Sunday, August 17, 2008

Lost and Found Poem

We are home and safe. Thank you for everything...
So on the last blog, I wanted to do something a little bit different. I am an English teacher, so I thought it would be really cool to write a poem. I asked each member of our team to write down a couple of sentences answering the question - What did you see God do this week? Here is what they wrote.

Lost and Found

The light breaks through
the bars in a window.
Yellow -
Green -
Blue -
Pink -

A dream -
two hundred kids,
such a vision,
potential for a plan.
A blueprint in
truth -
to grow a church
to strengthen a community.

God gives faces to the faceless,
an intensity,
a yearning
to reduce self
to make Him bigger.

Wisdom to teach -
Wisdom to practice patience.

God's mighty hands
hold broken hearts,
a safe haven.

He whispers as He speaks, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).

A hope,
A greater passion,
A promise.

A submission -
to be used as
an instrument.

ALLELUIA! - a new perspective,
One language -

by - VFC Brasil Team - Summer 2008

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Last Day

Our last day of the trip occurred in the fishing village. We arrived fairly early and walked to the beach. It was very beautiful!

Vaction Bible School began at 3:00 p.m. We ran a condensed version of what we did this week - the bracelets and the flip-flops. About 170 kids/youth showed up. Probably one of the most exciting times for us, besides the kids, was the excitement that Josue possessed as he showed us the future site of a Kid's Place. These children are very impoverished, but extremely happy. There is a joy about these people that touched each one of us.

That evening we were able to attend the church service, where Josue had asked Kevin Peet to share his testimony. Josue then preached the gospel, using Kevin's story as the base. We know of at least one person who came to know Christ because of what Kevin shared. It has been truly amazing to see what happens as we share our stories about how God has worked in each one of us.

We are sitting in the airport listening to the last couple of testimonies from our group.
This blog will be a little bit different today. I am an English teacher, so I thought it would be fun to write a poem commemorating all that God has done this week.

Lost and Found

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Day 6 - Thursday

What a long, and bittersweet day!
We talked to the kids about the Ten Commandments today. In crafts, they made hanging door thing-a-ma-jiggers (It's 12:30 a.m. Please forgive me I am a little tired - I can't remember the word.) with stickers. It was truly a day to enjoy the kids.

Kid's Place - We had 190 kids. After we fed the children lunch, we washed the feet of our missionaries, pastors, and other workers who had helped us this week. It was very moving, a way of saying thank you for letting us work alongside of them for the week.

At Anthenor's VBS, some members of our team - Kevin Peet, Amy McConnell, Teri Decker, Joe Sansanelli, Elizabeth and Landry Burdine - went out into the favela with Pastor Anthenor, Emanuell, and Wilson to talk to the people. Amy was able to lead several children to Christ, but many of the adults decided they weren't ready.

Landry was also able to talk to our bus driver, Sergio. He is a devout Catholic and read the verse, John 3:16, for the very first time.

Tonight, the men stayed at Favela da Linha for the Men's Night, while the women headed back to Coque Favela and Kid's Place for the Mother's Dinner.

Favela da Linha -
Anthenor invited around forty men; they swam and ate barbeque, which included beef, chicken and chicken hearts...yep! Chicken hearts. They are not too bad; they don't taste anything like chicken. The men were split into small groups. It started off slow, but pretty soon the men from the favela were asking some pretty deep, yet blunt questions, questions that would've taken a small group in the United States at least six weeks to feel comfortable enough to ask. Kevin Peet shared his testimony and he found one of the men in his small group carried a similar background. Many seeds were planted tonight.

Back at Coque, Amy McConnell gave her testimony to more than seventy women. Two American women sat with a translator and a group of ten to eleven women from the favela. All of these women had children who attended VBS this past week. At the end of the night, the women from the favela were given a bag of food that will last a family of four at least a month or more.

Linda Ryffel shared Christ with a woman who had recently been let out of prison! Amy was able to minister to a woman who shared the same heartache and brokenness as she experienced in her marriage. Terry Decker was also able to pray with a woman about her son as he is experiencing health problems. God has been so faithful! We also saw Maria Jose, the woman who Joseph S. shared the gospel with on the plane. It has been a good day!

"Thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him." 2 Corinthians 2:14

We go to the fishing village tomorrow. Please pray for a fresh burst of energy and continued good health. May we all abound in His fragrance. We love you all and we will see you soon!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Day 4-5/ 2nd and 3rd Day of VBS

Greetings from Brazil!
Tuesday - 240 kids were given flouride treatments and made first aid kits. We discussed prevention and resistance.

Two stories from our kids:
1) At Kid's Place and Anthenor's, Cruz Shope picked up an evangecube and shared Christ with Evandrul (Kid's Place) and Guillerme (Favela da Linha), two of his new friends. Both accepted Christ!
2) At the end of our day at Kid's Place, Joey Sansanelli witnessed to two boys using the evangecube; these two had not attended VBS on Monday. Joseph S. helped translate and Francielle and Thiago both accepted Christ! It's amazing how God has used our children/youth in this group to change Brazil. One of the teachers from Kid's Place explained to us that because many of the kids have been hurt by adults, they do not necessarily trust adults. Our kids have this phenomenal advantage that the adults do not have, at first. How necessary our children are! Jesus says "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to little children" -Luke 10:21. Our children get salvation; they get the necessity of our Savior...

Teen Night. It was great! We met many of the youth in Favela da Linha and listened to David Vanderlei; for twenty years he has been talking to teens about drugs and alcohol. In fact, he has had many drug dealers threaten his life for speaking the truth. David mixed theater with music - a kind of one act show - and he showed photographs of the atrocities of experimenting with drugs and alcohol. He preached the gospel to these youth, and at the invitation many raised their hands to receive Christ. Our wonderful ladies that cooked for us last year made hotdog stew for the kids and we served them dinner and Guarana. It was a great, but a long day!

Wednesday - We talked about Joseph's coat of many colors. The children made these groovy clear pipe bracelets with beads floating in water. It was a lot of fun!

At Favela da Linha, five members of our group street-evangelized during VBS. Amy McConnell, Tammy Crooks, Matt McClellen, Joseph Sansanelli, and Craig Crockett took a couple of translators through the favela. This group talked to several people. Brazilians are very gracious and receptive to hearing the gospel, but many choose not to make a decision. It's pretty frustrating because we want people to know Christ, but we have to remember we are planting seeds. Matt talked to Maria and she prayed to accept Christ! Tammy ministered to a woman named Linda, who also accepted Christ. Please pray for healing for Linda because she has some sort of disease in her legs.

Please pray for these new Christians that they would have people placed in their lives to grow them in Christ. Pray also for God's strength and perseverance for Pastor Anthenor and the group of teachers and ministers at Coque's Kid's Place.

Thanks for praying...

Monday, August 11, 2008

Day 4 - 1st day of Vacation Bible School

Hello from Brazil!
We had a fantastic day today. We began our day at Coque favela, where sixty kids showed up for a morning of crafts, sports, worship and a puppet show. It was very exciting! These kids are poverty stricken, from broken homes, and many do not even know how to respond to something as simple as a hug. We presented the gospel through the wordless book. Many children listened. Please pray for them, especially a little boy that was dressed in orange. He was very violent and disruptive today. Pray that these children will hear the gospel and believe. Pray that they learn how to respond appropriately to hugs and discipline. Pray also for the workers, who have such a heart for these children. What a blessing they are!

