Saturday, November 28, 2009

THANKSGIVING BREAKFAST

It may sound strange to hear that we had a Thanksgiving breakfast...

It was not the traditional American feast of turkey, dressing, gravy, sweet potatoe cassarole, pumpkin pie and much much more! However, it truly was a special time for the staff and volunteers here at the Light House Community Center to reflect on the year and praise the Lord for the many many things that we can be thankful for!

Because of busy schedules, it just so happened to BEST celebrate Thanksgiving on Friday morning (the day after Thanksgiving), so we had a special Thanksgiving breakfast instead!

Everyone brought something yummy to share. Here we are loading up our plates!

I made Chocolate Chip Cookies! Everyone loves it when I make these. Homemade chocolate chip cookies like this are not a common treat here in Brazil. Actually just preparing the chocolate to make these can be difficult, because I have to buy a huge chocolate bar and cut it into tiny bits to make the chocolate chips. I always think of home when I make them, so I decided to make this! They turned out a little different but tasted great!
After we ate we had a time of sharing. I shared about the history of the holiday of Thanksgiving in the USA and how it orginated as a day to thank and praise God. Then, we went around the room and each person spoke about things that he/she were thankful for.

It was a beautiful time of sharing and thanking God and others in our team. Many people openly share about challenges that had occured during the year and how God showed His unfailing love and faithfulness in the midst of difficult situations. Some people even cried as they expressed their gratitute.
Marcelo, a Brazilian staff member who runs the soccer school here at the Light House, stood as he shared about the many things he is thankful to God for.
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When it was my turn to share about what I was thankful for the main word in my mind was FAMILY.

This word FAMILY came to me for MANY different reasons...

I am so thankful that my family (including Jessica, Amy, and Tom- I consider them a part of my family too because I love them like family) who all came to Brazil this year for me and Felipe's wedding celebration. Words can not express the THANKFULNESS I have for that. It was so special for me to have them ALL here and to be able to share this part of my life with them AND to celebrate such an important day of my life.

Also, financially, my family and my family in the body of Christ has faithfully supported me and helped to make my wedding day possible - financially. God provided in our lack in amazing ways!

I am also thankful for my YWAM FAMILY! Although my family is living far away from me, in the United States, God has placed specific people in my life here in Brazil to be my family here. I am so thankful for the deep and meaningful relationships I have made in my YWAM family.

Also, I am thankful for the FAMILY God has given to me personally.
This year God showered His love on me through the gift of marriage. God has blessed me with an amazing friend and husband who is so full of the grace and wisdom of God. God shows me HIS unconditional love and care so much through Felipe. I stay amazed...

And now we are SO BLESSED to be starting our own FAMILY soon! After difficult news of my fibroid condition, I was extremely fearful of never being able to have children. However, God blessed us and I got pregnant just weeks after our wedding day. God is fulfilling the desires of our hearts and giving us a FAMILY!

I am THANKFUL for FAMILY!

Overall, it was a great Thanksgiving celebration for us! We even had ice cream together (but after lunch) which was SO perfect because it is now SUPER HOT here in Brazil!

Hope all of you had a memorable and special Thanskgiving holiday weekend!!!

There is SO MUCH to be THANKFUL FOR!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ice Cream Outing!

On Monday we took our kids group on an Ice Cream Outing as a way of celebrating the end of the year together as a group! Enjoy these photos from our special outing!

Off we go! Walking down our HUGE hill to the Ice Cream shop!
I really enjoyed the time we spent walking to the ice cream shop. I had some great conversations with a few kids about my baby, loving others, and a bunch of other stuff.
During the walk several kids just wanted to talk talk talk! They were almost fighting to take turns to be able to speak to me. I see how valuable outings like these are. It provides a fun and different atmosphere to talk about all kinds of subjects AND to listen to kids. I think often adults do not take the time to really listen to kids. I felt God speaking to me during this trip to listen and just enjoy talking with these precious children...

Waiting patiently as the many orders are being made. I was so proud of how well they all behaved!
After a bit of waiting, everyone received their ice cream.
I scream. You scream. We all scream, for ICE CREAM! Horray!
Cool kids!
If you look closely, she has a bit of ice cream on her nose. So cute!
All smiles and enjoying her ice cream treat!
Walking back up our huge hill to the Light House. We burned off some ice cream calories on our walk back.

Overall, it was a great afternoon of spending quality time together!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

YES!!!

Felipe received a YES on Tuesday at the visa interview!

We will indeed be visiting the USA this holiday season and will be arriving just in time for Christmas with my family! What a blessing! I am SO THANKFUL!

