Sunday, February 21, 2010

Team Time!

Since we have arrived in Brazil life has been quite busy here at the Light House Commmunity Center!
Felipe has been leading the team in our yearly staff training time.

We start every year this way. At the beginning of every year the Light House team stops all work to sit together, pray, seek God, spend quality time together, plan, evaluate, write goals, and organize for the year at hand.

WORSHIP together as a TEAM
Here is our team enjoying a time of worship together!

TEAM BUILDING GAMES!
Afterwards we played a really cool game with all the cards you see scattered on the table. We used the images on the cards to answer various questions. It was a very creative game of sharing things from our hearts and connecting together as a team!

Here we are playing another team game of encouragement.
We were to finish the phrase, "I am thankful for (insert a team member's name) because _________."

We would throw the yarn to the person of our choice and say why we were thankful for that person, encouraging and recognizing who he/she is and the special qualities that he/she specifically brings to the team. This was a great team building game!

As you can see, we had a lot of encouraging going on. How important it is for us to speak words of LIFE and LOVE to one another and to see each other as Christ sees us. I love team games like these because it really encourages us to remember the good qualities in one another and value one another as the body of Christ.

This is what I call TEAMWORK!
Our team working together to clear out some trash.
During the days when the Light House is closed to the people from the community, we as a staff also spend LOTS of time doing practical work around the house.

We do not have any paid workers who maintain the house. We missionaries mantain it and spend time every week cleaning and doing practical work to keep the house running, clean, and maintained. This can be challenging at times because it seems like there is always so much we want to do and there is so little time!
Tomorrow the Light House Community Center OFFICIALLY OPENS! The doors will be open to the community at 9:00am and the 2010 year begins for us as a ministry!
We are excited to see all that God has in store for the children and families who live in the Cafezal slum. May lives and hearts be touched changed by the transforming LOVE of JESUS CHRIST.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Recent Email...

I recently got an email from a girl who wants to be a missionary when she grows up. She had some really GOOD questions for me. I thought it would be cool to post those questions with my responses to her.

Enjoy reading a bit about my life!

1. How do you know when God is calling you to do something?

What a difficult question... I still struggle with this one at times. I think it is different for each person individually. God is a personal God and He calls us each into a personal relationship with Him. He is our friend, our Father, our God, our Lord. Who He is SO amazing! AND I believe He speaks to us all in a variety of ways.

Often times for me, I suddenly am thinking of someone or I have an idea in how to help or bless someone. It could be something as simple as calling someone to talk or asking to pray for someone. When I step out and do what is on my heart to do - what I am sensing or feeling I should do - I can see that God was leading me the whole time. Many times the person will say, "Wow, I really needed to talk to someone just at this moment and you called!" or I can really sense God touching the person's heart during our time of prayer.

As far as knowing if God is calling you to personally do something BIG like going into missions full time, choosing a college to attend, or dating or marrying someone, it is also wise to have other people praying with you. For BIG life decisions ask trusted friends and family if they will pray for you and ask them their opinions as well. If they support you (which you need lots of support in BIG life decisions) then I also see that as a "green light" from God.

Basically, as you grow in a personal relationship with God, and are connected with Him, you will recognize His voice speaking and directing you. He is a loving Father who wants the best for us and always has our best interest in mind. Often times His word will also confirm what you are already thinking or senseing He is speaking to you. What can also happen is that everywhere you turn you seem to hear the same message which also confirms what you are sensing God is speaking to you. These are just a few ways God speaks but there are SO MANY special ways God speaks to His children. He often speaks to me through times of worship and singing songs to Him.

I could write so much more than this... but I will stop for now on this question.

2. How did God call you into this???

That is a LONG story!

When I was 18 years old I went on my first missions trip to Bolivia with my church youth group for 12 days. During this trip I enjoyed speaking with the missionary family serving there and was really praying and asking God if missions was a direction that He would want for me to take with my life.

I remember a time of prayer during the trip, where I really felt God's love for the people and also a sense that He was calling me to a life of serving in missions. I did not understand it completely, how I would be involved in missions, but I just opened my heart to God and told Him that I was willing.

After this special time with God, whenever I would hear missionaries speak and share about their lives serving in missions, my heart would stir and I would sense such an overwhelming sense of God's love. God confirmed my calling into missions in a variety of ways after that. I just knew in my heart that He was calling me to it. Through different words I would read in the Bible and through different experiences as well with missions opportunities, and different friendships with people from all over the world. God would amazingly bring me international friends no matter where I went!

