Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Homecoming Part 2

A big thanks for all of your prayers throughout our journey and in our traveling. We have safely arrived in Virginia and were greeted at the Richmond airport by friends and family. We had fantastic flights on the way home; our long overnight flight was actually much more comfortable than our flight there and the plane was only about half full, which gave us some room to stretch out and sleep a bit.

Even though we sprinted to the gate in Atlanta, we missed our flight but we were put on the next one which was only one hour later. I assume that everyone has made it back to Stuarts Draft; I actually left from the airport to come to Blackstone for a provisional residency event.

We will be at church on Sunday, dressed in our Brazilian best and excited to share the stories with you! Keep checking the blog for a little while longer; we will try to post stories from some of the other team members describing their more powerful moments that they experienced.

God bless you! Deus ti abencoe!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Final thoughts from Fortaleza

It really has been a wonderful time here with the church. I cannot explain how we have become so connected and so close to the people of Aerolandia Methodist Church without feeling awestruck by the power of the Holy Spirit to call us together as one church, one family of sisters and brothers. There is no other explanation.

Many people asked before we came, do any of you speak Portuguese? The answer is no. It would be great to have that ability, but it is also powerful to witness how we can learn to communicate and love each other without having to understand every word from someone's mouth. We did have help from a couple of bilingual and trilingual friends, and we are deeply grateful to Andressa, who works as a Volunteers in Mission coordinator in this conference and spent the 11 days with us, Andrè, a young man who is visiting with his family for a few weeks and helped us tremendously with translation as well as being a really fun person, and Rosangela, (André's mom) who also helped with translation and cultural learning.

We were tremendously blessed to have Teca Greathouse, a United Methodist GBGM missionary to Brazil, travelling with us all week and taking care of us. We are thrilled that she will possibly be in Virginia in the spring and are hoping that she will come to visit us in the valley! We know that everyone will enjoy meeting her when she is able to come.

We have talked a lot about Radical Hospitality in the last year or so, and that is an understatement in describing the way that we have been welcomed and loved here. We will be happy to see all of you when we return to VA, but it is heartbreaking to leave. The tears already started last night when we left after worship, and I'm sure they will flood when we say goodbye at the airport in a few hours. The children and youth face tremendous challenges and risk here, and yet, they are deeply committed to following Jesus and being the church. When they sing and dance in worship, they are the embodiment of the praise psalms.

Thanks be to God for the children and youth who are leading the way. May we have the courage to follow them and be a part of the movement.

Flight Schedule

Bags are packed and the group is currently at the mall, where there is air conditioning. We have already checked out of the hotel, leaving all of our bags in one room (miraclously, they fit!)

Here is our flight schedule:

We leave Fortaleza tonight at 11:00pm (10:00pm Virginia time).
We arrive in Atlanta at 6:40am.
By the grace of God, we will leave Atlanta at 7:25am to arrive in Richmond at 9:00am.

Please keep us in your prayers. In particular, it will be MIRACULOUS if we actually make our flight in Atlanta...we have 45 minutes to get off the plane, go through customs and immigration, check in again, and get to the gate. But we do believe in miracles!

More photos

Kristin and Neanhy

Kristy and Vando

Sarah and Lucilanya

Pastor Pedro and his wife Franci

Sunday photos

Pastor Kristin and Pastor Pedro in front of the new plaque. It says thanks to the churches who have helped in the construction of this church.
The mural is finished in time for Sunday worship! Several of the kids and youth from Calvary wrote cards to the kids and youth here at Aerolandia. They are now on the bulletin board so that everyone can enjoy them!

Bible School 4

Most of the Bible School kids.


Bible School 3

Working on friendship bracelets.

VBS photos 2

In small groups, playing the Brazilian verson of Quack did-a-li-o-bo.

Bible School photos

Showing off the banners each child made. In the Northeast Conference, the symbol is the Methodist cross and flame with a cactus, and a yellow sun in the background.

The Lord's Day in Detail

Hello from Fortaleza, Brazil....we send our Love.

