Sunday, December 17, 2006

A Dream Come True

Adson, originally uploaded by russandval.

Ever since we found our church building by the water, and even before that, our dream has been to have a baptism in the ocean. Today we had the privilege of having not one, but two! Two of our teenagers made their commitment to Christ this morning after church.

The part of our worship time inside the church ended with Gilvan and Adson's confessions of faith. Then we all walked across the street to the beach. Sunday is a big beach day here so there were people all around. But all the beach-goers were very respectful of what we were doing. The beach soccer game was suspended while the baptisms were going on. It was such a neat moment.

And now, we have two new brothers. Gilvan is related to several of our members already. His grandmother wept tears of joy. His mom doesn't come to our church but came today to experience this important moment in her son's life. Adson is one of their neighbors and the two boys are close friends.

This morning before worship, Russ, Gilvan's uncle Fernando and I took a moment to pray for them. We prayed that God would be with Gilvan and Edson in their new walk and that He would help them become leaders in the church. Please join us in prayer for the new lives our brothers are leading!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

(Not So) Shameless Plug

My brother Dave has a cool job. He's been touring with the African Children's Choir for a while now but since he's neither African nor a child, he serves as a chaperone. It's taken him to some pretty neat places--the UN, Africa, Europe--but next week he's headed somewhere new.

Next Friday night, tune in to The Tonight Show to see the ACC perfom. You won't actually get to see Dave, because he's just the big white "uncle", but it's not really about him. His kids are about as precious as you can get and are excellent ambassadors. The ACC is a really cool program that is doing a lot of good in the lives of these kids, their families and their villages.

I won't get to watch because we don't get that show here so I'm asking you to watch for me. Thanks!

(If you want a preview of how stinking cute the kids are, check out Dave's pictures.)

Monday, December 11, 2006

What a Day!

Yesterday was a day of epic proportions.

We had decided a while back that it would be fun to have a church picnic, Brazil-style, as a church Christmas celebration. That meant churrasco or barbecue. BBQ here is much simpler--no sauce, no marinade, just salted meat on big swords. When it's ready it's cut up in little bit sized pieces. You end up spending a couple of hours eating but it's all so worth it.

So we decided to make this an Event. We were going to have it at Keith and Stacey's house which is about a fifteen minute drive from the church. We made plans to rent transportation to get people out there after church. We set a price for our members and told them visitors would be free. That confused some of our members. "But then we'll have people inviting lots of people!" THAT'S THE POINT!!! (We're working on teaching evangelism and outreach!)

As the day approached, we realized this was going to be bigger than originally anticipated. We rented another mini-bus and made sure we would have lots of food. We moved the events from the Parkers' house to the party facilities in their neighborhood.

Yesterday morning when we started our prayer groups, there were only about fifteen people there. But half an hour later, the room was filling up. And when I got up during the sermon to count, there were 85 people! I couldn't believe it and had Russ doublecheck my count. Our average attendance is about 50. Our previous record (other than our inaugural service) was 60 or so.

Afterward, everyone headed out to the churrasco. I knew there were a lot of people there but I didn't realize how many until we stopped for a devotional. Again, I recruited Russ because I couldn't believe it. We had about 100 people!

It was such an awesome mixture of people: our members, members from other congregations, friends and families of our members. (We even had several people from my English class!) Some people had never visited our church before, some were truly "unchurched". Everyone hung out under the shade of a huge mango tree and visited for several hours.

We were exhausted at the end of the day but we sat for a long time sharing stories about some of the ways that God had worked that day, guiding just the right member to chat with just the right visitor. We realized that if we can capitalize on even 50% of the potential contacts after this event we will be in an incredible place. Of course, 50% isn't our goal! Please pray for us as we try to follow up with all of these visitors. There were several requests for Bible studies and many new conversations were started. Pray that God gives us the words to bring these people to faith in Him. Pray that the evangelistic spirit catches fire in our members.

What do you do after a day like that? Well, we ended the evening with an adventure--we discovered that the big toad in the Parkers' yard is poisonous! Their little dog, Chacha, had a close call but we're happy to say that she's going to be okay.

This morning I went with some members of the American Society to drop Christmas presents off at a children's home. It's run by the Missionaries of Charity. It was an awesome experience and I felt my eyes welling up several times.

When I got home this afternoon, I crashed. I slept hard for two hours. The past day and a half was awesome but there's not much time to rest! Our friends Tom and Gina arrive in a week so we've got to get ready for their visit! I'm so thankful though when I'm tired in this way. God gives us strength to get through marathon weekends like that and rewards us with blessing upon blessing. What a privilege to serve Him full-time!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Christmas Party

The Food, originally uploaded by russandval.

This afternoon we had a "North American" Christmas Party for our English students. We sang carols, played games and ate a bunch of traditional foods. It was really hard to narrow down what treats to make. The decision was affected by the availabilty of certain ingredients. Fortunately, year-old candy canes still make very yummy peppermint bark. The church ladies were funny. As I started pulling out all the goodies, they marveled, "I didn't know you were so domestic!" Yup, I'm full of surprises!

This morning our worship was incredibly powerful. I love that we're finally to the point that we can be touched by a worship service in Portuguese. (I'm glad that the guys' Portuguese is finally to the point that they can use it to touch people!)

Friday, November 24, 2006

Little Things

We discovered the other night how responsive Samson is to the TV. He has a spot next to the bed where he has a good view. Some people say that dogs can't watch TV. Sam is evidence to the contrary. When a dog came the show we were watching, he started barking at it. When that scene ended, the barking stopped. Now I don't feel so silly leaving the TV on for him when we're out sometimes. (It's hard to decide what he'd like to watch. Usually I leave it on nicer shows like Gilmore Girls.) So we know he's a clever dog. Unfortunately that cleverness doesn't seem to carry over into going for walks. It's an ongoing challenge.

In completely unrelated news, my heart leapt for joy this morning when my friend Nina, who I meet with a couple times a week to talk about English and Jesus, described me to someone else as her "white sister". Our relationship is really blossoming. Not only is this a good evangelistic opportunity but it's a great feeling to have a good friend who isn't a teammate! (Though I love my teammates dearly. Most days, anyway!)

Monday, November 20, 2006

Food For Thought

I had a tough conversation with a fellow minister here. He commented that sometimes all he can afford for his family is bread and bananas. He knows many people who have never eaten something as simple as cheese; partly because it has to be refrigerated and partly because it is not a necessity.
Commercials for healthy eating are ignored by the rich and made fun of by the poor because they are so far away from their normal lives. Some eat the chef's choice wherever they are, but in doing so they spend more than most entire families have for a month of food. Think about that when you can afford to by healthy choices; there are more ways to model Christ than you can imagine. My friend ended by saying he was happy because he knew every bite came from God. May we feel the same way.

Friday, November 17, 2006

New Adventures

When we first got here, we talked a lot about how we felt like babies, having to re-learn everything again. Well I guess now we've developed since then because now I'm a teenager learning how to drive.

Matt and Mary Virginia left for furlough yesterday and they left their car for us and the Sasses to drive. We're excited about having the use of a car for over a month and the minute we dropped them off at the airport, we started listing the places we want to go with it. So often on our shopping expeditions, we're limited in what we can buy. Even if we're fortunate enough to get a taxi that's not a hatchback and doesn't have a tank in the trunk, the driver is another passenger, so that leaves little space inside the car for extra stuff. (That's not to say we haven't crammed an incredible amount of stuff inside taxis!)

So first on the list was Sam's Club. I needed to get some stuff for this weekend's Team Thanksgiving Dinner. Unfortunately, Russ had an appointment this morning. He suggested that I drop him off and then go on in the car by myself.

I've driven a handful of times here but most of my experience has been limited to our neighborhood or going to and from the Parkers', which is a pretty straightfoward route. Today, however, was right through town.

