Thursday, July 30, 2009


We apologise for the lack of posts this trip, we've had very little internet connection. Time has also been short with our tight schedule. We are very greatful for your prayers. It is truely amazing how God works through our friends and family.
Tonight (Thursday) was the last full day of camp. Although it is heartbreaking, it is comforting knowing that 167 kids were loved, fed, encouraged, and safe this week. Their heavy, hard hearts were softened and color truely started to come back to their faces. 2/3 of the population of the kids at camp came to know Christ as their Lord and Savior tonight. Many were on their faces, crying, or singing to the loudest of the their ability. It was truely a beautiful sight. This trip has not only changed these kids lives, but has transformed ours. No matter how many times we go on this trip, the outcome always varies, and the discipline God has in store for us is always unique and different.
Again, thank you for your prayers. We cannot wait to post pictures, videos, and testimonies once we have found the time. I hope everyone is well, and again, continue to pray for us. Tomorrow (Friday) is the last day of camp. We pray that God leaves His mark on those childrens hearts. Not only a mark, but a sincere transformation.

Monday, July 27, 2009

First Day at Camp!

Hello everyone,

After getting a good nights rest, we headed out to our first day of camp today. It was amazing to see the joy in the children's faces as they arrived. We have 167 kids, that's the most that have ever been to this camp! The kids are so sweet, and get really excited about everything. At lunch, they ate, and ate, and ate. They rarely get to eat until they are full. It was emotional and humbling to see such urgancy for food.
We had three awesome worship services with them today. We danced, screamed, sang, went "crazy" together, and it was incredible! Althouh Lecio (the pastor) spoke in portuguese during the entire service, the message didn't lose it's impact on us. It just proves that God's unity goes passed language barriers.
We were involved in various other activities such as a balloon party, dress up, hide and go seek in the jungle, and "throw-the-American's-in-the-pool." The children had a blast and we can tell that they are very excited and greatful to be here at the camp. Our prayers have been answered, for the children are not only kind, but soft hearted. Please continue to pray that many children will come to Christ and spread His love to their family and friends. Every soul counts :) We are very confident in God's plan and it is going great. Pray for our health and faith. We love everyone!

Thank you very much for your prayers! We will update tomorrow and hopefully post some pictures!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hello everyone,
(Sorry we haven't been updating, we haven't had internet connection until now)
We just want update you on the mission trip to Brazil. We have safely made it to Brazil at 9:30 on Saturday morning, praise God! We relaxed at the hotel for the afternoon to recooperate from our previous travels. At 6:00 PM we had a team meeting, followed by a visit to the camp facilities that we will be working at all next week. We had an amazing worship service with the Brazilian translaters and friends. Near the conclusion of our visit, we "reenacted" John 13, which teaches us to be humble, and to have a servent's heart. So we washed the feet of the new staff members at the camp, and prayed for them. Jesus Christ humbled Himself before His disciples, and washed their feet. We should also do this for one another.

Today we will be going to the favellas, or the slums. Please pray for our safty.
Also, please continue to pray for all the volunteers, missionaries, staff members at the camp, and please pray for our team. But, most of all please pray that God will be glorifed this week.
Thanks so much for your prayers, we love and miss you!! We'll keep you updated!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

June 19 - June 27, 2009

This group from Michigan and from New York leave Friday morning to partner in the coming week with our wonderful Brazilian VFC ministry team.

Upon landing in Recife on Saturday, we plan to head right on over to Coche and enjoy a special year end event with the Kids Place kids. After that short-but-sweet reunion, we will get back on our bus and head over to our ministry site for the week, Pitanga Ranch. This is the future home of the VFC campground, Kids Place, and church plant and we are very excited to see God open new doors for our VFC ministry in this part of Brazil.

We hope to be able to update this blog often, but we aren't sure what our internet access will be in this more rural and new setting. In case we don't have internet this coming week, here is a quick rundown of our plans. We will do VBS morning and afternoon Monday through Thursday for 300 kids, an evangelism/first-aid team will be reaching out to the community daily, and we plan to have the mom's dinner and teen outreach as well.

Thanks for your prayers and hopefully we will have a new post up by Sunday.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Brazil Spring Break 2009-Day 8

Greetings to our Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

As I sit here to write the final blog on our day of departure from the fishing village, I become aware that the promises contained in the Word of God have been fulfilled this week. I sit in the early morning hours under a thatched palapa on the beach outside our hotel, staring out at a calm sea. Old wooden fishing boats are gently bobbing up and down, as a few local fishermen row their flat wooden skiffs out to deeper water to provide for their family. Small swells are gently lapping at the beach, providing a rhythm to this new day, God's rhythm. Other than a few boats, a few fishermen and a vast blue ocean, there is nothing else in my field of vision...except for the cross; a tall, thin, irregular wooden cross erected many years ago out on the reef, maybe 500 yards directly offshore from our small hotel. This cross has been standing sentinel all week as our group has held early morning and late evening meetings under the palapa, serving as a silent reminder that Jesus is with us and in us this week. What promises from the Word has the cross fulfilled this week? After a week of serving with a servant's heart, God has given our entire team peace and contentment, mirrored by his gift of this early morning scene.

The power of God's presence in yesterday's events cannot be overstated; the emotions felt by our team, our pastors and our Brazilian brothers and sisters cannot be subdued. Yesterday was a day of Emmanuel: God With Us.

