Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Furlough 2008: Athens, TX

Wow, I'm such a slacker these days! I wish I had some interesting excuse but I don't. So one of my "goals" for the new year (much more motivating for me than "resolutions") is to catch up and stay caught up in my blogging/emailing/sending out newsletters. Yes, techincally it's not the new year yet, but I figure this is just as good at time as any to start. So back to telling you about our furlough...

From Kansas City, we drove down to Athens, TX, making a quick overnight stop in Tulsa to stay with Don and Donna Millican. We spent a month or two living with them when we were fundraising so it was great to get to visit with them again.

We arrived in Athens on Saturday night and Russ preached the next morning. I took Jackson to the nursery and happily stayed to play with him (by that point I'd heard THE sermon several times). I want to take a moment here to say how much I enjoyed being in the land of church nurseries and cradle roll classes. Jackson loves getting to hang out with other kids and he really loves singing (Our kid loves singing? Go figure!). And Mommy? She enjoys the break! Some of my most precious furlough memories are slipping into the pew next to Russ after making sure Jackson was settled in the nursery and being able to focus solely on worship.

Jackson and his "Tia" Candy

Back to Athens: This time we stayed with Gary and Candy Landis, who took care of us like family. Candy insisted on babysitting for us one night while we went to one of our many dinners. And Gary and Candy live on Cedar Creek Lake so the week was filled with fishing and trips on the Waverunner in just perfect fall weather.

That's not entirely true. The week was filled with eating, eating, eating--we just squeezed in time for the other stuff! It's always the same: when we get to Athens, the sweet folks at Eastern Hills have us over or take us out for meal after meal. I think we both gained a few pounds that week. Not that I'm complaining! There are some awesome cooks at Eastern Hills!

Time on the lake and desserts aside, I have to say what a blessing Eastern Hills is to us. Russ and I spent so long trying to find a church that would oversee our work. We had raised the majority of our funds but still lacked that critical piece of the puzzle. It's quite fitting that this time we stayed at the Millicans right before we went to Athens, because that's where we were living when we heard about this church in the middle of nowhere that was interested in us. At that point, we were happy to have any church willing to sponsor us but even now, we are constantly reminded how blessed we are to have this church. Whenever we are back in Athens, we're reminded how wonderful the members, staff and elders of Eastern Hills are. We spend our time with our family at EH in both deep spiritual conversation and laughter, which is just the way I like it! Every time we visit, we leave marveling at the goodness and faithfulness of our God for providing us with such a great church!

We spent two Sundays in Athens and then got up Monday morning and headed to the Dallas Metroplex for more adventures...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

We've got a little lull in our Christmas celebrations and I wanted to take the opportunity to wish everyone a merry Christmas! We've had two out of three present opening sessions (one via Skype with the Quireys, one by ourselves) and we're waiting for the Turners to wake up so we can open more presents with them watching the webcam. (I have to say that I'm tempted to call and wake them up--for old times' sake!--but I know they wouldn't be as amused by it as I would be! Anyway, it means Jackson has time for a nap before we talk to them.)

Christmas is one time when the differences in our `family traditions are blatantly obvious so we have had to reach a compromise. Last night we had Christmas eve dinner Quirey-style, with maple-glazed pork and roasted vegetables. This morning we had more of a Turner-style breakfast with french toast, bacon and mandarin oranges. (Although for the breakfast to be truly reminsicent of my childhood there should have been many candy canes consumed as well!)

We'll spend the rest of today enjoying new traditions, like going to the pool. The weather's been unseasonably cool (Oh no! 85! Could it be?!?) and rainy but today looks like it'll be a little better.

Whereever you are, whoever you get to celebrate with, may it be a wonderful day, full of love and blessings, as all over the world people are stopping to remember our Savior's birth!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


I'd like you to meet Geraldo and Maria Lucia.

One Sunday morning a few months ago, they were sitting outside when we got to church. He had definitely been drinking (it was nine o'clock in the morning) and it was obvious that they had both had really hard lives. They disappeared but a couple of months ago they showed up again and started coming regularly. Geraldo started studying the Bible with Randy and Maria Lucia sat in from time to time.

Midweek, we found out that Geraldo had decided to be baptized. We were so excited. The baptism was scheduled for Sunday after worship.

But that's not all--on Saturday, Maria Lucia decided that it was time for her to be baptized as well!

So that would make a great ending to the story. But there's something else...something HUGE!

You see, Geraldo and Maria Lucia are a sweet couple and they've been together for a while. But they'd never gotten around to getting married. As they thought about their new lives in Christ, they realized that their living situation wasn't what God wants. So they decided to follow up their baptisms with a wedding!

We had some decorations from a previous wedding and Jenn picked up some flowers and cake and we threw a nice little wedding together. Geraldo and Maria Lucia were so blown away by the way they were treated. They couldn't stop thanking us. I told them that now that they're part of our family in Christ, it's our job to take care of them!

Please join us in prayer for our new brother and sister. Pray that they will strive to honor all the commitments they made on Sunday. Pray that we can find ways to help keep them strong in their faith and their marriage.

One other cool thing about Sunday was that it was our ninth wedding anniversary! It's hard to believe nine years have passed already! (I would post some old picture of us but I can't seem to find one on our hard drive.)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

While our friends and family have been dealing with snow, ice and sleet this week, we've had our own flurry of diapers and Pedialyte, trips to the pediatrician and emergency room, BRAT diet and probiotics. My fingers are crossed, but I think he's on the upswing now. Don't worry, it's nothing serious--looks like just a run of the mill case of diarrhea.

But I have the luxury of saying that. As "rich" people, living in a developed area, with health insurance and immediate access to hospitals and doctors, a case of diarrhea is, for the most part, inconvenient. If Jackson lived another life, it could have killed him.

