Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Blessed to be a Blessing

Inspired by a church in San Angelo, Texas, 5 years ago my parents began an event here in Itu called Blessed to be a Blessing (for those of you who'd like to practice your Portuguese, "Abencoados para Abencoar").

People bring non-perishable food items to church one Sunday, and we spend the following week putting together food packages and distributing them throughout the poor communities in Itu.

Last year our goal was 100, and we made 109 food baskets!
This year our goal is... 200! This is a lofty goal for our congregation. But not for our God.
Sunday, the 9th is when the food will be collected.

Please pray as we encourage the church members to be generous, and as we go into the community and hand out not only food, but the love of Christ.

(**If you are interested in participating, please leave a comment or write us at**)

to God be the glory.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

our Thanksgiving meal

No, we don't have Thanksgiving in Brazil.
And yes, we miss it - all of it - desperately!
So we put together our buy from the produce store for nostalgia's sake (this tableful plus some ran us about $30), then enjoyed our rice and beans dinner.

We are thinking of you, praying for you, and wishing we could be at your turkey-packed table!

Our Bible studies here in Itu have been terrific. Tuesday we had a great discussion with the young professionals group about how God uses us and the sufferings we endure to pass along the comfort that we receive from Him. Yesterday we led a home group Bible study with a more meditative focus on John 19, with special attention being paid to Jesus' final recorded interaction with his mother and "the disciple that he loved," John. Tonight, we have the youth group over at our house, and tomorrow we have the Bible study at Yeskey, the English school. It is such a blessing to be able to be used here!

Thanks for keeping us in your prayers.

Mark and Ali

Monday, November 12, 2007

the church has left the building

the title of this post is one of our favorite quotes printed on a T-shirt
modeled by none other than the one and only Kimn Nierman (we love you guys!)

why do we love the quote so much?

Because until the church learns to leave its building, it's useless. we're useless.

To quote the most over-played Christian band -- but for the first 100 times these lyrics are extremely impactful -- "If we are the body, why aren't his hands reaching?"

more on the youth retreat last weekend: it was wonderful. (pics above)
it took place at an orphanage in a small town nearby.
there were over 80 people that participated, including a very dynamic leadership team of adults.

one of my favorite aspects of the retreat: it was the churh outside of its building.

there were people from 8 different cities, all together praising, playing, and spending time with beautiful orphan children who don't experience much love in their lives. It was Christianity being lived instead of being heard or spoken.


So this week it 'all begins'. With my parents being in the US for the next month, we have triple responsibilities.
our schedule will look something like this:

Tuesday - Young Professionals home group
Wednesday - Portal home group
Thursday - Youth group home group
Friday - Yesky home group
Saturday - Young marrieds home group
Sunday - Church (on an average Sunday we're together until 10pm)
Mondays are off. kinda. as off as we can possibly stand it.

As Mark and I prepare for this new ministry schedule (**note: ministry does not require a schedule**), in my mind the defining question of our ministry philosophy is "are we helping the church leave the building?"

have you experienced a church that has left the building?
do you have any tips as we prepare for this revolutionary push?


Sunday, November 4, 2007

In loving memory,

Yesterday evening I returned to Itu from having helped lead a weekend camp that was held in an orphanage about 30 minutes away from here. It was a very rewarding time, and I intend to write more about it in the future.

After arriving home I found out that shortly before I left my grandmother, Doris Kaiser, had passed on to be with the Lord. The last year has been very hard on her. During a hospital stay in August she told me, 'Don't worry about me, I am ready to go home'. For the first time since then, she is comfortable. Without question she is better off, but is never easy to bid someone you love her final farewell.

I love my Gramma, and am thankful to have been a part of the life she lived. Below is a note I wrote for her funeral, which will be held today.

Life is all about people and relationships, so it is hard to say goodbye to such a great person as gramma, even though the hard loss is mixed with joy. My gramma has spent a full lifetime serving those around her, and serving her Savior. It is hard on my heart to realize that my time on earth with gramma is over, but it's a joy to know that she is living in the reward that she has been looking forward to for so long!

Paying final respects to someone you love is tuff. There are many things I would love to thank her for. She was one of the most servant-hearted people I have ever known, and she shared her faith with genuine concern and regularity where ever she was.

My gramma was a wonderful caretaker. Over the last decade she cared for and blessed grampa until the end of his time with total disregard for her own interests. She exemplified 'dying to self' and 'loving others as Christ loved us' with a beautiful spirit of kindness. Her departure is very impacting because of this love that she shared so freely.

Gramma's nursing home was the last stop I made before the airport when I moved to Brazil in September. I feel lucky to have had that time to say 'Goodbye'. I will miss her. No doubt she is in a better place now and I am happy for her. I also have confidence that she has received her welcome, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant', and to that I pray that Jesus would pass on my "Amen".