Thursday, January 31, 2019

Cold Sunday Funday

Our weekly vlog is the last one from Connecticut:
and our time in Ohio:

We had a safe (11 hours with kids) trip from Connecticut to Ohio, and then had a great time in Ohio (with lots of snow) and a safe trip from Ohio back to Indiana. We are so grateful, and all snuggled in for this cold, cold, weather. We are staying with my sister for the next couple of weeks, and will be based in Indiana until we leave for Brazil on May 13th. Can't wait to see you! 

Reads from the Interwebs:
1. Adoption day letter: SO happy for this amazing family!
2. Missionary photography contest: so this is a thing? Cool!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Sunday Funday January

Our weekly vlog (two this week!):

After an amazing three weeks, we left Connecticut and headed to Ohio. We are staying a week in Cleveland, and sharing at two churches about Brazil. Sunday was completely covered in snow, but we still made it (a couple hours later) in time to share at the church. We are so grateful for our good friends who are letting us stay with them, and all the cool people we get to talk with. 
This past weekend was VBS at our home church in Brazil, celebrating Heloise and Pastor Flavio's birthdays! Here are some fun pictures (of what we are missing): 
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3

Reads from the Interwebs:
1. Five Immediate Needs (stuff going on in our little world)
2. Who Cares about Walls? I finally worked up my courage and posted this publicly, but it seems I didn't have to worry because no one really read it anyway:). I finally put together my opinion (or lack thereof?) on the wall issue. 
3. You got duped: this is written sarcastically, but um, yeah, something needs to be said about this "Opps" of outrage. Dear Left: please say "sorry" and play nice with the Right. But never mind...I still remember the horrible way kids from the Florida shooting were treated because they stood up for gun control: ummm...dear Right: please say "sorry" and play nice with the Left. I am noticing a pattern here. 
4. Gillette Ad: My shock at people hating this was almost as much as when I first realized many Christians didn't support refugees. I am still like "Whaaaaaaa?" But this article focuses on something else: consumerism. Looking to companies for our morals? 
5. The Enneagram and Me: so I finally took an online test, made a Pinterest board, and declared myself a type 3w4 and Caid a type 7w6. It only took me an hour and was pretty insightful, especially the "How to love a type xxx" things. Oh, the Internet. 
7. Welcoming Broken Missionaries Back: I am still a little broken...just so you know. 

5 Immediate Needs

As a missionary, I get asked often "What are the needs?" This is both a wonderful and scary question, and I often feel tongue-tied. It is wonderful because the person asking really wants to know how to help, and it is scary because most often, the needs seem to be unending.

How do I prioritize needs? How do I decide which one to talk about today? Because I certainly don't want to overwhelm those asking. Just recently when speaking with friends, they said, "We want to give, but why don't you just decide where it is needed most." I almost cried. At that moment, it almost broke my heart to have make the hard call of who got what was needed...and who didn't.

We have a great God who provides extravagantly. But my little heart can't hold all of the needs, or all that is given. I will work hard to share (in an organized and not overwhelming way) the needs we have because I know there are people who want the blessing of giving. I have to believe that for every need there is, there is a person God created to meet that need. Here are five immediate needs, and in our daily prayers. You can click the link to go right to the donation spot:

1. Carnaval Camp Sponsorships: Caid and I believe in this strongly in camp, and these are our kids from Living Stones at our church in Cajueiro Claro. We have felt called to provide three $30 scholarships (putting our money where our mouth is),but there are still SEVEN more scholarships needed ($210). Please tell me right away if you would like to give to this (or are giving), so I can make sure the money gets to them ASAP. More Information is here.

2. Melody Medical Costs: our dear friends and co-workers in Brazil (Jeff and Lindsay Turner) had a big medical scare with their daughter Melody last week. They, like us, do not have medical insurance in Brazil, just medical savings. This emergency hospitalization ended with $2000 more in cost than their savings. Thank the Lord that Melody is doing better now: please continue to pray she would continue to improve and not have any further digestion problems in the future.

3. Pastor Flavio's Support: our closest workers (with Living Stones and our home church in Brazil) are Flavio and Mercia. Their daughter Heloise is Sofia's best friend. And they are at 1/3 (that is being optimistic) of the support they need. Flavio is a church planter, with incredible energy and drive for Jesus, but right now he is being stretched thin, having to focus on how to make ends meet every month. If you are looking for a local leader to invest in: I would suggest pastor Flavio.