Our Sunday began at the Church where we had bible school with the children. As always we were greeted with large sparkling eyes, smiles from ear to ear, and hugs beyond compare. Many of us do not speak Portuguese, but the language of the heart is universal. We sang with the children, helped with crafts which we had brought for them -- a necklace of a wooden cross on a hemp string they could decorate, a banner made from yellow felt which they decorated with the United Methodist flame and cross and a green cactus from their country. The banners were on a stick with a ribbon for hanging.

We came back to our room to refresh ourselves and have lunch. At 6:00 we returned to the church for their church service which is always held in the evening. The youth are the major part of the church and they had prepared a dance to some of their church songs while they sang (much like our children sing and do skits). Our hearts were full because the church was so full of God’s presence with us. There was prayer and a song by Cher, one of the daughters of Pastor Pedro. Pastor Kristin delivered the evening message while Andressa interpreted. We all sang “I Want to Know You More”each in our own language together.

Pastor Pedro added some closing comments and recognized the wonderful work of Penny who spent almost her entire week doing a painting on the entire wall at the front of the church at the request of Pastor Pedro. Last year, she painted the flame and cross on the same wall and this year she surrounded it with the ocean, some beautiful sand dunes which we got to see where the sand is naturally many different colors and cactus. As with our Grand Canyon, the beauty of this wall can be described, but to really appreciate it is to see it in person. There were several prayers for our lives, our safe travel home, the church in Fortaleza and our world.

We concluded our evening with our equivilence of passing the peace. All of us were laughing and crying together because our hearts were heavy to say goodbye to our brothers and sisters. It is now Monday, and we will spend the morning at the church for the last time. We will leave for the airport around 6:00pm for our flight home at 11:00pm to return to our own families and friends and our church. We leave, however, knowing that for the time we spent here, we were truly also at home because the people here have made us feel so welcome, loved and at home. The journey hás truly enriched each of our lives. See you soon, with all of our love.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Lord's Day

Today, Sunday, we are on our way to church this morning, not for worship but for Bible School! We will have a bunch of kids from 9-11 this morning, so please keep us in your prayers! Worship services are in the evening, so we will have our final night in Brazil with the church in song, dance, and preaching.

Please know that the church here is praying for the church in Virginia and around the world!

One Lord, one faith, one baptism...one family!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Coty and the boys, Mario, Marcio, Ivan, and Vando.

Jimmy and Barbara have claimed Vando as their son, and he always calls Jimmy "Father."

Sifting Sand

The endless task of sifting sand.

Penny, Carolyn, and Kristy.

Bill, Barbara, and Sarah

Friday, July 17, 2009

Shade and Fresh Water

Amy, Cher, Neanhy, Carolyn, and Rachel posing in front of the Shade and Fresh Water mural outside the sanctuary.

Children´s Bibles

Barbara is looking at the children´s Bibles that we purchased before Alex begins reading the stories to her.

Penny´s art

Here are some of the girls posing in front of the mural Penny is working on at the front of the church: Neanhy, Vanessa, Ruth, Lucilenya, and Luana.
Hooray for comments! We love to hear from you. And just to clear up the question, yes, Bill DID ride the dune buggy! You have to ask him about it when we get back!

Penny has been working really hard on the sanctuary wall for the last few days, trying deperately to have it fnished by Sunday church. It isn´t totally finished, but it does look fantastic! The kids have been taking photos in front of the wall and Pastor Pedro put some on his phone.

Pastor Emmanoel, who is the pastor of Central Methodist Church, the big "mother" church here in Fortaleza as well as being the District Superintendent, came to see us yesterday and spent some time with us. He and his family were in a very bad car accident a few days ago, and he spoke about feeling God´s presence strongly. We prayed in gratitude for the way that God protected he and his family in such an accident. Now, they are just dealing with trying to do something about the car, which was totaled. Getting another car here for a pastor (or D.S) is a very difficult task.