As our bus approached Pastor Josue's courtyard, the throng of children waiting at the gate, and of course escorting our bus by running gleefully alongside, was happier than ever. The robust cheers and laughter coming from these wonderful young children of God filled our hearts with joy as we got off the bus and jumped into the fray. Other villagers could not help but surround the entrance to the compound, as they have done every day, to experience in some way the Gold-given joy emanating from just inside.

Yesterday we planned an entire morning of sports; the children participated in a wide range of activities: American football, soccer, baseball, cheerleading, gymnastics, jump roping, ball games, tag, and any number of impromptu free-for-alls made up on the spot. These activities allowed our team to have some relatively unstructured, wonderful contact with the kids; hugs and shoulder rides were the order of the day, much to the delight of the kids. But the highlight of the morning was the last event; an all-out "paint-ball" type of dodgeball war, using cut up pantyhose filled with flour as the ammunition. clouds of white powder engulfed the soccer field, as the "grenades" found their target. You can only imagine the chaos which ensued, as the kids good-naturedly heaved the bombs at the opposing team. White flour covered everyone head to toe, including innocent bystanders. This event served as a perfect climax for the week.

After our good-byes with the children, our team settled back inside the compound with the team from McKinney Bible Church, who joined us for the day. Waska gave us an impromptu concert, followed by a wonderful presentation by Josue and Ceca about their dreams for the church and the village.

And then it was time to give back to all those who werved us so selflessly all week. The team gathered the pastors, interpreters and all those who assisted us this week and placed them in a circle; our team then knealt in from of them and washed their feet as a passage from the Book of John was read n English and Portuguese. Tears flowed freely on both sides of the circle.

Our team next grabbed garbage bags and set out criss-crossing the village, picking up trash and recyclables. The villagers waved from their porches, and seemed to really appreciate what God was bringing to their small community.

Late in the afternoon, as the sun was setting, the team set out for a small journey...along with hundreds of children and adult villagers who joined the procession to the beach. The dusty trail led through grassy fields, mangrove swamps, across rickety wooden bridges and through palm tree forests, until it opened up onto a magnificent vista of God's beautiful ocean. It was here, on the beach, where dozens of Brazilians, and 8 American teammates, came to be baptized on this beautiful day, to be witnessed by hundreds of villagers. Although our team had planned a small baptism ceremony, this scene could not have been scripted by even a Hollywood movie mogul; it was surreal, and God-given. What a magical place to publicly acknowledge that one has accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Talia Bailey, Kamryn Conway, boyd Bailey, Caroline Farmer, William Rattikin, Robbie Price, Ellee Conway, Mandy Miller, Grace Paukune and Jeff Rattikin were all either babtized or re-baptized in the blessed water. Pastor Josue stated that these waters were virgin; a baptism had never been perfomed in these waters, and from this day forward, this exact spot would be used for all future baptisms for evermore. What a humbling honor for our team; what an amazing ceremony that will never be forgotten. Kathy Paukune reported that she witnessed a butterfly, which is a sign of new life in the Christian faith, flitted around each person standing to be baptized, before, flying away. And this was a good ways offshore, where butterflys simply do not usually fly. Another sign of God With Us, an event planned by God before we were ever born. We were destined for this time, for this place, for this moment. Thanks be to God!

The day ended with another moving ceremony; this time the first communion in the history of the church was celebrated in the courtyard, shared by our team and dozens of supporters and villagers. What an absolutely sacred honor it was for our team to witness this important event in the life of this new Church.

I must sign off now, as the bus is waiting to leave for the trip back to Recife. A final note will follow in the next day or two.

Thank you for your prayers and support. We love each of you.

Obrigado, and Bom Dia1

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Brazil Spring Break 2009-Day 7

Greetings friends and family!!

Day by day it is becoming more difficult to determine whether our team traveled all the way to a remote corner of Brazil to serve others in need, or whether this trip is actually a pre-ordained journey to sanctify our own relationship with Christ. We have truely been blessed by the beautiful Brazilian people, by Pastor Josue and his ministry, and this special group of individuals who make up this team.

Tonight 15 teammates were able to attend the second teen night, filled with music, dancing, a drama skit and inspirational words from Josue. Again, over 40 more teens accepted Christ in their lives tonight, adding to the miraculous ground-swell of new Christians in this tiny community. Watching these children take the leap and commit their lives to Christ was inspiring beyond belief.

So much has changed in the village in the last year. The young teenagers who were in the VBS program last year are now participating as assistant leaders and interpreters in this year's program, setting a great example for their fellow teens in the village. They have matured both physically and spiritually, and indeed stand as a shining example of what can result from mission trip participation. With the 80 new teens accepting Christ in their lives this week, this fledgling church will undoubtedly continue to grow into a powerhouse of transformation in the community. Thanks be to God!

On this final day of VBS, the team desired to "finish strong." Unfortunately, that lofty goal was not possible for a growing number of teammates who are becoming quite ill. It has come to our attention that a virus is spreading throughout the region, affecting Brazilians and foreigners alike. This virus has filled the local hospital, and a number of teammates and interpreters have now fallen. We pray for their health to be restored before we begin our travels on Saturday.