So last night, as I changed yet another diaper, all I could think was how blessed we are.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Prayers Answered

When we left Brazil to visit North America, one of our biggest requests for prayers was the falling exchange rate. Our dollar had slipped from over 2 reais = 1 USD to less than 1.50 reais per dollar, and we were all wondering how long we could pay our bills and rent a church facility. I checked today, and we are sitting just below 2.50 reais = 1 USD. It is really amazing, and we are all holding our breath to save and save for the drop we assume will come before presidents are inaugurated and oil production is cut. We thank all of you for your prayers; our money has not been worth this much since the month that we signed our apartment lease almost four years ago! We are cautiously optimistic that we can make the next 12 months count in our giving and in our saving. Thanks to all who gave extra and even beyond the special contributions to help us stay here in Salvador.

Another small blessing is that our McD's has started serving breakfast! There are no pancakes, but it still makes us smile to have some option beyond yogurt and corn flakes. We made our first trip to a newly-opened Outback steakhouse this week, and it was awesome. Anyway, enough about how life is starting to resemble our former home country. We miss everyone during the holidays, especially our families. We love and thank God for the grandparents that make the biggest sacrifice - distance and time away from our son. Egg McMuffins and cheese fries cannot take all the hardship out of being foreigners here, but it does help us get through the tough times! Keep those prayers and letters coming!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Christmas Party


Today we had our English Class Christmas Party (a.k.a. An Excuse for the Missionaries to Make/Pig Out on All Their Favorite North American Christmas Treats). We had about 40 people show up for the party, which also serves as our wrap-up for English classes for the year. I have to say I'm looking forward to having a couple of months without English class to consume my Sunday afternoons and Wednesday nights! We had fun celebrating the season with our students. The party marks the beginning of the Christmas season for us; next Sunday will be even busier with our churchwide Christmas picnic and children's play. There will also be a youth Christmas party and a staff party. It's a busy time but we enjoy it!

In other news, Russ, Heather and I had an exciting treat last night: Outback Steakhouse! It just opened this week so we braved the crowds to go partake in a bloomin' onion and free refills. It wasn't cheap but I would gladly do it again!

Thinking of money, the exchange rate right now is awesomely in our favor. We've asked you to pray about it in the past so now we ask you to turn those into prayers of thanksgiving! And while you're at it, my mystery skin issue is back. One of our members, who is a doctor, saw it today and is now on the case. We think it's some sort of allergy but it's elusive so it may take a while to figure it out. In the big picture, it's not a huge problem, but it is definitely inconvenient and uncomfortable (not to mention that it's a little embarrasing having scaly hands and/or swollen eyes, depending on the day!). So please be praying that we find an answer soon!
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(posted by Val--I don't know why it's saying this is Russell!)

Thursday, December 04, 2008


Isn't it amazing how God seems to send us little reminders throughout the day to help keep us on track? His timing is uncanny (what else do you expect from someone both omniscient and omnipotent?) and I have to admit that a couple of times this week I have not just been reminded but humbled.

Sunday morning Randy was finishing up a sermon series entitled Being a Servant in a World of Bosses. The message was about how we need to find ways to help people everywhere: those in our immediate vicinity, people here in Salvador and people throughout Brazil and the rest of the world. As he was concluding his message, we heard some loud voices in the doorway. It was a group of about a half dozen men and one women, all noticeably poor and most quite noticeably drunk. One of our members greeted them at the door and invited them to come in and sit down. They not-so-quietly sat while we finished our worship time.

A couple of minutes after they arrived, I heard noises coming from the kitchen. Several of us stay on Sundays for a communal lunch so I went back to see who had started cooking. I discovered Leandro (recently baptized) and Lurdes (still working on her!) cooking away.

"Oh good," I said. "You've started lunch!" (Often we don't get lunch ready until 1:30 or later and my English class starts at 2:00, leaving me with very little time.)

"No," Leandro said. "This food is for the people who came in. They're hungry and we can't let them walk away that way! This is our chance to serve."

What timing!

And then today: I was in a mood this morning. Nothing was where I needed it to be. No one was doing what I wanted them to do. I was especially annoyed at our maid, Antonia, for no particular reason other than the usual list of petty annoyances. (Anyone who has had a maid in Brazil will understand!) But today it was just too much. I was grumpy and short with Russ, Jackson and Antonia.

I decided to go take a shower while Russ tended to Jackson. When I got out of the shower I went to do some work in the kitchen where Antonia was also working. As we worked she started telling me how much she appreciates the way we treat her. She said that she thinks of us as "Mom and Dad" (even though she's a few years older than us and has two kids!). She was just marveling at our kindness, how we brought her and her boys back gifts from furlough and how we share things we don't need/want anymore with her.

Again, that timing! I was so humbled.

I'm trying hard these days to be who God wants me to be, to leave behind all the worldly values that seem to have rubbed off on me. God seems to be taking me at my word and giving me plenty of opportunity to stay on track!

edit: I need to say that I am truly grateful for Antonia and the help she is to me, as well as for the monthly help that someone gives us to employ her. We "survived" for our first couple of years without a maid so I truly appreciate the blessing she is, especially now that we have Jackson. There are days (like last week) that I am frustrated with the way she chooses to do things but I wouldn't trade her for anything!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Just to Make You Smile

I'm working on my next post about furlough but I'm also hard at work cleaning our apartment. Apparently I'd never really gotten it back in shape after I was on bedrest so it was pretty bad. But I'm gradually making progress!

In the meantime, you can enjoy this little clip of Jackson laughing. Katie, this one's for you!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Furlough 2008: Kansas City

When we said we were going to Kansas City, we were frequently asked, "Who do you know in Kansas City?" and "Oh, do you have a (supporting) church there?". The answer was a resounding NO. We had no family, friends or supporters there and that's exactly the way we wanted it. While we love spending time with all the people who love us, it was important for us to spend some family time together just relaxing. (We did discover a college buddy of ours lives in KC so we made an exception for him which paid off big time when he helped us find great BBQ!)

It's hard to say what I enjoyed most that week. I had a phenomenal pumpkin pie concrete. But as a family, we probably most enjoyed the College Basketball Experience and the zoo, even though Jackson slept through a good part of it! So here are a few of the highlights (minus the pumpkin pie concrete--I didn't take a picture of it!):

The College Basketball Experience

The Kansas City Zoo

(Can you tell I'm in love with my new collage tool?)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Furlough 2008: The Carolinas

Okay, back to furlough. We had a lovely couple of days in Raleigh with my Grandma Turner. Jackson absolutely loved her little dog, Buster. I believe that Buster counts as Jackson's great-uncle, as he is Grandma's baby, making him my uncle. But no one in the family seems to agree with me on that one (especially my dad, who doesn't seem to want to consider a dog his "brother"). Jackson and Buster were about the same size so they played well together.