People often ask us how the drivers are here. Honestly, I don't think they drive that poorly. I will say, though, that it is a completely different driving style than my own. Those of you who know me well know that I'm a fairly "by the book" kind of person and I like everything to be in its place. Hm. Doesn't really work here. You can't stay in your lane all the time and politely signal when you want to change lanes. You can't come to a complete stop before you pull out of parking lot. So I'm relearning.

I don't have it all down yet. My neck is tired from the number of shoulder checks (and re-checks!) I did today. But after a few minutes of driving, I fell in step with the rhythm of the other cars. It's like a dance (and sometimes, as I experienced in a harried cab ride yesterday, slalom skiing). And the longer I drove, the more I understood it. Now I understand why taxi drivers always hang out in the left lanes of one street before crossing over quickly to our exit on the right. I understand why I have to be flexible about where exactly the lanes are. But I did it- I made it to Sam's and home again and I've got the Kraft Dinner to prove it!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Women's Conference

Women's Conference, originally uploaded by russandval.

Yesterday I took a group of our women to the Salvador Churches of Christ Women's Conference. Stacey and I kept saying all day, "I love our women!" The gals at church are so much fun and I am becoming great friends with them. The conference was really good. There were close to 200 women there. We got to reconnect with many of the friends we've made all around the city.

At the end of the conference, it was time to decide what church would host it next year and the whole crowd started chanting, "Pi-tu-ba, Pi-tu-ba!". (That's us!) Stacey and I looked at each other, shrugged and said, "We'll do it!". I'm glad we've got a whole year to plan!

Friday, November 10, 2006


Just wanted to let you know that we're hoping to be in North America in April and May. Yes, we'll come over for dinner!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Still Here

Oh, little blog. I haven't forsaken you. There's just been a lot going on.

Russ and I are just coming off taking a couple of personal days. We used our vacation time to go to my sister's wedding but we found ourselves needing a little renewal time. Russ has been doing the preaching recently and, while he enjoys it, it does take a lot out of him. We also really needed a break on a personal level. A couple of weeks ago we had another miscarriage. I'm okay. We're okay. But we have a mountain of feelings to work through.

So we took a little break. We looked at all kinds of fun places to go nearby. Salvador is not hurting for vacation spots (case in point: we have a Club Med in the bay). But as we researched and planned we decided to keep it simple. We stayed in town. There's a big hotel on the other side of town that we frequently pass. It's on a gorgeous plaza and at the end of an avenue filled with some of the biggest trees in town. We'd spent very little time in that part of town, so there were lots of things we could do. We had a blast. My favorite part was that our hotel room had a bathtub so I was able to take my first bath in a long time! It was just the break we needed and I think we're both in a much better place than before.

There is, as usual, a ton going on at church. English classes are still going strong (I am turning people away now!). We had about sixty people in worship on Sunday and we were missing a dozen or so regulars! It was the most visitors we'd had since our inaugural service. In every area of the work exciting things are happening.

Samson the dog is doing well. He's on his way to becoming the World's Biggest Yorkie. Well, maybe not, but he's definitely not a delicate dog. He makes us smile and laugh and he seems to think we're okay, too (judging by the kisses he gives me).

Oh, and in other news, Travis and Alicia had their baby! I can't believe I forgot to mention that earlier. So now the team is up to ten adults, five kids and three dogs. Ceara is a doll and I'm sure it's just a matter of time before she has Travis wrapped around her little finger!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Movie Night

I know I've mentioned once or twice about how life here is making us more and more flexible. Tonight was one of those times, but it turned out to be a great time. Randy and Matt had planned a church movie night. We've had two others and we always have a great turnout. Tonight we had close to 30. We were eating before the movie when the power went out. Outtages aren't unusual on days like today when it's cold and rainy (we even had thunder and lightning this morning!). But they can definitely interfere with your plans. Everyone made their way to the front lobby and the sidewalk and we all hung out and talked for a while. Fernando positioned his motorcycle just inside the front door and shone his headlight at the tables so people could get more to eat and drink. The teens had fun running around the dark building. After a while, we all gathered in the lobby and sang. It was a great moment. I was especially excited because we had visitors from the beginner English class who were there for the first time. They got to see what we're really about. And they were excited! Eventually we sent everyone home. The power came back just as we were getting ready to leave the church building. We got home a few minutes later only to discover our power was still out. Russ and I sat in the dark for about 30 minutes and just chatted without distraction. He decided he should rescue the ice cream "just in case" and I tried not to fall asleep. Now we unexpectedly have a free evening! Guess I'll catch up on some work.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Shoe Drive a Success!

New Shoes, originally uploaded by russandval.

Our first church benevolence project was a resounding success. We collected about 50 pairs of shoes, both new and used, and R$ 300 to buy more. Several pairs of shoes were given to needy kids that day as part of our Dia das Crianças (Children's Day) celebration and we've got a nice stockpile for helping the kids that we see every day. Pray that the hearts of the children and the parents will be opened by this gesture. So many people on the street are distrustful and with good reason, but we are fighting to show them our love.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Sam I AM

I made my first trip to the mythical sams club. It even smells the same. My name on my card is Russel Austim; what do i care as long as i can buy Peter Pan PB for seven dollars AND giant trampolines (here they are called a pula-pula). So much fun to be had. They even sell beef jerky. It is a fun new store to wander around in; the only reminder of Bahia are the butchers inside the refrigerators wearing PARKAS! Good times.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Weekends, Past and Future

What a weekend it has been here. First there was the story of the missing airplane, then the plane was found, making it Brazil's greatest air accident ever. Our prayers are with the families--how hard it must have been to wait so long for news! Of course the other major excitement was the election yesterday. We really weren't sure what kind of turn out we'd have at church but we still had decent numbers (including visitors!). Now the election has gone into a runoff. At this point, it's hard to predict what that will mean. The one thing I know it means is four more weeks of campaigning (blech!) and heated discussions about Lula. (He's quite a polarizing figure). Anyway, keep praying about it all!

This weekend is going to be a doozy, too, though for completely different reasons. Saturday night is the wedding of two of our members, a couple who transferred from Bonoco. The church was asked to do the wedding which means, of course, that we missionaries (okay, the women) are doing the bulk of it. That's proving to be quite interesting because our wedding experience here is rather limited. We keep asking the bride her opinion and she says, "Oh, whatever is fine." None of us can imagine sitting back and having our weddings planned by committee but the bride seems to trust us completely. We have found ourselves wishing we had a Garden Ridge in town!

So that's Saturday. Sunday is a completely different event. October 12 is Children's Day, quite a large occasion, and we're going to do a church celebration of it this Sunday. Street children are common here and they often don't have any shoes, so we're using this as an opportunity to help them. We've been collecting money and shoes and are inviting all the kids we see to join us this Sunday. We have no idea what to expect but we are praying that this day will touch the lives of all involved.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Something Good and Something to Pray About

Something good: Today was a very happy day in the lives of the Salvador team. Our brand new Sam's Club opened! It was a madhouse but it was so wonderful. It has great deals on a number of things that are hard to come by here. We were excited to see Kraft Dinner and Heinz ketchup in the "gourmet" section! (See? It's always the little things...)

Something to Pray About: This Sunday is Election Day here in Brazil. While we don't necessarily have strong opinions about politics here, we are concerned about the impact that any outcome will have on life. Brazil has made great strides in the past fifteen years and we pray that they are able to keep making progress. So we ask for your prayers as people hit the polls (voting is mandatory, so that's a lot of voters!).

