Thursday, December 22, 2005

Sorry, Folks!

If you're coming looking for updates you'll have to wait a few days. Russell's family is visiting and I'd rather spend my time with them instead of updating the blog. I'll add some pictures to Flickr as I get the chance so you can see what we're doing, but you'll have to wait for the narrative.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Yesterday the owner of the building we have been looking at accepted our (rather low) offer. The walkthrough will be done next Monday. We will be signing the contract on January 2. In a nutshell, WE HAVE A CHURCH BUILDING!!!

In a couple of weeks I'll post some pictures of the space. Until then, just know the following:

-it's bigger than we could have possibly dreamed
-it has space for worship, classes and offices
-it's already outfitted with awesome bathrooms
-we have great landlords who are very supportive
-it's across the street from the beach
-it's located on Rua Espirito Santo (technically named after a Brazilian state, but literally means Holy Spirit Street!)

This building is an answer to prayer. We did not think this building was even a possibility but God has cleared every obstacle in our way. We praise Him for providing so abundantly! Please keep praying until the contract is officially signed. But mostly, we invite you to rejoice with us. Our visions of our inaugural service and the future church are becoming clearer and clearer now that we know where we'll be meeting.

Thinking of that, we have our first small group meeting tomorrow night. It's thrilling to be launching that ministry. With God's help, we will already have a great core group of believers when we officially open the doors of the building on April 2.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Shopping Spree

For those of you keeping score, the air conditioner count has doubled to two. We are frantically preparing for the Quireys' arrival next Monday. And while the weather in Blackwell can be "nice" at this time of year, their bodies will not be ready for our summertime. So today Russell and I headed out to do a little shopping. We're finally doing all the shopping that we should have done when we first arrived. We bought the least we could get away with, and while the two of us can get by with only two bath towels, having four houseguests forces us to actually buy more.

So we went to the electronics store and picked up a couple of air conditioners. After all the problems we had getting the first one installed, we had carefully measured the holes. It made shopping really easy because the small dimensions of our holes ruled out almost every AC in the store! Confirming that they were a good price, we ordered two of them. Fortunately they had them in stock so we were able to bring them home today.

Next we crossed the street to the hipermercado (the closest thing I can compare it to is SuperWalmart). We grabbed pillows, towels, bedding and all kinds of odds and ends to make our place more liveable. As I paid the cashier, I remember why it was that we hadn't yet bought all this stuff. It adds up!

Late this afternoon, Russ opened up the hole in the wall to install our air conditioner. And it was done! It's a funny feeling--everything else we've done has taken so much time. I was glad, though, because I've got quite enough on my plate this week. We'll install the other AC soon, but we have to figure out how to take the glass out of the window. (Russ didn't accept my offer to open it with the hammer and chisel like he did the wall.)

Tomorrow may be an adventure. I'm borrowing Keith and Stacey's maid for the day to help get the apartment ready. Most families on the team have maids but Russ and I have decided we'll wait to get one. But we've enjoyed our friends' stories of all the miscommunications they've had with their maids. Hopefully tomorrow will go smoothly, but I know the potential exists for some great stories. (Should anything worth telling about happen, you guys will be the first to know.)

In other news, tomorrow Matt and Mary Virginia are headed to Recife to get some visa problems resolved. It's a silly problem, but it's got to be handled. Please pray that everything goes well for them, that the government officials have open minds and open hearts, and for safety in their travels.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Christmas Party

Originally uploaded by russandval.
Last night we celebrated Christmas as a team. As we looked at the month of December, we realized that we only had a small window of opportunity in our flood of visitors to share the holiday as a family. And we wanted to leave every family free to do what they wanted for the holiday itself, celebrating or creating their own traditions. But one evening wasn't enough to do everything we wanted. So the idea of the Christmas sleepover was born.

First on the agenda was Christmas dinner. Everyone contributed to the feast. We had turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, corn, rolls, and, courtesy of Alicia, perogies and (fake) sour cream. Delicious.

After dinner, we gathered in the living room. Mary's family always reads a poem that her dad wrote, so we passed it around the room and all took turns. Then Matt and Randy read the real story of Christmas and Keith led us in some carols.

We took a break to clean up the kitchen, eat dessert (pecan pie, pumpkin pie, shortbread cookies, molasses cookies and my pictured gingerbread cookie tree) and then reconvened to play Dirty Santa. We had a White Elephant theme this year, so the gifts were pretty funny. Russ and I walked away with a cell phone car adaptor and some Avon aftershave and body powder. Even still, we did better that some people, but, to protect the not-so-innocent, I won't go into detail. (Nothing really bad, I promise--there were kids playing with us!)

The rest of the evening we just visited, watched Elf and A Christmas Story and ate. And ate. I have no idea when the last person went to bed, but it was some time after 3 AM, I believe.

This morning we got up and ate a big breakfast. Then it was time for the real gift exchange. We let all the kids open their presents first (they'd been dying to all night!). Then we revealed our secret pals. I used the opportunity to re-gift my new aftershave lotion, throwing it in the bag of presents I was giving Travis.

Russ and I headed home at around 1:30 PM. Everyone else was still going strong but we were tired. Guess we're getting old. But we were glad to have this chance to start a new team tradition and to celebrate with each other. I can't imagine how hard it must be for missionaries who don't have teammates to help them through the holidays!


While we were opening gifts this morning, we received a call from the owner of the building we are trying to rent for our church building. A meeting has been set up on Tuesday for what could possibly be our final round of negociations. Please pray that everything goes well and that we can get this building nailed down soon. I haven't said much about it on this blog, but it is a wonderful facility and would be an excellent tool in our work.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Bean Supper

Bean Supper
Originally uploaded by russandval.
(It took me a while to get around to posting this, my apologies.)

When we were at Mayfair, in Oklahoma City, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving was a church-wide bean supper. The food was made and served by the men. Really, it was served by a handful of men in particular, who had started this tradition many years earlier and continued.

We didn't have Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving day (since we'd had it on our team retreat and since Russ and I represent two different countries that can't agree on a date for the holiday) but Stacey and I decided we needed to have a bean supper. We spared Russ and Keith from having to cook the food themselves, so we prepared the beans and cornbread. The way our schedule ended up, the bean supper was sandwiched between a team meeting and Brock's birthday party so the entire team joined us for the meal. It was a little way to feel united with our old church family.

One bittersweet note: as we we getting ready to eat, Keith received an email that one of the men that was responsible for the bean supper when we were at Mayfair, Bill McIntosh, had passed away that morning. Bill was an incredible servant of God and had been a huge supporter of missions. He and his wife Bonnie were so encouraging of all our endeavors, from the college Mexico trip to Russell's first trip to Brazil with Basil to our plans to move here. We are grateful that God blessed him with such a long life so we could know Bill, and Bonnie remains in our prayers.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Should I Eat It or Dive on Top of It?

Originally uploaded by russandval.
This little grenade-like fruit is called a pinha here in Bahia, which is not only confusing for Spanish speakers (because that's the name of a pineapple), but for Brazilians as well. In southern Brazil, the fruit is known as a fruta do conde. It has a leathery skin, and each bump includes a seed surrounded by white flesh that is the consistency of yogurt when it's ripe. Although it is a chore to eat, it is very sweet and tropical. Thus endeth the fruit lesson for today. I did do some research online for what constitutes tropical fruit. Apparently in North America, a basket of apples with an orange and a banana thrown in will count as tropical. Oh well, here's to you, grenade fruit!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Back to School

This weekend, a new feeling hit me. We are ready to go back to school. By that I mean it feels like we have been living in a new city during summer break (which is ironic because every school here is about to go on summer break). But summer's over (metaphorically speaking) and it's time to start our real lives. It's time to get to work. Even though our learning process has been hard, it doesn't compare to actually being among people as we make them part of our lives. This is what going back to school means.

We have to take all of our words, all of our fears, time and energy, and jump into ministry here with both feet. If we hold back and wait for a good reason to change our routines, we will never find one, and our lives will look like a permanent vacation in a very nice place. But God is giving us the opportunity to go meet the people he has already met; people who want to give everything to Him. We will give our lives to them as well, and in the process, get to see a very real part of what God is doing on Earth today. Every chance "bom dia" is another chance to change two lives forever.

One of my friends told me that he hoped I would make more Brazilian friends than American ones. That's the key to going back to school. You can bring people into your world, or you can join them in theirs and affect it forever. We are ready to begin.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Preacher Man

Here's the photographic evidence of the aforementioned sermon.
 Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 17, 2005

My First Portuguese Lesson

Last Sunday, we took a bus with Travis, Alicia and Randy about an hour from our house to the edge of the city. If you've seen the size of the bay we're on, you will know how far it is to the inside corner of it. That's where we went, to a bairro called Alto de Coutos. One of the younger Churches of Christ asked us to come and speak to them once a month over the next few months. We thought it was a great idea, and I took the first month. The church recently moved from a rented building into the patio of one of the members. This was a great blessing to them, because their facility is free. It was also a blessing to us, because we got to be in the most beautiful front row scene I have ever laid eyes on. I know, I know, a lot of us grew up staring at the paintings above the baptistry, but this was the real deal. The only downside was that it was raining sideways at the time, but the break from the spring heat was very welcome.

