Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Where is your God?

One thing I particularly love and admire about Brazilian culture is how little emphasis is placed on age. Our largest demographic at church is young people, and that group consists of members from 13-30. We gather for weekly Bible studies, hang out and eat pizza on Fridays, and no one blinks at the fact that a 17 year old is really great friends with a 28 year old. I don't even really know how old my roommate is. I think she's 21, and I'm 26, but I always have to ask her. It just doesn't matter.

Because of the wide age range, we are always looking for ways to keep our weekly gatherings on Saturday nights interesting and fun. This semester our group of 25 young people divided into three subgroups. Each group would be responsible for one gathering a month, from September to December. The first group would be responsible for Bible study, the second group would be responsible for "communion," or a gathering focused on creating community among the group, and the third group would be responsible for outreach. It was an exciting way to get our young people involved in their own events!

My group was responsible for outreach. Because of my ties to all of our LST readers, it was a natural placement for me in that we already have a very large pool to which we could direct our efforts. :) Our first meeting was a beach luau with games and a moonlight devotional, our second event was a movie night where we showed the movie Fireproof, and our third event was this past Saturday.

Our group wanted to have an evangelistic event at our church to which we could invite our friends, coworkers, and families. Although I led the group, I can honestly say that this was their baby from start to finish. They had the idea, they planned the activities, they planned the skit, they planned the food, they planned the praise time, and they did the inviting. After all the time, energy, and prayer that was poured into this event, when all was said and done, it turned out to be the most successful event of its kind that our church has ever seen!

The theme was "Where is Your God?" and we were blessed to get to hear Thalita share her testimony. Before the event was even over, some of our guests had already begun sharing with us how God has used the skit and Thalita's testimony to impact their lives! We had over 80 people present, with over 30 of them being visitors, many of which had previously never participated in any of our activities. I was so proud of our little group of five, and so proud of our church for getting behind us, helping us, serving the hot dogs, and inviting friends and neighbors.

I want to share with you the skit that our young people performed. It is based on the song Everything by Lifehouse. Apparently the skit has become pretty well-known since its original performance was put on YouTube several years ago. This is the second time our young people have performed this skit, and once you watch the video you will understand why we wanted to use it again! It gives powerful testimony to the influence Satan has over us, and, ultimately, Jesus's sacrifice that overcomes that influence.

(For those of you familiar with our church family, Caio is playing Jesus, Catherine is his creation, Franciney represents lust, Jonathan represents greed, Fernanda represents addiction, Rejane represents vanity, and Talis plays the part of death.)

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Tribute to Someone I Never Met

I'm pretty sure I never actually met Sunday. It's possible that I did, though from what I can tell, I would definitely remember such an encounter. It might not matter. He was the kind of person whom everyone on the ACU campus knew, even if we didn't have the privilege to actually know him. Is it strange to write a tribute to someone whom I actually never met?

A week ago Facebook was blowing up with urgent pleas for prayer for Sunday Ibok. At the age of 31 he had suffered a brain aneurysm and was laying in a hospital room, surrounded by family and a multitude of family-like friends, all begging God for mercy and a miracle. People like me, who weren't even Facebook-friends with Sunday, were frequently checking for updates, drawn in to what seemed like, and surely was, a worldwide prayer campaign for his life. I already knew Sunday was a special person, but it was in reading all of the memories and assurances that made me realize that Sunday was one of a kind. It made me wonder what God's purpose could be in taking such a person from this Earth at such a young age, someone who influenced so many with his kindness, genuineness, love, gift of encouragement, and Christ-likeness. If someone who influenced so many for so much good and in so doing pointed them to the joy of life in Christ, why would he be taken?

No one will ever know the answer, and I'm sure the pain of that question will remain with his family for a long time. But I know that many are already seeing a glimpse of the good that came from this tragedy less than a week after his family removed Sunday from life support. So many described him as a light in this dark world, and that his passing from this life makes them want to shine their light brighter. A friend of mine wrote, "thank you for making me feel like I was the most interesting person in the room every time we were together." I wonder if she's now doing just the same.

Tomorrow hundreds (thousands?) will gather to celebrate Sunday's life. Another friend of mine wrote today that he is actually excited about it! Someone who brought so much joy to others in this life has managed to bring a small glimmer of joy in his death! Maybe that's why I felt the need to write something. Because, although I didn't know Sunday, I'm one of the hundreds (thousands?) who has been changed.