But the rest of the team must persevere, and we pushed on to finish strong. The programs on this year's agenda were ambitious, but oh so exciting. On this last day, it seemed we had activity all over town. Children were either in the compound singing, working on their craft or watching a skit, or otherwise on the soccer field participating in biblically based physical activities. A number of teens continued to attend an art/sewing clinic on the future church property, and other teens continued to prepare their spiritual journals in a separate building several doors down from the compound. Three such teens used their journals to publicly make their testimony over the course of the day. These stories were God-inspired, and few dry eyes survived their telling. We were also mesmerized with the testimonies of three of our interpreters today, namely Wilson, Pedro and Regis. These young men personify what it means to put your faith in Jesus and turn your life around. Again, a blessing to our team.

At the end of the teen night, a bona-fide teen mixer broke out in the courtyard. It was so heartwarming to see such a large number of teens choosing to stay in the church compound and have a great time fellowshipping with each other. What a great example they will be for the rest of the community, including adults.

Tomorrow will be our final day to enjoy the village kids. We have planned a wide variety of games and sports to play, along with some dental hygeine performed by Ron Lee and whomever he drafts to be his accomplices. We also plan a village-wide trash pick-up, a visit to local families in their homes, and perhaps even a baptism ceremony in the ocean! This is shaping up to be one great day, and we obviously will be going out with a bang.

Pray for the health of our fallen teammates, and especially for the continued growth of Father Josue's ministry in this special place we hold dear in our hearts. May God bless you and your family.

Obrigado, and Boa Noite.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Brazil Spring Break 2009-Day 6

Boa Noite from the Fishing Village!

It has begun. Without question, God's presence in this ministry and in this village is now becoming extremely visible; the signs of God's direct involvement in the day's activities are so pronounced that they just cannot be denied or explained in any other way. An electric feeling is starting to overcome each missionary and Brazilian, and you can seemingly feel the power in the air.

Last night, the first teen night program packed the house, as over 100 teanaged boys and girls cheerily filed through the gate. The teens were mesmerized by Pastor Josue's words, by Cibelle's skit and by the interpretive dance performed by a Christian dance group made up of village teens. The crowd was so moved that Josue asked if anyone would like to receive Christ into their lives. As is the case with most teen groups. the response was slow to form. But Joseu explained that to accept Christ's invitation is a show of strenth and maturity. The more he spoke, the more teens came forward. In the end over 40 teenagers placed their trust in Christ that evening. As you can imagine, the scene was quite emotional, and the compound was filled with the Holy Spirit.

The team was in much better health this morning, but we knew we were in for another hot day. Ken led the group with his usual on target inspirational message, and the team set out with a firm resolve and light-hearted spirit.

The team knew early on that today's VBS would be special. As the bus approached the compound, children ran alongside waiving, yelling and laughing, and a huge group of kids started cheering when they saw the bus approaching from 500 yards away. Awesome!! The theme for today was to Love your Enemies, and at times the kids even cheered for another color group! Wow, how inspiring! Storytime involved a skit manned by Matthew Lee, Robbie Price, Patrick Farmer, Boyd Bailey and William Rattikin, replicating the story of the Good Samaritan.

Anne Green, Kim Jones, Sonya Bailey and Carol Jean Nicholaison kept ministering to the participants in the art/sewing side project, and Cindy Boehme, Maura Rattikin and others began another successful side project for a group of teens, introducing them to the art and importance of journaling. I told you our plans were ambitious this year, and we're not done yet!!

At break the team was treated to another surprise when a favorite from last year, Pastor/Lawyer Anthenor and his children passed through the gate! Anthenor has been a great friend and important legal ally to VFC for a number of years, and the team was ecstatic to see him. The boys jumped all over his son Yugo, and the girls beseiged his daughter.

The relationships between missionaries and the kids are deepening in a big way; it is such a joy to hear the kids riding their bikes up to the bus chanting one person's name, or requesting through the gate that a certain missionary come out and spend time with them. The team had a number of opportunities today to lead small groups through the Evangecube story, and the kids responded amazingly. Through their smiles, their songs, and their hugs, you can tell that Christ has touched their heart this week. They are so eager to feel, witness and share God's love; again, the energy passing from Brazilian to American and back is truly electric! This village is changing from the ground up; you can see it and you can feel it.

A late afternoon soccer game broke out, and the Americans, fresh off a two day benching, actually performed fairly well! Those missionaries and villagers not in the game were on the sidelines, sharing laughs and hand games (of the thumb wrestling and rock, paper, scissors variety). Great camaraderie was felt by all.

And then it was time for one of our most important outreaches; the Men's Night Dinner. It is one thing to have success with the children and the teens; it is another thing to successfully make an impact on over 100 seasoned men who live their lives according to local custom centuries in the making. The men of the village are typically fishermen who perceive themselves as macho, independent, and in no need of assistance. But they are lost, with no answers, and no real hope in their mind. The evening began well, with the men filing in and really enjoying games of horshoes and bocci ball. Josue and staff cooked up some truly excellent skewers of steak and chicken. 13 men of our team attended the event, and made a point of asking the guests about their life, their livelihood, their families, and their dreams. When asked what they would wish for if anything was possible, most of the men had a hard time seeing themselves as anything more than simple fishermen just subsisting. But when really pressed, they began to dream of the establishment of a fishing cooperative for the village, with a warehouse/freezers and larger boats/motors, allowing them to greatly expand their fishing territory and quality of their harvest. Again, it seems that there is a strong opportunity for some micro-finance investments to significantly impact the future of this community, and VFC intends to follow through!