There is not much else that I can really say. Travis taught the class before I spoke; he did a fantastic job of introducing the book of 2 Timothy. I spoke on chapter 1 verses 1-7. I had all of my words written in front of me, which alliviated most of the stress that I felt. It was about ten pages double-spaced, and I mostly read it with my typical emotive flair. I strayed from my notes occasionally, but just to gauge the involvement of my audience of about 20 adults. They were very gracious and had prepared a lunch of cachorro quente (hot dogs) and soda for everyone. I can't wait to go back and improve my vocabulary and comfort level. I did it! but not without a lot of encouragement and careful translation help from Valerie. Thanks for all your prayers.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


I've been slacking lately. Sorry about that.

Actually, I haven't been slacking in "real life", just in terms of updating the blog. I spent most of last week (Tuesday-Saturday) down with a virus. The first couple days of it, I was quite literally down, flat on my back, watching movies my dear sweet Russell rented for me. It may seem like I've been sick a lot since we've been here, and compared to the last few years of my life, I have been, but it's pretty par for my life. My immune system is not the most cooperative in the world, so by moving somewhere new, with all kinds of new bugs, I'm like a kid starting daycare--I'm going to pick up everything. At least once. But I'm feeling quite a bit better now, though I've got some symptoms that are still kicking around.

Sunday was my big day to emerge from the apartment, and I jumped back into life with both feet. I'll do a separate post about it (or better yet, get Russ to do it), but here it is in 30 words or less: Russ preached his first Portuguese sermon in a little upper room overlooking the Bahia de Todos os Santos (All Saints' Bay) while I sat shivering.

Russ and I stopped at the mall on Monday morning and discovered that Christmas has arrived in Bahia. The Christmas decorations are out in full force. On display anyway. There's not very many for sale, and the ones that are for sale are either outrageously expensive or embarrassingly cheap. We generally opt for cheap. The most well-stocked store, Lojas Americanas (which literally means American Stores), is the closest we have to WalMart, though it doesn't really compare to WalMart. (For the Canadians, I would compare it to Woolco.) The Christmas section was absolutely insane; it felt like WalMart on the day after Christmas. People were buying decorations like they might not be there tomorrow, and unfortunately we caught the fever and ended up picking up a couple of things.

I spent Monday afternoon working on our team/church budget with Randy. It was, to say the least, a challenge. We had to create a budget for a church that currently has only ten adult members but hopes to, within the next year, have a youth ministry, a children's ministry and a church building! I definitely sent up a lot of prayers about that budget. We resisted presenting it to the team in the form of a budget Sunday and opted for last night's meeting instead. Hopefully we'll get the figures nailed down within the next week so we all know what we're working with. Especially since...

...the search for a building has begun! Actually, it's been going on for a couple of weeks. We've got several different realtors on the case and every major street in our neighborhoods has been scouted. We've got one property that looks good, but there's a lot of legal work to be done before we're ready to sign a contract, so we're cautiously optimistic. Fortunately, we have all seen God's hand provide for us repeatedly and know that even if He doesn't give us our first choice, He will give us just what we need. The process of getting to Brazil left us all with such confidence in the faithfulness of our God that we have no doubts that we will be in a building for our inaugural service on April 2.

Other than that, there's just a whole lot of running around going on right now. We're spending the next three days in training on our evangelistic Bible studies that Travis, Randy and Mary Virginia have written. We've got another wave of visitors coming, starting with Matt's parents, the Maberys, on Sunday. They'll be here for a week and will be followed by Georgia Freitas and Donna Millican in early December. Donna is a trustee for Continent of Great Cities and her husband, Don, is an elder at Park Plaza, the Parkers' sponsoring church. The Millicans graciously let us live with them for a couple of months last year when things were looking bleak, so we're looking forward to her visit. Finally, Russell's folks will be here in just over a month. His parents, brother and grandmother (Nana) will all be staying with us, so we're working hard to get our apartment ready for them. With all those visitors, it means that we, the Maberys and the Parkers are all making frequent trips to the store to buy paint, towels and whatever else we've been putting off buying. I can't wait though. Any family's visitor is a visitor for the whole team, especially parents. We were fortunate enough to get to know every team member's parents before leaving, so we look forward to seeing them again. Please keep all the travelers in your prayers.

Monday, November 07, 2005


I missed homecoming.

Last weekend was homecoming at Oklahoma Christian. I think I've managed to make it every year until now. I went when I was in college because I had to- we always had a club alumni breakfast where the new Beta girls, who had to go, would sit and pretend like they knew the old Beta girls, who weren't there to see anyone but each other. And that was fine, as the years passed and friends graduated, I did know some of the older girls.

After I graduated, I stayed in Oklahoma City for a couple of years but didn't see many of my college friends on a regular basis. No reason in particular, we just went to different churches and became part of different social circles. But I looked forward to homecoming as a change to see those friends, who were ususally coming for the same reason. Plus it was an excuse for Jenny to visit. And because of our work with the college ministry, I actually knew many of the younger girls, so I had lots of people to see.

We moved to Abliene for training but came back for homecoming. That time it was more important to see those friends, because they weren't just across town. At the time, I thought it would be my last one because we were originally going to arrive here in October 2004. But we moved the date to March and we got to go one last time.

And now here we are again. I've read on several friends' blogs that they were planning on going. To you, I say, "I'm jealous!" And then there's the rest of you, flung out around the world, for whom the weekend trip just isn't a possibility. To you, I say, "I'm sorry." But regardless of which category you fit in, if you're a college friend of mine and read this blog (and chances are I read yours too), then I guess homecoming would have been just a formality! We know what's going on in each others' lives! But somehow, it's not the same. If anyone figures out how to post a hug in the comments section, let me know.

There's an obvious spiritual application to be made here. I could talk about the longing we should feel for our real homecoming. I could remind all of you (and myself) that even if I never make it to another OC homecoming, I will be reunited with these friends and so many more one day. I'll hopefully get to introduce them to Brazilians who are there because we're here. And all that is true. But I'm still a little sad.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Day of the Dead

Originally uploaded by russandval.
If I say "Day of the Dead," you may instantly think of the Mexican celebration with the little skeleton guys. I know I do.

But in Brazil it's different. It's just like Memorial Day. But bigger. Much bigger.

Jaci recommended a field trip to the cemetery to see the goings-on. We all jumped at the chance. I was especially excited when I found out we were going to a cemetery that I have noticed several times and have been longing to visit. (Earlier today, I said I was dying to check it out--poor choice of words!)

This morning, Russ and I met Jaci, the Maberys, the Sasses and Keith to head down to the cemetery. After a good twenty minute wait for the bus, we hopped on. Because it's a holiday, traffic was pretty light. And then we got near the cemetery. It's in a pretty hilly part of town--the roads go up and up. The traffic got heavier and heavier the closer we got. Finally it was stop and go. And on one of the big hills the bus stopped and didn't go. We stalled out. The driver waited a second, restarted, lurched forward and stalled. A little roll, a slam of the brakes--no problem. He tried several times to get going again but the hill was just too big. We all got off the bus and walked the rest of the way (it was only a fews stops away).

Outside the cemetery were vendors of all descriptions. You could buy fresh flowers, artificial flowers, candles, water, hot dogs- anything you might possibly need for your day at the cemetery. The next wave of people came as we entered the gates: the evangelicals. Since this is a Catholic holiday, most conservative evangelicals do not celebrate it. Instead, they apparently use this opportunity to hand out tracts! We received several tracts, all quite interesting, and some actually had some good things to say. But I don't know when they're mourning is the best time to tell people they're wrong. After the evangelicals was a row of nuns and finally we entered the main part of the cemetery.

I had never been to a cemetery outside of anglo-North America. I had never walked among large above-ground tombs and crypts. At the entrance are the most expensive monuments. Some had obviously cost millions to construct. There were little chapels, amazing sculptures and beautiful flowers. There were large trees providing shade. These had been rich and powerful families.

Turning a corner, we got to the next level down. Still large above-ground crypts, but they were a little more subdued. Around the outer edges were walls of vaults.

Winding a little more and heading down some stairs, we ended up in aisle after aisle of vaults. They were not as nice as the ones upstairs but were much more recent (within the past five years).