My prayer is that God will comfort Sunday's family, friends, and acquaintances. I also pray that He will teach all of us to learn from Sunday's example, to be so in love with Jesus that we can't help but to love others the way He would.

Go here to see a beautiful art print that was made in Sunday's memory. All profit goes to help his family with medical costs. It is a beautiful reminder of God's faithfulness in times of darkness and joy.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Adding to Our Number

Growing up in a faith tradition that embraced the book of Acts as a blueprint for just about everything, I always found the last verse of chapter 2 to be curious. To read in verse 41 that three thousand people were baptized was pretty astonishing, imagining simultaneously the logistical nightmare yet overwhelmingly beautiful scene that must have been. But then to read, a few verses later, in 47 that "the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved," was the part that caught me off guard. No "the apostles were baptizing people daily," or "the apostles were studying the Bible with new contacts," or "the disciples had 50 baptisms as a result of their School of the Bible." Just "the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."

In my last post I told you about Thalita, a fabulous girl whom we met through LST and whom we had the privilege of watching dedicate her life to Christ. I did not, however, tell you about Max, Eline, Volmir, Sandro, Neide, Valeria, Isis, Clayton, or Mateus. Nor did I mention Alessandra, Toinho, Ivete, or Ricardo. Did I mention Dona Ivonete? I don't think so. Those are the names of all the people the Lord has added to our number since the beginning of July! 

Thalita, Clayton, and Mateus are three people whom God brought to us through Let's Start Talking and gave us the honor of being witnesses to their baptisms. Ivete and Ricardo are Mateus's parents, who have been dedicated Christians for a long time in a different church but chose to join our church family because of their son.

Alessandra, baby Daniel, and Max
Max and Alessandra are a young married couple who God brought to us through the mentoring relationship of one of our missionary couples.

Eline, Volmir, Sandro, Neide, Valeria, Roberto, Max
Volmir is a taxi driver who accepted the invitation of a client to church one Sunday, took his wife, Eline, with him, and both were baptized a few months later. Sandro, Valeria, and Neide are the siblings of one of our longtime church members and whose lives have changed so drastically that word has spread in their neighborhood and they are adding an extra room to their house to fit all of the people interested in coming to the Bible study held every Monday afternoon. Toinho was a member at Comunidade de Cristo long before I ever arrived in Natal, but had been away from God and His body for a long time and recently recommitted his life, and his family, to the Lord. Isis is the sister of one of our longtime church members, Robson. One of our missionaries has been going to her house for a weekly Bible study for over two years, and Isis came to church for the first time three months ago.

Ricardo, Dona Ivonete, Osmildo
And Dona Ivonete is Mateus's grandma, also a longtime believer, who was baptized yesterday because she had been told a long time ago that her legal marriage license wasn't enough; she had to be married in a religious ceremony in order to be welcome in the Kingdom of God. Maybe God sent her to us because he knew how desperately she needed to hear that she was welcome in His Kingdom through baptism whether or not she'd ever been married in a church. Her tears and overwhelming joy confirmed that her need had been met.

And we praise Him for adding to our number.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Good Ends and Beginnings

It's the same story every year. We begin our advertising for LST about four weeks before the initial information meeting. We have flyers printed and posted all over the city, with the biggest concentration on the university campuses. We depend a lot on word of mouth. We have never not had enough readers. Another way to say that would be we always get more than enough readers. So it's pretty silly of me to tell you that every single year, without fail, I panic. About two weeks before the information meeting I panic because we haven't gotten enough calls or emails. "This is the year," I think. "Someone who knows what we are doing and doesn't support it is ripping down our advertisements," I actually thought this time around. It's now part of the pre-LST routine for me to panic. It just wouldn't be the same without it. Except this year, God used my pre-LST panic to work in a fantastic way.

The week before the information meeting, in my pre-LST panic, I decided to put an ad in the newspaper. It would run for 7 days straight, up until the day of the information meeting. I got several calls from people who had seen our ad, and I breathed a sigh of relief as I finally became satisfied with the number of people confirmed for the info meeting. One of these people who had seen our ad was a woman named Thalita. When I talked to her on the phone, she had more questions than usual. She wanted to know why we were offering free English conversation with native speakers, what the connection was with the church, if it was a philanthropic effort, etc. Usually we try to not say too much over the phone before they come to the info meeting, so I assumed she would be one of those who "figured us out" before she ever got a chance to come see what LST was really about. I didn't have high hopes that I would ever actually meet Thalita.

