Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Fall Newsletter 2020

Ministry at Casa Semear

Casa Semear's normal ministry activities are still not running due to Covid-19.  It looks like Casa Semear will be officially closed to the public for the rest of 2020, due to guidelines given by the government. The public schools will be closed for the remainder of the year, so therefore Casa Semear will also remain closed.

Although the normal hustle and bustle of daily children's programs are not happening, Felipe is working at the ministry center on a regular basis.  He, together with fellow missionaries, are busy with renovation projects - painting and repairing much needed areas at Casa Semear.  Felipe is also working on some ministry-related video projects, which we will share in the future. 

The Casa Semear team continues to hold distribution days to give out food packages and other practical donations to needy families living in the slum community. Financially, many people are struggling to make ends meet, so we are thankful we can come alongside these dear families and support them at this time.  

Ministry in Our Home

Shortly after we sent out our last newsletter we received a special message from the leader of our local homeschool co-op asking us, “Are you willing to host co-op at your house?” 

Due to Covid-19, the co-op has been organized differently this semester.  In an effort to gather in smaller numbers, several groups of kids are meeting in locations throughout the city. Each Friday afternoon we are opening our home for this unique ministry opportunity, and it has been a blessing to serve in this way. 

We must admit, at first the thought of opening our home on a weekly basis was quite a stretch for us!  We prayed and sensed God reminding us that everything we have is a gift from Him.  God provided more spacious housing for us (we moved in June to a bigger home), and since we have moved our constant prayer is that God will use this space for His glory and purposes.  

We were encouraged (and surprised) to see God answering our prayers so quickly, giving us this opportunity to open our home, serve, and bless local homeschooling children and families by providing a location to meet. To Him be the glory!  

Prayer Requests

Casa Semear: Please pray for God to continue to use the distribution days at Casa Semear to touch and minister to the hearts of children and families living in the slums. May not only physical needs be met, but also heart needs be met with by Spirit of God.

Pray for God to continue to use Casa Semear as a place where many children at-risk and their families will hear a clear presentation of the gospel, come to know Christ personally, and be transformed by His love and truth!

Our Family: Pray for us as we open our home each week for ministry.

Pray for our upcoming trip to the USA in 2021!   We hope to visit from March until mid-June, Lord willing.  Please pray for us as we work to obtain the necessary travel documents, purchase plane tickets, and organize all things related to this trip.  We hope to visit many of you and many churches to share about our ministry and life in Brazil.  It is quite the endeavor to plan a trip like this with a family of six!  It will be baby Annabelle’s first visit to the USA, which will be super special for us.


Thank You!

We want to say thank you for your prayers and support of our family in ministry.  We understand that we are living in unique and unpredictable times, which makes us even more appreciative to the Lord for HIS faithful care and provision over our lives, through the body of Christ.  Thank you for partnering with us so that we can serve the Lord here in São Paulo, Brazil.  We are forever grateful! 

With love and gratitute,

Laura, Felipe, Sophia, Jessie, Josiah & Annabelle

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Summer 2020 Newsletter

Greetings from Brazil! 

When you hear about Brazil on the news, perhaps you may wonder,"How is the Matias family doing?" We are thankfully healthy and well overall.  Each day is a gift from God. We wanted to send news, as the past few months have flown by for us personally. 
We continue to take measures to protect ourselves from the Coronavirus, as the city where we live (São Paulo) has been hit extreme hard with the number of cases. We have dear friends and know families (within the Casa Semear community) who have either contracted the virus or who are struggling due to the ramafications of it.  São Paulo, the mega-city of Brazil, is very slowly reopening, and many precautions must be taken by all when going out in public. 

How has Covid-19 affected ministry at Casa Semear?

For the time being, Casa Semear is closed due to governmental restrictions on schools and organizations that work with children.  There is a tentative return date for the public schools in São Paulo in September, so Casa Semear may gradually begin reopening around this time.  Due to health risks, there will be some changes in the way the ministry runs as it reopens. 

Although the Casa Semear ministry facility is not bustling with activity and filled to the brim with children and teens inside (as it normally would be), the Casa Semear team is holding distribution days.  On a regular basis, Casa Semear gives out free boxes of basic food items (and other donations) to families in need living in the slum.  Felipe is often helping to pick up donations and assisting with passing them out. 

On some of the distribution days there is not enough food and supplies to pass out to all who are in need. Many people all over the world have been negatively affected by this pandemic, and we are thankful we can help, while also sharing God's love, hope, and care.

Although the kids and teens who normally participate in the minstry programs can not attend Casa Semear as usual, the Casa Semear team decided to create weekly videos with Bible lessons for them.  The kids can watch these videos online and then complete fun activity packets to accompany the Bible lesson (which they can pick up at Casa Semear).

If you want to check out some of Felipe's Bible videos for kids (in Portuguese), hop over to our Youtube channel!  Here is one video below. 

