World Refugee Day 2018

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:33-34 (ESV)

Today (June 20th) is World Refugee Day.

I read this poem a while back and every time I read it I get choked up. Here’s a little snippet:

“no one leaves home unless

home is the mouth of a shark

you only run for the border

when you see the whole city running as well

 

your neighbors running faster than you

breath bloody in their throats

the boy you went to school with

who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory

is holding a gun bigger than his body

you only leave home

when home won’t let you stay.”

 

This is a small glimpse at what life looks like for a refugee. This is not an easy decision for them to make. No one willingly leaves their home unless things have gotten so bad that in order to stay alive you risk your life to get out. It is a heartbreaking reality that most people cannot fully comprehend (myself included).

In 2014 our church began partnering with World Relief of Fort Worth. Through this organization we have had the opportunity to get to know two different refugee families. In February of 2015 we met our Syrian family who for the past 3 years have stolen our hearts and become our friends who we love so much.

Before meeting the AH family it wasn’t that I didn’t care about the refugee crisis but I just didn’t understand it, so I didn’t understand why it was so important to welcome refugees into our country. I also didn’t understand what the Bible says about how to treat refugees (aka sojourners). Let me just say that the Bible has a lot to say about the subject. Here is a small list of verses made just for World Refugee Day.

We live in a fear driven time right now. We fear each other. We fear outsiders. But that is not how God wants us to live. His perfect love casts out fear. He calls us to love our neighbor as ourselves. He calls us to carry each others burdens. So what does that look like?

It looks like partnering with organizations who help others in need. It looks like going and hanging out with a family even when there is a language barrier. It looks like throwing a baby shower for your sweet friend and being blown away by her own hospitality vs your American standard of finger foods. It looks like hanging out with your sweet friends and ALWAYS being blown away by their hospitality. It looks like smiling at strangers who look different than you. It looks like starting conversations with people and hearing their story. It looks like asking Holy Spirit to help you love people the way Jesus loves them.

What are you going to do today to show support for World Refugee day?

Mandi

 

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There and Back Again

Sometimes photographs can convey what my words cannot and this picture definitely helps describe Rio de Janeiro. This photo was taken at the border of a community called Rio Das Pedras that we were able to spend many hours in while we were visiting Brazil two weeks ago. Rio de Janeiro is a city of contrasts between the beautiful sights like Coco cabana beach and communities were people are living in varying levels of poverty.

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While in Brazil we were able to visit some very beautiful locations like the beaches and Sugar Loaf Mountain. We also visited some locations where the economic disparity of the country is very evident. We were able to spend the week serving alongside some brothers and sisters in Christ who are using their talents, individual personalities and passions to serve in these communities and make a difference in the people around them. These people inspire me by how they tirelessly serve in some very hard places and challenge me as I think about how I can change the world around me.

Please enjoy our video tour of the week we spent in Brazil and continue to pray for our friends and partners who will be continuing to serve these communities in order to spread the message of the love of our God.

Rio Trip Video 2018

Second to last day

Today was a more relaxed and easier day, but effective still. We left a bit later in the morning so we were able to catch up on our sleep a bit after the sleepless ride home tomorrow night. Lunch was prepared for us by a couple that goes to Union church and coincidentally live in the apartment complex we are staying in. The walk was short, the food was great and the people were awesome. A group of seven strangers were welcomed into their home because we share the same love of God and love for His people as them. We have an amazing God.

It’s always interesting to me when we start off on one of our excursions because translators start coming out of the wood work. As we left the apartment to head out Isabella was waiting in the hall to ride with us to Union church where four more translators jumped in. It has been one of the most awesome things for me, to be on the other side of the world and work side by side with other God lovers trying to share His message. We have an amazing God.

So we made our way out of Rio, through a mountain, to a small town to visit an orphanage. As with all poverty stricken areas there are extra kids that nobody seems to want. They were wanted here. They sat and listened so attentively as they were told about Jesus coming and dying for them. They were given a rudimentary but thorough story about their savior. Come to find out in Brazil, Easter is a big holiday to spent time with family but the part about a risen savior has been a bit lost. As we were leaving we noticed all the kids circling up and one of the teachers going over what was taught to them. This is a Christian orphanage, it not only showed in their desire for the kids to understand the Love of God but also in the way they showed us their love for each other. We have an amazing God.

They night ended better than it started. After a trip to the grocery store, where we always love to go and get Brazilian groceries to bring home, we ate at Baby Beef. This restaurant is one of the original Texas de Brazil type restaurants, unbelievable cuts of more meat than one can eat and excellent service. However the ‘better’ part was on the way home. Eric, one of the long term missionaries, and I had a fantastic conversation with the driver. Jonathon tells us than when we listen it earns us the opputunity to talk and that was very much the case here. We heard from a man that had a Christian world view without an understanding of the gospel. He explained some deep theological ideas about living and wasn’t even aware they were at the heart of Christianity. Eric and I did not pass up the opportunity to follow nudging so from the Holy Spirit to help him fill in some of the gaps. It was a true gift to see God at work in someone’s life and be used by Him to help someone come closer to Christ. We have an amazing God.