The night of the information meeting I was finally able to put faces to names I had been hearing for weeks on the phone. The meeting had a great turnout, even after having been postponed 24-hours at the last minute due to the team's flight delays. At the end of the meeting someone brought me the phone and said "it's a reader, she's lost." Thalita had been wandering around our neighborhood, looking for our building for 40 minutes. It turned out she was on a street perpendicular to ours and wasn't very close. It was getting late, and I felt terrible for her having spent such a long time trying to find us, so I told her to just go home and I'd guarantee a spot in the program for her if she called me the next day. "No," she said, "tell me how to get there from here. I really want to go." So I did.

Thalita walked in a few minutes later, just as the last readers were getting ready to leave. I took her to a table with an LST worker and sat down, explaining how the program works. She stopped me and said, "before you go on, may I say something?" "Um...sure..." I said. She went on to explain that she had been a Christian many years ago, but had spent the last several years of her life far from God and dabbling in other religions and spiritualities. She had begun to see the bad effect these practices were having on her life, and had made a decision that if God still wanted her she would consider going back to him. According to Thalita, when she called about the ad in the newspaper and I told her that LST operated out of a church, she knew this was God giving her a second chance. "So," she finished, "I just want you to know that I'm here for God, I'm not here for English." I sat there, probably with my mouth hanging open, looking back and forth between Thalita and Kalie, the LST worker. "Did you know you would be studying the Bible in these classes?" I asked. A big smile came across her face, "No."

What transpired over the next few days can only be attributed to the work of the Holy Spirit. I invited her to church, she actually came. Some very evident evil influences in her life disappeared. I watched her transform emotionally, spiritually, and even physically. Whereas on the first night I met her, her eyes seemed empty and hollow, days later they were full of joy and life. She would come early and stay late after her reading sessions and we began to form a fantastic friendship.

A week or so later she and I sat down to study the Bible together. Because of her background in Christianity she already knew that she wanted to be baptized, and knew exactly why, what for, etc. (Basically our Bible studies were her telling me things and me confirming them...haha.) But she didn't want to be baptized just yet. "I see baptism like a marriage," she told me. "I think I want to date a little more." So we continued to study together and talk for hours before and after her reading sessions.

The week before FriendsCamp, Thalita's LST worker, Aimee, and I had decided we were going to talk to her more directly about her baptism. After 6 weeks of thinking and praying about it, we wanted to ask what she was waiting for. So the day we were all geared up to both approach her about it in our next conversations, Thalita walked into her reading session with Aimee and said "Do you think it would be ok if I was baptized at FriendsCamp this weekend?" Um...YEAH!!!!

FriendsCamp walking to the lake

So there we had it. The perfect activity for our Saturday afternoon at FriendsCamp. The rain, that did not let up the entire weekend, let up just enough for all 50 of us to make the 5-minute trek to the lake for Thalita's baptism.

Thalita and one of the LST workers

Fifteen other LST readers witnessed Thalita making this expression of faith, and many of them asked questions afterward about her decision. It was The. Best. Day.

Roberto and Osmildo with Thalita

Thalita has been very vocal about all of the many ways she has seen God working in her life, starting with the day she saw the newspaper advertisement. She is an elementary school teacher but been unemployed for a while. She attributes her new job and the many other opportunities coming her way to God's faithfulness. As soon as she was baptized, she commented on the fact that she had just been baptized in the lake called Bonfim. In Portuguese, Bonfim means "good end." "This is definitely a good end," she said. I'd say it's a pretty good beginning, too.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

May, June, and July in a Bulletpoint Nutshell

How many times in the last 3 months have I thought "Oh, I should blog about that!" About fifteen thousand times, that's how many. Now I'm here to tell you about why those poor little thoughts never got to come out to play on this here blog.

