Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Ministry Trip Highlights!

We are coming to the end of our ministry trip to São Pauloand we wanted to share a few highlights from our time!  

The purpose of this trip was to make connections and explore possibilities for our future ministry to children at risk. (To read about our dream to start a project in São Paulo click here) Through our times of prayer and talking while being here, both Felipe and I joyfully sense God directing our steps and plans.  We are constantly seeking God for His leadership and direction.  We want Him to establish our steps and make our path straight.

These two scriptures have come to our hearts repeatedly as we have prayed...

The heart of man plans his way,
    but the Lord establishes his steps.
~ Prov. 16:9 ~

In all of your ways acknowledge Him,
and He will make your paths straight.
~ Prov. 3:6 ~

 Visiting the Slums
One of our main objectives during this trip was to visit slums where we could potentially work.  We had the opportunity to visit a few different regions in the general area we are praying about establishing our project.

Our make-shift sling for Jessie to help give support while walking in the slum. 

One special day we even got to visit a little church right in the center of the slum that reaches out to the needy kids living there.  The church was full of children hungry for love and  attention and eager to learn about God.  Sadly, the church has little resources and few people volunteering to work with these precious kids.

Casa Semear
Last year Felipe and I led a Discipleship Training School (DTS) outreach to São Paulo and our team served for 3 weeks at a ministry called the Sower House or in Portuguese, Casa Semear. Check out their blog here.

This ministry is proving to be a key partner and help to us as we are seeking to set up a ministry in São Paulo.  We are extremely thankful!

First, we were able to stay in the Casa Semear hospitality apartment during our time here, which has been a huge blessing to our family.   Also the Casa Semear missionaries took time out of their busy schedules to meet with us, show us slum areas in need of ministries and programs for children, and share their experiences working here in São Paulo. 

We really enjoyed seeing our missionary friends again and spending time with the kids who participate in the Casa Semear programs.

Other than Casa Semear, we have yet to see another ministry project completely focused on reaching out to the literally hundreds of kids and teens at risk living in this general area. 

Connecting with Nearby YWAM Bases
Felipe visited a Youth With A Mission base called YWAM 300, which is located in the North Zone of the city of São Paulo.  This missions base offers missions training to Koreans and  Korean Brazilians.  Felipe enjoyed meeting with the missionaries of YWAM 300, while I stayed home with our girls since Jessie was not feeling well.

Last Sunday we traveled as a family to YWAM Sampa, which is located in a suburb of São Paulo. This past November we served here with an outreach team.  Felipe gave classes to the Discipleship Training School on the topic of Children at Risk.

I enjoyed leading worship during an intercession time.

Our time at YWAM Sampa was quick, but very good!  We are excited about the many possibilities of working together with the nearby YWAM bases in the future!

Group shot at YWAM Sampa!

School visit!
We were able to visit a school where we would like to place Sophia and Jessie when we make the move to São Paulo.  We serve as missionaries in a country where the public education system offers very poor quality education.  We feel blessed to have found an excellent American and Christian school, which offers amazing opportunities and resources for our children academically- in both English and Portuguese.  This type of education will prepare them to study on the university level in both the USA or Brazil.  The school is much more expensive than we expected, but we want to try to do everything possible to try place our girls there. They are worth it!

We have laughed a lot about some of the challenges we have encountered on this trip, but we try to see challenges as a part of the adventure!  

So, first our car decided to break down...
Less than 24 hours after arriving in Sao Paulo, we noticed a strange noise coming from our back right wheel.  We stopped the car and saw that the tire was inverted a bit. God was totally looking out for us because there just happened to be a guy, by the side of the road, who is a mechanic and he took one look at our car and knew exactly what it was.  He removed the broken part and then put in a temporary replacemet screw -which he happened to have on hand!  

Our broken car part.
Felipe was then able to continue driving (thanks to this nice man's help) and then spent the afteroon searching for the new car part we needed.  In the end, it took a week and half to get our car fixed, but the Lord gave us much grace when we needed to walk or use public transportation, and even provided transportation for us a number of times.

We are extremely thankful for God's protection, and that we did not get into an accident or break down during our 9 hour road trip from Belo Horizonte to Sao Paulo.  