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Happy Wednesday (Quarta-Feira)

Today is quarta-feira, the fourth market day of the week. I am chillin' with my dog Sammy. It started pouring around 5. I can only remember a handful of mornings that were so dark and misty; it's a nice change. Life is pretty sweet. We are feeling an incredible sense of growth at ICOS, and our short-term goals have the potential to unite everyone even more. Our team is praying for more involvement and leadership from our members so that our mission team can take a step back and become a truly staff-run church. Bahians are stepping up and volunteering in worship, service, and especially youth. Thanks for all your help to reach this new and exciting phase. PS- our youth won a city-wide contest among the Churches of Christ that was like a Spirit Week competition that involved games and collecting food for the needy. Way to go guys!

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Smallest Things...

Several months ago, I caught a bus to a hospital on the other side of the city. The husband of my language teacher had been there for a month with meningitis. I gave him the Max Lucado book "It's not about me" in portuguese, which he thanked me for. I just wanted him to have something to do; his friends never even called during the five weeks that he was ill.

Yesterday, his couisin Eduardo stopped me before worship. He read a single chapter of the book while he was using the computer at his family's house; and in his words, it was if I had put the book in his hands on God's behalf.

Now he is studying with Travis each week; he started an online discussion group about the concepts of the book b/c he cannot stop thinking that his life is not his own. Praise our Father in heaven today for Eduardo. There are incredible things happening because he accepted that without God, life doesn't make sense. Right on.

Saturday, September 23, 2006


We've had Samson for a week now. It's been a tough week--puppies are a lot of work--but he's settling in quite nicely. Now he's just a member of the family (a member that doesn't have access to every room in the house). He has started getting excited when he hears our voices. It's nice, though, to have a little friend to greet us when we get home from a long day.


Yesterday I brought a book about Winnipeg to share with one of my readers. She was amazed by how different it was. She couldn't believe that there are houses made of wood. She found the pictures of the lush green summers absolutely beautiful but when we got to a picture of winter she said it was ugly. Now, in February when the accumulation of a winter's worth of sand on the streets turns everything a dingy grey, you may be able to call it ugly. But this was a picture of a tree-lined avenue (in River Heights, I think) right after a blizzard. It looked absolutely magical. But Nina disagreed. Oh well, she'll probably never see snow. I wonder when I'll see it again! (It's not all disagreements with Nina. She makes me laugh, sometimes deliberately, sometimes not. I'm trying to break her of calling coffee "cough". I've explained the difference but old habits die hard!)


It seems like every day we have moments that expand our perspective. A recent example: For the past several years in North America, churches taking the name "Church of Christ" off their signs has been a source of controversy. But in Salvador, the fact that we have the name "Church of Christ" on our sign (or that we have a sign at all) has been an issue with some of our brothers and sisters in town. Who is right? I am, of course!


I guess that's it for today. I just had several little things running through my head, none of which seemed to warrant a long post. (Well, I probably could have rambled for a while on the third one but it wouldn't have been fruitful.) It's Saturday morning, Russ is out for a bike ride with a guy that works in our building and I'm hanging out, listening to K-Love and enjoying the fact that I managed to make it through my crazy week. I think I'll go make some celebratory (fresh) mango juice. (Sorry, just had to throw that in to make you jealous!)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Saturday, September 16, 2006


Puppy!, originally uploaded by russandval.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are proud to dog. Okay, he doesn't have a name yet. He's a Yorkshire, though a dog that small isn't the first choice for either of us. But he's sweet and precious and, as I said before, nameless. We will gladly hear your suggestions but here are a few things to bear in mind:

1. We'd like a fairly masculine name.

2. The name has to be relatively easy to say in Portuguese.

3. Val loves when pets have human names (Exhibit A: Virgil the cat) or are some obscure pop culture reference (See Exhibit A).

4. Russ has veto power.

Friday, September 15, 2006

God Is Good

Right now I'm sitting on my balcony and reflecting. We just got chairs for our balcony--they were entirely an afterthought--but they seem to be meeting a need in my life. As I sit out here, I get drawn into moments of reflection that seem hard to come by anywhere else in my life. There's a definite peace to sitting out here in the morning, though the soccer court at the apartment building next to ours is full of teenage boys, the apartment upstairs is somehow still undergoing renovations, and the sound of trucks being loaded at the central post office occasionaly wanders over.

I started to write a long post detailing what I'm thinking about this morning but sitting here in my reflection seat, it ended up a little more personal than I'd like. (Maybe this isn't a good place to sit and blog from!) So I'll try to keep it short. These days, I'm trying to get out of the Job phase of my life and to be more like David (the king, not my brother, though he's pretty cool, too). I keep coming back to a song over and over--when I'm not listening to it, I'm running the lyrics over in my mind, contemplating them. So here you go, a little something for your own mediation time this morning:

Blessed Be Your Name
by Matt Redman

Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed Be Your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's 'all as it should be'
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

Monday, September 11, 2006


I told myself that after everything settled down I would get on a schedule. My schedule for the past few months has been project-based. I've been the one free to run and buy things for whatever was going on at the church, the one able to do things at a moment's notice. But I found myself longing for some sort of schedule. Maybe it was just so could feel like my work could be compared to my teammates. Maybe it was because after a month in bed I needed some sort of structure. Whatever the reason, I wanted it.

And yet now I find myself with a regular schedule, at least in the mornings, and I'm squirming. My freedom is gone. Once one part of your day is scheduled, you have to schedule everything else around it. If I go to a study on Monday mornings and need to go to the grocery store, I know that Monday afternoon will be when I have to do it. (Unless I play hookey like I did today and go to the movies instead of getting groceries! Guess I'll be shopping on Tuesday afternoon!) I'm just missing the flexibility.

On the other hand, there are some wonderful benefits. Every day I have to get up and walk to the church building for my studies. That's exercise I wouldn't have gotten. And I'm getting even more familiar with that walk and the people on it. Today I learned which magazine stand will always have recharge cards for my cell phone (and is courteous enough to cover up the porn!). I'm learning which little grocery store is better to stop in for a snack and which has a better selection of fruit.

The best benefit is, of course, the time I'm getting to spend with people. I'm doing several one-on-one LST-type studies and am getting a great chance to build some new relationships. My beginner class is progressing and the students are really bonding. Even though we're not actively advertizing the class, there are new students almost every week because the current students keep telling their friends! God continues to bring us new contacts!

I know I'll get used to the schedule thing. I did, after all, used to work at a "real job". But I'm sure I'll still squirm for a week or two!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

As Promised!

Monkey, originally uploaded by russandval.

That's right, friends, more monkeys. Keep reading and you'll find out the details. First I have to fill you in on where we've been.

For starters, we were getting our schedules back on track after our vacation and my parents' visit. Then the unthinkable happened- the laptop died again. Died for real this time. But it died during the week that the Parkers (read: free tech support) were moving, so we weren't able to do much about it. Then Monday we headed out on a team retreat.

Someone commented recently, "You guys seem to go on a lot of retreats!" Well, lately we have. The one in June was postponed from March (we were a little busy getting ready for the church to start). That was strictly a working retreat. We reviewed what was happening in the church and how that compared to our strategy. We reviewed our strategy to see if that's still what we wanted to happen. We evaluated our ministries, ourselves and everything else under the sun. Definitely not a vacation. (It even stormed the whole time we were out there, so the beach was not an option!) The latest retreat is our annual spring retreat. It is strictly for renewal and relaxation. Most of us (okay, mostly the women) even avoided saying the word "church". We spent three days going to the beach, swimming in the pool, playing games and eating.

Which brings me to the monkeys. We rode out with the Maberys and were there several hours before everyone else. While we were eating a fabulous lunch of imported food (peanut butter sandwiches and chips and Rotel!), something all of a sudden landed on our table. Russ and I turned to look and saw a monkey! There was another one in the bushes behind us. After lunch, we were in hot pursuit of the monkeys. There were four adults and a little baby one, who I tried to convince to come home with me. We spent the afternoon watching the monkeys and laughing at the Maberys' puppy, Nala, interacting with them. Once everyone else showed up, the monkeys got a little scared. They came back one other time, but not like they were the first afternoon.