In 2000, as part of my missions study in my university, I went with a team of 5 people to serve in Brazil for 10 weeks. During this missions trip God spoke so many things to me. He opened my eyes to needs in the world I had only heard about, but never seen with my own two eyes. I was in the city of Sao Paulo, Brazil and I had never seen so many street people and also street children. I also had the opportunity to live in a slum for a week and work with the needy children living there in extremely difficult situations. God really placed the hurting children of Brazil on my heart.

After returning to the USA, God reminded me constantly of the children in Brazil. After graduating from college in 2001, I wanted to go out on the mission field immediately - somewhere in Brazil working with children, but as I prayed about it, I felt God telling me to "WAIT."

I also was constantly talking with my parents about my dream to go on the mission field. They really wanted me to get a college education and were so happy that I had completed my college degree. After praying and talking with my parents, I decided to get some experience in the USA teaching children and also save money to get prepared financially to one day go on the mission field.

I spent 3 years teaching in an elementary school and now I see how God was preparing me and training me for my future of working with children on the mission field. After 3 years of hard work, working as a 1st grade teacher, I decided to step away from teaching and pursue this dream of going on the mission field in Brazil. I had been praying about what organization I could serve with and was often hearing great things about an organization called Youth With A Mission (YWAM). I started researching this organization and decided to do a Discipleship Training School (DTS) with YWAM to learn about the organization and see if serving with this organization would be a good "fit" for me.

During this special time of training with YWAM, I felt God confirming once again my call into missions long term. I also learned about how YWAM was serving in Brazil. I read a book called, "A Cry from the Streets", which was written by Jeannette Lukasse, one of the leaders of the Belo Horizonte YWAM missions base - where I am now working. The book told the story of how the missions work began and interestingly enough all the work was focused on helping children at risk ( which is basically children in extremely needy situations such as living in poverty, living on the streets, who have been abused,ect.). The missions base seemed like a perfect "fit"for what God was already speaking to my heart about the hurting children of Brazil.

After a time of preparation and much waiting to receive my visa to serve in Brazil, I finally arrived in Brazil in April of 2007. I have been serving with YWAM Belo Horizonte ever since!

When I began serving here in Brazil, I worked for 5 months at a house called the Rescue House. This ministry focuses on making relationships with children who live on the streets and helping to get these kids off the streets - to either go back home, or if they can not go home (because it is a difficult situation) helping the child enter into a shelter or home of some sort.

I then spent 3 months doing a YWAM training course called the Children At Risk course, learning how to specifically work with children at risk. After competing this course, I moved to the largest slum in the city to work with the Light House Community Center. Here at the Light House we work with the children and families who live in the slum in a variety of ways. In everything we do, we are attempting to share the LOVE, HOPE, and message of Jesus Christ.

3. And last but not least, what does JOCUM Belo Horizonte mean?

We work for a missions organization called Youth With A Mission. Since that is a mouthful to say, we also call it YWAM taking the first letter of each word making an acronym.

In Portuguese, the name of the organization we work with is literally translated JOvens Com Uma Missao. The acronym for that is JOCUM.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The GIFT of Memories Made...

Our trip to the United States was a GIFT to Felipe and I.
We are so thankful we had the opportunity to spend time with my family, dear friends, and meet new people and make new friendships. It was a short, busy and fast 6 weeks, but so rewarding.

The Lord is continually reminding me of the value of relationships. He is a GOD of relationship and calls us to be in relationship with HIMSELF and with OTHERS. This is the most important thing in our lives. OUR RELATIONSHIPS! Nothing is more precious...

Our time in the US was truly a time of being in relationship with so many. I am so thankful for all the people with whom we were able to spend time with, and who blessed us in so many ways... even if it was just a short visit. Here are just a few photos of the many memories we made in the US with the many special people in our life.

FAMILY TIME!
This is my sweet Grandma Bookout and I am very close to her. She is going to be 94 years old next month. Just to be able to see her and spend time with her was so important to me.
I am thankful that my grandmother was able to finally meet Felipe. This was a strong desire in my heart that they would be able to meet and I am happy that it came to pass!

The only time I cried when saying my goodbyes was when I told my grandma goodbye because I know it could be the last time I see her on this earth. Seeing her was truly a BIG GIFT to me from the Lord.

Celebrating Christmas with my family was also a special treat. In Brazil, Christmas is not celebrated on such a grand level so it was wonderful to celebrate this holiday with my family and with the many fun American traditions.

