastic soldier battle on the floor.

We were able to skype Mike's family in Kentucky and my brother's family in Georgia. We missed a lot of loved ones this year but we're so blessed with technology because we were able to catch up with everyone. After a quick thunder storm (which happens everyday right now) God gave us a quick reminder of HIS love.

We have to begin tying up all our loose ends here in Ribeirao Preto for our big move to Sao Luis this month. We have to buy a refrigerator, stove, bunk beds and a bed frame for Mike and I. All of you that sent money for us for Christmas and YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE, will be helping us to buy these essentials. I started to list your names but I realized a couple of you would kill me so I'm just going to make a blanket thank you here. All of you have blessed our socks off! I'm not kidding, as my mom shared with me what had come in, I was in shock. I also want to thank all of you that helped send school supplies for the boys, books for me and Michael, and for all that sent Christmas presents for the boys, WE THANK YOU!!

Also I'd like to ask for prayer. I'm skeptical to mention it but I am keenly aware of the power of prayer. Not sure if it's problems resurfacing, stress with another move, or just nothing at all...but some of my stomach pain is returning. Please pray that God would deal with it and get me back to normal as quick as possible.

So here we are, a year later, ready to finally head to Sao Luis. We are excited, nervous, and overwhelmed again. We have come to realize that our time here is not only about what God does with our work there in Sao Luis, but that it's also the journey that we're all on that draws us closer to HIM and I wouldn't ever want to skip one step we've had to take through this journey HE is taking us on! That being said, pray that BIG THINGS are about to happen with people that have never heard the name of Jesus and don't forget to celebrate HIS life all through the year. We aren't called to remember and celebrate Him only during Christmas...but instead, every single day of our life.



Just a few more day til Christmas and I'm starting to get REALLY excited. Earlier this morning it was in the 90's but a storm has blown up and the temps are sitting perfectly in the 70's now!! We're listening to Christmas music continuously in our house. I've bought a few presents but nothing is wrapped yet. Things around here never move at a fast pace so I'm guessing that Christmas, too, will be pretty calm and stress-free.

I recently went back through my blog reading how far God has brought us. I saw the pictures from our old house and all the Christmas decorations that we had and for just a second, I felt sad. But it was just a second and then I kept reading about everything that God did to get us here and all I could do was smile. Every need we have had has been provided for, ABOVE AND BEYOND what we could have asked for. We have never had a day when we were hungry and couldn't eat. We've not had one night where we didn't have a bed to sleep in or a roof over our heads and to be more specific, I've never turned on my ceiling fan without it working great!! ;)
Where does all that money come from to keep missionaries on the field? Click here to find out!

My parents are arriving here on Wednesday in order to spend the holidays with us and I have to admit I feel like a little girl about it all!! We'll pick them up in Sao Paulo, which is about 4 hours away. I plan on squeezing my mom in the backseat all the way home. We were concerned about finding someone to take care of the boys while we were gone and how all 6 pieces of luggage would fit in our small little Civic, but as always, God has provided. He has provided 2 really sweet Brazilian families to watch our boys during our 8 hour trip there and back and a van for us to all fit into.

He has also provided many of you for us and your great big serving hearts. We received two packages this week filled with snacks, videos, Honey Nut Cheerios, Legos and lots of our very favorite things. So we want to send a BIG thanks to Chris and Cheryl Nichols, and the Birchell's Connect GROUP!!! You all are so special to us and we can't possibly thank you enough. I'd also like to say thanks to all of you that prayed for us during our tests this past week. Mike and I have finished "formal" language school and passed our tests at the level we needed to be able to leave. It's strange to say that because it feels like we just arrived. We've lived here now for eleven months and I remember getting off that plane like it was yesterday. I'm not saying that we don't miss our family and friends back home CAUSE WE DO!! A lot, especially this time of year, but there's a such a peace right now in our home.

Last night we had a Christmas party with our church family in Portinari. It was surreal because although I know I made mistakes in my conversation, when we were leaving, I felt like I had listened and understood and talked in another language the whole night, and truth is, I DID! God is so good. He has provided so many people here to help us learn this language. But you know what? Not only have we learned from them, I really feel that many of them have learned from us. That's the best part, feeling like through all our inadequacies, He can still use us.


