Thursday, March 22, 2007

Bowling, sleepovers and God times!

So, things have been busy as spring is coming. I'm back from Brazil now, altogether. Even though my body got here on March the 7th, I don't think my mind was fully back until a few days ago...

I'm now back on full swing with everyday life, my kind of everyday life, I guess... with a packed schedule from Monday to Sunday. We've started the rehearsals for our Easter drama "Choices", which promises to be really cool. It'll be an all out musical/dance/drama... I hope lots of people come!

I'm also back to teaching some of our Highway to Maturity, really cool classes, and I love it! Teaching God's word is such a joy, and I'm becoming more and more comfortable at it every time.

The main thing I'm focusing on, however, is planning, praying and talking about our plans for the young adults in the months to come. See, we used to have a young adults' group at our church a few years ago, and it was really good, but ended up dying off. Even though I was busy enough at the time that I didn't really mind, I've felt the need since then for something to happen for the young adults. And, somehow, God is now setting it all up, and allowing me to be a part of the process! It's so exciting too, to see how all the pieces are falling into place! I wish I could relate all the intricate details! But I know there's too much, so I'll try to summarize.

When I returned from Brazil and told Pr Frank that I would not be going away to Cambodia anymore, but would be staying here for sure, we started discussing right away the possibilities of my life group becoming a young adults' group by September. Supernatural things had been happening here in Canada, especially in our life group, while supernatural things were happening to us in Brazil. I got to hear about it all through e-mail after the Acampamento, and it was all really exciting.

So, by the following life group night, God had grown a dream in my heart for what can happen with our group as everyone does their part, sorta like on that cleaning day in Brazil. As I shared it with the life group, everyone got really excited. See, there's something innate in human beings, especially young people, that we need to be a part of a challenging, exciting dream, something way bigger than ourselves. Otherwise we feel bored, lost and confused. So these plans that God is giving us, they're way bigger than us, but the Bible says that we can do amazing things by God's strength!

After I shared the vision for a young adults' group, we prayed, and it was awesome. Wowowow... there are few things more beautiful to see than a group of 20 some young Christians storming the heavens with sincere prayer! And that intercessory prayer thing is getting so strong amongst this group of young people, it's amazing.

The following Friday, 3/4 of the people who showed up at Friday night prayer were people from our life group. And, once more, it was a powerful prayer time. At one point, I looked at Janine, and she had sparkly gold dust on her nose. But when I quietly asked her if she was wearing makeup, she said no. I looked at her hands, and they were covered in gold dust. Mine were too. And so were Rebecca's beside me. So were Dina's and Sarah's... and Pete's! By the time we finished praying, we all looked at our hands and realized everyone had it. Lucas had some on his neck. It's like the gold dust was sweating out of our pores... it was so cool. It had become almost normal to us in Brazil, but I was quite surprised to see it happen here... random, but so cool!

Saturday was our bowling party. That was really fun. And then, we continued the evening at Rebecca's house for a girls' sleepover party... a sleepover with very little sleep. We hung out, took random pictures, laughed alot, ate... and oh, another miracle here: with all the cake and goodies that were on the table, we ended up leaving most of it and chomping away on the cucumbers and red peppers instead! And not because we were being weight conscious... really. Now that's a rare occurrence at a girls' party! ; )

At 1am ish, we got the urge to start praying. And we kept praying. I got up and went to bed at 2:30ish, cause I was leading the music team in the morning and needed energy somehow. But the rest of the girls didn't stop. They woke me up at 4:30 am cause they were praying so loud! I don't think they stopped until 5am... and I was up at 7:00 to be at the church for 8:00... Now that felt like Brazil!

After a great church service Sunday morning and a bit of rest in the afternoon, everyone was back for life group at 5pm. I started off by clarifying some things about our plans for September, all very exciting things, and I asked Pete to share a vision he'd had the previous week while we were praying.

The Bible says in Joel 3:28 "Then after doing all those things, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions."

