Sunday, November 15, 2009

Visiting the Church at Porto Alto

Last weekend was spent over the river about 45 minutes away at the home of John and Marilyn Rust, who have been ABWE missionaries in Portugal for over 20 years.  They planted a church a couple years ago in Porto Alto, which was off to a good start, but they encountered set backs when a couple - fellow ABWE missionaries and their longtime friends who were helping them with this church plant - had to return to the States because of health issues.  A national couple, who were also helping them with the church plant, relocated due to a job transfer.  So needless to say, it has been a difficult journey.  When I accompanied them this past Sunday, only one man came, Jose, along with his son.  His wife was home with their other son who was ill.

John and Marilyn Rust - They rent the conference room of a local motel, which they have for 2 hours each Sunday morning.

Marcio was intrigued with a project I was helping Marilyn with, so I showed him what I was working on.

He was a little timid initially but began to inch closer to check it out. :-)

John led praise songs including, "Seek Ye First" as Marilyn accompanied on the keyboard.

After praise and worship, I joined Marilyn and went into an adjacent game room where she taught a children's Bible lesson.

Marcio is an active, "all boy" four year old that was elated to get to use scissors for the craft!

He also enjoyed playing teacher by quizzing Marilyn on her colors.  He would point to a color and ask her the name.  After giving the answer, he would tell her "Muito bem."  [Very good.] :-)

Marcio loved being very expressive for the camera!

Pray for the little church in Porto Alto, that Marcio's parents will continue to grow in the Lord, and that Marcio will one day come to a saving knowledge of Christ.

Quilted Water

Our 17 elementary students were involved in a project called Across the Bible.  It is a program that first began in Denmark, and Portugal is one of the countries working in cooperation with it.  Teresa Fernandes, a Portuguese Christian contact of one of our missionaries, is involved with the program by traveling around Europe speaking in public schools, as well as, Christian schools, giving a science-related presentation on water, which is then correlated to water in the Bible and the many times it is mentioned.  Students are then given the opportunity to create a visual representation of one of the "water stories" from the Bible (ex. Noah and the ark, Baby Moses, Jesus turning water into wine, etc.).  These are projects are then put on display at a special expo, where judges award prizes for the best projects.  What a creative opportunity to further the spread of God, His Word and His creation!

Our students, under the direction of our art teacher, Nancy Dubois, created a quilt to enter in the competition!

Each of the students drew a picture on a piece of cloth which was quilted by one of our other multi-talented missionaries, Marilyn Rust.

Students are pointing to the quilt piece they drew.

 A poster displaying entries from previous expos.

Some of the entries from other schools


The winning project!

Each school that participated was listed along with the art teacher in a PowerPoint presentation.

Throughout the presentation, different musical performances were given.  This is a Christian Portuguese rapper, who used his talents to communicate that Jesus is the one and only way to heaven.

Each art teacher voted on the projects entered.  ABWE missionary, Miriam Tyers, interpreting for our art teacher, Nancy Dubois, as the art teachers had to stand at the front, tell which project they voted for and why.  Nothing like being put on the spot!  Nancy handled it quite well! :-)

While our project did not win, the kids had a great time working on it.  We were all excited to help spread God's truth in our community around us!

Living on the Ark

No this is not a reference to precipitation we have received (or will receive as I understand that Lisbon winters consist of rain and damp cold!) nor is this a reference to various and numerous animals that live around my house.  This analogy came to me as a result of a recent driving experience I had. 

As many of you know, my two biggest challenges (not only, but biggest) since moving here are cooking and driving.  You may be saying to yourself, "But, Meredith, those were challenges to you in Birmingham."  I know, I know, so imagine throwing in a different country, culture, and language on top of that!  To give you a little idea of what the roads are like - here is a description I wrote to a friend recently:

Driving is more difficult here because the roads/parking spaces/parking decks are much narrower than the States and extremely curvy and lots of hills.  There is a running joke that there are no straight roads in Portugal.  You can't just say "keep going straight," but "just keep going on what's in front of you."  The road layout/design is also very confusing.  It is not uncommon to get to a place one way but not be able to return the way you came due to the road design.  "Hairpin turns" are also quite common.  Pedestrians really do have the right of way unless there is a stop light, and they definitely believe that as they step out into the road even though a car may coming.  Roundabouts/traffic circles are more common than stoplights, and they can have double-lane entrances to a three lane circle.  You have to get in a certain lane depending on the which exit you want to use.  