But the best was yet to come. We may look back on this evening years from now and point to Ken Miller's discussion with the men as a key turning point in the lives of the villagers and their families. Simply put, Ken knocked it out of the park! His message of what it means to be a real man, well-translated by Anthenor, tugged on the conscience of everyone present. It would be impossible to believe that most men did not go home, consider what they just heard, and begin treating their spouse, kids and themselves with more love, pride and respect. And it would be surprising if the men do not begin to seek out Pastor Josue to learn more about God's love for them as they are, and the free offer of eternal life through Jesus Christ. Just as last year's short term mission directly led to the start of the church, it is very apparent that this year's trip will not only build up the new church, but also bring about significant transformation in the teens and men in the community. All this for the glory of God!

As you can see, all your prayers are being answered this week, tangibly and directly. This team thanks you for your prayers, and asks you to help us finish strong. With tomorrow's always emotional last day of VBS, coupled with the second teen night, a lot of life-changing opportunities await.

God bless you.
Obrigado and Boa Noite.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Brazil Spring Break 2009-Day 5

Good evening friends!

Your Mission Team is in high spirits after another great day in Northeast Brazil. On this day surprises lurked around every corner, keeping enthusiasm high and praise for God rampant.

We were saddened this morning to learn that two of our teammates had taken ill overnight, and would not be able to attend the sessions today. 12 year old Ellee Conway was taken to the area clinic late last night as a precaution due to dehydration, and Suzie Jones was forced to stay at the hotel, also suffering from the effects of dehydration. The heat and humidity over the last two days have been brutal, and with all the constant activity, our team has struggled to keep our fluid intake at a healthy level.

Dr. John Conway has been the busiest person on the team, forced to set up a make-shift Missionary Clinic to handle all the medical issues all of a sudden affecting the team. John was called to give medical assistance to five teammates who "bonked" yesterday ("bonked" is a cycling term used to describe a condition where a cyclist gets dizzy and almost passes out due to a shortage of fuel and hydration). These teammates were forced to seek shade, water and varying degrees of rest before they were able to resume the activities. Dr. Conway has also had to deal with a plethora of cuts, scrapes and stomach ailments affecting the team; we are very fortunate to have him on board this week.

Early this morning, our own VFC marathon team took to the streets of Sao Jose for their daily light jog, which turned into more of a swim as they were caught in a sudden downpour. Colin Bailey, Mark Paukune, Ken Miller, Ron Lee and Jeff Farmer's apparent raindance was quite successful, in that heavy rain plagued us
intermittently throughout the day.

In this morning's devotional, Ken Miller reminded the team that we are being sculpted into just what God intends for us, and to rest assured that whatever circumstances we find ourselves in, God is using it to create something beautiful in, by and through us. John Conway offered some much needed advice on how to stave off heat-related problems, and Brandon Boehme suggested that our group should expect something great from God today.

Brandon's message (although slightly contrived due to some prior inside information), deemed to be prophetic. Immediately after the gates closed on a spirited rotation with this morning's group, the team gathered in the middle of the courtyard for a quick meeting. Much to our delight and surprise, the gates swung open and in walked David and Paul Breedlove!!! The team was shocked, and fell all over themselves trying to get their arms around the two Breedloves. It turns out that after getting Kent safely back to Fort Worth, the family decided that David and Paul should make the trip after all, with Kelly staying home to care for Kent and Isabella. Although the team continued to miss Kelly, Kent and Isabella in a big way, we were ecstatic to have an opportunity to share this wonderful experience with as many Breedloves as God would let us have. Both Breedlove men jumped into the fray immediately, as the boisterous afternoon group was ready for action.

During the break between sessions, the team was treated to a stirring testimony by Angela Price, who spoke for her children and husband Robert, who stayed home in Fort Worth to take care of thier youngest child. Angela and Robert have a passion for serving, as evidenced by their commitment to be temporary foster parents for newborns before being placed with their adopting families through agencies such as the Edna Gladney Center. Thank you Angela, Robert and family, for giving these children an irreplacable head-start in life.

Also during the break, the compound was absolutely inundated by rain. Of course, a little rain would never stop the likes of Grace Paukune, Caroline Farmer and Talia Bailey, among others, who made the flooding courtyard their own personal Olympic swimming pool. But as only God would have it, the skies cleared before the afternoon session began.

While the theme of yesterday's sessions was to love yourself, today's theme centered around loving your neighbor. The craft rotation was especially significant, in that the children were asked to make a flower pen (using ballpoint pens topped with an artificial but beautiful flower), with a scripture passage attached. The children were directed to give the completed flower pen to someone else in the village as a gift. The thought of giving a gift to another is alien to many villagers in this environment, and the team is confident that today's activities instilled a new way of thinking in the hearts and minds of the children.

Several members of the team again split off with a number of preselected teens to give instruction in art and sewing. Again, the talented Brazilians created absolutley stunning works. It seems that this village certainly has the talent and interest necessary for a well-placed micro-finance investment to successfully take root.

While waiting for the bus after the second session, the younger teammates were fascinated by watching the locals cut into some just-caught live crabs. Andrew Link tried his hand at this, only to find out that cutting up a live crab has its drawbacks! What else happens during breaks? Well, the courtyard is always buzzing with the usual breaktime soccer and football free-for-alls, headed up by the motley crew of Matthew Lee, Patrick Farmer (Patrick seems to appear out of nowhere anytime a ball comes into view!), William Rattikin, Boyd Bailey and Paul Breedlove. And wherever our college-aged interpreters are, you are sure to find Andrew Link, Hudson Miller, and Markham Paukune striking up a skills competition of one sort or another. Mandy Miller can perform some amazing moves with the soccer ball, and has on more than one occasion left an older opponent whiffing air as she deftly slides the ball past them. Mandy, you need to take up competitive soccer again!

