Friday, December 24, 2010

Night Before Christmas!

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the pousada, not a creature was stirring not even... a rabbit! For those who do not know, we stay in a beautiful little pousada (hotel) on the Atlantic Ocean just minutes from the Fishing Village in a town called Sao Jose do Coroa Grande (St. John's Great Crown). This unique boutique has a strange calling card in that the entire grounds is covered with domestic rabbits! Big rabbits, little bunnies, white ones, black ones, and everything in between. Don't ask me why, but they are everywhere - in the lobby, by the pool, and under every bush. After a while you just get used to them and as I write I can see at least 6 different bunnies lounging about the place. Just another day in paradise!

But I digress... On Dancer, on Prancer, on Donner, and Blitzen! We had lots of work to do today and it was a blessing for all involved. Part of our plan for this week was to minister to the "least of these," so we asked Pastor Josue to choose some of the neediest in his congregation and allow us to help fix up their homes, so the kids would not be sleeping on dirt floors, the roofs would not leak when it rained, and the family would have a working bathroom. Today we visited the rest of the families who had received home improvements, so we could bless them with new sheets, curtains/room dividers, vinyl table clothes, fluffy bathroom towels, and some basic toiletries. The Baileys presented each family with the Candy Cane story book, which we had translated into Portuguese. Boyd did the honors of explaining the meaning of the candy cane to each family.

Cindy gave each house a beautiful framed Portuguese version of the 10 Commandments, as well as a laminated heart with John 3:16 handwritten on it. We told them they could hang these in their homes, so that all who entered would know that this was the House of the Lord and that God lived there. We had lots of tears and stories of how they had struggled to put a roof over their childrens' heads. One woman even had a gift for each of us, which was humbling since the box and wrapping was done with such love. She used old coffee filters, tore them and glued them in a patchwork fashion to cover the box, and then she used some kind of epoxy to seal it all. Seriously, it was a work of art! We did not even care what was inside. The box and care with which it had been created said it all.

Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you that we had a surprise visit from our "anonymous" gift-giver this morning at the Fishing Village. Claudio, who is a retired advertising executive from Sao Paulo, must have asked the girls at the front desk how to find Abreu do Una because he showed up around 10 a.m. with his wife and her sister to see what we were up to. We were baking cupcakes with the village girls when an older woman came walking into Pastor Josue's compound saying there was a man looking for "Brando," which, in the past, has not been a good sign! Of course, it turned out to be our friends from the hotel and they had been driving around the village asking for the "Americans who were working with a pastor." We greeted them, showed them around, and they asked what else we needed for the children. We told them they had already done enough, but they insisted, so we told them some things we were lacking and they drove off to town, returning hours later with toy trucks, purses, soccer balls, school supplies, and all kinds of drinks/snacks for our Christmas program with the kids. I think they wanted to stay, but they finally tore themselves away and promised to come worship with us on Christmas Day. What an unexpected blessing!

We did not get back to the hotel until late, so they had to wait Christmas dinner on us, which was roasted turkey, ham, beef tips, rice, mashed potatoes, and all kinds of cakes and desserts. Marcos is the chef and he puts out a mean spread! The staff were all waiting in the dining room, along with Angela and Lucio, the owners, and when we finally got to dinner, they lit candles and insisted we fill our plates first. It is so hard to serve these Brazilians because they always beat us to the punch! Claudio showed up again and as they were on their way out to meet up with his wife's family for Christmas Eve dinner, he came by our table and gave Boyd and Tallia gifts, so they would have something to open for Christmas and remember their trip to Sao Jose. Such a sweet man. Cindy and Sonya spent the rest of the night rifling through our gift bags and, thanks to all of you who made and gave so much, we were able to give something to each of the hotel staff, as well as wrap a present for everyone that helps Pastor Josue and Ceca run their ministry at the Fishing Village. Special shout out to Pete Chambers, Brian/Christe Dodds, and Barbara Wade, who gave some really cool stuff that will make tomorrow a very special day for our dear Brothers and Sisiters in Christ. Same kudos to Leslie Dailey, who donated tons of new flip flops from Old Navy, Pepper Pierson, Jan/Lamar Smith, all the gals that Kelly Breedlove asked to donate coloring books/pens/crayons/etc (sorry, but w/o Kelly here, I do not all your names, but you know who you are and so does God!), and all of you who were so generous with your hard earned dollars, which went to repair 9 different homes, buy over 100 food bags that will each feed a family of 4 for a month, and so many other things that I cannot list them all here. You guys have made a huge difference in the lives of so many, so celebrate knowing you have laid up treasures in Heaven!
Now, it is time to hit the hay! All the stocking have been hung with care in hope that St. Nick would soon be there. The rabbits are all snug in their beds, with visions of carrots dancing in their heads. Colin and Sonya in their slippers and Cindy and I in our gowns, we cannot wait for tomorrow, when we get to start earning some crowns. Tchau and Boi Noite!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