We ended our day at Favela da Linha. Those of us who came on this trip and worked with Anthenor last year were joyous to see some of the same children, only a year older. We presented the same lessons and crafts to this favela as we did to Coque favela. Linda Ryffel talked to a group of kids about the gospel. After she talked about the color white, which represents Jesus washing away our sins, purifying our hearts, she asked each one of the kids if they had asked Jesus into their hearts. Many of the kids said yes. However, a little boy named Andre said he had never asked Jesus into his heart. Then, she asked if he would like to accept Jesus into his life. He said yes! Pastor Anthenor took the boy aside to confirm his decision and prayed with him. What a day!

We are all doing well. A few of us have had some stomach issues, but nothing major. Please pray for our stamina. Also, pray for us to be transparent, so that the Brazilians would see Jesus. Your prayers mean everything to us.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Day 3

Today we visited Coque favela and Favela da Linha; these are the two spots we will be working at this week. Coque favela's Kid's Place is absolutely a dream come true for many of us on this trip. This is the same building we visited last year, but it was just a cleared out automotive transmission shop. Now, there are bathrooms and classrooms and paint on the walls to match the desks in the classrooms. There is a also an indoor caged court for soccer and other sports. This doubles as a sanctuary, which is how it was used tonight.

We were able to walk through the Coque favela to tell people about tonight's church service. Jesus says, "Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men" -Mark 1:17. Just by word of mouth, the church service tripled in size. Pastor David was very encouraged. Our group, especially the kids/youth made new friends today.

Carter shared the gospel with Everton; Everton then brought his family to meet Carter, so that he could share the gospel with them. What a testimony!

Tonight we have pictures of Kid's Place and the service.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Day 2

Boa Noite!
Good Evening!! I forgot to mention yesterday that every single one of our bags, personal and vacation bible school, made it here. :)

We had a fantastic rest full day. We were able to do some sightseeing and shopping at the local "prison". All the cells were shops; it was very interesting. We spent a good majority of our day with our "buddy", visiting and goofing around as we walked through the mall. We met some kids from Coelhos favela; Coelhos favela is a favela that VFC worked with five years ago. Some of our members from the team hadn't seen those kids in five years. What a blessing this work is!

The highlight of the day occurred in the evening. We had supper at a tasty Chinese food restaurant where we met our translators, a group of about fifteen Brazilians. After supper, we visited a downtown Presbyterian church, where Lecio was hosting his workers from the July camp. We rocked out with a band and about 100 youth/adults who had worked with him. In Psalm 149:3, it says "Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad in their King. Let them praise his name with dancing..." We praise his name with dancing! God is so good. Our Israel is Brazil, and we are glad in our King. We get ready for the week tomorrow. Please keep praying...

Friday, August 8, 2008

Day 1

Bom Dia!!
Good Day or evening from Brazil! We arrived in Recife at 4:30 p.m. (almost 24 hours from the time we left DFW). God is so good! The flight from DFW to Sao Paulo was uneventful - lots of sleeplessness, movie watching and partial dozing.

But, the flight from Sao Paulo to Recife was extraordinary! Joseph Sansanelli sat next to a Brazilian woman named Maria Jose, an attorney and professed communist. She seemed pretty disconnected and eccentric. He struck up a conversation with her, trying to find a "common denominator". They talked about family and eventually she asked what he was doing in Brazil, which then led to talking about her Catholic upbringing. He explained that he was one of thirty people from Fort Worth coming to Recife to love on and spread the gospel to the children of the favela. She seemed intrigued. As the conversation progressed, the crux of her separation from God was primarily due to her misunderstanding why there was such a disparity between the rich and the poor of Brazil. Why would God allow this? Joseph professed that God does not define value in a worldly sense; He looks straight to the heart of man to determine who is rich and who is poor. In fact, rich people have a greater responsibility to mankind. He explained that Jesus tells us it is easier for a poor man to find the kingdom of heaven... and she remembered having learned about the parable of the rich man years ago. Joseph also presented the verses found in Ephesians 2:8 and John 14:6; and after 2 Corinthians 5:17, she felt a weight lifted from her. She came to Jesus, knowing His freedom. When we arrived in Recife, we connected her to Lecio and the ministry in Coque favela, where she lives nearby. What a great day!

Thank you for your prayers. Keep praying. We love you...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Our Last Day

Tomorrow we leave Brazil, so we made the most of our time today. We went to the old Recife prison, which is now what we would call a "mall". After bargaining, and shopping till we dropped; we headed off the the newly bought camp property that Volunteers For Christ has purchased. It was really awesome seeing this large piece of land and knowing that many souls will be saved there in the days to come. The campground was BEAUTIFUL, with bamboo trees and all.
After seeing the land, we headed straight to Kid´s Place to start the teen ministry. It was just a few hours of hanging out and playing games, and a movie and testamonies to follow. Most kids were really receptive, even though no one got up to accept Christ. The seed was planted though, and those teens will have something to think about.
Today was another emotional day since we had to say goodbye to all of our beloved translators. Some were crying, others not; but everyone felt the sadness. Today is the last day for this blog, because tomorrow we will leave to come home in the afternoon. Check-out is at 2 and we will be heading to the airport soon after. It is a long trip ahead of us, so we ask for your prayers for safety, and that we will be able to rest. We look forward to seeing you all again! Goodbye for now!!!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

June 26th

Today was a day filled with many mixed emotions for our team and for the Brazilians as well. It was an encouragement to see the continued work of the evangelism team as well as to see the progress the kids have made throughout their week at the VBS. It´s quite the amazing sight to look around and see kids praying with adults and other kids to receive salvation. Some of the kids are so eager to accept Christ that they came up to us asking if they could pray with us. Praise God for working in the lives of these kids.

By the end of the first session most of us were pretty tired and mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually exhausted from the previous days and from having to say goodbye to a lot of our new friends... and then we realized that we had to do it all over again this afternoon!!! In the midst of our tears and hugs Pastor Darril told us that crying wasn´t so much a bad thing, but instead it meant that we had done our jobs this week in sharing the love of Christ with these kids.

Tonight was a special night because there were close to 200 men and women who came to a service that we held. The guys were at Kids Place to attend a `young men´s night.´ They learned about what it means to be a real man of God. The ladies had a Women´s Beauty Night at Imperial Baptist Church (the other VBS location). The women talked about being beautiful on the inside and then us `Americanos´ had the opportunity to wash the women´s feet and paint their fingernails. Both were very powerful experiences for everyone.

