Sunday, June 30, 2013


I know, guys. I know.

I last posted at the end of April. Lame. Still trying to find a good way to get myself to blog regularly. The 1000 Words series worked for a while, hopefully I've drummed up something else that might work, might be more personal, might be easier/more fun to write, might make you more aware of what I have going on day in/day out around here.

Although I really have failed entirely as a blogger, it doesn't mean I have failed as a blog reader. Oh no. I'm all over those babies. Maybe that's why I don't blog often, because I read so many good ones I don't feel I can keep up. Who knows. But I need to share something with you.

For a few years now I have followed a blogger called Jamie, The Very Worst Missionary. You may have heard of her, you may not. The title itself should already indicate something. 1. She's a missionary (win). 2. She's self-deprecating (win). 3. She uses superlatives (WIN). So obviously I was a fan before even reading what she had to say.

Now, I would stop short of saying I recommend you read her blog. Although I do enjoy her writing and learn much from what she's contributed to the interwebs, her style might not float your boat. She uses some colorful language that I know might be too distracting or disconcerting for some of you to appreciate her perspective on God, missions, church, etc. And that's perfectly understandable, and to be honest, it distracts me a little, too.


What she has to say about God, missions, church, etc., is good. It's refreshing, it's honest, it's courageous, and it's firsthand perspective of what it's really like to be a missionary. I only remember one thing she wrote one time that I did not agree with, and it was that papaya tastes like feet. I disagreed with that. But what she wrote about the damage many short-term mission trips can do to a long-term mission? Gold. The series should be required reading for all short-term mission trip leaders. She started a conversation online that so needed to be had.

So why am I returning from a months-long blogging silence to blog about another blog? Because I found a video today of an interview with Jamie, VWM (as she refers to herself). I youtubed her because I was curious what she looked/sounded like, and what I found made me weep. This is an interview with JamieVWM about her experiences and missions in general. It's really good, and I've posted it below if you care about that sort of thing and have 15 minutes to spare. All of her answers about missions in general I would answer the same way...and often have when I'm asked about the same subjects.

There's one part that is especially beautiful that I hope all of my readers watch. The interviewer asks her how churches can support their missionaries better. I would like to point out here that I love both of my supporting churches deeply. I feel their love, support, and encouragement and am so, so blessed that God brought us together. So I'm not posting this video as an indirect criticism of my personal experience. I'm posting it because, as she points out, there's a lot more to the missionary-church relationship than overly positive newsletters and general questions met with general answers. I appreciate her call for all of us, regardless of the side we're on, to do better. Because we're all on the same team.

The whole interview is posted below, and the question I mentioned is asked at the 11:18 mark. If you want to only watch that question, you can also click here and it will take you right to that spot.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013


On the first Saturday of each month, our church gathers for its monthly men's and women's Bible studies. The topics vary and the two groups do not necessarily study the same subject.

At the April gathering, the women studied a verse in Matthew, where, quoting the prophet Isaiah, Jesus says "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." Matthew 15:8. We talked about how this might happen, why it happens, and how we can either avoid it happening to us, or fix the problem if it's already happened. 

The women were divided into groups and asked to "prescribe a medication" for this condition. We were asked to write up a package insert, that piece of paper that you get with your prescription medications that describes what the medicine is for, how it should be used, side effects, etc. 

The creativity of our sisters blew me away! We had several different medicine names, including Hypocrisene and Falsehoodenol. We were asked to specify the pharmacology, indications and usage, reactions, and dosage, all in order to cure the ailment of a heart that is far from God. 

When they were read aloud, so much laughter ensued! I grabbed one to share with you all because they were too creative not to share! 

If you are suffering from a heart that is far from God, I recommend the use of: 

Pharmacology: prayer, Bible study, practicing community, fasting, worship. 
Indications & usage: for treatment of the heart, people with little faith, those who are discouraged and feel far from God. 
Reactions: grow closer to God and Christian family, spiritual growth. 
Dosage: use daily for a 15 minute minimum, for maximum effect use in the morning before starting your day. 

Wasn't this a great idea?!