We got home from the retreat Thursday and managed to get our new hard drive and all our programs installed that night. Now we're back and will hopefully be blogging a little more.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Where in the World?

We're still alive, but we're temporarily computerless while we get our new hard drive set up. More soon, I promise. (Including...monkey pictures!)

Sunday, August 20, 2006


That was a sad sigh. I took my parents to the airport this morning. Our time together was wonderful. Combined with the time we spent in Winnipeg for Susan's wedding, I had five straight weeks with my mom and dad. It has been more than ten years since that happen (and I only had to compete with my siblings for their attention for two of those weeks!) I'll share more about what we did in the next few days as I get caught up posting pictures and stuff.


That one was a happy sigh. I just got home from the beginner English class. I took over teaching that class after the LST team left. Today was my first day flying solo. Fortunately, my mom spent much of our time together coaching me in how to teach English. The class is a lot of fun. When I say it is a beginner class, I really mean beginners. We are forming the most basic of sentences and learning the most basic vocabulary. The class is a mixture of people from the church and people from the community. It's wonderful to have the two groups together because the people from ICOS work hard to make everyone feel at home. Today I heard them invite someone to come to church and then stay for lunch and hang out with them until class. They're doing my job for me!

That's all for now. I'm alone in my apartment for the first time in almost two months and I feel like I should be celebrating! I'm off to jump on the bed or walk around without pants or whatever else strikes my fancy!

Friday, August 11, 2006

For the Curious

If you've been visiting looking for updates from Wayne and Diana, we're sorry, they've just been having too much fun to sit down to do that. Mom has taken a bunch of pictures and has put them up on Flickr. You can find them here.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Baptism!, originally uploaded by russandval.

This is our new sister Lorena. Lorena and Mary Virginia have been studying together for a while. I was walking down the street today with my parents and one of the LST workers and all of a sudden I heard someone say, "Hi!". Mary was on her way home from a Bible study with Lorena and couldn't wait to share the good news with us. She pulled up on the sidewalk (not such a bad thing here) and filled us in. We were so excited to get to share this moment with Lorena.

We haven't just been enjoying vacation time with my parents. LST had their final party tonight. We had over 60 people present. LST has been such a wonderful thing for us. We have over a hundred new contacts! Pray for us as we do our best to follow up with them! And while you're on your knees, lift up our new sister, Lorena!

Where Have We Been?

Mom and Dad T. Relaxing, originally uploaded by russandval.

Sorry that we haven't been updating much. These are the people that are to blame for our absence. We've been having a wonderful time with them and have taken lots of pictures which will be posted later.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Leave a smile wherever you go.....

Russell here, reporting alive and well back in Bahia. After arriving home around 3AM today, Valerie graciously let me sleep. I woke up after 2PM, and got dressed enough to run at our condo’s sports fields. After about an hour, I stopped to leave and said hello to the two security guards who were managing the courts. I introduced myself to one of them; the other I knew. We talked about my trip to Canada; then they surprised me by asking if I was an evangelical. I told them I that I was (it is interchangeable with protestant here) and they said that were sure I was because I was the only resident who stopped to talk to them. It seemed like the smallest thing to stop for a few minutes and reflect on life in a place that they will probably never see. However, it gave them dignity to face the arrogant and pretentious (their words) people who live around them. I am looking forward to more talks! Think about Lazaro and Ze Carlos the next time you check out of a store. What do people see in you?

We’ll fill you in on the trip soon. Right now we’re getting things ready for Val’s parents to get here.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


The past few days have been a whirlwind and it's not over yet!

We got in Friday afternoon. Friday evening, we met Don Millican (from Tulsa) and his son-in-law, Luke, for dinner. They had an overnight layover in Winnipeg so we jumped on the chance to see them, even though we were dead tired. We were good friends with Luke at OC so it was great to see them both again.

Saturday, Russell's parents came up from Oklahoma. They were in town for less than 48 hours so we made the most of our time. Fortunately they're great friends with my parents so spending time all together was easy. Sunday night we got a room at a nearby hotel (with pool and waterslide!) for a little family time with the Quireys.

The main thing we've been doing for the past few days is shopping. I've got to say, I'm quite exhausted. Every spare moment means a new trip to the store. I've forgotten how much work a wedding is. I'm so thankful that I'm here to help.

Last night was Susan's shower at church. I got to spend more time with some of my church family. But for me, the best part was sitting there at the front of the room with my sister, mom and both grandmothers. Grandma Turner arrived Monday and Grandma Merritt came directly from the airport to the shower (Grandpa got to go rest!). My family is very spread out. Grandma T. lives in North Carolina, the Merritts live in southern Ontario, Susan is soon to be living in New Mexico, Mike's in Oklahoma (though sadly he can't be with us) and after the wedding Dave's headed to Europe for several months. Times like this are rare and indescribably special.

On the docket for today: more shopping! Good thing it's my favorite pastime!

Friday, July 14, 2006


So here I am sitting in my parents' living room. It's the weirdest feeling. In many ways, it feels like we were never in Brazil. That's one of my favorite things about our relationship with my family. We don't talk as much as some families but we're close. And when we get together, it's like we were never apart.

On the other hand, we do notice we've been gone. We've had some experiences in the past 24 hours. Here's just a handful:

- May I say again how grateful I am we didn't fly Varig? Our line was filled with people who were trying to fly stand-by and had been for a couple of days.

- Going through the line in U.S. customs (yes, we've had to go through several different customs lines in the past 24 hours), the customs official asked what we do in Brazil. I said, "We're missionaries." He misheard and thought I said mercenaries. It made for a very interesting conversation but we all had a good laugh!

- Two things that remind me that I haven't been living in North America: 1. This morning I sat at breakfast in the airport. The waitress had brought us our big glasses of complimentary water (!), then a large glass of milk and two big cups of coffee. It was so much beverage for two people! 2. I keep pausing in the bathroom trying to figure out how to dispose of my toilet paper. (Some of you will understand why!)

I think I'm going to go take a shower. That sounds so delightful. But just sitting here, talking with my parents, wrestling with the dog, and joking around with my sister is not so bad either.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

One Week Later

Sorry I forgot to update you guys; I've had a few things on my plate.

Yes, LST finally made it here at around 1:00 Friday morning. After a slow start, they now have more than 50 readers and the church building is full much of the time. It's very exciting. They're having their first social event tonight so we're excited to get to meet all of the students.

Russ and I are just about ready to leave for Winnipeg. We're headed to the travel agent in a few minutes to see if we need to change our Varig flight to something else. Varig is pretty unreliable these days. (Just ask Jenn and the LST team!) We are sooooo excited to see our families and our suitcases are full of treats for them. (Sssshhh! Don't tell them--it's a surprise!) And I'm incredibly excited that Joel and Susan will be starting their new life together. In the same city. Finally!

I'll try to let you know how our trip is going; maybe even post some wedding pictures. But if the two weeks go by without an update, know that we're having a great time!

Thursday, July 06, 2006


The LST team still hasn't arrived. In fact, we don't even know when they'll be getting in. Supposedly they've made it to São Paulo but we don't yet have confirmation of that. We had the first information meeting last night and had a decent turnout, but we had strongly encouraged people to wait and come to the meeting tonight so they could meet their teachers. Now that might not happen. Please take a moment and pray for their travels. We are so anxious for them to get here and the meeting will not be the same without them. (Not to mention that they've been stuck all this time with a four-year-old. Unenviable.)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

It's Raining...

