Saturday, August 16, 2008
Thursday morning we spent time at the site, finishing up our work and saying our "see you laters." Our work forewoman, Glee, got everyone organized, so we finished up sanding, priming, and painting one coat on all three of the walls (the fourth wall has to wait for the doors and windows to be installed, which hopefully began yesterday (Friday).
We also accidentally created a new project for ourselves. Just inside of the gate, there was a part of the brick wall that had been spackled, and used to display a painted sign of the Methodist church. I mentioned to the pastor's wife Franci that some of us had thought it would be nice to re-paint that and put handprints on it. She thought it was a wonderful idea, and said we would do it immediately, so we were put to work painting over this very dirty piece of wall, with paint that came from a powder.
But of course, as God's plans always do, it worked out beautifully in the end. We had one coat of paint on when they called us for our closing time together. The church members, Franci, Teca, and the District Superintendent Pastor Emanoel expressed their gratitude that God had brought us and gave each of us mementos to take home, personally and to our churches. We thanked our new friends for all of their work and gracious hospitality, and gave them prayer bears that the Calvary children made last year at VBS. We promised to pray for our new Brazilian family and they promised to pray for us.
When we finished, the wall was ready, and all of us, children, adults, the US team, the DS, and even the hired professional masons put our handprints and names on the wall underneath the words "Igreja Metodista - Aerolandia & Virginia." It was beautiful.
There were many tears on our departure...from children and adults alike. And when we showed up later at the airport, showered and ready to begin the trek to VA, 10 of the core youth and several of the adults were there to see us off.
We are thankful to all who have followed our journey, who have written us comments and emails sending love and encouragement, to all who wrote the cards and letters that we received every morning in mail call, to all who have prayed for us...you have truly been a part of our journey. We are most thankful to God, who has been the author of this whole experience and who was present with us from the very beginning. Truly, anything good that has come of this journey is thanks to God, not to us, for we are mere servants of the Master.
Keep watching the blog...we hope to post a few more photos now that we are back, and we might also put up some closing stories from different team members as we reflect on how this experience has changed our lives.
Deus ti abecoe! God bless you!
Thursday, August 14, 2008
We are going back to the church this morning to do the last bit of sanding and painting that we can do. This will really brighten up their sanctuary, but we know that as we say our goodbyes the true brighteness will be in the heart felt hugs and kisses. And I am very sure there won´t be a dry eye in that place. We have done a lot of good work in this place, but the truly good work hás been done by God in each of us and in those we have come to know as our brothers and sisters in Christ. There are truly only two kinds of people in the world – those who belong to Christ and those who need to belong to Christ. Really there is only one kind of person in the world – those who are in need of Christ. There is really no them and us in the world. We are all truly one family and have one Father over all.
When we left our cars at the church parking lot in Richmond we read a sign that said
“Welcome to your mission field”. The mission field truly starts on the other side of the church door, but it hás no end. People have the same needs in all the world – food, fresh water and shelter. This list can go on and on, but the greatest need in all the world is for Love and compassion. If we have Love, all of the rest will be fullfilled. Not only in Brazil but just outside of our church door.
The world is indeed a very very small place. Some people wonder why we go on foreign missions. The question should be why do we serve - not where do we serve. We serve because of the greatest commandment “A new commandment I give you, LOVE ONE ANOTHER”
P.S. from Barbara:
Dear Friends and Family,
Thanks so much for all of your prayers for our mission team, and for travelling mercies for our trip (especially for my fear of heights and of flying). I felt your prayers and those for my fears were definitely answered. I truly was not afraid while we were flying and actually enjoyed the views (when I was lucky enough to get a window seat).
While I am sad to be leaving this church family in Brazil, I am looking forward to seeing all of you again.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
At the closing of our journey, it is amazing to reflect back on the progress we have made in such a brief period of time. A complete renovation has occurred. We originally started with bare brick walls, which soon changed to gray plastered ones, which then became primed and painted, which have finally turned into decorated masterpieces. To stand in front of the church and just see a brick building would be a travesty, because it is so much more. It is a refuge filled with love, a sanctuary of worship, and a house of prayer for so many people.