Valley of Dry Bones

“The hand of the LORD was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ I said, ‘Sovereign LORD, you alone know.'” -Ezekiel 37:1-3

Today we read this story and prayed over a community that from the world’s perspective is a city of dry bones. We visited a place that is commonly referred to as “Crackland”. We worked with an organization to prepare pieces of buttered bread and bags of fruit to pass out to the people who live in the community. As we were heading out to deliver the food we began singing together in the street, first we sang “Mighty to Save” and then we transitioned to them singing in Portugese. At our first stop we gathered around a group of people with tables full of drugs. But it was really interesting to see the respect that the people selling had once we got there. They stopped selling drugs while Paulinho was sharing the gospels to pray for them. Next we moved further into the city to pass out the pieces of buttered bread, fruit, a drink called Guanana and a piece of paper with some information about the organization and where they can go for help. We got to walk through the community and interact with the residents. It was heartbreaking to see how malnourished the people are because drugs have such a grip on their lives and seeing the faces of their sweet children who were born into such hardship. Once we were back in our van the emotions hit me really hard. I pray that God moves in such a huge way that the people of Crackland can turn away from drugs and to God. I pray that the children of Crackland can follow the path of Jesus and not the path that leads to drugs.

This afternoon I got to teach VBS for the first time at Sergio’s church. It was a fun experience getting to teach the children through a translator. All week we have been teaching the kids to memorize Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The Bible story I taught was Acts 1:4-14 so when I got to the part of the story where our verse was they started yelling out the verse in Portugese and it was so cool to see them once they realized they knew part of the story. Later after Jon talked to them about sharing the gospel to their friends, to a people group right here in Brazil who has never heard the name of Jesus, and then to a people group in Central Asia. As Jon began praying, Isabela began translating and after each pause in translation the children were repeating the prayer themselves. It was moving to hear these children choose to say the prayer out loud about taking the Good News of Jesus to the ends of the earth.

It was hard to say goodbye to my new friends in Rio das Pedres. But I can see that God has big plans for the children, the teenagers, and the adults in the Church that we served alongside these last couple of days.

Coming to Rio de Janeiro I thought I knew what to expect. This is our church’s third trip here. I’ve heard all the stories. I’ve seen all the pictures. But I now understand the quote “The heart cannot grieve what the eyes have not seen.” I didn’t truly understand the pain and heartache of the people here until I looked into their beautiful faces, hugged them tightly and spent hours showing God’s love for them. God’s love for them has become my love for them. I am thankful to serve alongside them.

Love from a valley of dry bones that God is breathing life back into,

Mandi

Mind the Gap

Jeremiah 29:11- “For I know the plans I have for you declared the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.”
We had the morning off and were able to relax a little. We started off the morning with a little bit of an American breakfast of bacon and eggs. We learned that bacon isn’t something that is normally eaten here, and if it is, it’s cooked into a side dish. After relaxing this morning, we then headed to Union church and had some lunch before heading out for a day full of VBS and visiting a homeless shelter.

Day two of VBS went fantastic. A little chaotic and loud, but that just made it all the more fun! What a joy it is to be the hands and feet of Jesus and be able to allow these sweet babies a couple of hours of the simple joys of just being a kid. To be able to love on them, show them the love of Christ, and encourage them to go and spread the word.

At the homeless shelter we sang a few songs, some of the people in our group gave their testimonies, passed out toiletry kits and pray over the men that call that place home. While it was sad to see them in that situation there was still so much hope in those men. They were very grateful for the hour or so that we were there.

I feel beyond blessed and grateful to be in Brazil again and to have spent my birthday here. What better way to spend it than being in such a beautiful country spreading the love and hope we have in Christ.
Love, Jamie

Day 3:  Faces and wiener dogs

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Rio das Pedres, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and to the ends of the Earth. Acts 1:8

We return to our friends and the city we have grown to love. Our prayer is that God would cause a movement that allows the gospel to move quickly among neighborhoods, the city, the country, and the world.

We started our day in a school where Jessica spends a lot of time. The kids were really sweet and one could have taken my job as the teacher. I saw a wiener dog so it’s official, they can survive here.

We moved on slowly (a traffic jam took two hours of our day) to Rio das Padres, our community for the week. Day one of VBS brought several kids of all ages. We talked about a loving and just God that made a way for us to be in a right relationship with him. Jesus was the payment for our sin but the story did not end in the grave.  Our hope for eternal life comes through Christ’s resurrection and our job is to tell someone else the story.

The message of the gospel does not change even though a translator is needed. However, the gospel shared in a heart language is beautiful and precious. Witnessing it is worth the trip alone. So what do I bring to the table? Why come at all? The team that serves on the frontline need to see our faces. They need our hugs.  They need to talk about what God is doing around them. The pastors and church members need to know we care about what God is doing in their neighborhood. They need to know it is so important that we get on a plane to see it for ourselves. And us. We need to look them in their eyes,  hold their tiny hands, feel their hugs….because that’s what puts us on our knees before our Creator begging him to bring his Kingdom in Rio das Pedras, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the ends of the Earth.

Love from Rio,

Shelly

Day One and Two: Sightseeing, fellowshipping and Church x 3

Oi Crossroads!

We arrived yesterday (Saturday) morning in Rio de Janeiro after a LONG overnight flight.

We spent our Saturday hanging out with our friends from Restore Brazil at a church picnic then got to visit Sugar Loaf mountain for some amazing views of the City.

We finished off our day with some delicious Pakistani food cooked by a sweet Pakistani family that now calls Rio home.

We got to go to three church services today.

The first service was a morning service at an English speaking church.

Our group split into two this evening, one group attended a Portuguese service who is celebrating their 5th anniversary. Lizzy was able to share her story of how to continue to worship God in the midst of grief.

The other group got to attend church in the community where we will be having vacation Bible school where Jonathan was able to preach.

Tomorrow we will spend teaching children in two locations about a God who loves so much that He gave his only Son so that we may have eternal life. Be praying for us to effectively communicate God’s love.

Boa noite!

Angela