Another challenge during our trip was Jessie's health.  During our first week of traveling Jessie was bothered by her allergies and her two top molars cutting through. These two things made her absolutely miserable!  She cried lots and just wanted mommy to hold her constantly.  Jessie does not deal well with teething! Thankfully Jessie is beginning to feel a little better, not 100 % yet, but better.

Camping Fun!
Tomorrow we leave São Paulo and before heading home we are going to camp at the beach, which is a short 2 to 3 hours away.  Belo Horizonte is not located close to the ocean, but we are excited that our future home is.

This will be our first official family getaway in a really long time, and Sophia is especially excited about camping out.  After the weekend we will return home to Belo Horizonte, and return to a full and busy schedule.  I especially have lots of things in the works, as I am about to enter into an intense season of serving in a Discipleship Training School.

We are now going to unplug for a few days to fully enjoy God's beautiful creation and family time!
Hope you have a wonderful weekend coming up too!

Just for fun - a cute shot of Sophia! :-)

Friday, February 14, 2014

Packing Our Bags!

Today I am busy packing our bags once again.
Tomorrow our family is leaving for a 2 week ministry trip to São Paulo!

We are super excited about this opportunity and expectant as to how the Lord will speak to us during this special trip.  We are earnestly seeking Him concerning the details of establishing a ministry to children at risk in São Paulo .  

Our goal is to move to Sao Paulo in the beginning of 2016, but many things must be done before we actually move there.  This trip will probably be one of many as we are gradually preparing and planning for our future. The plan for this specific trip is that we will spend a total of 2 weeks in the São Paulo area doing a variety of things.

Week 1
During week 1 we will be staying in the area of São Paulo, called Zona Sul (the South Zone), where we hope to plant ourselves one day. We will be meeting with various people (who will hopefully become ministry partners with us), and we will also spend time visiting various slums.  There are literally hundreds of slums in this huge megacity!  We are praying and seeking God about which slum He would want us to reach out to so we can establish a ministry there.

São Paulo, Zona Sul - South Zone 

I also really hope to visit an American Christian school where I am dreaming about placing our children one day.  I volunteered in this school back in 2000 (during my first missions trip to Brazil) and visited it quickly this past October. I would like to visit the school again, but now as a parent with the intention of enrolling my children there one day.  Yes, we are even thinking and planning about this side of moving to Sao Paulo.  

Week 2
 During week 2 we will be going to a suburb of São Paulo, called Francisco Morato, where we will spend a few days at Youth With A Mission Sampa, where Felipe will teach a few classes in a Disciplship Training School.  We spent time at this YWAM base in November, and we are looking forward to visiting again.

YWAM Sampa

At the tail-end of the trip we will spend a few nights camping, to end our travels with a fun family activity.  Then we will make our way back to Belo Horizonte and back to a full schedule.

Please pray for our trip!

Pray for: 
~ Protection and safety as we travel, in our family car!
~ God to show us a future location/slum community where we can establish our ministry.
~ Vision, wisdom, and clear direction as we step out in faith and begin the process of doing what we feel God is calling us to do.
~ God to reveal more of His heart to us about our future work in São Paulo.
~ God to open the right doors and shut the doors that need to be closed.

Thank you for your prayers!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Kids We've Known

During our years of working with children at risk in Brazil, Felipe and I have met and worked with all kinds of kids with all kinds of stories.

We've known:
Teenage boys involved in drug trafficking.
Kids addicted to drugs.
Kids who have parents addicted to drugs and/or alcohol.
A girl who dropped out of school and ran away to live with her drug trafficker boyfriend. 
Kids with HIV.  
Kids who have parents with HIV.
Kids who have lost their fathers to sudden death. 
Kids who have never even met their fathers, and have no father figure in their lives.
Kids who live in poverty, in terrible living conditions, in fear, in lack...

We've known: 
Kids who have suffered abuse.
Young pregnant girls.
Kids who barely know how to read and write.
Kids living on the streets.
Kids living in shelters.
Kids who have run away from shelters.
Kids who have dropped out of school.
And the list goes on...

 So many valuable, precious children with so much potential and beauty, yet they face such difficult realities. 

But something that really hits my heart hard. It seems just too much to take in, is this...
We've also known kids who have died.

