Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Church ~ Christ's Bride

This was the theme for a three day conference celebrating eight years of existence for the church in Vargem Bonita, Minas Gerais.  One state north of us is the beautiful state of Minas Gerais where our dear friends Pastor Ricardo and Helena moved in January.

BJ was the speaker for the conference and our family tagged along to "matar saudades" (I've yet to find an american phrase that carries the same meaning, but literally it means to kill the feelings of 'I miss you'). 

The church is located in a small town of 2,000 people.  The headwaters of the San Francisco River are there.  Years ago the area was a huge diamond ranch.  So many people were panning for diamonds in the river they were changing the course of the river, so the government shut down the diamond operation.  Now it is illegal to pan for diamonds in that river. 

From there we traveled home and two days later headed to the far north, Belem (Bethlehem) in the state of Para.  This state is famous for Brazil Nuts and we were able to see many of the large, towering trees.  The cool, green mountains of Minas Gerais behind us, we entered the hot and steamy jungle where literally cities have been carved out of the mass of green jungle.

We visited the site of a new church plant to be started this coming year and met many Brazilian pastors.  It was exciting to see how the gospel has spread through that area and hear the burden the Brazilian pastors and missionaries have for their own people.

                                   These guys were our morning wake up call, bilingual parrots!

Friday, May 9, 2014


Tomorrow is the big day!  BJ graduates with his Doctor of Ministry degree.  Eight years ago in June this journey started.  He faithfully took class after class every time he was in the United States and by video here in Brazil. 

A year ago April he did what everyone said could not be done.  He wrote an almost 200 page dissertation in less than two months!  This past February he passed his oral defense with flying colors by telephone. 

The Lord has seen us through this journey to the end and we are so thankful!!  The Lord has a plan in all of this, may He find us faithful to carry it out.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Happy Birthday!

When BJ wrote in our last prayer letter that he had taken up a new birthday party ministry, he wasn't joking!  We literally just had three birthday parties in the last seven days, two of which he preached a gospel message.  This past week we celebrated all ages ~ 30, 15, and 3.

The biggest one by far was the 15th birthday party.  This is the party to beat all parties here in Brazil.  I realized just how big it was when I asked a girl at the party if she was next in line for her 15th.  She replied she had already celebrated her 15th.  I then asked her if she was turning 16 this year.  Her response was, "I think so, maybe 17.  I don't really know, after you turn 15 nobody keeps track!"

There is really nothing to compare it to in the United States.  It is a mix of Prom, Sweet 16 and Graduation Open House all rolled into one giant party.  Most parties cost more than our entire wedding cost!  This was a smaller scale party we attended.  Enjoy the pictures below.

Saturday, April 19, 2014


Six Christmases and five Easter's later I still want to curl up in a ball and disappear until the holiday is over.  Somehow I thought that with the passing of time, holidays in a foreign country without family would get hasn't.

Christmas with sweat dripping off your forehead and the thought of adding more heat by baking cookies?  No thanks!

Easter in the fall with no new spring dresses and no ham dinner?  What!?

Days like these I watch my culture run head on into the culture I am living in, and I don't like it one bit.  I want my white Christmas sipping hot chocolate with marshmallows in it.  I want my ham dinner with asparagus for Easter. 

Today Myla noticed a girl taking pictures of herself with her cel phone.  I told her it was the new fad, selfies.  Then I told her, but really it just says, all I think about is me. 

My selfie is coming through strong and clear this Easter Eve.  All I am thinking about is me and what I want and what I am missing out on. 

The truth is none of it matters one bit in light of eternity. 
The truth is, my sacrifice of the comforts of my culture are hardly a sacrifice worth mentioning. 
The truth is I need to get my focus off myself and onto my Lord and Saviour who gave me

Let this mind be in you,
which was also in Christ Jesus:
Who, being in the form of God,
thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
But made himself of no reputation,
and took upon him the form of a servant,
and was made in the likeness of men:
And being found in fashion as a man,
he humbled himself,
and became obedient unto death,
even the death of the cross.

Philippians 2:5-8

Friday, February 7, 2014

Anwered Prayers

So many of you have been praying day and night for our family, calling, emailing, messaging your love and encouragement.  We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. 

While our water and electricity situation continue unstable at best, BJ's health has had a dramatic improvement!  The doctor is very pleased with his progress.  He is running two last tests to make sure he has covered everything. 

