Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Carnatal, continued

The Carnatal retreat was a lot of fun. Last year I missed it due to my trip to Rio de Janeiro with my sister and brother-in-law, so I was happy to be around for it. This year's theme was "In the Master's Steps," and you can probably guess what we studied. :) We were warned before the retreat started that there would be very little, if any, running water in the house. That meant disposable plates, little chance for showering, and we chose to stop there and try to not think about the bathroom situation! The young people at CDC decided to proceed with the retreat anyway and "rough it" for a few days, as this retreat is one we all look forward to all year. Boy are we glad we did! Turns out the water problem wasn't as big of a problem as we were anticipating, and by Saturday everyone was bathed and smelling fresh! We enjoyed time studying about what we must do to follow Jesus (decide to follow him, deny ourselves, love others, etc) as well as time to just hang out and play a lot of really silly games. They had great Bible-based activities planned (Bingo, a Bible-bowl competition, "find the verse and read it faster than anyone else," Bible character charades) as well as games like musical chairs, etc. Just another weekend that reminded me of how much I love my church family, and why I enjoy living alone! Ha! Enjoy the pictures:

Playing musical chairs where, if you didn't have a chair to sit in, you just sat in someone's lap. We had some visitors at the retreat and..well..I guess this served as a nice way to get to know each other fast. :)

We had lots of free time to spend time together, and the weather was so nice we spent a lot of time on the front porch. Since we didn't have access to a pool this year (no water, remember?) this was a very common scene.

This night we had to turn our clothes inside out in order to be served dinner. It was fine for people like me who were wearing clothes that look the same on the inside as the outside. There were some people who were not so the girl wearing a dress with a polyester lining and the boy wearing swim trunks with netting on the inside. :)

Bible character charades, Marta is acting out Joseph. Took us a while to get what she was doing. But she kept doing this over and over and over and over AND OVER until we understood that she was pulling on her own coat to resemble Potiphar's wife.

Monday, December 7, 2009


I know that all the time I recommend Google Reader for all you blog readers out there, but that was when my blog was ugly and the content was more important than the layout. Well, the tables have turned and now I don't really care what I write about, I just want you to see the pretty new design!! For a while now I had been looking for someone talented enough to commandeer the task of redesigning "Living and Loving," and I finally found just the right person. Her name is Kelly Mann, and I think she's a genius, don't you? I told her basically nothing about what I wanted (i.e. I don't like cutesy, I don't like polka dots, and I want the colors of the Brazilian flag) and TA-DA! She got it right on the first try. Then after she came up with this, I was able to come up with a few tiny details that I wanted (like the flower by my signature and the Bible verse under the header. Really. That's the only thing I added.) But really she did all of it. That's an artist, if you ask me.

So take me off your Reader and put me on your bookmarks, because I want you to enjoy this as much as I obviously do.

Thank you, Kelly! (Click on either of these links to see more of her excellent work.)

I'll be back later to report on the rest of the Carnatal retreat. Happy Monday!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Day 1 Carnatal

Two posts in one day? THREE posts in 24 hours? What is this, 2007?

Since I'm not sleeping at the Carnatal retreat this year, but instead coming home to sleep in my scary-bug-less house and non-foam mattress, I decided to give you a report on Day 1.

Day 1 of the Carnatal retreat was a success...a success for everyone but Talissa the Car.

Baby's first time getting stuck in sand.

It doesn't look bad...but if you'll notice the color of the front tires, that happened from them spinning helplessly, trying to get out. And no, I'm not an idiot, I was driving on packed sand when a car came around the corner and I had no choice but to veer right. Turns out that was not a wise choice.

Proud to be out of the sand.

Today I am thankful that it worked out that I just so happened to give a ride to three male church members rather than female church members. Had it worked out to be a car full of girls, I'm pretty I'd be getting ready for bed in my car right now rather than blogging.


I have a friend who is a few months in to a 24-month stint in Armenia as a Peace Corps volunteer. This morning I read this post on his blog about missing American food, and I must say it's spot-on. For those of you who have never lived overseas and think it's weird how many times I've talked about Mexican food on this blog, feel free to read his post so that you'll see that I'm not alone.

And don't miss my post below this one, I published it last last night and you probably haven't seen it yet...