That Friday we drove down to the Myrtle Beach area. We love getting to spend time with our friends at the Grand Strand church. On Saturday night we got to visit with one of the small groups and Russ preached Sunday morning. We enjoyed some AWESOME Mexican food with our hosts, Chuck and Barbara, and then headed back to Raleigh. The next day we spent a little more time with Grandma and then flew back to Kansas City.

When we set our furlough schedule, I tend to think in terms of what is possible and not what may or may not be a good idea. As it was, I felt like I edited the "possible" but I think that next time we'll do even less and try to spread it out more. This leg of the trip we covered around 3500 miles in about a week. That was way too much. Fortunately we had vacation coming up.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bats in my Bedroom

Well, I guess we have been gone awhile when our teammates have to chase bats out of our house before we return! Our son now proudly displays two teeth (bottom front), and we both have the tired faces to prove it. We are still dealing with the heat and the time change, so please keep us in your thoughts...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Well, we're back in Brazil. As many people have kindly pointed out, I barely blogged while we were stateside. But now we're home and getting this blog up-to-date is on my to-do list. It may take some time, though, because Jackson is infinitely more mobile than when we left and we're frantically babyproofing of our apartment. To tide you over, I thought I'd share these pictures with you. We had them taken at Portrait Innovations our first week of furlough when Jackson was almost seven months old. (I highly recommend Portrait Innovations!) Now he's almost nine months and it's amazing how much he's changed in the past two months.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Furlough 2008: Winnipeg, Raleigh

I can't believe I didn't update from Winnipeg. We had a wonderful time with my family. My younger brother and my sister and her husband came to town, as well as all my grandparents. Jackson had a great time getting to know the family. It was also such a blessing to get to see my extended family again--all the people at the church in Winnipeg who are my surrogate aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents.

Monday, we left Winnipeg and headed down to Kansas City. It's amazing how different it is to travel with a baby! In the past, the trip to KC would have taken us one day. With Jackson, we spread it out into an easy two days. Then yesterday morning we got up early and flew to Raleigh, NC. We're staying with my Grandma Turner for a couple of days and then are headed to the Myrtle Beach area.

We all seem to be holding up okay. Jackson still doesn't like long days in the car. I think that he doesn't understand why he can get out of his carseat on the plane but he can't in the car. He's so mobile now that being confined is torturous for him. We make sure to give him lots of opportunities to work his wiggles out when we stop. Thankfully we don't have too many more long driving days ahead of us--just a lot of short ones!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Our Family is Lots of Fun

We said goodbye to the 90-year-old great-grandfather today, as he left for Ontario. The American great-grandmother left earlier this morning. I (Russell) was one of those lucky people that grew up with one of my great-grandparents, and to see my son playing with six of eight was very special. We are thankful to everyone, including our team, who let us come and share Jackson with all of his family. We still have a week in Winnipeg as the leaves turn yellow, then it is back to America for the final month of travel. Patience to all who wait for our visit. We are having so much fun.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Furlough 2008: OKC, Stillwater, Blackwell

This is just a quick update while JT sleeps in. We got in Tuesday after a long day of flying. Jackson did so well. He got waaay more sleep than I did on the plane!

In OKC we got to: go to Target, go to church at Mayfair (Jackson's first time going to class!), go to Bunco with the girls, enjoy many meals with friends, get family pictures done and sleep a bunch recovering from the trip. And JT started crawling full force.

Then yesterday we drove up to Stillwater where R's mom works. She showed off the grandbaby and we ate at Hideaway Pizza and did a little clearance shopping at Old Navy.

Then we drove up to Blackwell, R's hometown. We all went out to the Kay County Free Fair. Jackson loved looking at the animals and we ran into lots of people we knew. I had an Indian taco and a funnel cake which made me happy, though today I wish maybe I had only had ONE fried item.

Today we'll hang out at "Grandma's house" (weird to call it that!) and tomorrow we'll go to church here in Bwell before heading on the big journey north.

Friday, September 05, 2008

A Little Stressed

Jackson, originally uploaded by russandval.

I'm going nuts trying to get ready for furlough. Russ and I were pretty good at packing our stuff up and heading out the door. Now we've got an additional person to worry about, a person who likes to take up our time during the day to keep us from getting stuff done and who, just this week, has decided that he doesn't like sleeping that much. Oh and he's got a cold. But we'll get it done and get on the plane on Monday whether our suitcases are full or not. (Anyway, aren't we supposed to leave for furlough with empty bags so we have room to fill them up?)

Several people have asked if we'll be coming their way or not, so I thought I'd post a rough schedule for everyone. I hate making our schedule because no matter what I have to leave people and places out. But we only have six weeks of furlough and two weeks of vacation and I love you all but we need our vacation time!

And this is a rough schedule--there are some travel and personal days I'm leaving out.

Sept. 9-Sept. 12 OKC
Sept. 12-14 Blackwell, OK
Sept. 17-29 Winnipeg
Oct. 1-3 Raleigh, NC
Oct. 3-6 Myrtle Beach, SC
Oct. 11-20 Athens, TX
Oct. 24ish-Nov. 10 Blackwell/OKC

So maybe we'll be near you, maybe not. We really would love to see as many people as we can but we're also trying to be aware of our limitations with the little guy. Drop us a line if you want to try to meet up!

Friday, August 29, 2008


Today we took Ceara back to her parents. We had a fun couple of days with her but it was nice to take her back. Having two under two was a bit much for me, especially the diaper part.

Today we did a little more of our pre-furlough shopping. Loaded up on coffee (to take with us) and dog food (to leave for Samson).

Today we got hit by a 20-foot sign that flew off the back of a truck. Thankfully Russ was paying attention and managed to swerve, avoiding us getting totally clobbered by it. It did take out one of our mirrors and left a big scratch on the side of the car. I was not paying attention and it hit the side right beside me. It definitely shook me up a little. But then we laughed and laughed at the absurdity of it.

