Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Encounter Weekend - Awesome God

God is so awesome. It's amazing to see how He can change lives, transform people, give them a new hope and heal them up. The Encounter retreat is something we have a couple times a year at our church, and it's really just a weekend where we receive awesome teaching from God's word and then have a chance to apply it to our lives. And the cool thing about it is that we always have a team of intercessors praying around the clock for those at the Encounter. And then there's always really cool surprises over the weekend. And God always does miracles in people's lives. This weekend, I was out there to help out, and 6 people from our Life Group went: Matt, Dewald, Kevin, Degory, James and Ruth. We had 20 people from PEI that came for the Encounter as well, and 4 of Lancy's friends from Queen's University, all fiery, God loving Asians - Collin, Michelle, Fran and Claudia (even though they live in Kingston all year, they consider our church as their home church cause the love us so much).
It was a beautiful weekend up north, and right by a lake too. Gorgeous. I wish I'd taken some pictures... but it was such a busy weekend that I didn't get a chance.

God healed Ruth from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrom from seeing the horrors of the war in Haiti - something counselors and doctors told her she'd never get over). She was so excited about it she kept telling everyone. That's really cool. God also showed Kevin how much He loves him, something he'd always struggled to understand. Several of the peeps received the baptism of the Holy Spirit this weekend, and that was so cool, and so God too. Jenna, one of the youth who was there this weekend, said that, although she's always been the type of person who didn't smile much, she just hasn't been able to stop smiling since she's come back from the Encounter, and people think she's weird cause she's so joyful.

The Encounter comeback was fun too. Here are some scenes taken from the platform where I was with the rest of the worship team. Really cool things happened then too. There were 13 people who got baptized. Several people gave their heart to the Lord, including Megan's mom, one of the youth who was at the Encounter. She had never liked Megan coming to church and youth, and even called it a cult, but now she's so excited she tried to convince Megan's brother to come out this week. And a couple girls too, friends Dewald had invited out accepted Jesus. They'll hopefully be coming out to Life Group this coming Sunday as well. Actually, one of them is a girl we've been praying for as a Life Group for several months... God answers prayer! Sarah's (another of the youth who was at the Encounter) little brother also gave his heart to Jesus, and he's totally changed already - he's got so much joy and peace. She's so excited.

With God, all things are possible. I've seen it so many times in my life, and this weekend was no different.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Touring T.O. with Renata

(Renata and the CN tower)
It was a cool grey morning as the three of us headed out to the big city, Renata, Lucivani and I. Lu is Brazilian, she moved here to serve as a missionary several years ago, and she's just awesome. And Renata, she's a dear friend that I met for the first time 3 years ago on my first missionary trip to Brazil. At the time, it was like friendship at first sight. Now, she's here in Canada for 4 months to improve her English. She slept over at my house last night, her first time coming over since she arrived here in September (shame on me!), and today we went out to Toronto for her first taste of the famed city.

Finding parking was the hardest thing ever! But once we were settled in a spot, we hurried to find a place for lunch; it was already 1:00PM. We settled for a nice little Korean owned sushi restaurant, and Renata got a lesson on how to eat with chopsticks... she handled it very well.

Of course, we had to go up the CN tower, and we stopped along the way for a bit of shopping for Renata's friends and family back home. By the time we left the tower, it was already 4:30, and Re and Lu were going to be late for an Audio Adrenaline comcert. They were able to enter in for free since they'll be helping with cleaning after the concert. I like Audio Adrenaline, but I really wasn't ready this weekend to stay up until early in the morning to help with all that... so I came home... and got lost through Toronto... but made it back alive! Re and Lu are still at the concert, having a great time. I'm sure I'll hear all about tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Brazil Booked!

As of yesterday, our trip to Brazil this February has now been booked - whoohoo!! AND, I get to go to Londrina!!

As previously discussed and decided with Prs Frank and Chris, I'll be accompanying our church's internship students to Brazil for the Acampamento de Jovems and missionary serving down there (not sure yet exactly what we'll be doing...). I'll be helping out as a team leader and translator (help me Jesus!). I was really excited about it all, except for the fact that we'll only be going to Aracatuba (although Aracatuba is great too!). Each time I've gone before, I spent time in Londrina, and it's now become like a home away from home... and I was so sad to be going so close to there, and yet so far...