Still feeling thankful

Yikes. I've done a much better job about posting lately but the comments aren't reflecting readership. Is it A) because the reader ship is sinking? B) because the readership is shy about commenting? or C) because my posts are too lame to be comment-worthy?

A whole week after I wrote my Thanksgiving thankfulness post, I've thought of a bevy of other things to be thankful for, so since this is my blog and I can't sleep I decided to continue. Here goes...

I am also thankful for:
  • my apartment. I could easily describe this apartment as a dream come true. It sounds like I'm making this up, but not a week goes by that at some point as I'm flicking off a light switch or closing the windows for the night I don't think "I LOVE MY HOUSE." It's true. I dreamed for 1.5 years of living in a place big enough to host church gatherings (like the one pictured below) and church sleepovers and have a kitchen big and efficient enough to actually enjoy cooking in it. God provided all of those things, and I feel BLESSED.
(Lacy, you might be interested to see the blackout curtains, the new couches, and the painting on the wall, the only real additions since you left. Everyone else, there were 27 people in my living room that night. And only two fans. This is a group REALLLLY committed to praising God.)
Well, that about sums it up...for tonight, anyway. I'm getting sleepy. Happy Carnatal everyone! (10 points to you if you remember what Carnatal is. It starts tomorrow, which means the church retreat starts tomorrow as well.)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thankful for...

On this Thanksgiving's eve, I am going to be totally cliche and list the things I am thankful for. I spent the day feeling sorry for myself because not only am I not with my family in the US for my FAVORITE holiday of the year, but this is my first year in Natal that we are not celebrating it here, either. Since Thanksgiving is more about thanksgiving than turkeys and pretzel jello salad, I thought it might help me to make this list. As always, if I feel that is is publishable, then I feel as though it will be entertaining to you. That's my rule, you know...

I am thankful:
  • that I live in a city that is sunny, like, 360 days a year. A lot of people in the northern hemisphere get SADD, and that is not a concern when you live close to the equator. Also makes for a nice tan.
  • that I have a handful of people in my life who really love me, even though they know me really well. It's nice to be loved in spite of your shortcomings.
  • to have family here in Natal. Not every young, single missionary is blessed to find a place and family in which he or she just naturally fits the way I do with the Signorettis. I am thankful for that.
  • to have a car. But not just any car. A CUTE car. Even though Talissa (my car) got keyed two weeks ago, she took it like a champ. But mostly I am thankful to just have a car. I feel much safer and more efficient not having to ride (and wait for) buses.
  • to be bilingual. That's pretty awesome if you ask me. And makes living in another country a whole lot easier.
  • that I get to spend Christmas in New York City with my family. Christmas away from family the last two years has been hard, and I anticipated it would be extra hard this year for some reasons that you'll probably find pretty boring. Long story short, I get to meet up with them in NYC. Never been there before. Pretty excited about it.
  • for Mexican food. You don't have to be one of the handful to know the role Mexican food plays in my life. I truly am thankful for it.
  • for laughter. I LOVE LAUGHING. And I love thinking I'm funny. Call it vain, that's ok. I make myself laugh a lot, and I believe it will add a few years to my life.
  • for crying. Helps create a healthy balance.
  • that God put me in this city, doing this job, at this time in my life. He is the ONLY explanation for why I am here doing what I do, and I figure He's the best reason there is.
  • for garbage disposals. Not having one in Natal makes me appreciate them all the more. When you go to dispose of your Thanksgiving scraps (although I encourage you not to perform such an atrocity) think of those of us who have to scrape our plates into the trash *GASP* and constantly clean out the sink's drain.
  • for the doormen who work at my current building and previous building. Their friendly faces make coming home feel homey.
  • for Surf laundry detergent. Buy some, take a big whiff, and you'll know what I'm talking about.
  • for free internet phone calls.
  • that I got to celebrate Thanksgiving two years in a row here in Natal, and was a part of the beginning of a fantastic Thanksgiving tradition: the Thanksgiving tree. You could say that this list is my Thanksgiving Tree 2009.
I could go on...and on...and on...and I will, tonight in my prayers. Because if we are being thankful, aren't we supposed to be thanking God? You better believe I'll be thanking God for garbage disposals tonight...

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Advanced Group Class

Here is my Thursday night advanced group class. This is the class in which we study/debate controversial topics related to Christianity. We are obviously not having class in this photo, but eating ice cream and acai. Camila, the girl in the middle in red, left for a three-year master's program in Belgium last week, so we went out for ice cream for her last class session.