Today I keep trying to finish my lesson for the women's class on Sunday and it just doesn't seem to be happening. Maybe I should do that instead of blogging!

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Jackson has a new friend! Last night Travis and Alicia's new baby BOY, Calen Xavier, was born. We're taking care of Ceara while they're in the hospital so today we took her up to meet her new brother.

She wasn't quite sure what to think at first but soon she was fascinated by him.

Now there are six kids on the team; four of them born within the past year or so. It's a whole new world!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

getting around to it

Sleeping baby in lap.

Typing with my right hand.

Feel incredibly guilty about not posting recently.

Apparently unable to use pronouns.

What we've been up to:
  • Inaguration of new building--about 80 people--cake, ice cream, good time
  • Took JT to a birthday party. Another one tonight

  • Team strategy review--two days reflecting on what we've done and need to do next
  • We've been having 25-30 people in my English class on Sundays
  • Furlough is almost here--less than two weeks--so much to do
  • Alicia is going to have a baby any day now

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Point Five

Oh, this kid.

Today Jackson is six months old. He's changed so much; it's hard to remember back to when he was this kid:

I remember wondering in those first couple of weeks how I was going to make it to six months. Six months was a far-off oasis--the promise of rest and a simpler life where I wouldn't constantly be worried about keeping this fragile newborn alive. Sometimes when things were tough, I divided the year into chunks: "We've made it one month--we just have to do that eleven more times and he'll be a year old!"

And now we're halfway there and I wonder where the time has gone. I now know that I'm always going to worry about him, only now instead of jaundice and his developing immune system I worry about all the ways he can get hurt interacting with the world around him. (He's not crawling yet but between scooting backward and running around in his walker, he finds all kinds of trouble to get into!) But the worry feels different now. When I take a minute to sit back and reflect on God's faithfulness to us, I am reminded that he's in good hands. Jackson's survival is not exclusively up to us. That's a big load off.

It's a good thing, too, because as we're discovering who JT is, it's become obvious that we're going to have our hands full.

Speaking of full hands, he just woke up. The Sunday rush has begun. But I had to say, "HAPPY POINT FIVE, JT!"

Friday, August 15, 2008

Check Him Out!

JT is getting so big. Check out his latest feat!

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Everyone, meet Leandro.

Leandro is a pretty cool guy. Today he became even cooler.

Because he did this:

Leandro has several relatives that are members of our church and he's been connected with us for a while through one of our small groups. A couple of months ago, he decided he needed to start studying the Bible so Travis started studying with him. Then while the gang from Auburn was here he was at the church constantly, hanging out with them and helping out any way he could, even though he speaks very little English and they spoke no Portuguese. It gave us all a chance to get to know him better. Last week he called Travis and told him he was ready to be baptized. Today the church gathered at the beach to watch him put on Christ.

It's a big decision for anyone. For a guy like Leandro, it's huge. He knows what the world offers. He knows what he's giving up. He doesn't have the support of his immediate family (his mom is a Jehovah's Witness). I ask you to thank God for helping Leandro make this decision. Please join us in prayer for his new life as a Christian. Pray that he can be strong in his faith and that we will be the Christian family he needs.
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Saturday, August 09, 2008

A New Challenge

For the past couple of months I've been battling a skin problem. I've made several trips to the dermatalogist to try to figure it out. I've been given different creams to try that have made it go away for a little bit but it always comes back. Last week I did allergy testing but it didn't reveal the source of the problem. So, it's back to experimentation.

This time, though, there's a difference. Instead of just a cream, I have some strict orders: no harsh soaps or chemicals and no makeup. Yup, that's right--no makeup. FOR TWO WEEKS!!

Some of you read that and shrugged. No big deal. But others of you probably winced.

I'm definitely in the second camp. I like to believe I wear "just enough" makeup--enough to roughly cover my flaws and call attention to the good parts. My makeup routine takes all of three minutes. When rushed, I will just throw on some eye makeup and lipstick and run out the door. If I'm dressing up, I might spend a whole five minutes on my face.

But I rarely leave the house completely bare.

So the next couple of weeks are going to be an interesting challenge for me. I will be showing the world 100% unfiltered Val. It's no big deal in my day-to-day life--hanging out at home with JT or meeting with teammates. But then I think about the big things--like our big Open House next Sunday--and I start to squirm.

I don't think of myself as a vain person but the fact that I'm so uncomfortable is making me even more uncomfortable. And I'm taking my discomfort as a sign that I need to do a little self-examination. Why am I so concerned with what everyone else will see? Why do I feel the need to cover my flaws and draw attention to the parts I think are good? Why does what's on the outside matter?

I haven't yet answered these questions. If I figure it out, I'll likely share it with you. (Unless it's intensely personal and then I might not.)

In other news, in one month from today we will be in Oklahoma. I am definitely ready for furlough.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Survey Sunday


Our invasion of Boca do Rio (the new neighborhood) continues! Yesterday was another free lunch and almost 100 people showed up! Today we sent out teams to survey the neighborhood. They asked people about their religious affiliation and, more importantly, what a church can do to best minister to this neighborhood. Travis has been preaching a series on the lessons we can learn from the book of Joshua and the church is excited to "conquer" our new neighborhood in God's name. So, for example, this week's survey was like sending spies out. Next week we'll spend time reflecting as a church on the time we spent in prayer and fasting. Everything is gearing up to our big grand opening of the new building in two weeks. Keep us in your prayers as we seek God's will for us in this new neighborhood.
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Sniff sniff

The "kids" go home tomorrow. It has been great having them here. They have brought so much life to everything and I've been so proud of them for connecting with their students in so many ways.

Those connections were evident last night. A couple of weeks ago at one of the weekly parties, a couple of the students came up to me and said they wanted to plan a surprise goodbye party for them. They said they'd handle all the planning--we just had to show up and bring a little food. It was an offer we couldn't refuse. We left the party in the hands of the students and they did a great job. When we showed up yesterday, the building was decorated, there was a table full of food and there was a whole evening of activities planned. First on the agenda was getting a little revenge for all the games the Auburn crew had made their students play. They painted their faces, made them sing the Brazilian anthem and gave them quizzes about Brazil. After that there were speeches and performances. It was a lot of fun and an excellent testament to how they touched the lives of so many people here.