There was another section where there were in-ground graves but I didn't make it there. The cemetery was so immense. Many people were walking around, looking for their loved one's grave. Jaci told us her father is buried there but doesn't know where he is. She says she doesn't see a point in going once a year to wash the marker or put out flowers and then ignoring him the rest of the year. (I think there's more to the relationship than we know about).

In all, it was quite an interesting morning. I would like to go back to the cemetery when there are less people there. I enjoy walking and reading the markers, taking in the scuptures and just experiencing the peace. I don't find cemeteries scary or eerie (though I made a few zombie jokes today) because death isn't something for God's children to fear! I'm so thankful that God is life! He is the giver of life, sustainer of life and He has given us the road to eternal life with Him. The graves we saw today were full of people who had lost to death. We don't have to! Praise God!

Saturday, October 29, 2005


Yesterday Russ and I hopped a bus after class to go to the mall. There's a great mall in our part of town but sometimes a change is nice. And Shopping Barra (shopping means mall) is near the hotel we stayed at for our first month here so we miss it occasionally. It's only a 20 minute ride via the nice bus, which costs twice as much at the regular bus (yet is still under US$ 2) and is air-conditioned, has comfortable seats and barely stops.

The bus drops us off on the other side of the street, so we had to walk over the road on the passarela (pedestrian overpass), which weaves its way over to the mall. As we started our decent toward the mall, we saw a large banner that brought tears to my eyes. On the side of Shopping Barra, in full color, was the huge announcement, "Coming Soon: Burger King". Actually, I'm paraphrasing. I don't really remember what the banner said but I got the message loud and clear! Sure enough, in the food court there was an area under construction with promises of Whoppers to come.

Yes, I'm admitting that made me cry. The closest fast food restaurant to my house growing up was Burger King, making it easy to swing through the drive thru on our way home from church. In junior high my friends and I would go almost every week after shops class. For a while my grandparents were in love with BK, and we had many a Sunday lunch of Whoppers. I like McDonalds, but Burger King holds a special place in my heart.

I guess we're going to be going to Shopping Barra a little more often once it opens; which is fine because it is a great mall with some stores that our mall, Shopping Iguatemi, doesn't have. But I am holding my breath. A couple blocks away from Iguatemi, a huge construction project is going on. Shopping Salvador promises to be bigger and better than all the other malls in town. If that's really true, they'll have a Burger King.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Retreat ! ! !

What I Did Last Week
by Valerie Q.

Last week I went with my friends to Guarajuba beach. We rented a beach house. It was a lot of fun. We swam in the pool, went to the beach and ate a lot. I'm glad I got to go to Guarajuba beach.


Sorry, just felt like writing that up like I was a little kid. So yes, the team retreat was awesome. Unlike other retreats we take (which are for getting work done) this one was for relaxing and spending time with each other. Here's a rundown for those of you who had to spend last week working or going to school:

Russ and I met Travis and Alicia at the bus stop to head out there. The bus ride was a little over an hour. Not bad, considering. The seats were comfy and the bus wasn't too full. (We think we saw some gypsies on the bus; either that or women with very unusual taste in fashion.) Matt and Mary rode out with Nestor, the owner of the house. We arrived almost an hour before them, but the weather was great so we just hung out in a little plaza, eating ice cream and visiting with some boys who were selling cocada, a yummy coconut patty.

When the Maberys arrived, we headed to the house only to see Nestor's car pulling away. I was disappointed because I had wanted to meet him. However, Mary explained that he was missing a key and had gone to try to track it down. We started exploring the house only to discover that most of the doors were locked. If he had to go back to the city to get the key, things could get interesting. But thankfully Nestor returned in just a few minutes. The key had been there the whole time. He used that key to get to a small white box. He dumped the contents of the box on the kitchen table. It was about 25 keys of every size and description. All were tagged and labelled. There was a key for every bedroom and one for every bathroom. Every outside door had its own key and most windows did too. I've never seen that many keys for a single house. Mary jokingly asked if he had that many keys for his apartment in the city and we got an earful about security and how if someone breaks in through a window they wouldn't be able to get to the rest of the house. Which is true, but you could lock all those doors with a single key! (For the record, security in that area is great, but it's in a beach community that is largely abandoned during the week providing excellent opportunities for "curious" people.)

The house was perfect. There was room enough for the whole team to sleep and hang out without getting on each others' nerves (no more than usual anyway!). I never thought we would find a place like this for such a great price. There was a beautiful yard with grass for the kids and a big pool. The landscaping was incredible--we had bananas, coconuts and pineapples growing in the yard--and the smell of the flowers was stunning.

That night we all headed into town to a restaurant that Nestor had recommended. It was set on a lagoon and we watched the full moon rise over the water. The food was incredible and the restaurant was completely empty. (Again, beach town during the week.) After dinner we went back home for a swim, followed by a game of Rook.

We all slept in Wednesday morning. I padded downstairs at around ten, expecting to see everyone else up and ready to go (this happens to me quite often) but was the only one up. Everyone else emerged soon after and we decided to go to the beach. The beach was a couple hundred yards away. Our stretch of beach was perfect- no barracas, no vendors, no trash, no people. Russ and I walked along the beach and found four whole sand dollars (and one five-centavo piece!). The boys headed off to explore and the girls kicked around the beach for a little bit longer before heading back to greet the rest of our team who were due to arrive soon. We waited in the pool.

When the Parkers and the Porters arrived, the tone changed. It wasn't a bad change, it was just different. We had been six adults hanging out. Now there were four more adults and four kids. It wasn't long before the kids were in the pool with us; Brock and Brandon in their new sungas (speedos). Lauren started the week able to tread water in spurts but by Saturday she was doing cannonballs and diving to retrieve things off the bottom of the pool. She seems to be a natural swimmer.

We spent the rest of the day hanging out: we visited, swam and played games. I should probably use this opportunity to tell you that I spent every waking hour of the past few days in my bathing suit. That's the life for me. I swam morning, noon and night. It doesn't get much better than that.

Thursday morning, Russ, Alicia and I headed down to the beach. We played in the waves, letting ourselves be thrown around by the surf. We went back to the house for a swim in the pool and lunch and then later Russ and I returned to the beach. This time, though, we stayed in the sand, taunting the crabs and seeing if we really could dig holes to China. (We couldn't, though mine was the length of my arm to my shoulder.) Thursday night we all headed to the beach once more to praise God in the awesomeness of His creation. The stars were bright and we could barely hear each other over the pounding of the waves but I know we were heard.

Friday morning we started with some prayer time. Matt led us in prayers of thanksgiving. Afterwards, we played some team building games, which evolved into a game of Red Rover, one of my favorite games. (Okay, so maybe it was my suggestion, but still, everyone played.) I thought I might play Red Rover differently now that I'm a grownup, maybe a little more gingerly, but I seemed to be less concerned about getting hurt than ever before. (It might have something to do with having played rugby...just maybe.) We then all sat out on the patio and played the ever-popular yet nameless game where you make a web with yarn. You know the game, you played it at church camp and in youth group. For some reason, I always end up crying. I did my best to conceal it this time; I don't know if it worked. Even though all of us had done it before, we had never done it with two-year-olds around. Brandon and Kelton quickly discovered how fun it was to crawl under, over and through the web. They were hysterical.

Friday afternoon was a flurry of activity. Our team (the adults) is made up of seven Americans, two Canadians and one half-breed (me). Canadian Thanksgiving was earlier in October. American Thanksgiving is coming up. Stacey and Mary had the brilliant idea of creating a new holiday, celebrated between the two. (It doesn't have a special name, we just called it Thanksgiving, though I suggested Food Day might be appropriate.) So Friday we cooked. And cooked. Jenn had done a great job of planning out all the meals for the week and we had everything at our Thanksgiving dinner: turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, corn, rolls, Yorkshire pudding, gravy, and the mandatory desserts: pumpkin, apple and lemon meringue pie (and some yellow cake for the non-pie eaters). The house had two tables pushed together on the patio that held the 14 of us perfectly. We ate together, sharing stories of Thanksgivings past, and joked about watching football later and getting up the next morning to hit the sales. After we finished eating, we shared a time of worship, expressing our real thanksgiving. Travis and Alicia did an excellent job of planning that time.

After dinner, the cooks jumped in the pool while everyone else cleaned up the kitchen. That was fun- going swimming after Thanksgiving dinnner. (And no, no one got a cramp and drowned!)

Unfortunately, shortly after dinner a stomach bug hit several of us. I seem to have been the worst hit, my symptoms carried on until after we got home yesterday, but there were several mad dashes to the bathroom. We still had fun though, playing more Rook and cribbage and getting more swims.

Russ and I got up Saturday morning to make breakfast. Everyone was kind of slow getting moving, so we left breakfast on the table and got back in bed. Because I was feeling so sick, that's pretty much where I stayed until it was time to pack up. I'm not really sure what everyone else did on Saturday morning. Russ and I went back to the beach quickly to take a few pictures and then it was time to head out. The van company that came to get us had misunderstood our request and sent a much smaller van than needed but we somehow got the 14 of us and all our stuff loaded up.

