Sunday, April 29, 2007

From the Road: Myrtle Beach, SC

Well, technically we're not in Myrtle Beach, we're south of the crazy tourist stuff but we've been in several different small towns (house in one, church in another, restaurant in yet another), none of which most of you have heard of, so it's just easiest to say Myrtle Beach. This was the leg of the trip of which I was most uncertain. We had only been to the Grand Strand church once, on a Wednesday night, three years ago. We just didn't know very many people. But we received a very warm welcome and have had a wonderful time.

In the morning we'll pick up a rental car and make our way up to Raleigh to see my Grandma Turner. I have so many memories of our family vacations to Raleigh and I've loved being able to visit as an adult with Russ. We'll get back to Texas on Wednesday where we'll be reunited with our car and the rest of our luggage! Then it's on to Oklahoma for Matt's graduation!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

From the Road: Denison, TX

It was really hard to leave Athens. We had so many great relationships there. We're already talking about "next time".

Last night we drove through very heavy rains to make it to Basil and Rachel's house. It's great to see them again. Tonight we went to church with them and got to sneak in their worship team rehearsal and just sing for an hour. It was wonderful.

Tomorrow we get to repack and head back into Dallas. Friday morning we will fly to Myrtle Beach. I can't believe that we have only been on the road for three weeks. It seems like much longer because we've been so many places and seen so many people. We're sleeping in our eighth bed tonight. I won't list a rating of all the beds--we can't seem to agree on what sort of bed is most comfortable, plus we don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. We're just so grateful for all the hospitality we have been shown.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Monday, April 23, 2007

From the Road: Abundantly Fed in Athens

It's a relatively standard sitcom plot: the couple overcommits themselves on Thanksgiving and ends up running from meal to meal. After each meal, they are progressively fuller but know they need to make an efort at the next place.

I can now relate.

We've had a wonderful time in Athens and we've felt so loved and taken care of. Especially when it comes to food. These ladies can cook. The ones that haven't cooked for us have taken us to the best restaurants. I'm going to miss all these great meals (and the company we have shared them with!) but my waistline sure won't!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Better Luck Next Time!

Last night was a fun change of pace. We drove over to Arlington with our friend Kody and Kristie to watch the Rangers get clobbered by the A's. I mean, the plan was to watch the game...the sound defeat was unexpected. We missed the first inning but the second was the inning to watch: the A's were 8-0. It all went downhill from there. But we had a great time and ate WAY too much ballpark food. (Though I figure if you only make it to a game once every few years, who cares if you have a hot dog, cheese fries, popcorn and some cotton candy? I *did* drink water the whole time, so I wasn't all bad!) We only have a few days left in Athens and then it's back to our breakneck travel pace. These few days in the same place have been nice!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

From the Road: Athens, TX

This week it's been hard not to feel like darkness is winning. The news from Virginia broke our hearts and I continued to be sickened by the blame game everyone is playing. Evil happens. Darkness exists in our world. Bad things will always happen until Christ returns.

But we have had some glimmers of light, too, during our stay in Athens. We have had the joy of watching three special baptisms. Sunday, we watched one of the elders at church baptize his elderly mother. "Don't ever stop praying," he said to the congregation. Tonight after church, we watched as a member of the youth group and her mother put on Christ. What a beautiful moment for family to share! I count these as victories in our war against the darkness.

It has been wonderful to be reunited with our friends and family at Eastern Hills. We didn't get as much time as we would have liked with them before we moved to Brazil but we have some wonderful connections with people. We have spent the past few days getting loved on and absolutely spoiled. I'm doing my best to avoid gaining the "furlough fifteen" but I don't know how much longer I can keep it up!