The clandestine activities of Kamryn Conway, Margaret Lee, Sarah Price, Hilary Rattikin and Caroline Rattikin are a little worrisome; we can only hope they are not plotting some sort of overthrow of the compound before week's end! As for Lindsey Rattikin, one can usually find her busily downloading teammates' photographs for the upcoming slideshow presentation, or hanging out listening to original music of our favorite musician Waska. And the adults? It seems that we spend two solid hours every day stacking chairs, unstacking chairs, moving chairs left, moving chairs right. It has become a running joke, one that seems to be shared by every church group in existence. Such is the life of a short term missionary. Some things never change.

Tonight, a group of thwelve teammates headed back to the village for the first of two teen nights. The event is being attended by 100 or so teens each night. Under the direction of Cibelle and her boyfriend, the teens will hear wonderful information and emotional testimonies about the proper roles of Christian men and women, the proper place of sexuality in one's life, and the importance of self-esteem, self-confidence and respect for others. Since the team has not yet arrived back at the hotel, a full report on the success of this night will be included in a future blog. But there is no question that this event is destined to be successful, as many on the team believe that this opportunity to reach out to the teenage population of this village is perhaps the most important lesson we are called to give this year.

Again, we would like to close with scripture:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. --Ephesians 2;8-10

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. -- Matthew 11:28-30

Obrigado, and Boa Noite!!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Brazil Spring Break 2009-Day 4

Greetings from your Brazil Mission Team!

The first full day of any organized event is always preceded with a certain level of anxiety, as a handful of details remain to be worked out and certain important obligations rest in the hands of others outside of your direct control. And so it was this morning as our team gathered at 7:30 am under the thatched covering for our morning devotional. As much forethought and coordination went into the Vacation Bible School activities planned for this week, the team still had no idea how the children would respond, whether all the needed supplies would show up, and whether we adequately communicated our plans to the Brazilian staff who would be responsible for much of the logistics. But with all 44 people placing their complete faith in God, we were able to carry on as if everything was perfectly in order.

Though noone on the team feels adequate to serve such an important purpose, Ken Miller remainded us at the devotional that God has always chosen to spread his love and grace though imperfect individuals. As broken jars of clay, we can still be used by God for His holy purpose, and through our cracks God's light can shine through. The 44 broken pots represented by our team were ready to be filled to the brim with God's work, and we eagerly set out for the village.

Once at the village, final set-up and coordination took place, and amazingly enough, everything came together at the last minute. Small groups huddled together in prayer, asking God to be present in the compound and give us direction on how to communicate His love to a non-English speaking group of young children. Roughly 85 kids aged 3-8 filed through the gate promptly at 9:30 am, with big smiles and even bigger expectations, as news of last year's successful program had been discussed around the village for months. The children were divided into three groups, represented by the colors yellow, red and blue. Team pride was cultivated quickly, as chants of Amarelho!!, Vermelho!! and Azur!!! filled the compound. Once the initial frenzy began to abate, the children gathered on the covered open-air patio, where Waska, Daniel, Keira and Cibelle led a spirited set of Brazilian praise songs. The kids were extremely animated, as each song was accompanied by hops, jumps, dance moves and hand gestures. These Brazilians absolutely put their entire body into their worship and praise! Just like last year, the teams were then led through a rotation of activities, including a wonderful skit/puppet show, a craft center where the kids made an image of their face on the back of a handheld mirror, and a sports activity out on the soccer field, where the children played under a giant parachute. The morning ended with more praise songs and a quick snack before saying Tchou for the day to this group of young kids.

During the rotation, Anne Green and Kim Jones met with 8-10 preselected teenagers at the future churchsite for an art project. There, the teens spent an hour and a half drawing a self-portrait, as they view themselves. Anne reminded each of them that God created them exactly how He wanted them to be, and though we all have eyes, nose, mouth, etc., we are all unique and perfect creations in His eyes. The art leaders discussed and celebrated differences in skin-tone and other features, but interestingly enough, when drawing their own self-portrait, the Brazilians used many different colors for their skin; pinks, reds, any number of hues. In other words, they drew how they viewed themselves, and skin color was not something that they even focused on. They drew from their heart, and illustrated their creative souls rather than their physical traits. Any such differences were invisible in their eyes. Once again, the Brazilians have plenty to teach Americans, and we were grateful for today's message.

The heat was certainly a factor today, as a number of American teammates began to wither in the Brazilian summer sun. Not used to this level of running, jumping, yelling and singing for two solid hours in the direct morning sun, the team was fully ready for a rest as the last child left the gate. Propel seems to be the unofficial sponsor for this year's team, as the team gulped down gallons of the stuff over the course of the day.

During the break, the cooks put on a very good meal, which served to replenish everyone's energy. The team enjoyed the recuperation, and took the time to visit more with the interpreters while setting up for the afternoon activities. At 2:00, the gates swung opened again and 60-70 more kids filed in, this time aged 9-13. These kids were really ready to rock, and our team responded well, as the good natured rivalry among the three color groups intensified. One of the more heart-warming scens of the day took place when a mentally challenged young girl was brought to the gate. 17 year old Lindsey Rattikin rose to the occasion, hopped up and reached for the girl, requesting that the girl come with her and be placed on Lindsey's Amarelho (Yellow) team. The girl never left Lindsey's arms for two solid hours, but wore a broad smile the entire afternoon. God indeed used young Lindsey to give the special needs Brazilian girl a wonderful gift this day.

