Thursday, March 18, 2010

“Deus é tão bom…” (God is so good)

Each day we are here, our team grows closer together and our love for the Brazilians gets stronger. The children continue to get more comfortable with us. Their enthusiasm is contagious. And, they have each found their buddies among the Americans. We play, we laugh, we sing, and we expend so much energy together. Through their time in class learning about American traditions (curiosities) they have grown fond of Dr. Pepper, Easter candy and Christmas bells. Along the way they have also heard much about our Savior and why we celebrate His birth, His resurrection and how that impacts our everyday family lives.
The time with the classes in the mornings is so much fun. The children have bright, shining faces. They are beautiful and smart. To our American eyes, it’s hard to see how can be so bright, clean and happy when they’re living in a pieced-together home. It seems that these families work so hard to provide for basic needs.
Today, we visited a new set of families in the favela. We went to a poorer part of the community called “cardboard village.” It was heart-breaking on so many levels. Most of us saw families struggling to get food on the table each day. Just as we are when we have guests in our home, they are nervous for us to be there. One family has struggles so complicated the mother has no hope. Another family had to build their home on stilts over a sewage drain, because they had no other place to go. While their circumstances are in many ways so different from ours, their hearts are the same. They love their children and want more for them. They need Jesus as their Savior.
Sadly, tomorrow is our last day at Kids Place and in the favela. The time has been far too short. We will follow the same schedule tomorrow, with one addition. The US team will be hosting all the families we’ve met with this week for dinner at Kids Place tomorrow night. It will be an American meal – hamburgers, potato salad and such.
Please pray for our time with the families tomorrow. Pray God would give us wisdom in serving and encouraging these families. Pray for the seeds planted. Pray that the new believers would be encouraged and built up.
Laugh out loud moment: We were entertained by the kids on the team tonight when they serenaded our sweet bus driver, Flavio. The girls made up a song; the boys had an elaborate rap. Flavio loved it and tried to take Cole Miltenberger home with him.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Lots of rain, but no dampened spirits

Today was another great day at Kids Place. Once again, we started the day with a great devotion by Randy and Emily Elston. Randy also shared his testimony, which blessed all of us. Mary Ann Miltenberger commented on what a blessing the trip has been. She couldn’t be more right. And, a rain shower during our devotion cooled things off for a few minutes!
The kids were full of energy when we arrived this morning. The children in the families we visited seem to be particularly enjoying their time with us. They were excited to see us again today. It is so much fun to walk into a place and be smothered with affection.
We were all a little more prepared for our time with the kids. One highlight was when Waska, an interpreter, brought his guitar into a classroom. The kids were so excited. They danced and sang with enthusiasm. It was infectious. Being with these kids just makes you smile.
Again, the dads were called on to swing, jump, tote, and even dance with the kids during playground time. John Reding was such a good sport as child after child wanted him to “jump” them up into the air.
After lunch, we prepared to go visit the families again. Today, we repaired the roof of the woman (Luciene) who accepted Jesus as her Savior yesterday. She told us before we went to her house that her husband also wanted to pray and receive Jesus as his Savior. But, he works long hours every day, and we weren’t sure when we could visit with him. So, we prayed for an opportunity on the way to their home. In God’s usual way, He surprised us. Claudio was home when we arrived. He and the men worked together to repair his roof. It was a great time of fellowship. As we were leaving, he prayed with us and asked Jesus to be His Savior.
The Reding family also had the privilege of leading the two girls in the family they visited to Christ. It’s so neat to see God working in such awesome ways.
The home the Baileys and Rizenbergs visited enjoyed an extreme home makeover, courtesy of Sonya. From what we hear, it looks great!
Please pray as we visit new families tomorrow. These two days have been full of significant time with the families. We are looking forward to what God has in store with the other women. Please also pray for stamina. We are definitely tired at the end of each day! And, please be praying for the dinner on Friday night. All of the families we have met with will (hopefully!) come to Kids Place for an “American” dinner.
Laugh out loud moment: When the Dodds met with Luciene and Claudio’s family, Claudio’s mother also stopped by. She enjoyed visiting with us. But, she suggested to Brian that he needed to eat a little less and exercise a little more! You have to love someone who speaks their mind!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Christmas, Birthday Parties, Texas and Easter