What does YOUR laundry room look like?

Today is Kelsie's birthday. She is living life as a wife, mother of four beautiful children, and bold witness for the Truth of the Gospel in what most of us would consider impossible living conditions!! She are her family demonstrate that with GOD, all things ARE possible.

I encourage you to read their family's blog and PRAY earnestly for all the work they're doing!! Biggest need right now seems to be running water in their house!


a wedding and time with friends

We drove to Sao Jose dos Campos & Jacarei after Thanksgiving. We met Ana Clara in 2008 and now she is living in Ribeirao Preto with Rodrigo's family so we are able to see them more often. We were able to have AC and Rodrigo's family over for dinner a few weeks ago. They are helping us tremendously with language.
Anna Clara and Rodrigo were married Saturday night. It worked out perfectly because we were able to stay at Russ and Diane Dean's house. Diane was traveling but we were blessed by getting to hang out with Russ. He was so gracious to us and we enjoyed laughing together. We also had the opportunity to spend time with the McClures and our extended Brazilian family, Ewerton & Evelyn! I only wish we had more time with everyone cause it all just flew by so fast.

Anna Clara was beautiful as was the wedding!

I feel really old when I see pictures of JohnMark. He is getting so mature and handsome. Sometimes, it feels surreal to have a child THIS big!

The guys hanging out with Ewerton! He'll forever be part of our family!

Me and Elena (getting some "girl time") & Jayden with Nathanael.
We LOVE the McClures!!


with a grateful heart

Today we celebrated our first Thanksgiving in Brazil. We were surrounded by great friends and AMAZING food! God has been so good to us and we have a lot to be thankful for this year.

Jim & Martha

the Whitentons

We watched the Macy's Thanksgiving parade on the internet.

and had lots of tastes from home!!


acai trees

In Belem, we were surrounded by acai. If you're not familiar with these berries, do some research. It's become one of our favorite fruits here in Brazil and it tastes like a combination of blueberry and chocolate.



We are traveling to north Brazil on Sunday for orality training. There, in Belem, we'll practice new techniques for sharing stories from the Bible in order to teach peoples that are unable to read and write or just prefer the storying method. Excited about seeing a NEW part of Brazil but dreading the laundry & packing that is required before and after.

Belem is considered the entrance gate to the Amazon River. It has a humid and hot (tropical) climate which unlike where we are living now is dry and HOT. It will give us a good idea of what life will be like in Sao Luis. Pray that our flights (with smaller style planes;) will be safe and that we learn all God has for us there.

Also keep JohnMark in your prayers as he's struggling right now with a bad allergic reaction to SOMETHING!?! We think it might be mangos but we're not positive. He looks really red and swollen and no amount of Benedryl seems to clear it up. ALSO, our next Language Interview (LI) is coming up mid-December. We REALLY want to do well on this so that we can begin to make arrangements for our BIG move up north!

Thanks again for all your emails of encouragement and prayer support!


halloween 2010

the pumpkin...

that made these muffins YUMMY!!!

and a shot of the pumpkin cookies we make EVERY YEAR


escola do amanha

The boy's school has a drama class & every year they make a movie.
You might recognize some of the actors from this year's video.


the subjunctive straw

OK...normally I struggle with posting a blog once a week so I don't know what to say about all these blogposts lately! Bear with me...

This morning in my portuguese class I, quite literally, had a breakdown. Call it a culmination of MANY, MANY things all piled up together! I'm one of those (I LIKE TO THINK) tough girls that doesn't cry very often. I pride myself in being the strong one that always has the "spiritual" answers for those that are freaking out. I hate letting people see my "cry face" which involves red hives breaking out all over. Seriously, I look like a baboon when I cry! The problem with this idea is that after being bottled up, frustrations can explode and flow out in the most inopportune times.

