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!