Friday, December 15, 2017

Merry CHRISTmas from the Amazon!

One of the big highlights this last month was having a short term mission team come from Columbus Vineyard.  It is such a treat to have our friends come to work alongside us to reach the people of Brazil.  A majority of the members had been here the year previously.  This is a blessing because like last year they went to Pacajá to walk alongside missionaries Keith and Marsha Wilson.  This is important because the team is continuing to establish more relationships and are laser focused on a certain area.  We refer to this as going narrow and deep.  Narrowly focused to work a majority of their time in Pacajá and each year deepening their relationship with the Brazilians and the team.  We are looking forward to the many more years to come with this team. 

How about you?  Are you interested in coming?  We have many places like Pacajá that would love to have a team come and visit. 

On the way back home the team stopped in Altamira for 2 days.  During those 2 days we had the opportunity for them to come and preach at 2 of our churches.  Pastor Kent Irwin preached at our church, and Patrick Adams preached at the Independente Church.  It was a pleasure to have them share the Word.  In addition, a lot of the English students at our school wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving with the American team.  This was a treat and we had well over 100 people in attendance.  Patrick shared about the meaning of Thanksgiving, and how we should always be thankful to God and one another.  Then we had one of our students read Psalm 136 and then some English students sang “Set a fire”.  Afterwards we sat down with the students and ate a lot of chicken and potatoes while speaking English.  It was really special for the students, and for our team.

TRAVELERS BEWARE:  If you come to our house and it is your birthday.  This is what happens….A Brazilian tradition.  Smash eggs over head, and then throw flour into the face.  Betsy was a great sport.  Elba and the girls are ruthless and it is just a matter of time before they get you.   Elba got caught in the crossfire.  Please do not let this discourage you from coming and visiting. 

As the song goes “It is starting to look a lot like Christmas….WAIT…ok, let’s start over.  It is starting to FEEL a little bit like Christmas.  It is never the same here as it is in the States.  This may be a good thing in the sense of all the hurry around and such.  We try our best to get into the season and we just put up our tree with a few lights.  We are definitely far from the norm here in Altamira because the majority does nothing.  Here are some pictures when we were in the big city of Belém (which means Bethlehem).  We even saw santa. 

Again, Merry CHRISTmas and may our Lord Jesus richly bless you. 

Please also continue to pray for spiritual, physical, and emotional health for us.  

Much love, Steve, Elba, Camilly, and Alyssa

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Friday, November 24, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving from the Amazon!!!

Happy Thanksgiving.  One thing for sure is that we are so thankful for you and to God for bringing you into our lives.  You are a blessing, and we are very grateful that you are on our team as we continue to do the good work that the Lord has lead you and us to accomplish in Brazil.  Be blessed with the below email.

Bill and Dotty Christensen came to lead our missionary care retreat.  They were missionaries in Morocco, North Africa for 11 years and now Bill serves as the International ministries Pastor at Columbus Vineyard.  It was so nice to have them come and speak with us and lead us in reflective and spiritual care for our team.  It was helpful to have a former missionary leading us because he understands the daily challenges that exist for our international missionary team.  In addition, it was just great to be with one another again.  We all live scattered throughout Brazil and we have developed great relationships among our group.  We pray that we can continue to keep doing this once per year and that our missionaries will always be cared for in a deep and meaningful way.  Below is a picture of our XM family.  Unfortunately, Art and Cyndi Rae were back in Canada and unable to attend. 

Before the missionary care retreat, Phil Snell (in the middle with blue shirt) challenged all the men missionaries to grow a goatee.  I have never grown facial hair in my life and I did not want to participate.  However, I went ahead and did it anyway.  The process was horrible.  The girls and I were planning on ways that I could win the competition.  I needed a competitive edge….this is what we came up with.  In the end, we all won the various aspects of the competition.  It was such a relief to shave this off.   

Bill and Dotty Christensen, and Craig and Linda Heselton came to Altamira and then to Pacajá before going to our missionary care retreat.  In Altamira, we had a leadership meeting for the church and Bill shared some words to churches leadership group.  Then we had a powerful time of prayers and the Holy Spirit made His presence known.  The next day they drove 250km to Pacajá to be with the church and Keith and Marsha Wilson.  Craig was asked to lead a Holy Spirit night for the church.  As a part of training and trying to discern the voice of God, Craig asked a man to come up and stand before the congregation.  He then prayed, and asked the congregation if the Lord was speaking to them about this man.  God showed up and spoke with many in the congregation about the man's situation and state.  It was so reassuring because even if we are walking through hard times and not feeling God’s presence, it does not mean that He is not with us. 

Praise the Lord!!! The girls continue to do well.  At Camilly and Alyssa's school they put together some re-enactments of Jesus' life.  Camilly's class was responsible for the bible story where Jesus turns the water to wine.  In the play, Camilly played the bride.  She did a great job, but I soon found out when I watched the play that I am not even close to being prepared for my daughter to get married.  Alyssa is starting to play American flag football.  As a part of an outreach to reach the youth to Christ, our missionaries Ronã and Allison Moura started playing flag football and it has been very fun to watch and participate.  It is really taking off as an evangelical project. 

Please also continue to pray for spiritual, physical, and emotional health for us.  

Much love, Steve, Elba, Camilly, and Alyssa

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This big guy was right outside our window during our missionary care meetings. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

October Thanks and Amazon update!

