Brazil Missions Trip Recap

We had a great trip to Brazil and we have so many people to thank and so much for which to be thankful. Here is a link to our pictures (623 to be exact):
Below is a day by day review of our trip…if you get some to look at the pics or read the itinerary we certainly thank you in advance. Also, it would be great for you to join us by offering prayers for the missionaries to be encouraged and the Gospel to continue to advance in Brazil.
God Bless!
Dennis, Todd, Troy, Fred and Braxxtin
Brazil – Day 1 Arrival: Left KC at 7:10pm Sunday – arrived in Porta Aelgre (roll the R) at 3:00pm today. Went to wrestling practice, dropped off luggage and then visited some new friends for an authentic Brazilian dinner…beans, rice, chicken, pork, noodles, veggies, rice pudding and Tapioca pudding for dessert :). Oh and we all were able to sip some authentic “Green Tea” which woke us all up. Hey Kansas drivers you guys are all right…these Brazilians are crazy…seriously. Oh, one last shout out to the dog who met one of those drivers head on…R.I.P. Seriously, please pray for us as we have a full day planned with service projects, wrestling practice and more visits with the locals.
Brazil – Day 2 Digging in: Tonight in our devotions we were again reminded of God’s provision in bringing us to Brazil. Our devotion said “we should not be surprised when God goes above and beyond all that we would ask or dream.” It was pretty amazing to reflect on the stories we have heard from Missionary Tom Latham. We have been so blessed just to be here and experience so much already.
We woke up this morning to a big breakfast of oatmeal, fruit, bread, coffee and juice. We took off for the church for a work project. We were able to paint at the church building while Braxxtin took a trip to the doctor with the missionary (he won’t be getting out of work tomorrow =)). Then it was time for a HUGE lunch which Braxxtin has simply described as “wonderful.”
We spent time planning the afternoon practice and then it was time to head over to the school for wrestling. There were a lot of kids and we had a lot of fun on the mat. Almost as much fun as we have had attempting to learn the Portuguese language. Then it was time to head home starting with 16 people in the van dropping them off, dodging dogs and angry motorists.
Then it was time for dinner with more guests and more great food. After eating, we loaded up in the van armed with Gospel tracts and church invitations to distribute in the city. A few more guests when we arrived back at HQ, some skype time, ping pong and devotions. All in all it was another great day.
Brazil – Day 3 Project Day: Worked on raking leaves, splitting wood, weed eating, vehicle maintenance and eating…A LOT!
The missionary and Dad Campbell had a great visit with one of the wrestling families who are coming to the tournament on Saturday and possibly church on Sunday. In addition, both of them were bitten by the dog…probably earned a bonus crown for that one =).
We had more great wrestling practices today with several more new wrestlers and then went over to another families home for dinner…incredible food once again.
The missionary is also taking time to teach us so each night we have a class for 30-45 minutes. Tomorrow morning we leave early and head up to the mountains.
Brazil – Day 4 Mountains: Woke up early for a two hour trip up into the mountains. Stopped by the Black Forest and hiked around the lake. There is a quaint city nestled up in the mountains Gramado which is where we spent most of our time. We went to the Gondola, saw the waterfall and rode a zip line. Then it was time for the chocolate factory and then off to lunch where we experienced Brazilian fondue at its best. AMAZING!!!  Then we walked around the city and toured a famous Catholic church with life size sculptures of each of the disciples.
Then we bought some souvenirs and more chocolate. We were able to distribute tracts at each stop along the way thanks to Dad who is a tract distribution superhero. Then it was time to head down the mountain with a stop in the slums on the way home. The poverty is heartbreaking and there is a clear need for the Gospel.
We ended the day with a church service. The people are so gracious. They began by washing our feet (new experience…check that off the bucket list). We were each able to share a testimony through an interpreter which was pretty awesome as well. We closed out the service with a time of prayer and testimonies. It was a great reminder that no matter the differences in culture, language and experiences, Jesus is the only answer for the questions of life.
Brazil – Day 5 Brazilian Jujitsu Club: We started today with homemade Churros for breakfast. Then it was time to finish up some work projects and set up for the wrestling tournament. We were invited to teach wrestling at a Jujitsu club where we were able to meet many new friends. Most of the guys at the club are business men who use their lunch break to train. This is a key entry point for the Gospel. At the end we all circled up to pray and several of the guys shared that was their favorite part of the day.