2 Days Until Christmas!

OK, this was really cool! We are staying at a small hotel (pousada) and every morning we get up, eat breakfast, and then we gather at a beach cabana area, where we sing worship songs and do our Daily Devotional. Sometimes I worry we are causing others at the hotel to wonder who we are and why are we ruining their tranquility (I am not much of a singer, but I compensate by being really loud!). However, this morning, there was a note at the front desk for us in Portuguese, which the receptionist had tried to translate via Google, so we'd understand it. The translation said "One houses that not that to identify itself it donated these gifts to help with the children in Abreu do Una." It took me a moment, but I finally figured out that someone staying at the hotel had wanted to give some presents for the kids/families we were ministering to at the Fishing Village and they wished to remain anonymous. While it was soaking in, the hotel staff started dragging bags of soccer balls out of the closets, as well as about 10 big wrapped gifts! Can you believe it! We were totally blown away that some guests were so moved by our meager efforts that they went out, spent their own money, and blessed us with gifts for the children. I love the way God gives us those "Attaboys" in life to let us know we are on the right track and to encourage us to keep pursuing Him. We think we know who it was, but that does not matter. What matters is that they were moved to a random act of kindness in the name of our Father. I know that makes God smile :)
We could not wait to get to the Fishing Village to share the "God Sighting" with the rest of our Brazilian Team! We spent 2 hours this morning sharing God's truth, praising Him, and praying over Pastor Josue, Ceca, Waska, and Kyria. It was a great time of encouragement and joy. We then finished our invitations for the Christmas morning Church service, so we could go around to ALL the homes in the Abreu do Una tomorrow and invite them to come celebrate the birth of our Savior. We have bags of food for over 100 families, thanks to our generous friends and family members, and at least enough children's gifts to cover everyone and then some! We wish you could be here to see all the happy faces, but we are so happy that you are allowing us to serve on your behalf.
In the afternoon, we visited 4 of the 8 homes that we had raisied support for to see the improvements that had already been done, as well as to deliver new bed linens, towels, tableclothes, and room dividers/curtains. Cindy had also thought ahead to prepare beautiful framed copies of the 10 Commandments in Portuguese, so they could hang them in their newly renovated houses. We took turns explaining that while we are still expected to keep these commandments, we are blessed to live under God's grace since we have all sinned and have fallen short, which is why God sent His Son to die for our sins, so we could spend eternity with Him, even though we could never earn such a reward on our own. Our dear friend Valeria is truly inspiring in how she lovingly tells these families the Good News and the true source of our salvation - Jesus Christ. Of course, none of this would be possible without Pastor Josue's meticulous preparations and good stewardship of the funds we raised. It was a "home run" kinda day! We ended it by celebrating Colin and Sonya's 15th wedding anniversary with a sweet ceremony, complete with flowers and a loving testimony exchanged (under duress from all of us) between the 2 honorees. I cannot remember who said it, but "it don't get no better than this!" Boi Noite and God Bless!

3 Days Until Christmas!

NOTE: No internet last night, so I am covering what we did on Wed. this morning and will get back on track tonight.

Having to follow Boyd on his Blog day is not fair, but we have so much to talk about, we can never get it all covered. Another thing that has worked out really well for our Team are the Operation Christmas boxes. CCBC hands out/collects these shoes boxes well before Christmas, but they have to be turned in by a certain time in order to get shipped to Africa. This year there were 40 or more boxes that did not get turned in on time, so we were able to bring them down to Brazil with us. The boxes are filled by CCBC families with school supplies, toys, games, and candy, as well as a really cool Information Page that has a picture of who filled the box and some background information about that person. Going through the boxes, organizing all the contents into similar piles, I really feel like I have gotten to know so many more of our Church family by reading the pages. We have carefully saved all of them and will hang them up Christmas Day, so the children can see who helped make this the best Christmas ever! Also, by combining all the contents, we will be able to serve 3 times as many children, so everyone gets something. We will shoot plenty of video and pic's to share, so you will get to be a part of our Fishing Village Christmas! I cannot wait!
Cindy and I also had a chance to go into Recife on Wed to take part in the Kid's Place Staff Christmas Party, which was an honor. These men and women run KP all year round, making sure our children from the Coque favela are being fed spiritually, as well as physically, and that they are getting help with school work, learning about music/art, and reminded daily of Christ's love for them. They truly are an amazing team and they all had so many positive things to say about being a part of KP. They also had many anecdotal stories of how KP was making a difference in the lives of the children, their families, and the favela. It was very rewarding to hear them praise KP and see that it was making a difference in their lives as well. The party was hosted at Pastor Lecio's home and Ilma, along with most of the staff, put on a great spread of food. They have a "thing" in Brazil that they eat only at Christmas time that is called a "Chester." It looks like a chicken, but it is bigger and they swear it is not a turkey, but they promise they do not know what kind of bird it is... However, the company that sells them is called "Chester," so that is what they call it! I do not know what it is either, but I ate me some Chester and it was GOOD! The staff followed lunch with a high-spirited "secret friend" gift exchange that included the children of the staff, so it was great watching them have so much fun. Our teachers at Kid's Place are Mehl, Vania, Alexandre, and Suzanna. Our cooks are Sondra and Sylvania and Carlos helps with keeping things spic-n-span. Militza is our KP Administrator and Ilma helps when she can, but with 3 kids at home now (Nathan is 3 months old, Sarah is 2, and Lianna is 5 - I think?), she cannot do as much as she used to 3 years ago when we first opened. Please be praying for our KP staff and the job they do every day - loving on these children, ministering to their families, and fighting Satan at every turn. It is an honor to know them and a privilege to pray for them. Tchau and Bom Dia!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Day to Remeber