Thank you so much for your prayers for us as we traveled to South Africa to participate in their National Vineyard Conference.

Because of cost savings it was a long journey to get there with driving 530 km on very rough dirt roads to get to the Santarem airport, and then traveling another 24 hours with layovers by plane to arrive in South Africa.   We arrived very tired but it was worth it as Elba was one of the main speakers and it was an awesome privilege to be with our African brothers and sisters.  There were so many good things that happened during our trip.  The biggest highlights were meeting our Portuguese speaking African family from Mozambique and Angola.  It was really special and we are looking forward to seeing how God will expand our friendships, and lead us to work closer together.  Brazil is committed to sharing teaching material that we already have in Portuguese.  In addition, God really used a servant named André to speak prophetically to everyone from our Brazilian group.  We were all touched in a deep and profound way.   It was also an honor to be able to go to the Apartheid museum and learn more about Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela and the amazing adversities that they overcame to defeat apartheid.  Unfortunately, change is slow but as long as we continue to engage the conversation in productive and healthy ways, and leadership continues to dream for equality and freedom, I believe it will be achieved. 

A great reminder.

At the church, we had a baptism and as always it was a great celebration at the church.  Needless to say, it was also a great celebration in heaven as well.  Praise the Lord!  We are so happy for this public decision that they made in their lives and the great adventure that the Lord will lead them going forward.  Please keep these new believers in your prayers. 

The girls are doing well and to tell you the truth I am not sure if they really missed us while we traveled to South Africa. :-) Upon arriving back home we found and caught this snake.  We took it down to our local EPA for them to set free.  Before giving it to them, Alyssa mustered up the courage to hold the snake.  Pretty courageous.  Camilly is pictured with her cousin Apolana at one of our church events.  They are growing up so fast and turning into more beautiful women of God every day.  Also pictured, is just one of the many animals that we saw in Africa

Please pray for our city.  As I mentioned in an earlier email, it is now the number one city in Brazil for murders.  Unfortunately, things have not cooled down.  It continues and in just 2 days last week there were 7 murders, some execution style.  On top of all the other crime, it takes the level of fear to new heights for the people of Altamira.  We need your prayers that the Lord’s Kingdom will reign in this city and we will start to experience heaven on earth. 

Please also continue to pray for spiritual, physical, and emotional health for us.  

Much love, Steve, Elba, Camilly, and Alyssa

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On our long journey to get to South Africa we stopped at a restaurant in a small city.  I went to use the bathroom and I saw this “in case of emergency break glass”, with two shucked corn cobs.  I had no idea what it meant until I asked Elba.  OMG!!!  Praise the Lord for toilet paper!  Cannot believe that people actually used this as a method to get clean.  I lived such a sheltered life….in this case…..I am happy.  :-)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

September Amazon Update!!!

At the church we had a big ceremony to promote purity for our young woman 12 and over in the church.  It was a really special time as each girl made a public statement to receive the ring to abstain from sex before marriage as a pact between them and God.  In addition, we hope that the girls also wear it as a constant reminder of how precious and special they are in the eyes of the Lord.  To see them as lovable young woman, and not as an object. Camilly was one of those young woman who received the purity ring.  We also gave a purity ring to Alyssa afterwards at our home.  I have 2 sets of 9 more rings to put on their hands to reinforce the point.  LOL J 

Thank you so much for your prayers for the dentist team that came and served.  It was another amazing time of serving the community and helping people with dental needs that otherwise would not be able to get easy access to this care.  The team went on the river with Richie Bouthillier and his retrofitted dental clinic boat to serve people near Porto de Moz.  Then they went the 2nd week to Santarem to serve others.  The team worked tireless hours serving the community needs.  In these short two weeks the volunteer dentist team served 544 people doing cleanings, repairing cavities, pulling teeth, and making dentures.  It was an incredible work and we pray the Lord’s hand upon them all.  It has been a pleasure partnering with Project Smile to serve the people, and share Jesus Christ. 

Here are the statistics of the people served by Project Smile in the last years.  Amazing work considering they only do this once per year for 2 weeks.  Since this project is self-funded, they are limited to only once per year.  

People Served
Procedures completed
Fluoride Rinse
Dental Kits

I turned 50 years old in August.  They had a surprise birthday party for me and my twin sister, Lynn got me this shirt which I thought was funny.  I was just thankful that my birthday did not include smashed eggs on my head with flour.  Camilly and Alyssa are doing well.  Alyssa won some more awards for academics.  YEA!!!  They stop giving out the awards after 4th grade.  We had a hover board place open in our city.  The girls went and are becoming pretty good at riding. 

Please keep us and our family in your prayers.  Elba was invited to go to South Africa and speak at their National Vineyard Conference.  We start our journey there this Friday along with several leaders.  Unfortunately, we are unable to take the girls.  They need to be in school and their aunt will be taking care of them.  Please pray for safe travels there and back, that the Holy Spirit will fill us all up more, and protection for us, the girls, our whole family, and belongings.

Please also continue to pray for spiritual, physical, and emotional health for us.

Much love, Steve, Elba, Camilly, and Alyssa

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Alyssa found this funky looking caterpillar.  Looks dangerous to me with all its spines.  Also, Cleide and Elizangela roasted cashew nuts right off the tree for us to eat.  When the oil seeps out of the shell it create a significant fire, which in turn, roast the nuts. The girls then used a hammer to knock off the burnt shell.  Yum, good eating.