Family News! 

In May we celebrated Sophia's 10th birthday with a Star Wars theme!

And in June we celebrated our sweet Annabelle's 1st birthday!  It is hard to believe that our baby girl is already a one year old.  Annabelle is such a wonderful addition to our family!

On a Zoom call with my family in the USA on Annabelle's birthday!

The second week in June the girls finished up their distance learning at their school with a special Zoom call with each of their classes. 

And now we are embarking upon the adventure of homeschooling.  Laura has been busy at work planning and preparing for Jessie's 2nd grade year and Sophia's 4th grade year.  We will be participating in a local Christian and English speaking co-op, and we are super excited about this new season in our family. Please pray for us in this transition. 

This photo shows some of the curriculum we will be using this next school year.  We will be starting our first full day of school on August 3rd! 

Our New Home
Some BIG news about our family is that we recently moved into another house - larger and more suited to our needs as a family of six (and as a homeschooling family).

The house we are renting is owned by some missionary friends of ours, who are currently living in the USA.  They were unable to travel to Brazil (due to Covid-19) to complete some much needed home repairs and painting, so we agreed to do the work for them ourselves.  It has been a labor of love! 

Felipe has been working non-stop on the new house since the end of May, while I stayed home (in our previous home) with our four kids.  His mom and sister (and other dear friends) were a tremendous help in many ways - working hours in the yard, cleaning, painting, or helping move large, heavy items.  We moved into the house on June 20th, and we are still working on finalizing a few home projects.  We are making the most of the extra time Felipe has at home during this season to get tasks done.

We are so thankful for the Lord's provision, care, and love towards us, and we have seen His hand at work through this opportunity to move.

Felipe laid/installed grass in the front yard just last week!

 Felipe's sweet mom has worked MANY hours in our yard, helping us so much, as she loves working outside and knows a lot about plants. 

We are enjoying a few luxeries we have never had in our homes in Brazil before. We now live on a quiet street, full of beautiful green trees and there is a 24 hour security guard on watch over the street as well. We praise God for this!  Also, for the first time ever, we have a fireplace to keep us warm on chilly nights, hot running water in our faucets to wash our hands and dishes, and a bathtub!  These are simple things, but such blessings. 

The kids are especially loving our new yard and playing outside. We actually have a yard with grass, trees, a small swingset, and even a fountain! Every day monkeys come to visit us, asking for fruit or crackers, which we often will share with them.  There is also an old tree house on the property, which Felipe and the kids have plans to fix up. 

Playing "beach party" in our sand box. 

The owners of the house we are renting have shared with us how they always seeked to share the gospel and God's love in various creative ways with the neighbors.  We pray we can continue to do this too, watering the seeds they planted in the past. May God give the increase!  We want to be a blessing to everyone we come in contact with on our street. Please pray with us concerning this, and pray for our new neighbors.

As we close this newsletter, we want express our gratitude to all of you who pray for us, encourage us, love us, and support us financially as we serve the Lord in São Paulo, Brazil.  

In such a difficult time in the world, we know it is a sacrifice to contribute towards missions, so we want to say thank you to everyone who has continued to give and bless us financially during this time.  Your donations help pay our bills, put food on our table, meet our needs, and make it possible for us to continue to serve the Lord in this corner of the world. Thank you!!! We appreciate your faithfulness and partnership in ministry. 

With lots of love from Brazil,
Laura, Felipe, Sophia, Jessie, Josiah, & Annabelle Matias

Prayer Requests
Please pray for:
- The families who live in the slums near Casa Semear.  There are many in need during this time of crisis due to Covid-19. Please pray that these precious ones would come to the saving knowledge of Christ and experience His love and peace.
-  Pray for the kids participating at Casa Semear as they watch online videos and hear the good news of the gospel in a different way during this time.
 - Pray for our family as we begin our first year of homeschooling and adjust to a new rythym of life as a family. 

Laura, Felipe, Sophia (10), Jessie (7), Josiah (3), Annabelle (1)

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Newsletter Spring 2020

An Easter photo of our family sharing what the ressurection of Jesus means to us! 

Dear Friends,
In March, we had a carefully thought out newsletter written and almost ready to send, and then suddenly, unexpected changes related to COVID-19 happened.  Our news became old news fast!  So today we are sending out more up-to-date news of what is going on in our neck of the woods.  We will save those other stories for another time...

First of all, we are doing well overall, thankfully healthy, and in quarantine now for around seven weeks.  We are staying quite busy caring for our two youngest children (10 months and 3 years old) and helping our two oldest girls with their schoolwork every day.  They are doing distance learning online and will finish out this school year at home due to the governmental closings of all schools until August. 

Laura and the kids are exclusively staying home (except for taking long walks in the neighborhood), and Felipe is the only one actually going out in public.  Donning a mask, Felipe does our shopping each week and is also working on a semi-regular basis at Casa Semear. 