Saturday, March 16, 2013


In a recent email exchange with my mom, she said "Wow, Cris, you should write a book. Well, I guess that's what you have a blog for." I can take the hint.

If I were to write a book one day, the title would have to be Why I'm Blessed. Because any story I have worth telling is undoubtedly somehow connected to the many life adventures and sweet relationships God has allowed me to have.

What we were talking about in that particular email exchange was the funeral of a dear friend of mine, JerryHall (that's how he said it, with the two names running together and ending in a fabulous drawwwwwl that rhymes with Hawwwwwl). I am in Brazil, and I had just finished watching my friend's funeral in Texas. Online. In real time. Not singing along to "My God and I" and "The Greatest Commands" because I could hear the congregation singing so clearly and so beautifully that I much preferred to listen. Waving back through the webcam when Jerry's son, Mike, while speaking about his father, waved to me from the pulpit. Sniffling along with the people physically present during the beautiful and thoughtful closing prayer. This story would be a part of a chapter called "How God has Used Technology to Bless Missionaries in Ways You Might Never Imagine."

This was most definitely my first online funeral experience, and maybe it will be my last. It was made possible by the fact that Jerry's family knows just how much I loved him. They knew (and I told them) how I would have given just about anything to be able to be there. They knew that Jerry and I had a special friendship, although from what I can tell I wasn't the only non-family member whom he made feel precious and loved! He made me feel so precious and loved that his family generously called me an adopted family member, and made the arrangements to place me via computer front row at his service, with the best view in the house of the gorgeous arrangement of flowers placed over his casket.

So how did I get adopted into a cowboy family from Springtown, Texas? That would be another chapter called "That Never Happens." Jerry was an elder at the Springtown Church of Christ, who, in 2008, came down to Natal to visit the missionary family they were supporting at the time. Jerry came with his son, Mike, and daughter-in-law, Sabra, for a very quick visit. They came after Christmas and left on New Years Day. The trip to Natal is exhausting if you plan to stay a month, but such a quick turnaround surely wore Jerry right out. But he chugged along and did his elder business with utmost grace and love. He even took a four-hour road trip in an open Jeep to visit the family of one of our members in the interior of our state. He impressed the Brazilians by drinking Brazilian coffee straight, no milk or sugar (no one does that!). That's when I figured out he was pretty special, that and when he told me his wife's name was Tootie and he had met her on a blind date. I knew this Jerry and I should probably be friends.

So on the one Sunday Jerry was here, he spoke at our English worship service. He simply told the story of the gospel, because it was his favorite, and broke down in tears at the end and said "I can't get through this story without crying." After church that day, he came up to me, handed me a piece of paper with his name and phone number on it, and said "I hear you're going to be in the States fundraising for your work soon. Please look us up." An elder. From a church. Asking a missionary to ask them for support? That never happens.

A few months later I was bold enough to do just that. I drove down to Springtown for a fundraising visit and they had me make a presentation to the church then meet privately with the elders. I was in a dress and the elders were in cowboy boots. Previously that day, Jerry had taken me out to see his pasture/farm/land and it was the first time I'd ever been so close to a cow. He thought it was hilarious that I'd never been on a farm before. After my meeting with the elders, I left Springtown to have dinner with a friend in Dallas. During dinner, a mere two hours later, Jerry called to say they had decided to take over my monthly salary. That was all I lacked to return to Natal. I began to cry, and Jerry thought that was pretty great, too. He loved to tell that story. I had all of the support I needed three weeks after beginning my fundraising. That never happens.

Thus began a lovely friendship between the Halls and me. I was blessed to host Tootie on a Let's Start Talking project the following year. I've been blessed to visit them in Springtown several times on reporting trips, always welcomed into their homes and lives like a daughter/sister/granddaughter. When Franciney and I made our trip to the States last year, I was so excited for him to meet Jerry. What I wanted was for Franciney to know him. What I really wanted was for Jerry to know Franciney, and to give him a hard time, but ultimately, approval. Jerry didn't get to meet Franciney because a few days before we arrived in Springtown he got a call that there was a heart for his transplant and to drive immediately to Galveston for his surgery. So he did. He got in the truck with Tootie and drove himself to his transplant. That never happens....