Thank you again for your prayers. We can see God working so much here in Recife.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Answered Prayers

Today´s VBS was much the same as yesterday´s: fun, exciting, and tiring! Some of the kids from the community (a.k.a. favellas) that our team met yesterday came to VBS this morning. It was so encouraging to see their bright, smiling faces and recognize them from the day before. One thing that many of us noticed today especially was a growing attachment to the kids. We have formed stronger friendships with the translators as well. It is going to be hard to say goodbye to all of our new friends on our last day tomorrow!
The Evangelism team witnessed many answers to prayer today. To start, it was pouring rain in the morning, and the team was worried that they might not be able to go out. But just in time, the rain stopped. They ventured out and encouraged some believers and evangelized to non-believers. Some people on the E-team talked to one man who was very opposed to the message; one member prayed nearby for those who were talking to him, and by the end of their long conversation, he trusted Christ. Perhaps the most amazing ¨God-thing¨ that happened to the team today was that, while they were returning, Robin prayed that she would get to talk to a young man she had met the day before. Soon after she finished, she and Wilson (a translator) saw him! She had been praying that that young man would hear the gospel from a male perspective, and coincidentally Pastor Craig was there today with her. He was able to witness to the young man, and he responded positively. The interesting part of the story is that this man had commited murder and was on temporary release for good behavior. He was due back at jail in fifteen minutes! Talk about divine intervention!
By far the best part of the day for many of us was the church service in the evening. Before it began, the only people sitting in the room were us Americans and the church staff. To be honest, it looked pretty pitiful. Many of us had invited people from the favellas to come, and we weren´t seeing much of a result. Morgan prayed that God would fill all the chairs that had been set up. While the music was playing and we were worshipping, more and more people showed up at the back gate. Many of them were kids from VBS who had come with their friends, and most of the the others were the families of kids who had attended VBS. Not only were all the chairs filled, but some of the boys had to bring in more chairs! It was a very awe-inspiring moment, to look at all of those people and see what this week has done in the lives of the locals. In all, there were 97, including our team, that attended. The worship ended with the song ¨God is Able¨ in Portuguese - a truly perfect song for what we were seeing God do. After the service, several of the first-timers trusted Christ and prayed with Pastor Lecciu and Pastor Darril. It was a beautiful service, and a fitting end to a day that far-surpassed our expectations...but not God´s.

P.S. Thank you to everyone who has left comments on our blog. They have been very encouraging to us, and we look forward to hearing from you more.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Today we realized that the physical and mental workouts we are experiencing are beginning to wear on us. Yawning and dragging our feet, we got out of the hotel and piled onto our bus at 8am as usual. Walking in to see the smiling faces of the brazillian kids raised our spirits and got us ready to face the day! During VBS we had several children raise their hands to accept Christ, and everyone who shared the Gospel felt very encouraged by the outcome. Bonds are being made with those "special" children to each of us, and we make friends and show the love of Christ to these beautiful kids. Please pray for us so we can grow these relationships even more so the kids might trust us, and listen to what we have to say. Pray that our words will be God´s words, and that he will be strong when we are weak. Our E-team that goes out each day goes right into the slums where these people live. Here is a look into the E-team by Mike Darrow:
Monday during the VBS a group from our team went out into an area known to many as the favellas, but the people within this area call it their community, a more positve approach. For myself, it was the first time sharing my faith in this capacity. It was difficult to relate to the people that we encountered. Me describing what it looked like would not do justice to what it actually was like. Knowing that there are areas like this is totally different from walking through and experiancing first hand the living conditions. On every ally corner is a fire, stray dogs bone thin roam the street and the ocassional dirtbike speeds by. The remains of building spill into the street, little kidos run the streets with no shoes, no shirts. Drug addiction and drinking control many of the adults. We came upon one group of people in which our translator offered to share the new of Jesus and they agreed to hear. It had started to rain, and so she invited us into her home. about 10 kids and 4 adults jammed into a space no bigger than your bathroom. What we learned from these people is that they do trust Jesus as their Lord. I felt impacted that these women, despite their living conditions had a belief in God, that He was good and had a plan for their lives. They had huge faith, i admired them for that. I huged each of the women, kissed them on the cheek and prayed with them breifly. Walking in thier shoes opens my eyes to whole new world.
As the week goes on, we will only get more and more tired, so please pray for our strength. We are all excited to continue this mission, with the help of all your support back home. Keep praying for the precious people of Recife, Brazil!
Boa Noite (Good Night)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Monday, June 23rd

Today, breakfast started around 7:30, and by eight, we were on our way to Kid´s Place to greet the kids. You could see how anxious they were to meet us, but they seemed nervous too. However, they quickly warmed up to us, and once the worship and activities started, they forgot about the barriers between us. Many of our crew leaders were touched when some of the kids from last year´s VBS ran up to them and greeted them with a big smile and a hug. They were more than enthusiatic to play the games and make crafts with us, and the many times throughout the day that we shared the gospel with them, they were intent on what we had to say. When asked if they wanted to trust Jesus as their Savior, MANY of them raised their hands. It was a heartwarming experience to hear them repeating the prayer in Portuguese in unison (with an interpreter). We all felt truly blessed to spend this time with the kids. Their pure excitement just to be with us, and their heart to know more about God has been incredibly impacting. Who knew it would be so much fun to play with kids you can´t even communicate with?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sunday, June 22nd

This morning started with a short team meeting outside the hotel. Pastor Darril spoke to the group about the purpose behind our trip. Since today was our first full day here, and VBS doesn´t start until Monday, the Brazil team got to enjoy the beach for a little while. After some time in the sun, we headed to the new Kid´s Place, which, through a lot of prayer and hard work, has been renovated and is now a beautiful facility for the kids to enjoy. We set up for the evening church service and waited for our translators to arrive. Some returning team members enjoyed reunions with their former translators who´d become good friends. We feel privileged to have the opportunity to work with these remarkable young people in the week ahead. Soon after we were acquainted with the translators, the newly planted Community Bible Church service began. It was an impacting experience to see the smiling faces of the Brazilians who really had a heart for God and were so welcoming. When we began worship, we sang in Portuguese along with the rest of the congregation, but Marcel was unexpectedly called up to lead the group in an English version of the songs. It was an awesome experience for the team to praise ONE God in TWO languages. To top off the night, we met and talked with children from the slum who will be attending VBS with us starting tomorrow. We need your prayers as we start off our journey with these kids.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

We Have Arrived!

All 36 of us arrived in Recife, Brazil at 6:00pm today; healthy and mostly happy. Ten hours on a packed flight with nowhere to move can make a person cranky! BUT, that won´t stop this team. After 26 hours of travel; hot showers, pizza, and team bonding on the beach got us ready to start our missions experience here in Brazil.
We had a first-time flyer with us, and tension was high as we started to take off. Even though everyone was watching.. with a big smile, and a slightly red face, he earned his wings with flying colors!
The flight here was pleasantly uneventful, with no major delays or luggage lost. Everyone is tired, and ready to get our first good nights rest.
Goodnight! God bless. Write more, and add pictures tomorrow.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Team Members of the June 2008 Trip

Mark, Noah, & Mickie Bliss, Melissa Clay, Denise & Rachel Csatari, Mike Darrow, Sarah DeKoninck, Megan Gill, Rick & Alecia Hinston, Darril & Marie Holden, Tom & Julia Lampert, Darcy Leyder, Andrea & Mary Martinovich, Bob & Ilene McMann , Colton Morozow, Craig Poston, Marcel Provenzola, Rob Quinn, Robin Reese, Michael Reffitt, Jessica Sloan, Morgan Sweeney, Gildo & David Tori, Larry & Ruth Tregoning, Kara Ussery, Kerri Yarber, Alyssa & Sam Zantello

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Brazil Spring Break 2008-Day 7

Blessings to all our friends and family!

