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Sunday, June 8, 2008

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Rain, rain go away...

I don’t know where the time goes and how it goes by so quickly. It doesn’t seem like it’s been more than a month since my last post. Many things have happened during the past month though.

Praise God the fungus on my arms has completely healed! I still have a little discoloration, but that’ll go away when I’m in the sun. Hopefully we’ll see more of the sun, now that the rainy season is dying down. We’ve had quite a few big storms over the past few months, and I was lucky enough to experience one up close and personal. It was quite the experience!

I’ve never seen a flood in real life, only from what I’ve seen on television, about other countries. It was dose of reality to walk home in one. Since Altamira is pretty hilly, all the water runs down hill. Usually when it rains, which is often here, everyone goes inside their houses or to the nearest building to stay dry. Well, Brin and I were taking a walk one day, doing photography, and just seeing the neighborhood, when it started to down pour. We started running back home, but we were pretty far away, so it didn’t take long before we just gave up trying to stay dry and walk. We were a spectacle to everyone around us. These two American women taking a stroll in the middle of the street when it was pouring rain. I had my glasses on, so I could barely see. We trudged through two feet puddles of orange muddy rainwater, sloshing in our tennis shoes while we walked. I was praying the whole time that my camera would survive the adventure. I was really happy when we returned to the house, because my camera was fine, and I got some amazing shots.

Well, when it rains, bring on the bugs! If I had one advice for someone coming to Altamira, it would be to stay off the grass. There is this teensy bug, no bigger than the size of a pen mark. Almost too little for the human eye to see. This tiny bug is called a piun, pronounced “pee-u-n”. Its bite is far from “puny” though. I think its eyes are bigger than its stomach. When it bites you, it takes a chunk out of your skin, no kidding. It also leaves a terrible scar. I guess it’s to remind you of the pain it left you. Another unfriendly bug here is the chigger. They like to go to the warm places on your body, and then bite you. Their favorite place to bite is around the lining of your underwear. The bites leave you extremely itchy. And it’s not really fun to be itchy on your “boom boom”.

Apparently it’s been a good month for birthdays, because we’ve had four birthdays we’ve gotten to celebrate. Ava’s been talking about her birthday for the past three months, and finally she turned six. Brin had a surprise birthday party at the end of April. That was a great accomplishment! She’s not easy to surprise. Kevin celebrated his birthday with delicious pumpkin bars and cream cheese icing, while we were visiting in Port de Moz. And finally, Ella celebrated her tenth birthday today on 6/7/08!

We recently returned from a boat trip from Port de Moz. It had its ups and downs. Our purpose of going there was for me to visit the area, to go on a boat trip during my stay here, and to see what they do on a filter trip. It was a very educational experience. It’s really interesting to know that you can build a water filter from all earth elements. Most of the health problems that the people that live on the river experience stem from unclean water. So the purpose of the water filter ministry is to provide a source of clean drinking water for the village people, and establish a relationship with them, so they can see Jesus through His people.

The hard part of the trip was that almost everyone got sick, including me. At first people just got diaria, from drinking the coffee, which was accidentally made with the river water. Thank goodness I don’t like coffee. Can you imagine sharing a bathroom on a boat with a bunch of sick people, when you can’t flush the toilet most of the time because of the villages around us? It isn’t the most fun in the world. Well, I also eventually got sick, maybe because I was around this girl who had been getting over her sickness. Thankfully it was the last day of our boat trip, but it was still not enjoyable none-the-less. I was glad that I was able to rest and relax, since I wasn’t in Altamira and needing to work. I’m still getting over my sickness, and it’s been over a week now, but I’m glad, because I’m over the worst of it. I just feel bad for Ella, because she is still sick, and it’s her birthday. So you could be praying against sickness for all of us.

One thing I was asked a couple of times during my visit, was if I could see myself being a missionary as a single person. I had thought about it before, and thought it was something that I would never have the desire of doing. Well, after being approached with the question again, I really wondered if I could do it. I thought it might be different if I was living on my own, or with other single friends, and not living with another family. But after getting sick, I realized that I need someone to support and care for me during my sickness’ and hard times. So I think that when I return home, I’ll take a break from mission life for a little while, or at least until God decides to bring along side a husband for me.

There’s not a whole lot to do while in Port de Moz, especially since communication is almost completely non-existent. I couldn’t imagine an internet connection worst than in Altamira, but Port de Moz has it beat. Well we brought back the bad internet, and so I’ve had more free time on my hands to get some things checked off on my to do list. Like writing this blog. I’ve also been having a hard time being inspired, or at least having time to write a song. I finally sat down yesterday, and finished two songs, and wrote a third, that I promised Ella for her birthday. That was a first in my lifetime!

One of the highlights of our trip was a hike that Brin and I went on. It was beautiful, and full of surprises! On our trek, Brin spotted something down the way that looked like it could’ve been an Anaconda. We were obviously hesitant as to what we should do. Should we continue to check it out, in risk of being harmed? We were brave, and we found out that it was only a log. I was busy looking at my red ant bite, when Brin grabbed me, because she heard and saw something move quickly in the woods. It scared me to death, and I was fearful of what it could be. A jaguar, a panther, or a monkey? It didn’t care about us though, so we moved on. The trees were amazing, and the view was fantastic. On our way back to the boat I slipped, in my Old Navy flip flops of course, and almost lost my sunglasses. I was more worried about what was lying underneath the murky water. Brin said we should clap so that the snakes will stay away from us, but if they feel threatened, they’ll attack. You would’ve heard a lot of clapping, and snapping from me. The only harm that was done was some bug bites and my legs got a little scrapped up from the grass and thorns. We were really in the middle of nowhere it seemed. The houses still had satellites for their TVs though.