And that's what's been happening. Sunday night was evidence of that. Pete told everyone what he had seen: a small dragon boat racing really quickly with a team of rowers rowing in complete unity as God is leading them. Then the picture changed, and he saw oars of many colors and shapes as a part of a great huge structure. It took him a bit of time to see what the structure was, but as he looked, he recognized it as being a big huge ship that wasn't done constructing yet. The meaning of all this was really that right now our group is advancing as we work together as a team, each doing our own unique part, and that God is building us into something much bigger that will include many people who need to know Jesus.

Friday night, Phil had also had a similar vision, of a large old fashioned ship packed with rowers rowing in complete unity. But as they were rowing, they turned around and realized it was God who was actually pushing the boat to make it advance. So they stopped rowing, but then God stopped pushing. God would only push it as we did our part by rowing together in unity.

As we were sharing these things in life group, Dewald chimed in a "woh, that's so cool... I've been having dreams about boats! And boats in dreams are supposed to represent ministries..." He went on to share what he had seen in his dreams, and although I can't remember now, I know it was really in line with what the others saw.

Then someone else chimed in "wow, I've been having visions of a huge cruise ship with tons of people on it..." and so on. It was like vision pingpong... so cool! I've heard of things like this, but it's different when you witness it first hand!

And so it has been in life group, in prayer time, in church, while bowling, in sleepovers, at Timmies, in parking lots... and it's just the start. This year is a new year, and God has been building us and preparing us as young people and as a church to step up to a new place... it's so exciting, and so real! Some of the things God is doing, I believe he's just doing to build our faith, cause he has so much more planned! Our God is an awesome God!

Here are some pics from our bowling night:

Some of the crew : beside me is Lucas, our friend from Brazil... it was in his bedroom that I spent my first 2 weeks in Brazil, in Aracatuba... but no worries, he wasn't there. He's been studying in the USA for a few months and stopped by for a couple weeks before going back home to Brazil... and he's lovin' it!

Check out the sexy shoes!

Wow! Myriam is so good she can play backwards! ; )




Luv... teehee...

The accidental red team : Kyle, Noemie, Kile

Proof : Brianna did beat me by 114 points!

Congrats to Brianna, but not for beating me at bowling... this was for her graduating High School! She just went back in the fall to finish her diploma, and did it! Good job, girl! Reason to celebrate! Beautiful cake Sarah and Rebecca!

What girls do when no boys are around... silly things! Here were some of our photo shoots...

Bri wasn't feeling well, so Dina and some others tucked her in... awww...

Not sure if we were actually tucking her in, or keeping her up...

oh well.... good night anyway!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Brazil and back!

Well, 3 weeks go by so quickly... yet so much manages to squeeze into that time! Where to start?...

Hmmm, well, I guess from the beginning.

The plane trip was pretty eventless. Travelling with me this time were Kyle, Krista-Lee, Chris, Christine, Jimmy, Papa John, and Phil... although Phil went ahead of us and had already been in Brazil for a week by the time we left.

We travelled the whole night by plane, on Valentines day. The next day we travelled by bus to Ara├žatuba and arrived very late at night, where we were welcomed with a typical Brazilian late night yummy BBQ!

Next day, we already packed our bags for the Acampamento de Jovens (Youth and Young Adults Camp meeting) which we were going to be a part of for the next several days.

Accomodations? Classrooms and open showers... we were sharing a room with over 20 girls (and the guys in a different building, with guys, of course) and a few bugs... but it turned out to be lots of fun. Krista, Christine, Leticia, Renata and I were all in the same room. It was so good to see these two Brazilian friends again! Krista, Christine and I were so white compared to the others, and so many people asked us if we were sisters.

The schedule for the camp meeting was as follows : two services in the morning, with intense praise and worship time and awesome preaching. Then a really yummy lunch. A free afternoon for swimming, sports and resting and mingling, and another awesome service at night. God met each of us in personal and supernatural ways. Several of us, especially Christine, often found our arms, hands, or entire bodies covered with gold dust during the service.

Brazilians are very expressive, passionate people. And the services were very characteristic, which was awesome. Each service, everyone would end up dripping in sweat - and we would definitely take a shower after! It's an amazing thing to see hundreds of young people dancing, jumping, shouting and singing praises to the Lord. yaya!