I can't even begin to explain how badly I needed last week. I feel a level of relaxation that I haven't felt for months (probably since before arriving in Brazil). I'm ready now to really get things going. I'm ready to hit the ground running and do all that I have to get done. It was also a great blessing to get to spend that time with my teammates. So often our relationships get confined to working relationships because of the amount of stuff to get done. It's wonderful when we get to let our hair down and just hang out together, laughing about stupid things. It makes everything go more smoothly when we can take time out to see each other as people, and not just as people but as people we like. Times like this retreat are absolutely necessary to our sanity, health and relationships as a team. I'm thankful we were all able to make the trip.

(As usual, pics are up on Flickr.)

Monday, October 17, 2005


We're headed out of town tomorrow. The team will be having a retreat at a beach house later this week and we're headed out there a couple days early to just relax. Russ and I are the only ones on the team who haven't taken any vacation time. The plan for today: go to Portuguese class, go to the mall and/or grocery store to buy last minute things for the trip, go to team meeting, come home and frantically pack, go to bed. But as has happened so many times since we've been here, our schedule changed.

I noticed the bus was much emptier this morning as we headed to class; I figured it was because we were a little later than normal. I noticed a grocery store was closed; I guessed it might have gone out of business. It wasn't until our teacher, Jaci, arrived that we found out what was going on: it's a holiday! Again.

Last Wednesday was a holiday. It was Dia das Crianças (Children's Day) and Dia da Nossa Senhora Aparecida (Day of Our Lady of Apparition). Technically the holiday is for Nossa Senhora but everyone uses it to celebrate Dia das Crianças. The stores and banks were closed. The movie theater was open but used this opportunity to charge us an arm and a leg. It was nice to have a day to relax when we knew we didn't have to be running around town because running around town would get us nowhere since everything was closed.

But we needed to get stuff done. Apparently it's Dia dos Comerciantes- if you look at the beginning of the word, you can kind of guess what it means. Today is the day that people who work in stores take off. No commerce today! This is the kind of holiday it would have been nice to know about beforehand. The mall? Closed. Grocery stores? Closed. Our plan for today? Out the window.

So now we're at home. It's good--there were plenty of things we needed to do at home--but we really needed to get some shopping done as well. We'll have to try to go tomorrow before we leave town. Unless there's some other holiday we don't know about.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Worst of Times

This weekend we, along with Travis and Alicia, have been watching the Parkers' boys while they took a weekend away. (Lauren stayed with the Maberys). It's been a great weekend, full of trips down to the pool, to the park and, this afternoon, to McDonalds.

This morning I slept in. (We were up pretty late last night). I looked at my watch: 10:30. I walked out to the living room and started talking to Russ and Alicia. Russ mentioned something about the computers changing times. I figured that North America must have ended daylight savings time and the computers must have not been set for our part of Brazil. I say "our part of Brazil" because not all of Brazil observes DST. Eleven states do. Our state, Bahia, is not one of them. This is what I knew before I started trying to figure out what time it is.

We had two computers with two different times- 10:30 and 11:30. The TV satelite said 11:30. Watches and clocks all said 10:30. Still not sure.

I looked up what time it is in my "home" time zone, central. If we hadn't changed but they had, it would mean that there would be a difference of three hours. It was 8:30 so, I reasoned, it must be 11:30 here. One computer and the satelite were right. But as I kept looking, I discovered that DST had not yet ended in North America--there's still two weeks left (which I'm sure most of you already knew). So that meant it should be two hours difference still, making it 10:30. But then why did some things have other times?

With my new hypothesis about the current time, I started looking online. Every site I went to did not show the time. said the statistics were for 11:00. Great. That helps. The average of the two.

I did a little more research about Brazil and DST. Yes, some states observe it but the list, and the dates that determine the beginning and end of it, changes every year. So maybe some years Bahia observes DST, I don't really know. But for this year, we don't. And this really is the day the clocks change, just not for us. I guess the satelite is just on some general time, so we'll just have to mentally convert it for the next few months. I think I've figured out the right time. Of course now, since I've taken the time to write this and stop the boys from crying, it's an hour later.

(If you're confused, we're still two hours ahead of central time. For the next two weeks, anyway. Then you guys "fall back" and it'll be three hours difference, like it was when we first got here.)

Sunday, October 09, 2005

More things we can count on

Last night, after helping the Maberys unpack their shipment from the US (yay! it only took seven months), we visited our local art feira (market). Now that we are heading into summer, the park across the street from us hosts them ever two weeks. It's become common enough to us now that we know the regular vendors. We also know who was not there. My favorite new display was a group of indiginous men dressed in traditional paint and beautiful feather headdresses. We knew is was for show, but hey, you still don' t get to see people dressed like that every day. We didn't find things that we couldn't live without, except of course for some yummy churros (think tube-shaped dounts).

This weekend is our turn to plan the evening worship with the team. I have been thinking about getting comfortable enough start moving the service into a language we are much less comfortable with. We sing a few songs in Portuguese, pray, and sometimes read scripture. We are preparing to make something that was very different into our normal way to worship. Please pray that we will soon find a feeling of familiarity with the words we are using to praise God. I wish that everyone would take the chance to rediscover the language of praising Him all over again.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

It Has Begun

Strange as it may seem, something has just begun today for me. We visited the Pan American school today as part of a field day. There was a good mix of Brazilian and American parents there, playing and eating. But the strange thing was that the English speakers gave me sensory overload. I didn't feel comfortable with them like I thought I might. The language my ears gravitated toward was Portuguese! It was kind of a weird moment; I don't know if things will be different here now. Don't get me wrong, I want to show as many people as possible the work we are trying to do here. But I feel like I am an actual part of the culture now; not just another visitor. For that I am very grateful. Enjoy your week!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


A man was sitting in a cafeteria next to a blonde woman
who was engrossed in her newspaper.

The bold headline read "12 Brazilian Soldiers Killed."

She shook her head at the sad news.

Then turning to the man she asked, "How many is a Brazilian?"

Sorry, guys, I just had to share that one. Thanks to Jeff for passing it on!


Did you notice who wrote the previous post? Russell! We've finally drawn him out. Now we just need to encourage him to write more!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Life Is Good

I had a great moment at church today. We visited the oldest Church of Christ in the city, and after the service, the oldest member in the city (I am relatively certain) pulled me aside. He asked, "Do you have a video camera? Because you guys are so encouraging to us, and I just want your supporters back in the states to feel as good as we do about your work." I just love that guy. He reminds me of a friend from my hometown- Marvin -who gave me my first job. I just wanted to pass that warm fuzzy on. We are loved, even though we are far from home. God bless.

Saturday, September 17, 2005


Tonight we met Matt and Mary Virginia at Matsuri, a restaurant a few blocks away from our house that we'd been dying to try. The first thing of note was that we decided to go at 6:15 and made plans to meet at 7:00. It was a few minutes after 7 when we arrived and the place was completely empty. We contrasted that with our experience in our "old lives" in the US, having to meet at 5:00 for dinner or have a two hour wait. There were no other diners until 7:50. This is a pretty common occurance for us, but we're still used to our North American meal schedules and besides, we can have the whole restaurant to ourselves!

The restaurant is located on the edge of a little park, in a building with two other restaurants. I could never figure out what the other restaurants were, maybe Italian or something. Matsuri, on the other hand, is a Japanese/Chinese/Vietnamese/Indian/Sri Lankan/Thai restaurant. How's that for diverse? The majority of the menu was Japanese food but the front page had appetizers and entrees from all the other countries. Tonight we had Thai, our first sample of Brazilian Thai food. It was pretty good- just hot enough to make your nose run. The rest of the menu looked really good as well and I'm looking forward to go back and tackling another country's food.

Salvador seems to be just starting to discover international cuisine. The current trend is Chinese and Japanese. We pass at least six Chinese/Japanese restaurants on our way to class in the morning and there are several more nearby. Most places offer a combination of both Chinese and Japanese. Though Russell and I have been to Japan, I can't say we're in love with Japanese food, so we usually opt for Chinese. There are several more "ethnic" restaurants around: Spanish, Mexican, Italian and we've heard rumors of a couple German ones. It's always fun when you're in another country to eat food that isn't from that country. It helps you realize how colored food is by culture- American Chinese food is different than Brazilian Chinese food, which is drastically different than Chinese Chinese food. (We have yet to be satisfied by Brazilian Mexican, though as our last TexMex meals fade into our memories the food seems better and better!) We look forward to seeing what new restaurants will open in the future, bringing us tastes from around the world, Brazilian-style!

