Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas from the Fergies

We wish you all the best! If you'd like to see our good wishes from Living Stones, check it out!
Sunday Funday has gone crazy. Here is the video from last week: 

And here is something you shouldn't miss from the Internet: When we don't want to think about Aleppo, especially at Christmas

I didn't post last week because were on our family vacation in Madison, Indiana:

And today is Christmas:) Christmas on Sunday feels a bit odd somehow. And why do holidays pass so quickly? Today felt like it was 10 hours instead of 24. Time for family more than internet reads:). Next week I'll be writing from Connecticut! God bless. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

So Many Things we Don't Know

My heart is heavy. Perhaps some heaviness is needed at holidays, to remind us of what is really important and to reveal just how much we already have.
When I met Flavio after church one day in 2004, he was carrying his guitar and singing a song he had made up. I didn’t know then that he had grown up on the street, his mom busy working, his dad gone, and not enough food on the table. I didn’t know then that he had come to Christ and then started teaching guitar at the very first Living Stones program in 1998.

When I walked by Flavio’s house every day on my way to Living Stones, I didn’t know then that God was working in his life, calling him to the ministry. I didn’t know that he had given up his job, and all of his old plans. When we walked together every day to Cajueiro Claro Living Stones, through the rain and sun and mud and dust, I didn’t know then that we would become work partners, that he would become my pastor, or that we would become such good friends.
I don’t know why God gave this out-of-the-way, messy, hard, stubborn, and real community to Pastor Flavio. I’ve worked with at-risk children for half my life, and these are the hardest kids I’ve seen. Maybe that is why I love them the most. I didn’t know then that we would each get married to incredible people—and now are a partnership of 4. I didn’t know that our daughters run around together through the old yellow church.
It has been a hard year at Cajueiro Claro, just like every year. There have been many victories, but in great poverty and struggle, the community is so depleted of resources that it is a drain and constant giving, giving, giving. Most of those receiving do not understand how to reciprocate. It will probably take a generation of this faithful dedication before we see results.
But Pastor Flavio and Mercia and Heloise are there, and are loving even the unlovely. Heloise has suffered many health difficulties this year, and has been in the hospital almost every month with high fevers. At the end of November, Pastor Flavio’s car was totaled. Because he wasn’t driving (one of the older boys from Living Stones, 21, had run a quick errand for him), he was unable to receive any insurance money. Thank God everyone involved is okay.
I think every one of us knows what it feels like to have a hard year, and then be blindsided by something at the end of it. Pastor Flavio is supported by one church in the USA, but that is not enough for his family, so he began his own business, and has grown it into a convenience store. He is also the pastor of Cajueiro Claro, and runs the Living Stones program during the week.  But if you see him, he always has time to share and smile and encourage others. He is truly a great man of God, and someone I am proud to know.
Pastor Flavio is back to walking to Cajueiro Claro. Using public transportation, it takes longer to get there and back than the time spent with the children or at meetings. With finances tight, no car, and still car payments, it has been a hard holiday season. But God is faithful. And even with discouraging times, Pastor Flavio and Mercia know they are right where God put them, and are continuing on.
This Christmas, I remember this family and what a privilege it is to have them as work partners, our pastor, and our friends. It is heavy to be away from them during this hard time. We have sent our love and support, and they know they are not alone. I know you are not lacking for opportunities to give, but if you would like one more, this family is worth your investment.

For those of you who know Flavio and Mercia, perhaps write them a quick note on Facebook? Their names are Flavio S Travassos Travassos and Mercia Elizabeth. If you would like send them a gift, then click here (Click the option for “Brazil” and then “Missionaries” and then “Pastor Flavio”).

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Indy Sunday Funday

Yesterday I finally got "caught up" on videos, so we have last moments in Brazil, How to leave well, and Arriving in Indianapolis:

From the Interwebs:
1. Some really great and open/honest questions to ask yourself: Is it time to go home?
2.  I didn't know this was a thing, but have definitely had it: Tongue tied? Blame your Affective Filter
3. I especially love #3, but they are all great ideas: 6 ways to speed clean (Ann Voskamp)
4. Still want/need to do this: #withAleppo

Christmas is coming:)! 

Sharing about the Year

(This was written and shared for the Christmas Missionary Bazaar at Horizon Central)

Since 2004 I have lived and studied and failed and succeeded in being a missionary. In 2013 I got married to a man who was born in Jamaica, but moved to the USA when he was 6. We dated, long distance, and then he went to Brazil and served with me, and married me in Brazil, and then we returned to the USA.

God called us both back to Brazil in 2015, and we started our family there—with my daughter being born in Brazil. Doing missions married in completely different from doing it single. Doing missions with children is different than without children. My daughter is a third culture kid—meaning that she is raised in a culture different than her parents, and in a sense, creates her own mixture of life with everything together. My husband is a TCK as well, and this year he has deepened my understanding of what it means to do missions.

I grew up reading missionary biographies and quite frankly, having missionaries on a pedestal. That is why it took me many years of doing missions before I felt "worthy" of calling myself a missionary. The thing is, there is no rule book, or at least I have not found it--and I sure have looked.
The missions group I work with has always felt that the ministry should be run and owned by the local leaders of the ministry. As an American going to Brazil as a missionary, I am not there to “bring Jesus” (Someone noted that He is too heavy), I am there to assist and train and love and learn and do life with Jesus who is already moving mountains there.  My job, if done successfully, is to work myself out of a job. But I never realized how painful it can be to not be needed anymore.