Today, the entire team was intensely conscience of each passing moment and the illusively fleeting nature of time. Glee, our designated project manager, was especially on top of it today. We put the finishing touches on several of the walls, as the professionals worked to plaster the remaining ceiling. What we lacked in modernity, we certainly made up for in creative ingenuity. We used wooden spears as paint roller extensions and any combined medley of board, chair, table, and ladder as scaffolding (many of which were most likely not OSHA approved). We laughed, shared, and labored together and the results we surprising, even to us. The Methodist cross and flame, our signature artist, Penny, painted adorns the front wall symbolizing what the church and congregation represent.
Amy, our resident teacher, was invited by the children to take a tour of their school. They we overjoyed to introduce her and other members of our team to their teachers and took pride in demonstrating what their education means to them. After a home cooked meal the church ladies kindheartedly prepared for us; we played and danced with the children, before continuing to toil in our construction efforts.
We went for a true Brazilian barbeque tonight and afterwards were joined by the district superintendent, Pastor Emanuel. He blessed our devotional time with a lovely prayer of gratitude and praise. Thanks be to GOD for the transformation in the work project here and the transformation that has taken place in each of our lives.
We dread saying goodbye to all our Brazilian bothers and sisters tomorrow, but know that they will forever be engraved in our thoughts and close to our hearts. We give thanks for all your prayers and support and look forward to seeing you very soon!
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
In the second photo Amy and Rachel are with more of our friends, including Laiana in the yellow and pink dress, who is the one teaching us Portuguese...at least the numbers 1 through 10.
This is the sign on the front of the Church. Notice the cactus with the cross and flame: this is a particular symbol of this conference, the Northeastern Missionary Conference. Their motto is: Serving Christ, Carring for Life.
The other photo is from Sunday after worship, and includes Pastor Pedro and UMC missionary Teca Greathouse in the bright orange Calvary VBS shirts and the VIM coordinator Andressa in the black shirt.
In other news, today we were quite productive at the worksite, putting in extra time in order to get more accomplished before we head home on Thursday. Remember that sand we’ve been sifting and sifting and sifting?!?!? Well, it’s back. Today we continued the very laborious and dirty task of sanding the interior walls and ceiling. Some walls got coats of primer and paint today, while the others will be tackled tomorrow. Even after our showers this evening, there is sand everywhere! Look for some in a house near you come Friday! We also finished sanding and priming the outside gate and fence before adding two coats of white paint today and have the oil-based paint stains to prove it! How many of you can say that you’ve brought turpentine home from the store in a 2L Coke bottle?
Fewer kids were at the worksite today because school was back in session (yesterday was a holiday). The kids who did visit us were good helpers as always. Some have been sporting some very special clothes thanks to Samuel and Anna Carmack. They were excited to have new things to wear and are proud to show them off to others. Thanks, Samuel and Anna!
Our blog would not be complete today without a special shout out to our very own Penny Hartlaub who had the honor of painting the cross and flame on the front wall of the sanctuary! It looks great and it has been a blessing to see her use her gifts in this way.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Today was exciting because we finally got to paint the gate. The church building is inside an iron gate that we sanded a few days ago. Today, we put a coat of primer and brand new white paint on that gate, and on the iron door and window in one of the side rooms. It was like the 'Church Makeover' show...it's amazing how much of a difference the fresh coat of paint can make.
We also started sanding the walls of the sanctuary today...wait...back up. Maybe it is good to understand the process we have seen so far. When we came a week ago, the church was a one room (sanctuary), brick shell, with holes where the windows and doors should be. It was a blessing from God when we showed up, not only with our project money, but an extra $3000, $1000 from Glee and Helen's church, $1000 from Calvary outreach, and $1000 from the children's VBS challenge. This is such a blessing because it means that several URGENT things can be accomplished. One, there is not a true roof on the building, because the second floor is in process. So, they are going to complete the second floor, which will be classrooms, and then put on the roof before the rainy season begins in Sept. This is VERY important because if the roof is not on, the water could make the ceiling cave in.