(We do eat at Brazilian restaurants too!)

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A Quick Update

I'm tired and am headed for bed but I figured I was due for an update (especially since I know some of you faithfully check every day!). So here's what's new:

-The six-month anniversary of our arrival here was yesterday. Hard to believe we're halfway through our first year. So much done and yet even more to do.

-We have a Portuguese teacher once again! We've hired my old teacher to teach our little study group. Our first class was this morning. We're meeting at 8:00 AM, which explains why I'm eager to get to bed.

-Everything else is progressing. We're having to have big conversations now about church names, locations and budgets. Gone are the days of dreaming. It's time to make the dreams reality and get to work. Unfortunately that means more meetings, but they'll be the kind that create concrete plans. I much prefer those.

-Culture shock is still there but seems to be not as bad as it was. Slowly we're emerging from our funks (though it may be temporary). Everyone is much more agreeable and we all seem to have more patience with each other. Everyone is making leaps and bounds with Portuguese- I'm so proud of all the hard work that's being put in.

-I cut my hair off. It's much nicer in the heat and definitely easier to take care of. Russell is also happy that I'm no longer shedding two-foot hairs on our white floors! I'll try to put a picture on Flickr in the next day or two for those who want to see it. My hairdresser brought up church stuff the other day. I've only been to her twice but I will be going back, especially because she really wanted to talk about it. Please pray for Rosi.

Monday, September 12, 2005


Birthday "Cake"
Originally uploaded by russandval.
Part of the joy of being here as a team is getting to be family for each other. We make a point to celebrate everyone's birthday and we try to do it to suite the person. (Except poor Alicia, whose last two birthday were while we were in hotels, but we're going to make that up to her!) Last Friday was Travis' birthday so we celebrated it Sunday night at our after worship meal. Travis is not a dessert guy. He is frequently seen finishing off the leftover salad instead of devouring whatever gooey sweet monstrosity someone has concocted (that's just not right in my book!). So as we talked about what to do for his birthday, an idea emerged...the birthday salad. Stacey filled her cake pan with salad, added a "32" out of cherry tomatoes and candles were put into more cherry tomatoes. Needless to say, he was suprised when we brought the lit cake out. Can't say I've ever seen a birthday salad before, or that I ever will again, but we all got a kick out of it and so did Travis' vegetarian dad when he saw the picture!

(Don't worry, we did have real dessert later on!)

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Where Do Babies Come From?

Brandon falling from the sky, originally uploaded by russandval.

I had to share this picture of Russ and Brandon. I just think it is hysterical, plus I love the colors. I took it while we were at Praia do Forte a couple of weeks ago.

This week, we've got Ron and Georgia Frietas here. Those of you who have been following us for a while will remember that Ron and Georgia came to help settle us in six months ago. Six months. Absolutely incredible. I'm not quite sure where the time has gone. Anyway, they came to do a little team check-up- making sure we're all still speaking to each other (we are), that no one's gone off the deep end (no one has) and that all our newly acquired tattoos can be covered by shirt sleeves (little do they know that we don't believe in shirt sleeves anymore!). Also, Ron had some wisdom and insight to share as we start looking for our facilities. Since we've been here for six months, that means our inaugural service is about six months away, too! Scary and thrilling thought!

It's good to have Ron and Georgia here because we've known them since our very first recruiting dinner. They became great friends during our internship in Abilene, came with us to check out Salvador for the first time and call periodically to check up on us. (It also didn't hurt that they came bearing Mike & Ike's and marshmellows!) Familiar faces are always great and we look forward to having more come down!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Paying Bills

When we lived in the US, I hated paying bills. Somehow it seemed too much trouble to write the checks, put them in envelopes and actually mail them. Even once I had online banking, it took a lot for me to remember to actually log in and take the ten seconds required to pay a bill.

My life has changed a lot.

This morning Russ and I had to go pay some bills. I say some bills because we can't pay all our bills in one place. Russ paid our insurance bill last week at one bank. We paid our phone bill yesterday at a lottery kiosk. Today, we paid the bills due at Bradesco, one of the major Brazilian banks. We'll pay the power bill next week at the grocery store. (If we had waited until next Monday to pay the bills we paid today, we would have had to pay one of them at another bank.)

To pay our bills today, we had to first go to the ATM to pull out enough cash to pay it. We were paying our rent, property tax and condominium fee, so we have to make more than one ATM trip to get enough cash. Then we headed over to Bradesco. To get into the main part of the bank, you have to go through a revolving door/metal detector. It usually takes me a couple of tries to get through it--each time I remove any offending items from my purse and put them in the pass-through box. I've even shoved my whole purse in there before. (It doesn't seem like the most effective system to me; I could have almost anything in my purse!) Anyway, after two or three tries and a handful of "desperate" facial expressions, the security guards will usually take pity on me and let me through anyway.

Once inside, we head to the cashier's counter. There are lots of different banks here, but they all share one characteristic: you can't see the line at the counter until you are well inside the bank. Why? Because if you could, you wouldn't even try. Some days, the line is thirty or forty people long with only one or two cashiers working. Every so often we luck out and there's no line and we're left trying to figure out what to do with our suddenly free day. Today was a good day; there were probably only twenty people in front of us and there were three cashiers working. We only stood in line for about fifteen minutes. Once you get to the front, it takes about thirty seconds. Yes, all that for thirty seconds. Then, we get to freely walk back out through the revolving door, shooting pitying glances at the people stuck in line.

There have been adventures while standing in line. We've seen fights (just verbal). One day while standing in line with Stacey, I started bleeding profusely from a couple of spots on my ankle. That wasn't much fun, but it meant I got to experience first aid! There always seems to be some story to tell after bill paying.

It's funny--back when paying bills was simple, I hated it. I'm not saying I love it now, but I really don't mind it, especially not if I've got someone with me to talk to. And I have the consolation of knowing that one day I'll be pregnant and get to stand in the express line. Then I'll be paying bills every month. However, there are many things I've put off getting (monthly cell phone plans, satellite television) partly because it will mean more bills!

Time, lines, extra-sensitive metal detectors...these aren't that bad. The worst part about bill paying is that it occupies a two week period of time each month, meaning that once we're done, it's only two and a half more weeks until it's time to pay bills again!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

And Another Thing

Isn't it funny how once you start thinking about something spiritual, God seems to send several other things related to it your way in the next few days? The women of our team meet every Wednesday afternoon for lunch, prayer and study. We've been working through the Beth Moore series Believing God, which has videos online for us to watch and homework during the week. (Let me just take this moment to plug this bible study- it is amazing!) In our homework for the past week, part of the study took us into the book of Joshua, reading about Rahab and the "battle" of Jericho. Looking at the beginning of Joshua 2, Beth writes:

"...I like the fact that the king of Jericho knew the spies were there. God intentionally made the Israelites, like the body of Christ, a peculiar people. Ordinarily, the devout of the Lord stick out like a June bug in January. After wandering in the desert for 40 years wearing the same old clothes, conspicuous tassels on their garments, and their hair in certain ordained styles, they didn't exactly fit in. Their disguises didn't work. (Mine didn't work, either, no matter how good they were.)"

That's what I'm talking about- we're freaks! We stick out even when we're trying not to! It's been a good week having these thoughts in the forefront of my mind.

Another treasure from this week's discussion of Rahab was her proximity in terms of lineage to King David. No one much talks about it, but Rahab was the mother of Boaz. Is it any wonder that Boaz was so kind and open? His mother had experienced the kind of redemption that only the Lord can bring! Rahab had a bad start, but went on to become the great-great grandmother of a man after God's own heart. How awesome it is to think about the legacy of transformed lives!

We've been told (and have seen enough to suspect it's true) that "whole" families are fairly uncommon in Salvador. It's the result of the people living far from God. Sin has run rampant and has torn apart their lives. But the story of Rahab encourages me. I can only imagine what God will do through the lives He changes here!

Sorry for yet another sermon. Soon I'll go back to reporting on the mundane details of our lives. It's just silly to write about our trip to the grocery store today when such wonderful things are running through my head!

Monday, August 29, 2005


Part of what we're doing right now is creating contacts. We try to befriend everyone we come into contact with. We don't do it in an overwhelming do-you-have-a-close-personal-relationship-with-Jesus kind of way, we just try to show interest in them and in their lives and try to give them glimpses of our life. (There will be a time for Serious Evangelism; right now we're just trying to figure out how to say, "Do you have a close, personal relationship with Jesus?") Anyway, sometimes it's hard. And sometimes by the end of the day, we're tired. Many nights we get into a taxi to head home and we're just in auto-pilot. We're tired and, if we talk, it's to each other. Some nights we recognize our taxi drivers and other nights we don't. If we remember them, we try to step up the conversation a little. But many nights, because I'm sitting behind the driver and don't really get to see his face, unless he has a big Virgin Mary sticker on the dashboard, I don't remember if I've ridden with him or not. But they remember us.

