We have so much to be thankful for this Christmas. Christmas Eve, we followed the Brazilian tradition, and had our big meal that evening. Brazilians do theirs at midnight but we decided to do it early! Christmas Day we had brunch at James parents house with Pr. Claudine and his family. We had their kids join ours in our annual tradition of acting out the Christmas story. It was very special.
Jeremiah loves making noise with his new instruments.
This year we were so blessed to have two churches in America adopt our family for Christmas. It was so much fun to see what they picked out. Everything we got was perfect for the person.
Candy Land was a big hit!
Princess Hannah showing off her new Jewelry!
This is view of some of the kitchen items we got! The Texas Chili was a special surprise!
Scented candles were of course my favorite! (As well as the snowmen pillows!! They match my couch perfectly.)
James was overjoyed with his super large jar of CRUNCHY peanut butter! We have all ENJOYED many peanut butter sandwiches and lots of special desserts that we have missed since we arrived in the "land without peanut butter!"
Thank you to all who made Christmas so special this year!
Friday Night we had the honor of watching our firstborn son graduate from Kindergarten. We can hardly believe how quickly he has grown.
Part of the program included two songs played on the bells. Daniel loved to play them and did so with precision! Daniel began school here in Brazil in July and has really learned a lot. His teacher tells us he is ready for first grade and that he is speaking fluent Portuguese. He memorized Ps. 23 in Portuguese and several songs for the program. It is really neat to watch him concentrate and then communicate all that is necessary.
Daniel loves school and was so sad to hear he will have a 2 month break. He was in a class of about 24 children and most of them will be with him next year. This is Daniel's wonderful teacher, Tia Carol. We praise the Lord for her. We believe God really used her in helping Daniel to adjust to Brazil.
He does so in huge ways and during those time we just fall down in awe of Him. Like at the moment of salvation, when we realize how hopelessly guilty we are of innumerable sins; and yet He calls us to Himself, washes us with His blood and then calls us sons and daughters.
Other times He blesses us in ways so small we don't even take the time to notice or thank Him, like every breath we take or the sweet, "Mommy, I love you so much."
There are constant evidences of His grace in our lives. I want to be more aware of His hand working out all the tiniest details of my life and then praising Him for His grace!
I have so many blessings that I cannot name them all. I do want to mention a few. 1. A Christmas Tree - Somewhere I heard there were no live Christmas trees in Brazil. James and I have always gone out the weekend after Thanksgiving and picked out a tree and decorated the house for Christmas. I was so disappointed that this year we would have to have a fake tree. Well, we found a real tree! In Brazil, it is illegal to cut a tree down so our tree has roots and all! It is very healthy and isn't dropping needles everywhere. I cannot express how much of a blessing this tree is to me.
2. Portuguese - I have now completed one semester of Portuguese. I have learned so much and can communicate basic information. I understand a lot more than I can speak. Daniel is graduating from Brazilian Kindergarten on Friday, and is speaking great. It is so neat to hear him talking with the kids as he plays. (This is his graduation announcement.) Hannah is using more and more words. The other day while taking a bath she was making up songs with Portuguese words.
3. Christmas - I am so thankful for this time of year where we can contemplate all that Christ did for us. John 1:10-11 keeps running through my mind, "He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him." It is already so amazing that God would come down to us in human form; but it is even more amazing knowing He came to a people who would reject Him. The kids and I have been doing an advent calendar everyday where we read more of the Christmas story each day and put up pictures that correlate with the most recent part of the story. I think it has really kept their focus on Christ instead of all that the world offers. They have already memorized Matt. 1:21 as well as 4 of the names of Christ and what they teach us about Him, (Light of the World, Lion of Judah, Bread of Life, & Living Water.)
4. Sharing the Gospel with Nilda - My last day of Portuguese was Friday. As I struggled with what I could give her for a gift, my mind keep going to Christ. I decided to read through Scripture with her and lay out the entire plan of salvation. James and I have both shared different things about salvation with her but never layed it all out with the Bible. I got my list of verses and a Portuguese Bible. I read in Portuguese but held the Bible where she could read it too (so she would still understand even as I mispronounced words.) Then, I explained things in English. The whole time I just prayed that God would use His Word to pierce her heart. She took home my list of verses and I gave her an English Bible with the plan of salvation underlined and asked her to read it over the Holiday. This leads me to Blessing 5...
