Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Our 2015 Christmas Season!

We just celebrated our very first Christmas season living in São Paulo, Brazil,
and it was a very special season indeed!

During this past year we have been volunteering in a ministry called Casa Semear (translated into English - the Sower House) that reaches out to kids living in the slums of São Paulo.  Along with the ministry team, we helped organize and throw the big annual Christmas party.  The girls, who take ballet lessons weekly at the ministry, presented a beautiful dance performance, and all the children who participate at the project on a regular basis received Christmas presents.  These presents were donated by various people who attend local churches in the area.

During this Christmas season it was awesome to see the generousity of the local body of Christ blessing families and children who live in poor conditions and at-risk situations.  We felt priviledged to play a small part of making Christmas so special for these precious kids!

To see more photos of Casa Semear's annual Christmas party, click here.

At Sophia's school, the elementary students presented a darling Christmas play called, "Christmas in Reverse."  All the students spent the first half of the year learning and practicing the songs for the school program. Sophia was so excited about singing in the choir, and we were especially proud of her!  Sophia loves her school and all the amazing opportunities she has there!

During the third week of December we participated in a Youth With a Mission (YWAM) national conference here in Brazil. Every other year all the missionaries who serve with YWAM in Brazil come together to fellowship and meet at this gathering.

In order to attend the YWAM conference we traveled to the central part of Brazil, and stayed in a nice hotel where the gethering was being held.  It was such a treat!  We had a wonderful time of reconnecting with dear missionary friends who are working all over the country.  The hotel has many natural hot springs pools, and our girls enjoyed swimming and playing with their friends/other missionary kids.

Sophia braving the water slide!

The fun photo booth set up at the conference!  It says "YWAM in Family" on the side of the VW van.

At the end of our trip we all caught a tummy virus, and once back home in São Paulo we took a few days to recover.  Even so, we went out one night to see the Christmas lights, even though Jessie was fighting off a painful ear infection.  There are not tons of Christmas lights here, but we did find a big Christmas tree at a popular park here in São Paulo.

On Christmas Eve we attended a beautiful candlelight worship service at the amazing church we are attending here in Sao Paulo, and then on Christmas morning we enjoyed family time opening presents.  We then went over to our friends' home for a Christmas lunch, which was a Brazilian barbecue.

Felipe found some American sodas that are almost impossible to find in Brazil!
Daddy got another Bible to add to his collection!
I took some prebaked Christmas cookies to our Christmas lunch gathering, and I had a fun and messy time decorating cookies with the little girls there.

This Christmas was much different than last year in the USA.  Yet we rejoice in the opportunities we have had here this Christmas in Brazil.  We have been able to share God's love and the joy of Christmas, and also to continue to grow in the Lord as we serve Him.

We see God's love and faithfulness over our family as well, and we are especially thankful for many of you who faithfully pray and support us as we minister in Brazil.  Thank you! 

We are looking ahead now to 2016 and have some important decisions to make. 
Please continue to pray for our family and for wisdom in the days to come.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

2015 Christmas Card Photos!

This year we decided to do Christmas cards for our friends and family in the USA, even though we live in Brazil. 

We designed and ordered our cards online, my awesome and helpful Mom picked them up, and then she addressed and mailed them out for us. Thanks so much Mom, you are such a blessing!  She made it all possible folks!

In order to have some more recent photos for our card, we decided to do a Christmas photo shoot. Felipe set up a mini studio on our little back veranda area, that way we had lots of natural lighting, and it was MUCH easier to get the girls ready and keep them happy and engaged in a photo session in our own home. 

We ended up just using three photos on our Christmas card, but we thought it would be fun to share some of our Christmas themed photos here on our blog too.  These photos turned out super cute!   

To end this post, we want to wish you a very Merry Christmas and many blessings from our home in Brazil to yours, where ever you are.

"Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests."  
Luke 2:14

Glory and praise to our Father God who sent Jesus to bring forgiveness, peace, and eternal life!  
Jesus is the best gift ever given!

With love from Brazil,  
Laura, Felipe, Sophia & Jessie Matias

Saturday, December 5, 2015

December 4th, 2015 ~ Our Day in Photos

It's been six months since our last "Day in Photos" post, so it was time for us to do another one. We hope you enjoy seeing some photos that show a bit of what our life is like living in São Paulo, Brazil!