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Friday, August 01, 2008


The playdate the other day seems to have worked! Jackson is getting the hang of playing with other kids. Just look as he demonstrates what he's learned from the "big kids" on poor Samuel.

Gickr helps you to pimp your myspace
graphic myspace at

But look at that angelic face! Surely he didn't mean it!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Time to Sing!, originally uploaded by russandval.

Team life has changed a lot in the past year. We've seen the birth of three babies and one more is due to show up in the next month. Once Travis and Alicia's new one is born, we'll have five kids under the age of two. We've decided to start getting the little ones together to play on a semi-regular basis.

Today we took advantage of our new building. English classes were going on downstairs, the men were having their leadership meeting in the office and we met in the kid's classroom. (That still left rooms empty!) It's so nice to have so much USABLE space!

We read books, sang songs, had dance time and did our best to keep the kids from killing each other. Jackson was a little overwhelmed but I figure he needs to get the hang of being around other kids before we go on furlough. (Can I just say that I'm looking forward to visiting churches with nurseries?)

Speaking of, our tickets are now set. We'll be leaving Salvador on September 8 and returning November 11. The countdown has begun!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Oh Wait!

I did have something deep to say today:

Just a little while ago Jackson and I were lying on the bed and I was singing to help him slow down enough to fall asleep. One of the songs was When the Night Is Falling. If you don't know it, the lyrics are:

When the night is falling
and the day is done
I can hear You calling, "Come!"
I will come while you sing over me.

When the night surrounds me,
all my dreams undone
I can hear You calling, "Come!"
I will come while you sing over me.

When the night would hide my way
I will listen until I hear you say,

"How I love you, child! I love you!
How I love you, child! I love you!
How I love you!"

When this life is over
and the race is run
I will hear You calling, "Come!"
I will come while you sing over me.

Jackson was lying beside me quietly, watching me sing. When I got to the chorus (the "how I love you" part) he decided he was tired of just lying there and rolled over. He looked up and gave me the biggest grin. My heart swelled (cheesy old expression but there's no other way to describe it!) and as I looked at my son and sang those words I swear I got a glimpse of just how much God loves us.

Except He loves us EVEN MORE THAN THAT!!!

What's Black and White and Red All Over?

I love neighborhood papers. When I was in my early teens, I had a job delivering our free neighborhood paper, The Lance, as well as a huge stack of flyers. (For the record, delivering a free paper doesn't pay very well!) I enjoyed reading The Lance because I could usually find the name of someone I knew in each issue. It made me feel connected and important.

When I worked at Mayfair Church of Christ, the church received The Oklahoma City Friday. Its target audience was "affluent Oklahoma City" and was mostly about the neighborhoods surrounding the church. It was always an entertaining read--full of details of debutante balls and the weddings of the rich and semi-famous. My favorite Friday activity was reading the police blotter which helped call attention to serious local crime issues like kids ringing the doorbell and running away, cars parked in the wrong place and the occasional band of gypsies.

We've started getting a new local paper called Nosso Bairro that covers our neighborhood of Pituba. It's always full of interesting facts about the neighborhood and the latest goings-on. Now I know what is probably going to be built where the old clube was, where the mini-favela is and that we really will be getting an Outback Steakhouse in a few months.

One of my favorite columns is written by a guy from São Paulo. He is able to reflect on Pituba and Salvador from an outsider's perspective. He talks about a lot of stuff that's unique to Bahia that we had already noticed.

His column this month was really interesting. He pointed out the number of holidays we've had since the beginning of the year. A holiday on a Tuesday means Monday will be off. A holiday on Thursday means Friday will be off. A holiday on a Wednesday means that Monday and Tuesday, or maybe Thursday and Friday, or possible all of those days, will be off. A holiday on the weekend means Friday is off and maybe Monday, too. And that doesn't even include recovery days, the days AFTER the holiday that you need to take off to get over your hangover or at least to travel back to town. As a result, there are a lot of days here that are useless for getting anything done. How many? According to this guy's count, of the 181 days from Jan. 1 to June 30, 68 of them have been weekends, long weekends or holidays.

SIXTY-EIGHT!!! That's more than 1/3! No wonder it takes forever to get stuff done here!

(I feel like I need to point out that our team policy doesn't give us all these days off. And we certainly don't get Sundays off!)

I don't really have a profound point to all this. I just found it interesting and wanted to share. So I'll cover up for my lousy conclusion by throwing in a video of playtime with JT.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Love in Action

Something is that is both a challenge and a blessing about our new building is the location. While we're on the beachfront avenue, our back door opens out into a neighborhood. We're trying to find ways to meet our neighbors' spiritual and physical needs. The new neighborhood, Boca do Rio, is full of opportunities for us to demonstrate God's love.

The past two Saturdays we've offered a free lunch of beans and rice. It was originally intended to be for pregnant women and moms and their kids but it expanded and we fed all kinds of people, including some grateful construction workers who had been sitting watching everyone eat.

The first Saturday was dark and rainy and no one quite knew what to think. Our members weren't sure what we were doing and didn't really show up to help. The neighbors weren't sure what we were doing and didn't really show up to eat.

But yesterday was different. We had members show up to help prepare food and to serve. And the neighbors came--we ran out of food in just over an hour.

This morning we showed some pictures from yesterday and it seemed like the rest of the church finally got it. We're already looking forward to the next time we get to share God's love with our community.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Five Months


This kid is five months old today. It's really hard to believe. He's getting to be such a big boy--he is now scooting backwards so we're having to start the babyproofing process. He is full of energy and joy and has a collection of girlfriends. I thank God for him daily.

In other news, I'm working at nailing down some dates for furlough. Does anyone know of a good place between Houston and OKC for a family of three to spend a couple days relaxing? We're trying to schedule in some down-time but have hit a wall while looking at the barren wasteland that is I-45.
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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

So I didn't post last night. I'm sure you found yourself thinking, "Well, she posted every day for a week. Now she probably won't blog for three weeks." If you did, you were WRONG!