But now, as Valdir has booked the tickets for us, I've just gotten the ok, or the "of course!", to spend a little more time there when we go, allowing me to go to Londrina for a few days. Yaya! I'll get to see the educational centre our church has helped fund (the building was started 3 years ago, when I first went there on my own... and it was just opened up this October!). And I'll get to see all those precious people from the bairro Franciscato (it's really a slum, but they don't call it that)... and I hope to see my friends Marinalva and Zenga and Mayara and Gra, and everyone!

The trip will be from February 14th to 27th, and I'll stay behind until the 6th of March... It's gonna be awesome.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

African Fun!

(top: Laura, Ruth, Jazzy, Phoebe and Degory... bottom: Laura and Phoebe in the background, and Kyle, Degory and James)

Ah, the day has come and gone, and left us but memories of laughter and good times... and did I mention laughter? Who knew that a bunch of young adults could actually agree to dress so silly... and then go out to Tim Horton's dressed that way; not that Africans typically dress silly; but tonight, us wannabe's sure did!

Yes, tonight was our much anticipated African party night at Life Group. The idea started off when James and Phoebe, who are the more mature couple in our group, went home to Uganda for a month, and their vacation turned into a missions ministry opportunity. Our group prayed for them and helped them get hooked up with some resources to bring out to pastors and churches out there. And then, God really used them to bless that nation while they were there, and to help equip some of the awesome pastors in that country.

So, a few months later, after deciding to have them share their Uganda experience with the group one night, we decided to turn it into a party; and quite the party it was! Of course, like any party, we needed food (African food that is) and games, and then we had a Bible study and chat time, and a time of prayer for Uganda and the rest of Africa.... oh, and of course, the dressing up... very impressive with around 30 in colorful array!

Thank you James and Phoebe for setting up this whole thing. It was a blast!

Here are some pics:

Making green banana fries - and yes, believe it or not, I ate some, and loved'em... I think I'll go out and buy some green bananas! Cheese Janine and Cassandra... the guys are busy doing the frying...

Hmmm... do we look African???

Here's Sandra carrying baby Hannah, the African way!

Stacey and The Food! (storybook title?) mmmm, our African dishes turned out finger lickin'...

Now eating the food... yummy!

The game... nice dancing, Kevin!

Now, let's find out what the Bible has to say...

...and let's talk about it! (Dave the "African" preacher)

After-party fun... teaching Josiah how to play hacky sack

Couldn't call it a night without the guit's!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Time with friends

Well, this is a weekend with old friends. My old roommate, Michelle, who just got married over a year ago (hmm, I guess it must be almost 2 by now), invited me over for a "sleep over" party at her house since her husband was away for the weekend. It was nice. We spent the whole evening just chatting, about all and nothing, and the events of the past months in each of our lives. We hadn't hung out in a long time. It's funny to see how things change so much in life, and yet they don't really. We laughed though when we realized how layed back she'd become with her husband - I know that was my influence on her life that caused that, cause if anyone knows Michelle, she ain't no layed back person !! :)... Truly, show me your friends, and I'll show you your future!

Here are some pictures of my best friends ever, Sandra and Cameron Jeffs, and their 2 little ones, Josiah and Hannah... Can you believe that Josiah is only 2 years old, a couple months younger than my baby sister Cassylia! See him on those drums! He can actually keep a beat, which is very impressive for a 2 yr old!

And Hannah, such a doll! We had a nice afternoon, just chatting and hanging out. Oh, and Sandra, well, she was born in Tanzania, and her parents, Mr and Mrs Bjorklund, were missionaries there. So, we got really inspired about tomorrow's African party, and she passed on a bunch of clothes and decorations for tomorrow. She'll even be bringing Hannah in a Katanga, African style! So cool!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Life Group? What's that?