Boyd and I agreed to give Brandon the day off... Certainly not from God's work, just from the blog... We had an amazing day today. You'll get the gist of it from Boyd's comments below:

I woke up this morning thinking it was just going to be a day that we were going to walk on the beach to the fishing village but God had some special plans for us and here are 3 of them:

1st: When we got to the point were we stopped walking on the beach a boat pulled up! Some people stayed and walked the rest of the way but Pollyanna, my dad, my mom, my sister, and I got on and rode there.

2nd: We got to go swim in this lagoon that is not very far at all from the fishing village and some people ran and did flips because there is a place on the shore that has a steep drop off and they would not hit the bottom.

3rd: When we were swimming the current was very strong and we ended up wanting to go swim or ride a boat down the river and it was an amazing experience for my dad and me.

Some of the kids went over to the mangroves and caught crabs and I swam almost the whole way and when we got back Brandon was about to get in the water and I wanted to go with him. God has blessed us today.

- Boyd Bailey

Once again, Brazil and the amazing people here surprised us. What started out as just a quick swim in the lagoon with some of the villagers became one of the coolest, most unique adventures I've had in my life (and I've had a lot...). The river and tidal system here is confusing to say the least... Our adventure was the equivalent of a 4-5 mile (2+ hour) ride in a "Lazy River", but the curious thing is we ended up back where we started! How do you ride a river toward the sea, carry your boat across a 15-20 foot stretch of sand and then ride a river back to where you started??? I'm going to study up on this one...

But enough science - back to the adventure... Boyd and I were with a group of 10 guys from the village ranging in age from 9 - 26. We learned that this is something they do occasionally when the tide is right. Since we are having a full moon here and the tidal swing is large, the opportunity presented itself. The 2 1/2 hours we spent on this journey was a special way to enjoy time with our friends. The language barrier disappeared as we relied almost exclusively on laughter and smiles to communicate the pure fun and excitement we were all having. It was obvious the Brazilians were excited to be able to share an intimate part of their life with us. In reality, the beauty and mystery of the Mangrove River likely stays concealed for most outsiders. This was not a guided tour with life jackets and waiver forms... The day was yet another unexpected gift from God.

Boyd & Colin Bailey

5 Days Until Christmas!

Did you know we are 3 hours ahead of you guys back home? I feel like the marines... We get more done before 8 am than you get get done all day! Well, maybe some of you are more productive, but I love the head start we get on the rest. Speaking of which, today was the day of unpacking all those 70 lb bags full of Christmas cheer in hopes that St. Nick would soon be here. WOW!!! You guys sure are generous givers! We sorted, organized, argued, re-organized, bagged, and accessorized all day.

Tallia got her decorating fix in, as she, Polly, and Waska decorated Pastor Josue's compound with garland, wreaths, and ribbon. I also have to tell you about this Christmas tree Waska made before our arrival. He took all these clear empty plastic drink bottles, cut off the bottoms of all the containers, slid one inside the other so they had one big middle with 2 spouts at opposite ends, and then strung them over Christmas lights, forming a 7 ft Christmas tree in the courtyard! It is really much more beautiful than my feeble description and if Colin ever shows me how to upload pic's to this Blog, you will be impressed - I promise. Made us feel a lot better about having to abandon our Christmas tree back at DFW airport.