As much as we love to talk about our great weather when the rest of you guys are suffering through the winter, it's the land of eternal sunshine. Through the fall and winter, Salvador turns into Our City of Perpetual Rain. In the fall, there are days of non-stop rain. Now that we're in the winter, the rain is a little more unpredictable. Like this morning--we left the house and I decided not to bring my umbrella because the forecast predicted a warm, sunny day. As we got out of our taxi, Russ noticed the grey clouds looming over the ocean and commented to the taxi driver that it was going to rain soon. No, he reassured us, it's not going to rain today. So we did our work at the church building and then got ready to leave. We locked the front doors and the rain started. Lightly at first, so we started walking. When it rains here, no one walks unless they have to. People take shelter until whatever they can and wait it out. They're in no hurry! It's taking me some time to get used to this mindset. It quickly picked up and we found ourselves getting wetter and wetter. We decided to stop and have a cup of coffee. As we were finishing our coffee, the rain let up and everyone started walking again. We hurried to the door and before we were even off the front stairs, the rain started again. This time we waited (with several other people) until it let up enough to get home.

Why do I tell you all this? Not to complain, because I hate complaining. (Is that a complaint?) This morning, as I stood and waited for an end to the rain, I realized it was a blessing. I hadn't been having a very good morning. The LST team isn't arriving today isn't arriving today as planned, so that creates some extra work for us. It seemed like I had the opposite of the Midas touch--everything I tried to do went wrong. Russ and I kept quarreling. I stubbed my big toe. And all I could think about was all the things on my to-do list. But the rain forced me to stop. It made me enjoy a cup of coffee with my husband and have a good chat. I had to take a breath. Sometimes I find myself forgetting to take breaths. (You can ask the rest of the team--Russ and I are notorious for not taking days off or vacation time.) But today, I had to and I'm glad. I feel so much calmer now. I thank God for giving me the eyes to see that the rain was not a curse but a blessing.

Addendum: It's even easier for me to breath now. After 478 days, our books are finally unpacked. It's about time. I've missed them.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

How awesome it was to share the news of Gicilene's baptism this morning!

We've been a little short-staffed this weekend because several of the team are traveling. It left just Keith, Stacey, Randy, Russ, me and all the kids. It was tough, but we soldiered on. With both Travis and Paul gone, Russ got to preach. I'm biased, of course, but I think he did a great job. I asked him afterward what kind of feedback he got from the congregation. He said, "One lady told me my hair was beautiful!" Not the feedback every preacher wants to hear, but in a land where people don't hold back from telling you how fat you are or how bad your Portuguese is, it's a welcome compliment!

We're getting excited for Let's Start Talking to get here. The team is arriving on Tuesday afternoon. One family will be living at the building for the six weeks they'll be here so I've been trying to make the place a little more livable (those of you who have seen it in person will understand). At first the job was really hard because we only had power in the front two rooms and the bathroom. The power company said it wasn't their fault and everyone else who looked at it blamed the power company. Thanks to the persistence of some of our guys, it finally got resolved.

Problems like that have been coming up, just like we had before our first service. I guess we should be used to that by now. We've been advertising the courses all around town but no one could call for information because our phone wasn't working. The phones are back up now and people are calling. This is the first time LST has been offered in this city and the responses have been interesting. Everyone who calls is skeptical that the courses are free. This morning as we were getting ready for worship three police officers stopped in to ask about the course. Some friends of ours that own a fabulous Italian restaurant have been give people LST fliers along with their check. We've handed out fliers in the street, in language schools, left them in taxis, put posters in stores, taken out a newspaper ad and talked to everyone we can think of. Now we have to sit back and wait. We have informational meetings this week on Wednesday and Thursday. Please pray that they go well and we have great turn-outs. We have spaces for 65 readers so that's a lot of potential new contacts for the church.

World Cup fever is officially over. The game ended at about 6:00 last night and by 9:00 many stores had taken down their special displays. Everyone is so disappointed, especially because it seemed like Brazil didn't even show up to play. I have to confess that I'm a little glad it's over since we're trying to get things done this week. It was hard having to schedule everything around the games. But I'll miss the opportunities we had to watch them as a church family.

Two weeks from today, we'll get to worship with our family in Winnipeg. We can hardly wait!

Friday, June 30, 2006


Baptism, originally uploaded by russandval.

Tonight we are rejoicing with the angels. ICOS celebrated its first baptism. Gicilene (gee-sill-EE-knee) has been worshipping with us since our second Sunday. She grew up in very strict evanglical churches but the rules drove her away. Her friend Sônia started bringing her to our church. It was the only church that Gicilene was willing to attend, so Sônia, who goes to the Assembly of God down the street, kept bringing her. Gicilene loves that she has found a church that is free of all the dogma that she encountered growing up. She has a wonderful spirit and we are excited to see the many ways in which the Lord will use her. Please keep our new baby in your prayers!

Monday, June 26, 2006


Okay look, I rarely do this so I feel like I'm allowed to do it on occasion, especially in honor of the Cup:

This site helps you figure out your Brazilian soccer name and even puts it on a spiffy jersey for you. (That's it, no editorial comments, especially not for those of you who live in Italy and Germany. I'm keeping my mouth shut. But you know what I'm thinking...)

In other news, we bought a small freezer today. I'm very excited. I don't know why new appliances thrill me, but they do. And the freezer will be a big help. Our teammates are already asking to borrow space in it...

Saturday, June 24, 2006

São João 2006

São João 2006
Originally uploaded by russandval.
I can't believe it's São João already. New pics up on Flickr. (Click on the picture to get there).

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Game Day

The Crew
Originally uploaded by russandval.
It's amazing to think that some of you may not even be aware that the World Cup is going on right now. Here in Brazil it is all-consuming. On game day, life just stops. TVs appear everywhere. The streets are dead. The game is punctuated by screaming, firecrackers and cars honking. It's an incredible experience.

We've been showing the games on our screen at church. We've been getting a pretty good turn-out--both our regular visitors and their friends and family. This past Sunday, the game was at 1:00, so we offered lunch after worship so everyone could stay and watch the game. People came to church decked out in their team colors. Almost every person who came to church stayed for the game and a few more showed up later. It was our first all-church event and we were thrilled by how well it went. Everyone's already looking forward to the next game (Thursday). We're glad we have the resources to take advantage of this opportunity to make our motley crew feel like a family.

After the game, we boarded a bus and headed to our team retreat. We've spent the past three days reviewing our strategy and evaluating our efforts so far. Needless to say, we're exhausted, but hopefully I'll post about that soon.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

It's Always Something

Well, we're slowly getting back on track. This week has seemed like two steps forward, one step back. I have been working on gradually re-entering the land of the living. On Thursday we bought our tickets for Canada. On July 14, we will be at my parents' house! That definitely buoyed my spirits. We engaged in a little retail therapy, and pretty much did whatever we felt like for a couple of days. Then I was really ready to jump back in to everything (as much as I could with my new horrible stamina!) and I came down with a head cold. That's pretty typical for me--if I get worn down, I get anything and everything. On Sunday evening, our hard drive croaked. Thankfully, Randy and Jennifer have loaned us their desktop computer until we get ours working again. Keith and Stacey are bringing us a new hard drive from the US next week. We don't know yet if we'll be able to recover anything off of it, but fortunately we had backed up all our pictures and most of our documents the day before. Yesterday we talked about it and decided that we would go to our staff meeting today. But last night Russ started throwing up. He must have pick up some kind of bug; all I know is the poor guy can't keep anything down. I'm secretly a little glad though. It's my big chance to repay him for taking such good care of me. However, I myself am feeling a little queasy so we decided that while sharing is good, this bug is something that we don't need to share with the team. They'll just have to do without us for a couple more days.