5. The Word of God - I am so thankful that God has preserved His Word for us. I praise Him that it is living and powerful, piercing even unto the dividing asunder of soul and spirit. As I see ALL the many needs of the people we are working with, I find myself praying for God to draw them to His Word and thus to Himself. I am so thankful that He changes hearts and lives and I don't have to try to. I feel like I could talk until I was blue in the face and still not make progress but if I quote or share His words, it pierces and divides. That is why I decided to share Scripture with Nilda. My words won't change her, His will! 6. My Family -I have been able to stay in such close contact with my family because of the internet. I hardly feel like I am 8,000 miles away. We use Skype which allows us to video call each other over the internet and so we see each other all the time! Add this to email and of course Blogging and we are as up to date with each other as if we were living in the same town (almost!) I am also thankful for James' parents who have been such a blessing to us over the past 6 months. Helping all of us to adjust, running us all over Curitiba to get documents taken care of, watching the kids so James and I can go on a date!
7. YOU - All of you out there that pray for us and encourage us and support us. We are forever amazed at the love we have received from the Family of God. We love every email, Christmas Card, book, deodorant, zip lock bag and peanut butter jar you have sent us! Just knowing you are there, praying for us and loving us encourages us more than you will ever know! Thank you so very much.
All of my life I struggled with the sin of trying to please people. Often my joy, peace and total demeanor was controlled by peoples response to me. If they liked me and were happy with what I was doing, I was on cloud 9. If they were critical or confronted me about something I had done wrong, I was crushed.
Deputation was a little difficult. I struggled often with trying to fit in and please all the new people I met. God began working on my heart during this time and challenged me seek to please Him above all.
What no one ever told me, was that the hardest part about being a missionary is that I will never actually "fit in."
For some reason, that thought never entered my mind. I have known many "foreigners" in America and I don't recall feeling different about them that anyone else. I would never had called them "foreigners."
I am experiencing now that I CANNOT please people here. This is not because of something that I am doing but simply because of WHO I am; an American, a foreigner. In their eyes I am different. My kids are different. We cannot say certain things to them. They treat each of us differently than they treat each other.
So, God is continuing to teach me that I cannot live my life striving to please people. God created me to glorify Him. He is the one I need to seek to please.
I am here in Brazil because He led me here. I am here to serve Him. I am to serve Him even if people don't "like" me or even want me here.
This is what no one ever told me about being a missionary.
This weekend, James and I were able to attend the graduation festivities for the Seminary here. One of the men who works in our church was graduating. Thursday night we were able to go the banquet with Rude and Marina. It was so neat to hear the testimonies of the graduates; how God burdened their hearts for ministry and how He is preparing them to serve Him full time.
Rude (pronounced Who-gee)
We have loved serving at Nova Vida with this couple and will miss them. They have servants hearts and are never without smiles on their faces. James and Rude rode together on Tuesday nights to play soccer with the men from church. They had many edifying talks. We also had the privilege of taking them to church many times over the past few months.
Marina with her Escola Dominical Aula (S.S. Class)
Marina has been a special blessing to me. She is the ONE person at church that speaks English. I cannot tell you what a blessing it has been to be able to ask a question and understand the answer. She was always willing to translate for me if I needed help. She became a dear friend and I cannot express how much I will miss this sister in the Lord.
Marina, Jeremiah and Me at the Graduation
We are excited that Rude and Marina will be doing a 6month - 1 year internship with a Brazilian missionary in the Amazon area. We will miss them dearly but know that God will use them mightily for His glory wherever they serve.
Jeremiah and Grandpa at Graduation (I couldn't resist putting in this cute picture of Jeremiah, it was his first time in a suit!)
We had a wonderful first Thanksgiving in Brazil. All the missionaries gathered at one of the homes and we all pitched in and had a wonderful meal. Daniel got the day off of school and had a wonderful time playing with the other MK.
The kids and I memorized a verse the week of thanksgiving. Praise the Lord! O Give Thanks unto the Lord, For He is good! For his mercy endures forever. Psalm 106:1
I am sorry I haven't posted in so long. I have had a horrible stomach virus. Just as I was beginning to recover, James got it. We are both finally well and back to normal life! Praise the Lord!
I thought I would show you what my drive to language school looks like. These are all taken by me as I drove to class one day.
The first half of the drive is easy. The lanes are large and traffic generally flows well.