We have also been working hard to make the one big room more functional. The professionals have been working hard everyday, plastering over the brick walls and ceiling (this is why we have been sifting so much sand!) Today, we finally got to start sanding this down, and we are hoping we will get to paint the walls!!! An even greater joy is that Penny, who is our resident artist, was asked to paint a Methodist cross and flame on the wall at the front of the room. She is hoping to start on this tomorrow. What an honor!
The other reason the room is bare is that it has no doors or windows, so nothing can be left in the room because it is not secure. This means that everything was set up for worship on Sunday and then taken down Sunday night. Everything includes mounted oscillating fans, which have to be removed from the wall, and lightbulbs, which they take out when everything is done. Imagine having to literally strip your worship space after EVERY time you use it, and set it up again the next time. The VBS money has been used to buy the doors and windows, and they were starting to put these in today.
Isn't it amazing...it will be a completely different space when they gather to worship on Sunday that it was just yesterday. And yet, God is STILL there. God is so present in this place, it is indescribeable. On Sunday, when I stood up to preach, all I could say was, God is here.
Hmmm....maybe this won't be a short post. It's hard not to be excited about the things that God is doing here. It's hard not to be touched by the children who lead the church here. Yes, children. On Sunday, we watched a two year old with her own (real) microphone help lead worship alongside the music and worship leader. Today, we are all reporting to 17 year old Mario to find out what we should do next and how to do our work efficiently. Tonight, we ate delicious Brazilian barbecue at the Central Methodist Church here in Fortaleza where Pastor Emmanuel is the pastor (as well as being the District Superintendent). We sang and danced and ate and laughed, and bonded as God is calling us all to be in ministry with God's beloved children here in Brazil.
Please continue to pray for our family in Brazil! We are praying for you!
Sunday, August 10, 2008
The highlight of VBS was the parachute. The kids loved it and were amazed by its size. They will definitely enjoy it for weeks to come.
The service was very special as we watched a shell of a room being transformed in minutes to a place of worship – even though it wasn't – finished. It become filled with people who although we didn't all speak the same language, we were all there for the same reason.
Another gift we had today was that we were joined by Pietro and Mario who are staying at our hotel. They are from Italy and are living here for a month to see Forteleza and to learn Portugese. We asked them to join us and to come see what we were doing at the church. I think they learned a lot, not just about our cultures but about what being a Methodist means.
All in all it was a wonderful day. We played, sang, prayed, and worshipped with the church here in Forteleza as one family – the family of God.
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Pastor Pedro and his family were our guests for dinner at a local dining hotspot where the favorite dish is tapioca…Now, we know what you’re thinking, and no, we did not have pudding for dinner. Here, “tapioca” means flat pancakes made from tapioca flour, folded and filled with various treats…Picture a white burrito with no sauce and you pretty much have it…While we are not building walls with bricks or sand this weekend, we continue to build relationships through Christ’s love. We thank you for the cards and letters that you’ve sent. Your encouraging words are heartfelt and brighten our days. We feel your prayers and are thankful for each of you. Know that as you pray for us, we also pray for you.
Please pray for us as we prepare for our 3 hours of Vacation Bible School tomorrow (we are capping it at 60 kids) and then worship tomorrow evening, where we are singing and Kristin is preaching.
We are praying for you as well!
Friday, August 8, 2008
Yesterday’s work festivities included the arrival of five thousand roofing tiles. It was quite a moving experience to watch each person working at the project site, touch the material which is going to be used to shelter God’s children for years and years to come. The children were delighted to work along with us despite the presence of their bare hands and feet. They endured the stinging bites of red ant attacks and the scorching concrete, in order to sift sand and share in the joy of accomplishment together with us. The girls demonstrated praise in a very sincere and artistic display of choreographed dance. It was a truly enchanting sight to behold and a thoroughly amusing display to attempt to participate in.