Death is a harsh and common reality in the slums and streets of Brazil, and death comes knocking even on the doors of children. 

A boy who was a part of my group back in 2009 was hit and killed by the yellow bus that transports people through the narrow slum streets.  

A teenage boy that Felipe knew, who lived just behind the Lighthouse, was shot in a nearby alleyway for his involvement in drug trafficking.

Then, this past November we received tragic news about a boy, named Pedro, who was once in Felipe's boys group at the Lighthouse.  He was murdered in another slum, where he was living with his mother. (Pedro's father still lives on the road behind the Lighthouse.)  It is rumored that Pedro knew information about something he shouldn't have and then told others about it. Snitches get killed in the slum. You don't tell on anyone, especially not on dangerous people.

This particular boy was special to us. We had even taken him on a special outing to see Toy Story 3 in the theaters when Sophia was a newborn.  Pedro and his siblings were often at the Lighthouse participating in the various programs.  His little sister was a part of my girls group back in 2008. I wrote about her and their troubled home back then here.

At the Lighthouse in 2010 - Pedro flying kites with his friend Gideon (the son of a missionary couple).

In 2010 things were really rough at Pedro's home so we helped place him in a YWAM boys shelter, where he unfortunately ran away.  

I wonder... 
Would Pedro still be alive today if he would have made better choices?
What if he would have stayed at the shelter? 
Where would he be today?
Would he be alive?

I cried when I heard about Pedro's death. It's still so unbelievable to me. However, the memory of his big, bright smile will always be with me.  Pedro's death is a sad reminder of the reality of life for children and teens living in the slums of Brazil.  

For me personally, when I think of Pedro's death, I am deeply saddened, and then I am also very stirred and uncomfortably challenged to do all that is within me to prevent the deaths of other kids and teenagers.  His death becomes a driving force to reach out, to dream, to do something to make a difference in the lives of precious kids (just like Pedro) living in the slums of Brazil. 

One reason why...  
This is just one reason why we want to start a new work in Sao Paulo, where there are many slums and few people reaching out to impact kids and families living in slums. Our hearts long to "rescue those being led away to death"  and "hold back those staggering toward slaughter" (Prov. 24:11).  We want to introduce these precious ones to an amazing and loving God who gives life and life more abundantly! 

To end on a hopeful note,  I must say that in our years of ministry we've also known:

Kids hungry to know God and follow Him.
Kids who show kindness to those around them. 
Kids with a mom and dad present at home.
Kids who said, "no" to working with drug trafficking.  Today some of these boys are now young men working honest jobs. 
Kids who attend school, even though their parents never finished.
Kids who dream for a better future.
Kids, who against all odds, are making their way in a world where they don't have a lot going for them.

May God continue to challenge and lead us as we plan for our future project.
And please pray for the literally millions of children living in the slums, the poor communities, and even on the streets of Brazil.  
There is a great hope for these precious ones!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Our New Home!

We are now a lot more settled into our new home, located on the grounds of a YWAM ministry house called the Refuge House or in Portuguese, Casa Refúgio.

Currently the Refuge House is a YWAM training location which runs King's Kids Camps, Discipleship Training Schools and Children At Risk Schools.

We are living on the bottom level of the Refuge House, in the part of the building painted red.  The white doorway you see on the left is the entrance into our home. 

Come on in! 
I cleaned it up good for the photos - our home usually has toys all over the place. 
Welcome to our home!

This is the entrance way/dining area of our home. 

Since we painted the house, our girls' dirty hands (and feet) are already smudging up our pretty new paint job.   We were especially getting the wall near our dining table dirty from accidental spills or splashes at mealtimes, so we decided to do something fun to kind of hide the messy marks on the wall. It took one morning to do it, and we love the way it turned out!  It's something fun and different!

Here is a timelapse video showing how we painted a mosaic on the wall.

Here is our cute cozy kitchen, which we lovingly call our "açaí kitchen" because as we were trying to make the paint color just right, it ended up turning into the color of açaí.   We love açaí though, so we just went with it!

We are quite happy with our new home! We still have a few more things we need to hang on the walls, but overall we have the house the way we want it.