One moment of time sticks out to me to illustrate this for you: I was at the home of a poor family with 9 daughters, and we were celebrating birthdays (which we do a lot of). I had brought a picnic, and we were sitting there laughing, when two strangers came up to us and started talking to me—asking if I was American, if I was famous, what I liked about the USA…I swallowed my annoyance, answered their questions quickly, and then turned back to the incredible birthday girl. I invited them to stay for our picnic, and soon they forgot about me, and saw the girls. They sang happy birthday with us. They later asked me how they could help out this needy family. My role wasn’t anything big—it was simply to divert the focus to where it belonged. To celebrate what was important.

My husband speaks better Portuguese than I do. He learned in a year what took me over 5 years. He studies for fun. He watches movies in Portuguese when I just want to relax. He plays Portuguese praise music in the car. He invites our Brazilian friends over ALL. THE. TIME. And I have been pushed outside my comfort zone to answer questions about what it really means to embrace and understand and learn a different culture. He reminds me that our relationships are not our job—they are a privilege and honor.

When you think about long lasting change, you think about relationships. It is those closest to us that actually ‘rub off’ on us. If you want to see who you will be in five years—look at those around you. At a wedding recently, there was music playing, and our daughter started dancing. Caid, with his impressive dancing skills, started twirling me around, and we didn’t stop for a couple songs. Some of my old students came up and said “You know? We want to be like you guys when we grow up.” And that is how missions works. You live life and Jesus shines and others see and want it too.

The two main things I know I need to do feel like an oxymoron—I am here, and doing life here means being here 100%. It is about reciprocal relationships. I am not just here to give—I need to be open to receiving. I NEED to receive as well. And just as much, I need to let go, to step back and let others succeed in leading. I also am physically leaving for a time as we are back in the States. My family is all in the USA, and so part of me is always lacking wherever I am. So how do I put down roots at the same time as (and teaching others to) use wings?

Missions, ministry, parenting, life is a constant balance, learning, and re-learning how to have roots (responsibility, deep relationships, commitment) and wings (letting go, change, discovery). Hope is like that oxymoron, having both wings and roots. Hope (in the Lord) is the balance.

So we come to a message of hope: Christmastime. Thousands of years the Jews hoped for the Messiah, and now for around two thousand years we look back, every year, at this Hope born in a manger. Wherever you are in your story: parenting, missions, ministry, single, let us stop to remember this hope that we have, and how it gives us roots and wings.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Returning Well

Or, still trying to return well.

We were only 40 minutes late to leave (sorry to make you wait Jeff!), and the apartment wasn't as clean as I'd wanted it, but the refrigerator was empty and cleaned and all of our stuff stored in a room off to the side. On the plus side, we filmed a bit of our "leaving thoughts" and will make a vlog of it soon. Our rent is paid and our neighbors know we are gone and are ready to welcome our friends who will come. And we did the leaving pretty well.

Our first flight, before the plane took off, Ana did her mean screams and Caid and I sat there. Do you cover her mouth to muffle it a bit, or does that just make it last longer? In those minutes, I was sure this trip would kill me. We made eye contact with NO ONE on the plane. But it passed and she was fine and the next two flights she slept most of the time, with only quiet sobs of "where am I?" in between. 20 hours later, we arrived (and our wonderful friends took pictures).
After arriving, all we managed to do was eat, shower, and sleep. Amazing how much goes into all of that! Saturday we got to go to the annual Christmas Missions Bazaar at our home church, Horizon Central, and I got to share. It was such a blessing, but I always forget that I am extra emotional when jet lagged. I shouldn't share much the first couple weeks getting home. But it went well until the end, when I talk about hope, and hope is just such a big, overwhelming wonderful thing that I ended a little quickly before the tears blurred up everything. 
Sunday we got to hang out with the cool kids of Shelbyville Community church.We can only manage one event a day, at least until we unpack, which is a huge pile of everything in a room I dread to enter. Tomorrow. Tomorrow I will figure out next week. 
We are happy to be home in the USA, and hope to start scheduling times to meet up with so many amazing friends in this lovely holiday season! We will be in Indy until December 26, and then in Ohio and Connecticut December 27 to January 23. After that we will see what is after that. 

December Sunday Funday

Caid and Ana Sofia are upstairs, laughing with my mom about a funny story from when I was little. I just made raspberry short-cake (raspberries are better than strawberries). We are back in Indianapolis. It was and is and will be a big transition, as transitions take time (I think that is the whole point). We put together two videos before we left, to share with some special kids here in the USA:

Tuesday night, before we left, Pastor Flavio's car was totaled. Luckily, all of the people involved, including two from the Living Stones program, are fine, health wise. Unfortunately, Pastor Flavio is now without a vehicle. I hope to be posting more (and what you can do to help!) soon. 
I will also post a separate blog about returning home. 

Reads from the Interwebs:
2. Come as you are:  "As a woman, I have spent most of my marriage and all of my motherhood crucifying myself between two thieves. The one is perfection and the other is failure."
3. Controversial Christian books you should read: just because you disagree doesn't mean you shouldn't read it--in fact, it is almost more of a reason to read it. 
4. Secondary Trauma: a great read from a good friend: "While the feeling of being a safe haven is amazing, the reality of it is intense."
5. Dear Children of Aleppo: so apparently, #givingtuesday was a thing and I missed it. Next year! But seriously, this breaks my heart, and I think Christmas is about making sure our hearts remember to break and be broken. #WithAleppo