They all look sweet in the photo...just bring up predestination, abortion, ethics, or any other hot-button issue and you'll see these sweet angelic smiles change very quickly! Just kidding, I love my students!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Lessons Learned from an Amateur Missionary

I've been thinking lately about the things I have learned since being here in Natal. September 4th marked my 2-year anniversary, and I think in 2 years I've learned quite a bit of what to do- and what not to do, when arriving on the mission field. I have a few friends who are in the same boat as I am, and a few who are getting ready to go onto the field, so I thought maybe writing these things down would be of value. It's also good for me to write these things down, lest I get too cocky and I forget. :)

1. An effective missionary goes on the mission field for TWO reasons: love for God, which is the most important, and love for the people whom he or she will be ministering to. One without the other causes a lot of pain and reduces the effectiveness of ministry.

2. Don't arrive to the new culture and begin criticizing things. Never utter the phrase "Well, in America we do things this way." You are not in "America" and no one probably cares. If you want to share the way things are done where you come from, humbly say "At home we do it this way," or "where I come from we do it that way," but never use those phrases to belittle the way natives do things. Use them to share about yourself, and that's it. I've learned that your new friends usually welcome knowing those interesting tidbits about yourself and your home culture if you share them in a way that is not condescending.

3. Embrace the culture from day 1. Will you go through culture shock? Absolutely. Will you be homesick? Of course. Will embracing the culture help you get through all of those things more quickly? YOU BETCHA. If your family always celebrated Christmas on Christmas morning, but your new culture celebrates it on Christmas Eve, spend your first Christmas on the field celebrating it on Christmas Eve. You will have a new cultural experience, learn new customs, have something to share in with new friends, and help you not feel soooo homesick. Feel free to celebrate privately on Christmas morning, but don't expect the natives to join you or change their plans for you. Maybe over the next few years you can share your traditions with them. If the biggest meal of the day in the new culture is lunch, rather than dinner, start eating a big lunch and small dinner on day 1. This will help your adjustment, your health, and cause you to not feel "inconvenienced" when you have to switch things up.

4. Be graceful. Do the people in your new culture have a tendency to always be running late? Are you a stickler for punctuality? Don't expect to change their customs with rage. Learn to expect what you know will probably happen, and be pleasantly surprised when it doesn't. Show grace to those who need it, because sharing the Gospel is not as bound to hours and minutes as it is to relationships.

5. Don't assume people love the United States. There is a lot of anti-American sentiment overseas, and arriving to a new country assuming that people will be impressed by you will only add to that. A lot of times the sentiments are unfounded, but a lot of times they are totally valid. Either way, don't try to argue your point. Show them with your behavior, your speech, and, most importantly, YOUR WILLINGNESS TO LEARN, that you represent an exception to what they think is the rule. Over time, you will become the rule (so be careful!)

That's all I can think of for right now, but I'm sure there's more. If you read this and find it helpful, please let me know and I'll share more as it comes to mind. Deanna, I'm specifically thinking about you and your team. Your message to me the other day got me thinking about this!

Have a good weekend!

Monday, November 9, 2009

I'm proud of my students when they use English idiomatic phrases appropriately...but....

So today I was in one of my group classes with two students, reading about The Triumphal Entry/Palm Sunday. (For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story where Jesus rides in on a donkey and people wave palm branches and give him a King's welcome, you can read the story here.)

I asked my reader why the people were so excited to welcome Jesus, and he said: "The people knew there was coming someone to be the Son of God, blah blah blah..."

So...he gets who Jesus was...

Where does one go from here?

I always say life in Brazil is never dull...but along with that I should include that Bible study in Brazil is never dull, either.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


For those of you who don't use a blog reader (I recommend Google Reader, personally) and frequently check my blog for an update and are met with that sad photo displayed in my previous post, you can rest easy because the construction is over! There was a wedding, the FIRST EVER wedding from our church held in that building, on Saturday, and that was the deadline for all of the construction to be completed. Since a picture says a thousand are like 10,000. Enjoy. :)

Wow...good thing OUR church building doesn't look like that!! How embarrassing! (Or...another appropriate title would be BEFORE.)