Then we went over to the public school to teach two more sessions. After that we went off for dinner at the home of the assistant pastor. We had group devotions, prayed for the tournament and went to bed.
Brazil – Day 6 Tournament Day: Early this morning we took off for downtown Porta Alegre to do some shopping, sightseeing and distribute tracts. It was a great time walking in the city market and seeing all the street vendors and finding some pretty awesome souvenirs.
This afternoon we held the wrestling tournament for all the kids that we have been working with all week. Fred and Todd were the referees, Troy did the photography, Dennis shared the Gospel with the group and Braxxtin wrestled four times and won each match.
After the tournament we took a much needed break and then got ready for dinner. This evening we ate the poorest house yet. The house was very tiny with wide cracks in the floor and the walls. A single mom/grandmother is raising three growing boys in very difficult conditions. Six years ago she accepted Christ and He has totally changed her life. We closed out the meal by singing Amazing Grace and tears were streaming down her face. This experience is impossible to describe, but it has helped each of us to appreciate God’s grace even more. After this we came back to HQ and were able to have a final teaching session from the missionary and then share all that God has taught us on this trip.
Brazil – Day  7 Sunday/Departure  Day:  Troy left earlier in the morning to go to a prison ministry with the missionaries son, Shane.   Todd, Fred and Braxxtin packed for their departure and then loaded up to have breakfast with the family that helped to transport us around all week.  We ate manioc root cooked a couple of different ways and had fresh squeezed tangerine juice from their  tree.  After some pictures with the family, we all loaded up for the airport since they wanted to see us off.  On the way to the airport, we enjoyed some more time trying to communicate and learn words as well as sing some songs.  We enjoyed a time of prayer and hugs before leaving.  We were impacted in a great way on this trip and hope that God allows us to see some of these dear Christian friends again.
We arrived in Sao Paulo and had a 7 hour layover and had been told on the flight that we should not go downtown since traffic was so unpredictable.  One of the Brazilians that we met called this city the concrete jungle.   It is a city of 26 million and we had difficulty finding anyone in the airport that could speak English.  We did not want to take a chance on a taxi or bus so we opted for taking a walk to a nearby neighborhood.  Not sure if this was the wisest choice, but it was definitely interesting.  Three white guys with backpacks and cameras walking in the ghetto of Sao Paulo.  I’ll let our pictures and video clips tell the rest.  J  We did make it back safely for our flight back to the states. 
Troy was able to spend time with Shane Latham who has a prison ministry among some of the worst criminals in the state. It is maximum security and each prisoner poses a significant threat. I was able to participate with two groups of prisoners. This experience was a highlight of the trip for me.
Brazil – Day 8 Mission Almost Completed:  We (Todd, Fred and Braxxtin) had an uncomfortable, but safe 10 hour flight from Sao Paulo to Newark.  Our flight was delayed in Newark a couple of hours due to a storm, but we made it back safely.  While we were very glad to be home and see our families, we do miss the friends that we made in Brazil.  God used this trip in our lives and we hope we encouraged the missionaries and many of the Brazilians that we met.
Meanwhile back in Brazil, Dad and Troy were able to be with Tom Latham and share the gospel with a neighbor to the church. He was very open to Christ, his name is Johnny if you would like to pray for him by name. We went from there to the Jujitsu club and had a great time with the guys. Then it was on to the kids wrestling practice and back home just in time for a ride on the Harley before dark. We ended the night with a bonfire (yes, Braxxtin a bonfire :)).
Brazil – Day 9 Sao Paulo: After a nice breakfast and several “goodbyes” we loaded up for the airport. We landed in Sao Paulo in time for a 10 hour layover. Dave Huffman who is a friend from college and a missionary in Sao Paulo, and his daughter Christina picked us up for a tour of the city. It was awesome! It was really a lot of fun to see Dave after 15 years and it was great to hear about their work in the city. God has blessed them as a family as well as their ministry.
We parked and took the subway downtown Sao Paulo that has a population of 26 million. I could literally feel the energy when we were walking downtown. We ate at an authentic Brazilian steakhouse, looked at the city from the top of a building, toured a catholic church and spent time walking down market street. After being totally amazed at the skills of the motorbikes weaving through traffic at ridiculous speeds, we made it back to the airport in plenty of time for a long and uncomfortable overnight flight back to the US. It was a great trip, and it was GREAT to be home and see the family. They were amazing to allow us all to take the time for this trip. God is good!