Although we especially miss seeing our local church family and dear friends, we are savoring this time as a family and making lots of fun memories.  Felipe's mom and sister live on our street, just three houses away, so we consider ourselves in quarantine together with them, and we visit them regularly.  Felipe is also helping as much as he can to get them the food and supplies they need during this time of isolation. 

Mask Distribution
About a month ago, as the seriousness of Covid-19 was erupting all over the world,  Felipe and I began to talk about all the ways this virus could negatively impact poor communities in Brazil.  We knew that ABBA (the local organization we partner with) was working towards giving out boxes of nonperishable food and hygiene kits in some of the slums of São Paulo.  As we were discussing ways we could potentially help, Felipe looked at me and said, "Laura, maybe we can make masks to distribute."

At that moment, I remember thinking, "Me? Sew masks?"  I instantly felt small and incapable, but that quickly turned into joyful excitement to take on a new challenge to meet a need and share God's love. Have you ever felt this way? 

As we prayed and discussed this idea, we knew God was calling us to take on this little project and to invite others to join us in sewing masks for the families living near Casa Semear.  It was our goal to provide one more measure of protection against the coronavirus, to help promote health, and share the good news of the gospel.

Within a few hours of saying, "Yes, Lord," we were given our first donation of masks to distribute. God was providing already!  We also ordered a simple sewing machine online (which surprisingly arrived the next day) and just days later, I started sewing masks. Several friends (and family members of friends) volunteered to sew masks too. What a blessing! And, for many of these sewing volunteers, it gave them a purposeful project to devote themselves to in such a difficult time. We saw God using this mask-making task, and it was bringing great joy to hearts.  We are very happy to report that over the course of just a few weeks, around 300 masks were made, and almost all of them have already been handed out to families living in the slum communities near Casa Semear.
The first mask donation we recieved.

This whole project has personally encouraged my heart in a special way. I feel like the Lord has used it to remind me of the importance of being faithful and obedient Him, even when at first I may feel incapable. If He has called me to do something, He will equip me and/or send others along to help me with the task. There is power in multiplication!  The ladies who helped sew the masks were key players in helping to make our mask distribution possible. We could not have done it without their help.

Actually, this is also how we feel concerning all of you who support us and pray for our work here in Brazil. We can not be here serving the Lord without you. We so appreciate you! Thank you for your love, prayers, and continual support of our ministry.

To God be the glory! Great things He is doing in our world today, even in the midst of a very serious and difficult time. 

Ministry at Casa Semear
As I mentioned before, although we are in quarantine, Felipe is serving in a variety of ways at Casa Semear several times during the week. Felipe has been helping to pick up donations to distribute to the families in the slum, and he has been working with a few people on the team to repaint some rooms at the facility - taking advantage of the fact that ministry programs are stopped for the time being.  At least once each week the team opens the doors of the ministry to hand out boxes of non-perishable food item, hygiene kits full of cleaning products, and masks.  We are thankful that Casa Semear has been a source of support, provision, and God's love and hope as we help meet practical needs in the slum community. 

Plans for the Future
In uncertain times it is often hard to make plans, but we would like to share some plans we have for the future.  Before the Covid-19 outbreak we were praying as a family about the possibility of homeschooling our children, and we have seen the Lord sweetly leading and confirming this decision. Starting in August, Laura will begin homeschooling our two oldest daughters, Sophia (rising 4th grader) and Jessica (rising 2nd grader).  We also will be participating in a local Christian homeschooling co-op which we are super excited about.  Please pray for us all in this big transition as a family. 

Secondly, we have nailed down tentative dates for our next trip to the United States as a family.  Lord willing, and depending on the health situation in the world, we hope to arrive in the USA in February or March of 2021 and stay until June. We are really looking forward to this visit and reconnecting with so many of you! What a joy and a blessing it will be to see you all in person! Please pray for us concerning the timing of the trip and for all we must do in preparation for it.  We will keep you posted! 

We pray this letter finds you well, in good health, and strong in the Lord.  May we all find courage, assurance, joy and peace in the Lord knowing that He is with us, He loves us, He is faithful to His Word, and we will get through this time sustained by Him.

He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 
Colossians 1:17

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

With love from Brazil,
Laura, Felipe, Sophia, Jessie, Josiah & Annabelle 

P.S.  Below are a few family photos we have captured recently. Enjoy!

Easter weekend!

Morning Bible time before school.

10 Month Old - Annabelle Joy!

Felipe is teaching Sophia more about photography. A beautiful shot Sophia captured for her Art class!

We live near a lake, and the sunsets have been breathtaking!

The girls' school had a fun idea to have a character dress-up day, even though the kids are at home.  
Sophia dressed up as a Star Wars character and Jessie as a fairy.  Felipe added these fun backgrounds to the photos!