Thanks to many of you who prayed with us for OPEN DOORS and God's will to be done in HIS timing! God surely gave us favor with the man who interviewed us and Felipe has now obtained a tourist visa for us to visit the USA (for short trips only) for the next 5 years! We can come and go freely for 5 years! We are thankful!

First we will be arriving in Rock Hill, South Carolina (where my parents and other family currently live) and then we also plan to visit and spend time with friends and my church family in Raleigh, North Carolina.

So far, we are not sure of our travel dates or when exactly we will be in which city. We do know that we will only be able to stay in the US for about 6 weeks total. We need to be back in Brazil at the beginning of February to start off the work year here at the Light House and lead the yearly staff training week.

We have much planning to do and I also need to renew my driver's license upon arrival in the USA. It expired in August (when I turned 30) and is extremely necessary for us to be able to travel and visit freely with everyone. I am hoping that I can practice driving once in the US and hopefully obtain the licence easily. It has been almost two years since I last drove, so I am a little nervous about this!

Thanks again for the MANY prayers, words of encouragement and support. Our short trip to Rio de Janeiro was a success! Felipe received the visa to visit the US and we also enjoyed some valuable quality time together as a couple.

After running a few last minute errands and getting all our visa paperwork in order, Felipe and I stopped in the neighborhood of Santa Tereza in Rio de Janeiro to admire the famous Stairway of Selaron.
Below is a photo Felipe took of me showing my growing pregnant belly. Suddenly it seems that my belly is growing bigger and bigger every day!

Just seated behind me (in the red hat) is the famous Selaron who created this interesting and artistic mosaic masterpiece.
We are thankful and praise the Lord for this opportunity to come to the United States this year! I am looking forward to seeing many of you and introducing you to Felipe!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Parents Meeting at the Light House!

This past Sunday we had a special parents meeting here at the Light House Community Center. All of the parents, along with their children, were invited to enjoy a special program and an afternoon of fun together as a family here on the Light House Community Center grounds.
Enjoy a few photos of the various events that took place!


WORSHIPING TOGETHER!
We started the afternoon singing worship songs together with all who attended! Joyce, a staff member from Holland and Andreia , from Brazil, led our time of rejoicing and singing together!

THE WORD!
Felipe gave a message to the parents about speaking words of encouragement and words of love to their children. He also spoke about the importance of parents spending quality time with their sons and daughters. This is such an important message to be speaking to the parents of the new generation living in the slum. Many of these parents present at the meeting, became parents in their early teens and many also have broken relationships with their own parents. Felipe encouraged these parents to learn from the mistakes of their own parents and chose to LOVE their children through words and actions.

GROUP PRESENTATIONS!
Here is our group of 7 to 9 year old girls and boys singing and dancing to a song called "Muito Obrigado!" which translated is "Thank you very much!" The song repeats over and over - "'Thank you very much Lord! I thank you! I thank you!"
The kids really enjoyed learning this dance because the song is SO fun! I had to include a video of the kids practicing in this blog. All of the kids could not be here to present on Sunday, but this video below shows our whole group dancing and enjoying the song!

The girl in the yellow shirt, Vitoria, is SO CUTE when she dances. She does not have the best coordination or dancing ability, but she really got into the dance and enjoyed herself. I laughed SO HARD when I was filming this clip. These children are so special and I can feel the Father's love for them!
video

The teenage girls group presenting a dance/drama that speaks about the love and forgiveness of Father God.

The girls group, ages 10 to 12, singing and doing sign language to a song. I worked with some of these same precious girls last year.

The boys group, ages 10 to 12, showing off their cool dance moves to Christian Hip Hop!
video


FREE PLAY TIME WITH THE FAMILY!
During the afternoon we allowed free time for the children and the parents to enjoy an afternoon of recreation on the Light House grounds. Here some boys are playing the most loved game here in Brazil - SOCCER!!!
Parents, standing by supporting and watching their children play on the court!

More parents looking on to see what AWESOME swimmers their children are!
Many parents from the community do not know how to swim and are extremely happy that their children can learn this basic life skill here at the Light House!

Extended free time in the pool is a special treat for the kids! During our swimming time each week the kids have consistant swimming lessons and so they really value any chance to swim freely in the pool. The kids also enjoyed showing their parents their super swimming skills!

Mother and Daughter Time = PRICELESS!


It was so beautiful to see families playing together in the Light House park!


FOOD!