There. I'm done complaining. But before I hit publish, I just want to take a minute to thank you all for your encouraging words. It's definitely tough, but we are so thankful that we have such wonderful friends and family to help us out. Most of all, we're thankful to be children of the Father, who brings us comfort and will make good come of it all.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Full Disclosure

I'm sure you've notice that we haven't been updating very much recently. To be honest, I haven't been up to much lately. On the other hand, a lot has been going on. Last month we found out I was pregnant. A couple of days after we found out, I started having some problems. The doctor put me on bedrest. And that's where I've been--for over a month. During that time, I went in for lots of tests, but we were never able to get solid answers. But the problems continued, so I stayed in bed. (Let me just say that Russell has been a champ during this time- he has taken such good care of me!) Yesterday we went in for an ultrasound that revealed that we had lost the baby. We are saddened, but know that our God will work good things from this. In the meantime, we're taking a little "us time" so we can get back on our feet. There's a lot happening here in the next couple of months and we need to get back to full strength asap. The team has been awesome in encouraging and enabling us to take some time (even though it feels like I've just had a month off!)

A positive event on our horizon (other than the return of the Parkers!) is a trip we're planning. My sister, Susan, is getting married in July and we're taking our vacation time to go be there for the wedding. I have a pretty spread out family (now with two touring brothers!) and times when we can be together are really special. We're thrilled for Susan and Joel and are looking forward to the time to recharge (and stock up on peanut butter!).

Friday, May 19, 2006

Thanks for the replies

Charile Brown once said, "I had seven pen pals, but i did all the writing." Today is a reversal of that feeling for me! I had four people write back in one day. It seems like such a small thing, but in a place where phone calls are inconvenient and expensive, email is a real lifeline to maintaining relationships with people. Most of the friends I consider close exchange two or three emails per year with me. Per year. Even more than calls or letters, email takes so little time that it seems to carry less feeling. For me, nothing could be further from the truth. Even getting a small reply saying, "I will write more when I have time" is a huge boost to my day. So stop sending silly forewards; send a simple message and see who responds. I promise that I will.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

My walk to work

Here is a small snapshot of my week. It's been a good one, ending with around 50 guests in our worship service today. It takes around 15 minutes for me to walk the mile to ICOS from our apartment. On the way, I pass markets, farmacias, and some nice open-air restaurants. The halfway mark is very nice city park with a fountain in the center. Almost every bus in the city passes through this intersection. I pass our video store (with a new Subway inside!), and then several banks. The block before our building, there is a highschool with hundreds of students coming and going. This week, a group of guys were sitting and listening to their friend play a banjo (it's true, i promise) next to a hot dog stand. Bahian culture is like that; a little food, music, and friends are all that is required for a fun day. I arrive at the igreja and begin to think and pray about how God is inviting all the life outside to come inside. Our church is founded on the fact that God loves us all, and that he wants to be known. If we cannot communicate those facts, the problem of growth is on us. We will continue sharing our lives with groups of friends each day, and invite them close enough to hear God's voice of friendship.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

I love my wife.

This is pure unfiltered russ. I wanted to say that my life is great. Our work is growing every week. My wife knows me well enough to get me a new bottle of shampoo (have been out for a while) just to see me smile. I had home made tacos with honey and tamales from Enrique's (yesssss) and it just doesn't get better than that. Church family, I am praying that you enjoy the little things this Easter weekend. Ours has been very quiet; many people left town. We still had a great turnout for worship but Val couldn't share it because of illness. Pray for us; sickness is never fun, especially the same month you start a church. We love and miss all of our friends. Leave us a comment to share the little things that make you smile (if you mention Sonic food, we will have to spam your email). Tchau for now!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Service Number Two

Well, people have been asking, so I guess I should get around to telling about last Sunday. When asked, "how many people did you have?", my standard answer has been, "less than the week before." And it's true. It's easy to get caught up in the numbers game, which can be an emotional roller coaster. And raw numbers don't compensate for other factors (like Palm Sunday in a Catholic country!). So if you can't bear it, email me, and I'll give you the exact number, but otherwise, I'm going to try to be content from week to week.

The actual worship went well- we're all slowly getting a handle on our new responsibilities. I'm learing to run MediaShout (which is like a souped-up version of PowerPoint). Toward the end of the worship, I started letting Lauren run it. She seems to be a natural, though it will be a while before she could do it on her own. I don't mind running the slides, though part of me wishes I could be a part of the "crowd" in worship. I have to pay close attention and make the changes in time. Every so often, I get caught up in signing and forget the slide. But I'm getting better.

We're all working hard transitioning into this new phase of our work. Now that we have a building with a front door and a telephone, we've got to arrange for someone to be up there during the day. We get a fair amount of walk-in traffic, which is a testament to our location. We're also still working hard on following up on all our visitors. Several indicated that they wanted to know more about our small groups and joining our church, so we're scurrying to answer their questions. Others want to study the Bible with us, for which we're grateful. Several studies have been set up, and every week we have new opportunities. I think we'll have the hang of planning and executing our worship services just in time for the Parkers to leave on furlough at the end of the month. Then things will change once again, and we'll shift our schedules to compensate for their absence.

But there are some good things on the horizon too. We're getting a new team member, for one. I'm not referring to our intern, Paul, who's coming soon. Or to the Let's Start Talking team that's on their way in January. Nope, unfortunately this team member won't be able to carry their own weight for a while. We found out recently that Travis and Alicia are expecting! (I've been mum about it for a couple of weeks, but she posted pictures on Flickr, so I figure it's fair game!) They're due in October, and we're all thrilled for them! Alicia's having a really good pregnancy and has been able to keep up with all the inaugural excitement. Praise God, the Author of Life, for the anticipation of a new life!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Standing Out

In college, people would stop my friend Jenny on the street to tell her how much she looks like Jodie Foster. They used to stop my brother Mike to tell him he looked like Garth Brooks. I've always had many friends and family members that vaguely resemble famous people and that makes them memorable. I, on the other hand, have never been told I look like a celebrity. There's not much about me that makes them remember me if they run into me again.

But now I live in a city where I am a visible minority. My skin color, eye color and height all help people remember me.

Yesterday, as I stood at the bus stop, a woman came up to me. "Are you from that new church in Pituba, ICOS?" she asked. (ICOS is the acronym we're using for the church- pronounced E-cos.) I told her I was, and she said she'd been there last Sunday. As we introduced ourselves, she said that she couldn't remember my name but remembered me from the church. I asked who had invited her and she told me it was Jaci. (Jaci, though not yet a member, is one of our church's best advertising tools!) We visited for a couple of minutes; I found out she lives very close to us. I encouraged her to come back this Sunday and I hope she does! She obviously has some interest if she's willing to stop and talk to us! God used what I have (which in this case was brown hair, blue eyes, and white skin) to help make another connection with someone who needs Him. Please pray that Ana Claudia will return and that I will have opportunity to study with her.

While you're on your knees, please remember this week's worship as well. Our prayer is that those who were there last week will return and the people who were unable or unwilling to come last week come for the first time. We are curious and excited to see what this Sunday will look like!

Monday, April 03, 2006

A Dream Realized

It is barely conceivable that we did it. As I sit looking out my balcony on a rainy Monday morning, our first public worship service seems like a dream. This dream took four years, many thousands of dollars and even more prayers to be realized. What an awesome day.

People kept asking me how I felt after the last prayer was said. All I could say was, "My life is complete. Today is a dream come true." God filled us all with unending energy, even as the sweat soaked all our clothes. It was very legal (cool).

We know that it is barely a start, and we now have to replicate it 52 times a year. But I wanted to send up a virtual/actual "Hallelujah" and smell the roses for a second before my reality gland started working again.

Tchau for now.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Statistics (Drumroll Please...)