During those 4 days at the camp, we got to meet a bunch of really cool people and make new friends; of course, I spend alot of time translating and speak on behalf of our team with many curious young people. There were also themes for the evening services, and then a Festa das Criancas (Kids party), where we all dressed up like kids.

Personally, God met me powerfully during those 4 days, especially on the last day, where he spoke to me in a supernatural way about His plans for me this year. I'd been praying alot and reconsidering my decision to go to Cambodia. Mainly because God has been using my life here in Canada with the young adults in our church, and giving me such a passion for them, for seeing God do smething powerful in my generation. I've been praying for many months now. But it was in Brazil that God gave me a clear answer and peace about what I need to do : stay in Canada. I'll be travelling still, doing short term trips, but I'll be staying here to help build what God is doing in Canada, in Oshawa, and in my church... and I'm really excited about it! Since that camp meeting, God has confirmed my decision both through prophetic words and through that inner peace that you get to know so well the more you walk with God.

Once the conference over, we headed home for some laundry and rest. I was staying with Leticia and Pr Samuel and Pra Denise. So was Papa John. By evening, the house was packed with young adults who were over for pizza and mingling. But when people started leaving, and only the girls were left (that is, Christine, Krista, Leticia, Debra and I), we ended up spending several hours worshipping the Lord. Krista and I kept alternating at the piano, and we all sang together in beautiful harmonies, love songs to our Lord. We went on till 2 am. By the end, Christine was covered with gold dust. Pra Denise, who was meeting in another room of the house with a couple pastors and Pr Samuel, could overhear us... and she was covered in gold dust too!

The following morning, we headed out to Bairro Sao Jose, a slum like sector of town, where poverty and violence is the usual. Our church had funded a renovation project to bless several houses in that area, houses in much need, where people have less than $100 a month in income. In all there were 6 houses we were renovating. Our team got to help the hired construction workers in cleaning and assigned tasks, sorta like their gofers.

We left every morning at 7:30, and worked until 5pm. Some days were busier than others, but in all it was very rewarding. We spent 4 days out there, from the Wednesday to the Saturday, only half day that one.

Here's a pic of Papa John giving one of the mats he bought for each home to one of the ladies we got to help bless. To the far left are my hosts, Prs Samuel and Denise.

Then, we got to see the project for kids and women that the church in Aracatuba has there, in the Bairro Sao Jose. I had to leave to prepare for the evening. But the rest were a part of it. They have cell groups for the ladies, and nursery for the babies, and the other kids gather together for some games, and then some worship time, and then a drama. After that, they seperate into classrooms and discuss the subject of the day, based on the Bible. They wrap up the afternoon by giving soup to everyone, and they send the ladies home with bags of food for the week. It's really cool. They do that every Saturday afternoon.

Meanwhile, I went home to prepare, cause that night they were getting us Canadians as the special guests for the youth and young adults service, and I was preaching. We arrived there at around 7pm, but the service started at 8. I had told them I would talk about eternity, so a team came and spent the whole afternoon at the church decorating. They made up the entrance like hell, all dark, hot and all, and the front like the gates of heaven. And the welcoming team and ushers were dressed up like angels and demons. They decorate in such extravagant ways for every service they do - which is every other week. Intense.

That night was really cool. They don't use chairs in those services, cause everyone dances so much during the hour of worship time that it's not worth it. Again, everyone covered in sweat. Then, Kyle shared his testimony, and that went awesome. TJ, our faithful translator and team member for the weak and our new friend, was translating for Kyle, even though I know he was really tired from all the work we put him through those 2 weeks. Leticia translated for me. I got to speak on eternity, everything that was on my heart based on 1 Cor 3:11-15. In the end, about 6 people came to receive Jesus in their hearts, and many were touched by what we said.

After that, a bunch of us took off to a snack area for some food and hanging out. Then, I went with a bunch of girls over to another city close by for a sleep over. I was one of the first to go to bed; at around 3 am.