Another group of Shade and Fresh Water kids came yesterday, and we got to play and sing with them for awhile. It was hilarious actually. We played one game where you walk around the circle in a line and stop in front of a person. That person has to crawl in the floor under the legs of everyone else in line. The hilarious part was that we adults were crawling on the floor through the legs of children so tiny, they had to sometimes be picked up. Everyone laughed.

We have begun filming the video to bring back to the church, interviewing the children and adults and asking about what gives them hope and joy. Their answers are truly powerful, and we hope everyone will have a chance to see this when we arrive home. Some of the folks are a little bashful, but for the most part, the kids love being on camera, and we got some great shots of the teenagers dancing and cutting up.

Our time is getting short and the leaving sadness is already beginning. Please keep us in your prayers!

Neighborhood Tour Photos

Here is a photo of Rachel and her sidekick Thiago.

The kids led us on a tour of the neighborhood today. Kids are definitely the best tour guides and we learned about all of the interesting places in Aerolandia.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


As you are reading our blog, please make a comment! Everytime we are able to check, we look to see if we have nay message from you so that we can share with the group. We would love your words of love and encouragement! Just click on the word "comment" and write a short note!


Today, Wednesday, the masons were working when we arrived, and our sifted sand was already starting to get low! They are working on building the brick staircase so that it will no longer be necessary to climb up the scary, rickety wooden planks that we currently call a staircase.

There is plenty of singing, dancing, and laughing onsite. I wasn´t part of the dance party from earlier today, but I saw the video on someone´s camera. There were even more kids than usual today because it was a scheduled Shade and Fresh Water day, so we got to meet lots of new friends. Laiana was back...it was the first time we have seen her since last year.

One thing that our team talked about with the leaders here was purchasing some children´s Bibles for the project. They don´t have many books for the children yet, since the project is very new, and of course, we are particularly interested in making sure they have Bibles. A few of us went shopping this morning and bought 12 new Bibles, 10 children´s Bibles of different age levels, and two large print Bibles for adults who can´t read the smaller print. We made it back in time for lunch and put the Bibles to use immediately. Barbara and Rachel sat down after lunch and were read stories by Alex and Thiago from the brand new Bibles. They made it all the way through Adam and Eve in one sitting!

Last year when we were painting the sanctuary, Penny was asked to paint a Methodist cross and flame on the main wall of the sanctuary behind the altar. This year, she was asked to paint a mural around the cross and flame to give the wall a little more color. She has been working on this for the last few days, and it is really starting to look beautiful. She is painting a beach scene, with the ocean meeting the sky, sand dunes, and cacti. This is very appropriate for the context of this beach area. At first, there was a little anxiety when she started to put all the bright blue on the wall. But by this afternoon, the kids were all posing for photos in front of the mural and Pastor Pedro was taking photos with his cell phone to show to people. We all look forward to see the completed masterpiece, and it is amazing to watch it take shape and be born in front of our eyes.

We´re excited to see what tomorrow brings and ready for a good night of rest!

We send you our warmest love and greetings!


Two days worth of stories is so hard...it´s hard to even distinguish what happened yesterday from the whole trip narrative...

I guess it was Tuesday. We worked at the church, sifting endless piles of sand. There are now four unfinished classroms upstairs on the second story, and our team has so far sanded the walls and primed them for painting.

We also spent a lot of time playing and talking with the kids and youth at the church. They are on vacation so there is no school, and at any given time there is at least 12-15 kids onsite. They are now officially in the Shade and Fresh Water project, and we got a taste of this. There were long tables set up outside of the sanctuary and each of the kids (and us) was given a canvas bag with a pencil drawing of children on it. The teacher explained that the children have been learning how to paint, so they would be our teachers. We carefully painted the bags many bright colors, and I´m sure we were quite a sight sitting at the tables alongside the children.

Alejandro, who has now determined that he will be called Alex, has been with us every second that we have been at the church. He is ten years old, though he doesn´t look it. He has been busy shovelling and sifting sand, picking up trash, and his latest profession is photography (he took most of the photos that I posted last time.) He also loves being in photos and learning new English phrases. As we climb into the van to leave, he always calls, "kiss, kiss!" and "thank you" might be his favorite phrase.

