Tag Archives: God

Brazil Missions Trip – August 2017

In August, God opened the doors for me to go on my fourth missions trip. It was a bit surreal as the details all came together. I was the little girl who dreamed of going on one missions trip and here I was, getting ready for my fourth trip. God is good! One of the highlights of this particular trip was having my dad and my cousin Elisabeth join me. This trip was Elisabeth’s first missions trip and I’ve asked her to share her thoughts today. -Abbie


What is one thing you’ve always wanted to do, that always seemed a little out of reach? Ever since I was young, like 4, I have wanted to go on a missions trip – to see the world from the vantage point of people like Hudson Taylor and Isobel Kuhn. Most of my earliest reading ventures centered on these people – fighting spiritual battles to give the gospel to regions beyond. My grandmother gave me the best birthday gift a nine-year-old could get – 30 books, almost all of them about missionaries, and I read them over and over again. As a teenager, I thrilled to hear about my cousins trekking to Honduras, Jordan, and Peru. Stories of mountain climbing, growing a beard to fit in, food poisoning, and orphanages brought me a smile. Would I ever do something like that? In a heartbeat. However, certain things seemed more pressing on my finances… violin lessons and COLLEGE. I shelved the idea of leaving the country, and focused on what I knew the Lord wanted me to do for that day – cook, practice music, give lessons, go soulwinning on Saturday, and go to church on Sundays. In fact, I became so busy that reading almost entirely left my world, except textbooks; and dreaming of actually going to give the gospel somewhere else was almost forgotten.

In February of 2017, I had a really good conversation with one of my favorite teachers, and at one point, he asked if there was anything pressing that I had really desired to, before – you know, marriage. 🙂 I couldn’t think of anything immediately. While cleaning lots of bathrooms that afternoon, I prayed and asked the Lord the same question – was there anything He wanted me to do? A missions trip! That was the thing – and the thought made me very excited. I knew that if the Lord wanted me to go, there were a lot of obstacles He would have to overcome. I talked to my parents that night, and they gave me permission to get a passport. I prayed about where I should go; and checked in with friends in Mexico. At first, they were very excited about it; but several details were not falling into place. It did not feel quite confirmed that I should go there. On top of that, my mom was not very excited about the idea that I go to Mexico – especially with no one but my very dear, and younger, friend. I continued praying about Mexico; and in April, Abbie visited our house. She had just been to Honduras, and was now planning on going to Brazil in August. As she rehearsed stories, and explained details, I saw my mom getting more and more excited. The Brazil trip was already organized by a team leader, in a much more populated area, and sounded less frightening. As I prayed about the options, Brazil was it. Everything that had been lacking in the Mexico trip, was taken care of by the Brazil trip, including a huge peace that this was from the Lord.

This past summer was a huge faith growing experience for me, and I really mean that. The amount of money I needed to bring in to go was easily brought in by piano students – until they started taking summer vacations and getting sick. I had already put in the first $1000, and the rest was not coming in. Many hours were spent in praying for the job opportunity and for awakening in Sao Paulo. However, little by little, gifts from the most surprising of people trickled in, to the very last week – things like a suitcase, a backpack, hiking sandals, and monetary gifts. The very last week, I had exactly everything I needed, plus $20. God answered very specifically, and at times I especially needed it. Our God is a perfect God, and His purpose is always His glory. On top of that, He delights in delighting us, but in a way that matures us, grows our faith, and gives Him glory. What a purpose to take part in!

People prayed and prayed and prayed, and of course I did, too. I was so excited about what God would do and I still am. Everybody said, “It’s gonna change your life.” And I would always think, “Sure, but how?’

The change started before I went to Brazil – although I have long loved giving out the Gospel, I became a great deal more soul-conscious, praying more for souls to be saved, and praying to see more the world the way Christ does. God broke my heart for an area that I now get to go soulwinning in almost every week. My faith grew a great deal this past summer, as I saw in a new and personal way, God answer prayer and do big things.

Now a few months later, I get it. It did change my life, my daily thought process – sometimes I’m pretty slow to get things. 🙂 I love those people in Brazil, and all people everywhere. I really truly want nothing more than I want God to be glorified and to see people saved – in places where the gospel has hardly been preached. Jesus really is The Answer – He isn’t an abstract idea that makes people feel good when times get rough. He is the Way, the Truth, the Life. There are many people who are searching for that Way, who need to know the Love of Christ.