Tearing off all the grodiness

Tearing down the three columns...that represented The Trinity. They were left over by the Nazarene church from whom we bought this building. it doesn't have an angled roof anymore...interesting. What will it look like?

Gluing long skinny rocks by one...I feel it was probably a task as tedious as laying a cobblestone street.

Hmm...lookin' good!

This title of this photo is "Sneak Peek" because here comes...


And without the nasty dumpster in front...the dumpster that spent 2 months uglifying our building. This photo was taken this past Sunday, the first Sunday we had worship with the construction (at least on the auditorium...) FINISHED!

So some of you may be wondering why this is so exciting, why I would dedicate two whole blog posts to show you a simple building remodeling project. Well, my friends, because this project was paid for all on our own. Those of you familiar with missions know that many times a mission team will raise funds to build a building, or buy a building. Many times those funds are supplied almost entirely by an American congregation(s). Our congregation is VERY blessed in that it already owns its own building, and has for a long time. (Graciously purchased by the Westover Hills congregation many years ago.) However, when you purchase a 30 year old building, sooner or later some major updates and adjustments will have to be made- not only aesthetic, but structural and legal! (You may or may not notice that the new doors are SIGNIFICANTLY larger than the previous ones. The new ones are up to code.) The new changes were 100% funded by special contributions, the fees paid by our English class students, costs cut in energy conservation (leaving things unplugged, etc.) and a few generous donations by outside visitors. We are blessed to have a church building on a main avenue, in the single largest and most populated neighborhood of Natal, and now we feel like its pretty new face lives up to the wonderful reputation it already has about what goes on inside. May God be glorified through this project! Rejoice with us!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

If this were your church building...

If this were (was?) the facade of your church building, what would you think? Let's play a free-association type game.

*Look at picture*
*Say what comes to mind*

"What is that?"
"Church building? I don't see a church building."
"I didn't know 'Dirt' was an actual paint color..."
"Those 3 columns...what are they for?"
"Oh...that used to be white?"
"May I use the side entrance please?"
"Aww...what a sweet logo..."
" that a two-foot band of red clay tile going up the base of the wall? What in the world?"
"Hmm...maybe they should plant another giant palm tree to cover up the right side, too."

Well, thanks for being so honest....

That picture, which, at one point, to me, was just that...a picture of an actual thing, has now become a portal into the past. Because HALLELUJAH, Glory be to God, were I to stand in the same median at the same time of day and take that exact same picture, the only similarity you would see is a structure with a door in the middle and the same black iron fence surrounding that structure. I'm pretty sure the tree isn't even there anymore, but I'm not really one to pay attention to those kinds of details.*

The remodeling process at CDC has been quite a feat, and a very dusty one, at that, and I have tried my best to document the process with photos. When the final paint coat gets painted and the scaffolding gets taken apart, I will be oh so proud to show you the finished product. Until may go ahead and begin trying to erase thise icky image from your brain.

Like the old adage says, "You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone." My new, church-remodel version goes like this: "You don't know how ugly your building is 'til you make it nicer." Amen.

*Just checked my in-between process photos, and yes, the tree is still there, but there is no need to plant another one. Phew.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Busy Weekend

I got word that I have two very faithful readers who check my blog every single morning, so since I'm working on this "not being verbose so that I blog more frequently" thing, I figured I should try to give them something to read today!

On Saturday I took on every mother-with-junior-high-aged-children's nightmare and invited 14 girls over to spend the night at my house. Granted, none of them were junior-high aged, but if you know Brazilians, you know that sometimes the decibel level reaches that of classic middle-school heights! Kelly, one of the oldest members of our church, will be getting married at the end of this month. Saturday afternoon we had her personal shower, and Saturday night was her "goodbye to singleness" (aka bachelorette) sleepover at my house! We had a lot of fun staying up until the wee hours of the morning chatting and being girly. I felt blessed to be able to offer my apartment for them to use, as it is exactly for this type of reason that I rented this place. The girls really had a great time and Kelly thanked me about 20 times. Andressa, Roberto and Marisa's daughter, always jokes and calls my house "Grandma's house" because anything goes. :) It's true, and I think that the girls were happy to have a place to relax, be able to be silly, and not have any parents coming out and saying "Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!" (Although I bet my neighbors probably wished they could...oops.)