There are a handful of days in everyone's life that make such a profound impact and are of such great import that they are forever inscribed on a person's heart as a beacon and a marker of lifelong change. The feelings and emotions experienced on such days are so deep, so personal, that to attempt to describe them in words is not only impossible, but seems to do them an injustice. Words out of one's mouth or written on the page can never capture the essence of a thought or an emotion. It is therefore with great difficulty that I post this blog entry of our last mission day in Brazil.

On this day, God granted a small respite from the stifling heat and humidity, as a strong overnight rain was followed by a partly cloudy sky, somewhat lower temperatures and a welcome breeze. Most of the team is fairly well acquainted by now with each village child within our assigned age group, so it is a thrill to see their shining faces peering through the gates prior to the session. Several team members have made a habit of going outside the gates before the start time to hug and kid around with the children waiting to enter. The villagers are so happy to see their favorite American take the time to come outside early with the express intent to shake their hand, give them a "high-five" and/or a heartfelt hug. The three station group rotation provides a crucial aspect of structure to each daily session, but the best times are experienced when we have an opportunity to hunch down, get on eye-level with each child one-on-one and communicate with and/or love on them. They seem to thrive on this very personal and exclusive attention, and walls fall away quickly. The bridges built this week between hearts will not soon be forgotten on either end of the connection, if ever.

Many of the children arrived today sporting their ballcaps received yesterday. It is apparent that the Texas Rangers are the adopted baseball team of the village, judging from the if only they could send us a pitcher....

The most amazing exchanges occurred throughout the day. Several mothers appeared at the gate asking for specific members of our group, and offered gifts out of intense gratitude for the love and fellowship they received at the Mother's Dinner. Brazilian children also brought gifts to the American kids out of thanks.

At the end of each session, the American team had a chance to thank the entire group of children for the spiritual gifts we have received through this opportunity to serve them. A representative of each age group also got to publicly thank the Americans for this special time.

The childrens' hugs seemed to be a little tighter, a little longer today, and when it was time for them to leave, tears fell abundantly. But the Holy Spirit stayed, in the hearts of the children and the Americans. There was little doubt that those extended hugs from the children were God-inspired, and God-given.

The Holy Spirit also stayed in the compound during break; nothing was able to prepare us for what we were about to experience. After the first session, the team placed all 17 pastors, interpretors and cooks in chairs forming a circle. Team members then knealt before each support staffer, and while Brent Hull delievered an extremely emotional reading from John, Chaper 13, the team washed the staffers' feet. The gesture had a profound effect on everyone present, and many sought a brief time of solitude to reflect on what they just witnessed.

The entire support staff was presented with gifts from our VFC team, and God's grace was felt by all. In particular,the kitchen staff was expecially moved by the generosity, but it would be difficult to repay them for the sacrifce they made for the success of the mission. Each day a group of 4 Brazilian women produced a truly excellent meal of local specialties for over 55 people, all from a kitchen no bigger than most American closets.

In addition to the usual gifts handed out at the end of each session, the village children also received a framed photograph of themselves and a photograph of our VFC team. At the end of the last session, hundreds of kids, teens and adults stayed outside the compound and frolicked with many of the team. Many gifts were handed out to babies, grandmothers, teens and unemployed loiterers, giving us one last chance to discuss the greatness of God with each of them.

The interpreters and support staff were invited back to our hotel for the night, and joined us at our nightly meeting. Two special members of the staff took the time to describe their life, their struggles, their faith, their hopes and their dreams. The stories left our team speechless. These brothers and sisters in Christ have endured unimaginable hardships, yet they radiate love for Jesus Christ and left each one of us with a message transmitted directly from God straight into our hearts. The effect on each member of this team cannot be described, so I won't even begin to shortchange it. I'll just say that due to the contribution of this unbelieveable group of staff, transformations have taken place this week in the hearts of our team and the relationships within our individual family units.

In fact, the coming together of this extraordinary group of Brazilian Christians making up our translator team is nothing short of amazing, and truly directed by God. This blog would not be complete without praising our Brazilian teammates:
First of all, praise goes to Cibelle, whose caring heart, warm personality and unquenchable enthusiasm for the Brazilian children blessed each of us in a truly powerful and personal way.
Praise goes to Carlos, who's quick wit, engaging smile and gratitude-filled heart has inspired us more than he will ever know.
Praise goes to Wilson, who has joined VFC for the fourth year in a row. Wilson is a perennial group favorite, and brings great enthusiasm and uncanny ability to connect with all ages of children as well as adults.
Praise goes to Waska, who brought the gift of music to the compound this week, with a very real love and amazing knowledge of popular Christian music.
Praise goes to Sue, who has dedicated her life to interpreting for American missionary groups in Brazil.
Praise goes to Emanuel, whose bright, friendly, easy-going personality made him a pleasure to share the week with;
Praise goes to Daniel, who has also joined VFC on multiple occasions, and brings an air of clam and peace about him that makes him highly sought after by kids and adults alike;
Praise goes to Regis, who has only mastered English three months ago but felt a calling to lend a hand wherever needed for God's work.
Praise goes to Yugo, Anthenor's son, who decided to spend the week with our group and help out wherever needed, and struck up some great friendships with the Brazilian as well as the American kids.
And of course, all our hearts and thanks go to the pastors and their families who have dedicated their lives to living in accordance with our Savior's commands. It is evident in each face we see that their labor and efforts are having a major impact on a generation of Brazilians. We offer our prayers, sincere thanks and gratitude to Leciu and his wife, Uma, Pastor Josue and his wife Ceca,
Pastor David and his wife Deborah and Pastor Anthenor and his wife Patricia. We pray that God will fulfill all your selfless plans to expand your ministries and impact an even great number of your beloved countrymen.

After a day in Recife tomorrow, where we will attend the formal dedication of the Kid's Place project funded by VFC donations and dinner at the home of Leciu and Uma, we will fly back to the United States on Saturday. I plan on delaying publishing the last post until we get home and I solicit the final comments and impressions of our teammates.

To those of you who supported and followed our mission activities this week, we extend our heartfelt thanks and prayers. This trip was successful only through the power of your prayers, and you delivered. We thank you, and the children of Abreu de Una, Brazil thank you.

May God be with each of you all the days of your life.

I would like to close with Scripture:

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds;and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8, Luke 11:9-10

Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:43-45

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Romans 5:3-5

Please come back for our Postscipt in a week.
Obrigado, and Boa Noite!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Brazil Spring Break 2008-Day 6

Good evening, friends.

It is now 11:30 p.m. as I begin to write this post, and the team just got back and settled in from another long day serving the Lord and the truly special people in this remote part of Brazil. For the second night in a row, the team returned to our hotel after 10:30 p.m., faced only with the prospect of the impending ring of an early alarm tomorrow morning, or in some cases, the all too timely wake-up call from the resident rooster. But falling asleep just doesn't seem to be a problem, as our group has attained first-hand knowledge of the physical and mental toll a multi-day, multi-session mission trip in a very hot environment can exact.