Monday, April 16, 2007

After a very long weekend, a little rest

The last 3 days have been tough. We saw our sponsors for the first time (during a tornado warning) followed by a dinner and hail in Dallas. We spent a long day (8 to 5) telling them about all the things the church had experienced in the past year. Then we drove back to Athens and slept a bit before preaching today! Now we can relax and share some meals with our friends here without another move for at least a week. It seems like we are a month into this trip, and it has barely begun! Many of our sponsors were very encouraging, despite a handful of problems and a depressed exchange rate. We prayed and shared hugs with them all. To those working on our behalf in Bahia: you are being held up in prayer! Keep on truckin. Thank you to everyone who made this trip possible. We promise to give you our very best effort. We love you, and good nite!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Welcome Home

There are so many things we miss when we are in Brazil. We often talk about the various things our mouths crave or experience that we wish we could have. Then there are the things that we forget we miss. Last week's snow, for example, was a welcome (though cold) treat. Tonight we had a chance to be reunited with another meteorological friend.

We are in Dallas for the Sponsoring Church Workshop. We were resting a bit before the dinner tonight and flipped on the TV. A spring storm was headed our way and it looked to be pretty bad. We decided to head out a few minutes early to try to beat it to the church. As we stepped out the door of the hotel, the tornado sirens went off. I spent long enough living in Oklahoma to be completely unfazed by that fact and we headed off to the church. After a brief parking lot conversation about whether it was better to be parked under the large tree or far away from it, we walked inside through light rain. Two minutes later, large hail started. We chatted with everyone for about five minutes and then were herded into the safest room in the building. After a little bit, we were back on schedule and had a nice dinner. Now I'm sitting in the hotel lobby listening to details of all the damage on the TV news.

I didn't know that I could miss tornadoes. And really, it's not tornadoes I miss--it's the adventure of it all. I have some fun memories of hanging out in the Mayfair basement. I know that Russ has even more tornado memories--they were such a big part of his childhood. Even though storms like this are scary and do a lot of damage, the fact that we had tornadoes tonight makes me smile a little bit. It feels like God has been using the weather to say, "Welcome home!"

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

From the Road: Las Cruces

Learning Portuguese has helped us understand more Spanish. Driving around town, I can figure out what a lot of things mean. But learning Portuguese has absolutely killed any chance we had of pronouncing Spanish correctly. What comes out is such a jumbled mess that always errs on the side of Portuguese. And being in Las Cruces we have a lot of opportunities to use Spanish words (yes, most of those words are enchilada and queso but I'm still having trouble!)

We are having a great time with Susan and Joel. Yesterday Susan and I had some good sister time (read: shopping) and Russ and Joel went hiking in the mountains. (I'm glad that our husbands share the love of adventure that we wives just don't have. We tolerate adventure, sometimes we even participate in it. We just don't live for it.)

Tomorrow we hit the road again but I'm trying not to think about it. It's really easy for me to get so caught up in what's next that I don't enjoy what's now. Hmm...I think that's true most of the time, not just on furlough. Today should be easy to enjoy: we're going to the farmer's market and to bookstores. I miss bookstores so much--it's going to be hard not to overindulge!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

From the Road: Blackwell, OK

The snow finally stopped. It didn't stick but it was quite a sight. Our poor bodies are chapped from head to toe. I keep buying new moisturizers and chapstick, trying to find one that will do me some good. Everyone promises that it will be warmer by Monday but on Monday we are headed somewhere (theoretically) warmer. (Though at this point I have heard so many promises about weather that I'm not sure that I won't need my jacket.) We've now been to Oklahoma City and Stillwater. We've eaten at Ted's and Eskimo Joe's and too many other places to mention. In fact, tonight I had my first homecooked meal since we arrived.

I'm sitting in the church office in Blackwell using the secretary's computer (shhh...don't tell!) while my mother-in-law gets ready for Sunday School in the morning. I thought I'd take advantage of this opportunity to catch up on my email and fill everyone in on what is next. So here you go--the infamous schedule:

Monday, April 9--to Las Cruces, NM (sorry, Ginger, we're flying)

Thursday, April 12--to Dallas, TX for the Sponsoring Church Workshop

Saturday, April 14--to Athens, TX

Wednesday, April 25--to Denison, TX

Friday, April 27--to Myrtle Beach, SC (yes, we have supporters there, we're not just going on vacation!)