I am happy to announce that BJ passed his oral defense for his Doctor of Ministry last night by telephone!  We give God the glory for all He has done these last seven years BJ has been working on this degree and know that He will see us through these last few months as he does his finishing touches on his dissertation. 

Next week we have the opportunity to attend a week long conference for missionaries.  We are very ready to relax and be fed by God's Word daily!!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


"We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed,
we are perplexed, but not in despair;
Persecuted, but not forsaken;
cast down, but not destroyed...
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment,
worketh for us a far more exceeding and
eternal weight of
2 Corinthians 4: 8-9;17

Dear Friends,

Though we know these verses to be true, when you are living them it can be difficult to say "our light affliction, which is but for a moment" when it feels like years.  Isn't it funny that when things are good, the days fly by and we hardly notice the passing of time.  But the moment things go wrong, life seems to slow down and those moments turn into years. 

These last forty days have felt like we were experiencing in some way Jesus' forty days of temptation in the desert.  One major difference...we aren't coming out of it without having fallen.  Yes, I have cried over the kitchen sink and told God, 'no, Jesus isn't worth all this.'  When life leaves you more wounded than winning, it is hard to keep your perspective. 

So many of you have written us such encouraging emails and messages.  Your prayers, love and concern for us has been such a help to us during this time.  We thank each one of you for the part you have had in encouraging us. 

BJ has been diagnosed with a hiatal hernia and erosive gastritis.  With medicine, diet and exercise we are working on getting them under control.  The other tests came back negative for the most part. 

Heavy stresses and anxiety have compounded the health issues.  We have had to step away from some ministry commitments at this time to allow BJ the time necessary to regain his strength.  With prayer, rest, time and letting the medicine take its effect we hope to continue. 

Thank you in advance for your continued prayers for our family as we take this journey down a road we have never traveled.  

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Confessions of a Missionary Wife

*WARNING:  What you are about to read is an unedited excerpt from the life of a missionary wife.

December 25: Christmas is here!  I am so tired from all the preparations for this day as well as the parties and activities that have seemed to last the whole month.  While we are opening presents, BJ excuses himself to lay down.  He is not feeling well at all, hasn't been since the beginning of the month.  He sleeps for three hours.  I am worried about him, this is not normal. 

December 26:  BJ didn't sleep well last night and continues to feel terrible.  I am in a time crunch to get this house cleaned up.  We are expecting our summer intern to arrive on the 28th.

December 27:  BJ had such a terrible night last night he asks me to take him to the emergency room.  This is not like him at all.  I call Joy first thing in the morning and she graciously drives out the 1 1/2 hours to our house to stay with the kids while I take him in.  The hospital seems clean and fast to get you in, but I am not impressed with the doctor.  He seems more interested in speaking English with us than actually helping us with BJ's health!  Once he had heard enough symptoms, he just waved off the rest.  He took some basic blood work and a cardiogram.  Both come back clean and he tells us BJ is just fine and prescribes an anti-depressant!

December 28: BJ continues to feel awful but life moves on anyway.  He heads to the airport go pick up our summer intern.  He calls me on the way to the airport to wish me a happy anniversary!  We have been married for 13 years today!  I bought us a candy bar that has dark chocolate on the bottom and white chocolate on the top.  Perfect for us, his favorite is white and mine is dark.  He doesn't feel well enough to open it and try some so it sits on the desk for another week.  The summer heat has arrived with the summer intern.  Thankfully they are able to borrow an air conditioner from Joy to put in his bedroom here at the house.

December 29:  BJ forces himself to keep going and preaches Sunday School as normal after translating the intern's testimony to the church.  He still can't sleep at night.  Too many nights of not enough sleep is really taking its effect.  This afternoon Flavia has explosive diarrhea three times in a row.  BJ heads out the pharmacy to pick up some medicine for her and I stay home from church tonight with her and Daniel. 