4. Lane's Knee Surgery: Lane and Misse are the two girls who lead Living Stones in Guadalajara. They do an incredible job with well over 60 kids a week. For the past two years, Lane has been having trouble with her knees, especially the left one. Last year, she dislocated it over seven times, and often couldn't even walk to the church to help with Living Stones. She was told both knees needed surgery, and the left one immediately. But, with public health service, she has been to many, many waiting rooms, and has yet to have the date for her surgery finalized. She is hoping to have surgery (and a long recovery) this spring semester. She needs many prayers, and there are many extra costs involved (even if the actual surgery is free). I don't have a direct link for her, but if you go to the provided link and put "Lane's Knee Surgery" into the comment, I will make sure it gets to her.

5. Ferguson Family Support: Since we have doubled our family, our monthly support has actually gone down. We are about 60% funded from what our ministry suggests we raise. We are looking for people who want to partner with us long term: who know us and believe in what God has called us to do. We are determined to connect and keep connected with you (have you seen any of our 350+ videos on YouTube?) through weekly vlogs and blogs, Facebook, Instagram, e-mail, Skype, Facetime...whatever works best for you!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Who Cares About Walls?

NOTE: I don't take this issue lightly. I have been sitting on this blog for a couple weeks now, trying to figure out where I fit...because I don't seem to fit anywhere.

I don’t really care if they build a wall. I really wish I cared more: but it seems almost too exhausting to care much either one way or the other.What has bothered me the most about the wall issue and all it has led to is seeing how people I love treat other people I love based on their political views. I have the privilege to not be (financially or physically) bothered much by government shutdowns or illegal immigration: but to see and feel hate because of opinions on Facebook is very disturbing and saddening. Seeing good people hate on immigrants (I am one...and by the way, so are all missionaries) is awful. Seeing other good people openly disgusted or wishing death on someone because they wear a red hat...well, that too is horrible. Thinking we don't need borders can be dangers. Thinking that immigrants are coming to kill us is also dangerous.

There is already quite a bit of existing wall, and this isn’t how most illegal immigrants are coming to the USA. There are many other ways how much more money is getting wasted, so I won't even get into that. I think we can all agree that currently, immigration is a mess, and needs to be fixed (and of course that requires money). A wall could be part of one of the many solutions needed.
This is more of a power struggle and fight for how things look, and the motive behind the actions: a wall gives the impression to others that we do not want them and will enforce the rules. I can see how this could deter some people from trying to cross, for their own safety. I detest the "We don't want you" attitude.
I agree that we should have a border and that laws should be enforced and that we should have laws for immigration. But I disagree that a wall is the best (and especially only) way to do that, and think it is often playing into fear rhetoric and founded in not wanting to give opportunities to others.

For those talking about immigrants, or those pro/against immigrants, I would first ask them the same thing I ask when I discuss other hot topics like race, welfare or LGBT issues: please tell me about the specific people you KNOW, not examples you have heard about. If you aren't going to seek and promote relationships, you have not worked to adequately represent someone else's character. 

I think some of the problem is how so many issues are all tangled together. I am strongly pro-refugee and asylum seekers: I feel there should be clear definitions and clear vetting programs, but not in place to end resettlement programs. I am strongly pro legal immigration and giving legal opportunities for people to come from all over who are willing to work through the paperwork. I feel this promotes American growth rather than steals our resources. It saddens me (and I believe it is WRONG) many of the measures that the Trump Administration have done regarding legal immigration and refugees.
But I do not support the recent caravans that came to the border (as a whole), and can imagine (and have seen) the devastation it can bring to local communities when many people run off in search for a better life. Truthfully, most of the caravan immigrants suffer horrible poverty and violence--the same that most all of my kids from Living Stones do. But I do not think the answer for my kids is to try to migrate to the USA, or even to the big cities: I see it ruin community chances for success OVER and OVER and OVER. That is a whole other discussion. There are huge misunderstandings between the official definitions of asylum seeker and refugee from someone fleeing a hard and brutal life.

I truly believe that there are people from both political parties that are working honestly in opposite directions on this- with the motive of kindness, sharing, and safety. At the same time, there are many from both left and right stances that are using fear and guilt to try to motivate others to do what they want done. I support both of the the first mentioned, and reject the those with that second narrative. It is incredible to me that I can both strongly agree and disagree with that same issue (here being the wall) based on motives and narrative. This is both powerful and scary to me. When I scroll through facebook, I fit in everywhere, I fit in nowhere. I agree with many things, I agree with nothing. I am confused.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

January Sunday Funday

Our weekly vlog:
We are finishing up our time in Connecticut, and squishing in as much time with as many people as possible (except when kid meltdowns interrupt, which happens too). Friday we are heading to Ohio, where we will be for a week, as we share with churches and supporters there. We have had some extra large expenses come up the past month, and with each one, God has been so good, and some amazing people have given special gifts to cover the costs! I've been in missions for 15 years, but I still manage to be sufficiently worried and then surprised when things work out financially (come on, I really should have caught on by now).
We also have some dates for our trip to Illinois in February, and our return date--we are heading back to Brazil May 13. We have lots to fit in the next couple of months!