Before we left on our trip, we went to a conference called “Intervinha”. It’s an annual conference that is held for pastors here and some American pastors travel to Brasil to listen and teach. It’s a really great idea, because it encourages the pastors, and renews their view of the mission statement for the Vineyard church. It was a real treat for me because all of the talks were translated. I also got to finally meet Danny Meyer, a pastor from Columbus. He was a good friend of my parents a long time ago, and I was friends with his son, but I still didn’t meet him until he came to Brasil for the conference. He also comes to Brasil every year. Small world! He had a word for me about what God wants for my life, which was encouraging and intimidating at the same time. I’m still praying about it, and want to talk to my friends about it, so I won’t write what it was. Let’s just say that it was huge.

There was yet another conference in Altamira, but it was involving the Indians from the remote villages. The city wants to put up a dam along the Xingu River, which will essentially drive out the Indians from some of their homes, and destroy some of the land and the food they eat. It was truly interesting to witness this event! Their attire was exactly what I would have pictured an Indian to look like when I was a kid. They wore feathers around their hair, henna all over their bodies, and loincloths instead of clothes. They also had plates in their lips, nose piercings, and gauged earlobes. They didn’t speak Portuguese, but some native language familiar to only their tribe. It was really intense. None of the people were happy at all, and the day before a guy cut off a piece of another guys ear because of a dispute. When we were watching from the bleachers, inside a local school gym, there were two Indians who were on guard with bows and arrows, ready to shoot if something went wrong. The event made the news and one of the girls, who helps nanny Mia and Ava, was interviewed by BBC. It was thought of the second biggest things that have happened in Altamira.

I also received my first love confession from Brasil. One of my CDR students, who is also only 16 years old, confessed his undying love for me. I told him it just wouldn’t work out. He seemed really genuine, and I felt bad for breaking his heart. I hope that who ever I end up marrying is half as romantic as this kid, but I think this guy was a little delusional. Our whole conversation was basically reading out of an English/Portuguese dictionary. He doesn’t really even know me. Brasilians are also a little overly romantic, they usually say a lot of nice things just to be nice. It was cute though.

At last find ourselves at the kid portion of the blog. I was having a conversation with miss Mia and she was asking me a complicated question about life and death. I told her I didn’t know the answer and this was her response. “You’re an adult, and adults know everything!” Yeah, I wish!

I got a chance to hang out with the Berquisdt kids, and Nate was quite the character. He is one of the most happiest kids I’ve ever met. It doesn’t take a lot for him to smile, or laugh, just like it doesn’t really take much for him to start crying. He says most of his words like he is singing. And usually he speaks one-word sentences, and repeats one of the favorite words that he heard you say. One day we were about to leave for the boat and he started singing to me “boat!” “going!” “Nate!” “going!”. It was so adorable! Maddy and Makenna just like asking random questions. So I got from them “Why is your name Emily?” or “Why is your hair curly?”.

I saw Alica today and she was crawling and walking. It was a sight to see after I saw her in Salvador, and just about witnessed her fall down a flight of stairs in her rolling chair. God is good.

Again, thank you for your continuous support in prayer and encouragement. It is greatly appreciated.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

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Pslam 137:4 "How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?"

I would like to preface this by saying that this post will be much longer than my first two, because I haven’t written in over a month. It’s been challenging for me to get to a working computer to “get ‘er done” Enjoy!

The above scripture was used in my devotional to refer to, our secular society around us, as a “foreign land”. However, I felt like it was a perfect way to describe how I’ve been thinking when I’m at church, or even by myself. Despite where I am, my circumstances, or the pain and anguish I may be feeling, I am called to worship. Even though it might not be what I want to do at the moment, it’s always a blessing to me after I obey, and I know it blesses God as well. My relationship with Him has grown so much, because of my challenging circumstances that I’ve found myself in. I know that He loves me enough to teach me things, and bring me out alive. I know Him more personally because of it.

This has been the longest and shortest three months that I’ve ever spent. Brin told me that it will feel like I’ve spent a couple of years here, because of all of the things that I’ll experience, in such a short time period. This has become a reality to me. I’ve had to face some of the biggest hurdles of my life, and yet it will leave a lasting impression on me, and change the way I see and think about things. I can’t imagine that life will ever be the same, when I return home.

I would encourage anyone who is considering having missions as a part of their life, to look into doing something like this. It’s been such a blessing for the family that I’ve been staying with, but God has also been doing some great things in my own personal life. It really gives a first hand look at how life would be like on the mission field. Of course it would be different in other cities and countries, but there will be similarities in every place. Even though it’s been a challenging experience, I still have a heart for missions and can see myself doing more sometime in the future. Everyone’s experience would be different from mine, because we are all made to be unique from each other. Although, there will always be challenges, however different they will be.