Like today in the third and final class of my day. I knew it was coming before the class started. (the class only consisted of Me, Mike & poor poor Simone but still.) I walked outside for a minute and put my face towards the sun hoping it would "ABSORB" what was about to come pouring out but unfortunately at the first attempt to speak in class, I began heaving. I haven't cried like that in forever and unfortunately our teacher, Simone had to endure this embarrassing moment with me. She was great but I'm sure it's quite odd when all of a sudden a student covers their face and they began sobbing and shaking. Bless her heart!

So many things have been being bottled up lately. Not sure if it was something specific or the combination of everything. I thought I was doing great with all the madness but apparently with the kids going through their homesickness, trying to speak in a foreign language ALL the time, my family back home having some REALLY unfair heartbreaks that I can't do ANYTHING about AND not getting enough sleep lately due to the annoying and EVIL mosquitoes, I was at my breaking point. Who knew trying to decide which tense to use with subjunctive verbs could be the straw that broke the camel's back!

I'm better now and about to sit down to some more portuguese homework but MAN...today was CRAPPY! I'm working on getting out of this funk and find it ironic that this day followed yesterday with Matheus but that's how it works sometimes, huh!?! Those victorious mountain top moments can't last forever and if they did, we'd never grow or move! So I'll take it and learn. As glad as I am that this day is almost over, I'm guessing sweet Simone was even MORE GLAD when her uncomfortable and quite awkward class was over today! ha

O Açougueiro

Last night, Michael and I had dinner with a sweet young couple. WOW...that is so weird to say cause it wasn't too long ago that WE were the YOUNG couple. (sorry...getting off subject)

Anyway, Michael met him several months ago buying a roast at the store. His name is Matheus (not to be confused with the Matheus we met by spilling a Fanta!) and he is the butcher at our local mercearia. Mike has become a connoisseur when it comes to ordering meat here. There are so many great cuts of beef in Brazil and MIKE loves to eat meat. (rambling again...sorry)

Mike and Matheus have gotten really close over the last few months. They went out one night several weeks ago and I remember Michael coming home saying the conversation was tough because he talked so fast and in slang alot. Mike seemed discouraged but yet they continued forging a friendship over the meat counter!

SO...last night they planned a dinner including his girlfriend and me. As we walked into the restaurant, it was that typical wierdness that happens when you don't know someone well but are sat in front of them for several hours with the ever present LANGUAGE difficulties. Very happy to say that we sat and talked and talked and talked for several hours. At some point, Matheus began talking about his frustrations with church. It was odd cause neither Mike or I had mentioned anything spiritual in our conversation up to that point.

He explained how one church, in particular, that his mom had attended made rules concerning tithing and gave people bad marks for not tithing. (crazy huh) It was really cool though cause we were able to go straight into how keeping our eyes on "the church" (which in his eyes was a bunch of people that made rules and acted better than everyone else) will always make us CRAZY! We talked of how many churches are made up of people that have NEVER known the Truth about Christ and don't have a relationship with HIM at all. Their lives consist of hanging out at the local club each weekend with people they know and label it a church! (I will refrain from going off on this subject right now cause this post is about Matheus)

It was really quite neat cause we were able to share how, we too, have to keep our eyes OFF of PEOPLE and ON JESUS. We talked about how God doesn't want 10% of our lives or 10% of our money but that HE want ALL our lives. (I'm not speaking hypothetically here...HE REALLY WANTS ALL OUR LIVES=100%)

Mike used several stories that we had learned in our narratives class and I just sat there with my chin on the ground as portuguese Words poured out of his mouth! (God had to have taken over his normal misconjugated verbs cause he was actually making sense) HA They both sat there and listened to EVERYTHING and shared from their hearts as well. His girlfriend was teared up through most of the conversation and it seemed she was understanding it all. We ended by encouraging him to take his doubts straight to God. We told him to talk to HIM about all these things and ask God to show himself in their lives.

Matheus explained how he was interested in what we had to say because he knew we were Christians (missionaries in fact) but he couldn't believe we hadn't invited him to "church" or that we weren't trying to "fix" his life. Mike had simply made a friend and Matheus had seen something very different in his life.