(in our Life Group, people just hang out until late in the evening - here's our guys' favorite thing to do: play hacky sack... somehow though, they're the only ones who can do it... as hard as we try, us girls are really shamefully bad at it...)

Life Groups are a small group of people that get together on a given day for fellowship (hanging out), Bible study, prayer and evangelism. In a constantly growing church, it's so easy to come and go and get lost in the crowd. But not with Life Group. Personnally, I think it's the bomb! Life Groups have changed my life, and I don't know where I'd be today without them!

Today, I lead a "small" group averaging 20 some people in weekly attendance, mainly all young adults. They're an awesome bunch of peeps, and each one of them adds to the life of the group in a unique way with their diverse personalities, backgrounds and testimonies. It's unusual for a group to stay that big, but we have a unique strategy geared toward young adults. See, it's common knowledge that young adults, especially single ones, are very social people. So, where most groups would multiply into smaller groups meeting in different homes once they reach 12 or so we're kinda sticking together, but then branching off for discussion time into smaller groups of 6 or 7. It's been working very well, and we've got new people coming in every week. We always have an awesome time!

My greatest joy in leading our Life Group is to see God working in people's lives. We have 2 brand spankin' new believers that are just awesome, Myriam and Matt. And then we have some people who accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior not even a year ago, but who are growing leaps and bounds spiritually, totally on fire for God, and letting the Holy Spirit work on their character. Then, there's the answers to prayer that spark up the excitement. And we always have some fun and funky parties, social events and outreaches that bring others peering in with curiosity.

Our group is swarming with talent too. Many of the people in the group can either sing or play an instrument, or both... So our times of praise and worship are always a blast, and sometimes we just don't want to stop!

Now, we didn't start there though. When I multiplied out of Cameron and Sandra's Life Group, I had a vision to see this kinda thing happen, but I had no idea how much work, prayer, patience, and not-about-me-ness was involved in the whole deal... I can easily remember the days when there were just 3 of us meeting weekly, praying for God to use us to tell others about Him, praying for people to come and join in with our vision... It was like that for a couple years. But God honors faithfulness, prayer and just sticking to it. I love how Pr Les puts it: "too stupid to quit"! I guess that was me... and now, look at what the Lord has done! He's so awesome!!

This has been one of the most rewarding things I've ever been involved with. I hope to keep on doing it for the rest of my life!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Gettin' ready for African night - My roommates!

Ever played dress up? Well, we did tonight! Actually, this coming Sunday we're having an African Party night at Life Group. I kinda got creative here, and started picking out how I'll be dressing for it... and the enthusiasm spilled out onto my roommates, Stacey and Brianna. So here we are, all dressed up and looking like the palest Africans you ever saw! Now, we just have to find some African recipes for the food we'll be having that night!

(sorry for the sideways picture...)

Stacey has been my roommate now for over a year, and Bri just moved in with us in September. They're both in school, so we're a real busy bunch... And so, the house often ends up messy, and we don't really get to hang out alot, but we get along great and have never argued. All three of us love the Lord and that helps us cope with our differences! Let's say I've sure learned alot since my first roommate a few years ago... The joke around here is that I help get girls prepared for marriage (that's after 2 of my roommates have moved out to get married!) I wonder who's turn will be next!!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Some background - Why Cambodia

Where my love for missions comes from...

Well, to be honest, I don't remember the day I was first interested in missions. I know it all started when I was very young, like a seed planted there by my Creator from the time I was born. I remember day-dreaming, at a very young age, about teaching little children in an African jungle school, or about founding an orphanage for little baby girls in China. I was around 5 years old when I gave my little heart to Jesus, and asked Him to become my Lord and my Savior. Since that day, I've always had this intense desire to serve Him, tell others about Him and spread His love in all the world. I always loved different cultures, peoples and languages, and I still do. I remember just loving to hear about and read stories of missionaries around the world, giving up everything and risking their lives to tell people that God loves them.

Not long ago, I was having a little heart to heart chat with my mommy, and I asked her (in French, of course) "Maman, will you miss me if I go away to be a missionary?" (You've gotta know that I'm the eldest of 7 kids, and my mom has much more than just me to think about). Her answer caught me off guard: "NoƩmie, I've known you would be a missionary from the time you were 4. Of course I'll miss you, but I know this is what you're called to do."

