Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Encouraging Words...

Here are some super encouraging videos of one of my favorite worship leaders, Christy Nockels, talking about being a mom, living close to the Lord and being filled with His Spirit.  What an encouragement and example!  I was so blessed today watching this - hearing words of truth and life.  I was so affirmed in my role as a wife and mother - and just where God has me today.  I can find joy in the mudane, in the simple things.  I can meet Him, know Him, see Him and worship Him.

I hope you are blessed by these encouraging words too!


Friday, January 27, 2012

Officially Driving in Brazil

I have finished my driving classes and I am now officially driving here in Brazil!  During the month of January I have spent about an hour almost every weekday doing driving lessons - driving a manual car (stick-shift) and learning my way around in the crazy traffic and hilly city of Belo Horizonte.
It has been an adventure!
  
Yesterday, I did a YWAM driving test, with a very experienced driver who is also a missionary here at YWAM Belo Horizonte.  He officially approved me to drive the Kombi (A VolksWagon van), which is owned by the ministry.  I can now officially drive on my own here in Brazil with the YWAM Kombi!  I never thought this day would come...


Really as I reflect on this, I see God at work in my life.  God equipped me.  He gave me the courage and confidence that I never thought I would have to be able to drive in Brazil.  This is amazing to me!  I can do all things through Christ!

It is a simple thing really, driving, but I see that God has given me this ability and I want to drive for His glory. Now I can officially serve the ministry of the Lighthouse Community Center through driving.  I am also excited as we, the Matias Family, are allowed to use the Kombi to do a few personal things as well.  This is a huge blessing to us!
 
This Sunday we are excited about driving to church!   Normally, in order to get to church we walk about 25 minutes to get to the bus-stop, and then we take a 45 minute to 1 hour bus trip.  We leave home at 8:30 am in order to get to church by 10:00 am.   Then after church we made the same long trip home.  It can be exhausting...  Now, we are able to drive to church which saves a lot of time! YAY!

Please pray for me as I begin this adventure of driving here in Belo Horizonte.  Pray for protection and wisdom as I continue to learn my way around and get used to driving the Kombi.  Now I want to practice, practice, practice to be a good driver!
I am thankful and rejoicing to be officially driving in Brazil!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A TRADER

I stumbled across this video today and was challenged to live my life as "A TRADER".  This video is a reminder of what is most important in life -
to have a Kingdom focus,
to pursue Christ,
to live out my faith loving God and others,
to sacrifice,
to fight for justice,
and to worship God in all I do... 

 

 I hope you are challenged as I was by the truths in this video.
   Let's be "TRADERS" for the GLORY of God!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Perfect Day for Making Memories

What are some of your most fondest memories of childhood?  


What are the things you most remember with JOY from when you were just a kid? 


For me, I nostalgically remember playing "beauty pageant" with my two older sisters.  As a talent, we would stand and dance on top of the sofa (our stage) and sing along with our favorite songs from the radio, using a hairbrush as a microphone.  Sometimes my sisters would make me be the judge of the contest, and my oldest sister Becky always loved me being the judge because I would "help" her win.


  I also remember sunny summer days fishing at the pond in my grandma's backyard - using corn on the cob as my bate. (Who wants to mess with squiggly worms?)   My grandma's house was once a full working farm so she always had tons of animals everywhere and of course I loved this!  I also remember long walks in the fields surrounding her house, picking juicy blackberries and then later eating the berries in a warm cobbler with sweet vanilla ice cream on top.
These are just a few of my favorite memories from childhood...

This past Sunday, the boys who live here in the Cafezal slum made some wonderful childhood memories here at the Lighthouse Community Center!  

Felipe recently was cleaning up the area around the swimming pool and decided to take away an old plastic pool cover, since it was not helping the condition of our pool and taking up lots of space.  Felipe had the idea to spread the pool cover out over the hillside, lather it up with soap and water and  then let the boys from the slum slide down the hill on the pool cover.  

The boys had a BLAST! 


Pure FUN!





As you can see, even Sophia joined in on the FUN!  The boys were so sweet and gentle with her as they helped her slide down the hill. Our adventurous daughter was ALL smiles and loved every minute!








JOY!




ADVENTURE!