The second half is more of a challenge. This picture is to show that I could roll down my window and easily touch the car next to me. As I come over the hill and head into Centro, I just put the car in neutral and begin the wait. There is always so much traffic when I go and the lanes here are so small. God always gets me there safely. Here are some of the large apartment buildings that I pass just as I reach Centro. This is Habib's. It is the main fast food restaurant here. They don't serve hambugers and fries but a lot of Arabic food that I can't really describe. Finally we reach my school, Franco Americano. It is very nice. It has about 6 classrooms and they teach several languages here. Behind the school is an international restaurant, Blue Moon.
This is my wonderful teacher, Dona, Professora, Senhora, Nilda! She makes class so much fun and easy to understand. God has really blessed me with such a great teacher.
Please pray that God will help me to learn the language. I have learned lots but I feel so overwhelmed by all the material I have already studied that is not concretely in my memory. The thought of so much more new information is daunting.
We celebrated his birthday Friday. Yesterday was a holiday here, the day of the dead, so no one had school. All neighborhood kids gathered so I got out the balloons and we had a great time playing. Jeremiah especially loves balloons! As long as he had a balloon, he didn't need any presents.
Gran made some delicious chocolate cupcakes.
It didn't take long for Jeremiah to really enjoy pigging out on his cupcake. We finally cut him off after one and a half! We are so thankful for this special little boy that God gave us! We look forward to seeing God continue to work in his life as he grows older!
Last weekend, I had the opportunity to go to the Ladies Retreat. I ended up driving a car full of ladies from our church and we had such a wonderful time.
The first huge answer to prayer was that arrived safely. I had only driven to and from my language class until this weekend. Now, I have driven completely through Curitiba and in the mountains surrounding us! (In the dark!!)
Some of my favorite parts of the retreat were: 1. Morning Quiet Time - a time Sat. morning to pray and spend time with God outdoors. (I love to do this outside!) 2. Afternoon Prayer Time - This was a voluntary activity. I went with one other lady and was so encouraged as we got down on our knees and prayed to KNOW God. (Jer. 9:23-24) 3. All the wonderful fellowship with the women from New Life Baptist and Calvary Baptist. 4. Great Food 5. Lots of fun at the pool with women who were like children going underwater for the first time!
I made a slide show of pictures that I hope you will enjoy.
Since I communicate on about the level of a 3 year old, I get to work in the two and three's Sunday School class. I actually love it more than I dreamed possible.
(They are not all really two's or three's. Jeremiah is actually almost one and Annilise is almost 2, so we have our challenges)
Well, meet the class... This is Gabriel. He is two. He is big and strong for his age. He has the cutest smile and the strongest punch. He and Hannah like to fight. His favorite move is to grab her hair and pull as hard as he can!This is Abner. Abner is super smart. He is always the first to memorize his verse and is always ready to quote it, although the reference for every verse is John 3:16! His parents are planning to be missionaries in the northern part of our state, Parana, so in January we will lose him.
This is my precious Hannah. She really likes to sing songs in class. She has learned her first verse in Portuguese, but is timid to say it for other people. She is becoming quite skilled at coloring. In January Hannah turns four so she will move up to the pre-primary class!
This is Annilise. She is almost 2. (Her mom is the head teacher in our class.) She and Hannah are great friends but Annilise gets jealous of Jeremiah. Annilise is the youngest coffee drinker I know. Sunday nights after the service we have small cups of coffee and Annilise always begs for coffee mixed with water. (Which she gets!)
Finally, here is our littlest class member. He loves to sit in the chair like the big kids. When it is time to color we have to be on a close look-out for him. He is always hunting around looking for a lose crayon to hold or eat! He is growing up so quick. It won't be long until he will be quoting the verses with us.
Yesterday was Children's Day, a national holiday here. We all had a day off of school so we decided to have a little family fun. We went to the Curitiba Zoo.
This is Daniel with his favorite animal!
It was a free zoo, but very nice and lots of fun. One of the coolest things was that you were closer to the animals than in the zoo's in the states. We were separated from the monkeys by only a small river. It felt like you were really close and could almost reach out and touch them.
We took a picnic lunch and really just had a great time.
As we started to leave, Grandpa's car broke down. While we waited for a tow truck, we spent the extra time looking at all the vendors set up right outside the zoo. We are so glad for the extra time because we ended up trying some new things, like fresh squeezed sugar cane juice. This man is running lengths of sugar cane through a machine. It is making the sweetest juice.