This is our favorite room in the house,our living room. We have learned something new about ourselves - every other room in our home can be small, but we really enjoy and appreciate having a nice sized living room to spend time together in.  An extra bonus is that in this house we have LOTS of sofa space because the house came with a built-in concrete sofa.  Good thing it matches our sofas! 

Sophia and Jessie's bedroom!  Sophia is so proud of her big girl bed that she got for Christmas.  She shows it off to everyone who comes over to visit.

The girls even have their own bathroom!  Sophia stands on the chair to reach the sink to brush her teeth and wash her hands.

The little hallway leading to the master bedroom.  I love the little book-nook where our bookcase fits just perfectly.

As you can see in the the above photo, there is a closed-in doorway (on the right), which used to be the entrance to a stairway connecting this bottom section of the building with the upper section of the building.  Several years ago when this home was officially turned into missionary living quarters, the doorway was sealed closed to give the home more privacy. 

When I saw this funny looking wall/door space, the "teacher in me" instantly saw potential to transform it into a learning bulletin board.  Last month I began doing a preschool curriculum with Sophia  (  Every afternoon when Jessie naps, Sophia and I have a special learning time together. Sophia has really been enjoying it!

Here is our comfy bedroom.

Our little bathroom, which is located directly under the stairway. 

We are all really enjoying our new home.  I must say it is much easier to clean than our last home. I am thankful for nicer floors that are much faster to clean. 

And, just outside our home, is a nice little playground where our girls can play.  They love playing outside here!

We hope you liked seeing our new home here in Brazil!
We will be living here for the next 2 years and then we will be moving on to São Paulo.
We are thankful for God's continual provision and blessings over our lives.  He is such a caring Father who faithfully provides for all our needs!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Relaxed to Routine

It's been quiet over here on our blog lately...
Our lives have been unusally less busy and very quiet. This has been very refreshing for us!  The whole year of 2013 was extremely busy and we were constantly on the go.  A calm and relaxed start to 2014 has been nice! Seasons of rest are important and so renewing.

Here are some photos from a fun craft time we had last week with the missionary kids living at the Refuge House.

A New Routine
Now that it's February we are starting to get into a new routine.  In Brazil school starts in February, and the summer vacation season is officially over.  Our days and work calendars are beginning to fill up once again.

Monday was Sophia's first day of preschool.  We were blessed to get a missionary discount at a nearby Christian preschool where Sophia will attend 3 mornings a week. We hope this will help Sophia to progress in learning to speak Portuguese and also give her the opportunity to interact with more kids.

Also this week Youth With A Mission Belo Horizonte began having all the official base meetings, so from now on Felipe will spend several afternoons per week in leadership related meetings.

YWAM Belo Horizonte Leaders Meeting

Monday night I also had some of my YWAM missionary girlfriends over for an informational meeting about an English Bible Study.  Last year we did Beth Moore's Breaking Free study and soon we will begin another study called Living Beyond Yourself.  This week I shared this awesome story by Beth Moore that I came across online.  This story really blessed and challenged my heart, so if you have a few minutes, I invite you to take a listen.

Our Upcoming Trip
Also, some VERY exciting news is that we have a trip to São Paulo in the works.  We have been preparing and organizing for this for a few weeks now.  In March, I (Laura) will begin working with a Discipleship Training School (DTS), so we wanted to squeeze in this quick trip before the DTS begins and our schedules get even more busy.  It may be a while before we have the time and flexibility to take another ministry trip to this great city on our hearts.

São Paulo, Brazil

The plan is that we will spend a total of 2 weeks in São Paulo meeting with future ministry partners and visiting various slums - there are literally hundreds of slums in this huge megacity!  We are praying and seeking God about where in Sao Paulo He would lead us to establish a ministry to children at risk
Please pray for us!!!

A slum located in a neighborhood called Morumbi in São Paulo.

 Felipe will also be teaching a few classes in a Disciplship Training School at a YWAM base located just outside of the city of Sao Paulo.  We spent time at this YWAM base in November, and we are looking forward to visiting again.

Thank You!
As always, thanks so much for your prayers and support of our work in Brazil.  We could not be here doing what we do without you uplifting us in prayer and supporting us.  

 We are now transitioning from a relaxed season to a routine. In March our work schedules will become even more busier, but we feel ready and excited for all that 2014 has in store for us!