During the afternoon rotation, Julie Miller, Maura Rattikin and AnnaBelle Carrasco led 10 teenagers in a sewing project at the churchsite. It is VFC's dream to establish a microfinance opportunity in the village, where we are able to raise capital to jumpstart employment opportunities for the villagers. The teens made fabulous skirts and accessories from material the team brought along, and proved to be extremely fast learners in the art of sewing. It is possible that an industry was born this afternoon!

Prior to leaving the compound this evening, the team was treated to wonderful testimonies from the Farmer and Paukune families, whose faith journies inspired everyone in attendance. These families were followed up by the testimonies of our program leaders Waska and Keira. Both were extremely moving and emotional. Each of these wonderful Brazilians has been through many tough times, and sacrificed many opportunities because they have chosen to follow the Lord's calling. Waska has stayed with Josue and his ministry despite other chances to succeed financially, and Keira was called to the ministry after serving as a cook for the VFC team last spring break. At the time, she became overcome with the Lord's goodness after watching our American team from a year ago reach out to the poverty-stricken children of the village and take them into our arms and love them. It is a joyful feeling to learn that your actions have played a role in leading someone to Christ. God's methods are amazing!

Our evening ended with three more amazing team testimonials. After dinner, Annabelle Carrasco, Amy Sharp, Carol Jean Nicholaison and the Bailey family shared how God has called them into His ministry to serve others, and we are ever so proud to serve alongside each one of them.

Tomorrow should be a great day. All the preliminaries in registering children and coordinating the logistics of the three station rotation have been disposed of, and the VBS activities should be a time to let it all out and celebrate. The team does hope to have an opportunity to begin pulling aside some individuals and telling the story of God's love for them through the use of the Evangicube mission tool. The day will be a long one, however, as we will stage our first of two teen nights in the village. Please keep the village's teenagers in your prayers tonight, as this very impressionable group of young adults are beseiged by dangerous, wrong and life-crippling messages on a daily basis. We firmly believe that God has sent us here this year precisely to make a difference in these teens' lives, and it starts tomorrow. All things are possible in God, and we accept his calling with gratitude and excitement.

Note to our wonderful blog followers: The team appreciates your kind words of encouragement as you leave comments to this blog. It is so nice to know that we are not alone, but are supported by hundreds of friends and family back at home. Please keep up your prayers, as it is indeed bringing good forutne on all of us in Brazil. Also, please note that for the next three nights, the team will be engaged in nightime activities in the village in addition to our daytime children's activities; therefore, the blog may not be posted until very late that evening. Perhaps you can enjoy it with a cup of coffee the following morning!

Blessings, Obrigado and Boa Noite from Brazil!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Brazil Spring Break 2009-Day 3

Oi, amigos!!

As expected, God filled our first full day in Brazil with a multitude of excitement, beauty, action, planning and in the end, a fair amount of exhaustion.

The team was greeted with a warm sun this morning, which would soon turn into what even a Texan would call a hot sun. But fueled with a wonderful breakfast prepared by the friendly hotel staff, the team was up to any challenge this day would present. A very special morning devotional was enjoyed by all, as Ken challenged us to allow God to use us to bear fruit this week, while remaining firmly attached to the vine of Christ. Brandon and Cindy also introduced a new tradition at the morning devotional, asking each family unit to give their testimony as a way of furthering the special bonding already enjoyed by this team. The Millers, Conways and Rattikins offered up their unique and remarkable pathways to putting their trust in Christ. The candor and frankness was appreciated by all, and served to put many minds at ease and bring the group ever closer.

After the devotional, the group made our annual pilgrimmage to the reef just offshore. A boat picked us up right from the beach, and slowly chugged its way out to the reef. On this day, most of the reef remained just under the surface of the water, but the team was able to walk out onto the reef and marvel at this unique work of God. Just as Ken reminded us this morning in his discussion of the vine, the branches and the fruit, it was evident that God has set up this same relationship in the reef system. The remarkable living organism that is the reef shelters and gives life to myriads of other forms of life, such as sea urchins, crabs, fish and moss, to name a few. Without remaining in the reef, the other organisms would have no chance to live. So it is with God and His people. It was obvious to all that God's message to the team this morning was that we must remain tightly attached to Jesus Christ as we serve our God this week, and God used both Ken and the reef to deliver this message in stereo!

After a quick lunch, the team boarded the un-airconditioned bus (A/C is overrated, we keep telling ourselves)and took the short drive to the fishing village. This time by daylight, the team could fully appreciate the surroundings. The village can only be reached by a bumpy dirt road, winding through the middle of a cocunut palm grove and accented by wild birds of paradise flowers shooting up from the grassy terrain. Once the village is reached, the dusty roads lie in stark contrast to the white-washed facades and bright red tile roofs of most of the open air dwellings. But just like last night, the bus was greeted by smiling villagers and children running alongside the bus, excited for another opportunity to share God's love with the Americans. Once in Pastor Josue's compound, the team was formally introduced to the interpreters who would be serving alongside us this week. Then the group split up, with Brandon and cindy huddling up with Josue and Ceca to finalize VBS plans, the women veered off to prepare for the craft rotations, and the men and boys headed out to the soccer field to be tortured by the waiting Brazilian teams.