Well, a recent driving experience began with finding out that my car's alternator did not need replacing, I just needed to drive longer so that the battery has a chance to recharge.  The four minute drive to school and the 6 minute drive to the grocery apparently were not cutting it.  So I was going to venture out to an area mall.  You may say, "Well that should make you happy - going to a mall!"  (Or you may be saying, "What's a missionary doing going to a mall?" haha :-)  Anyway, I had a feeling of dread about this trip.  I was not looking forward to Lewis & Clarking it. 

Well, I set out with the TomTom (GPS), which already had Dolce Vita programmed in it.  Following the directions of the TomTom, I drove...and I drove...and I drove over highways and byways through rush hour traffic.  Bits and pieces looked familiar along the way, but it was like a connect-the-dots picture, only there were just dots and no lines connecting them.  I eventually found Dolce Vita, only to discover that it is a chain.  The one I was intending to get to is less than 10 minutes away from my house, while the one the GPS guided me to was about 45 minutes away.  When I finally found it and a providentially provided parking spot on the street, it had been so frustrating and stressful that I considered just turning the car around and driving right back home.  However, after assessing how much adrenaline was surging through my body at that point, walking around for a bit seemed like a healthier option.

Finding the entrance to the mall, which was a half a block or so from my car, I attempted to appear with a relaxed smile strolling passed the store windows, while my insides were screaming, "I am a severely directionally-challenged American that has no idea where she is!  Even if I were able to say "direcções a Loures? [directions to Loures?]," I won't be able to understand what you are saying because I'm not fluent in Portuguese!!  So if anything happens to me, I could call someone I know, but I can't tell them where I am because this particular Dolce Vita is a less than well-known mall!"

After walking through a couple stores but realizing I couldn't venture too far because I wouldn't remember the way back to the right door, I made my way back and walked out the door while all the advice of my cop friends, family of cops, and McGruff crime stopper infomercials were running through my head like the headline ticker on a news channel.  "Be aware of your surroundings.  Don't make eye contact.  Have your keys out and ready.  Keep your purse close to your side.  Keep your head up and walk confidently at a good clip.  Listen for footsteps behind you."  Well, I made it to the car without rueful event, set the GPS to "Home" and started out.  Prayers continued to go up as I just so desperately wanted to get home, be home.  I did not get home any quicker, as rush hour traffic was still going strong amidst the multi-lane traffic circles, narrow winding streets and highways, not to mention the sometimes ambiguous or misguided directions of the GPS!

Having a fair amount of time on the road to meditate, the feeling of being very alone was quite prominent as I reflected on my current state and being the only single gal teaching at GLCA.  The analogy came to me - I live on the ark! (...they all came two by twos....)

Now, please understand, the other missionary families have been very kind and helpful, reaching out to me, and I am so grateful!  But when it comes to the end of the day, I am alone.  Oh yes, I know the verses, the hymns, the choruses...all the "Sunday school" answers...but have you ever been through an experience where the Sunday school answers just won't cut it?  You need something more?  I did, but I wasn't sure what the answer was.  So, in an honest talk with the Lord (shouldn't they always be since He knows anyway? :-), I told Him, "Lord, I know all of the verses, etc. that tell me You are sufficient, but it just doesn't feel that way right now.  I know no one person - friend, roommate, spouse or otherwise - is the answer (helpful, but not the answer).  You are THE answer.  My head knows, but my heart doesn't understand.  I need You to show me.  And He did and is, through lovingkindesses He sends to me that have His fingerprints all over, using the body of Christ to be His hands and feet to show His love. I have all my questions answered?  No.  Are there still hard days?  Of course.  Has God or His faithful and loving character changed?  No.  Am I understanding it more?  Yes.  God is good, steadfast and present no matter how I feel or what the circumstances seem to dictate.