Reads from the Interwebs:
1. Meet me in the Middle: beautifully written (hand raised for a me too!)
2. Ferguson Money Stuff: if you like graphs and want to know about our financial issues in detail, here is that post! Otherwise, ignore it:).
3. Best of 2018 Stuff from Rachel: Best Blogs, Best Vlogs, Best Pictures
4. Goals for 2019: do you do this? I like to choose a year "word" and verse (well, verse yet to come), and normally just tweek my goals from the year before, adding a little to try to get out of my comfort zone. I would love to see your system!
5. Really Jerry Falwell? In my experience in missions, it has (almost) never been the rich who I've seen supply and reach out to needs--but rather those who are financially about one more rung up the ladder than me, or those they are helping. Countless times I have been moved to tears by the poor Brazilians who have sacrificially given to even poorer Brazilians and made a difference. 
6. Fight, Flight, Freeze: such an important conversation I'd never really heard about before! YES!
7. I'm not breaking my kids: a good read
8. The Myth of Calling: a lot of really important points made here

Friday, January 11, 2019

Goals for 2019

2019 Goals for Rachel
Word of the Year: 2017 Bright, 2018 Appreciate, 2019 Redeem
Verse of the Year: 2017 Hebrews 6:19, 2018 Micah 6:8, 2019 _______
As a Woman:
1. Personal: know myself
a. Blog and vlog once a week (Sunday Funday)
b. Have a book (or kindle) always available—catch up books/music in USA
c. Publish a book or project
d. Learn a skill/get specific training/Lifelong learning: teaching English/church
e. Get my memories all organized on “Fergie Famories”
2. Spiritual: intimate connection with God and my heart
a. Morning Moment with God (reading Bible)
b. Once a week family worship time
c. Sunday Family Prayer time
d. Jesus book and prayer with girls
e. Study and Memorize something
3. Physical: strong with energy to thrive not survive
a. Drink more water and eat healthy
b. Workout 4x a week, 45 minutes each
c. Set up a home workout center in Brazil
As a Wife:
a. Every other week Date night
b. Focus on Caid in the evenings after kids are asleep
c. Plan and make healthy meals—always strive for better
d. Keep the house clean and light: deep clean once a week
e. Plan a Sabbath each week
As a Mom:
a. Daily Snapchat/appreciate my daughters time (each one)
b. Weekly Sunday family phone calls
c. 2girlsncurls Instagram updated, and learning more hairstyles
d. Speak Portuguese more with the girls while in USA
e. Ana: do some home-preschool in USA, start Sofia in morning school in Brazil (full?)
f. Jessica: weaned, start 3 times a week at school in Brazil, sleeping through the night
As a Missionary:
a. Vlog once a week (find/plan "missionary" ones to make)
b. Upkeep LS and FMF websites and e-newsletters and Instagram (monthly)
c. End of and beginning of the month reports for LS and FMF
d. World Help paperwork done timely and well
e. Sports Weekend Fundraiser done well
f. All the churches and individual supporters met and updated
g. Teach well at the International school
h. Do taxes and have all important documents updated
i. Get health insurance worked through and work done
j. Jan: CT and Ohio, Feb: Anna, Illinois, settle in, Mar-May: all meetings/plans/training, June/July: STMT, settle back in Brazil, Aug: school/LS start up, Sep: all LS pictures updated Oct: Children’s Day and sports weekend fundraiser, Nov: End of the year reports/videos, Dec: finishing up/celebrate holidays well

20 Best Pictures of 2018

We were definitely blessed last year with beautiful pictures. I was thinking about making posts of my favorite shows (we fell in love with Brooklyn 99, Black Lightening, and Lost in Space), movies (Black Panther, Guernsey Potato Pie Society), and books I read (Overturning Tables by Scott Bessenecker) in 2018, but to tell you the truth, there weren't enough of any of those things to warrant a whole post. Perhaps next year, when my girls are a little older, and I am out of "Don't let them die" phase. 

Thursday, January 10, 2019

12 Best Vlogs from 2018

1. When Ana Met Jessica
2. Dedicating Jessica to Jesus
3. First Carnaval in Brazil
4. A Fergie Week
5. Crazy Crisis in Brazil
6. Acai Adventures with Anna and Liberty
7. Moving Week
8. Caid's Testimony
9. Building Things in Brazil
10. What Missions Means to Me
11. Fergies 2018
12. First Birthday Ever