In the early morning hours I captured this shot from our bedroom window, looking out over the nearby neighborhoods.  Everyone was asleep in our home, but me.  I had a quiet and peaceful start to the day. Recently, almost every morning begins like this, with cloudy skies and drizzling rain. São Paulo is called the city of drizzle for a reason.

Since I woke up unusually early (at 5am!), I ended up having enough time to squeeze in a quick workout before the morning rush of getting Sophia off to school.
As I shared in an earlier post, I have been trying to really focus on being more healthy and active this year, in preparation for pregnancy. We are not pregnant yet, but hope to grow our family next year, God willing!
A sweaty post-workout selfie with my beloved T25 workout videos.
Felipe went out to the local bakery to buy bread. This is the norm here in Brazil. Almost everyone goes out early in the morning to buy freshly baked bread. Brazilian coffee and fresh french bread is the standard Brazilian breakfast.

Breakfast time!
Felipe also bought the girls a special treat called a rosquinha at the bread shop.  It is the closest thing to doughnuts we have been able to find here in Brazil, but it tastes a little different.   

We took Sophia to school, and I had previously volunteered to read a Christmas story to Sophia's class to start their school day. I read the book Mrs.Wishy-Washy's Christmas, and the kids loved it!

After our quick visit to Sophia's school, we drove to the Sower House, the community center where we work with children who are living in a nearby slum.  On the street outside the ministry center, the kids always gather to wait for the doors to open. Yesterday, the kids just happened to pass the time singing a song they learned from a YWAM outreach team that recently visited us.

Friday is free play day at the Sower House, and the older kids especially enjoy playing volleyball.

While Felipe was playing with the teenagers, I was upstairs with the younger children.  I recently taught the kids to play duck-duck-goose and they love it. This is not a common game here in Brazil. Jessie loves playing with the kids!

I also spent quite a bit of time helping take care of the baby boy of a fifteen year old girl who has been participating in the programs at the Sower ministry for many years.

I looked after her baby so she could have some time to play games with her friends. It is incredible for me to think about her situation, and to see this young girl who still longs to play and have fun with her friends, but is already a mother with much responsibility.
Her son is precious!

The Sower House recently received this awesome donation of boxes containing non-perishable food items. Each family that has children participating in the Sower House programs will receive one box as a Christmas present. Next week the boxes will be distributed at the annual Sower House Christmas party.  More photos to come!

After the morning ministry sessions were over, we had a spontaneous meeting and got this sweet team photo.  Unfortunately the photo is missing one couple who faithfully serves at the ministry. 

After a full morning, Jessie, Felipe, and I went home to eat a late lunch. We ended up eating around 1:30.  This is a typical Brazilian lunch - rice, beans, beef, and salad. 

 On Friday afternoons, after an extended lunch break, Felipe goes to pick Sophia up from school, brings her home and then drives back to work at the Sower House ministry, while I stay at home to catch up on various things and take care of our girls.

Around 3:45 Sophia gets home from school. One of the first things she often does upon arrival is pet her kitty, Buzz Lightyear.
I decided to give the girls baths a little earlier than usual so I could do an inspection of Jessie's hair.  Jessie spends lots of time at the Sower House with us when we work and has been catching lice quite often from the sweet kids there.  I am constantly examining her hair for nits and lice. This takes a lot of time and patience. Thankfully I found nothing yesterday!

Meanwhile, Felipe was already back at the Sower House working with the kids who participate in the afternoon program. More volleyball! 

I got a quick visit from Jessie during some quiet time reading the Bible in one of my favorite spots in the house.

Everyday Sophia is super excited to open the next window in our advent calendar in preparation for Christmas!

A special Friday night family dinner!
I made one of the girls favorite meals, chicken strognoff with broccoli.

Our girls spontaneously doing some art activities before bedtime.

Once Sophia and Jessie were in bed, Felipe and I could have a little bit of time together. My sweet husband surprised me with these beautiful yellow roses yesterday. 

It was a good day! There were some moments not documented here like helping out several of our missionary friends by giving rides home and to the mechanic, bad traffic, potty accidents, serious talks about behavior, time outs and just real life happening, but we hope you liked seeing a little glimpse into our family and daily life in Brazil.