The last month and a half we’ve moved back to Alamira from Salvador, and moved into a new house. So this trip has been a time of adjustment and change for me. This is a common occurrence in this type of life though. It’s such a difference from the life I was living in Salvador. The two cities are almost complete opposites. From the weather, to the bugs, and the stress level. There are positives and negatives to the two, but it finally seems to feel more like a home here.

I now have my own place, next to the Pflederer’s house. At first I felt lonely living by myself, and I wasn’t used to all the quiet around me. And only a month ago I was longing to have silence and time alone. The enemy always makes us think about what we don’t have. Now it’s starting to feel normal, and look more like home. These next months will be busy, and probably go by quickly. So, I want to fully immerse myself in the present moment, but sometimes I fall into a daydream about coming home. This is completely normal, but I would like to not focus on the future. That is something that people have been praying over, but I could always use more prayer.

Portuguese has been a difficult language for me to grasp. It’s so close to Spanish, that sometimes I get confused as to what words to use. I’ve been able to catch on to what people are saying most of the time, but I have a hard time transferring that to my own communication with them. It’s amazing to me how young minds work. One night in Salvador, all of the families went to the mall to eat out. I needed assistance ordering my meal, and Ella came along to help. I was able to tell her everything that I needed, and wanted changed, and she understood how to translate with little trouble. For some of Ella’s schoolwork we were reading the book “Ella Enchanted”. The book is about a girl named Ella who was given a ‘gift’ from a fairy, to be obedient. So anything that anyone tells her to do, as a command, she has to do it. This “gift” is not always beneficial, but at times it can be helpful. She was told to speak another language, and so she did. If only it would be that easy in real life. However, like the book, Ella and many other kids here have picked up the language really quickly, and without a lengthy lesson.

Although I have yet to learn the native language here, I have started helping teach English at a program here called CDR. I was really nervous to come along side Abilene, one of the teachers, because I felt like I should know more about their language before teaching them mine. However, it’s been so laid back, and fun to go there. In one of the classes I have met some sweet people, and made some friends. I didn’t realize how young everyone was, until they told me their ages, because the people look older here than they do back home. I think the reason for this is because they’re out in the sun so much, and it can age the body very quickly. Most of the students are about 15 or 16 years old.

Two of the students, in the one class, decided they were going to find out where I live, and stop by to say hi. Well, they live about a half an hour walking distance, and still walked up to the guesthouse, which is past our house, to find out where a white girl named Emily lives. Then they walked around clapping, a form of getting one’s attention at a house, without the convenience of a doorbell, to see if I would come out of the house. We invited them for lunch, which is a process in itself, because out of politeness, they can’t accept right away, and they finally agreed to come in. Since then, they’ve come over about three more times, including my birthday. They are so sweet, and very genuine people. The boy’s name is Flitze, and the girl’s name is Anielle.

My birthday was one to remember. First I’ll talk about the Brasilian tradition for birthdays. They essentially make a small cake on top of your head. This is done by throwing eggs at you, the same number of your age, and then throwing flour at you. Then the person who is ‘caked’ hugs all of the people around them. I really wanted to avoid this tradition at all costs. So I asked for the day off, and I was planning on hiding out in my room with all my essentials. I even hid the eggs from the house, under my bed. I guess they really weren’t going to do this to me, since I expressed my disinterest in the “festivities”, but Brin didn’t tell me this until the next day. And she had needed the eggs to make my cake, so she had to buy new ones. The only eggs that I was going to get close to, was the hard-boiled eggs on the dish that was prepared.

My meal consisted of spicy ground beef, with slices of ham, corn and chopped tomatoes, and hard-boiled eggs on top, and all over noodles or rice. There was a side of purple cabbage, more corn, and faroufah, a Brasilian dish. Afterwards we had cake, with my favorite colored frosting, made by Brin, and I blew out my candles with the help of Mia, Ava, and Ella. All of my “surprise” guests, from school, church, and neighbors, sang a song to me in Portuguese. They love singing, and I was sung to three different times. One guy sang and played guitar, and it was funny because I didn’t even remember ever meeting him, but he was there anyways to celebrate my birthday with me. He knew I was American, and thought that I of course would like rap, called hippy hoppy here, so that’s what he performed. It’s the thought that counts.

I sang one of my songs, by request, and then opened my presents. One of my gifts had a card that was signed by my dog and cats names. I mentioned it as I thought it was cute, well a few of my guests were laughing for a while long after. The humor here is a little different, and they laugh at some of the most un-funny things. I believe that most of it stems from the fact that they think we’re weird. The thing I love the most about Brasilians, is how emotional and generous they are. Even though they may not have any money to spare, they well still lavish on those that they love, with what they do have. There are probably not many people that they don’t love.

Josh and Brin gave me a gift of a massage, for my birthday. It was much needed, and very relaxing. Of course things weren’t done the same way they are in North American Salons, but it was enjoyable, and entertaining, none-the-less. When I got back to the house, all the girls took a trip to the club (pronounced clube) and went swimming. I got to lay out in the sun, just like I had wanted, next to a palm tree, and the water was lovely. We spent the evening eating popcorn and watching Anne of Green Gables. It was a perfect evening to an almost perfect birthday. The only thing missing was my friends and family back home.