11 Best Blog Posts from 2018

Most of my blog is Sunday Funday, a quick review of our week, and some good internet reads to check out. But I have posted some other things as well, and here are my 11 favorite (10 just didn't work)
1. First Goodbyes: Sofia is now old enough to start feeling the pain of goodbyes.
2. Doing Short Term Missions Well: this is an important ongoing discussion we should all have.
3. Failed Missionary Thoughts: some thoughts about a podcast that hit the missionary world.
4. Fair Trade Guilt: yes please!
5. For my Woke Folk: Juneteenth and World Refugee Day
6. Yarns and Pins: remembering old missionary boards
7. Write me Down: thoughts about my birthday
8. Applying Overturning Tables: Quotes from a really awesome book!
9. 15 Posts about Missions in 15 Years
10. Choosing Last: How to Live it: the chronological study through the Gospels
11. What Doing Missions Means to Me: the series

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

For Transparency's Sake (Money Stuff)

Here is my annual post about finances and such, which most of you can just pass on by, but it matters to some. Like me.
Basically, all said and done, we have been spending around $20,000 a year (except for big things like birth and buying a car) and had right about the same for donations. BUT: we are now a family of 4, and below USA standards of poverty. We haven't had medical or life insurance. We do have an emergency fund, but not enough to cover plane tickets for our whole family, if that is what was needed.
When you break it down, after taxes and administration fees, we receive around $1400 a month. We need that to be closer to $2,500 a month for the four of us and the ministry costs that come up. Please pray with us, as we are looking to almost double our funding. This is important and necessary, but hard, especially for me, as there are so many other needs that we see day in and day out. As we speak at churches and with individuals, please pray that God would connect us with people who really desire to give specifically for our family needs.
God bless, and now we are done with that most difficult subject! (for now)

Monday, January 7, 2019

First Sunday Funday of 2019

Finishing out 2019, we have Jessica's Birthday vlog, and our Christmas vlog:

We have been in Connecticut with Caid's family, enjoying introducing Jessica to everyone (she is not very social) and Sofia is bossing around her cousins (she knows better than to boss her aunties). We have had Make your own pizza Monday, Taco Tuesday, Spagetti Wednesday, Rice and beans Thursday, Lasagna Friday, Tuna Mac Saturday, and Stir-fry Sunday. I feel like I am getting this cooking for everyone who shows up thing down (it is only my 5th year of trying). It is really great (as always) to get to go to Caid's childhood church, telling Sofia "This is where daddy went when he was little Caid." 
We rang the New Year in at 8pm, put the girls to bed, and were sleeping before midnight because that is the current phase of life we are in. I consider January (while in Connecticut) to be a slight extention to 2018, so I can organize my 2019 goals, as well as "best of" 2018 things (books, movies, vlogs, blogs, pictures...). Hopefully that will happen in the next couple weeks. We are grateful and mostly all healthy now, but with Jessie starting a new round of teething, we are still not having great sleep at night (for anyone, as we 4 share a room). 
Happy New Year!

Reads from the Interwebs:
2. Marrying Across Cultures: No two families are the same cultures, so everyone should read this. But especially for those of us who marry someone (even if you seem like 99% on the same page) from quite a different culture. 
3. Goal Setting: some alternatives to New Years Resolutions: personally, I think your New Years Resolutions should already be grounded in some basic goal setting skills so you are doing actual practical work instead of golden-eyed baseless dreams anyway...but go ahead, mix it up:).
4. What an Abolitionist taught me: This really gets to me
5. Go ahead and Criticize Missions (Constructively): This is very important to me. There are problems in missions. Big problems we need to fix. But. In the right way. I remember I read two books really close together: "Toxic Charity" and "When Helping Hurts." The first book was easier, faster, and more fun to read. The second bogged me down again, and I felt like it kept going in circles and repeating itself a lot. I liked the first one better, hands down. I went to a training conference, and they were promoting "When Helping Hurts." I asked them what they thought about "Toxic Charity" and the teacher wisely said something like this: "It might be an easier read, but it doesn't give us anything to work with. It points out the problems, but then stops. It doesn't work toward any solutions." 
This made me see things differently. No, "When Helping Hurts" isn't my favorite book, but it is more helpful and in the long run, I have used it ten times as much as the other book. The secret is this: it is pretty darn easy to point out problems, in just about every area of life. It is a lot of really hard, painful work to not give up and keep hammering out solutions and ideas and failings and getting back up and trying again. It takes humility and grace to point out problems and not put a period on it, but a comma. To continue the discussion. To remember to be grateful and still see the good in things. 
I just finished reading "The Very Worst Missionary" by Jamie Wright. It was a good read with many insights. I have heard her speak, and I just started following her Instagram. But after reading it I have put her in the category of the first book, rather than the "When Helping Hurts" group. This isn't a bad thing, it just is what it is. And it is important to make sure that I have a balance, and both kinds of resources. I consider "A Life Overseas" a resource in the second group--an ongoing discussion of "what now?" for the missions community, and I hope that Jamie's next book goes in that direction.