(here's a pic of me, my brother Jael and my mommy at Jael's wedding, in QC)


Around the time when I started coming to my awesome church, Oshawa Community Church (OCC), an interesting phenomenon began to take place. I was 18 years old then. I'd made a decision very early in life that I'd do everything possible to never get into debt. For the eldest of a large family, that meant a lot of sacrifice. I wanted a university education, but I wanted it without loans or OSAP (not that there's anything wrong with those things, at all!). So I decided to work for a year before going off to university. My plan included Bible College at some time in the process, and then taking off to some foreign country as a missionary. But you see, the Bible says that man can make plans, but God ultimately has the final say in what happens... and He did!

I clearly remember my first chat with Pr Chris (I hope one day I can be as amazing as her!). She barely knew me from Adam, yet after a few minutes of discussion, and before I mentioned anything about my interests, she asked "Have you ever considered doing missionary work?" I thought that was kinda funny. She went on to lend me a couple books that are still, to this day, on my fav list: Bruchko and Peace Child, two incredible stories of people who risked everything to bring the Gospel to cannibalistic tribes, and how God changed these tribesmen's hearts and lives without changing their culture. Really cool.

Well, for the next several years, everywhere I turned, every time I met someone new, it seemed they all asked me about missions, or told me they saw a calling for missions on my life. And I wasn't asking for it. Each time I would laugh, and if a close friend overheard the conversation, they would laugh too. It was like God was trying to hammer in His point.

Until the winter of 2003. A crazy bunch of young adults from my church set out for our "Advance" weekend (cause we ain't retreatin'). We were looking forward to having Gary Hayes, of Living Hope Church, in Hamilton, as our guest speaker. I met him for the first time that day when I ran out of the car after our couple hour's drive in the beautiful snowy winter afternoon. I just barely said hello, and then ran off to the washroom (my original and ultimate destination at the time).

That night we had an awesome message on responding to God's calling on our lives. I still have the notes from that message, but what I remember the most is what happened after. Pr Gary called everyone up to the front who wanted to seek God on what His plans were for their lives. As I was just praying there, like everyone else, sitting cross legged on the floor, Pr Gary came over to pray for me. Then he started to speak a prophetic word from God to me (Pr Gary is a very prophetic man, it's really uncanny). He started off by talking about missions, and how this season in my life was a time of preparation for missions, and I needed to serve in every way I could cause I have a great ministry of serving, and faith comes by serving, and a bunch of other things that I'll keep to myself for now... Now, this pastor knew nothing about me. Call that weird or simple coincidence, I call that the Holy Spirit!

I noted down the main points of that prophetic word in my journal that night, and then put it on the shelf for a while, praying about it and watching to see what would happen of it in the months to come.

Not Brazil?

It wasn't long before things started to happen. During the early summer weeks of that year, I came out of a conversation with Alessandra and Valdir (wonderful Brazilian friends from my church) with a driving desire to go spend a month in Brazil on a missions trip, to serve there in any way I could. After much prayer and preparation, I decided to quit my job at the Ministry of Finance and take off, not knowing what would happen next.

I had a wonderful time there, saw some cool miracles, took a few risks and then spent a week without taking a shower at the NIKO survival camp in Parana, Brazil. I met some wonderful people and started to learn Portuguese. It all went by really fast, and then I returned to Canada, pumped and not having a clue what would happen next. I didn't consider staying longer at the time since my mom was pregnant with my little sister then, and I wanted to be back for the birth.

So I was back, after a month, and God supernaturally gave me my old job back (where I'm still working to this day). I got to see my baby sister Cassylia be born, and she was the most beautiful newborn I've yet to see (not that I'm biased, at all...).

(here's 2 yr old Cassylia, after big sis' Noemie put her hair in little curly pigtails... so adorable!)

But then I wanted to go back to Brazil. I had gotten to work with the people and the children in the slum, and I loved it. I started asking God if it was His will for me to go back for longer.