An on going theme to this, time spent in Brasil, has been patience. I feel like I’m a fairly patient person, and yet God is constantly showing me that my level of patience could improve. What is nice, is that sometimes God puts people in our life that are struggling with the same issues. This is so that we can work on them together, and encourage each other. Brin has introduced the speaker Beth Moore to me. She is an amazing, and vibrant, woman. I have enjoyed listening to her talks on various subjects. Brin and I recently, and purposely, sat down to watch one of her talks, on patience. She mentioned that maybe it’s not the people, who bring out the worse in us, that have the problem, but that God has put those people in our lives, so that we may see what issues we have, that need to be resolved with God’s help. This was a huge concept for me, because it’s so easy for me to blame others, when I get upset, when it may be me who needs “fixing”. Beth Moore said that these people, or types of people, won’t go away, and will keep coming into our lives, until we “get” what God wants to do in us. I believe that God is doing a major work in my life, and is preparing me for the work He has me doing in the future. She also stated that if we avoid conflict, we will never be molded into the beautiful masterpiece that He’s creating us to become. I thought of a great analogy dealing with skincare, being an Esthetician and all. Anytime you start using a new skincare product, you should use it for 30 days. This way you can see if you’re allergic to a product, if your skin responds well or bad to a product. Usually, even if you’re not allergic, if the product is doing what its supposed to, the product will draw up the impurities that are below the surface, to get rid of them. After a little while, the product will do its job and rid your skin of all the dirt, oils and bacteria underneath your skin. In the same sense, God gives us circumstances for a little while, so that the ‘not-so-clean’ things, hiding beneath our surface, will appear, and hopefully be ‘washed away’ from our lives.

I will share with you some of the trials, sweet memories and humorous things that I’ve experienced in Altamira, since I’ve gotten back, and for the first time in my life.

*Betsy and I were driving in the rain one day, and we drove by this guy, who decided he was going to take a “shower” in the rain. He was right next to the road, wearing shorts, soaping up and talking to a friend of his. This seemed completely normal to him, and not at all embarrassing. What a culture change!

*It has rained more in one hour, than I’m used to it raining in a single day. This is really funny because I decided that I wasn’t going to attend a certain college, because I heard it rained so much there. Now I’m living in a rain forest. Our neighbor’s drain was clogged, which caused the schoolroom and my room to flood. My room wasn’t as bad as the schoolroom, but it did cause an over abundance of moisture to build up, thus leading to mold growing. I’ve now seen mold grow in places that I never thought it could grow on, such as glass, plastic, and floor tiles. The schoolroom got a couple inches of water in it though, and the mold looked like white pipe cleaners. God really showed me that I need to grasp the concept of giving over my control to Him. There was nothing I could do to stop the water from coming into my room, and the more I tried to stop it, the more upset I’d get. It was only when I gave up, and put my trust in Him, that I had peace. It was painful, but God came through, as He always does. The next morning, all the water had vanished, and hadn’t ruined anything.

*I absolutely hate taking cold showers, but the heater in my shower doesn’t work. So, for the past month, I haven’t had any choice of what I want my water’s temperature to be. I’m getting used to it, sort of.

*There are spiders living in the fan of my bathroom, that doesn’t work, and they hatch eggs and send their babies out to annoy me and then die. I’ve almost gotten used to walking into their webs, whenever I go to the bathroom, and seeing their little bodies hanging from different areas of my bathroom. My tolerance is certainly going to be so much greater, when I return to the states.

*The Postal Service has gone on strike, our phone barley works, and our Internet is almost non-existent at times. This made me feel like I am back on ‘The Little House on the Prairie’ ranch. My form of entertainment is reading, writing, or playing games. An occasional movie is watched, but even that stopped because the T.V. stopped working for a short time. It’s actually nice to have a simpler life, even though I also quite enjoy the alternative.

*For the first couple of weeks at our new house, everything was consistently breaking, nothing new here. Our only form of transportation was walking, or riding a motorcycle.

*The constant rain here brings the inevitable red mud. This causes the laundry load to grow, and the clothes to become worn out. Brin told me that back home she could give away her clothes, after she stopped wearing them as often, or didn’t like them. Here, they don’t last for more than a half a year, if that, and they fade horribly because we wash them so much, and then dry them outside in the sun. It’s also pointless to buy clothes, in this city, because they are made so poorly, and with cheap material. Sometimes it’s been known for the clothes to tear after one washing.

*I made it out alive, through a 54-hour bus ride, back from Salvador, and a couple hours of being stuck in the mud.

*Mia turned 4. Ellie turned 13. I turned 24.

*Mia is growing and her shoes are witnesses. One day she wanted to wear a pair of lace up shoes, just like Ava was, and she had her mom help her put them on, because it was so hard, since they were too small. She then proceeded to stand up and start waddling and taking very short steps. She said, “I almost said, my feet hurt”. She knew that if she had said they hurt, she’d have to take them off. So she kept them on, even though she wouldn’t be able to take them off, and then play while waddling.