Without a doubt, I think this past Sunday was a day that many of these boys will never forget.  An unusual simple afternoon of pure fun with friends at the Lighthouse Community Center.  Many of these kids come from harsh realities with broken families.  Childhood is often stolen away from children living in slums today. Yet, on Sunday afternoon, their childhood was awakened...  They were able to just be kids.

Moments like these make being in missions all worth it.  THEY are worth it!  Investing in the lives of these children, spending quality time with them, giving them opportunities to make childhood memories, teaching them that life is good because our God is GOOD and He wants to redeem all things - this is our passion of working with children living in at risk situations.

 It was a perfect day for making memories...

Friday, January 13, 2012

Justice and the Love of God


It was a rainy December day here in busy Belo Horizonte, Brazil.  I was standing under a covered area just outside the grocery store, with my shopping cart and my daughter Sophia, while my husband was unsuccessfully trying to flag down a taxi to take us home. The rain was pouring, and Sophia and I stood patiently waiting, as it was extremely difficult to get a taxi due to the rain.  
 
Then a little girl suddenly approached us.   She was probably about 9 years old, and she had a sad look in her eyes.  Her clothes were tattered and worn, but she was well-kept enough to show she was not living on the streets.  She spoke to me, asking for some money so she could buy herself a snack.

I turned to her and asked, "Why are you asking me for money?  Why doesn't your mom give you money to buy a snack?"

Silence...

I then said with a kind smile, "You know what?  You should not be out here in the streets begging for money.  You should be at home playing or at school with your friends learning."

The little girl continued to stare at me with her sweet sad face, waiting to see if I would give or not.  My heart was aching for her.  In situations like these, many times I want to give, but I also know it is not always the best thing to do.  I try to stay sensitive to the Lord and what He would have me say or do.

On this day I continued to talk with the girl.  She told me that she lives in a nearby slum with her mom who does not work.  She then moved on to others to see if she could get anything out of them.

About 5 minutes later I glanced back to see if the little girl was still close by.  She was sitting with what appeared to be her mother and her older sister, eating a snack from a nearby stand.  Mission accomplished. She had gotten her snack, probably as a result of her begging.

My heart was deeply saddened...

This is all to common here in Brazil.  Children beg in the streets everyday here in the city of Belo Horizonte and in other major cities across the country. Children are actually often pressured to beg by their parents, to obtain food, money or other things.

I am not sure if this little girl was being pressured by her mom to beg or not, but my heart did break for her, for the situation.  No child should ever be put in the situation to have to beg in the streets.  The negative results of this are many...


At the beginning of this year I made the decision to read through the Bible in 2012.  So far, so good!  I have been reading daily and God has been showing me new things in His Word.

The other day as I was reading in the book of Luke, Jesus was talking to the Pharisees, actually correcting and confronting them, about the condition of their hearts.

Jesus said, "What sorrow awaits you Pharisees!  For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore justice and the love of God.  You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things."  (Luke 11:42)

This verse struck me.  Jesus wants us to deeply value JUSTICE and the LOVE of GOD.  He wants us to live this.  He wants our lives to reflect His heart of justice and love.  As Jesus told the Pharisees, yes it is good to tithe, it is good to follow rules, but we should not "neglect the more important things" which is justice and the love of God.

I examine my own heart... I don't want to be like a Pharisee.  I pray God would purify me, and give me a heart that is seeking for His justice and His love.   How can His love and justice be expressed through my life?

As I was thinking about all this, God reminded me of the little girl outside the grocery store begging for money.

I PRAY...  I pray she would have an encounter with the love of God and that He would move in His justice in her life. 

I HOPE... I hope for more opportunities to talk to children like her, to tell them of God's love - of Hope Himself.

I PLAN... I plan to work with girls living here in the slum of Cafezal. How many of them are pressured to beg in the streets?  How many of them suffer the consequences of living a life of suffering and poverty? 


I want to bring light into the darkness, speak God's truth instead of the lies, teach the needy about His promise of abundant life that comes from a loving and just Father God.

JUSTICE and the LOVE of GOD
  We can share this only by the grace of God... 
 Lord, teach us...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What We Are Up To...