I did return to Brazil in 2005 after a very eventful 2004 year, and, through prophetic words, God clearly showed me that Brazil was not where He wanted me to go. I was disappointed and sad, but I've come to learn over the years that there's nothing good for us outside of the will of God, especially not in the long run. I know God has awesome plans for His children, and I don't want to miss out on them because of my stubbornness. Only He knows the future! Plus, I didn't have peace of mind about going to stay in Brazil, it just wasn't jiving.

(some of the peeps from our Life Group)

More prep time...

God had clearly said to me that He wanted me to stay longer in Canada so I could learn more. Wow, am I ever glad I obeyed!

Within the last year, amazing things have happened. Three of my close friends have gotten married, that's including my big/little brother. I did four more Bible College classes (as addition to the 15 some I'd taken up to a couple years ago). Then, our Life group exploded (I'll give more details on that in a few days). People were getting saved, giving their lives to Jesus and having their complete lives changed and restored, and I got to be an instrument in those salvations. It has been so awesome, and it's still going on to this day.

And personally, I started to be given opportunities to teach Bible study classes (highway to Maturity), and to do things I'd never thought I could do. God has been stretching me! I've also gotten to take an ESL teaching certificate called CELTA (Certificate of English Language Teaching to Adults). I'd been wanting to take that class for years, and now I'll be able to use it in missions.

And also, I went to Cambodia. I got to teach a Bible lesson there, while the pastor translated for me in Khmer (it was so cool). And I got to see the need there for workers and missionaries, a need much greater there than in Brazil... And something happened in my heart...


The first time I heard about Cambodia and New Life Church, many years ago, I remember thinking "I want to got there one day". It just seemed like, even as little as I am, I still had so much to offer to help this beautiful people and their country.

But that ended up on the shelf for a few years. At least until I went there, and then came back, and then started thinking and talking about going there for a year. To my surprise, it seemed like everyone, my pastors, friends, family, everyone, thought it a good idea. And I had this strong sense of needing to go, like an urgency in my heart that it was what I should do. Every time I prayed about it, it seemed that sense of knowing got stronger.

But what about the finances? That has been a big area of struggle for me to trust God in finances. Not that He's ever failed me, ever! He has always been so faithful. But I've always been very independent, especially financially, and can't remember asking my parents for money for anything. So to know that God would provide without me working with a steady income was a big step of faith, it was... but it isn't now.

On my 24th birthday, my amazing, wonderful friends surprised me with a birthday party and a fund raiser for missions. I got so blessed, financially, but especially spiritually, as they spent a good hour praying for me that night.

Then, at Ruth and Andrew's wedding, they raised some more money for missions for me, as a surprise. Blew me away.

I've had a lot of expenses this year, and I didn't know how it would all work out, but, through people, and just through His supernatural providence, God has supplied for all my needs, according to His riches in glory!

As this year of 2006 is rapidly ending, I'm amazed to see that I've done all the things God had placed on my heart to do this year and that I still have the supply to keep going! And, not only are the finances I need for my year in Cambodia already provided for, but I also have enough for the missions trip to Brazil I'll be doing with the internship students from our church this February! Don't ever doubt God's ability to provide for you; He's got the resources of the whole universe at the tip of His fingers, and He's ready to hand them out to those who need it, especially those who need it for serving Him!!

Now, I'm preparing to go spend a year in Cambodia. I'm excited about it, although sad at the same time, as I know I'll miss everyone here in Canada so much! But I know God's hand is over my every choice, and He'll walk me into the right direction. Let's see what the months ahead hold in store!

The Bible says, in the book of Proverbs, chapter 3, verses 5 and 6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and don't lean on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He'll direct your paths.
Ain't that the truth!!

Monday, November 06, 2006

And why am I doing this?

Well, that's pretty easy to answer. As I'm getting prepared for my first "long" term missions trip, to the beautiful land of Cambodia, this seemed like the best thing to do to keep in touch with all my wonderful family and friends here in Canada. My God is awesome, and I hope that, as I use this little site to share my thoughts and the events that will come up in the next months and year, you'll be able to see that too.