I am so, so, so grateful I got to see Jerry one last time on my last trip. As his son, Mike, has said since his passing, he wasn't living like he wanted to. He held on for his family, but his health was not allowing him to live the way they had all hoped a new heart might afford. When I sat briefly to chat with Jerry in his living room in January, his first question was "How's the church? How's the work?" and was happy to hear that the church in Natal has grown by leaps and bounds and that the work here is being blessed by God.

I didn't love Jerry because he helped me get financial support. I loved Jerry because he supported me, personally, in ways he didn't even realize. There is no unit by which I can measure the amount of confidence Jerry gave me by believing in me. I didn't expect being a single female missionary to be an easy sell, but Jerry didn't seem to even notice that. I didn't expect him to pay much attention to what else was going on in our church when he came for a visit because it was so quick, but he cared enough to find out about the other ministries God was using and wanted to be a part of them. While he was in the hospital for his transplant, I didn't expect him to remember that he had even missed my visit, let alone who had been with me. But when I called him to say hello, he said "Now I hear I missed you in Springtown and that you brought a young man with you..." I told him I was sure he would approve, and he assured me that he thought so, too.

To me, that was JerryHall. Sweet, thoughtful, generous, committed to God above everything else. I've found a good measure for me when I'm making a ministry decision (and other decisions!) is to ask "Would _____ be proud of that?" I insert the name of any of the many elders and supporters I have in the States, but Jerry's is almost always the first one that comes to mind. I'll have to be even more careful now, because if I know JerryHall, I'm pretty sure he's pulled up a recliner for a front-row seat, getting to watch all of what the many people he loved so dearly are up to.

And I definitely want to make sure he's proud. 

I, regrettably, don't have any pictures of myself with Jerry. I suppose he'd be fine with a picture of me with his just-as-wonderful other-half, Tootie. 

Jerry's obituary in the Ft Worth Star-Telegram

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Why I'm Here

I've mentioned several times before on this blog that a highlight of my week is my Monday night English class. As soon as I got home from furlough, I was anxious to get back in the Monday night groove. I had missed my students, and I had missed our fantastic conversations about scripture even more! In the year and a half that I've been with this specific group, it's been made clear to me time and time again that our time together serves a very specific purpose.

I was antsy to get back into our study of Acts, as we had stopped exactly at the lesson where Stephen is brought in to the Sanhedrin. My students knew what was coming, but had been waiting for two months to read the next part of the story! Talk about suspense!

After a two-month break I knew they would need to be eased into the English. (Although I did find out that three of my students had continued meeting weekly while I was gone, on Monday night, no less, to practice English and re-read all the lessons we had already completed!) Since it's a basic conversation class, where I do a lot of explaining in Portuguese, I figured they might appreciate more chatting and less study the first night. So last week I prepared several ice breaker questions about a variety of different topics to get them talking. I only threw in one Bible-related question and I was curious to see how it would turn out. I figured most of my students would be able to recall a favorite Bible story, and chanced asking about a favorite Bible verse, as well. My veteran students would definitely have a great bank of stories to choose from, as we have already read Luke and are halfway through Acts, and I hoped they might even remember a verse or two that stuck out.

Thankfully, the Bible question ended up with one of my students who has pretty decent Bible knowledge. He was quick to say that his favorite Bible story was about Joseph in Egypt. I was happy with that answer and asked if he had a favorite Bible verse. "No, there are so many," he said, "I can't think of anything right now." So we moved on. A few minutes later he excitedly said "Oh! I remember a great verse. When Jesus is in the temple and his parents come back looking for him, and he looks at Joseph, his dad, and says 'Dad, you should have known that I would be in my Father's house!'" A full year after reading that story in class for the first time, he still remembered!

One of the things that makes this group so special is that their English level really is pretty basic. They take a while to string their words together and often give me their answers in Portuguese and I help phrase them in English. But no one seems to care. We do the reading in English and talk about vocabulary, which is important, but when we leave at the end I don't think anyone remembers what we did or didn't talk about in English. We remember what we talked about, what we learned about the way God worked in the lives of those we are reading about and continues to work in our lives today.