Mario is the gatekeeper, and he spends a lot of time opening the gate when people show up and call to be let in. He is incredibly gifted in the music department, and for the last two days he has pulled out the keyboard and picked out several songs from listening to us sing. (But I´m sure he misses Amy). He still has his computer job, so after he is with us all day long, he goes to work from 5pm until 11pm.

Last night we ate tapioca with the pastoral family, Pastor Pedro, his wife Franci, and his two daughters Cher and Neanhy. Tapioca is fantastic...it is like a burrito made out of a light tapicoca substance (not like pudding at ALL) and you can have it with all kinds of different fillings, chicken and cheese, beef and cheese, coconut and banana...delicious! It was nice to spend time with the family. Neanhy and the girls had a fun discussion about pop culture (she is crazy for the Jonas brothers!) and we learned every possible Portuguese word or phrase necessary for restaurant dining. At the other end of the table, Pastor Pedro was making up words to try and communicate with Pastor Kristin, which made everyone laugh. And at the end of the night, he reminded her that she is preaching on Sunday. (Side note: the Portuguese word for preaching is the same verb used to talk about hammering a nail. Interesting, no?)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Monday photos 2

Andre, Carlos, Ruth, Marcio, Alejandro, and Jeanie playing a fun game in the small side room

Monday photos

Ruth and Rachel

Vando, Amy, Rachel, Ruth, and Sarah

A Homecoming

It´s hard to believe that today is Monday; we are so far removed from a concrete sense of time.

Yesterday we spent the Lord´s Day marvelling at God´s creation. We got up early and drove to a beach about an hour and a half away. Half of the group took a two hour dune buggy tour, and they have great stories to tell of fresh water lakes and drives down the coast. All of us got to hike through these amazing dune that consist of multi-colored sand. There is a lot of sand art in Brazil, and we found out that the reason for this is that the sand actually comes in these beautiful shades of brown, red, yellow, white, black, and pink. Rosãngela commented that it was a blessing to see how we create art with God´s own creation as we collaborate to make a new language.

We also spent time on the beach, swimming in the ocean and enjoying the breeze. I love it that we were celebrating the Lord´s Day this way! There was plenty of time for rest (imagine that, sabbath!) as we relazed after lunch.

Worship services are usually in the evening in the Brazilian Methodist Church. We went to the church at 6pm, and there was a crowd waiting for us outside of the gate. The moment that we opened the door, people were jumping up and down. We were immediately embraced upon getting out of the van, those who were returning from last year and those who were new. It didn´t really matter; we were all literally welcomed with open arms. Someone said later it was like watching a family reunion, which is precisely what it was.

Church was rockin´ - that is the best way to put it. There was fervent prayer, singing, and preaching. We were interspersed among the church, with the translators sitting around most of us to help us along. There is no doubt that the Holy Spirit is powerfully present in this church, and we felt this welling up inside and moving all around us.

We were truly treated as honored family returning home; radical hospitality is an understatement. At the end of the service, Pastor Kristin and Rosângela, who is also a pastor, were invited to the front to give the benediction in both English and Portuguese. Then, we all congregated in the back of the room where there was a yellow curtain taped up on the wall to be unveiled...and it was a big silver plaque with the names of the U.S.churches who have helped to build this church and who have been partners in ministry with the peopel of Aerolandia. It was a beautiful surprise and we were very touched.

There is so much to tell...about the building, which looks amazing. It´s hard to believe that this is the same place as last year. About all of the friends...Ruth, Vanessa, Mario, Alejandro, Cher, Neanhy...

Today, Monday, was our first day of physical labor. We sifted lots of sand and several brave folks worked on sanding the walls of the second floor so that we can´prime and paint in the next few days. Most of all, we played, talked, and laughed with all the kids and youth who were around all day long. Alejandro in particular, who is 10, was there with us all day long, working with us, cleaning up, learning great phrases, taking amazing photos with Rachel´s camera, and being ridiculously charming.