Today, after a gritty work week, we experienced sand in quite a more enjoyable and adventurous venue: Dunebuggying in a yellow, open topped jeep across mountains of sand. Although the landscape was breathtaking; the ride would not have been so intensely exhilarating without the blaring 90s music and girlie squeals that accompanied each peak and descent. The Calvary crew members took part in the local color: rafting on a Jangada in the ocean (flat, wooden boat with a sail, but no seats or sides) , sand sledding down the dunes, swimming in the warm water, and laying in hammocks in beach cabanas. Our highlight of the day included Helen filling in as captain on the Jangada, while Jimmy portrayed Leonardo DeCaprio in a riveting Titanic reenactment.
Today was a pleasurable day exploring the beach town of Fortaleza. We anticipate what tomorrow will bring and give thanks for all your thoughts and prayers.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Your mission team is no longer just a team - we have truly become a family as we work and play together. The work is hard but we play much harder. It may seem odd to speak of a mission team playing, but as we dance and sing songs with the children and the adults, we are building relationships that will stand the test of time, as will the building we are working on.
As we were met at the airport in Fortaleza in the wee hours of the morning, not only was the pastor there accompanied by his wife and children, but the district superintendent was also there. We received hugs rather than hand shakes. They accepted us as their family and said they had been praying for us for a whole year. Imagine that! As we were in the states I had been planning and praying for them for a year. Isn´t Jesus´ family amazing?
As we arrived at the job site, everyone received hugs from the children and the adults as though they had known us for a year. As wonderful as all of this sounds, it gets even better. In no time Pastor Pedro´s wife Franci was joining us in work and dance. Even the ladies that cook our lunch at times join us in our labor. I know it is hard to believe - but children from 7 to 17 also join beside us as we labor. I know we came to serve our Christian brothers and sisters in Fortaleza, but if blessings could be measured our cups would truly overflow from the love the people of this church and neighborhood have shown to us. I can´t wait to share our stories with you in person.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
This afternoon we sifted sand for the construction workers' concrete. It was lots of fun because apparently Amy likes to sing while she works! She's very addictive so once she starts you know other people will join in. Another thing that was great about working today was the children helped us out. They were extremely willing and very proficient sand sifters. At one point we even got bitten by these tiny ants in the sand but they kept going! As Mario would say we were "Heroes of Sand"!
Of course sometimes we needed to take breaks to get out of the sun so we took this time to play with the kids. The most popular game of the day was "hit the beach ball everywhere except where you meant it to go" or as I like to call it, a good game of volleyball. Helen's favorite game was bunny goes home (this isn't the exact name but I couldn't remember) which entails five people and only four circles drawn in the sand with chalk. The object of the game is very much like musical chairs where everyone scrambles around trying to get into a circle before the other person. Now you didn't hear this from me but I'm pretty sure if there was an Olympics for "Bunny goes home" then Helen would definitly take home the gold!
After working and playing we got on our bus and headed for the beach. We couldn't stay long but apparently it was long enough for Jimmy to decide a Speedo would really kick it up a notch! And now for the hot topic of today! Are we using Sunblock and if so what SPF!? Well savvy Calvary goers, I, your lovely blogger, have the answer for you! After many an interview and many applications of sunscreen, it seems that yes, everyone is using it, and 30 is the number of the day! That's all for now, I hope everyone back home is taking care and sending prayers! P.S. It's ok to be envious of our post Brazil Mission trip tans... just think, you'll be next!! :)
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
We started the day at the church by taking the piles of bricks up to the roof where the second story is being built. Together we did it in about two hours. All of us got very good at passing bricks as if they were feathers. While we did that Laiana (another new friend who is 9 years old) taught us our numbers in Portuguese and we repeated our numbers 1 through 10 many times as she learned them in English. She was a quick English learner and was very patient with us when we didn't pick up Portuguese as quickly. She was especially patient with Jimmy who was having some dificulty communicating with her but she persisted and insisted he learn the numbers as well.