Last night was our first class back in the study material. We had a remarkable discussion about Stephen's death, and what he understood that his killers didn't. We talked about how Stephen knew that dying for Christ was better than living without him.  At the end of class, one of my students, who was back for the first time after a semester-long absence, pulled me aside and said "Cris, this is why I came back. The English is great and all, and I appreciate the extra practice, but I'm here because of what I learn about God. I don't learn this anywhere else. I'll never forget the class where we examined the Lord's Prayer. It changed my life, I tell everyone about it. This is why I'm here."

And, once again, I'm reminded of why I'm here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


You know your furlough was good when you are excited to get back home but not desperately so. That means your church visits went well, (great, actually!) your time with family was fulfilling and good, and you saw most, if not all, of the people who you've come to rely on as sources of encouragement for the work you are doing.

My interview/report to the Springtown church of Christ
In terms of the work-related part of this furlough, it was hands-down the best I've ever had. I got to know the leaders and members of my two supporting churches on a whole different level than on previous trips, and I got to share about the exciting things that God is doing in Natal, which is my favorite part of church visits! In terms of the personal part, this trip came in second to the trip I took last year for reasons that should be obvious to all who know me. :)

Gathering with a group from Westover Hills church of Christ
in Austin

At the end of my trip I was so ready to get home to Natal. Not because I was tired, because I was exceptionally well-rested (which, for those of you who know what furlough entails, is unusual.) Not because I so desperately missed my Brazilian family, because I face furlough as a positive and necessary break that contributes to the future well-being of my ministry. But, because after such a great visit, the only plausible next step was to get home and channel all of the encouragement, prayers, and new ideas into kicking off another wonderful year. And that's exactly what has happened! I have never been as ready to get back as I was this time, and it made me realize all over again how thrilled I am that God brought me to this place and continues to show me why.

Up next: a post about how great it was to get back in the groove of my Monday night English class!

Running in to one of our LST readers on the streets of NYC! What a coincidence! 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Where Have I Been?

Since the last time I blogged, I've...

...gone to a "youth retreat" in Fortaleza with 15 of our young people, ages ranging from 14 to 30. Yes, we all participated in the same retreat. No, it wasn't weird. I love that about Brazil!

Photo credit: Barbara Alves

...spent a week in São Paulo at the Continent Care Connection, a conference for missionary women working in South America. Adequate adjectives do not exist to describe this conference. It was my third time to participate (2008 and 2010) and, as always, it was life-changing. I am so blessed to have woken up to that view each morning, shared my life with these girls each day, and reconnected with Rachel McClure, a family friend who has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  

...ridden a camel. Not much to say about that experience. It was a fun way to celebrate a birthday. :)

...celebrated Thanksgiving with dear friends by eating Mexican food and roasting marshmallows for s'mores over my kitchen stove.

...fallen more and more in love with the sweet personality of this little guy. He may look familiar...this isn't his first time on this blog!

...had the honor of being a bridesmaid for the first time in a Brazilian wedding. My dear friends, Robson and Maihana, got married after four and half long years of dating. Couldn't be happier for them!

...finished the book of Luke, started the book of Acts, and celebrated the end of a great semester with my Monday night English class!

Many other things have been going on, but these are the events I have photos of! It has been a busy but fulfilling semester. A week from today I'll be zipping up my suitcases to leave for my 6-week furlough. I can't wait to share, in person, about all God has done and continues to do in Natal. I am blessed.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

5 Years

5 years ago, this happened:

September 4, 2007 - Natal airport
5 years later, this:

FriendsCamp kitchen

and this:

Not my children, 5 years in Natal has not changed me that much

I think 5 years in Brazil looks pretty good on me, don't you? If I were to sum up the past half-decade in one word, it would be blessed. And growth. And joy. And Portuguese. And home.

Okay, five words. Clearly, 5 years has done nothing for my verbosity. Oh well.

Here's to many more years filled with all of those words and so many others! I couldn't imagine my life any other way. 

Thank you, Lord!