Friday, December 30, 2011

Day 3 - Sol Nascente

Praise the Lord... finally a rain-less morning!
      Another great day in Sol Nascente... such a blessing to be able to have spent a day and a half with the people here and see the ministry that the Lord has created in Sol Nascente using Erika and Vanderley. A highlight this morning was when our friend Becky was able to reconnect with a friend, Junior, who she had met during the time she spent here this summer. Her testimony had a profound effect on him in July and he promised her then that when she returned next, he would be "a Christian like her". When Becky saw Junior again this morning, he made the decision to turn from his old ways and trust Christ in full surrender. Twas such a sweet moment for her and for all of us to be reminded of the freedom that the gospel gives.
    VBS was a grand 'ol time as always! There are some pretty sassy kids here... a brother and sister pair, Cida and Yudi, made me almost feel bad for their parents if they hadn't been so dang cute. Once again our boys and Julie acted out the nativity story for the kids, but with a little twist for today... the Dentist's daughter Annabelle as baby Jesus. Really gave the story a validity that the creepy baby doll was unable to provide in past performances. Then more picture coloring, painting t-shirts, and passing out goldfish, fruit snacks and candy. Those kids wear ya out...
    It was really important to Erika and Vanderley for some of our team to visit the homes of those who are a part of their church to encourage them to continue to grow in their faith and also to challenge them to become leaders in their community. Erika and Vanderley need for their church to step up and begin serving and helping the people of Sol Nascente. Overall, the team was exhausted after a long morning in the village.. and terribly sunburned.
    Rosey and Ross are feeling much better after their little sickness of sorts and were able to rejoin us in the village this afternoon! Erika also asked us girls to talk to the teenagers about their struggles... finding their identity in the Lord, purity, self-confidence... all issues that transcend culture as things we equally battle with. Our American girls were then able to share their testimonies of how the Lord is able to give us freedom from those pressures. The kids enjoyed the playground, the soccer game, and the attention the crazy Americanos showed them.
   All day we spread news of the church service we would hold at Erika and Vanderley's house at 5. We began with a skit that depicts the many worldly things that distract us from the Lord, even though He is there through it all. Becca followed with sharing her story of how God has worked in her life and Catherine presented what we call the "sin solution"... an illustration much too confusing to explain in a blog... spoiler: the secret is clorox and iodine. John then spoke and shared the gospel with the people, informing them on how their eternity depends on what they choose to believe. Then praise the Lord, back to the boat for a much needed shower (a baby peed on the both of us) and one of the best dinners I've ever had here. Chicken with some sort of Ramen-ish noodle, beef, beans and rice (duh), and Shannon's fav dessert... key lime pie perhaps? Not really so sure...
    And now it's almost 11, playing games on the boat after alligator hunting, snacking on nutella and peanut butter pretzels. All around, life is good. We're happy... and best of all, the boat's still floating.
    New Year's Eve tommorrow, yay! Missing you all, but can't say we're dwelling on it... all the same, we are so very thankful for each of you and for what you have done to help us get here. Thank you for your prayers, we are beginning to get tired and need them so!
    Boa Noite,
        Shannon and Lauren  