New Life Sunday

When we were in Brazil, we had so many great experiences. We were able to meet some incredible people, share the Gospel, eat amazing food, see fabulous sites and build unforgettable memories (how’s that for adjectives?).
This Sunday we will take a few minutes to share more in depth about our time in Brazil. For now, I want to share one story that relates to the theme for the service this Sunday.
One of the difficulties we experienced in Brazil was the language barrier. It was very challenging to communicate. By the end of the trip, our vocabulary increased to about 10 words, but in the beginning, not so much.
After dinner our second evening we went downtown to distribute Gospel tracts. The missionary explained that we should say, “Eh grátis” which sounds like, “Eh Grachese” and means, “free.” He repeated the word about 10 times and then we were off to distribute tracts.
The more we said, “Eh grátis” the more it began to change. We tried to help each other get it right, but after awhile, I don’t think any of us were getting it right. We caught up with the missionary and he corrected us and then it was on our own to mess it up again.
One of us (I won’t say who), started saying “Eh grasha” it didn’t seem quite right, but when you can’t compare it to the correct pronunciation, it gets very difficult. A few days later we were with another missionary who heard someone say, “Eh grasha.” He then shared that that pronunciation sounded like the Portugese word, “Eh graxa” which means, “grease, fat or shoe polish.”
As you can imagine, holding out a Gospel tract while saying “grease or fat” is not necessarily the best way to go about making friends and influencing people.
We got a pretty good laugh out of this and continued to improve on our language skills throughout our time there.
As I reflect on this story, I am reminded of our topic for this Sunday from 1 Thessalonians 2:1-16. We will be studying mentorship. The only way to get it right is to stay close to the original. In verse 13 Paul says that the reason the Thessalonians were able to grow in their faith and be a part of the Gospel spreading throughout the world was because they “received the word of God.”
There is much more to share from these verses, but in a nutshell we will learn truth and be able to share it as mentors when we stay close to the original. Which is a great reason to join us at 10:45am on Sunday… “Eh grátis!” 🙂
Tchau (Bye)!

New Life Sunday – Sink or swim…

Earlier this week we went to the pool as a family. Oh yeah!
Alexa and Sophie are part fish…they LOVE to swim. I certainly cannot take full credit for teaching them how to swim (Leigh-Ann probably had way more to do with it than me, but I don’t have a story about swimming in her childhood =)), but I have helped along the way. And if you knew where I started, you would appreciate this even more…
To begin, I am not the dad that throws his kids in the deep end and tells them to sink or swim.
Here’s why….
When I was 5 I took beginner swimming lessons…and I failed.
I re-took the class at age 6 and barely passed.
I remember the first time that I went off the diving board…I was SOOOO scared. The lifeguard had to ask me to hold the lifesaving hook (or whatever that’s called) and finally was able to guide me off the board.
I nearly hyperventilated as I doggy paddled frantically for the ladder. Not impressive!
At some point in my childhood, I overcame my fear of the water and learned that as long as I don’t panic it will hold me up.
I still would not consider myself a great swimmer, however I know enough to teach my kids what I know and I can tell you already that they are nearly as good as I am and in time they will be much better swimmers than me.
Imagine if I refused to teach my kids how to swim. What if I simply kept all of my knowledge and experience swimming and filed it away in the back of my mind? What if I never practiced swimming?
I would be worthless when it came to swimming.
I must say that spending time with our kids in the pool has helped me to become a better swimmer. It has also helped them to become better swimmers. Eventually I am sure they will teach some of their friends or siblings how to swim as well.
When it comes to spiritual truth the point is that we are not called to be containers for our knowledge and experience, but rather we are called to be pipelines.
Last week we looked closely at Acts 17 in order to have some context for Paul’s letter to the church in Thessalonica. This week we will begin our verse by verse study of the book of 1 Thessalonians. The big idea is that The church is a clearinghouse and not a congregation!
The church grew and prospered in Thessalonica because Paul evangelized, made disciples and established a church that made disciples and evangelized.
I am so excited to spend time this summer studying one of the greatest guides for spiritual modeling ever written.
In the meantime, have a great weekend!