During our entire visit my dad and Felipe had a great time hanging out together, talking and enjoying each other's company. Here they are sporting their identical Christmas gift from my sister Elizabeth -- T-shirts from Charleston, SC!
We spent lots of time with my parents! They were esspecially a blessing to us during our last week in the country. I was feeling terrible and unable to do much (due to some health problems I am experiencing with my pregnancy) and my parents were both extremely helpful to us as Felipe was trying to prepare everything to come back to Brazil. Thanks mom and dad!
We enjoyed spending quality time with my sister Becky and her husband Shawn....
and their twin boys, Ben and Will. One day we even got to visit the boys at school for a special lunch. They loved spending time with Uncle Felipe - esspecially playing outside!
I enjoyed reading with my nephews! I love reading with children and it was fun to read picture books at bedtime during the week we stayed at Becky and Shawn's house.
I was happy to be in the US during January because we were able to celebrate two birthdays in my family. At my sister's birthday party (beautifully decorated by Felipe, my nephews, and me), I was not feeling too great but happy to be present there!
FAITHFUL FRIENDS
I was so blessed to be able to spend precious time with several of my BEST friends on this earth, that I miss so dearly... and reconnect with many other friends and important people in my life. God has really blessed me with so many faithful and loving friends in the US and during this trip I was overwhelmed continually with the generous LOVE of God that was flowing through my friends.

These two girls, Jessica and Sara, have been what you might call my lifetime best friends. We have been friends since the 4th grade, when I moved to the Raleigh area! It was wonderful to spend time with them!
The first week in January, Felipe and I stayed at my best friend Amy's house. Amy and her husband Tom just had a baby girl in October named Lydia. She is absolutely beautiful by the way! We had the great honor of getting to be with this 3 month old baby girl and learn a bit from Tom and Amy about what life will be like for us as parents here in a few months.
We also had some fun times together going out!
We ate North Carolina Barbeque at Holy Smokes, in Garner! Great food!
And Amy and Tom took us out to have Felipe's first Krispy Kreme Doughnut experience!

GIRLFRIENDS
A photo of me and some of my girlfriends at get together in honor of me being in town. We had a great girl's night of talking, eating and catching up with each other. I love these girls!
My SWIFT CREEK ELEMENTARY SCHOOL Family!
This was a great reunion! A bunch of my teacher friends (and even a former student and his mom) came to a special gathering for Felipe and I.

These dear friends and co-workers were a HUGE part of my life as I worked full-time and substitute taught at Swift Creek Elementary during a span of 5 years. These women have invested in me, and have impacted and inspired my life in so many ways. God used many of them to encourage me as I stepped away from teaching and turned to pursue this dream of becoming a missonary and working with children in a different capacity. These teachers have taught me MUCH and I love them and was SO happy to see them while in Raleigh!
BRAZILIAN FRIENDS
Felipe and I enjoyed a get together with with some of my Brazilian friends in the US. It was great to speak some Portuguese and eat Brazilian food. My dear friend Keila (who is to the right of me) is just 5 days less pregnant than me and she is also having a girl!
THE BODY OF CHRIST
During our visit we were able to share and spend time with people from various churches and we so enjoyed those moments of fellowship. We esspecially enjoyed speaking to small groups of people because it allowed for more interaction and questions. Next time we visit we hope to be able to visit more small groups and Bible studies to share about the work we are doing here in Brazil.

I was so excited to be at my home church, Covenant Church International, in Raleigh, NC. It is an amazing church with a heart to LOVE the Lord and make Him known on the earth! I was so happy to introduce Felipe to everyone and share a bit of our lives with our church family there.

I also got to help out a bit with some of the worship times at Covenant and felt so fulfilled and encouraged singing with the amazing worship band. Sweet times of worship and communion with God are truly refreshing!

SHOWERED WITH LOVE!
My best friend Jessica along with the ladies ministry of my church had the idea to throw a baby shower for me while in the US. On this day I was SO showered with love, thoughtful notes of encouragement, and extremely useful gifts! It is difficult to find good quality baby stuff in Brazil at good prices so this shower was a big blessing to us as a family in preparation for our coming baby girl.
I loved the cake at the baby shower! Our daughter will be named Sophia Grace, which means wisdom and grace. When I saw this cake I was moved to tears, just at the sight of her name!
I received lots of cute baby clothes at the shower! Sophia has pretty clothes already!

THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!
I want to say a BIG THANK YOU to everyone who came out to the shower and also to all those who organized and attended gatherings and special things in our honor. Also, thank you to everyone who gave or sent us baby gfts, offerings and warm wishes during our time in the US.

We greatly appreciate your support and generosity! We were truly overwhelmed at God's provision and blessing. Thank you for investing in us as missionaries in Brazil and as a growing family!

Memories as a Couple!
We are so thankful for all the memories we made together as a couple during our 2009-2010 trip! We made new memories doing the simpliest things such as going to fun shops (like Guitar Center), experiencing snow in Asheville, NC to seeing the sites in historic Charleston, SC.

Hopefully in about 2 years we will return as a family with Sophia and we are looking forward to making many more special memories with many of you in the US!