Last night by the time JT got to bed I was just too tired. It had been a loooong day. There was certainly things I could have written about, like JT getting his Brazilian passport, how my paint buying experience was unusually quick and pleasant and how nice it was to go for a morning walk with the kid and the dog. But I passed out, knowing I would need all my strength today because JT got some shots yesterday.

But that's not what I wanted to say today. I was just making a yummy dinner of blueberry pancakes (made from muffin mix some nice person brought us) and thinking about last week's project. And as I thought, a song popped into my head. Songs pop into my head all the time but this one surprised me. I was surprised by which song it was but at the same time I was surprised that I hadn't thought of it sooner.

I guess I didn't think of it sooner because it never really meant that much to me. We sang it a lot growing up but the lyrics always seemed a little, well, trite. And then I had a bad experience where it was sung at an inappropriate time and I just got turned off ever wanting to sing it. And of course, living here, I'm losing my repertoire of English songs, though I am working through Songs of Faith and Praise with JT.

So what song was it?

Count your blessings, name them one by one.
Count your blessings, see what God hath done.
Count your blessings, name them one by one.
Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.

(Are you at least humming yet?)

Now it doesn't seem quite so trite (though I can't say I love all the lyrics). I understand the idea of it--in tough times, focus on what God has done. Seems pretty obvious to say it like that. But I think that in those times, we often get caught up in what we want God to do and not what he's already done. Remembering His faithfulness yesterday past will help us get through today. By tomorrow we'll be able to look back and recognize today's blessings that may not have been visible while things were so tough.

So I think I will post my blessings on a semi-regular basis. I also think I'm going to start writing about my reflections on the hymns I've been singing. When you haven't sung them in a while, the words take on new meaning. Hopefully the posting drought of the past few months is over--JT is getting much better at playing independently--and I'll be able to share more about our lives and ministry.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


1. Beginner class went pretty well this week. Last week's class was tough but the students seemed to pick up the material better today. Plus every time we start a new class we have a mix of new and old students and it takes a couple of weeks for everyone to start feeling comfortable with each other. (I'm still working on remembering everyone's names! I have a bad case of mommy brain!) Today everyone seemed to click and it was a lot of fun.

2. The same friend who helped us out on Friday came and jump-started us again. It's nice to know you can count on people! (Hopefully the car will go to the shop in the morning!)

3. This morning when I picked up the money I had found yesterday, I discovered it was R$300! (It wasn't money that we had lost, it was money for a specific purpose that I had put "in a safe place", which usually means I can't remember where it is. Anyway, the purpose was served so the money can now be used freely.)

4. Jackson was well-behaved today during English class. He spent the first part of class in the walker and the rest of it napping. What a blessing to have a kid that lets us get some work done!

5. Today we sat down and started trying to figure out our furlough schedule. We are so blessed to have so many awesome people to see. And we're blessed that we're able to make this trip!

As I wrap up a week of listing five blessings at the end of each day, I can definitely say that it has been a good exercise. I spent my days looking for blessings. When bad things happened, I did my best to recognize the blessings in them. Because, really, it's been a doozy of a week--I lost my debit card, our car died twice (once while out), Russ got sick and I'm stressed out from trying to plan furlough. But those aren't the things I go to sleep thinking about. At the end of the day, I've focused on the people I got to spend time with and the people I love, what a blessing my son and husband are, how God has worked in my life and french toast waffles.

I don't know if I can keep up posting this every day but I'll at least try for once a week!

Saturday, July 12, 2008


Oops! I was just about to crawl into bed when I realized I hadn't done my list yet.

1. I found some extra cash today. I'm not excited that it's free money; I'm excited that it's cash at a time that, due to a series of unfortunate events, Russ and I are both without our ATM/debit cards. It's going to be an interesting couple of weeks! But the important thing is I found R$200 as I was going through a drawer and we'll be able to use it for important things like baby wipes and, uh, food.

2. Velveeta and all the people that bring it to me. I love healthy food but there's just something about processed cheese, whether it be wrapped slices, powder or a 2 lb. brick! It's probably my ultimate comfort food.

3. I got to spend a LONG time today talking to my sister. We used to get to talk every day but now we're lucky if we connect twice a month.

4. Jackson is now big enough to play in the walker at church (though he can't really use it to "walk" yet). It's just another thing to keep him occupied when we're up there working. He had a ball playing in it!

5. All the tias (CHEE-ahs, aunties) visiting right now that help out with Jackson. He loves to flirt with them all!

5b. French toast waffles again today.

And just because it's been a while, here's a pic of Jackson at the Western-themed party the other night!

Friday, July 11, 2008


Tired. Hope these can be short and sweet.

1. Today I found out that some dear friends who have been praying hard for a better job situation have had their prayers answered. I'm so happy for them and am also thrilled because their new city will be much easier for us to visit while on furlough!

2. The cream the dermatologist gave me seems to be working. Oh plague, how I will miss you when you're gone!

3. Our car wouldn't start this morning (we discovered after we got all loaded up in it.) But there were lots of blessings to be found--the maintenance staff of our building was quick to try to help give us a push start (even though it's an automatic--they insisted we try. We humored them.), a friend who was home sick drove over to our place just to give us a boost, and we were able to get the car running with no trouble.

4. Jackson is such a sweet boy. I remind myself of this blessing on the rare days that he's a little grumpy. Most of the time, he is just the happiest little guy. God was kind to us!

5. Forcing myself to write these this week has been a blessing. I've started looking forward to it! (Well, almost. Tonight I was ready to crawl into bed and collapse when I remembered I needed to get this done.) I find myself looking for my blessings throughout the day. I'm going to finish out the weekend and then who knows? This might become a regular feature!

Thursday, July 10, 2008


When I went to bed last night after taking care of Jackson all evening, my one consolation was that Russ would be home in the morning to help out with Jackson. Unfortunately he woke up with a tummy bug so he wasn't much help. I had a hard time not being frustrated by the fact that I wasn't going to get some much needed down-time. So tonight's list isn't flowing as easily as it did earlier this week. But the fact that I've committed to list my blessings is making me realize that today wasn't as bad as I thought it was.