At the end of May we received our first LST team. A team of six wonderful women from Michigan. Three weeks later, we received our second LST team, a team of four wonderful people from Oklahoma Christian University, which so happened to include my parents. Three weeks later, as we dropped that team off at the airport, we picked up our third LST team, a team of nine individuals from Texas, and of those nine, four were boys aged eight and under. Then, because we not only like to keep things interesting around here but we like to really see how far past the limit we can push ourselves, while that team was here we also had a team of seven (five adults, two kids) arrive to host a FriendsCamp (weekend retreat for readers and church members, focused on building relationships with a little Bible study thrown in.) Did I mention my parents also stayed on for two weeks of vacation?

Since there is no possible way I could sum up two months of Let's Start Talking on a blog in such a way that many would want to read it, I've decided to give you an overview in my favorite writing style: bullet points.
  • I say this every year, but every year it's true: this has been, BY FAR, the best year of LST we've ever had.
  • Our teams have met and read with over 100 people this year. That's 100 people learning about Jesus, talking about Jesus, and making new friends from a far away land.
  • I would never say I've had more than my fill of brownie mix brownies, but this year I've come close. The LST parties this year have been stellar and the food has been to die for. After having participated in so many parties it's unusual that I would see something that hasn't been done before, but the Texas team served rice krispie treats at their party, and they were a HIT! All of the Brazilians looked at the trays with a weird expression and I told them "It's delicious, trust me." Good thing they trusted me. I think someone stayed behind to lick the pan.
  • This was our first year hosting a FriendsCamp so it was uncharted territory for all involved. (Except the FC team, obviously.) The highlights from the organizational side include our location falling through a month ahead of time, God providing the most fantastic location via Google search two weeks ahead of time, and rain the entire weekend. The highlights from the FC experience include fifty participants, a baptism, and people not really even noticing it was raining/half of the activities getting cancelled because they were having so much fun!
  • We told the FriendsCamp team that if they did nothing else at FriendsCamp, they had to make s'mores. Actually, Roberto, my co-planner, told them that. So bless their hearts, they all came with endless packages of graham crackers and marshmallows packed in their suitcases to give the Brazilians the s'mores experience. We tried to build a bonfire but the wood was soaked from the rain, so we had a piddly little fire that we quickly roasted the marshmallows on before it fizzled out. It was mayhem getting all the s'mores put together and teaching Brazilians how to roast marshmallows enough without catching them on fire, but it was all worth it when one of our Brazilian church members said to me, "Cris, all of us are realizing a dream right now. This is something we've only ever seen in movies. We never imagined we'd have the chance to make s'mores." Rumor has it they roasted the rest of the marshmallows that night over the gas stove in the kitchen.
  • Our LST workers and readers this year have been cream of the crop. I've been so impressed with our workers from the US and how committed they have been to befriending their readers. They came here to do a job, yes, but they have also continued to do that job via Facebook and Skype even after returning home.
  • Speaking of impressive LST workers, I have been blessed by their example this year and know that the readers and church members have, as well. They have been so loving, giving, generous, interested in Brazilian culture, and prepared for the curveballs that inevitably are thrown their way during a missions experience in another culture. The strongest example of this to me, that will stick with me for a long time, was during FriendsCamp. The LST team that was already here, as well as the FC team, came prepared to camp out for the weekend. This means they brought tents, sleeping bags, etc in their luggage. The rain was not expected and really threw things off, especially when the "waterproof" cover on one of the tents turned out to not be waterproof at all. One of the families walked into their tent the first night to see all of their belongings standing in 2 inches of water. Their bags and clothes were soaked the whole weekend, and got soaked again when they happened to store their things in a corner where a shower was leaking. I did not hear a single complaint the entire weekend from them. They had great attitudes, participated 100% in every aspect of camp, and did not let this extremely frustrating challenge get them down in any visible way. I'd be surprised if any of the campers even knew this was going on. I learned a big, BIG, lesson about complaining at FriendsCamp. :)
  • Oh, did I mention we still have an LST team here? It's the last one for the year. And they are every bit as wonderful as all the other ones. I couldn't ask for a better group to close out this experience.
Later I will blog about the baptism we had at FriendsCamp, because it deserves its own post. I will also hopefully tell you about the other exciting things that have been going on here at the church in Natal. I say "hopefully" because, well, let's be honest. I'm not very good at keeping my promises. But I'll try. I'll really, really try.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Second Church