*Sometimes I think about how I’d like my wedding day to be, and come up with ideas, that I store in the back of my mind. I had thought before that I didn’t know who I would have as my flower girls, until now. I mentioned my idea to the girls, and Ava took it so seriously! I told her that I would need to meet a guy first though, and she began to name off people for suggestions. Her ideas were 11-year-old Ben, 14-year-old Luke, 15-year-old Cleide (who is a girl), and Josh, her dad. I don’t think she quite understands the concept of marriage yet.

*Ella and Ava had a ballet recital shortly after Easter, and all the girls were dressed to be like bunnies. They all had to wear white, and have their hair pulled back into a bun. Although I noticed that the last part didn’t happen with every girl. Brasilians don’t usually enforce things too much. The idea of having the girls wear white, was a nice thought, but their clothes didn’t stay white for very long. Their “boom booms” and slippers were orange, from the dirt, by the end of the show. The recital wasn’t completely organized, well it was as organized as it could be, but it was very sweet to watch.

*I’ve started to think about possibly working in a Library, just so I can read stories to kids. Even though I never liked reading out loud in front of people before, I’ve started to really enjoy it lately.

*One night I had my windows open in my room, and I was singing at the top of my lungs, something I quite enjoy, and the dogs outside started howling. I’m not sure if they were doing this because they liked or disliked my singing, or for some other reason. I think other dogs have caught on now, because we’ve had many a howling dog serenade us during the day and night. One in particular likes to yodel.

As I close I’d like to ask you to keep me in your prayers. I’ve been dealing with ring worm, practically since I’ve been in Brasil. It’s very frustrating, and annoying. I’ve been taking medication for about a month and a half with some improvement. I’d just like it to be completely gone. The healing causes it to itch, and that just makes it flare up. Whenever I sweat it gets worse. It’s mainly on the creases of my arms.

I also have a flare up every once in awhile on my lips, from an allergic reaction to a type of chapstick I was using. These things are minor, but can be discouraging.

My body image has been a constant worry to me as well, and I’d like to not think about it so much. I don’t think that my body is digesting food properly and so despite what I do, I can’t seem to loose weight. I have trouble comparing myself to those around me, and right now I’m seeing many skinny Brasilian girls. It’s hard for me to stop comparing.

I’d also like prayer for my thoughts to be mainly on my time remaining in Brasil. It’s easy for me to daydream about people back home that I miss, and then become homesick.

Thank you for your continued support, prayer and encouragement. It means a lot to me.

More to come soon!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Friday, February 29, 2008

Seasons of Love

"525,600 minutes, 525,000 moments so dear. 525,600 minutes - how do you measure, measure a year? In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee. In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife. In 525,600 minutes - how do you measure a year in the life? ...measure in love" ~'Rent'

This song has so many great insights, and so many that I can currently relate to. At times is seems as though I've been here forever, and other moments, time is only a concept. Every morning comes like clockwork, the hours proceeding move like molasses, and the evening slips away like quicksand. I picture it like those movies that show time lapses each day, showing flowers opening and closing and sunrise to sunset.

We've been in Salvador for two weeks now, and it's just flown by. A single minute can be an hour, and yet, I'm finding it hard to remember all that I've done, during my stay in Brasil. My memory however, tends to come and go as it pleases. So I'm sure that it'll conveniently return while I'm recalling past events.

I'll start with the adjustment I wasn't expecting, especially living here during the "wet season". There are three showers that we’re; two of the families are, sharing. Two of which, use the water from the city, and the other get its water from the well. I experienced, for the first time in my life, running out of water. I had just started my shower, and I had to turn the faucet off and on, to get a little burst of water that was left, to wash the shampoo out of my hair. The experience really made me put in perspective the amount in which I, and others as well, take advantage of access to water. I had to think about how to prioritize my water usage. It's humorous to think about, although not so humorous at the time. I literally thought, what do I have to do first? Wash my hands, take my contacts out, and THEN if there is enough water left, flush the toilet.

Brin and I were in the mall one day looking around, and I turned to her and said "This looks like gold!" I was referring to a dishwasher of course. I've never hand washed so many dishes in my lifetime, and I think after this experience in Salvador, it'll probably be enough to count for the rest of my time on Earth. Our "kitchen" is about three feet by nine feet. This includes, a microwave, refrigerator, stove, and sink. Tonight Brin kept telling Mia to get out of the "kitchen", which was very humorous to me, because all she had to do is take two steps backward. I really like doing the dishes, when there aren’t people in the "kitchen" with me.

The phrase "Silence is Golden", is not just a phrase to me any longer. I never really felt an urge, or need, to have a "quiet time". That was almost a foreign concept to me before, but only because I always had an opportunity to be in silence. Of course we always want what we can't have. So now, I make it a goal to leave the house, once a day, and walk to the overlook. I can see the ocean from there, and the breeze helps drown out any other sounds, overwhelming thoughts even, floating around me. You would think that I could get a quiet time in my room, but even that is a hard thing to achieve. As much as I enjoy the many sounds of the culture, right out side my window, it's not always fun to hear music blasting so loud that the bass vibrates me in my sleep in early hours of the morning. Although I do look forward to the day when I'll hear a song that I've heard while living here, and smile at the memory.