Cindy and Sonya worked with Valeria and Ceca to get all the linens, towels, and sheets sorted for the 8 families we are doing the Extreme Home Makeover on. They were so busy, they barely had time to boss me, Colin, and Breno around, but they managed to keep us hopping from one pile to the next as we tried to organize all the gifts by age. I mean really, a slinky is ageless and it is good for a girl or a boy! Slinky, Slinky... it's a wonderful toy!

Who walks the stairs without a care
It shoots so high in the sky.
Bounce up and down just like a clown.
Everyone knows its Slinky.

The best present yet to give or get
The kids will all want to try.
The hit of the day when you are ready to play
Everyone knows it's Slinky.

It Slinky, It’s Slinky
for fun the best of the toys
It Slinky, It’s Slinky
the favorite of girls and boys.

Somehow, Boyd got away with playing Futbol all morning with Nando, Jose, and Waska. We had a plentiful lunch of feijoada and lemon-lime dessert mousse. It is always so tough roughing it out at the Fishing Village. After getting it all spread out and organized, we bagged it all back up, so we could restore Ceca's house back to pre-American order. She always has everything looking so good with flowers planted, hanging baskets, and decorations everywhere, then we show up and start playing soocer in the courtyard, destroying all her hard work. Of course, Ceca is the perfect example of grace and mercy. Tomorow, we go to meet our 8 different families, so we can start loving on them! Tchau and Boi Noite!

Monday, December 20, 2010

It Was a Christmas Miracle!

Well, we made it! Unfortunately, as some of you may already know, the Breedloves did not. We were saddened to learn on Wednesday, 3 days before we were to leave, that David had been diagnosed with gallstones and they were requiring him to undergo surgery on Friday, the day before our flight left. It is hard to understand why this happened and to all people - The Breedloves, but we had no choice, except to trust in God's plan (BTW, not a bad idea) and we simply went with Plan B for the B Team. Of course, our journey was not without its challenges and American threw us a loop at the gate by informing us for the first time that we could not check extra bags, even if we paid for them! Wow, I never thought American would refuse money, but we took our 3 seventy pound bags, chunked a bunch of our personal carry on stuff (ie - clothes, books, etc.), and jammed evrything into our roller boards. Pretty amazing! We got everything, except the 7 ft Christams tree that was broken down into 4 pieces. We thought about getting the adults to smuggle it in under our clothes, but airport security has gotten a lot tougher lately. A special shout out to Cindy's Mom, Melinda, who came back to the airport to get the saddened Christams tree and our 3 otherwise empty bags. The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful and all our bags showed up in Recife - all 16 of them! It was a Christmas miracle!
The next hurdle was Brazilian customs and they were looking at us like an invading army! Of course, it does not help that all our big bags are camoflauged, but Emanuell, our Federal Police friend/guardian angel, was there to explain who we were and what we were doing, so they just waived us through. Another Christmas miracle! Lecio, Josue, Anthenor, Pedro, Polly, Wilson, Breno, Ilma, Yohanna, and a few new friends were waiting for us once we cleared customs. Such dear friends and so kind to come all the way to the airport to welcome us to Brazil (again). We enjoyed a quick lunch and some fellowship before loading onto the bus for the trip out to the Fishing Village. I do not know if Santa uses a U-haul, but we had 2 loaded down with gifts and supplies from all of our dear friends, family, and supporters. No reindeer, but it was still pretty cool.
We arrived at Vivenda Oriente (aka The Rabbit Hotel) just as the sun was setting and Angela, the owner, and Lucio, her husband, we were waiting to greet us. In the lobby was an amazing Christmas tree, made from coconut branches, and it was spray painted gold. Love the Brazilian's creativity! Pastor Josue said that although they usually hold Church on Saturday evening, they had waited until Sunday night since he knew we were arriving then, so we could attend services. I love Ted, but he always starts on time and has never moved services to accomodate my travel schedule. Of course, to be fair, I have never asked, so maybe he would...
A quick shower, a snack, and it was off to Church with all our friends in Abreu do Una. We sang worship songs, had a baby dedication, and Pastor Josue preached from the Book of Luke. Funny, but I think we have been studying the same Book at CCBC for the last 2 years. The message was about how God had chosen Mary, a young girl from a small, little known village, to be the mother of our Savior. He pointed out that God can choose anyone to change the world, just as He chose Mary, so there is no reason to belive that He could not choose you to make a huge difference in the lives of others. I think everyone there felt very special that God would choose them to do anything, much less change the world. As we stood for the closing prayer, I felt a small hand slip into mine, and it was litle Emily, all of 6 years old, and I thanked God for allowing me to be in this place. We returned home late that night and we all went to bed with visions of mangos dancing in our heads. All in all, I would have say the whole day was a Christams miracle! Tchau and Boi Noite!