Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The best news so far...

You didn't know it, but I've been owing you some really great pictures of some really great events. Since the start of 2009 we have witnessed three people give their life to Christ in baptism, and since August of 2008 we have seen a total of eight!!! You knew about Francisco and Geraldo back in August, and then at the beginning of December we had two more, Talis and Jefferson. So that's the latest I had you caught up on...little did I know jsut a few weeks later I would be uploading pictures of four more!

This is Tiago. Tiago was invited to church by his girlfriend, Kelly, a longtime member at our congregation. We all fell in love with Tiago the first time we met him, how could we not with that smile? From day one we could see he was a genuine, caring person, and from day one he was excited to become a part of a church family. With just a few weeks of Bible study, he knew that a life in Christ was the right choice for him. We welcomed him into our family the last Sunday in December. Hoorayyyyy Tiago!

This is Ingrid. You have heard about Ingrid before, indirectly, when I blogged about her little sister, Isabel. Ingrid is 12 years old and the oldest of three children in an amazing, servant-hearted family. Ingrid has served God her whole life, but recently decided she wanted to study about baptism. She studied with John and Samantha and decided she was ready to commit her life to God. We are so happy for her decision!
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This is Rosendo, the oldest of Geraldo's four kids. Since his dad was baptized, he has come to church faithfully and even gotten involved with the teenagers. The whole family is in the popcorn business, selling popcorn on the streets when they are not in school. They are great salesmen, which is good news for us! Since Geraldo's baptism they have brought more neighbors and friends to church than we ever could have imagined! John began studying with Rosendo a few weeks ago and he made the decision to follow in his dad's footsteps and give his life to Christ!

This is Socorro, Geraldo's wife and Rosendo's mom. You know where this is going... Geraldo is such a good salesman that he was able to convince his wife to join him for church each Sunday (although he gave his kids no choice. Ha!) She is a beautiful woman, as you can tell, but also so kind, sweet, with a very gentle demeanor. Though she always has a smile on her face, I could tell she was skeptical of the whole church thing, and was probably there more to support Geraldo than to make any changes herself. Well, that all started to change when she saw the church being the church, serving her family in ways I would imagine they had probably never been served before. As John studied with her and then began to study with Rosendo, mom and son decided to be baptized on the same day. It was a REALLY GREAT day!!
Please be praying for these new brothers and sisters, as well as for the other four I mentioned at the top of this post. We are so excited to see our church family growing, but we also know that they are especially prone to Satan's attacks. God is so good, and so faithful, and we pray that He continues to bless our little congregation with days like this!

*Special thanks to John Jewell for all of the fantastic facial expressions in the above photos

Monday, January 19, 2009

I might be addicted to Mexican food. It's possible.

For those of you who know my plans for oh...the next three weeks of my life...you may be wondering why I am only now writing this post to update my blogging audience on what is about to go down. The answer to that is: not really sure. The last few months have been a bit topsy turvy, with my health problems (hey, I got an MRI and the results came back all clear. I diagnosed myself as overworked and since Brazil is on vacation right now, I am underworked and feeling great!) and with Christmas and with plan-making, I guess I just kept putting it off. Ok, that's a lie. The real reason is that this is news that I prefer not to talk about, as it makes me feel a bit queasy/shakey, so in true Cris fashion I guess I thought if I ignored it, it would either A) go away or B) announce itself to you. Neither A nor B happened, so I am left with option C: spill the beans.

Exactly two weeks from today, to the minute, actually, I will be leaving Natal and concluding my internship with Let's Start Talking. I will be going back to the States to spend 1-2-3 months visiting family, friends, and every Mexican restaurant within driving distance that serves free queso. My primary objective in this trip, however, (besides the Mexican food, of course) is to meet with churches who may be willing to sponsor and/or support me financially in order that I may return to Natal and continue working with Comunidade de Cristo as a full-time missionary. The plans for me to stay on after the conclusion of my internship have been in the works for a while, but only recently did we add a trip back to the US into the mix. I had intended to stay here in Natal with LST through March, but God has a funny way of opening doors and shoving me through them, and so back to the northern America I will go. Only temporarily, I hope.