God has really met me in those now treasured quiet times that I've experienced here. I was frustrated one afternoon, because I wasn't feeling that God was really listening to me, and wanting to speak to me. Even though I know that practice makes perfect, I can be impatient, and I want to hear Him when I want to hear Him, and how I want to hear Him. God likes to work in a slightly different manner, than what we expect Him to. He also knows me and my heart, and how to speak to me individually. So He's been speaking to me through my i pod and through nature. I was riding on the bus while listening to my music, and I saw a guy drumming to the beat of the song. Every song preceding the former had some relation to my experience at that moment, and I felt that God was literally talking to me and relating to me through the music. Another moment I wanted Him to show me that he was hearing me, and wanted to respond. So I asked that He would show me hearts in my surroundings. I began to see them, in the clouds, trees, water and even the sidewalk next to me. He is truly a personal God.

It's also been challenging watching and teaching the girls. However hard it may be, it also has its rewards. At first the girls did, and still maybe, put me through a testing period. I think that they're understanding more about the reason why I'm here, and respecting me more for it. I overheard Mia talking to Josh the other night, about her family, and she included me. It was so sweet! Yesterday I took the girls to the beach, instead of doing school with them. There was an understanding that, if they were really good, got along with each other, and didn't cause any trouble that morning, that they could go. When I told them that I decided to take them, Ava threw her arms around my waste and told me she loved me. That was such a huge change from how she related to me before. I received hugs and kisses, and they held my hands and trusted me. It was so nice not to be thought of, and treated like, just a teacher, but like a member of the family.

God has been very merciful and gracious to us. There have been a couple of sick times, but that didn't last long, and didn't spread to everyone in the house. He's really provided for us, and watched out for our well being. I had never really had anything stolen from me, until yesterday when I took the girls to the beach. We were swimming and I had my eye on our things the whole time. When went back to our towels, two guys told Ella, in Portuguese, that we should be careful. There was a girl that had been walking around and she looked suspicious. I wasn't really worried about it, but then when we were getting ready to go, I couldn't find my flip flops. I thought they had just been buried under the sand, but they never turned up. This really surprised me, because of the things that were there, she took my $3.00 pair of Old Navy flip flops. They weren't even new, or good looking. My purse was maybe one foot away, and even though there wasn't any thing much of value in it, she wouldn't have known that. The only bad thing that came of it, was having to walk back barefoot. I got a perspective of how people have to live without convenience of protection of their feet. It was painful, but not nearly as much pain as people experience everyday.

Salvador is the biggest African city outside of Africa. They had ten times as many slaves brought over than America. That's outside of my comprehension! There is a martial art that started here, called Capoeira. It started out being a form of fighting, but after the slave masters saw it as a threat, the slaves were forced to stop. It then was turned into a dance, in which there is no physical contact.We took a trip to the historical area of the city, and we saw the exact spot where the whipping post was. All that stood, in its place, was a stage for people to celebrate 'Carnival', which is Brasil's Martigras. As much as Salvador is such a beautiful city, there is so much pain and heaviness relating to the dark religion that is practiced here. The religion is a mix between Catholicism and Black Magic, or Witchcraft. On one of my walks around the block, I stopped at a spot where Brin had pointed out to me the night before, to take pictures. There had been some kind of sacrifice and offering taken place on the hill, down the street from our house. I felt such a weight on my back just standing there. Spiritual oppression is definitely prevalent here.We all have felt, just in these past two weeks, that God has a different purpose for us here. He didn't just take us here to learn Portuguese, home school, or clean, but something much greater that hasn't been revealed to us just yet. We might not ever find out, but we know that we are here helping further His kingdom, just like everywhere else He has put us. We are to be here now.

Back in Altamira, I'd been reading a book about 'Love Languages', just so that I could figure out what exactly mine was. If you don't know what a love language is, it is the language that translates love to you. The love languages are, physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, and acts of service. Everybody has all of them, but there are one or two that mean more to each individual. Even though I pretty much knew what mine were, they didn't really make themselves relevant to me as much as they have here. I realize that my biggest love language is physical touch. Not being able to hug my friends and family, has caused me to realize how important it is to me, and how much I really need it to be healthy and happy. This has made me even more a vulnerable person, if that is even possible. I've shared this with Brin, and she asked me if she was going to have to give me cuddle time like she gives her daughters. I laughed, but I thought it wasn't all that bad an idea! It makes me realize how much more I need God to make me feel whole again.

God has really showed His love, and promises of love, for me through flowers. I have a favorite flower, which I'm not going to say what it is, and I may or may not explain why later. I've only told a few people, that I trust, what it is. It isn't a common flower. I associate this flower with a promise between God and I, and He reveals it to me on few occasions. I've seen it more frequently here and every time I see it, it reminds me of God's great love, and His promises to me, His daughter.I'm also reading the book "Captivating". It's about how women were meant to be cherished, loved, appreciated and captivating. I'm really enjoying it, and I think God's opening my eyes up to my own life, and how broken I am. Slowly He's allowing me to trust and become fully vulnerable with myself again. He's showing me how He wants us to become like we were as children, carefree and joyful, dependant on Him alone.

Ok, enough seriousness! I'll share with you now, some sweet and silly quotes, and experiences that I had, and some that I got the pleasure of over-hearing.

*Pronunciation in Ava & Mia's World*

~"Shrorol" can mean either Cereal or Stroller
Ava asked me where the "shrorol" was, and I told her it was in the cabinet, so she proceed to open the cabinet door, and came back to me asking where it was again. I listened carefully, and realized that she was referring to the stroller.

