Friday, March 5, 2010


I just realized that I never blogged about the Carnaval here we go.

Imagine a world where your yearly calendar functions around Mardi Gras. Imagine a world where Mardi Gras celebrations are not just confined to one major city, but is evenly represented in all major cities throughout the country. And, best of all, imagine a world where, whether or not you are the Mardi Gras celebrating type, you still get 5 days off work to do whatever you want.

Enter Brazil, and the famous celebration known as Carnaval. Although the "official" Carnaval holiday is on what American culture calls "Fat Tuesday," the day before Ash Wednesday, here we start the commemorations the Friday or Saturday before and party hard until Tuesday or Wednesday. And by "party hard" I mean we go on a church retreat. :)

This year's retreat theme was "Renewed Hearts" and its theme passage was the parable of the sower from Matthew 13. We dissected the parable each day and focused on each element of the story: the sower, the seed, and the different kinds of soil. I really enjoyed such an in-depth study of the same passage over the course of the retreat.

Of course, in between the worship, studying, and prayer times, we also had a lot of play time! The retreat was held at the house in Genipabu where we often hold our church events. We had daily access to a pool, a soccer field, and a sand volleyball court. Each night we also had special theme nights, including Gala night (dress in nice clothes), and costume night with a talent show. The Brazilians love to go all out and make these events really special, and it showed. The retreat planning committee did an excellent job, and everyone had a great time!
Worship time.

Costume night, obviously. We had a hippie, a Baihana (the girl dressed in white, Google it) a diver, a girl with blue hair, and Little Osmildo...

The best costume of the night BY FAR: Little Osmildo posing next to Big Osmildo. I laughed so hard at this.

Osmildo teaching the wrap-up lesson on the parable of the sower.

I look pretty rough in this picture, but I guess it's an accurate reflection of Retreat Cris. Anyway, the real subject of the photo is my precious kind-of nephew, Filipe, showing off his I heart NY onesie I gave him for Christmas. :) He's happy, don't let the "kill me now" look fool you.

Playing in a Bible Bowl competition where the loser....

...gets an egg white pie to the face. Poor Isabel.

The whole group.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Nice reminder

Many of you have probably never heard the full, extended-version story of how I ended up in Natal. It all started back in 2005, when I was in my sophomore year of college at ACU and decided that I was so tired of school that I would take time off after graduating to do something other than graduate school. At the time I flippantly decided that I would take a year or two to do short-term mission work before returning to get a Master's degree.

Today one of the church members asked me "Cris, how did you become a missionary?" I told him the story, starting in 2005, (actually, starting long before when I said I would never be a missionary) and how it all led to me being in Natal today.

Today I also started a new Bible study plan that the whole congregation will (hopefully) participate in to read the New Testament in 3 months. Today's chapters were Matthew 1-4. I read them in my favorite Bible, the one I received from the MRCC elders when I graduated from high school. I used it throughout college and then it got replaced by a smaller, cooler, hipper, more colorful Bible that I got for college graduation. I accidentally left Bible #1 behind at my parent's house when I moved to Natal in 2007. Over Christmas in NYC, my mom brought it to me and we had a very happy reunion. After reading the first four chapters of Matthew, I began to thumb through its pages, looking at all of my old notes and sermon outlines with a hint of nostalgia. Imagine my very happy, blessed surprise when I saw this Post-It, carefully placed under the passage about storing up treasures in heaven, on the very day I told my story:

I remember that day in my dorm room, when I had given my flippant idea a little more thought, and was convicted by this passage in Matthew. I decided to make myself a Post-It reminder to see if I would follow through with the commitment I made to myself.

Well, 5 years later, and I believe that moment was a bit more than school fatigue and much more divine appointment.

I am thankful that God put me here, and I am thankful that little "coincidences" like this remind me of that fact.