Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New Arrival

Two of my students, who are brother and sister, were elated to welcome another sister into their family.  Their kindergarten sister could be heard repeatedly proclaiming to all who arrived in the parking lot Tuesday morning, "Today is the day Baby Elisabeth will be born!"  With such a small student body, we quickly and easily become a close-knit group and greatly "rejoice with those who rejoice."  Our class made cards for Baby Elisabeth, and I also had big brother and big sister write a letter to their newest sib.  (Thanks for the letter writing idea, Donna!)

Despite many invitations from the others to join them at the table, he wanted to work at his desk, perhaps so he could spread out all his supplies and really concentrate. :-)


 Welcome Baby Elisabeth! 

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Quiet Sunday

Well, with original plans of joining the Herelds today to make a second visit to the international church (English speaking), my plans had to be revamped when an encroaching sinus infection finally took over my head, throat and chest last night leaving my entire body in a great deal of pain despite medicinal measures being taken.  A good night's sleep helped, but I have needed to "lay low" for the day.  Thankfully, my internet is working so I could listen to a sermon by Pastor Harry from my home church.  Oh the blessing of podcasts!

Saturday had many blessings, as well (mainly before the sinus infection hit hard).  Our fearless leader, Cal, and his wife, Joyce, took us to the historically rich city of Belem.  The Portuguese have a great past as navigators and explorers of the world, and Belem has a number of famous sites where monumental history took place. Mosteiro do Jeronimos [Jeronimos Monastery] is the site where Vasco da Gama and his men spent the night in prayer before making their infamous voyage to India in 1492 and also where the navigator has been entombed.

This past week has had its blessings and trials, too.  Covering 11 subjects a day is getting a little easier but is still quite the juggling act.  Driving here is well, quite tough, but I did make a trip by myself to the Continente (grocery store) to use the ATM.  I started to "tempt fate" by also trying to add minutes to my cell phone at the store, but I couldn't remember my nine digit phone number.  It was ok though; I still felt great accomplishment! :-)

My students are progressing, and we are bonding as a class.  Those that have been classmates before are enjoying renewing their friendships and have also welcomed a girl who is new to GLCA this year.  Her parents, younger brother and she have been in Portugal for about 8 months and are getting adjusted.  We have been able to swap driving stories and "Have you tried...?" stories.

Over the past couple of weeks the playground ants and Star Wars light sabers have been the fascination.  This week at recess the girls have been working on designing and constructing an ant farm.  (Miss Reteinour, aren't you so proud??)  Although by the conversations from their "planning meetings," it is sounding more like an ant resort!  The boys have enjoyed "battling" each other with their toy light sabers.  It is funny how at the beginning of the week there were only one or two sabers and by the end of the week a plethora of them had appeared.  We just about had entire scenes from the movies being re-enacted!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Heaven's Blueprints

Quote of the day - [In class, we were talking about how Jesus is preparing a place for us in heaven, and one of my third graders, with finger pointed in the air for emphasis, said....] "Jesus is building us houses, not apartments!"

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Wealthy Missionary

Those are two words that you do not find in the same sentence very often – wealthy and missionary! It depends on your definition, however. While most missionaries would never be considered “wealthy” by the measure of the size of their bank account, the number of land deeds in their safety deposit box, cars in their garage or diamonds encircling their wrists and neck, it does not mean they are completely destitute. Is there not more than one way to define wealth? The accounting of material possessions is one means of doing that, and missionaries typically come up fairly short in that perspective. However, what about the accounting of the wealth of friendships and family ties, lives invested in, and the rich experiences that result from having to trust God for the impossible? (which isn’t limited to just missionaries!)

Now, don’t get me wrong. This isn’t to diminish the necessity of material goods. The financial generosity of many makes it possible for people like me to be able to go. Telling the Portuguese electric company “Thanks so much!” and giving them a hug will not pay the electric bill. It takes money…euros in my case…to make that happen! But, this is a beckoning to broaden your definition of wealth.

That wealth can be defined in more than one facet has been made so real to me over these last months in preparing for and working in Portugal. Being deluged with such love and support from family, friends and church overwhelms my heart and mind in a way that reflection upon it results in an awed humility. You have invested in me, and I can therefore invest in others! I pray God will enable me to be high-yielding investment in the lives of the other missionaries, school parents and their children.