~"Ticker" is a Sticker
"Mia, what do you have on your forehead?" I asked one day.
"A ticker!" she replied.

~"Pork-a-cheese" is another name for Portuguese
Both Ava and Mia like to use this term.
Ava says "Now you say it in English, and I'll say it in Pork-a-cheese"

~"Top" means Stop
"Top it!" Mia told me today, when she didn't like me playing with her hair.

~"Popped" means passed gas
Apparently some little boy said it once, and the word stuck.
Ava asked me today "Did you pop?"
I told her no.
She said "I think Ella popped."

The best is when Mia gives the sweetest angry face you've ever seen, and says "I's sewious!", with that little lisp she has. It takes all of me not to laugh over her cuteness, and if I do, watch out!

Here are a couple examples of their understanding of pronunciation of words.

"I's ok momma!" Mia referring to when she fell in a pile of plastic balls in a game room at the mall.

"Her's bein' mean to me!" Ava or Mia have both said from time to time.

Ella and Meredith spotted a cruise ship out by the lighthouse last week, and were talking about all the amazing qualities it most likely held.
Meredith says to Ella “I bet they don’t even have to sleep on redis!”
Ella responded “I bet you’re right!”
A redi, pronounced heggie, is a hammock, and on the boat trips, that are taken on the Xingu river, for the mission, we sleep on redis.

I caught Ella and Meredith, one of the Kubaki's daughters, acting out a scene from the TV show 'Monk'. I hadn't realized it was from the show, until I heard it stated later on in their conversation. I think they made up the script for it, but they were extremely creative, and intelligent, in what they were talking about. Also, they both can imitate great English accents, better than I can. I wouldn't expect two nine year old girls to be so knowledgeable! I'm not sure why they were using English accents, but that usually happens when this type of acting occurs. This is what I overheard them saying, outside of their script.
"I can't have a boss Meredith, I'm running for election!" Ella stated in all seriousness.

It's a real treat for me to live with three different families, and see kids from 7 month old, to 14 years old relate to each other. I love seeing the kid’s perspectives again, it reminds me of how I felt when I was their age. It gets hard to remember those things when you're outside of that perspective. It reminds me of how smart kids really are.

Welcome to Salvador! A place where unicorns exist, hospitals look like castles, and churches look like hotels. Where God is alive in nature, and meet us where we are. Where you can walk next door, literally, and get belly dancing lessons, jazz dancing lessons, or whatever your preference may be. People are really friendly here, and watch out for us. I feel safe, and covered by prayer. Thank you for your time, and all your love and prayer.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

So long, farewell, Auf wiedersehen, adieu...

I can’t believe that I’ve already been here for about three weeks. Well where should I start? “Let’s start at the very beginning, it’s a very good place to start. When you read, you begin with A, B, C. When you sing you begin with doe, ray, me.” I’ve had that song in my in the background of my mind, playing over and over again, for the past three days. I’ve been introducing music to Ella, the eldest daughter, nine years of age. I don’t think I quite had a grasp of how much older I was, until I tried to remember what it was like when I was first in a choir music setting. I wanted to put myself in her place, and understand how frustrating it was to learn the basics. As far as I can remember, which is pretty far, I was singing. I was told, by my parents, that I used to sing myself to sleep, before I could even speak. So I thought, what better way to introduce Ella to music, than to teach her the basics from the musical about music. Plus, it was a pretty easy song to teach her on the faux keyboard on ‘Leap Pad’. Later on we will have a real keyboard for her to practice on. She has a great passion to learn, not only music in general, but especially piano. With the passion and dedication that this girl has, she will go far!

This experience so far has already been very influential on my life, and it hasn’t even been a month. I can only imagine what God has for the rest of the time that I’m here for. Not only has it completely changed my schedule around, but also it’s forced me to be disciplined with how I spend my time daily. If I wake up too late, I have to deal with the consequences of not spending time on myself. I know that everyone else’s schedule doesn’t revolve around mine, so it’s my job to adjust to theirs. Even though I’ve never really cared too much about weather I wear make-up or not, my previous jobs made me feel as if it was a necessity. Now I’m really putting into perspective of what is the most important part of my day. My focus is helping the family that I’m staying with. So I try to be helpful in whatever way I can be.

I was writing earlier today in my journal about how funny God works sometimes. I was told a while ago, that usually the thing that you are most worried about doing, or experiencing, is usually the thing you will do, or be, the best at. The enemy likes to trick us into believing that we are worthless, and inadequate, usually in the subject that we are the most adequate at. Before coming to Brasil, I was doing a lot of praying, and worrying, about how adequate, and capable, I was for the things I would be doing here. So far I am only comforted in the thought that, this is exactly the thing I am supposed to be doing right now, and even though I wasn’t necessarily trained for this experience, God will prepare me for it all. I am always at peace when I think about the fact that God doesn’t always use the most qualified, but He uses the willing.

So let me share with you some of the experiences that I’ve had, and quotes from the girls, over these few weeks. I was told, by Brin, that eventually my body will get used to the bugs, and won’t react to them after awhile. Well I believe that I had about at least 40 bites, from different creatures, on my right leg alone. I think they prefer my right leg for some strange reason. Lately I haven’t noticed as much itching, or red marks. I think I was starting to look like a leper.