So tonight I didn't think it was a familiar driver. He didn't know where we live, there were no large foil stickers, he had no distinguishing physical characteristics. It was a long day--we'd been out shopping and we'd had a team meeting--so I mostly just zoned out on the way home. When we pulled up in front of our apartment, Russ pulled out a R$10 bill to pay him. The driver offered back double the amount of change. At first, I thought he was just offering us two different ways to take our change. But when we asked him, he responded, "The last time I drove you, I didn't have change for you. You let it go, so here's your change now."

My mind flashed back to that night several weeks ago. He was short on change and offered us a R$5 instead of the R$2 he owed us. That was just silly to us, to take extra back, extra that meant a whole lot more to him than it did to us (R$2 is less than $1 US). It was really no big deal at the time.

But tonight it drove an important message home. We are remembered. Our actions are significant, whether we are trying or not. So when we're not trying, when we're in auto-pilot and just doing whatever comes naturally, what are we saying to people? Are we truly being ambassadors for Christ? For Russ and I, our actions bear a lot of weight because we're "those crazy gringos", but it applies to everyone. If people know you're a Christian, you are always a Christian. When you are not making a conscious effort to communicate Christ, you are still communicating something. The only question is- what?

I'm not saying that tonight was some watershed evangelistic experience with the taxi driver. We may never see him again. But it was a vivid reminder for me that I am always working and that people notice what we do. My prayer is that we always act in a way that represents the beauty of our message.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


Originally uploaded by russandval.
I said I was going to continue telling you about our trip to the beach but there's just not much to tell. We went to the beach. It was fun.

I'm pretty unenthusiatic right now- I've caught a nasty headcold. Alicia has one, too, and there's reports of a few sore throats among the team. Oh, the dangers of team missions! I did go to the pharmacy to find medicine for it. What they gave me isn't as good as my trusty Dayquil/Nyquil combo but seems to be getting the job done.

On our way home for supper this afternoon, we stopped in our corner market. We were just going to pick up some potatoes, which are kept along with the other vegetables outside the main part of the store (you have to carry your vegetables the wrong direction through the checkout stand to get to fruit, bread and anything else you might need). Anyway, we wandered into the main part of the store. There is a glass case in the middle that usually has a variety of sweets in it. Russ glanced in the case, which, usually, is full of cakes with prunes and other unidentifiable fillings. But today he discovered...doughnuts!!!

You have to understand, doughnuts are a rare find here. Dunkin' Donuts once opened a shop here in the city but it quickly closed, apparently due to lack of interest. (Sidenote- one day when we were out shopping, I noticed the old Dunkin' Donuts sign and insisted we had to go check it out just on the off chance that it wasn't an old sign at all. It was an old sign.) But whether you eat them American style (for breakfast) or Canadian style (for dessert), doughnuts have been a big part of our lives. Until now, of course.

So imagine our shock and delight upon finding a tray of doughnuts in a small corner store in the middle of Salvador. We immediately bought some then raced home to eat dinner so we could eat them for dessert. (I know, we could have just eaten them outright, but I'm sick and I just figured I needed something a little better on my stomach before that!)

As we bought the doughnuts we briefly acknowledged that these might not taste like North American doughnuts. They might be horrible. They might be like the packaged brownies we bought or like the fake cheddar cheese. But we quickly pushed those thoughts to the backs of our minds and took the chance.

The verdict? Definitely doughnuts. As Russ said, "They tasted like a very fresh Wal-Mart doughnut." I prefer Tim Horton's to Wal-Mart, but I'll take what I can get! That's not to say there wasn't a Brazilian spin on them- they had been sliced open and filled with chocolate (the one with chocolate sprinkles) and doce de leite. But actually, the modification was quite good!

So yes, this is a Val-getting-very-excited-about-nothing post, but I'm on decongestants! What do you expect?

In other news, today we paid our deposit to attend the missionary conference in January. We'll share more about it as it gets closer, but I'm already looking forward to it!

Monday, August 22, 2005

Fun Day

Originally uploaded by russandval.
We're so glad to have more visitors, Mary Virginia's mom, Cindy and MV's cousin, Ashley. They arrived last night bearing Splenda, hand sanitizer and pancake and muffin mix, among other things.

This morning we all went on a day tour, heading out north of town. We did a similar tour with the Parkers right after we got to town but it was fun to go again with the whole gang. It was also great because there were enough of us that we filled the mini-bus and received group rates.

The day started out quite rainy so we didn't get to make the same first stop as we did on our other tour. Instead we went to Arembepe, an old hippie village. Apparently hundreds of people used to live there. Now there's just a few dozen, but there's several huts around- a school, a restaurant, a couple of hotels and some houses. The hippies do crafts and have a big open hut in the middle where they sell them to anyone who wanders in. I can't say I'll be checking out the hotels any time soon, it was all a little rustic for me. But it's an excellent place to visit!

Our next stop was Praia do Forte, where Projeto Tamar is located. It's a huge sea turtle preservation effort. Projeto Tamar is a great place, with touch tanks (not for the turtles though, just starfish and snails and such) and lots and lots of, well, turtles. It's located in the town of Praia do Forte, which is the neatest little (very commercial) village. There's a lot of great shopping (we had to drag Cindy out kicking and screaming) and a wonderful ice cream place. Since we'd already been there, Russ and I skipped the shopping (I can't believe I'm saying those words!) and had some ice cream. The ice cream store is by quilo, so you load your bowl up with whatever of the fifty or so flavors you would like and then have it weighed. I had mango, graviola, coconut and papaya ice creams- all were delicious.

From there we went to the beach; I'll blog about that tomorrow. The picture above was taken at Praia do Forte. You can see many more of our pictures on Flickr.

Sunday, August 14, 2005


Shower Head
Originally uploaded by russandval.
Have I mentioned yet that I miss having a bathtub? In light of yesterday's depressing yet necessary ramble, I bring you something much less serious:

This morning I woke up with the makings of a monster headache. My headaches usually come from tension in my neck muscles. I make a point to use a special pillow and try to keep my neck in good shape. But this morning it kept building and building. I wanted more than anything to relax in a nice hot bath.

But, unfortunately, this is what we have. Showers. We don't have hot water in our building, instead the showerhead electrically heats the water. The cord running into the wall provides the juice. The water will get nice and hot, but something is lacking. I wish that we had a place to sit down and soak. I used to love taking long baths, sometimes reading, other times just zoning out for close to an hour.

It's funny to me that you can find bath salts and bubble bath in most stores but very few people actually have tubs. What do people do with them?!?

One of these days, when I'm really tired and stressed out, I'm going to go get a hotel room for a night and sit in the bathtub for hours. My fingers and toes will be completely pruney when I am done, but it will have been well worth it. And if we stay with you when we are on furlough, you'd better have the bathtub ready- I will be using it!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Prayers Needed

It's the end of of the week. One more week has flown by. Today marks the five-month anniversary of our arrival on the field. Our inaugural service gets closer and closer and the workload and number of meetings get bigger and bigger. One part of me wishes we could open our doors tomorrow, the other part is completely terrified of all that will mean (and realizes that we don't even have doors to open!)

We're all starting to feel the effects of culture shock. Let me rephrase that: we are all overwhelmed by culture shock. I think. See, that's part of the problem. Culture shock isn't like chicken pox or some physical disease with set and clearly defined symptoms. It doesn't limit itself to one area of your life. Instead, we're all feeling it in different ways. Some people get moody, others tired. Some feel depressed, others just feel cranky. Some need to be around people, others need to be alone. At times, we don't even think we're experiencing culture shock. Instead, we blame it on our moods, our teammates, whether we got enough sleep the night before. I'm not writing as someone detatched from the situation- I have found myself in tears several times this week for what would at any other time be nothing. So, I ask you, our friends and family (and kind strangers) to keep us in your prayers.

Pray that we successfully manouver through this time. Pray that Satan doesn't use our feelings to drive wedges between us. Pray that we don't kill each other, or at the very least, don't wound each other verbally. Pray that the couples on the team find ways to help each other cope. Finally, pray that this time will make us hungrier for God and more desparate for Him, and that we will turn to Him to meet our needs.

While you're talking to God about us, please mention our financial situations. When we came on our survey trip last year, the exchange rate was about R$3.00 to US$1.00. All of our budgets were set using those figures. When we arrived five months ago, the exchange rate was R$2.75. The drop was difficult, but not too drastic. In the months since our arrival, the exchange rate has dropped to and hovered around $2.35 (and sometimes lower). The past two weeks have shown huge swings, with the value of the Real dropping and rising R$0.10 several times. It's made things like taking out money and paying bills very unpredictable. Budgets are becoming insufficient- they have dropped by a couple thousand Reais a month!