Pray for Matheus as he seeks God's face through all this. Pray for his girlfriend who seems to have a good understanding of all we talked about and even shared she had given her life to Christ 4 years ago. Pray that God shows Himself to Matheus in BIG ways.


Igreja em Portinari

Six months ago, a new work began in a suburb of Ribeirao Preto. One of our language teachers started a Bible Study for non-believers with the hope of becoming a new church plant. Take a look at what God is doing...


our JAY-bird's 8

Hard to believe but my baby was born 8 years ago today!!! We celebrated yesterday, by traveling about 3 and a half hours to enjoy Hopi Hari. Check out their website! It's a really neat park and we felt like we were in the United States. There was even an Applebees across the road so our day was PERFECT! Jayden's wish this year was to decorate his own cake! He did an awesome job but we all fell into a diabetic coma, for a bit, after partaking it! :)

Jayden opened presents from folks all over. He had several cards and emails from people who pray for us and go to churches that support us! He received gifts from lots of family that he enjoyed playing with all day as well! THANKS GUYS...we love that ya'll remember us!

He's also sporting a new punching bag with boxing gloves. Are we crazy, or what!?!


We LOVE our Porteiro

The boys have been really blessed this year by having one of the kindest, most generous men to be the guard/greeter at their school!!! His name is Jilmal and we've come to love him dearly. He greets the boys every morning with the biggest grin and has remembered their names since day one.
We had the honor of meeting his family Sunday afternoon and eating dinner with them. They took us to a great restaurant and then we went to their house for a little while to have coffee. What a blessing to meet this family and be able to call them lifetime friends!


but mom...I want to go home

Last night was hard. In 15 days we'll have lived here for 9 months and for 9 months, not one member of our family has spoken the "I want to go home" phrase. Well, up until last night. Two of our three guys were feeling some major home-sickness and uttered the inevitable.

Personally, I think that it is remarkable when you consider all the changes they've endured and the amount of time we've lived here!

Rough part is...all we could do was listen and hug in between sobs. When you remind them that we'll go back to visit in 2 years, they just don't get too gung-ho excited, ya know?!? Jayden shared how he REALLY hates our apartment and repeatedly used the phrase, "I miss America!" He didn't think it was funny when we informed him that he was, in fact, STILL in America. He said he wanted his old room and his yard to play in.

So, because of our need to remind the lil' guys why we are here, my heart was reminded as well. Sometimes in order to move forward you have to let yourself mourn what was lost. For us, it wasn't just our home, cars, and STUFF...it was also the routines, habits, fast-food, and existence that we had come to know and love. Many people have shared that when we leave Brazil to visit our family back home on stateside, we'll miss this new life we've grown accustomed to and will want to return QUICKLY. I know that in my head but my mouth didn't communicate it very well to the boys last night.

I love this country with a huge chunk of my heart and I don't doubt that soon, I'll be able to say, with my WHOLE heart. I know the Quilombola people need Jesus desperately but just for today it would be really nice to eat some Mexican food and watch the boys playing with their friends in the yard.


A Thousand Tongues

Christ did not come to save one country or one people group...HE shed His blood for all nations!
Set aside patriotism long enough to see and LOVE this world as HE does!!!

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ

Philippians 3:20


going solo

Tonight Mike and I led our first Portuguese Bible Study without help from our language teacher! Mike has taught on other nights but the normal leader was out of town tonight and he asked us to fill in for him. After Jackson led a time of worship, I told the Bible Story and Mike then led the discussion. Jackson made music sheets for everyone and was really well prepared so he seems to have found his niche.

It was an amazing night!!
We (all 5 of us) are completely aware of our inabilities and yet we are in awe of how God takes our limitations and uses them for good! At times we feel as if we don't know where the words are coming from yet God continues to speak through what feels like craziness in our heads! It was such an exciting night to see the possibilities of what is to come in our time here in RP! I can't even explain the joy I have in my heart knowing that God WOULD CHOOSE to use our lives, inadequacies and all!!


my my my

What is the hardest thing about learning a new language?