I am excited/scared/nervous/giddy/craving Mexican food/queasy/happy/restless all at the same time about this. The negative emotions come from the doubting Thomas side of me, who tends to focus on the idea that I have no return ticket (yet) and my future in Natal is going to be determined by missions committees. The positive emotions come from the believing, risk-taking, get-out-of-the-boat Peter side of me who tends to occasionally think about the fact that God is actually who is in control here, and with full confidence I can say that I believe He wants me to continue serving in Natal, and then I start to Dream Big about what three more years working in this amazing ministry could do for the Kingdom, and then I get so excited about it that I actually stop thinking about Mexican food for a second and I just think about how there is nowhere in the world I would rather be at this stage in my life than Natal, Brazil, despite the lizards.

So there you go, a very accurate glimpse into my current mental and emotional state. The missionaries here have known for a while, the church as a whole found out about two weeks ago, and I just emailed the readers to let them know, too. In case your first response was to think "Gee, I wonder how I can help her..." I would like to say that the BEST way you can help me here it to PRAY. The uncertainty of it all is really nerve-wracking for this self-professed perfectionist control-freak, and I could use some heavenly peace to calm my nerves.

I ask that you please pray for wisdom in the hearts of those whom I will be meeting with, that you pray for wisdom in my heart to respond appropriately to whatever answers I may receive, that you pray for safe travels, that you pray for the church here in Natal that is day by day trying to reach Natal for Christ, that you pray for my readers who are searching for answers, and that you pray for my health as I am about to eat an obscene amount of Mexican food. (Ok, totally kidding on that last one...but seriously...can you tell what I'm looking forward to? I need help.)

So, there you have it. I will be spending the next two weeks hanging out with readers, church members, friends, the beach, and conducting a few last reading sessions with the readers who stuck around during vacation. I will spend the week after that packing, crying a bit, flying, preparing powerpoint presentations, and, you guessed it, eating Mexican food. :) I'll keep you updated as I get updated. Thanks for your support, prayers, and hopefully a laugh or two at my neurotic, but brutally honest, writing style.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Sleeping will not be an option tonight...

It's 1:54 in the am and the street noise outside my apartment building is worse than your average lunch-hour traffic jam. The upper-80s weather keeps closing my window from being a real option, so here I am, blogging in the early hours of January 1, 2009, rather than doing what the old lady in me would like to be doing: sleeping.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, Brazilians know how to party. I would venture to say that, second to the famous Carnaval celebration, New Year's Eve is the biggest holiday celebration in Brazilian culture. Christmas isn't even that big of a deal, usually varying from family to family, but everyone does something for New Year's. I've always commemorated New Year's more out of necessity than anything, but here it becomes much more than just a change in the final digit of a four-digit number, with fireworks all day long (ok...so I guess that doesn't set it apart yet from any other Brazilian holiday...or day, for that matter...), wardrobe to match the occasion (you wear the color that represents what you're looking for in the new year...white represents peace, red represents love, I guess, and I don't know the rest of the colors because, as I mentioned, new years to me is a change in number. But I digress...), fancy hair and make-up for the ladies, New Year's eve services for the churches, and empty streets for the pedestrian (me.) I waited in a ten-minute line tonight to buy a single egg at my friendly neighborhood bakery, but then walked home and didn't see a single other person or even a car, for that matter, on the street. Holidays are bizarre here.

The church members spent the evening together, sharing a delicious meal and reflecting on blessings from the past year and dreams for the next. I didn't have the guts to take the microphone and speak in front of everyone, but I did sit in my chair and think of my own blessings and dreams. I have so many, too many to count, and could not be more thankful to God for making 2008 a great year. It has been a challenging one, challenging in ways I never could have anticipated, but that has given me opportunities to see God being faithful in ways I had never seen before, as well as opportunities to see God working in me in ways I had never experienced before.

I know 2009 will be filled with lots of new adventures, new words in Portuguese, new relationships, new mistakes, and new experiences for growth, but I am grateful for the old adventures, old relationships, old mistakes, and old growth experiences that got me to this point. May your 2009 be a year of growth, adventure, relationships, and even, sometimes, mistakes. And, through it all, may God accompany you and hold you and carry you and guide you.

Feliz Ano Novo!!!