Thursday, April 30, 2020

Newsletter Spring 2020

An Easter photo of our family sharing what the ressurection of Jesus means to us! 

Dear Friends,
In March, we had a carefully thought out newsletter written and almost ready to send, and then suddenly, unexpected changes related to COVID-19 happened.  Our news became old news fast!  So today we are sending out more up-to-date news of what is going on in our neck of the woods.  We will save those other stories for another time...

First of all, we are doing well overall, thankfully healthy, and in quarantine now for around seven weeks.  We are staying quite busy caring for our two youngest children (10 months and 3 years old) and helping our two oldest girls with their schoolwork every day.  They are doing distance learning online and will finish out this school year at home due to the governmental closings of all schools until August. 

Laura and the kids are exclusively staying home (except for taking long walks in the neighborhood), and Felipe is the only one actually going out in public.  Donning a mask, Felipe does our shopping each week and is also working on a semi-regular basis at Casa Semear. 

Although we especially miss seeing our local church family and dear friends, we are savoring this time as a family and making lots of fun memories.  Felipe's mom and sister live on our street, just three houses away, so we consider ourselves in quarantine together with them, and we visit them regularly.  Felipe is also helping as much as he can to get them the food and supplies they need during this time of isolation. 

Mask Distribution
About a month ago, as the seriousness of Covid-19 was erupting all over the world,  Felipe and I began to talk about all the ways this virus could negatively impact poor communities in Brazil.  We knew that ABBA (the local organization we partner with) was working towards giving out boxes of nonperishable food and hygiene kits in some of the slums of São Paulo.  As we were discussing ways we could potentially help, Felipe looked at me and said, "Laura, maybe we can make masks to distribute."

At that moment, I remember thinking, "Me? Sew masks?"  I instantly felt small and incapable, but that quickly turned into joyful excitement to take on a new challenge to meet a need and share God's love. Have you ever felt this way? 

As we prayed and discussed this idea, we knew God was calling us to take on this little project and to invite others to join us in sewing masks for the families living near Casa Semear.  It was our goal to provide one more measure of protection against the coronavirus, to help promote health, and share the good news of the gospel.

Within a few hours of saying, "Yes, Lord," we were given our first donation of masks to distribute. God was providing already!  We also ordered a simple sewing machine online (which surprisingly arrived the next day) and just days later, I started sewing masks. Several friends (and family members of friends) volunteered to sew masks too. What a blessing! And, for many of these sewing volunteers, it gave them a purposeful project to devote themselves to in such a difficult time. We saw God using this mask-making task, and it was bringing great joy to hearts.  We are very happy to report that over the course of just a few weeks, around 300 masks were made, and almost all of them have already been handed out to families living in the slum communities near Casa Semear.
The first mask donation we recieved.

This whole project has personally encouraged my heart in a special way. I feel like the Lord has used it to remind me of the importance of being faithful and obedient Him, even when at first I may feel incapable. If He has called me to do something, He will equip me and/or send others along to help me with the task. There is power in multiplication!  The ladies who helped sew the masks were key players in helping to make our mask distribution possible. We could not have done it without their help.

Actually, this is also how we feel concerning all of you who support us and pray for our work here in Brazil. We can not be here serving the Lord without you. We so appreciate you! Thank you for your love, prayers, and continual support of our ministry.

To God be the glory! Great things He is doing in our world today, even in the midst of a very serious and difficult time. 

Ministry at Casa Semear
As I mentioned before, although we are in quarantine, Felipe is serving in a variety of ways at Casa Semear several times during the week. Felipe has been helping to pick up donations to distribute to the families in the slum, and he has been working with a few people on the team to repaint some rooms at the facility - taking advantage of the fact that ministry programs are stopped for the time being.  At least once each week the team opens the doors of the ministry to hand out boxes of non-perishable food item, hygiene kits full of cleaning products, and masks.  We are thankful that Casa Semear has been a source of support, provision, and God's love and hope as we help meet practical needs in the slum community. 

Plans for the Future
In uncertain times it is often hard to make plans, but we would like to share some plans we have for the future.  Before the Covid-19 outbreak we were praying as a family about the possibility of homeschooling our children, and we have seen the Lord sweetly leading and confirming this decision. Starting in August, Laura will begin homeschooling our two oldest daughters, Sophia (rising 4th grader) and Jessica (rising 2nd grader).  We also will be participating in a local Christian homeschooling co-op which we are super excited about.  Please pray for us all in this big transition as a family. 

Secondly, we have nailed down tentative dates for our next trip to the United States as a family.  Lord willing, and depending on the health situation in the world, we hope to arrive in the USA in February or March of 2021 and stay until June. We are really looking forward to this visit and reconnecting with so many of you! What a joy and a blessing it will be to see you all in person! Please pray for us concerning the timing of the trip and for all we must do in preparation for it.  We will keep you posted! 

We pray this letter finds you well, in good health, and strong in the Lord.  May we all find courage, assurance, joy and peace in the Lord knowing that He is with us, He loves us, He is faithful to His Word, and we will get through this time sustained by Him.

He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 
Colossians 1:17

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

With love from Brazil,
Laura, Felipe, Sophia, Jessie, Josiah & Annabelle 

P.S.  Below are a few family photos we have captured recently. Enjoy!

Easter weekend!

Morning Bible time before school.

10 Month Old - Annabelle Joy!

Felipe is teaching Sophia more about photography. A beautiful shot Sophia captured for her Art class!

We live near a lake, and the sunsets have been breathtaking!

The girls' school had a fun idea to have a character dress-up day, even though the kids are at home.  
Sophia dressed up as a Star Wars character and Jessie as a fairy.  Felipe added these fun backgrounds to the photos!


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