Other than a few bumps, bruises, and bloodletting by our resident dispenser of pain Dr. John Conway, all of our missionaries are holding up unbelievably well. The children, in particular, have been an incredible blessing. In order to pull off our ambitious plans, we needed to rely not only on the kids' good behaviour, but their assistance as well. The kids have upheld their end of the bargain, to say the least. Each of them have voluntarily pitched in hands everywhere and anywhere needed, without being asked. The incredible success of this trip can be directly attributed in part to the contributions of this intelligent, fun, enthusiastic, and reliable group of young men and young women. There is no doubt that they are instinctively following their Father's call this week in their thoughts and actions, and I'm not referring to their father on the team! They have displayed huge hearts for the village children, and it is evident that each of them has grown this week, both spiritually and emotionally. We are all ever so humbled and grateful for the blessings raining down on us this week.

Many of our supporters have been so kind in praising us for the fact that our team families are sacrificing our Spring Break to serve the children of Brazil. After experiencing the last 5 days of this opportunity, our team can definitively state that absolutely no sacrifice has taken place. This trip is nothing but a blessing that we wil forever be thankful for. Giving of oneself for a worthwhile cause brings about feelings and emotions of utter joy and contentment. There is absolutely no place that we would rather be.

But it is hot. Dehadration is a major concern, as our team is outdoors non-stop from 8:30 a.m. to at least 5:00-5:30 p.m. everyday (and much, much longer the last two days as a result of the nightly activities). Bottled water and sunsreen are in high demand, but God has protected us from any weather related difficulties, allowing us to complete the work He has sent us to do.

Today, 10 year old Megan Meadows delivered the morning prayer and asked God to help each of us transfer our new knowledge of God's truths gained this week back to Fort Worth when we return home. Her father, Jay Meadows, delivered the morning devotional and pointed out that true success in life, true wealth and riches, lie only in following Christ. Nothing else matters, and it has occurred to many of us this week that in many ways our Brazilian friends have discovered the right path to eternal riches and rewards. They do not allow their busy schedules to dictate the love they extend to their family, their friends, and God. They seem to be better stewards of the time God has given all of us to do what is truly important in life. Jay reminded us that when we get back to Fort Worth, each of us must do some sould searching and look at the way we conduct our everyday lives, to make sure we are following the right path to eternal rewards.

Much work had to be done today before the sessions, during the breaks, and prior to the Mother's Dinner. During such times, it seems every room of the compound was filled with frentetic action as teams of volunteers made no excuses, but dived in to fulfill God's plan for the week. The Snack Bag Sorority mentioned yesterday got busy stuffing the wildly popular daily goody bag. Others were busy setting up and breaking down tables and chairs for the many activities, and preparing for the just as wildly popular ballcap giveaway. Toni Meadows, Kathy Paukune, Elaine Murphy and Maura Rattikin gathered and wrapped gifts for all of our wonderful pastors, interpreters and support staff. Hilary Rattikin and Kamryn Conway learned their parts in today's skit in no time, and the Paukune family got set to participate in the daily bible story presentation.

Today's two sessions were especially important, because in each one Pastor Leciu asked if any of the children would like to receive Christ into their lives. A handful of children in the morning session broke down their cultural barriers and stepped up to receive the Free Gift of Eternity. In the afternoon, it was dozens who pledged their life to Christ. Praise Be to God! It was a very emotional time for our team to sit in the seats with the children, and watch them make the bold personal decision to stand up, get out of the chair, and change the direction of their life forever. 13 year old Austin Meadows has a special gift in communicating friendship and trust with the Brazilian kids, and it was a pleasure to watch him successfully encourage some boys his own age to be bold and accept Jesus. Bravo, Austin!!!

Wonderful stories continued to pour out today. Cameron Newberry received a blessing this morning when a young girl she had befriended this week brought Cameron a pair of earrings. This young girl, who has nothing, sacrificed something obviously of great value to her to extend a sign of love for her newfound friend. Cameron, congratulations on making such a wonderful impact on a little girl with a huge heart.

At lunch today, Pastor Josue and his wonderful wife Cesa shared their faith journey and their reasons for providing a ministry to this tiny fishing village. We were told that there are two chruches in town, but neither bother with the spiritual training of children. As a result, the local children have no knowledge of what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus, and consequently do not seek spritual guidance as they grow older. Even in this little town, drugs, prostitution and despair have crept in, and until Pastor Josue came to town, the village had no hope for a better future. Pastor Josue hopes to build a church and community center that teaches the children and their families alike that joy, happiness, riches and eternal life are readily available to each of them, regardless of their circumstances, regardless of who they are, and regardless of what they have done in the past. VFC would love an opportunity to support Pastor Josue's vision, and VFC would welcome any interest in the project.

After the two sessions, the team was mentally and physically drained by the intensity of the activities, the emotion and the heat. But one of the week's highlights was set to begin in a few short hours, so the team rushed back to the hotel for a shower and quick bite to eat. After returning to the compound, we completed the setup for this evening's Mother's Dinner. A wonderul showing of 100 lovely guests arrived at the compound at 7:30 p.m. Each American family served three tables of four mothers each, and shared stories with the mothers of our families and the wonderful events of the week. The mothers were so appreciative, and could not get over the fact that we came all this way to show love to their children, to provide their entire family with hope, and feed them as well!

After dinner, Lindsey Rattikin premiered the wonderul slide show she put together of the week's activities, set to Christian music. The faces of the beautiful, smiling children lept off the screen to an adoring audience. It is probable that none of the mothers ever have or ever will again see images of their children in such a fashion. The show was a huge success, and touched the hearts of all in the audience. The team really enjoyed having a chance to sit back and look at what God has accomplished this week.

Pastor Anthenor gave a moving sermon to the mothers about the love of Christ for each of them, and the opportunity to secure eternal salvaton through Him. Several mothers took the opportunity to give their life to Christ, a moving experience for all.

At the end of the evening, the mothers filed out with smiles on their faces, tears in their eyes and a bag containing a month's worth of food, much to their delight and surprise.

Tomorrow is our last day to be with the children, and we plan to make the most of it. We ask again for your prayers that our team can make a life-changing difference in the lives of each one of these special children of God.

Obrigado, and Boa Noite!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Brazil Spring Break 2008-Day 5

Good evening to all our online teammates!

We would first like to thank all of you who have posted such wonderful comments to our blog. I cannot tell you how much it means to us that you are taking the time out of your day to read our posts and respond with your greetings, your prayers and your support. I'll tell you, something is happening down here in Brazil, and those of you supporting and praying for us from home are as responsible for this movement as those of us on the ground here in Brazil. Believe me, whatever you guys are doing at home, keep doing it!

We knew going in that today was going to be an ambitious day, with two sessions of Vacation Bible School, a Teen Night for the village boys and a separate Teen Night for the village girls. And just to make sure we got the most bang for our buck, God delivered another typical coastal Brazilian summer day, with high heat and high humidity. Obviously, the stage has been set for His greatness to shine through!

One thing your prayers produced today was bigger crowds! We were thrilled to see that not only did the children from yesterday show up again, but a number of new children as well! We ministered to around 125-150 children in each of our two sessions today, and they were even more fired-up today than yesterday!