December 30:  The medicine seems to be working and Flavia seems to be just fine.  BJ on the other hand seems worse and worse.  We head to another hospital, hopefully better than the last, to see if he can get some relief.  The intern stays with our kids here at the house while we go in.  This hospital is cleaner and the doctor is much better, but still no answers.  He says he can't run any tests without admitting BJ to the hospital and he is not sick enough to be admitted! He suggests BJ sees a gastro doctor.  We are both feeling frustrated that our only options these days seem to be emergency rooms since most doctors are on Christmas vacation.  We get home at  3:00 pm.  I wash the mountain of dishes that has accumulated and then shower up the kids and get them ready to go.  By 5:00 pm we are heading for the mall to grab something to eat, buy presents and then head to church for a birthday party.  BJ is preaching at the evangelistic service for the party plus it is a great cultural experience for our intern.  Otherwise, I wonder if we would really go.  It continues to be very hot.  We get home at midnight. 

December 31:  BJ continues to feel awful and at 4:00 pm asks me to make him an appt. with a gastro doctor for this week.  I look at him incredulously!  It is New Year's Eve, nothing is open, especially a doctor's office.  I search the internet for some doctors.  The first one doesn't answer.  The second one does and schedules an appt. for January 2!  Praise the Lord!  Later I find out that they were never open that day, the secretary just happened to be passing by to organize a few things and decided to answer the phone and it was me!!  Tonight at church is the big New Year's Eve party.  A big dinner has been planned and it will last until the wee hours of the morning.  BJ insists on going for the intern's sake as once again it is a great cultural experience.  I had already decided to stay home with the kids.  They are exhausted from yesterday and another late night won't help anything.  BJ and the intern head out around 4:30 pm to visit a young couple and take them the traditional panetonne bread for Christmas.  He has plans to take the intern by the new church property but ends up stopping by home first as he feels so terrible.  After a short rest, he decides he can still make it to the property.  At 7:30 pm they are still not back and a terrible storm comes in.  The rain is torrential and unrelenting and then the power goes out.  At that time I realize the back porch is flooding.  I quickly try and pick up the littered toys then try and push the water out with my long handled squeegee.  I am soaked to the bone and stressed out after spending ten minutes straight pushing water out.  Meanwhile the kids are alone in the house with candles going.  Just as the storm dies down BJ and the intern arrive.  I ask him to please not go the party tonight, I just can't handle it, plus he just feels awful.  I make us a quick dinner by candlelight.  We finally decide to all go the party as the church has power and it would be miserable to stay home with no power and the kids by myself.  We arrive at church at 9:30 pm and things still haven't started.  During the church service, the kids start dropping off like flies sleeping on the tile floor to stay cool.  The service ended close to midnight.  We eat dinner at 12:30 am.  Finally after 1:00 am, BJ says he needs to go home.  The church people are disappointed as they still have the gift exchange to do, but understand that he isn't well.  We get home at 2:00 am and still no power.  The storm did bring in some cooler air so opening the windows gives some relief.  The kids are so exhausted they fall right to sleep.  The power comes back on at 5:00 am.  I am relieved as this is just the time the noisy bird chorus starts.  Now the kids will sleep through it with the air conditioner running in their room. 

January 1: Everyone is exhausted and we don't eat breakfast until noon!  The day continues very off because of our weird night last night.  It is very hot out and BJ doesn't feel well, but he and the intern get to work on building me a screen door for the back door.  He decides to run the kids and the intern to the beach for about an hour before dinner to fly Danny's kite he got for Christmas.  Traffic is terrible and they arrive much later than planned.  While they are gone I cook up a big Brazilian meal of beans and rice, beef steaks, pao de queijo, vinaigrette and farofa.  My pressure cooker is getting too small for our large family and it is evident as it spews bean water and then beef water all over my stove, the wall and floor!  Dinner is ready but they are still not home so I sit for a rare few moments outside enjoying some quiet and ice tea.  I am learning these days to be thankful for the moments.  In this moment I feel peaceful and calm.  Around 7:30 pm they arrive home, much later than expected.  I meet the kids in the front yard with clothes, towels and shampoo in hand.  As I shower them up with the hose we notice lots of black ants.  Both Daniel and I get bit several times and they hurt!  We try to avoid them as we finish showering up.  Finally the last kid is done and we head inside to get dinner on the table.  I step in the house and start screaming for BJ.  The downstairs is crawling with those same black ants.  We don't know where to step!  I send the kids to the couch to wait while I haul the entire dinner upstairs.  BJ runs around with Raid spray to get the ants.  They all seem to be heading for one corner in the house and then disappear into the wall.  As fast as they have come, they are gone, so we bring the dinner back down and sit down to eat a lukewarm meal with pounding hearts after the experience.  The kids end up getting to bed late again.  Finally I get the dishes cleaned up and head to bed.  Just when we are about to drift off the sleep, another huge storm comes roaring in.  I am too tired to care about what is flooding so I ignore it.  BJ remembers that they left the door frame they had been building on the back porch.  When he comes back up from getting it, he tells me that the water flooded in under the back door into the kitchen, but he cleaned it up.  That reminds of another spot the water comes into the kitchen so I run down to clean that up and get towels set out to soak any more rain that comes.  We just settle back into bed, when Ellie comes into our room, "Daniel is throwing up in his bed."  I feel frozen with disbelief that this many things could be going wrong on this day.  The moment I strip the bed and drop the sheets in the hallway, the power goes out.  I feel like crawling in my bed and never coming out.  I try to find the candles and matches but they are not where I left them.  My frustration is mounting, the kids are upset because of the dark and BJ feels too sick and weak to do anything.  Finally I find them and get lights for everyone.  I just hang the sheets on the line outside hoping the rain will wash off the puke.  Daniel continues to throw up and Flavia is scared of the dark.  I set up beds for both Daniel and Flavia in our room and try to sleep as best as I can.  The power comes back on at 4:40 am. 