I thank the Lord that Russell and I are doing okay. Our finances aren't as good as we would like, but we feel abundantly blessed. (Though if the exchange rate continues to drop it will affect us greatly!) My concern is for others on our team. Money concerns are being brought up more and more as prayer requests. Families are finding it hard as more and more expenses keep popping up as budgets get tighter and tighter. I know that God is taking care of them, but sometimes I wish I had a better answer- one that would help them pay their bills on time!

I'm being quite candid right now, and I apologize if it bothers anyone. I am not bringing up the fact that people on the team are struggling financially to embarrass them. I am asking for your prayers. We need every member of this team. God brought us here to do an amazing task. I don't want us to be defeated before we get started. Please pray that the exchange rate will go back up and stabilize. Pray that new money is found so our teammates can relax and focus on the task at hand.

I'm so thankful that we serve a mighty God who is able and willing to supply our needs! Thank you for going to Him on our behalf.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Daily Life

Originally uploaded by russandval.
At first glance, it may seem that Russell is enjoying some kind of naughty tropical drink. On further examination, you will realize there is not tiny umbrella sticking out of the coconut. He's drinking an agua de coco (coconut water). You can buy one on almost every street corner. One morning we saw the delivery truck with thousands of green coconuts in the back. It was amazing.

The best agua de coco is bem gelado, or well chilled. The vendor will then hack the top off with a machete or, if you're at a nicer stand, use a little hand drill. After that, just drop in a straw and you've got yourself a great drink.

Most people on our team aren't yet into the taste but Russ and I love them. It's especially handy if you've been sick. Agua de coco is one of the world's best sources of electrolytes. It's got more potassium than a banana and also does a great job of keeping your digestive system working properly. We keep bottles of it in the freezer just in case, but the best way to have it is on the street. The other advantage to buying it on the street is the cost- Russ paid 70 centavos, or about $0.30 for the one he's drinking.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


Russ Painting
Originally uploaded by russandval.
Friday afternoon we headed out to Itinga, a town just on the edge of Salvador, where the oldest Church of Christ in town is located. Their building was not looking its best so we pooled our money to give it a little makeover. The women of the church chose beige as the new color. A respectable color choice (not bold enough for me, but it would be quite daring for my mother!) Most paint here comes white and you have to tint it yourself, so much time was spent discussing what beige is, exactly. We agreed on a color and then did the second coat much, much darker.

It was tricky to paint. The front of the auditorium is against a hill, so the wall is usually wet. You don't have to work at Home Depot to recognize that it might not be the best wall to paint. After four coats or so it looked decent.

Sunday morning, the Sasses, Keith and us went back to worship with the Itinga church. They were so grateful for the help. The front wall was soggy again so the paint looked splotchy, but looking at the before pictures, I know it's an improvement.

Visiting churches here puts so much in perspective. So many North American churches spend so much money making their buildings perfect but cut other budgets (like missions!). Some churches here can't even pay their ministers and their buildings are falling down around them, but they are sharing the good news with everyone they know and are using their money for evangelism. What we do with our money reflects our priorities! I know God is pleased by these little congregations that are working so hard for Him!

Monday, August 01, 2005


The Gang
Originally uploaded by russandval.
Friday morning we had a party at school. We'd been planning on having a party anyway because it was Jaci's birthday, but then we found out that Erika was moving to Mexico so it just snowballed.

We used it as a chance to have zucchini cake (a team favorite and my specialty). There were also Brazilian snacks, some of which we enjoyed.

Birthdays are a big deal here. The birthday song lasts for over a minute at times, with multiple verses and choruses, not to mention chanting and clapping. We're still working on learning all the words. The Parker kids love it- Brock sings it several times a day! We like birthdays, too, but really, we just enjoy a chance to miss class and eat!

Saturday, July 30, 2005


More Caco
Originally uploaded by russandval.
We spent yesterday afternoon painting the little church in Itinga. (More about that later, I'm just eager to share the monkey experience!) Some members of the church live right behind it and afterwards, we got to play with their pet monkey! Alicia and I have had a bit of an obsession with monkeys since we first came to Brazil. Any time we get to see a monkey is a big deal. So imagine our delight when we not only got to see a monkey, but we got to stick our fingers into the cage as well. Caco (the monkey) held our fingers and we were pretty content and went back to the church building. But then Russ came in and told us they had the monkey out of the cage so we went running back up to the house.

Caco was pretty shy and reluctant to go to anyone but when I held out my hands he came to me. I snuggled him up to me like I would any small animal. It was awesome. Awesome until he decided he was done. He started squirming and I started panicking, because at the back of my mind, I was thinking, "This monkey will bite me and give me some mysterious monkey virus." When he decided to jump, I gave him a little help, ultimately making him land on the head of a nearby baby. He bounced off the shocked baby's head and landed on the sofa, where he sat perched for the rest of the time. He would let us sit and hold his hand, but wouldn't let anyone hold him again. But I didn't care- I got to hold him! (Okay, I felt a little bad that no one else got to, especially Alicia. And I do feel bad that I scared the baby, who was really closer to a toddler. But the kid's okay, I promise- he was just a little startled!)

And that's just a fraction of what we did yesterday. More to come.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

A Day at the Beach

Originally uploaded by russandval.
Okay, they tell us that we shouldn't let supporters see pictures like this, that we should act like we live in a barren, God-forsaken place, but I just can't help myself. We live in an incredible place. God did a pretty good job when He made Salvador! This beach is less than a 15-minute taxi ride from our apartment.

Most of the team met at the beach this afternoon. The waves were rough, the water was cold and it was no hotter than 85 degrees but the beach was packed. (And it's winter, so what do you expect?) At the beach you spend the day at one of forty or so barracas, full service little cabanas with tables, umbrellas, food and drinks. As soon as you get out of the cab, you're swarmed by guys trying to get you to come to their barraca. We've been to a couple different ones and have yet to notice much of a difference. And it's one seamless line of tables and umbrellas so you're pretty much getting the same thing at each one.

We walked a little, swam a little and sat a lot. As we sat at the table, vendors approached us selling anything you could want, from sunscreen and sunglasses to necklaces and hammocks to mussels and roasted cheese. The cheese is one of my favorites. It comes on a stick and is roasted over coals. For lunch we ate carne do sol, little cubes of salted steak. When I was little the beach meant salt-water taffy and seafood, now cheese and steak are flavors I associate with going to the beach. (There is plenty of seafood to be had, it's just not my thing!)

It was a great day. We've all got a little more color now and we're a little more relaxed. Above all, we're thankful that we are privileged to serve God in these beautiful surroundings.

Thursday, July 21, 2005


It was hard to get up this morning. Is it possible to have a food hangover? Last night was Stacey's birthday. When the Perkins came a couple of weeks ago they brought the team a brick of Velveeta and a huge bottle of Pace so we decided to bust them out for the birthday celebration. We made fajitas, Randy made a ton of tortillas, Matt and Mary picked up two kilos of tortilla chips from the Mexican restaurant and we ate ourselves sick. I never thought I'd be so excited to eat processed cheese, but the queso was incredible. I think we put on an excellent birthday spread for Stacey (topped off by my zucchini cake).

Food has a new significance here. It's one of those things that connects us with "home". A familiar taste brings back a flood of memories and feelings of comfort. I don't want to have American food every day, but once in a while it's so exciting to eat the food of our homeland. In moderation of course. Not like last night. Unless there's queso involved.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


Sometimes the milestones we celebrate might appear minor to our friends and family in North America (and sometimes even to our teammates!) but today was a significant one for me. I went to my first Portuguese movie.

Most American movies that come out here are kept in English but have Portuguese subtitles. This has been great for us because we've been able to keep up with the new releases (especially since movies are much cheaper here). Animated films are always dubbed, that is, the original audio track is replaced with Portuguese voices. Occaisionally a film will be shown both ways- then you have to be careful you ask for the right showing!

As a result, the team's kids (because they truly belong to the whole team) have missed out on the big new movies. Robots came out shortly after we arrived. Madagascar has been widely advertised; there's even a special Madagascar playland in the mall complete with a climbing wall. We've had to explain to them that they wouldn't understand the movie so they'll just have to wait for the DVD to come out.

I knew Lauren had been dying to see a movie so I told her when Herbie came out we would go see it together. It's live action, so I figured it would surely be subtitled. It came out last week. Dubbed. I passed the disappointing news that we couldn't go see it on to Lauren. She was sad that we weren't going to get to go the movies. A day or two later, she said, "I want to go see Madagascar."

"It's in Portuguese like Herbie is," I said. "The whole thing. No English."

"That's okay," she told me. "I just want to see it."