What do these things have in common? They are the themes that each family team is using during our teaching times with the kids. Each morning this week, we’re responsible for teaching a group of about 20 kids a Bible verse, telling them about one of the above “American curiosities,” and leading a playground game.
The day started with a great devotion and singing time. Rick and Chad Rizenbergs challenged us to think about what a servant really is. It was a great way to start our day of service.
The kids are delightful and so eager to be with us. The playground time is especially fun. The Miltenberger men proved themselves to be great playground equipment. Lew toted at least a dozen kids around on his back, while Cole was dogpiled by several kiddos. So many of these children don’t have dads at home for one reason or another; they loved the attention from all the dads on our team.
After the morning classes, we had the opportunity to serve the kids lunch. I think I speak for the team when I say that serving these children has been more of a blessing for us than them.
We enjoyed another delightful – and delicious lunch – laughing with the Brazilian translators. They are a wonderful group of men and women.
I’m not sure whether the morning or the afternoon was more fun. Today was our first day to spend time in the homes of four of the families in the favela.
The mothers picked us up at Kid's Place and took us to their homes. With the help of the translators, we evaluated their needs and fixed what we could. The Miltenbergers and and Elstons repaired a roof for a precious widow. They saw the Lord provide in a big way when the woman’s skilled neighbor arrived to help make the roof repairs. (The roofs are easy to fall through, so we had to be careful not to cause more harm than good.)
The Reding family surveyed a home and realized they wouldn’t be able to make all the repairs needed. So, Sarah entertained the beautiful twin girls. Everyone had a chance to get to know the family.
The Dodds also encountered a roof that was beyond our level of expertise. But, it was an amazing afternoon nonetheless. When we first arrived, the visit seemed very “official,” not relaxed for any of us. But, as the afternoon went on, it began to feel like we were just visiting with friends. Lucienne’s delightful mother-in-law dropped in, full of personality. Then the Lord turned our conversation to Him. Lucienne told the translator she was afraid of what her family would say if she asked Jesus to be her Savior. As we talked, her heart truly opened to Him. It was a privilege to be present as she became a daughter of the King.
The Baileys and the Risenbergs spent hours with the family they were paired with learning and sharing their respective lives. Rick said he feels like the people in the Favela saw them as Christ's representatives and one neighbor took the opportunity to come and ask for the group to pray for four of her family members who are currently in prison and need our Lord's grace.
Sonya Bailey continues to be a behind-the-scenes wonder. I’m not sure how she does it, but she always seems to be helping everywhere.
Thank you for praying for us. The Lord’s presence was definitely felt today as we went into the favela.
Please pray for the children to feel Christ’s love through us. Please pray for open hearts for the women/families we are spending time with. Please pray for our submission to the Lord’s direction as we go through our days. `
Laugh out loud moment: After a great lunch and full stomachs the men were asked to unload large and heavy roofing tiles from a van parked out back into the Kid's Place play area. Within in minutes of feeling satisfied of a job well done, a decision was made to deliver the just unloaded tiles directly to the homes in the Favela. So immediately back they went much to the dismay of our sweaty and tired selves.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Boa Noite! (Goodnight from Recife)

Those words come at the end of a very full 36 hour day. All our families are on their way to bed in beautiful Brazil. We began the trek back at DFW early Sunday and arrived safely in Recife to the warm greeting of Pastor Lecio and many others at the airport. After a brief stop to drop our bags and change clothes we headed straight over to Kid’s Place.
When we arrived, Cole, Paul, Chad, Nathan and the dads put their back into lifting and hauling the 24 giant duffels we brought with supplies and gifts for the ministry here. Our group began to mingle with the children who were just finishing up their lunches. What wonderful smiles and joyful voices!

Boyd, Davis, Abby, Naomi and Stacy started right in with games in the play area with the Brazilian children. It is amazing how little speaking a common language matters to children as they play. There were Futbol, Ring Around the Rosie and many other impromptu activities.

Soon Pastor Lecio gathered the Kid’s Place staff, the interpreters who serve us this week and all of our team together for introductions and lunch. What a lunch we had! Brazilians say that if you have not had beans then you have not eaten lunch. We had one of their staple bean dishes called Fagole(slow cooked beans with pork), rice, stewed beef steak and a tomato cucumber salad. Our team enjoyed the food and fellowship as we met our new and old friends.
After lunch all the family groups began to unload the bags of supplies. Hannah, Sarah, Tallia and Emily worked on colorful namebadges for the children. Mary Ann, Stacy, Sonya, Christe and Cindy lead the organization of all the multitudes of items into planned piles we will use throughout the week as we teach the children about American culture, help repair and spruce up the specially chosen families in the Coque Favela and play.
After the mess was cleaned up, our family groups began t decorate the four classrooms we will be in tomorrow teaching the children about Easter, Christmas, Texas and Birthday celebrations American style. Each of the four classes will rotate through each family’s presentation during the mornings this week. In the afternoon we will head out into the Favela to be the guest of the several women and their families. We met these beautiful women and a few of their children late this afternoon and shared some time getting to know one another and sharing prayers. Our team is excited to be used in these family’s lives as the hands and feet of Jesus.
Shortly after six we boarded our bus back to the hotel exhausted. We received our room keys and enjoyed a quick shower before gathering to hear a heartfelt devotion lead by the Reddings encouraging us to keep moving up the staircase of our spiritual life and trusting God to provide us strength. We will have the privilege each evening to hear from a different family in our group as they lead our devotion and share a short testimony.
Lastly, we had a quick trip to enjoy some pizza and an ice cream bar. Now let sleep come quickly to our tired families.
Pray for us tomorrow as we begin the programming we have planned. Pray that we will see those we serve as our Savior does. Pray that He would keep our eyes off ourselves and on the children and families of Brazil.
Thank you for following us on this adventure. We appreciate your prayers and love.
Boa Noite!
Your family in the southern hemisphere

Today’s Laugh out loud: In Portuguese an “R” is pronounced as an “H”. When our families were introduced by Pastor Lecio to the women we will be serving, Randy was introduced as “Handy” only to be followed moments later by Rick, or as he will forever forward be known by our team, “Hick”.