Monday, April 30--to Raleigh, NC

Wednesday, May 4--to Dallas, TX

Thursday, May 5--to Stillwater, OK for Russell's brother's graduation (those who know him will appreciate the significance of this event!)

Monday, May 7--to Branson, MO

Friday, May 11--to Winnipeg, Canada

Thursday, May 17--to Wichita, KS

Saturday, May 19--to Oklahoma City, OK

Saturday, June 2--back to Brazil!

(We're going to sneak up to Tulsa at some point, too, but we're not exactly sure when yet.)

Just typing that schedule exhausted me. As you can well imagine, we need your prayers to get through this marathon. Please pray for good health, lots of energy and safe travels. Pray that we get to see exactly who we need to see and that we say all that needs to be said. Please pray that we make the best use of all our resources, especially time and money. And finally, please join us in thanks to God that we get to make this trip. We already have had such wonderful time with our friends, family and supporters.

Have a wonderful Easter!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Notes from the Road

This is just a quick note to say that we arrived safely in Oklahoma. This weekend is Stillwater & Blackwell (Oklahoma) and then Monday we're off to Las Cruces. I really promise I will post our schedule (RYLAN!) but I need to be staying somewhere with a computer to do that. Right now I am borrowing the computer of someone who should be working.

Let me just say, it is COLD. It's snowing today in Oklahoma. I only have two pairs of long pants with me and one pair of closed-toed shoes. Brrr...

Monday, April 02, 2007

All Kinds of Things

Don't ask if we're packed yet. We're not.

We just dropped Samson off at Travis and Alicia's. Their daughter, Ceara, loves him. Their cats do not. We're confident they'll find a way to work it out.

Yesterday we had our first anniversary celebration at church. We set a new record--102 people. Last year, our inaugural service was mostly brothers and sisters from the other Churches of Christ in the city. This year there were only a couple of people from those congregations. The crowd was made up of our members, their friends, family and neighbors, and dozens of contacts we have generated: English students, language teachers, doctors. Three visitors stand out in my mind:
1. Vivian--Vivian was one of the LST students. She studied while the campaign was here and then she and I studied together for a while. Once the English classes started up again after summer break, she came back with several friends. Yesterday she visited our worship for the first time. Our perseverence paid off.

2. Palmira's husband--Palmira is a sister from one of the other congregations who visits us occasionally. She's an older woman who has dealt with a lot of tough things this year. Yesterday when she walked in the door she was beaming. Her husband came to church with her for the first time ever.

3. Zoraide's nephew--Zoraide is another LST student. She and I have spend many hours together. She's been coming to group classes again, too, and has started bringing her nephew with her. She explained to us that he won't come with her to her church (she is Seventh-Day Adventist) but he was willing to come to ours. We're happy to have him.

(My apologies that I don't have names on the tip of my tongue. Yesterday was a flood of names and faces, not to mention the fact that my brain is full of travel plans!)

If you were to ask my teammates which visitors stood out to them, they would probably tell you different stories--stories of persistence paying off--but with the same sense of amazement that I have. It is incredible to see what God has done in one year.

We had a potluck lunch after worship and gave people the opportunity to share how ICOS has touched their lives. Many tears were shed. We were reminded of how many life transitions we have been able to be a part of--births, deaths, weddings and new and renewed commitments to Christ. Above all, people spoke of the love they feel as part of the true family that exists there. There aren't words I would have rather heard right before I left for furlough. God has created something wonderful at 35 Holy Spirit Street. It's something that people want to be a part of and, even better, want the people they love to be a part of. To God be the glory!

And that brings me back to tomorrow. We leave just after lunch for the big trip. It's unbelievable to think that we will be gone for two months. When I look at our schedule I wonder if we'll be able to pull it off. There are so many people that make what we do possible and we want to thank them all personally. If you're not one of the people we're going to see, let me tell you right now--THANK YOU! We are utterly dependent on the actions of God and other people. Without people writing checks, writing emails, sending candy and praying for us, we wouldn't be here. Even the littlest bit makes such a big difference for us. We thank you and the family of ICOS thanks you, too.

And now, off to pack!