Yes it was hot. Yes it was humid. But the only ones who seemed to notice were the overmatched men of our team, who started out with fire but quickly self-combusted on the dirt field. Apparently, no lessons were learned last year, as the American men, as we have a tendency to do, overdid things, to put it mildly. The Brazilians enjoyed running circles around our poor excuse for opposition. Luckily for us, our more youthful teammates, such as Markham Paukune, Hudson Miller, Andrew Link, William Rattikin, Boyd Bailey and Robbie Price were not so easily handled by the Brazilians, and all of them held their own quite nicely.

Nearby, Mark Paukune and Ron Lee introduced another group to American football, perhaps because they felt we may still have a small edge in that endeavor. But it didn't take too long for the Brazilians' passes to start spiraling. We may be in for a long week on the sports field... Another wonderful scene was played out on the sidelines, as Interpreter Daniel held court with a group of Brazilian and American girls, including Margaret Lee, Caroline Rattikin, Talia Bailey, Hilary Rattikin, Grace Paukune and Ellie Conway. Connections and friendships formed quickly.

Before leaving, the team enjoyed a short walk through the village to the future home of Pastor Josue's church, on land purchased by VFC last year. The location was beautiful, shaded by towering mango and other exotic fruit-bearing trees. In fact, Daniel showed his prowess by climbing to the top of what must have been a forty foot tree to shake down some exotic fruit for the Americans to field-test. Grace Paukune tried to follow suit, but didn't quite enjoy the same success :). The team so looks forward to the day that Josue can move his church out of his open air compound and into a brand new church-specific building. But until then, God seems to be doing just fine ministering to the village out of the dusty but quaint courtyard inside the compound.

Dinner was followed by three more very meaningful family testimonies, as the Links, Lees and Anne Green shared their road to Christ. Wow, what an amazing group of people God has brought together on this trip!

Tomorrow is a huge day for the team, as we stage the first full day of Vacation Bible School activities. We expect one hundred children to enter the compound tomorrow morning, followed by one hundred more for the afternoon session. Please keep the team in your prayers, as we surrender every part of ourselves to deliver God's peace and love to our new-found Brazilian friends. As we rest our minds and bodies for tomorrow's all-important events, we would like to close with a passage of scripture shared by Ted Kitchens last week at Christ Chapel in Fort Worth and, in a remarkable but certainly not cincidental sign of God's direct involvement in our team's mission this week, also quoted by Pastor Josue in last night's Brazilian service:

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.

The peace of the Lord be with each of you.
Obrigado, and Boa Noite.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Brazil Spring Break 2009-Day 2

Greetings from Brazil!!

One year ago the VFC Brazil team left the small fishing village of Abreau de Una after a very emotional and successful week of staging the village's first bible study programs in Pastor Josue's missionary compound. It was evident to all that something very special had occurred that week, as village children and adults alike responded to God's call and took the first baby steps in considering His message of love, forgiveness and acceptance. As the team left the gates for the last time, a clear message was sent by God to the team and the villagers: this was just the bieginning, and God was already extending an invitation to return.

What a difference a year makes. The team arrived back in the fishing village this evening, and found not just a sleepy compound, but a full-fledged church, a church that sprouted from the vacation bible school programs organized by the VFC team last year. What a thrill it was for the team to participate tonight in the one year anniversary of the church, an evening that served as a perfect intro to a very ambitious week.

The day began early, as the team deboarded the plane after arriving in Salvador, Brazil. After a one hour layover, the plane continued its flight to Recife. The door of the plane opened and the first face we see is that of our dear friend Emmanuel, who was such a help and inspiration to all of us last year. We then were able to reaquaint ourselves with Leciu, David, Deborah, Josue, Wilson, Waska, Daniel, Regis and others who came out to greet our flight. Hugs and laughs were exchanged, and they escorted us through the airport to board the bus for the 1-2 hour drive to our hotel near the fishing village. All in all, it took the team 24 hours from our arrival at DFW to reach our destination. But the day was beautiful, the hotel staff had a hot lunch prepared, and the ocean breezes melted away any travel related stress felt by the team.

Fortunately, we had a few hours to decompress and get organized before our first event. At 5:00, Ken Miller led the team though our first devotional, and it was at this time of reflection that the team was able to shut out the rest of the world and fully dedicate ourselves to a week of fulfilling God's mission here in Brazil. With an air of excitement, we ate a quick dinner and boarded the bus to the fishing village for the worship service.

The service could not have been more special. The event was more than just the vacation bible school we left behind last year. It was a full-fledged worship service, with Waska leading a large number of kids, teens and adults through some high energy worship songs. These kids were worshiping the greatness of God with all their hearts! It was incredibly inspiring. Josue graced us with a memorable sermon full of praise and thanks. The American contingent recieved necklaces made by the village children, and enjoyed being serenaded by some beautiful interpretive dancing by dozons of girls. Many of the worshipers were participants in last year's programs, and it was wonderful to recognize and be recognized by these bright-eyed children.

But the highlight of the evening occurred when Pastor Josue recoginzed everyone who had found a relationship with Jesus Christ as a result of attending service at the church in the last year. The dozens and dozens of new Christians that stood on stage brought tears to our team, and we were ever so thankful to have had an opportunity to play a role in the establishment of this special church.