Oh, and yes, I did finally make it home safely from the driving venture!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Arruda Community Choir

A few weeks ago, I began attending rehearsals of the Arruda Community Choir.  Gil Thomas, former field council director now serving in the ABWE home office, began this choir as another way to use his passion for music to build relationships with the Portuguese people in Arruda in order to share God's love.  It is a [mainly] a capella choir that performs a mix of traditional Portuguese music, along with Italian songs, American pop and others.  The interim choir director, Miguel, is a member of the Arruda church along with some of the choir members.  The other members are from the surrounding community.  If everyone were there at the same rehearsal, there would be about 20 members, but due to busy schedules, etc. the numbers are lower currently.  Rehearsals were recently changed to Tuesday evenings in hopes of it being a more convenient evening and boosting attendance.

The choir celebrated their 3rd anniversary, and one of the members made a delicious cake in honor of it!

There is a wide range of ages from Sara, the high schooler holding the cake, to the elderly gentleman behind her who faithfully comes to hold up the tenor section!  Carla, in the black jacket, is a talented, blind musician who helped Gil Thomas with some of the musical arrangements the choir performs.  Standing next to Sarah is the interim director, Miguel.  Next to Miguel is Susan Henderson, the future choir director.

Mike Snavely and The Nature of Creation

Mike Snavely and his wife, Carrie, joined us for about a week conducting daily chapels for the elementary and high school students.  With the high school he spoke on creation vs. evolution.  With the elementary, he focused on the creative and powerful God who carefully designed our world, especially evident in the animal kingdom and insect world.  Having grown up as an MK in South Africa and later returning to work for the National Parks Service at Kruger Park in South Africa, he, of course, had wonderful stories to share about the amazing intricacies of different animals and bugs that God designed.  (God gave me the grace to get through Wednesday's chapel spent entirely on spiders...complete with PowerPoint presentation of multiple, multiple pictures of various spiders.  I appreciate what they do for us, but I would like to appreciate them from a distance.)

Learn more about his ministry at his website:

Here are some pictures from elementary chapel and the Sunday morning service at the ABWE church in Loures:

He spent a couple days on dinosaurs, which the students LOVED!


Sunday morning, three little girls sang a song.  The little guy on the left was celebrating his first birthday and being dedicated.

Baby dedication for Lucas.  They had invited extended family to the occasion to celebrate with them as well as to hear about more about God.

Pastor Betu prays a prayer of dedication over this little one.  He is a Portuguese national, who preaches at the Loures church service which is in the morning and the Arruda church service, which is in the evening.

Pastor Betu's wife, Ana, served as translator for Mike during Sunday school and the service.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Reporting Live from Miss Peters Class!

After working on a creative writing project involving some of their spelling words, the students shared their stories with the class.  They came up with the idea of presenting it like a newscast.  They are a creative bunch!

Head news anchor, Noah, reviewing the line up

Our first story being shared by Ellen with Noah holding the "microphone" to make sure she is clearly heard. :-)

Estefania sharing next!

Followed by Raphael

Raphael and Noah switching roles

Next up is Noah with Raphael taking over the technical side

And closing out the broadcast, somewhere behind that sheet of paper...

Oh there's Keegan!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Reading About the Underground Railroad

The third grade read a story set during the Underground Railroad.  We discussed how it got its name due to it being secretive escape route for slaves that had different stops like a railroad, with those helping the slaves referred to as "conductors."  We thought reading a story about the Underground Railroad would be better if read under our desks! :-)


Jesus Said, "I Am...." Art Project

Last week we studied what Jesus taught us about Himself through His "I Am...." statements.  The students worked very hard creating their booklets that list and illustrate some of the truths.

Keegan working hard

Estefania and Ellen working hard.  [Abby was out sick this week :-( ]
The boys love wearing the headset whether or not it is connected to the computer!
Joao working hard
Ellen adding detail to her drawing
Estefania looking at the board to double-check the wording
Great friends showing their finished booklets
The boys exhibiting their finished booklets