In addition to our three station rotation described in yesterday's blog, the highlight of today was a dental hygiene segment planned and orchestrated by teammates Dr. Ron and Cynthia Lee. Ron demonstrated proper brushing technique for all 250 children, with a sense of humor and "bedside manner" that we would all love to have in a Dentist. After the demonstration, the children were assisted in brushing their teeth by their Family Hosts, and returned for a fluoride treatment by Dr. Lee and his merry band of volunteers. Yes, Ron was somehow able to draft some on-the-spot dental hygeinists in the form of Cynthia Lee, Nancy Conway, Kathy Paukune, Cameron Newberry, Isabelle Newberry, Marylin Newberry and Dr. John Conway to administer the fluoride treatments. Each enlisted technician resembled a miner, sporting a light strapped to their head as they administered the treatment. All in all, the Brazilian children did a great job of brushing their teeth, and most (but certainly not all!) went with the flow and accepted the fluoride treatment with a big smile. While examining their teeth, Dr. Lee noticed much need for future dental treatment, especially in the 5-9 year old age group. Along with other medical professionals, he is looking into the possiblilty of future trips to Brazil, where they can deliver complete and definitive dental treatment to the villagers (such as extractions, root canals and other vitally important procedures). It is our team's hope that we have made at least a small difference in the children's understanding of dental health. Many thanks go to Ron and Cynthia Lee for their efforts in bringing this effort to fruition.

Our daily assembly line was once agin at work, but sans Nancy. It seems our large contingent of young women have taken over the duties of stuffing snack bags on their own accord, freeing Nancy up not for a break, but for yet another assembly line. The snack bag sorority consists of Kamryn Conway, Elle Conway, Gigi Hull, Harriett Hull (hey Harriett, why did you and Caroline R. switch nametags today? You blond haired, blue-eyed girls look too much the same anyway, without confusing us old-timers and family members!), Margaret Lee, Grace Paukune, Caroline Rattikin and Hilary Rattikin. Once again, the bags were stuffed and stored in an amazing display of American work ethic. Meanwhile, Nancy drafted the "more mature" princesses on our team to prepare supplies for this evening's Teen Night. Hair brushes, nail polish and all other forms of female paraphernalia was spread across a long table for organization into individual packets for our guests.

The two VBS sessions today were incredibly rewarding. After some initial apprehension yesterday, a sense of peace and familiarity set in today. The kids were as excited and boisterous as ever, but today some walls were breached, some connections cemented, and some God-given love began to take over. William Rattikin felt an urge to give a local child one of his favorite toys, a miniature (palm-sized) skateboard. Initially, the local boy did not understand that it was a gift; but once he understood, he carried it with him all day, to the morning session, to the afternoon session, and again to the Teen Night session this evening. God's spirit revealed itself to seven year old William today. Elaine Murphy tells of a wonderful blessing she experienced today. During lulls in the action, Elaine loves to show the children pictures of her family and her dog. One particular older girl was enamored with the pictures during the morning session. Much later, in the middle of the afternoon session, Elaine was called to the gate of the compound. It seems that the young girl from the morning session had returned to the compound, bringing with her a number of her "elderly friends" (grandmother aged) to view the pictures. The friends were so moved by the pictures that they were each called to embrace Elaine tightly. They were touched, Elaine was touched, and so goes the Spirit of God in this world. Another example? Perhaps the tiniest little 5 year old girl in the village arrived yesterday afternoon, but did not stay long as her fear of the unknown caused her to leave after a short time. Did she show up today? Of course she did, and after some loving from Mary Sharpe as only Mary can do, the beautiful little girl (her name is Victoria, isn't that bonito?) was an excited young lady for the rest of the day. She doled out hugs to all comers, she LOVED to give high fives, all the while requesting to be held in the arms of an American missionary. Young Victoria is what this trip is all about!

Because the dental segment took some time to administer, our team had a number of opportunities to pull small groups of children aside and discuss the life and message of Jesus through the use of an Evangecube. An Evangecube is somewhat like a Rubik's Cube, and is a highly effective method of breaking down language barriers by describing the Good News of Jesus Christ through pictures. The children seemed enamored with the device, and loved to work their own way through the story.

The day ended with a skit put on by Mary Sharpe and the entire Newberry family, depicting the fall of man resulting from the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Once again, the team found energy we didn't know we had. All of us admit that we have been acting in ways that are WAY out of our usual comfort zone, but this week, it all seems natural. There IS an energy that is dictating our every move, and your prayers, and God's supreme majesty, are orchestrating a special event in the lives of hundreds of people (our team included) here in Brazil.

Luckily, Brandon saw fit to ask the vans to arrive at 4:30 p.m. today, thereby negating any possibility that the local teens could inflict any more damage to the 40+ers on the soccer field. The Men of our team are all hobbling around, repeating the phrase "No Mas, No Mas, No Mas" for some reason. I imagine that after a day's rest, we may make one last effort to relive our glory days, while at the same time being showed up by our own offspring. All is as it shold be here on the Northeast coast of Brazil!

Of course, someone has to seek medical attention on every trip, and this trip it was our beloved Pastor Anthenor, who was showing off his God-inspired karate skills and ended up in teammate Dr. John Conway's room getting a ligament (or something, I don't know a ligament from a leg) sewed up. Hey, brother Anthenor, we've got you covered on this trip; feel free to utilize Ron Lee as well :)!

Tonight, as advertised, a number of teammates worked very hard to put on a meaningful Teen Night for the village teenagers, and by all accounts, their efforts were rewarded. All female teammates in 7th grade or above set out this evening to serve the village's young women. Cibelle, who has been reaching out and connecting with the local children all week, led a simply sensational discussion with around 30 village girls about the fact that they are each beautiful, special and unique in the eyes of God, and to respect God's perfect design for their lives. Lindsey Rattikin, Hilary Rattikin, Caroline Rattikin and Kamryn Conway performed a dance set to words and music, relating to the fact that each girl is a beautiful princess. The village teen girls then sat in a circle and read a story from the Bible where Jesus washed the feet of his followers. Our temmates then proceeded to wash the feet of the village girls, gave foot and hand massages, and manicures. Each girl left with a gift bag and a chance to pick out some special jewelry for themselves. The young women of the village simply loved and appreciated the evening, and our team owes a heartfelt thanks to wonderful Cibelle, who has a gift for reaching out and touching the Brazilian youth of all ages. Thank you, thank you, Cibelle!!!!

Not to be outdone, approximately 50 teen guys met and discussed what it means to be a man in today's world. Brandon Boehme, Jay Meadows, Mark Paukune and Pat Murphy shared their thoughts and experiences with the young men, and it seemed evident that those young men went home this evening with a renewed understanding of their role within a family. Apparently, the young men were exposed to a part of Americana tonight that they have never experienced before: the grand old game of horseshoes. The boys could have played horseshoes all night if poosible, and it seems that a new hosreshoe pit will need to be set up next to the beloved, and flooded, soccer field.

One really cool ("legau" in Portuguese; the Brazilian boys LOVE this word!) event on the horizon: 16 year old Lindsey Rattikin is putting together what promises to be one incredible slide show on her MacBook for tomorrow night's Mother's Dinner, with an encore performance for the children. Lindsey has been busy collecting digital photographs from teammates each day, and has constructed a pictorial montage set to the best in contemporary Chrisitan music. This particular group of teammates has proven to be some exceptional photographers, and I hope each of you will have an opportunity to view our "Spring Break Mission Video". We have had several requests to post photographs on this blog, but due to some rather slow connection speeds and the wealth of quality photos, we have decided that it may be best to put up a website upon our return with a combined set of images from this week for your viewing, and downloading, pleasure.