Sunday we had another English worship service. John and Samantha Jewell, my only American teammates, have decided to return to the United States to work with a church in Miami, FL, so yesterday was one of the last English services that John will lead. It was a great service, and we had some new faces there that have never come before. I always look forward to worshiping in English, although lately it seems like I've been singing a lot of solos! (Have you ever noticed how many songs there are where the women have to echo or sing differently or something? Did you know that I am the one who has to teach those things? Yeah...bummer...)

During the regular Portuguese service we had a special collection for our church building project. We are very blessed to have a really great, spacious building that is ours and we don't have to pay rent on. However, that blessing of a building is about 35 years old and is in need of some serious "reformation," as they say in Portuguese! This was the second special contribution that we have had this year for this purpose, and although our church is small and full of university students (meaning no steady income,) I am always encouraged to see everyone who makes a sacrificial effort to contribute. Our building is used 6 days a week for community outreach, English classes, and church gatherings, so we trust that God will bless our efforts to not only make it prettier but also make the necessary improvements. I'm proud of what our little church has accomplished thus far, and I think you will be, too, when I show you the finished product!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Maybe if my posts were to be shorter I would be inclined to blog more frequently. I, obviously, love to be verbose, and I assume that since I think I'm hilarious and hang on my every word, that everyone else will, too. Well, I guess it's time to face the music and realize that no, people don't think I'm as hilarious as I do, nor do they hang on to my every word. Here's to shorter (and hopefully more frequent!) blogs.

I told you a month or so ago about my advanced debate class on the eve of the first meeting. Well, it was everything I had hoped for an more. I have enjoyed every minute of each class and can see the development in thought and language in each of my students. We have covered topics ranging from "Does Christianity have the highest standard of ethics?" (depends on who you ask) to "Is faith just a big leap in the dark?" (yes, on a certain level) to "What will happen to those who have never heard the Gospel?" (jury's still out on that one...pretty sure it will be out until judgment day) to "Should Christians have to suffer?" (yes, was the consensus that day.)

One of my students in particular, let's call him Thomas, started studying with LST this year and was full of questions about faith and religion. He has had a confusing religious upbringing, and having just turned 18 is stepping out on his own to see where he fits. He never misses a class and usually sits in silence for a long time until I have to draw him out. Once he gets going, though, it's hard to get him to stop! It's been a blessing for me to see his wheels turning and him asking deep questions about how he can have faith in his life. Thomas shared with the LST teams who were here this month how much he enjoys the class, and how he has gotten many answers to his MANY questions through our discussions.

Please pray for these classes and the way that God will use them to water seeds that have already been planted and continue planting more!

(Ok..was that short enough?)

Friday, September 4, 2009


Although I'm guilty sometimes of trying to make a big deal out of something that's really a little deal, I don't know that this counts as one of those times. Today is my 2-year anniversary of that fateful day I arrived in Natal and my life, so to speak, changed forever. :)

More later...but until then, here is a collection of some of my favorite pictures from the past year in no particular order...
A fancy graduation party in September celebrating two of our friends' college graduations. It was fancyyyyyyy and the party started at midnight...

LST Costume party in October. A mummy, a flower, and Luigi. Poor Luigi was baptized a couple months later and to this day is still called "Luigi" more often than by his real name, Jefferson. Oh well...I think he likes it...

At the Continent of Great Cities conference in November, with my dear family friend Rachel McClure.

At my birthday dinner in May. The least-ugly candid photo I have ever taken. Clearly I do not have a future in candid photos...

My sister and brother in law visiting Natal in of the highlights of 2008 for me.

At the Festa Junina party in June. Fishing for a paper cup with a number on it so that I could answer a corresponding Bible question and maybe win a tiny piece of chocolate. :)

At the top of the water slide with the ladies from Comunidade de Cristo at the women's retreat in Joao Pessoa, Brazil.

At Sarah's birthday barbecue 2 days before my trip to the US in January

In Abilene, Texas in April at Joe's Italian with Whitney Mann Davis, one of my most favorite friends in the world.

Celebrating my birthday with a cheesecake a bit early before returning to Brazil in April .

Monday, August 10, 2009

For those of you who are longtime readers of this blog, you may remember a post from about a year and half ago where I talked about the way Brazilians mispronounce English words yet continue to use them in everyday speech. My example at the time was about a conversation I had about "Weel Smeetch" (Will Smith) movies. I've had a great time telling that story over and over again, and the Brazilians really get a kick out of the fact that I think it's so weird.