Day 2 - Paraiso & Sol Nascente

 Oi Oi,
      That's two "Oi"s for two days of sweet service.  Concerned parents, be at peace! We have only lost three people to anaconda attacks. And better yet, we were in Paradise today. So here's how it all went down.
       Woke up to a thunderstorm, so we spent the first few hours of the morning eating breakfast, chillin like villains, and enjoying some prayer and worship led by Erik and our Brazilian Dentist/Musician/Friend, Thiago. After the lengthy rain delay, we finally made our way to Paraiso, going 6 or 7 people at a time in the skiff boat we tow around with us.  Paraiso is beautiful. Located on a hill, it enjoys a marvelous view of the mighty Amazon. Everyone was feeling more comfortable with their various roles, and it didn't take long before there was a swarm of kids laughing and playing. They seem to especially like learning how to throw a football.
       Soon the men, being the studley studs they are, led a fierce charge to the soccer field, where Will proceeded to continuously sic his pack of devoted children upon the others in the group.  Once the children were defeated in combat, we proceeded to have them run around in circles until they were exhausted. Cue the ladies.  The chicas took over from there, executing another marvelous VBS with the now throroughly tired kids, the highlight of this undoubtedly being Will and Nancy's groovy dance moves. Dancey Nancy, Rhythm Queen of the Amazon.
       After leaving Paraiso we proceeded to Sol Nascente, the town where Erica and Vanderley live. Its a long...long walk to the top.  But, the village is very quaint and beautiful, and I can't keep from thinking that this could be a 5 star resort with just a little bit of plumbing.  Upon reaching the top, bags in tow, and playing with the kids on their new playground, our team essentially split in two.  Half of us stayed at the playground and primed the fence surrounding it with white paint while the other half went guessed it, the soccer field. We played until sunset, after which we collapsed in a heap of bones on the ground.  It is exhausting fun, and the smiles on their young faces make every pulled muscle, cramp, scrape, bump and bruise completely worth it.  Plus, we got some nicknames out of it.  Austin is now known as "La Flama Blanca" (White Flame), I am "La Pared Blanca" (White Wall), Jay from Sao Paolo is "J-WOW," and Will is "Tiny Dancer." Huge success. 
       When the day was done, we all enjoyed what must have been one of the top 5 showers of our respective lives, and stuffed ourselves with food. Yay rice!  The night came to a sweet close with our group devotional, with Lauren, Patrick, Nancy, and a pastor traveling with us from Manaus...sharing their hearts with the team.  Can't wait for day three!
You are very loved,

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Day 1: Wednesday

Oi from the Amazon!
    Yesterday, the second gorup arrived in Manaus and loaded the boat around 3 PM. We got settled in and floated through the meeting of the waters on our 15 hour voyage to Sol Nascente to pick up the missionaries, Erika and Vanderley, who oversee four villages on Lake Carara (for all you people who know how to use Google earth, you can see exactly where we have been) just off the Amazon.
    We started off the morning going to Bucuzal where we had VBS, medical, dental, women's, men's, and a church service... all before a lunch at 3 PM. 30 minutes later we headed out into Divino village where we did the same ministries plus some worship with the people of the village. Oh and let's not forget soccer, soccer, soccer in both places. And yes we lost in both places. The boys are very good but nothing compared to the Brazilian pros.
    A few highlights of the day:
-Erik Nieder has led sweet times of worship on the boat & in the villages with the Americans & Brazilians singing in their native languages.
-Will Shellenberger dancing for all the children in VBS to a Portuguese song. He had everyone laughing.
-Jeff Johnson starred as Gabriel in a play where he held his halo proudly.
-Becca Nail shared her testimony with the women's ministry and spoke with some girls who related to her story.
-Becky Sayman and John Nieder shared their testimonies at church.
-Rose Delph and Shannon Thompson were encouraged to see the joy in a 19 year old girl whose mom was killed during a fight between her husband and her brother.
    We are all encouraged to see the Lord working, even beyond the obvious language barrier. The kids have so much fun during VBS with the songs, skits, coloring and laughing. Today we sang a song during VBS in Portuguese, Spanish, English, and Korean because of the many nationalities represented on our trip. It was neat to visit these specific villages because of the relationship that has been built in previous visits and with the two missionaries who are with us.
    Tonight we had our first nightly devotional with the group and discussed what we saw today and how we were encouraged. We are reading a C.S. Lewis book of meditations which has been a great book to read on this particular trip.
We are all safe minus the one who was attacked by an alligator when he was thrown into the river after he tried to win over the cute girl in town... we'll let you guess which of the boys that was. :)
Thanks for your prayers and support. Tomorrow we are going to Paraiso (Paradise) and the largest village on the lake, Sol Nascente.
Boa Noite,