For the first year and half that I lived in Natal, I was told on many occasions by American visitors that I "lived like a college student." You can infer what that does and does not mean, but I can tell you that it was accurate. I had a cute little apartment, but it had the bare minimum of mixed and matched furniture, a tiny kitchen, one bathroom with a hot shower and one whose door did not close all the way when you sat down to, um, take care of business. And it was HOT. Finding that apartment was so exciting for me because it was just the right size, right in front of my favorite bakery, on the 8th floor, and half a block from the church building. I documented my excitement in one of my favorite blog posts to date, a classic from the "I-LIVE-IN-BRAZIL-AND-WANT-TO-BLOG-ABOUT-EVERY-SECOND-OF-MY-LIFE!!!" phase. That apartment served me well for a while, but when I returned to Natal as a full-time missionary in early 2009 (and with more "resources") it was apparent that finding a new place to live would be necessary if I wanted to serve the church here in the ways I had dreamed.

So I made a deal with God. I told him that I wanted an apartment with a big living room (not easy to find in my price range) and easy bus access. Although I planned on having a car, I wanted it to be easy and safe for church members to get to and from my apartment. I told him that, if he provided such a place, the apartment would be his. His for ministry, his for hospitality, his for honing my cooking skills, and his for anything else he might dream up. I found some pretty great apartments (with ocean views) that I really tried to fit into that deal, but thankfully none of them worked out. Because he had something bigger in store.

I've referenced many times on this blog how much I love where I live. I love the size, I love the location, I love the view, I LOVE THE BREEZE, I love the kitchen and how it has inspired me to start cooking, I love how pretty it is, I love that it's on the 6th floor. I love that, even though I was dumb and naive enough to try and strike a deal with God rather than trust that he had something great in store without my having to orient him to the fact, he still provided me with exactly what I had asked for: a GIGANTIC living room and a location right on one of Natal's main thoroughfares.

One of the things I also wanted in this new apartment was a second bedroom for guests. I never used it much, but I knew it was there. Then, in November of last year, God put another opportunity in front of me that tested just how committed I was to making sure this apartment was his. A good friend of mine from the church was in a tough family situation with little stability. She had asked to stay here with me one night, and in explaining to me what was going on I kind of just blurted out, "if you need to, you can come live here with me." In that moment I realized that I was actually serious, but she told me later that she didn't even think twice about it at the time, sure that her situation would blow over. After a couple more rough weeks and giving the idea some thought, she called and asked if my offer still stood. She moved in a few days later. She is grateful to have a stable place to live and I am grateful to have a companion. It was getting lonely around here!

So, even though my deal was stupid, I held up my end of the bargain. I have lost count of how many sleepovers, wedding showers, Bible studies, movie nights, lunches and dinners I've hosted here. The young people from church have gotten so used to coming here that, yesterday, when it was announced that our weekly young adults Bible study would be held at my apartment for the second week in a row, someone made the comment that Cris's house is "the second church." I got a little emotional when I heard that, because that's exactly what I had always hoped for.

This apartment is much more than just a beautiful, well ventilated place to live.

It's a second church.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

My PRK Surgery & Recovery Experience

The week before my PRK (laser eye surgery) procedure I felt very unprepared. I didn't know what the recovery was going to look like, all I had been told was I would feel a grainy feeling in my eyes and I needed to stay out of the sun as much as possible for 3 months. I had no idea what my vision would be like during those three months, how soon after surgery I would be able to drive/take a shower/return to the gym, etc. So I got online and started trying to find some answers. What I found were lots of people who had chronicled their PRK recovery on their blog, some in one big post and others with daily/weekly/monthly posts. These blogs helped put me at ease and feel better prepared for what I would undergo. My intention in writing this is to provide just one more account to hang out on the interwebs and maybe help a nervous and unprepared PRK candidate to feel a little less nervous. If you don't care about my surgery, feel free to stop reading and wait for the next post about Brazil. I promise this will be the only one of this nature.

I had my PRK surgery done in Natal, Brazil, so my experience might be very different than the experience of someone having the surgery in the US. I chose to have it in Brazil because my health insurance covered the cost. My doctor recommended PRK over Lasik because of the thickness (or thinness, actually) of my corneas. My doctor in the US confirmed that Lasik would not even be possible because my corneas are so thin.