Well, my friends, I have a new one. There is a certain home entertainment system that goes by its English name in this fine country. If you want one, you will have to go into a store and ask for a "homey cheech."

"What on earth is that?" you ask?

To which I say "It's in English, how do you not know?" Except I don't say that. Because I was just as puzzled as you are.

A homey cheech. Known by the common man as a home theater. And yes, if I were to walk into a store and ask for a home theater I would be received with blank stares (and probably a few salesman running in the other direction...although that tends to happen to me before I even open my mouth...they can just SENSE that what I say will be scary.) But if I walk into a store and ask for a "homey cheech," they will direct me to the area of the store over which there will probably be a sign that reads "Home Theater."

Really, you should come visit. Life in Brazil is never dull.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


Since I got back to Natal in April, most of my time has been dedicated to either A) getting my life in order (i.e. moving to a new apartment, buying a car) or B) hosting the two LST projects we had in June and July. These tasks can keep a young missionary pretty busy, so my own English conversation classes and reading sessions were kind of put on the back burner until things settled down. Then I had the task of figuring out how one young missionary was going to arrange follow-up with three people's worth of readers PLUS leftover readers from the previous year. Thank goodness July is vacation month, because after the second LST project I had a couple of free weeks to get organized and work some magic to find the answer to the above equation. (3 workers x 12 readers each + 15 leftovers=Cris's 40 hour workweek..nearly impossible...but with God all things are possible, right?)

Thankfully, I was able to start up quite a few group classes last week, (my solution to that nasty equation) two of which are made up entirely of students from the English school where I taught for a month! By the time all is said and done, I expect to have about 10 group classes of varying levels. Any class up until the advanced level will study out of the LST reading materials, beginning with the Gospel of Luke. And the advanced class...oh the advanced class. That is what I am here to tell you about tonight.

The advance class is really the greatest English conversation class in the history of English conversation classes. When I first arrived in Natal, I began an advanced conversation class that consisted of readers with advanced conversation levels but who were also Christians. The class kind of turned into a debate class, and was so successful that the readers all became really close friends and have been asking (ok, bugging) me ever since to start it up again. (We had to stop due to scheduling conflicts.) As I went through all of the paperwork on this year's readers, I was thrilled to see that there were enough readers to not only put together one advanced group class, but THREE!

On Monday mornings, Monday afternoons, and Thursday evenings, I now have three separate groups who meet to "discuss" (ahem, argue) about controversial issues that relate to Christianity. Some of the students are Christians, some are very much not. Our text is "The Top 100 Questions," a book written by a British journalist that has one-page answers to what he considers to be the top 100 questions outsiders have about the Christian faith. The questions range from "Does Christianity have the highest standard of ethics?" to "What are the rights of the unborn?" to "Who is the Antichrist?" to "Is Jesus really the only way?" As I have glanced through the book, a few topics have made me cringe and think "Oh, I really hope the readers don't choose to debate that one..." but I know that it will be an extremely constructive experience for us all. I have even already warned the readers that since the book is written by a British author, we are all in for a new vocabulary learning experience. :) (New vocab words this week: dogged, aggregated, ceased, coined, shallow, deadlines.)

As each group met this week for the first time to look through the topics and get to know each other a bit, I introduced them to a chapter entitled "Who are we? What are we?" and we consequently got into our first debate about whether or not humans are born with the innate ability to distinguish right from wrong. It was a nice way to introduce them to the format of the class, and they all got a nice taste of the ride they are in for this semester.

Please keep these classes in your prayers. I pray that as I facilitate (and mediate) the discussions, God will guide me with a spirit of wisdom and truth. I know that these classes are going to open up some tremendous opportunities for me to share the message of Christ, and I pray that I will take those opportunities boldly yet sensitively.