1. Tonight we had french toast waffles for dinner, which always makes me smile. The recipe is easy--soak your bread like you would for french toast but then throw it in the waffle iron. The results are amazing!

2. The dermatologist had samples of one of the medicines she wanted me to use. Our insurance is great but it doesn't cover drugs so they were much appreciated! She was very nice and dug around to find the samples for me. (If you're curious, it seems to be some kind of allergic reaction but I have no clue as to what is triggering it. I have a feeling there are are many more appointments at the dermatologist/allergist.)

3. Today Jackson got to Skype with his uncle Matt and his Grandma Q. I love the fact that our families' faces will be familiar to Jackson when he gets to see them in person.

4. Tonight as I listen to the rain and feel the "cold" wind, I can't help but be grateful for the roof over our heads. We see homeless people on a daily basis but it's still easy to take for granted just how blessed we are.

5. I'm thankful for the wonderful blessing of being from musical families and having a large repertoire of songs to sing to our little one. As I type this, we are singing JT to sleep as we do most nights. I pray that we can pass on to him our love of music, not to mention our love of God through the songs that we sing.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


I've been waiting until after JT is in bed to post but tonight Russ is out at a soccer game so I think I'll be ready to crash once the kid does. Incidentally, one of our teams is doing really well this year after finally making it back up to the top league so they're actually playing some of the best teams in the country. But I'm not going to count that as one of my blessings...

1. Jackson has been able to roll over for several weeks now but never really cared much to do it. Today he decided it was fun. Every time I turned around he would end up in a new position and keep playing happily. It's awesome and humbling to see the changes he goes through every day!

2. Russ, Jackson, Samson and I got to enjoy a nice walk this afternoon. The weather was absolutely perfect--not too hot, not too cold. We don't have many days like that!

3. We had our regular staff meeting this morning. Staff meetings used to be horrible affairs. Now they're usually quick and painless. I'm thankful for the ways God has matured all of us to help us work together better!

4. I got to enjoy lunch today with all the visitors. We had a back corner of the restaurant and had a great time visiting and laughing. I'll definitely miss them when they're all gone!

5. Both my precious grandmothers have birthdays this week. (They both read this blog so I won't mention their ages.) My grandmas are awesome. They both have lived incredible lives of ministry and service to everyone around them. Even though I have lived far away from them for most of my life, I can honestly say that without their influence and example I would not be who (or where!) I am today. I can't wait for Jackson to get to meet these two special women. (My grandfather isn't too bad either but his birthday isn't until November!)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Tonight's five:

1. This morning JT played nicely while I made myself french toast and coffee. Even better--he kept playing and let me consume it! I almost felt human!

2. Tonight I got JT laughing harder that I'd ever heard before. He ended up with a serious case of the hiccups but didn't seem to mind too much.

3. I am blessed with a husband who really does try to make me happy. I really do need to give him more credit for trying and focus less on his mistakes.

4. I'm so thankful that we're able to afford good insurance. We lived without insurance in the U.S. and it was terrible. Now I never have to worry if I need to go to the doctor for anything (as I am doing later this week about a mysterious skin condition). And I have ready access to great doctors unlike so many people in this city.

5. This afternoon as I sat and enjoyed a cup of coffee with Russ (while Jackson grabbed at everything on the table) we realized that we leave for furlough in exactly two months. This time my list of restaurants to eat at and stores to shop at has shrunk and my list of people to see has grown. I can't wait!

Monday, July 07, 2008


Well, ladies and gentlemen, I seem to be in a rut. I'm finding it a little hard to be a stay-at-home mom. It feels a little like the movie Groundhog Day--I'm living the same day over and over again. It's easy to focus on all the negative things that happen every day instead of the good. And so I'm challenging myself. This week I will take the time every day to share five blessings with you. If a week isn't long enough to get me out of my rut I'll do it even longer. So here goes:

1. I love our small group. I've said this before but it warrants saying again. It's the newest of all the groups so we're still working on getting comfortable with one another but already there is such an intense feeling of family (possibly because half the group is related!). I cannot wait to see how God will use this group to bless all of our lives.

2. Right now one of my favorite people is Cassi. She and her husband host our group but that's not the only reason I consider her a blessing. Almost every Sunday, Cassi takes Jackson during worship. She plays with him, walks around with him when he's fussy and holds him while he sleeps. She gives me a chance to focus on the worship. As you moms out there know, you can't put a price on that.

3. We have nine young Americans visiting right now. They are all such a breath of fresh air. I won't lie; visitors are a lot of work. But they are also such a source of encouragement for us.

4. Today I got to spend some time on Skype with my parents. It was an unexpected blessing on a Monday morning. I love that we live in a time when communication with the folks back home is so easy. It's wonderful to see their faces and to share Jackson with them.

5. This afternoon Russ and I got to watch Jackson discover that he could get his foot to his mouth. He was so into sucking on his toes and we just sat and watched him (and took pictures, of course!). Even though sometimes being at home with him is boring and lonely, I love getting to see all these firsts.

There, that was five. I already feel a little lighter. See you tomorrow!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

One More Thing

I forgot to mention the highlight of my day: this morning due to the convergence of all kinds of forces Russ and I actually got to SIT TOGETHER IN CHURCH. For a little while anyway. That may have been the first time that's happened since we moved here.

Sunday Afternoon


Jackson's face sums it up. By Sunday afternoon we are TIRED. As anyone in any form of ministry can attest, Sundays are not our day of rest. Saturdays aren't much better because we have all the buildup to Sunday. But by the time Sunday afternoon rolls around, we're exhausted.

But enough complaining!

It's really a blessing! We spent our morning in worship with our church family who, with every week that passes, seem more and more like real family to us. Then we went out to lunch with the gang from Auburn and Heather, the intern. (Sorry, Heather, I'll stop calling you Heather-the-intern soon!) They've been working hard teaching English--their time slots are all filling up and the church building is so full of life. Their students love them so much they spend hours just hanging out at the building. (Which, by the way, is another way this building is proving to be a blessing--with so many rooms, there's lots of places for people to hang out without disturbing other activities.) They're a great group of "kids" and Russ and I enjoy hanging out with them. I'll say that it's because it reminds us of the time we spent working in college ministry and not because we want to relieve our own college years. After lunch we headed back to the church where we had our beginner English class. We had close to twenty students, most of them new this year. Russ just told me that Fernanda, a teenaged girl that was there for the first time today, asked her mom if she could come to class and her mom said, "No! That place is a house of prostitution!" Fernanda insisted it had been cleaned up and is now a church and her mom agreed to come with her to check it out. Word is spreading about the transformation!