My Brazilian doctor does all of his surgeries one eye at a time with a week in between. He did my left eye first, the one with 6.5 near-sightedness. My only preparation for surgery was to take my contacts out and use Vigamox eye drops 3x per day 3 days ahead of surgery. The morning of the surgery they wrapped a hospital gown over my clothes, had me pull my hair back in a cap and put booties over my feet. The nurse put several antiseptic eye drops in both eyes and had me wait about 10 minutes. Once in the "operating room" the doctor checked something in my vision (the machine where the little farmhouse or car comes in an out of focus...does anyone know what that one does?) then had me lay down on the chair.

In most of the accounts I've read online, the doctor talked the patient through every step of the procedure. Although my doctor talked to me the whole time, he didn't tell me much of what he was doing, just what I should expect to feel. I think I actually preferred that because had he talked me through every step I probably would have passed out. :) He told me at the beginning that I would feel no pain and he was right...except for one part. They covered my right eye and taped my eyelids open on my left eye. Then they clamped open my eye and that was the most discomfort I felt the entire time...but I'm sure I prefer that over feeling the laser penetrating my cornea! Some people think it must be weird to not be able to blink, but by that point the eye drops have already numbed the eyeball enough that you can't tell if you need to blink or not! He then spread all kinds of goo all over my eyeball and would tell me that my vision was going to start to blur. They turned the lights out and he pulled the machine over my face and I saw two colored spots. One was small and green, the other was red and looked like a fingerprint. He told me to focus on the "red dot" and I guess that's when the surgery started.

The ONLY thing that I REALLY wish I had been prepared for was the smell. No one told me that I would smell the laser burning my eyeball, and given that I already have a weak stomach when it comes to medical procedures being done on me, that really caught me off guard. Apparently I lost focus several times of the red dot, and looking back I think it's because every time I smelled the laser I got a little woozy. He had to stop the procedure several times because I stopped focusing on the dot...woops! He stopped and started about four times, and I'd say the procedure in itself lasted about 4 minutes. At the end he said "Ok, now we'll correct the astigmatism," and *zap* it was over. As soon as he turned the light on I saw everything perfectly. He put a protective contact in and sent me on my way with instructions to begin the 3 eye drops and antibiotic he had prescribed and apply a cold compress 3x a day. I've had bad vision since I was a child, so walking out of the operating room seeing clearly out of my left eye was a trip!

The surgery on my right eye was a week later and went much more smoothly. I did much better and only lost focus of the light once, making the surgery last about 30 seconds. :) The only real difference I noticed was that after the first surgery I felt NO pain. I actually thought it was weird how comfortable I was. I felt the grainy feeling several times, but I did not feel pain. After the second surgery I felt much more pain and my eye was red for the rest of the afternoon. After both surgeries I made a point to take it easy, stay in bed as much as possible the first few days and keep the windows closed and lights dimmed at night. My doctor told me that it is imperative after PRK to not let your eyes come in contact with the sun, because sunlight will impair the scarring of your corneas, which lasts 3 months. He said any time I go outside I need to wear sunglasses, which has not been a problem. I was able to drive during the day about a week after the first surgery, and I drove at night a week after the second surgery, although I was probably being extra cautious and could have driven sooner. I have been diligent about using the eye drops every day and I guess it paid off...when I went to get the contact removed 6 days after the second surgery he marveled at how "beautifully" my eyes are scarring. He said I can go back to the gym 2 weeks after the first surgery.

In terms of my vision, it is not perfect by any means, but my doctor had prepared me for that. He said as long as I am healing it can fluctuate, and will definitely fluctuate as long as I am using the Florate drops (30 days after surgery.) I am 2 weeks and a day out from my first surgery and 1 week and day out from my second, and I'd say my vision is about 80%. I can see well up close and decently far away, but by the end of the day most things are a little blurry. I am sitting about 7 feet from my TV right now and I can read most of what is coming across the CNN screen. Given that pre-surgery (without contacts/glasses) I wouldn't have been able to determine that there were even words on the screen, I'd say it's great progress! Typing this post I can read what I am writing but the edges of the letters are a little fuzzy. That fluctuates throughout the day, though, and is affected by light-sensitivity and how hard I've worked my eyes that day. I also noticed that lots of air conditioning (a factor that would make more of a difference here than in the US) makes my vision blurrier. Pulling the computer screen closer to my face makes no difference, which tells me that it's not a matter of near-sightedness but just my eyes healing.