Tomoorow is another big day, with two VBS sessions and the long-anticipated Mother's Dinner.
Thank you again for all your prayers and support, and we pledge to keep doing our thing if you keep dong yours!

Obrigado, and Boa Noite!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Brazil Spring Break 2008-Day 4

Hello friends and family!

Greetings once again from Northeast Brazil! Those of you who have participated in mission trips before will be able to identify with, and probably predict, what this post will say. The first full day of a mission: After all the planning, all the praying, all the excitement, all the concerns, all the butterflies, what will happen? Will we connect? Will we be able to communicate? Will the day go smoothly? Will the children be disappointed, or scared, or worst of all, indifferent to our efforts? Well, our God is an awesome God, and with Him all things will work for His glory. Today was a day that reflected his glory, his power, his love. Today was, in a word, spectacular.

After a morning devotional, our team boarded vans at 8:30 a.m. for the short trip to the fishing village. The village is remote, to put it mildly. From the highway, we turned off onto a small dirt road and travelled several miles to the village. Along the way, the scenery could not have been more beautiful. We rolled through a forest of coconut and mango trees, with wild birds of paradise flowers blooming in every direction. The village itself is made up of small bare whitewashed single story structures lining the narrow dirt roads, and is situated next to a series of mangrove swamps leading out to the ocean several miles away. Pastor Josue's mission home consists of a small walled-in compound, with individual rooms (un air-conditioned sleeping quarters for traveling missionaries)lining the interior dirt courtyard. At one end of the courtyard is an open-air covered activity space, where meals are served and programs are presented. Across the road from Pastor Josue's compound sits the ever-popular soccer field, a dirt field with wood tree limbs fashioned into goal posts. The soccer field seems to be the community meeting place every afternoon, where the locals play soccer or socialize along the side. However, no soccer game can last much later than 5:30 pm, as at that time the mangorve swamps begin to flood the entire field as a result of the nearby ocean's high tide.

OK, so now you have a mental image of our surroundings. Upon arrival, the group got busy preparing for the first of two daily programs. We felt relieved that under Nancy Conway's leadership by example, a group had stuffed 250 bags of snacks assembly line style for today's two sessions. The team split into three groups, each of which were responsible for a particular age group throughout the day. The youngest children (5 years old to around 7) were led by the Lee and Rattikin families; the middle children (8-10 or so) were led by the Conways, Hulls and Paukunes, and the oldest kids (11-13) were led by the Newberry and Meadows families.

Ready or not, here they come! At 9:00 am, the doors to the compound swung open and in filed around 100 children for the morning session. Each age group met their host families, and a good natured rivalry soon developed, with each group chanting their team name at the top of their lungs. Order was restored shortly thereafter, as Father Josue, Leciu and Pastor David gathered the entire group for singing and prayer. The children belted out their local Christian songs, and had a great time with allthe hand and body movements accompanying each song. The songs were a blast! The kids' spirit filled the compound, and the American missionaries really got into the thick of things, joing the kids in singing, dancing and praying.

After the group assembly, the children split into their individual "teams" (Red for the youngsters, Green for the middle group, and Yellow for the oldest kids). The three groups moved between three activity stations as the morning progressed. The first station consisted of a skit put on by Mary Sharpe, our wonderful Brazilian friend and translator Cibelle, and Georgia Rae (Gigi) Hull and Elle Conway. Gigi and Elle put on a wonderful presentation related to the message that while there is no imitation of the real God, we are made in the likeness of Him and put on this Earth to further His kingdom and bring Him glory. Cibelle and Mary translated the skit in Portuguese, and the children really showed their understanding of the message. Mary and Cibelle continued by reminding the children that the only thing God asks us to do is love Him with all our heart.

The second station consisted of crafts, where the children constructed mirrored ornaments with the theme of "Reflect Jesus". Toni Meadows and Elaine Murphy did a wonderful job in keeping the craft tables furnished and organized, lending a helping hand and hug wherever needed. The children also posed for some individual portrait photographs taken by Brent Hull and Kathy Paukune, which will be presented to their mothers at the Mothers Dinner later in the week.

The last station consisted of Recreation, manned by the athletic examples of our fearless leader Brandon Boehme and Pat Murphy. The kids and adults had a great time, lining up for tag-team races carrying inflatable rings and dribbling soccer balls.

At the end of the session, the children reconvened in the activity area for more music and prayer. At the end of the morning, each child was presented with their craft, a snack bag and various small gifts. They left the compound with smiles on their faces and promises to return.

Our team took a well deserved breather for a few hours before the afternoon session. Once again, we were treated to some magnificent local dishes, and a very hungry crew was not shy in going back for multiple helpings! After savoring the success of the morning, our biggest question was, where will we find the energy to do it all again this afternoon? The weather was extremely hot and humid with little breeze, but we hardly noticed as we relished in the smiles and hugs from the children. But at break, the heat began to make itself known. However, not to let the enthusiam wane, Nancy Conway again organized an assembly line for tomorrow's 250 snack bags, this time manned by many of the younger children. They whipped the job out in no time, and we were ready to go.

If any of us questioned whether we could drum up the same enthusiam for the afternoon session, we quickly recieved our answer as the gates swung open for an entirely new set of children. This group had already heard of the fun had by the morning crew, and bolted in full of enthusiasm and expectation. They sang, they smiled, they lifted up everyone on our team. More team chanting broke out, conga lines veered through the courtyard, and team songs, team dances and team handshakes were abundant.

The day ended at, you guessed it, the soccer field, as the local teens were waiting for the Americans and the translators from Recife. Another spirited game broke out, with key performances delivered by Markham Paukune, Oliver Newberry, Jackson Hull, Austin Meadows, Megan Meadows and Margaret Lee. Intimidation was the name of the game for the 40+ers as Brent Hull, Huck Newberry, Jay Meadows, John Conway and Jeff Rattikin dared the Brazilians to burn them (the Brazilians were, how should I put it...successful at that...often...). Mark Paukune and Pat Murphy teamed up with Matthew Lee, Mack Newberry and William Rattikin to teach another group of locals the American brand of football. The locals caught on quite well!

So there you have it; a full day's worth of activity in honor of our God. And God was indeed present with us; he appeared in every heartfelt hug, in every smile and in every laugh. It was a day that gripped the hearts and minds of all of us on the team. It was a day that will change the future course of the lives of all of us fortunate enough to be called to give our hearts to the children of Brazil.

Obrigado, and Boa Noite!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Brazil Spring Break 2008-Day 3

Oi, friends!
What a special day we shared today! Our team is settled in, rested and ready to serve. Today was supposed to be a day of planning and set-up, but God had other ideas. Apparently He was ready for the villagers to get to know us, and us to get to know the villagers. The connections were rapid and rewarding; and we got an unexpected taste of what this life-changing experience is all about. But more on that later.