God is truly doing amazing things here in this place, in this church, in this community, in the lives of these children, youth, and adults. It is a tremendous blessing to be a witness to this, and to feel so loved. Thanks be to God!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Yes, We Have Arrived!

We made it here to Fortaleza, with all 11 of us, thanks be to God! We had hoped to post as soon as we arrived, but as it happens, the computer at the hotel is down. They are hoping to have it fixed on Monday...

We had great flights and traveling time. Some of us slept a little on the plane, while others were seated next to some very loud teenagers and a crying baby, and got no sleep whatsoever. We arrived to Fortaleza at 6:30am, and there was a great group waiting for us at the airport: Pastor Pedro and his wife Franci, Neanhy, Cher, Neanhy´s BFF Carla, and Teca, who is our missionary host. It was so wonderful to walk through the doors and see these happy, familiar faces! Neanhy is definitely taller, but everyone else looks pretty much the same.

We went over the hotel and most of us slept for the rest of the morning. The rest of the day we have spent getting acclimated. Our very talented and spatially brilliant driver Junior (yes, the same driver from last year) gave us a driving tour of the city. We went to a part of the beach for awhile and walked around. It is technically winter here, but it is also vacation time for many people, so the beach was packed. We are blessed to be joined by three new friends: Rosângela, who works with the GBGM (General Board of Global Ministries) in the Women´s Division, specifically with Latin America, her son Andres, and his girlfriend Amy. We have enjoyed getting to know them and are already greatly appreciative of their help in translation and accompaniment.

We also went to a place called Metal Bridge, or English Bridge, which is a long wooden pier that sticks out into the ocean. It so happens that we ran into cultural events all over the place, a band playing traditional music on one side and a Capoeira group on the other side.

It has been a great day of cultural learning and adjustment, but we are flat out exhausted. As I write this, it is 8:30 our time, and most of the team is already in bed asleep. Tomorrow we will go to the church for their regular worship service at 6:00pm. We are anticipating seeing all of the children and youth who we befriended last year and participating in a vibrant celebration of worship!

Thank you for your prayers in our travelling, and a special shout out to all those who came to see us off on Friday! We love you and bring you here with us.

There is a good chance that we will not be able to post until the computer gets fixed at the church, so DON´T WORRY if you don´t hear from us immediately. We will post again as soon as it is possible.

"Indeed, let me consider everything an immense loss compared with the surpassing greatness of knowing our Lord Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:8 (From our team devotion today led by Rachel)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Leavin' on a jet plane!

Is it possible that it's already July? Yes, it is! We leave tomorrow for Brazil, and we covet your prayers in our travel. We will be meeting here at the Calvary UMC parking lot at 12:00 noon. If you have time to come and pray with us to see us off, we would love it!

Our first flight leaves from Richmond at 4:54pm and takes us to Atlanta. We leave Atlanta at 8:45pm and arrive in Fortaleza, Brazil at 6:30am on Saturday morning. Hopefully, we will be able to sleep on the plane!

A big thanks to all of our friends and family who have supported us, helped us, and loved us as we follow God's wild and crazy call to Brazil! Here we go!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The countdown has begun!

We depart for our next adventure to Brazil in 9 days! Our team this year consists of 11 people, all from Calvary United Methodist Church in Stuarts Draft, Virginia. We are:

Jimmy Allen (the team leader)
Barbara Allen
Coty Allen
Rachel Fitzgerald
Bill Forbes
Penny Hartlaub
Sarah Hayes
Kristin Holbrook
Kristy McClain
Jeanie Patton
Carolyn Wade

Some of us went on the team last year, and some of us are new. Some of us have never left the country before. Some of us are very nervous to be getting on an airplane. All of us feel called to Fortaleza, Brazil to be in ministry with Aerolandia Methodist Church.

Please keep our team in your prayers as we pack and prepare to go. Please pray for our families and friends as they encourage us to follow God's call. And please join the journey with us! We will be blogging consistently, telling stories and sharing pictures as we go. We invite you to be a part of God's mission with us as we journey in faith to Brazil.