The Crowd
Originally uploaded by russandval.
It was a great day. We were all so busy meeting and greeting and translating for our American friends that we don't have a perfect count. But here's the general consensus (and this isn't a preacher count):

In attendance: about 300 (some say more, some say less)
True visitors (not from another CoC): about 100
Temperature in the room: a million degrees celsius
Combined weight lost from sweating: 500 pounds

Praise God for such a successful day! We had several people tell us, "See you next Sunday!" Now the real work begins. (Well, Russ and I get to spend some time this week with our visitors, Kody and Kristie Speer, who work with Eastern Hills in Athens, TX. We're so glad to have them with us!)

Thanks everyone for all your prayers!

The Crowd

The Crowd
Originally uploaded by russandval.
Here's some of the crew this morning. In the center in the purpley shirt is the infamous (and dearly loved) Jaci.

Back in the Saddle

Originally uploaded by russandval.
It was awesome to have Russ and Keith leading singing. Felt like old times. Well, it would have if our old times had been in Portuguese! But they've adapted well...

A Good Sign

The Sign
Originally uploaded by russandval.
The work continues. Still no glass. This Sunday, we may only be opening our doors metaphorically. Please keep praying about that. But good is happening in other areas...

A group of ten people from Park Plaza Church of Christ in Tulsa, OK, arrived yesterday. They have been working hard, helping us finish getting the rest of the building ready. It's great to have them all here, especially Don and Donna Millican, with whom we lived for a couple months while we were "church-hunting".

But the biggest news of the day is that our sign arrived! We now have a huge sign proclaiming our presence to the city. The sign really helps it feel like that place is home. And it works. Once the sign was up, cars kept stopping. People wanted to know about the new church. When rush hour hit, Russ and I were trying to lock up the building and had to escape between visitors! (Yes, good missionaries would have stayed, but we were exhausted and out of invitations.) Our sign is big and bold (beautiful, too, I might add!) and definitely stands out. I can't wait until tomorrow to see how many more people stop!

So that was our day. Well, there was much more to it than that, but it's suppertime, then it's back to work, trying to get our visitor packets ready. And sleep. Glorious sleep!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Life Imitating Art

Remember The Money Pit? Some of you probably don't, so here's a summary for the younger crowd: Tom Hanks and Shelley Long buy a potentially great house for a great deal but as soon as they move in, things start falling apart. Big time. Hilarity ensues.

It's funny when it happens to someone else!

Our first worship service is one week away. Not only is the construction not done (we're hoping the glass will arrive in time- everyone's making promises but nothing is happening), but things keep going wrong in the building. It's fall now, so it's raining almost daily. With rain comes...leaks! In the newly repaired roof! Fortunately that falls to our landlords to fix. Next problem: a leaky toilet pump. Sounds small. Yet somehow, this one leaky toilet manages to drain our entire water supply on a regular basis. Not cool. Yesterday the men working to fix the roof had to wash their hands off in the ocean (we knew it was a convenient location!).

In the end, it's not really like The Money Pit because these problems aren't costing us loads and loads of money. But they take time to fix and we have a definite deadline. Every day we mark off the countdown, the attacks from Satan get stronger and stronger. Unfinished renovations, self-doubt, not enough time and personal attacks are flying fast and furious. But at the same time, every day, we're hearing from more and more people that are planning on coming. We have no idea how many people to expect. We've heard to expect hundreds. If we top 300, we'll have to use overflow space--an excellent problem to have. So though we're feeling Satan's arrows, we have a clear picture of why. Something good is going to happen one week from today. Something that will help enlarge God's kingdom. Please pray for us (and our building!) in the next few days. We need a whole army to support us in this battle.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

And now, a little break from the obvious

I noticed something about my language research this week. I used the title as a clever distraction from worship service numero um (no, we don't speak spanish). I catch more and more phrases people say as expressions; that is, they cannot be translated literally. One of the first that I learned was "I have a sore elbow," which means that I am jealous ^_^. The reason I keep trying to learn more expressions isn't to fit in better when I talk to others. It is and will always be obvious that I am a gringo and didn't learn Portuguese at home. But the real purpose of expressions is to say things more subtly than saying them outright. If you say that you do not want to come to dinner, it seems much harsher than, "Well, we'll see if we can make it." Lots of times I want to say things without saying them directly, especially in a culture that avoids saying "no." Lastly, the newest giria (expression) I learned is,"That's a good idea." The meaning, which might have saved me some embarassment earlier, is that although the idea is good, I don't agree. Thanks for playing!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Time's Running Out!

It's hard not to be stressed out right now. Honestly, it's hard not to feel completely overwhelmed. There's so much to do and the perfectionist in me wants to do it right. My eye for detail is working overtime. I know how important this all is. This is the culmination of what we've been working on for four years. Finally, there will be a church.

And I feel so much personal responsibility. Everything we do needs to be just so. I don't want to alienate anyone by our gaffes or oversights. I want to do everything in my power to do my best.

But my best will never be good enough. My task-oriented, pragmatic nature is failing me. I've been focused on getting the job done, but have lost my true focus. Somehow, though He has taught me this lesson over and over again over the past four years, I have forgotten that God will work in spite of me. That is an impossibly hard lesson for a control freak like me to learn. Our church will grow, but it won't be because I made our publications match, our decor warm and inviting and had mastered every new song. It will have nothing to do with the sermons, the refreshments or the visitor packets. It will grow because it's what God wants. It will grow because we serve a mighty God whose greatest desire for every person is a relationship with Him. It will grow because this is part of God's eternal plan. What a relief. I'm just a helper. A tool. He's got a plan and we're all fortunate enough to be a part of it.

So why does my to-do list give me a headache?

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Seven Thoughts (or, The Decongestant Speaks)

-It rained today. It's been about three months since we had a good rain. I heard thunder for the first time in over a year.

-We went to our first wedding on Thursday night. You can tell that a lot of American traditions had been picked up from TV and movies. It was for Jaci's son, Douglas, and his girlfriend. She was far and away the happiest bride I have ever seen.

-We're making progress. This week Keith bought our sound equipment. It's not at the church building yet, so the Parkers' TV sounds incredible!

-We finally got to eat at Burger King on Thursday. (It's been open for a while but we hadn't made it down there yet.) It was as good as expected.

-I've got a head cold this weekend. Hopefully this means I'll be healthy for inaugural (which is in three weeks!)

-Tomorrow is our one year arrival anniversary. I'm sure we'll have more to say about that later.

-If you haven't responded to my previous post about belief yet, please check it out. I'm learning a great deal from you guys.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

What Is Faith?

Russ and I just walked in the door from our Bible study. (It’s after 9:30 and we have yet to eat dinner, so this will be a short post!) Several of us have been going once a week to study with a group of “kids” that range in age from 15-22 and are all connected in one way or another. In the girls group tonight I found myself wanting to explain something but not having the words in English, let alone in Portuguese. I know that all kinds of people read our blog, so I’m going to ask for your collective wisdom. Please take a minute and answer this question in our comments section.

What does “believe” feel like?

BTW, we open our doors in one month from today. It's a little overwhelming!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Originally uploaded by russandval.

Work on the buiding has begun! Today we had a workday. We had invited all the area congregations, as well as the teenagers we study with on Wednesday nights. We ended up with about forty workers. At one point, as people kept coming through the door, I had to pause to cry and thank God for blessing us with such friends here. Even though there was tons to do, the biggest challenge ended up being keeping everyone busy! We painted, cleaned, peeled, wired, built, dug and made lunch. There's still lots of work to be done before April 2 (and we're only trying to get a couple of rooms useable!) but we definitely made a lot of progress today!

*EDIT* Sorry for anyone who has tried to comment on this post. Problem solved, so comment away.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Missionary Conference, Part Two

(My apologies for making you wait for part two.)