I will have a 30-day appt with the doctor to check my vision, then a 60 day and 90-day. I am praying for 100% but can be happy with 95%. :) The very fact that I can see anything that is beyond 6 inches of my face is already a miracle, and I am so thankful that God gave me the opportunity to have this surgery and that he gave someone the idea to invent it. I think I lied in that first paragraph, I will probably post an update at the end of my recovery here in about 3 months just to report how my vision has improved.

If anyone is reading this for the same reasons I read these accounts online, good luck to you in your surgery and recovery process, and remember that that putrid burning smell is over as soon as he turns the laser off, so be SURE to stay focused on the green dot and you'll be done in about 30 seconds. :)

Disclaimer: If any of my details regarding near-sightedness or corneas or how the laser works are inaccurate, that's ok. I don't have to understand exactly how it worked to be happy with the result. Unless the error is so glaring that it MUST be addressed, feel free to comment with your own experience or any questions you might have.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

3 month Recap...I know, I know

I knew that when I came to my blog today I would cringe when I saw the last time I posted. I was pleasantly surprised to see that I did manage a post in December...I was expecting November...so I guess that's good, right? The few people who read this blog probably know why I've been MIA, but to ease my conscience I'm going to give you a big fat recap of the last 3ish months. Ready?

December was a whirlwind month, not just because my jasmine trees bloomed beautifully. We started it by changing our Sunday services at church to the morning time slot. Since the beginning of the church they had always met in the evenings, and due to a variety of factors we decided to move to the mornings. It's been a great transition and we've enjoyed having our afternoons free to continue the fellowship that started in the morning! Two of our members also got married in December and moved to China. That's the third wedding our church has had in just over a year, after no weddings for like 8 years, so that was exciting!

I spent the last two weeks of December and the whole month of January in the US for my furlough. Although I've been blessed to go back to the States at least once every year since I've been in Natal, this was the first official trip (I kept calling it my business trip) and it was GREAT! It was my first time to spend Christmas with my family in Oklahoma since 2006! I also got to spend two weekends visiting my two wonderful supporting congregations and report on the work here in Natal. I loved being with them again and getting to share about how things are going here. I spent a LOT of time driving, but it wasn't too bad because I got to rediscover the joy of driving an automatic and rest my left leg before coming back to my standard-transmission car in Natal. :)

Me with Tootie, one of the elder's wives at Springtown and a great friend!

As soon as I got back to Natal I started the process of scheduling my laser eye surgery. Had I known how long it would take (not because I had any trouble, but because they just had a lot of hoops for me to jump through) to get my insurance company to authorize the surgery, I would have started the process before I left. But, 3 weeks after I got back, I got the surgery scheduled and am now in my second week of recovery! I've worn glasses and/or contacts since I was 6 years old, and was blind as a bat, so this is a very new experience for me! I am so thankful for my Brazilian insurance that covered this type of surgery, something I would never have been able to do in the States without paying out of pocket. It's pretty remarkable that a 40 second procedure can correct 19 years of bad vision, but...I try not to think too much about that!

As soon as I got back I was also pumped to celebrate my friend Talis's graduation from college. College graduations here are week-long celebrations, with events every night and ending with a prom-like party on the weekend. Talis is one of our members who came through LST several years ago, and I am so proud of his accomplishments and where God is leading him in his life. It was an honor to be able to celebrate with him!

Talis's graduation prom :) (Talis is the one looking sharp in a tux)

Things are getting back to normal here now that the Carnaval (Mardi Gras times a million...) holiday is over. Brazil kind of waits for Carnaval to be over before anything serious gets done, so all of our classes are getting started up again and we're already gearing up for the LST season in just a couple months!

Now that I have the emotional burden of this recap post off my shoulders (seriously, I feel guilty about not blogging in a while. Does anyone even read this anymore?) I will really try to keep writing regular updates. but...I know that doesn't mean much since I've told you that many times before. I was reading a guy's blog yesterday who said he schedules his posts to be written on Mondays and Fridays, and actually has it built into his weekly agenda with a reminder that pops up telling him it's time to blog. Maybe I should try that? Ha. Here's to being a better blogger! Thanks for reading!