At the moment our lives are out of the normal routine.  Where we work, the Lighthouse Community Center, we operate basically on the same schedule as the schools in Brazil.  Since December, school has been out for the summer. YES, it is summer here in Brazil (we are in the southern hemisphere).  Just like the schools, we are officially closed during the holiday/summer season.

The front entrance of the Lighthouse Community Center.

  We take advantage of this special time to work on various practical things to keep the ministry going and to effectively plan and prepare for 2012. Even though our normal programs are not currently running (they will start in February), there is plenty to do around here and we have been busy! 

First we moved from our little round house to a much larger home on the Lighthouse property.  We are still not completely settled in, but we are already enjoying the spacious place we have now.  Sophia loves it too! 


 Our BIG living room!


We still have some unpacking and organizing to do, as we want to paint the kitchen and this room - which is Sophia's future bedroom.  More photos to come of our new home once we finish fixing it up!


Felipe has been cleaning the pool lots lately, as the Lighthouse swimming teacher (who is responsible for cleaning the pool) is away on vacation for a month.  Felipe is our new pool man!


Felipe has also been trying to work in the yard, but it has been quite challenging as it's the rainy season here.  With the constant rain it is challenging to find a good time to cut the grass. It is raining literally almost every day!


For a few weeks, I, Laura, was responsible for the finances of the ministry (while the 2 ladies, who are normally in charge, were on vacation).  It was my job to make sure all the bills were being paid and to handle and document all financial affairs of the ministry.  I was intimidated to temporarily take on this responsibility, but I successfully completed the task and I surprisingly enjoyed it too!

Almost daily, Felipe has also been inviting different groups of children to come to the Lighthouse to either play soccer or swim in the only pool that is located in our slum. The kids love to come to the Lighthouse to play! 





I think the most exciting thing I have been up to lately is that I am taking driving lessons!!! Here is a photo of me with my driving teacher, whose name is also Filipe.


After about 16 years of driving only automatic cars, I am finally learning how to drive a manual car.  In Brazil there are mainly manual cars, so driving a stick-shift is a MUST.  I finally had the courage to try to learn so I am taking lessons from a nearby Auto-School.  I have my license from the USA, and I only have to register and submit a few documents to the transportation department and I can drive here in Brazil.


Hopefully, soon I will be driving a Kombi, which is a Volks Wagon van, owned by the Lighthouse Community Center.  I am starting to drive in Brazil because of a need of more drivers to serve the ministry in various practical ways. Surprisingly, many people do not know how to drive in Brazil.  It is very expensive to take driving lessons and to own a car in Brazil, so many people depend on the public transportation system and simply never learn to drive.  Felipe does not know how to drive, but would soon like to start the process of getting his driving license.
 
Please pray for me as learning to drive in Brazil is quite different - I am doing well though and enjoying the challenge! The traffic can be bad, there are LOTS of hills in our city (Belo Horizonte) which make driving tricky, and people drive much more crazy here!  On top of it all I am still adjusting to driving a manual car, but I am getting the hang of it fast.  I am excited about driving here soon!
Sophia has been enjoying being back home at the Lighthouse Community Center.  She especially loves playing outside and spending quality time with all her aunties and uncles (our team members).


 Sophia is a great source of joy and brings much happiness and many smiles to everyone she comes in contact with. Our friend Kelly is one of Sophia's favorite people!


During this "closed" time the Lighthouse team does lots of practical work.  We use this time to do deep cleaning in various areas.  Just last week a team of us did a good cleaning of the Lighthouse kitchen.  This week we have some other areas on our "to do" list to tackle. 

Also, we start each work day as a team talking, praying and some days we even have worship times together.  It is our prayer that God is the center of all that we do here at the Lighthouse Community Center and every act of service is worship unto Him!

  For from Him and
through Him and
for Him are all things.
   To Him be the glory forever! Amen
 Romans 11:36

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Plastic Pool Cover



This post is about four friends, from the neighborhood, who helped us take the huge, old, heavy plastic cover off of the swimming pool yesterday.  They did a good job working as a team, led by Andriea, one of the Brazilian missionaries who serve at the Lighthouse Community Center.
















Thanks Eltinho, Ruan, Rafael e Maicon!