January 2 - BJ has an appt with the gastro doctor this morning in Copacabana.  This is at least two hours away from our house.  I had planned to take Flavia and Daniel with us and just leave the girls with the intern as they need to start school back up today.  I don't feel like I can take Daniel after the rough night he had.  I knock on the intern's door to wake him up.  I explain what happened and ask if I can leave Daniel home with him too.  He had no idea of what had happened the night before, he slept through it all.  Before we leave, BJ runs out and purchases medicine for Daniel and then we hit the road for his appt.  By the time we get to the doctor's office, he feels like he is going to pass out.  He came to this appt. fasting, hoping they would do an endoscopy today.  When we get in to see the doctor, he apologizes for not getting out of his seat to greet us.  He woke up with a slipped disk and can hardly move.  He does manage to get up to do a basic exam of BJ and assures us it is nothing serious.  He prescribes a ton of meds and says we need to come back tomorrow for an endoscopy.  I ask him to consider doing it today, he says he will try to do it.  We wait in the waiting room during his next appt., but by this time  his back has locked up and he really can't stand up, so we head for home without doing the endoscopy.  On our way home we stop to get some intensive blood work done while BJ is still fasting.  By this time it is early afternoon and he is not doing well going so long with out food.  We also try to get his abdominal ultrasound done as well, but it doesn't work out. On our way home we work out a plan with our collegues to bring our intern over that night to stay for a few days to get a break from the craziness we are going through and to do some sightseeing with a Brazilian friend who speaks excellent English.  At the same time we work out with Joy to take the two older girls for a few days as well.  When we arrive home, BJ lays down for a few minutes and then plans to take them over to our collegues house.  He wakes up with a migraine and doing worse than ever.  I end up taking them.  We leave at 5:30 pm, head to the mall to do some banking and get some supper.  Traffic isn't too bad so we make it in about an hour.  I call BJ every hour to make sure he is okay.  While I am gone, he forces himself to get up and do the pile of dishes and get Flavia and Daniel in bed.  I get home close to 9:00 pm.  I am exhausted.  I make preparations for the four of us to leave at 6:00 am the next morning for his endoscopy.  Tonight the power goes out at 10:00 pm.  The neighbors are still awake and very upset that we have lost power three nights in a row and has a very loud conversation with another neighbor about it.  We try to sleep anyway.  No storm tonight, so the air outside is much hotter than inside so we keep the windows closed.  Flavia sleeps through the whole thing, thankfully.  At one point the power flickers on and off  four times in a row then stays off.  Daniel wakes up crying.  I go to sleep in their room.  I beg God to please put an end to this craziness.  On the nights when it seems BJ will actually sleep then we get storms and power outages and he still can't sleep.  I don't know what time the power comes back on, I am too tired to notice.