Early risers this morning were treated to our first lesson of the day; the beauty of simplicity. As a few of us sipped our coffee on the beach around 6:30 a.m., we watched a local fisherman load an old flat skiff, no more than a foot deep, with bamboo fishing poles, a rock and twigs tied together as an anchor, and a long stick to propel himself through the water. The fisherman stood on the skiff and poled himself toward the reef, getting an early start on his daily mission to provide for his family. There is no doubt that this experienced gentlemen hauled in more fish this morning than most any American fisherman, who would typically be aided with the latest in fishing equipment, GPS systems, fish sonars and expensive modern boats. If the goal is to catch fish and provide for your family in a way pleasing to God, this Brazilian native fulfilled his purpose; a man in touch with what's important, living out the true meaning of success.

After breakfast and our morning prayer and devotional, the team had an opportunity to commune with another fascinating member of God's living family. We boarded boats with Pator Anthenor and his family for a short trip to a living coral reef, which was exposed for a short time during the daily low tide. The exposed system revealed the living organism that makes up the reef, looking more like an octopus under the hard dead surface than anything else. The reef also sheltered a fascinating array of sea urchins, fish and plant life. Our group was amazed at all the diversity God can cram into one small area; where life depends on life. Truly amazing.

After the reef visit, our group boarded vans for our first trip to the fishing village of Abreau de Una. As the entourage entered the village, children began pouring out of their homes to greet us. We arrived at the mission home of Pastor Josue, and met up again with our interpreters. Pastor Josue has built a wondrful home base for visitng missionaries, and we will utilize his home and hospitatlity this week for all our activities in the village. We were treated to a maginigicent lunch of local specialties. The village children peered through the gates of the compound as we ate. At that point, there was no holding us back. The children of our team flooded the gates and struck up conversation and laughter with the local childrten. It was no use fighting it; the team opened the gates and the children began their interaction. While a group of team members formed an impromptu assembly line and stuffed 250 bags of assorted snacks for tomorrow's guests, others joined the local villagers with a spirited game of soccer. There was no doubt that the Brazilians are fond of, and skilled at, their national pastime. The Americans and translators put on a valiant effort, but the villagers put on a show. Amazing footwork, and amazing teamwork. All in all, this unplanned interaction really broke the ice and set the stage for the beginning of a truly special bond. As advertised, the villagers were thrilled to interact with us. Their broad smiles and engaging personalities melted our hearts.

We returned to home base this evening for dinner and an early bedtime. The team cannot wait to arrive back at the village in the morning to experience what God has in store for us.

On the eve of our first Vacation Bible School, we would like to close with some verses from the Word of God:

I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I, Send Me!” Isaiah 6:8.

For the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:11

May God's blessings be upon each of you in the days to come.

Obrigado, and Boa Noite!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Brazil Spring Break 2008-Day 2

Greetings, Friends!

We are happy to report that the team arrived safely this evening in Sao Jose da Coroa Grande on the Northeast coast of Brazil, after enduring 36 hours of airports, lines, car transfers, planes and busses. Going through customs in a foreign country after three plane transfers is never easy for a group of 38 adults and children, but with the 19 extra duffel bags full of 900 pounds of supplies for our ministry, our hands were full, to put it mildly. But God's grace was in evidence, as the group hung loose and went with the flow. The children behaved amazingly, without a single gripe or fuss. Wow, God is powerful!

From the airport, the group met with our wonderful team of translators, who will accompany us the entire week in the fishing village. These young men and women greeted us with huge smiles and warm hearts. The love of Christ was evident in each one of them, and their mere presence seemed to infuse everyone in the group with an immediate love for the Brazilian people.

After a two hour bus ride through the beautiful, lush Brazilian countryside, we finally arrived here at our base of operations for the week. Following a quick dinner, prayer, scripture reading and devotion time, the group discussed the next day's activities. Anthenor, an attorney and pastor from Recife who has helped VFC immeasurably over the last few years in the purchase of the Kid's Place after-school center in Recife and the soon-to-be constructed Christian camp, joined us for dinner with his lovely family. His easy going demeanor, friendly manner and obvious love of Christ further underscored the fact that God has placed a very special community of Christians here in Brazil.

The team is motivated and unified! We feel extremely fortunate and blessed to be right here, right now, to honor our God who has given so much to set us free. We thank you for your continued prayers, and ask you to pray again tomorrow for a successful first visit to the fishing village.
Obrigado, and Boa Noite!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Brazil Spring Break 2008-Here We Come!!

Oi! Greetings from the 2008 Spring Break Brazilian Mission Team! Our group of 38 enthusiastic teammates, consisting of 19 adults and 19 children, are extremely excited about the experiences waiting for us in Brazil. We plan to post a daily entry to this blog, keeping our families, friends and supporters up to date on our activities and God’s amazing grace as he ministers to the children of Brazil through us. We invite you to check this blog daily for news and photos from the day’s events.
As we submit this first blog entry, our team is set for departure at DFW Airport. Today we leave Fort Worth with snow on the ground; in 24 hours we will be soaking up the sunny, hot, humid climate of a Brazilian summer. A change in the weather is not the only change our group will experience on this trip; we are confident that God will use this week not only to change the lives of hundreds of Brazilian villagers, but also to produce a profound change in the hearts and minds of our team members.
Our team has been preparing for this mission trip for months, attending meetings, learning Portuguese, buying supplies, planning programs and skits, packing bags and most of all, praying for a successful week. Our travels will take us through Miami, Rio de Janeiro, Recife and finally to tiny Abreu de Una, a small fishing village on the northeast Brazilian coast. Once we arrive, we will hit the ground running, setting up for a week full of Vacation Bible Schools, special programs for teens and moms, medical assistance for the villagers, and spreading a message of love, peace and joy to be found only through a personal relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.
Along with our personal belongings, our team has packed over 900 pounds of supplies that will accompany us to Brazil. But for our group, perhaps more important than what we take with us is what we leave behind: our jobs, schools, bills, homework, friends, families, comforts of home… and our egos. This Spring Break is not about us; we must leave the needs and concerns of our everyday world behind, and focus solely on spreading the love of Jesus to a village of God’s people who are truly in need. But by humbling ourselves to the needs of the Brazilian people, by serving them with a servant’s heart, we know we will experience God’s joy in our own lives.
We also know that this trip will not run smoothly. We have prepared ourselves for the inevitable issues and problems that will arise daily. But we will place our trust in God, and know that whatever we face, God will guide us, and we will persevere. Already, our group has experienced adversity. The passport of one of the key members of our team has inexplicably disappeared at the last minute. Our teammate, who has worked so hard to make this trip a reality, will not be able to leave the country with the rest of us. This event represents a perfect example of a question that dogs all of us: why do bad things happen to good people? (and believe me, this team member qualifies as a good person, in EVERY sense of the word) But the closer we get to God, the more we begin to understand. God uses times of adversity for His purposes, to strengthen our relationship with Him, and to further His kingdom. What good has come out of today’s unfortunate event? Well, for one, it immediately moved everyone on the team to pray for God’s help. We all of a sudden realized that this trip will not be successful unless we lean fully on Him for guidance and assistance. We must admit that we need Him, and we will rely on Him, through prayer. And pray we did! Boy, have we prayed today! We are fully confident that somehow, some way, our teammate will find a way to join us in Brazil, and God’s purpose will be served.
So onward we march. Brazil, here we come, ready or not!