Today's post would not be complete without recognizing five teammates who did not get to attend tonight's celebration. But the presence of the Breedlove family's spirit was felt by all. To Kelly, David, Kent, Isabella and Paul, we want you to know that we carry each of you in our heart and mind this week, and you will continue to play a huge role in the success of our mission. Your example of what it means to live a Christ-centered life has been an inspiration to all of us, and we are forever grateful to be blessed by your friendship. May God bless you all.

The team is now all in bed, getting some much-needed rest before the week's activities begin in earnest. May the love of Jesus Christ fill your hearts in the days ahead. We look forward to posting again tomorrow.
Obrigado e Boa Noite!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Brazil Spring Break 2009-Day 1 UPDATE!!!

The team is on the plane in Miami and ready for takeoff; however, in the space of 20 minutes, while rushing to catch the plane, one of life's unexpected events has occurred and shaken everyone on the team. Young Kent Breedlove, an exuberant young man who was so looking forward to ministering the kids of Brazil, tripped in the airport and broke his arm. No information is currently available, but the entire Breedlove family has remained in Miami to care for Kent. God willing, they possibly could have the arm set tonight and join us in a day or two. In any event, please keep Kent and the entire Breedlove family in your prayers. The rest of the team will carry on in Kent's honor, with an even greater commitment to nurture and care for those in need.
Blessings to all.

Brazil Spring Break 2009-Day 1

Good evening from the runway in Miami!

The Brazil Mission Team has had an uneventful flight to Miami; however, we have an extrmely tight connection to our Brazil flight, so there will be no time to post an extensive blog this evening. Just know that all is well, everyone made the flight, and we are extremely excited. We look forward to a very eventful day tomorrow, and of course all details will be posted on this blog!
God bless you, and have a great evening.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Brazil Spring Break 2009-Prologue

Good evening Brothers and Sisters in Christ!

Christmastime in March; that is what it feels like for the 49 team members set to embark on another magical trip to our beloved fishing village on the coast of Northeast Brazil, Abreu do Una. In just four days, our team will board a flight that will quite literally take us closer to God. Though our destination is too small to even appear on most Brazilian maps, it occupies a huge place in the hearts and minds of this special group of VFC missionaries.

Why does it feel like Christmas? Certainly not from the mild Fort Worth winter we have been experiencing. But a certain holiday-like frenzy has mobilized the individuals and families involved in this spring's endeavor. The team has been quite busy preparing for what should be a truly extraordinary week in Brazil. Meetings have been attended, Portuguese lessons have been studied, supplies have been purchased and collected, support letters to friends and family have been sent out and responded to, prayers have been prayed. Our hearts are full of anticipation, excitement, and perhaps even a dose of anxiety as the big day gets closer. Yes, quite like the Christmas season. But in the end, we know that all our hard work and effort results in a gift; the gift of our Lord Jesus Christ dwelling within us. Quite like Christmas indeed.

Of the 49 people headed to Brazil on Friday, 20 of us are returning from last year's spring break team, extremely excited to renew the friendships developed last year with the villagers, pastors and interpreters. Those of you who followed this blog last spring may recall the amazing blessings God bestowed that week, not only on the villagers but also on each member of our team. God changed lives on that trip in ways none of us could have predicted, in ways none of us will ever forget. In fact, it is extrmely humbling to note that prior to our arrival last year, Pastor Josue had been attempting to establish a weekly service in the fishing village for over three years,to no avail. But God so helped us in reaching out to the children, teens and adults of the village that the week after we left, Pastor Josue was blessed with over 200 people attending his first church service, and attendance of 75-200 villagers has continued on a weekly basis ever since! That kind of immediate and tangible answer to our hopes, dreams, prayers and effort is truly awe-inspiring. It is God revealing his glory to all involved, directly and personally. Thanks be to God!

But the blessings are only beginning. The 20 returnees have been wowed by the enthusiasm, dedication, talent and love for Christ offered up by the 29 newcomers on the team. Blog followers will have an opportunity to learn more about everyone on future blogs, but suffice it to say that this team is truly something special. We are especially blessed to be joined this year by Ken Miller, a pastor with Christ Chapel Bible Church in Fort Worth and his wife Julie Miller, a veteran of numerous summer Brazil teams working in Recife. This team has already proven its tightness by putting on a number of successful pre-trip events, such as a wonderful team-wide yard sale, supply drives and teambuilding luncheons and dinners.

Once again, our group will be ably headed up by Brandon and Cindy Boehme, who have dedicated themselves to spreading God's love to the impoverished children and adults of Recife and the fishing village. The Boehmes' selfless contributions have sprouted amazing results; a church plant in the fishing village, a daytime children's center in the heart of Recife and the purchase of rural property to be used as a Christian summer camp. Any success our team enjoys next week must be directly attributed to the vision and leadership of these two faithful servants.

Our plans for the week are ambitious, building upon the seeds planted last spring. But excitement is brewing both here and in the village, where the children and adults alike are anxiously waiting for our arrival. We are ever so humbled to have the opportunity to allow God to use us to spread his life-giving love and grace to a people in need, and we stand ready to give all honor and glory to Him by ministering to our brothers and sisters in Brazil.

Please keep this team in your prayers, along with the pastors, interpreters, cooks and all other support people in Brazil who will make this trip a reality. May God bless you and your family, and please know how much this team appreciates your interest and support.

Please check back on Friday as we begin our daily blog posts from Brazil.
Obrigado, and Boa Noite!