I hope to periodically update you on the progress of these classes, because I think that they will provide you with excellent insight into my day to day work in Natal, as well as thought-provoking ideas to think about. And if you have always wondered if Christianity does, in fact, have the highest standard of ethics, check back with me on Monday. I expect to have an answer for you!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


I've talked about John and Samantha Jewell before on this blog and have even linked to their blog a couple of times. For those of you who read this blog and are the praying kind, I want to ask for your prayers on the Jewell family. You can read the story in Samantha's words here, but my version is that they just got back from a 2-month furlough to the US and brought swine flu back with them. They have 3 boys under the age of 8 and all three have had it. Andy, the 4-year old, has it the worst and today was diagnosed with the beginning stages of pneumonia. Due to the swine flu diagnosis he is not allowed to be hospitalized, so they are trying to treat him at home under quarantine. This is a very serious and heartbreaking situation, so please say a prayer for the Jewells tonight.

As we were all mindful of this situation at our midweek Bible study tonight, Roberto led us in some thoughts from the book of James. At the end, he left us with these parting thoughts in regard to sharing the Gospel: "So, we need to be like the swine flu: attack everyone."

Way to put a positive spin on it...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

You Can't Make This Stuff Up Part 2

In this week's edition of "Only in Brazil," I take you to a Brazilian shopping mall typically known for its higher-end customers. Like most malls you and I are familiar with, there is a central plaza area where, depending on the season of the year, there is some traditional display. It's the area where Santa and his elves sit at Christmas time and the area where the "Made in China" market set itself up a few months ago...wait, what? Anyway, it's THAT area, the one that you can look down upon no matter which floor of the mall you are on, and the one surrounded by the escalators and elevators and McDonald's ice cream stand.

Imagine my surprise today when I walked past this area to see a pool. A rather large pool. A very large pool in terms of circumference, but only about a foot deep. "Strange," I thought. So I bought my McDonald's ice cream cone and decided to check it out. Then I see a child, about 8 years old, inside of a large plastic bubble that is being filled with air from one of those giant firetruck-like hoses, the same kind used to fill a bounce house. "Strange," I thought again, considering more than once how unsafe it probably is to put a child inside a giant plastic bubble and fill it with air from a bounce house hose.

And then it all came together.

For a mere R$10, about 5 dollars, you can pay for your child to become a human gerbil. As soon as the bubble, which ended up being a huge ball about 6 feet in diameter, was full, the employee shoved the kid and his bubble onto the water, and for a good 10 minutes the poor thing climbed around the plastic bubble as it floated and bounced on the water. He tried endlessly to stand up inside the bubble, but all of his efforts were in vain as he just continued to fall down. Again and again. It actually seemed like a cool idea at first, as bounce-house-like environments are ALWAYS cool, until I saw what it actually was. It was uber lame.

And then, as though it weren't torturous enough, the parents decided it was the little brother's turn. The kid, probably about 3 or 4, went and climbed into a different plastic bubble and crouched down, just as his brother had, as it was filled with air. I'm sure the parents were thinking "this is great, our two boys will be out there together on the water, in giant plastic bubbles, and really just have the time of their lives." Except something went seriously wrong. Upon realizing that he was inside a giant plastic bubble, the 3 year old panicked. He started crying hysterically as the bubble grew to be 3 times his height. And then I found myself, still enjoying my McDonald's ice cream cone, watching a 3 year old absolutely flip out inside of a 6-foot-tall plastic bubble. His parents decided it would be a good idea to leave him inside the bubble and try to console him by pointing at his brother and how much "fun" he was having. The kid, probably terrified by the HUGE LOUD hose blowing air into the bubble, was not buying it and began the "stand in one spot, put your hand in your mouth, and make the most pitiful open-mouth cry you are capable of" tactic, the most convincing of all pleas for help, if you ask me. The parents continued to watch and point to his brother until the employee finally was sensible enough to turn off the air, open the bubble, and take the poor guy out. By the time I left the pitiful scene, big brother was gathering quite a large crowd of onlookers and he continued to tumble around his floating bubble.

I only wish I had had my camera with me.

Only in Brazil.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Out With the Old....

And in with the new!!

After almost two years of using a refrigerator with no freezer and a stove with one and a half available burners and an oven that worked sometimes, I finally splurged to buy these two beauties. You can be sure that I will now have a permanent stock of ice cream and frozen fruit pulp (to make juice) as well as actually making a meal in less than an hour every once in a while! (The "every once in a while" is in reference to the "making a meal," not the "less than an hour." Don't worry, I'm not kidding myself. I still don't enjoy cooking for one, and it's very unlikely that new appliances will change that.)