This path to Portugal has not been an easy one and has required me to exercise more faith “muscles” than before. It has, however, brought rich reward in seeing God move in mighty ways. One obvious example, as has been mentioned before, is how He brought in all my support in less than three months! Another example was in my flight over. While I knew that I had layovers in Detroit and Frankfurt, I didn’t know what having a “split ticket” involved…now I know. In my case it meant that I would have to collect my luggage from the carousel and re-check it in Detroit. After heaving the suitcases onto a cart (Did I mention I will be in Portugal for 10 months?), I managed to finagle it over to the elevator to go three floors up, only to find out that Lufthansa had recently moved to the other building. The directions to get there were as follows, “See those double doors all the way down there? Go through those, through the hotel, outside and down the sidewalk. There’s a shuttle that will take you to the other building where Lufthansa is now.” Sigh.

One of the hotel employees helped me load my bags onto the shuttle that finally came. He couldn’t guarantee, though, that there would be a cart or anyone to help me transport my bags once I got there. Are you kidding me??? My stewing began…. Then the Lord patiently reminded me, “Meredith, you can sit and stew and be frustrated or you could ask Me for help.” Another sigh. “OK Lord, point taken. I am in a situation to which I don’t have a solution, and I am in need of Your help! There is no way possible for me to get all these bags to that counter by myself!!”

As I was getting off the shuttle scanning the area for any type of wheeled contraption, an airport employee who was also riding asked, “Do you need some help with your bags?” I smiled with great relief, “Yes! Please!!” He pulled two bags, and I grabbed the rest. He led the way (which involved another elevator) to the check-in and to the first counter without a line, which was First/Business class. While the woman behind the counter was not initially going to check me in since I was not first or business class, she glanced around and said she could do it quickly. When she saw that my bags were overweight, she bumped me to business class for the flight from Detroit to Frankfurt so that I wouldn’t have to pay for the overage! Wow! I’ve never flown business class and may never again, so I savored this sublime blessing that was for the longest part of my flight (8 hrs.). As the man who had helped me turned away, I checked to see if he had wings. He was certainly an answer to prayer that was sent straight from God! After all the frustrations experienced that morning in Detroit (and others in the Birmingham airport, too!), it was so sweet of the Lord to arrange this lovingkindness. He certainly didn’t have to!

Our lives are full of blessings around us. Some we can see if we will stop to take the time to observe them. Others come only through taking a God-guided leap of faith.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Just a few more days!

Monday, the 24th, at 11:20am I will be flying out of Birmingham headed to Lisbon!  With layovers in Detroit and Frankfurt, Germany along with time changes, I will arrive in Lisbon at 11:25am...Tuesday!  It is hard for me to believe that my departure is just a matter of a few days away.  August 24th seemed forever away for so long, but it now has seemed to arrive in the blink of an eye!

Packing proceedings are coming along.  The boxes that line my walls could probably be rearranged to create a small fort with a moat around it made of Wal-Mart bags of classroom supplies.  One room could be mistaken for a retail clothier as garments are sorted, folded and neatly stacked as if on a display shelf.  Now, to get 10 months of clothes and needed school supplies into 3 suitcases....  Well, if the Lord can bring in all of my partnership within 3 months, I'm sure He can help me get all of this into 3 suitcases!

Thank you for all of the words of encouragement and expressions of kindness you have so generously poured out, especially in these last couple of weeks.  While it makes the "until next times" that much more difficult, it also bolsters my heart knowing I have such a caring support system.


This update comes to you to let you know that I am completely God's gracious goodness!!  All partnership funds have been raised!  If that isn't God, I don't know what is!  Last fall, I prayed that God would be glorified through this entire process, including the partnership development.  I asked that He would bring in the necessary funds in a way that was very obviously His doing.  That our sovereign God used you to bring in over $20,000 in less than 3 months (in today's economy!) is an answer to prayer that has His fingerprints all over it! 