The conference started Monday afternoon. Our main speaker was Tex Williams, who is the director of World Bible School. He brought us several great messages during the week, about a variety of topics. After his first message and some orientation, we had dinner and spent the rest of the evening meeting new people and reconnecting with old friends.

I’m not going to go into what we did every day, but for those of you wondering what we actually did all week, the daily schedule was:
Message from Tex
Men’s/Women’s Classes
Free Time
Message from Tex

I enjoyed the classes but for me the greatest part of the conference was getting to talk to all the other missionaries. We had met most of them before but this was a new opportunity—a chance to visit with them as colleagues. It was a blessing to be able to talk to teams that have been here for years about how hard the first year or two is. Think about the first couple of years of marriage: people warn you it’s hard, but once you’re actually married, you are able to relate to what they’re saying, learn from them and be encouraged by them. And that’s what it was for us. A chance to hear someone say, “Yes, what you guys are going through is normal,” “Here’s something you can try when that happens,” and “Don’t worry—it gets better!” Don’t get me wrong—we didn’t spend the whole week in counseling. I also enjoyed spending many hours playing cards with the other women, staying up into the wee small hours of the night.

The other invaluable part of the week were the worship times. I can’t tell you how hungry I was for worship in a large group. In English. Russ got to lead singing a couple of times which was also a blessing. I know he misses doing that (and I miss hearing him do it).

Thursday night was a highlight of the week. Georgia planned a luau-themed banquet. It was a blast. We decorated the hall and gave everyone leis as they came in. Several of the men participated in a hula competition that I am sure everyone will remember for quite some time. Another hysterically funny game was Pass the Banana. We had been looking for luau-themed games online and found this game, only it was using coconuts. But we were in Belo, and coconuts were scarce, so somehow we decided to use bananas. We split into five groups and started playing hot potato with the bananas. In my group, the game evolved and we started throwing the banana across the circle. I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but bananas aren’t a very hearty fruit! After a round or two, we were throwing mush at each other. Fortunately, there was a huge centerpiece made up of fruit so we had an unlimited supply of bananas! I think we ended up using nine or ten bananas. It was absolutely disgusting (we were all coated in banana slime) and incredibly fun. In the end, it came down to me and Randy. We joked that we would determine the team budget based on the outcome. (Thankfully I won!) All the prizes were food items from the US.

Friday was a day of goodbyes and long rides. We were on a flight home with the Porters at 9:55 PM. We shared the van to the airport with a couple of other families. The van ride was bumpy to say the least, and Russ and I affectionately refer to the ride to the airport as “Puke Fest 2006”. But somehow everyone made it to their flights on time and we got home, safe and sound at about 11:30 Friday night. We holed up for the rest of the weekend, recovering from the week.

We are so thankful we got to go to the Missionary Conference and are already looking forward to next year’s conference in Porto Alegre. In the meantime, we have many new friends around the country to keep us encouraged.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Missionary Conference, Part One

Originally uploaded by russandval.
We started our trip Monday morning. It qualifies as Monday morning because there was an "a.m." after the time, but it sure seemed like Sunday night to me! Our flight left at 6:15, meaning we had to be at the airport at 5:15 and leave the house at 4:30. Despite my best efforts, I didn't fall asleep until after midnight and then work up at 3:00, so I wouldn't catagorize it as a good night sleep. But God supplied me the energy to get through the day. Our taxi arrived ten minutes early; fortunately we were pretty much ready at that point. We rode through the abandonded streets of Salvador, making it to the airport in record time. (Though I've noticed a cab ride to/from the airport is always around the same price, traffic or no.)

We knew we were going to beat the rest of the team to the airport (everyone but the Porters were on our flight; they had gone down on Friday for some vacation) so we checked in and had some breakfast. And coffee. Quick Portuguese fact for you: the word for breakfast is the same word as the one for coffee. So you say "I drank coffee" and it can mean "I ate breakfast" or just "I drank coffee". Sounds confusing, but it makes sense most of the time. When we finished our coffee, we found the rest of the gang, in various stages of awake. Some people hadn't woken up until 5:15, which is when their taxis arrived, so their mornings were a little more harried than ours.

We all made it on the flight without incident. It's a short hop from Salvador to Belo Horizonte, only 90 minutes. (It would have taken 12 hours to drive it.) With the time change, we arrived just before 9:00. Vans had been hired to meet us and take us to the hotel, but since the earliest we could check in was 2:00, we arranged to rent a van for the day and putter around town. Randy and Jenn were going to meet us at the airport, return their rental car and spend the day with us. We hooked up with our van driver without any trouble, but Randy and Jenn were AWOL. Alicia and I stood in the arrivals area forever but they didn't show. Messengers kept getting sent from the van to let us know the driver really really needed to get on with things, but we didn't have any way to get a hold of them. Just as I was getting ready to send the van on without me, Alicia spotted Randy and Jenn across the airport. They had made a wrong turn and spent an hour lost in downtown Belo Horizonte. When I got to the van, I discovered the reason the van driver was so antsy- he wasn't our driver for the day. He was going to take us to the "grocery store" and we would meet our other driver. But, he kept asking, why do you want to go to the grocery store on the other side of town? There are lots of closer stores. We didn't back down. The grocery store on the other side of town was Wal-Mart. There was no way we were missing that!

We spend a couple glorious hours at Wal-Mart (which, for the record, is still mostly full of Brazilian stuff) and then crossed town again to eat at TGIFriday's. It wasn't one of my favorite restaurants in the US, but we were all thrilled to eat tater skins and buffalo wings. Heavenly. The restaurant was empty but we completely overwhelmed it. Our waitresses spoke English, and said they'd had Americans come in before, but usually just a couple of businessmen. I hope they enjoyed us as much as we enjoyed our time there!

After stuffing our faces, we loaded up one more time to go to the hotel. It's a "farm hotel", so it was a ways out of town. Quite a ways. Down windy, bumpy roads. Somehow, even with our full tummies, no one got sick. (There wouldn't have been room for anyone to get sick- the van was stuffed with suitcases and people.) But we made it on time and were eager for the conference to start.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Where Does the Time Go?

I cannot believe that it's already January 8. In two months and five days we will be celebrating the first anniversary of our arrival in Brazil. It's incredible.

But before I start getting all sappy, I'll fill you in on what we've been up to:

We had a great time with the Quireys. We took them all over town, out to see the sea turtles, to the beach twice (including the day they left!) and to several great restaurants. We also had some wonderful meals at home. It was awesome to get to gather around the table with them. Their visit really filled our hearts (and pantry!). There's been a lot of people here, but there are no visitors like your own family! We've almost got the apartment back to normal.

Our church building is now a done deal. We have keys and everything. I have to confess that I was holding my breath until we had the keys in hand. But now it's official and the task of fixing it up is now before us. As one of the "budgeteers", I have to make a lot of judgement calls- money is tight and we can't do everything at once. As anyone who has done any renovating knows, it doesn't take much to eat up a budget. Please pray for widsom as we try to determine our priorities.

We have to get up EARLY tomorrow morning to catch our plane to the missionary conference in Belo Horizonte. I'm very excited for the opportunity to hang out with the other missionaries, pick their brains a little and have some fun.

When we get back, visitor season continues. Randy's parents and Travis' dad will be with us. (I forgot to mention we've had Mary Virginia's parents here this week.) The steady stream of visitors has meant a steady stream of marshmallows, but now it will also mean more hands to help with the building.

Thinking of marshmallows, yesterday Russ and I made s'mores with marshmallows that the Maberys brought, graham crackers that the Quireys brought and FRESH Hershey's chocolate that two of our supporters, the Duncans, sent with the Quireys. Now that's teamwork!

Well, off to pack. It's our first trip since we got here, so I'm a little out of practice packing. It's been a nice change from living out of suitcases like we had been, but I don't know where we stashed all our travel stuff. Please pray for the team as we travel!