And, in keeping with the "out with the old, in with the new" theme, I present you with these photos:This is Old Relter

This is New Relter

Praying after his baptism

As you can tell, Relter has raised the average height of our church family by about 6 inches.

This is Relter (pronounced "Helter.") Relter has been coming to our church off and on for a few months. From what I understand about his story, he met a girl through the internet a while ago (a few years maybe?) and began a relationship with her. She is a member of the church of Christ in Maceio, a capital city about 8 hours south of Natal. Through their relationship, she shared the Gospel as well her faith with Relter. About a year ago, while she was here visiting him, she found our church and brought him there on a Sunday. Ever since, Relter maintained a low profile but showed up every so often to our church gatherings, including participating in one of Lacy's basic conversation classes. A few months ago Relter began to study the Bible with Osmildo. This week he made the decision to follow Christ through baptism! We had a small group present for a Thursday afternoon, but it was a celebration nonetheless! Please be praying for Relter in his new walk with Christ!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

Question: What do these three images have in common?

Answer: What I saw during lunch hour traffic today.

As I drove through an extremely busy intersection, I saw a very normal looking gentleman standing in the median holding a phonograph with a "For Sale" sign. If only I had been able to take a picture...

Only in Brazil.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Women's Conference

With the flurry of activity we have had lately at Comunidade de Cristo (CDC), blogging has kind of been on the back burner. The two LST teams held very successful projects, six extremely fun parties, and spent well over 200 hours in individual Bible study sessions! If you are interested in looking at pictures, click here and/or here.

Last Thursday, I along with five other ladies from CDC, loaded up into a very tiny mini van to head to Joao Pessoa, the capital city of our neighboring state to the south. We spent 3 days at a hotel on the beach (rough life, I know!) participating in the 19th annual Northeastern Women's Seminar. There were about 200 women in attendance, from all over the northeastern region of Brazil, and we had a wonderful 3 days spending time together and studying under the theme of "Sweet Faith." The seminar (really, it was a retreat/conference, but in Portuguese we called it a seminar so I will, too) was entirely "sweets"-themed, and I must say that whoever thought of having a ladies' retreat centered around sweets is an absolute GENIUS! Each of the talks had a sugary title, and the best part was that we got to snack on sweets all weekend long!

The highlight of the weekend for me was my small group class on dealing with difficult church members. It had a good balance of lighthearted fun with Biblical teaching on dealing with difficult people, and I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to participate. It was an excellent class and I intend on sharing the class outline with pretty much everyone I know! It served well to teach how to handle difficult sisters as well as how to avoid being a difficult sister! There were three hilarious skits on "Sister Picture Frame," "Sister Campout," and "Bad News Sister." Sister Picture Frame was the sister who doesn't want to/have time to help out with any church ministries but claims to already have started a "Decorations ministry" by being just a pretty face. :) Sister Campout was the sister who comes to your house early in the morning but then stays all day, expecting to be waited on hand and foot without lifting a finger. Bad News Sister is the sister who calls just to share bad news and negative opinions...and more bad news and negative opinions...and more bad news and negative opinions. The skits were hysterical, but I tend to think that we found them so funny because we either know someone who fit the profile or have fit the profile ourselves at one time or another. :)

Much like in the US, these types of events are held at retreat centers or camps, but I have to say that staying at a beachfront hotel was pretty decent! We were well-fed, well-rested, and well-bathed, which isn't something you can always count on at retreats! All in all it was a delightful weekend, and I came back to Natal just a bit pudgier in my faith as well as my waistline. Enjoy the pictures! Click here if you want to see more!

Tania, Monica, Marta and I on our way to Joao Pessoa EARLY Thursday morning

This sign was hanging on the wall in the hotel lobby. It reads "It's great to do nothing and then rest afterward." I loved it!

The small group session I signed up to participate in. The theme was "Jawbreakers: Dealing with Difficult Sisters." The teacher was a hoot, as you can probably tell by her chef's attire, but she did an excellent job presenting the subject matter. It was one of the best classes in which I have ever participated.

Our group was asked to perform skits before three of the keynote talks. This skit was about a waiting room at the doctor's office, with the patients chatting with each other about life's difficulties. The skits were absolutely hysterical and were a huge hit at the seminar!

The view of the ocean from our balcony

Marta teaching a small group class on Unity

Monica, Tania, and I waiting on one of the keynote talks to begin

View from the back of the main meeting area