So today we went. Lauren said she understood some of it. And I think she really did. I had to explain a lot of the movie to her, but we usually have to explain shows and movies to her regardless of what language they're in. What was awesome, though, was that I was able to explain it! I caught about 75% of the dialogue, was able to laugh at several of the jokes and enjoyed the experience thoroughly. I had been worried about seeing a movie in Portuguese but today I proved to myself that I can do it!

Good thing, too, because as we were walking out, Lauren saw a Wallace and Grommit movie poster and is already making plans...

Friday, July 15, 2005

Tongue-Tied (rated PG)

Well, it finally happened. I made a huge language blunder. Last week I told Jaci, our teacher, how excited we were that Rachel Perkins had made brownies for us. She had never heard of them and loves chocolate so I had the perfect excuse to use my oven! I baked a nice batch of brownies last night and brought them to class today to eat during our break time.

After the break, we were talking further about brownies. I told Jaci that I have seen brownies here in Salvador, both fresh and packaged. I tried to explain that packaged brownies aren't as good because they have so much other stuff in them. The English word I was thinking of was "preservatives". I guessed that this was a cognate and just changed the ending and said I don't like all the preservativos in packaged brownies. As soon as I said it, I realized my mistake. (If I hadn't realized right away that I'd said something wrong I would have quickly figured it out by looking at Jaci's face!) Preservativos is the word for condoms. I was looking for the word conservante. (For the record, I don't like either one in my brownies!) It took about five minutes for us to stop laughing. I'm a little relieved though- I know that making big and embarrassing mistakes is an inevitable part of language learning so I'm glad to finally have the first one out of the way!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Reach Out and Touch Someone

Have you been wanting to call your favorite missionaries in Brazil but don't have a good long distance plan? Try Enjoy Prepaid! We'd love to hear from you! (Though we don't have an answering machine, so it helps to warn us if you're going to call!) Right now, we are just one hour ahead of Eastern time.

The Porters made it back from Itu and they came bearing gifts. Oh the joy that Dr. Pepper and blueberry muffin mix brings to the weary missionaries! It's not that we can't live without that stuff- we're doing fine. But every so often, it's nice to have something familiar. (The things I really miss can't be shipped- cheddar cheese, sour cream, my mom's pot roast.) But we get by. We have a wide variety of tropical fruits with which to console ourselves. And Friday we're headed to the churrascaria, an all-you-can-eat-meat-extravaganza. Yet as I'm typing about our wonderful food here, I can't help but look at the newly-arrived brownie mix and wonder if I should stay up to bake it!

Monday, July 11, 2005

Nothing to Report

I just realized it's been almost a week since I posted (it might have been less if Russ would ever get around to posting). Anyway, there hasn't been much going on. I've been cooking- hooray!- but I won't bore you with the details of our menus. This morning we made coffee for the first time. We have a french press coffee maker so we had to wait until we could boil water to do it.

This weekend was, quite literally, a wash. It rained and rained. Torrentially. And the wind howled. (We had it better than Mary Virginia's friends and family in Alabama, but it was enough to keep us in the house.) Palm trees, especially little ones, are so dramatic in the wind. The fronds are whipped around in every direction. It definitely doesn't encourage one to go out.

Last night after our team worship time we made mini-pizzas. It was such a flashback to my childhood, when that was a common get-together food. I just love the community feeling of everyone around the table getting their food ready. (Of course then there's the chaotic moment when the pizzas come out of the oven and you have to figure out whose is whose.) We were missing the Porters though. They're in Itu right now with a campaign from Highland. They're coming back tomorrow and bringing Heather with them. Heather is an ACU student who took our Portuguese class with us made us all look bad at Portuguese. I'm excited to see her and to show her how much we've all improved.

We just emailed out a copy of our newsletter. If you didn't receive one but want to, please let us know.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

One More Thing

Okay, this is the last you'll hear about it, at least for today, but tonight we had meatloaf, mashed potatoes and broccoli, all made using, you guessed it- the once-useless stove!


Originally uploaded by russandval.
Look at the sheer joy on Russell's face. He gets to have an egg for breakfast. Tonight we're having meatloaf. We are so thankful to be liberated from our steady diet of nuggets. Thanks for all the prayers sent up on behalf of our fogão!

Monday, July 04, 2005

Good Things Come...

Three months later...


That's all I'm going to say about it right now. I've got to go boil water or fry an egg or try to remember how to use a stove/oven.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Back on My Back

Grr. Last week, our extra-long holiday weekend, I was healthy. Russ was sick. But then he got better and we got to enjoy the holiday.

Now I'm sick again. Food poisoning, we think. I spent yesterday evening throwing up but now I'm doing much better.

What is frustrating about me having food poisoning is that I'm not a very risky eater. I don't buy acarajes on the street. I have been deliberately careful about not introducing to much funky new food to my diet all at once. And yet here I am, missing Portuguese class once again. It was totally a random incident- we've eaten at that restaurant several times but, just as happens in North America, they were having an off day.

On another, much more positive note, Brazil won the Confederations Cup (soccer) the other day. The tournament itself was pretty rocky- loss, loss, tie. Finally we won our semifinal game putting us in the final with Argentina. It was a very exciting game- the last time we had played Argentina (for the South American championship) we lost, not to mention some general old rivalries of a historical nature with Argentina. But there was not contest. Brazil showed why they are one of the best teams in the world.

It's incredible to experience Brazil during a game like this. Stacey and I were with Alicia in her apartment when the first goal was scored. Fireworks went off outside the window. (I mean RIGHT outside, which startled all of us immensly). People were shouting "GOOOOOOAAAAALLLL!" and horns were honking. It was so exciting. We weren't even watching the game at that point. When we got to Keith and Stacey's a few minutes later, the boys were watching the game. Every time a goal was scored we ran out on the balcony to watch the fireworks and listen for the yelling. Did I mention this game was at 4:00 in the afternoon? At the end, when our victory was finally official, the fireworks started again. It was dusk by this point, so you could really see them. From the Parkers' balcony you can see very rich neighborhoods and very poor neighborhoods. On Wednesday afternoon it didn't matter which was which- the whole city was celebrating the win!

I can't wait for next year's World Cup!

Friday, June 24, 2005

Even More São João

Sao Joao
Originally uploaded by russandval.
Just had to share one more picture. This is where the taxi let us off. Incredible. It was so beautiful I almost cried. It's not that this is a "good" photo- the place just looked so incredible any idiot with a camera could snap a picture of it!

More São João

Sao Joao
Originally uploaded by russandval.
We decided to go down to the Pelourinho (the old part of town) where the main São João celebrations are. It was absolutely incredible. We felt pretty safe because there were cops everywhere and everyone was in a festive mood. The music was incredible and we just walked around and took it all in.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


Originally uploaded by russandval.

So we all brought "typical" São João food. Let's see, we had corn cake, corn on the cob, corn goo (don't know how else to describe it), corn stuff wrapped in corn husks...we forgot to make popcorn. Anyone notice a theme? We also had peanuts, peanut brittle and several other cakes made of unusual (to us) things. Though a little less than diverse, the food was great!

I forgot to mention what São João is- it's the holiday for John the Baptist that, especially here in the Northeast, has morphed into a huge holiday season. It's like Christmas- stores started decorating over a month ago! The festival aspect started in the small towns and everything about the holiday has the small town feel. The traditional dress is plaid, bandanas and straw hats. The food is simple (and apparently thought up by corn farmers!) The music is fun and bouncy and there's a sort of square dance that goes with it. Mostly it's an excuse to have some fun all through the month of June. Everywhere you look someone is having a São João party. Now that the actual holiday is here, it means two days off. Most people in the city will head out to the small towns to participate in the festas there. We'll stay here and check out the festas here in town. It's so much fun to get to learn a new culture!

São João!

Originally uploaded by russandval.
We had a São João party today instead of class. It was great fun. We spent yesterday's class time making the decorations. Our teachers insisted that we all dance to the forro music. Some of us did better than others...

Monday, June 20, 2005

Slowly But Surely

It's really easy to look around our apartment and feel discouraged. There's so much left to do to be settled. We've got furniture and air conditioners to buy, curtains to make and I won't even mention the o-word (let's just say Electrolux didn't come as promised!)

But every so often we have little "this is home" moments. Like tonight when we got in the taxi. We often stay at the Parkers' until late and call a taxi service to come pick us up (nowhere near as expensive as it sounds). We meet a lot of drivers. Tonight though, the driver knew exactly where we were going. In fact, it was the third time he's driven us (though we didn't remember him- I guess something about us is a little more memorable!) It was such a nice feeling, though, to not have to explain to the driver where our apartment is or to have to argue about which is the shortest route. It's nice to enter the gate of our neighborhood and have the guards smile as they let us in. It's wonderful to walk in the gate of our building and see Russ high-five our doorman. Little things like that make this place feel like we live here. Like it's home. And it is.