New Life Sunday – Modeling for our faith…

In 1988, Dan Wieden from Portland Oregon came up with a catchy slogan for Nike:
Just do it! 
According to many experts, this phrase helped to propel Nike into the top place of sporting goods manufacturing to the tune of more than 20 Billion per year in sales.
Three words that spoke to heart of humanity…Just…Do…It!
Last Sunday, James gave a similar tagline in 1:22, “but be doers of the word and not hearers only.” The point is that often knowledge is not the issue. Sometimes, we simply lack the initiative to “get off the couch.”
This Sunday, we are going to introduce our book study of 1 Thessalonians. In a nutshell, the book tells a beautiful story of Paul and how he modeled faith. There is a simple theme running through the book of initiative and mentoring.
We are going to spend our introductory week in the book of Acts chapters 16-17 looking at Luke’s account of the short time that Paul spent in Thessalonica. As the story unfolds, we will see Paul moving in directions he never planned, being followed by critics who sought his demise but ultimately setting an example that spread to the corners of the earth.
If I was in marketing, I would pay close attention to those who have been successful. I’m pretty sure spending some time with Dan Wieden would be pretty awesome. He implemented a model for marketing that continues to succeed.
As Christians, it seems that we would do well to pay close attention to activities modeled by the Apostle Paul in the city of Thessalonica. This book is full of love for his friends, teaching about future times and encouragement in the midst of crisis.  This Sunday you can expect to learn that:
·         God speaks into confusion
·         Opportunity requires activity
·         God uses critics to advance His plan
·         The Gospel is bigger than we are

This is going to be a great learning experience and a great journey together. You can expect to grow!

New Life Sunday – We’re adopting Z

Two years ago Leigh-Ann and I spent a Sunday morning service reflecting on our feelings after experiencing the tragedy of losing the foster daughter that we had raised for the first 18 months of her life.
To be truthful, sharing our thoughts with our New Life family was not on our bucket list. At the time we felt:
·         Abandoned
·         Hurt
·         Lost
We were struggling with big questions like, “how could God allow this to happen?” Since the beginning of New Life we have made the commitment to live authentically and this fateful Sunday so many  months ago was stretching the limits.
At the time, it felt like we were left for dead in the  middle of an ocean. I clearly remember praying for God to rescue us by returning our daughter. I had visions of a helicopter swooping down to lift us out of the deep, dark waters where we were thrashing.
Leigh-Ann and I never experienced the miraculous rescue, however we can testify to the miraculous grace from God. There have been many moments that have felt overwhelming and then at just the right time, God has brought us the encouragement necessary to make it another day.
This past week has opened up a new chapter in our lives. A new day in our foster-adopt journey.
On Wednesday, we were notified that the judge ruled in our favor and that we will be able to adopt Z…our son who we have had for the past 16 months since he was 3 months old.
When Leigh-Ann called to tell me the good news, she was sobbing and the kids were screaming. I heard her say that the parental rights of the birth parents had been terminated.
My heart almost stopped…
As this news was still sinking in, I remembered that the sermon topic for this Sunday is . “Pure religion is to visit the orphans and widows…” from the end of James 1.
Several years ago God called Leigh-Ann and I to serve Him through foster care. This journey has provided incredible highs and lows. The road has taken us through the darkest moments of our lives. It has also shown us amazing and incredible things about our God.
We are planning to take some time this Sunday to pick up where we left off two years ago. Leigh-Ann and I are excited to share the rest of the story that is plumb full of God’s grace.
If you are presently experiencing difficult times, I think this service will be a great encouragement. I hope you can come.