Glad you asked!!! ha

It has to be understanding JOKES or when someone is being sarcastic!

They're only stating a short phrase that seems simple enough and you understand the words their saying but you have to ask them to explain 3 or 4 times so that you "very seriously" will get this important information that they are sharing. It's really uncomfortable cause you're trying to answer or respond to them but there is no answer. YOU'RE JUST SUPPOSED TO LAUGH but unfortunately you don't know that.

I always feel my forehead furrow and try so hard. Eventually they move on and shrug it off as if to give up and this is when I realize I missed the fact that they were only kidding. UGH!!

I really hate not understanding the jokes too. There is nothing worse than being in a room full of people and while everyone is listening to someone talk, the whole room bursts out in laughter. OF COURSE YOU LAUGH TOO because to not laugh would seem rude. But then some nice soul asks if you understood and you confess, "NO!" It is awful...sorta like being in middle school again and you feel clueless about everything.

Last night, the conversation at our Bible Study was moving really fast and I just could not keep up. I didn't know if I should have a serious face to go with what they were saying or a smile pasted on my completely clueless face. I had to go with the head nod but I'm not sure how long that will work.

Pray all these little things don't put me (MISS RED PETAL) in the nut house.


the good kind of tears

Today has been such a blessing.
In the mail today I received a very special package that touched my heart.
You see...I have 4 of the most amazing friends in the world and they know me better than anyone! Dana B. encourages me to always go the extra mile and gives the best HUGS. Amy makes me laugh so hard I hurt and being with her just makes me happy! Melissa pushes me to have a deeper relationship with the Lord and adheres us all together. Dana F. takes care of the needs of everyone and never breaks a promise.

I wasn't sure I'd make it living on a different continent than them but I found out quickly that because of my time with them, I'm a better friend to people here. From them, I learned to be more vulnerable and real which makes it much easier to share the love of Christ.

My house smells of Praline and we'll be having our favorite chicken casserole tonight with the mushroom soup girls! Thanks for all the work you did putting this package together.
I love you!


seeing things differently

One thing about living here is that it becomes increasingly hard to hear about friends and family having struggles back home. Your hugs are forced to become long distant calls and unceasing prayers. Your best friends endure surgeries but you can't take a meal over to their house. They send their firstborn off to college and YOU hope and pray that they know that you're cheering them on from far away. Your Happy Birthday wishes are only expressed by facebook or skype calls and you see your baby niece take tiny steps through tear-filled eyes from a computer camera hoping no one notices that you're all torn up!

It can be overwhelming at times but I also see things now through a different lens. So much of what and how I feel about the world will never be the same again. My eyes have been opened to things I'll never forget. My view of the world has become so much larger even though at times I realize just how small it is.

The other night while we were having a church service with local Brazilians, a small framed woman came into the yard from the street. She didn't have milk for her baby and was begging for someone to help her. As I watched the pastor's wife take care of her, I realized how different this world that I'm living in truly is.

Saturday night, I watched a new believer struggle with knowing where to turn in her Bible (she'd never opened a Bible) and light up when she began to understand the words she was reading. When you see the homeless on the street sleeping on the sidewalk in front of your apartment everyday and hear them going through the dumpsters at night...YOU CHANGE.

Although our hearts ache for those people we love back home, we are certain that we are exactly where God wants us and THAT feels really good. HE is at work in our lives and we know we haven't seen anything yet! Thanks for all your support and encouragement over the last few days. It's great to know ya'll read the newsletter and when you respond IT'S EVEN BETTER!! We love hearing from you!!

Keep praying for our work here and the work still to come in São Luís.



Tomorrow we will have our first LI (language interview). This will involve us being interviewed and recorded as we attempt to talk only in Portuguese. The teacher will then go back and listen to the recording and determine where we are in our language learning process. It's a bit overwhelming and we're both a bit nervous. Please pray for us tomorrow afternoon between 12-2. This will be when we are doing our testing!

Also...here are some photos from around town.

Leaving our garage

The streets of Ribeirao Preto

a shop selling idols and statues