January 3 - I wake up at 6:30 am.  We are late!  We hurry as fast as we can to get out the door and encounter rush hour traffic and a bad accident, but still manage to get the appt. on time.  I try to keep the kids busy and quiet while we wait in an office no bigger than a walk in closet for several hours with other people.  At least it is air conditioned.  The diagnosis is hiatal hernia and erosive gastritis. After the procedure, we head for the car.  BJ is unsteady on his feet because of the anesthesia.  We walk through a grocery store to buy something for BJ to eat while heading for the car.  He wants to walk up and down every aisle to see that they have and contines to say loudly in English, "I feel really good, I feel great!"  I keep telling him to be quiet and that we have to go.  The wait in line seems forever and when I finally get to the front, the cashier takes my basket and dumps it upside down.  Everything falls on top of the nectarines I had carefully placed on top!  I am dumbfounded!  BJ insists on driving home, but I finally convince him that he is in no condition to drive home.  It takes several hours, but we finally get home early afternoon.  Everyone is so exhausted we crash for a few hours.  It is so nice to only have two kids to deal with today and tonight! Tonight the power stays on all night!  The neighbors have a loud party. 

January 4 - Today we need to pick up the girls and the intern.  BJ insists on going so I let him.  After lunch and a rest he says he is feeling good so jumps in the car with the intern to show him the many false religions around.  They arrive home earlier than expected.  The clutch on our car has finally gone out for good.  It happened in the next city over in front of a repair shop, so they didn't have to push it far.  They come home by bus and van.  BJ is not doing well, feels more agitated than ever, like he can't concentrate.  When he tries to sleep he wakes up with parts of his face and arms going numb.  At least we eat a normal meal at home tonight, go to bed on time.  Once again the power goes out.  Ellie wakes up scared and I make her a bed in our room.  Flavia wakes up crying so I go to her room to sleep.  Daniel wakes up next.  The power comes back on quicker than normal so I send Ellie back to her bed and crawl into mine.  BJ wakes up feeling nauseous and numb in his face and arms again.  I hold his hand and cry out to God to heal his body.  We decide that it is the meds that are doing this to him and decide he can't continue on them.

January 5 - BJ wakes up feeling good.  It is slightly cooler, at least not over 100.  We cannot all go to church today.  Our other car only seats five and BJ couldn't bring the car seats home on the bus yesterday.  I stay home with Flavia and Daniel and crash for a few hours this morning.  I make tacos for lunch and begin to feel somewhat normal.  I cry when BJ walks in after church and says "hi beautiful" to me.  I feel like I am getting my husband back!  He is still not 100 % but much better than the last two days.  They had to weave around burning tires to and from church this morning.  There was a revolt last night because of so many nights without power in this terrible heat.  The people started a riot and burned tires, the police shooting at the rioters.  Thankful for the Lord's protection and that we didn't know anything about it until after!  BJ, the intern and Myla have to leave at 5:00 pm to go to the church on the Governer's Island tonight.  Before leaving BJ and the intern head to the mall to do some banking.  All the ATM machines are out of money.  After church, BJ drops the intern off at the bus station to catch an all night bus to Sao Paulo. BJ does not sleep well at all tonight. January 6 - We receive an unexpected phone call from some friends who are moving out of state. They want to stop by to say goodby. I am so glad that the night before I put away the Christmas decor and cleaned the living room and dining room. We are sad to say goodby but our exhaustion holds our emotions at bay. After trying to make plans for childcare for BJ's two appointments tomorrow, we find out our car is fixed, so cancel the plans. We leave the three older kids home while we drive BJ's little old, or should I say vintage, car to the repair shop. That car is an oven and I am sweating in places I didn't know could sweat. On the way home I make a much needed grocery stop and then fill up with gas for tomorrow's trek to the doctors. We eat a late dinner, get kids showered up and head for bed. BJ has his worst night ever and almost asks me to take him to the ER. This is totally out of character for him. I take his pulse and it is completely normal, but he stll feels like he is going to black out. January 7 - We leave the house at 7:30 am and head for his abdominal ultra sound. I have brought along plenty of snacks to keep the kids occupied. Amazingly enough we arrive early to the appointment! The results will be in on Friday. From there we head to a Family Doctor who is supposed to be the best in Rio for finding out what is wrong you. His office "happens" to be one block down from one of our sister churches, so we are able to park our car there and leave the kids with the pastor and his family. The doctor spends more than one hour with us just listening to the symptoms then doing a thorough exam and another ekg. It was normal. He requested a few more tests, which BJ will do this week. We are confident that this doctor will really help us.