Next morning, I was up at 8 am. Then, we all went to the church cause it was the youth and young adults' turn to clean the church. This is done every Sunday morning to prepare for the evening service, and both the smaller and the larger new building need to be cleaned. Different groups are responsible for each week, and this time it was our turn. I went to help, but I was so blessed with what I saw.

There must've been over a hundred young people there. And we had the whole thing done in an hour! Everyone participated and helped in any way they could! There was such a team work and unity, it made it really fun to do! Those are such key elements in anything we do! Such a good life lesson for me.

Then, in the evening there was the Sunday service. It was awesome. Pr Samuel called us Canadians up to the front, and everyone prayed for us and our country. I'm so excited, because I know God is doing something awesome in this time, something new. He's been speaking to us to Prepare to be Amazed. And everyone there that night could testify to that by the Spirit.

That night, a bunch of us went out again for a snack, and I don't know what time we got to bed.

Next day was a resting and relaxing day at a spot by the river. unfortunately, it was also a cold rainy day, which after all the hot, sweltering days we'd had, was very untimely. I was freezing most of the day, so was quite glad to return home to Leticia's. We were having a bunch of people over for worship time and hanging out. Here's a picture of the girls imitating the Canadian crazy hair style... especially taken from Christine.

We ended th night with a ride over "the bump". They have this one street near the pastors' house where there a little hill and bump and, if you speed up enough before getting there, the car will actually fly up in the air for a second. It sends everyone, who are not wearing seatbelts, flying up with it, hitting our heads on the ceiling. So, we packed 7 girls in the car and flew over the bump 3 or 4 times. Quite the roller coaster!

Next day was goodbye. The rest of my team took off for Canada, and i took off for a different city, Londrina, where I've spent most of my time in Brazil. I was going to stay with Renata and her family, and visit the rest of the friends I've made over the years. That week ended up more like a vacation, between shopping and visiting. But it was really nice and restful and fun.

Here's a picture of Mayara, Marinalva and Zenga, a family very close to my heart.

This is the community centre/daycare/technical school our church has helped fund over the years. It's now ready to be used!

Here's a pic of Ronaldo and Zenga playing the dentist with the nice new dentist equipment that will be used to bless this bairro.

Here are some pictures from the Bairro Franciscato prayer night.

Marinalva and Zenga are pastors of that area, and through them, many have come to know Jesus. Many have been changed, taken from lives of addiction to drugs, alcohol and violence, prostition, and are now living in joy and sobriety because of this couple's obedience to the Lord. It's so beautiful to see. And slowly, that slum is being transformed by the presence of God. It used to be the poorest and worst part of the city, but that's changing. They now have 24 cell groups (Life Groups) in the area. Several of those are of youth and of young adults.

A class teaching pedicure and manicure technique to ladies, older and younger. Of course, the tall girl on the right is Mayara.

And here's the teacher, Adriana.

A very precious family: Ronaldo, Solange, and their daughters Laissa, Driele-Carolina and Beatrice (Bea).

Here's Renata, Renatinha and I cooking Brazilian dishes... Turned out a little dangerous...

Here's Graziela, an old friend of mine, and Daisy, whom I also met 3 years ago. She's surprisingly smart, and a real sweetheart.

My host family in Londrina : the Teixeiras.

Altogether, I had an awesome trip. It was so nice to see so many friends again, and to meet new ones. But the best part of it all is that I've come back pumped to serve God here in my nation of Canada. God has renewed my vision and expectation and excitement.

Since I've returned, I've been hearing of so many stories of supernatural things God is doing here. I found out today that little Josiah saw an angel in his house twice this week. Cameron and Sandra told me the story tonight. And several days ago, as a few of our young people were worshipping God together, they started playing some random chord progression. All of a sudden, Kenza heard a man singing a really cool song. But when she looked around, none of the guys were singing. So she wrote down what she was hearing, and the result is another new song!

The whole time we were in Brazil, God was doing some supernatural things in our Life Group.

So something is going on in Canada, in Oshawa... And our God is a God of surprises... so I can hardly wait to see what this year holds for us! In the meantime, I'm excited to live everyday drawing closer to my Awesome Lord!