Now I'm sitting here, hoping that at some point I'll get the motivation to make some dinner. (I have a feeling that our rumbling tummies will soon provide the motivation we need!)

Sundays are tough but I wouldn't have it any other way! In fact, since I was a PK I don't know any other way to live! I wonder what it's like to have weekends to relax!
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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Campaign season continues! This week we welcomed a group from Auburn University who will be here for six weeks. They'll be teaching English using the Bible, an outreach that has been very successful for our church. Two of the girls were part of last year's campaign so it's great to get to see them again. They had a bit of a rough start because we had very heavy rain the night of their registration meetings but their schedules are slowly but surely filling up. Our new church building is full of life--it seems like everywhere you turn there are people! We're thankful to have the "kids" here and pray that God will touch the hearts of their readers.
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Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Fresh Start

First, let me get this out of the way...

...Sorry. I'm just so in love with Jackson. He is so full of joy and is a constant blessing. This week was a little rough for us, as he was sick on Monday and Tuesday and then I got sick Thursday and Friday. Thankfully there was a capable crew working up at the building and we got up there whenever we could. We got as much as we could done before our first worship service in the new place. We're far from done but I thought you might like to take a look:


became this:

And this:

now looks like this:

It's amazing what a lot of bleach and a few coats of paint can do! Like I said, there is much left to be done. We'll start making improvements on the rest of the building as time and money allow. If you're interesting in chipping in a bit to buy a gallon of paint or something, let me know!

Last night, I got to thinking about the fact that we would be having church in a new place and I got a little sad. It just didn't seem like it could possibly seem right. But somehow today it seemed really natural and it felt great.

On Tuesday the Highland crew takes off and the Auburn crew arrives. It just doesn't stop!

Friday, June 13, 2008

A Little Portuguese Lesson

Tomorrow is our next workday up at the building. (That's not to say there hasn't been almost daily work up there--tomorrow is just the next big church-wide workday.) I'd been hearing the guys throw around a Portuguese word in relation to our work up at the building: mutirão (moo-chee-ROWN). Based on context, I was able to get a general idea that it was something like a workday. I often figure out definitions of words as I go and rarely stop to look them up.

A couple of days ago I needed to actually look up the word and was pleasantly surprised to discover I wasn't entirely right. Mutirão: help that members of a community give each other.

Isn't that wonderfully descriptive? What a great word!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Welcome, Heather!


Last night we had a party celebrating Heather's arrival. The team women decided it would be a fun excuse to make all our American desserts so we had brownies, dump cake, Rice Crispie treats and several other things, including these bars, which are as good as they sound! It was fun to introduce our Brazilian friends to our favorites (and watch their faces as they try them!) but the best part was getting to eat them ourselves. Several of us were definitely experience a sugar-overload by the end.

Treats aside, we're so excited to have Heather here. She reads this blog, so I won't gush, but I do want to say that she is going to be a real blessing to our team and we're thankful that she made the sacrifice to come join us.
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Monday, June 09, 2008

Yesterday was an exciting sneak peek at the new building. We started our worship service in the old location and had songs, our children's time and a short sermon. Then we loaded everyone up and headed to the new place for the Lord's Supper, more singing and some special time in prayer about the move. As soon as we started the first song, Alicia and I looked at each other and grinned--the acoustics are incredible.

We only have one Sunday left in the old building. It's a very odd experience for me. I've never been a part of a church move before. My home congregation in Winnipeg was in the same building my whole life. (Or at least they were up until last month! But that story could take a dozen blog posts to tell...) We're leaving behind a lot of memories in the old place--so many "firsts", like the first wedding and the first baptism; so many new experiences for our team; sitting before worship and wondering if anyone was going to show up; all our language gaffs (not that there won't be many more in the new place!); all the different people who walked in the door. It was where our team first got to see our dream of a church realized.

But I know the new building will hold all kinds of new memories. The story in this building starts with a church family already in existence. In fact the more I think of it, I've got this story thing backward. It's not the story of this building or that location. It's the story of the church family. When my family moved to a new house, we didn't consider that our family was starting a new story, just a new chapter.

Goodness, I can't stop rambling today! I'll blame it on a rather long weekend. I'll stop talking and leave you with this picture of the gang in the new place. The work is obviously still in progress but you can already see the transformation that is taking place.

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008


note: I started this post a week ago and am going to try to finish it now. But I'm racing the clock, or rather, the baby--will he wake up before I finish?


JT is interacting more and more with his world. As you can see, his eyes are like saucers as he studies everything around him. He's very patient as we haul him around town on all kinds of adventures--to the annual city-wide worship, to the hardware store, to the market--and he's happy as long as he gets to see what's going on.

We had a great time with Russell's parents but it was much too short, as such visits always are. I'm happy to say that though Jackson was spoiled for two weeks straight, the damage doesn't seem irreparable and he's adjusting back to our quieter life.

I don't know how quiet life is going to be for the next couple of months, though. Our first Sunday in the new building will be June 22 so everyone is working feverishly to make it happen. Before then we have a campaign from Highland Church of Christ in Abilene coming for just over a week and the arrival of our intern, Heather. But wait--there's more! Right after we move in, a campaign from Auburn will arrive to spend six weeks teaching English, like last year.

The sign was moved from the old building to the new one yesterday and we drove by last night to have a look. It was kind of surreal but, at the same time, it looked "right" there.

An interesting thing about our new location (as if there wasn't already a million interesting things about it): Our old place was a former church and was located on Rua Espírito Santo (Holy Spirit Street). The new one is a former strip club and is on Rua Iemanjá, named after the goddess of the sea. A name is just a name and a questionable past can be overcome but it makes me wonder what adventures this location will hold for us!
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