At the end of the afternoon our team served a special typical dish from Minas Gerais, the region of Brazil where we all live. The yummy dish is called Feijao Tropero. Everyone enjoyed the food!
The afternoon was a success!
One of the goals of the day was to encourage all the parents and children to enjoy spending time together as a family at the Light House Community Center! We were happy to see these families valuing one another!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Kids say the funniest things...

Since the kids in my group found out I am pregnant, they have been saying the funniest and sweetest things to me. Even though I am not even showing very much, almost every day the kids do something new that makes me smile.

I think it is beautiful how these children already LOVE my baby simply because they care about me. I had the idea to record some of these happenings and sweet memories for fun! So here goes...
A Conversation with Carol...
Carol - "Did you tell Felipe that you are pregnant?"

Me - "Yes, of course!"

Carol - "Why!?! Why did you not make a surprise???"

Me - "I could not do that!"

Carol - "How did you tell him you were pregnant?"

Me - "Well, actually I did not tell him. Together we bought a pregnancy test at the pharmacy and after I did the test I was too nervous to look at the result. Felipe went to look at the result for me."

Carol - "And what did he say to you?"

Me (with lots of expression and joy - like Felipe)- "Laura, You are pregnant! We are going to have a baby!"

Carol - (she laughed and smiled a huge beautiful smile)

Thiago
Thiago - Placing his head up to my almost non-existent pregnant tummy. "Ohhh... Your baby is sleeping."
Another day Thiago places his head super close to my belly to listen and says very seriously, "Ohh... I heard a noise. Your baby is kicking!"

A Song for me and my Baby!
A group of girls playing in the park one day began singing in the park the following song.
Oh Laura - Where are you?
We came here - only to say...
Oh Laura - Where are you?
We came to see - your baby!
The girls chanted this phrase over and over and over! I was inside my house laying down because I was not feeling too well. Since my house is right next door to the park I could hear their song, and after hearing it I had to go out and tell them how much I enjoyed it! The girls brightened my day!
They always remember my baby!
Almost every day when the kids arrive and leave the Light House, they greet and say goodbye not only to me, but also to my growing baby inside my tummy.

"Oi nene da Laura!" "Hi Laura's baby!"
"Tchau nene da Laura!" "Bye Laura's baby!"

Often the kids pat my tummy, place their ears close to see if they can hear anything and then talk to the baby. Sometimes the children even kiss my tummy to give my baby some love! So sweet!

An Honest Conversation
One day when the kids were once again asking me questions about my baby, Pedro suddenly shared with a very serious tone and facial expression, "My mom, she looks like she is pregnant, but she's not. She just has a big belly."

My friend and co-leader in the group - Becky commented, "Yes, and sometimes there are men who look like they are pregnant, but they are not." We all smiled! It was a funny moment...

Sex Education
We have really taken advantage of me being pregnant and used it as a way to talk to the children about pregnancy, discuss the human body and some sex education stuff - on an age appropriate level for these young ones of course!

Here in the Cafzal slum , one of the major problems among teenagers is an extremely high rate of pregnancies. Last year the community health center here in the slum conducted research and discovered that out of all of the pregnant females that they attended, 27% of the females were teenage girls. This is the reality here in Cafezal. Children are becoming pregnant! Many even as young as 13 or 14 years old, or younger!

One of our goals here at the Light House Community Center, is to teach the children and teens in the slum godly principles and create an atmosphere where we can talk to them in an open, healthy and biblical way about sex. We also are teaching the children why it is important to protect and value this precious gift God has given to us.

To some people's surprise, talking to children about sex is something that needs to start young. Esspecially children living in at risk situations. Many children are learning about sex from TV, movies, negative influences of older people in their lives, friends, inappropriate magazines, the list goes on and on...

In my group of 6 to 8 year olds, we spent two weeks doing special small groups (with girls and boys separated) using Christian educational books talking about the human body and the miracle of life. The comments and questions the kids had were so enlightening and healthy. Many only have learned about sex from things they saw on TV, friends, or from observing family and/or other adults in the slum. Below are the books we used!
An inside look of the book called The Miracle of Life. The photos are amazing and the text presents detailed information about each stage of pregnancy. I learned a lot from this book as well!
It was great to be able to speak to the children about sex and the beauty of how a life begins. Although the children were a bit shy, we gave them space to ask questions and we were able to respond in a way that is healthy, beautiful, and that correlates with Godly principles.

Please pray with us, that we as the Light House Community Center can bring transformation and change concerning this high rate of teen pregnancies here in the Cafezal slum. We need wisdom to know how to work with the children, teens, and families that God has entrusted us with.