I like to ask the girls what they are doing every now and then, because I’m interested in their response. One day I saw Mia, the three year old and youngest of three daughters, playing with a girl’s hair, and I asked her what she was doing. She plainly stated, “I’m looking for lice!” As it is, and I’ve been warned, if I have the choice between holding a baby or not, I’ll probably hold the baby, and also if I have the choice to hug someone or to decide not to, I’ll hug them. So it is very likely, that if I choose to be friendly, which I probably will, I will most likely get lice while I’m here. I was told the same in relation to getting sick from drinking the water and shaking hands with certain people. There is a good chance that I’ll get a stomach virus of some sort while living here.

The worst thing that I’ve come across is a lime peel, or at least that’s what we think the cause of it is. After being here for a week, I started noticing bumps on my lips, and I thought it could have been a food allergy, or some other allergy. Within the past week, it has progressively worsened. Yesterday I met with Tim, a missionary who is also a doctor, which is such a huge blessing. He gave me a topical steroid crème to put on my lips, and within the first application I noticed a difference. After discussing different options, we both came to the conclusion that it is most likely that I have contact dermatitis from eating a piece of a lime. For some strange reason the peels here, even on the oranges, are extremely acidic. Brin had a lemon, that was sprayed, and it left a nasty burn on her arm, for two months. She told me that she now wears gloves, while making lemon aid, just to be safe, even if that wasn’t the cause. My lips are now almost completely healed, in only a day in a half. Praise the Lord!

To all who do not know, I’ll be heading, somewhat south, to Salvador on Tuesday. I’m going with the Pflederers, the family I’m staying with in Brasil. We’ll be living there for about five weeks. Josh and Brin Pflederer are going to be taking a Portuguese class, to further their education on the language, along with a few of the other missionaries here. I’ll be watching the girls and doing home school with them while I’m there. God knew that I needed this first month to get adjusted to the culture and this new family of mine. It’s been an answered prayer that the girls seem to be getting used to me, and seemingly liking me despite my needing to discipline them at times.

Ok, here are some of the quotes that I thought were entertaining. Both Mia and Ava, the five (almost six) year-old daughter, asked me “are you pregnant?” I said, “No I just need to loose some weight” I didn’t take offense, because they are so young, but I told Brin about it because I thought it was funny. She told me that they are used to seeing these stick thin girls from Brasil walking around.

Peanut butter isn’t a normal item you can purchase here, so whenever it’s around, it is a treat. One day we were all eating, and I asked Mia “Do you like peanut butter?” Her response was “No.” I replied “Why not?” She said “because it has peanut butter in it!” I asked again “well what don’t you like about peanut butter?” Mia said “Yeah..”

I thought that it was such a classic response, and one I could imagine myself saying when I was her age.

The other day I was sitting in my room, and I overheard Ava having a conversation with our neighbor Ana, who is three years old.

This is how it went “I want lip lip!” declared Ana.

“you can’t have any, because that’s Ella’s lip lip” stated Ava.

“I want lip lip! Lip lip!” replied Ana.

“well, I had some lip lip, but it’s not here. I gave it away. I sent it to China.” Ava said, confident in her response.

I couldn’t help but laugh out loud after that last one! They were referring to lipstick, or more likely, lip gloss.

Sometimes Mia likes to tell me things, in just a way, that will allow her to get what she wants. All three of the girls love to get their nails done, and they love that I have so many different colors to choose from. So one of the days that Mia was so eager to have her nails done, she came up to me and said “my mom says that I need to always have my nails painted, everyday!”

Another day Mia was so determined about the next country she wanted to live in. She told everyone who was around, “I want to move to Africa, where the snow is!” We found out later that she was actually talking about America.

Mia likes to play hide and seek with me like this, “Emily, close your eyes. Now open them. Now say, where’s Mia?” If I find her too easily, she asks “why is you not take longer to find me?”

One last one, when Ava and Mia were stating that I’m not an adult, I’m a teenager. I told them that I wasn’t a teenager, and asked them to guess my age. They guessed low twenties, mid-twenties, and when I kept saying no, they finally stated “30!” You can guess how much I loved that response.

Thanks to all of you who have been keeping me in your thoughts and your prayers. I know that I’m being thought of and prayed for, because everything about this trip so far has been so smooth and easy going. I know God has His hand on this time in my life, and has a purpose for my being here. I’ll do my best to keep you updated on my experience here, along with stories and quotes to share with you all. I’ll also include some pictures, and links to videos I’ve taken of the girls and I on my camera. Hopefully each blog won’t be THIS long! I apologize for that. For everyone who has read this much, is truly amazing! I hope you enjoyed it, and that you continue to keep my family and I in your prayers.

Please pray that my family has peace and comfort while I’m gone, and that they remain healthy and safe. I don’t want to worry about them while I’m away. Also pray for my health and safety as well. This whole adventure will fly by I’m sure, but any little discomfort can be a distraction from what I’m hoping to accomplish while I’m here. I’m thinking of all of you, missing you, and praying for you as well. I can’t wait to come back and see you all and share many more details from my trip.

With His great love,

Emily Fancher