We did some stimulating of the Brazilian economy later in the day at the market. We all shopped and had fun trying to bargain with the sellers. Coty had the best luck in getting the bargains. We enjoyed dinner in the Cultural Center which is an older part of town that has been restored with restaurants and shops. Most of enjoyed chocolate pizza for dessert.
We had a great day, at the site and around town. We are hoping that tomorrow the materials will be there so that we can put the windows and doors onto the church. It is very exciting to see the progress and the love that is being shared. As they told us yesterday, they have been waiting for us for a year and clearly they are happy to see us. We are all experiencing the love of God as we share, learn and build together.
Thanks for your prayers and we will chat again tomorrow.
Monday, August 4, 2008
Today was about getting acclimated to our new home and family. We took it easy this morning and then went to the work site during the afternoon to check it out. Again, when we arrived, there was a group waiting for us...mostly children and youth. We got out of the van and were immediately drawn into warm hugs.
They showed us the tiny plot of ground that used to be the foundation of the church. Then, we went into the new church building, which is a good size and is beautiful. We sat down to talk for a few minutes, and Pastor Pedro's daughter told us, We're so excited that you are here: we've been waiting for you for a year. It was overwhelming, that these folks have been praying for us all year.
We had a delightful time with the children who were gathered, and we quickly began to play with them, learning new words, laughing, singing songs. It's amazing how you can communicate even when you don't really speak the same language. The children took us on a tour of their neighborhood, and they held our hands and made 'chains of friends' as we walked down the street. It is a poor neighborhood, and the Methodist Church has made such a difference in this community already. This church in particular is comprised of children and youth; it is truly a place where the older learn from the younger and change is coming because the small children and youth are leading the way as they lead the church. It reminds me of the passage in Luke when Zechariah prophesies about Jesus 'He will turn the hearts of parents to their children' (1:17).
There is so much to say and yet, we really need to get to bed so that we can begin our work tomorrow...I believe there are 5000 bricks waiting to be moved up to the roof!
Please keep us in your prayers. We are safe and well taken care of by our new Brazilian family, who we already feel knitted to with strond cords of God's love. We love you all!
Deus te abençoe - God bless you!
Sunday we arrived in Rio de Janiero and Teca Greathouse, one of our Methodist missionaries here in Brazil, met us at the airport. After lunch, we drove to the big Jesus statue that is the trademark of Rio, Cristo Redentor. It was a cloudy, foggy, rainy day (the rain followed us EVERYWHERE we travelled). We parked at the mid point of the mountain, and then got on a tram that took us to the top, the highest point in Rio, where an enormous statues of Jesus overlooks the city. It truly was a breathtaking place. Our view was not the greatest, because of the weather, but as we stood there, shivering in the cold and wind, it began to clear up.
There is something very holy about being at the top of a mountain, overlooking such a majestic city, and waiting expectantly for what is to come. We had our devotion there, and read from Psalm 121, I lift my eyes up to the mountain, where will my help come from? My help comes from, maker of heaven and earth...and we talked about the Christ who does sit enthroned over all as the king and creator. BUT this is also the same Jesus who walks among us, who is present with the people, with the poor and the suffering, the Jesus of the favela. Yes, this is the day of the Lord.
We went later to Sugar Loaf mountain and took a cable car across the three different mountains. It was beginning to get dark, and so we saw a beautiful sun set over the city, and then saw all the bright lights as we descended. What a gift, this journey.
We then went back to the airport and borded a plan for Fortalzea. We arrived here and got to be around 3am, throughly exhausted. But I must say, we were greeted at the airport (at 2 am) by a group of people who were warm and waiting for us with excitement, including Pastor Emanuel, the District Superintendent (who also pastors the only 'church' in the district...more on this later), Pastor Pedro, the pastor of the 'congregation' where we are working, and his wife and two daughters. At 2am, they hugged us and welcomed us to Fortaleza.