I'm rejoicing in His goodness that I also saw during my training in Harrisburg.  Thank you for your prayer support during that time.  It was an enriching experience both in information, as well as, in the people that I met.  We received information and instruction on a variety of topics including team building, financial preparation, spiritual preparation and even how to handle transition stress (formerly known as culture shock :-)

Almost 30 short term missionaries made up our training class; they are headed all over - South Africa, Turkey, Liberia, the Czech Republic, Chile, Togo, Bangladesh, India and more! Although strangers to each other on Monday morning, we developed a sweet bond by the end of training on Wednesday, one that comes through the commonality of ChristMicah and Lindsay, one of the young couples attending, were headed out to their mission field of Chile that Friday.  Upon returning to our motel Tuesday night, one of the others brainstormed that we have a time of prayer for them.  Those of us who were still awake at the late hour piled into Micah and Lindsay's motel room.  The time began with an impromptu foot washing for the couple and was followed with Scripture passages being shared as words of encouragement and blessing over them.  We then laid hands on them and prayed for them and their ministry.  When the prayers concluded though the hour was late, no one was quite ready to leave so one of the girls broke into a praise chorus, and we joined in with her.  In reflecting on that precious time, the words of another praise chorus I learned as a child came to mind:

Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place
I can feel the mighty power of His grace
I can hear the brush of angels wings
I see glory on each face
Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place

God's goodness was also shown in my time in Harrisburg with three of the teachers from Greater Lisbon Christian Academy.  They had been short-term the last couple of years but decided to go career and were in town for candidate training, which was finishing as training for the short-termers was beginning.  It was a blessing to have dinner with them and hear more about the school, the kids and missionaries there.  My excitement and anticipation continues to grow as the time of departure nears!

Prayer Requests:
  • finishing all the sorting and packing!  (the monotonous necessity does not appeal to the sanguine side of me! :-)
  • finalizing all the last details of moving...getting all of the last ducks in a row
Thank you again for your continued love and support!

Pole Vaulting to Portugal

Listening to the radio the other day, I heard Dr. Tony Evans use an illustration about high jumpers and pole vaulters (pictures attached).  Olympic high jumpers set records clearing 9 feet, while Olympic pole vaulters set records of over 19 feet.  Why the drastic difference?  The high jumper is doing the best he can with what he has in his own strength; the pole vaulter is also doing the best he can but is leaning on something else to accomplish the otherwise impossible feat!  Dr. Evans drew a parallel to the Christian walk.  What could we accomplish if we would fully lean on the Lord rather than our own strength?  It made me think, too, how often do I get in my own way?  What amazing adventures and blessings does the Lord have in store that are only possible through leaning on His power? 

The image of the pole vaulter impacted me especially as I prepare for Portugal.  My prayer is that the Lord would help me (despite my sometimes cautious, overly analytical tendencies!) to lean on Him in order to accomplish great things for Him.  I want to look back at my life's journey and see an incredible path of miracles that were obviously and only accomplished through the power of God for the glory of God!

One of these, I have observed over the last weeks is in partnership development.  The Lord has used you to bring in 90% of the needed funds in less than 3 months!  (For those recently inquiring, the response card has been attached in addition to the pictures.)  Just as important is your continued prayer support. THANK YOU so much for partnering with me through your prayers and finances!

Prayer request update:

  • Found renters for my condo!!!
  • Fly out Saturday morning (11th) for training at ABWE headquarters in Harrisburg, PA
  • Meet with three of last year’s teachers on Sunday; praying for a profitable time of finding out even more about the school, students, schedules, etc.
  • Travel and transition to Portugal - my leave date has been bumped to the last week of August; classes begin on Sept. 7th
  • That I will "pole vault" through my journey in Portugal! :-)

Portugal Preparation Praises!

God continues to bless as I make preparations for leaving for Portugal.  As of today, I am a little over 50% of the financial partnership needed by August.  The majority of this has come within the last 5 weeks!  Thank you Lord, and thanks to each of you who have partnered with me in this kingdom investment!  It has been such a blessing and privilege to be a part of this faith journey and to witness God's grace and power working in unexpected ways!  Oh how I so often try to put God in a box...and He patiently shows me He is much bigger than any of my boxes!

May your day be rich with blessings and void of God boxes! :-)