When I got to Brazil, I saw people. To me, it was different, but more, it was the same. These people laughed and cried and married and had babies and shopped and ate and drove and carried on a human life. Their emotions were uniquely the same as every other human’s. One difference – these 150,000 people in 6 square miles had barely if any exposure to the name of Jesus Christ – let alone true Christianity. As people crowd you on every street corner, and sip their beers, or catch up on local gossip, they have no idea that a Saviour loves them, was crucified and rose again for their soul, and wants to save them from eternal destruction. That is horrific.

Brazil has a different government and a different education system. It is fascinating to me that Brazilian children are required to only learn Portuguese and mathematics, and these at a painstakingly slow rate. Can you imagine having no concept of a country outside Brazil and the United States? No concept of a round world or your nation’s history? No concept of Israel and 2000 years ago? Most of these children do not. Yet they are given hours of intensive gender-switching training daily. However, any organization can go and teach anything in any of their public schools for an hour. What an opportunity!

Music, in the classical sense, is almost nonexistent; and the children we were with in church had never seen a clarinet or a violin. They were thrilled to touch these things and make sounds.

All this, though we were in a comparatively rich area, complete with shopping malls, cars (everywhere, very close, haha!), phones, and American fashion.

We passed out some 25,000 Scriptures, and saw four people receive Christ as Saviour. Though immediate results have been bigger, this was very much a planting work in a rich city. The Word is even yet taking root in hearts; and for many, giving them a first exposure to the God of the Bible, and Christ, a personal Saviour. I am praying yet, and am confident, that God will do a great work in Sao Caetano de Sul, not because we are anything at all, but I know Who God is, and I know Him. What big things has He done in your life? 

Our last missions trip together was to Lima, Peru in 2013. It was fun traveling with him again.

First glimpse of São Paulo, early Tuesday.



Daily activities included canvassing markets and neighborhoods handing out Scriptures, witnessing, eating (Brazilian food is amazing!), and fellowshipping. 


The markets sell just about everything.

We enjoyed pastels and caldo de cana (fresh squeezed sugar cane juice) for lunch several days. Delicious!

Lee Johnson led this lady to the Lord.

The ladies of our team: Elisabeth, Abbie, Abbey, and Brittney.


I enjoy working with a local church on missions trips. The people of Igreja Batista Compaixão were so sweet!


Elisabeth and I obviously enjoying what we were talking about. 🙂

 

Sightseeing day

I tried fresh coconut water for the first time.

Our team with the missionaries. Left to right: Elisabeth Gordon, Phillip Allen, Alan Harris, Abbey Grimes, Brittney Johnson, David Meza, Allen Johnson, Abbie Sikma, Bryan and Rebekah Johnson, Jim Sikma, Elias Correa, Lee Johnson, David Johnson

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Because He Lives

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“He is not here, but is risen.” Luke 24:6a

This week as I have spent some time meditating on the glorious truth of Jesus’ resurrection, I’ve been reminded of the beautiful lyrics to the song, “Because He Lives”. It’s because of Jesus that I have forgiven sins. It’s because of Jesus that I can face an unknown future. It’s because of Jesus that I will spend eternity with Him. And it’s because of Jesus that I can live each day knowing that He has made life worth living.

This weekend, I encourage you to take some extra time and ponder the victorious truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Because He Lives

God sent His son, they called Him, Jesus;
He came to love, heal and forgive;
He lived and died to buy my pardon,
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives!

How sweet to hold a newborn baby,
And feel the pride and joy he gives;
But greater still the calm assurance:
This child can face uncertain days because He Lives!

And then one day, I’ll cross the river,
I’ll fight life’s final war with pain;
And then, as death gives way to victory,
I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He lives!

Chorus
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!

Acorns, Races, & Sin

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“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith…” Hebrews 12:1-2a

It was a beautiful fall afternoon and I was leading my siblings in our daily exercise time. The sun was shining, leaves needed to be raked, and everyone had lots of energy. It was a good combination. I decided to bring some fun into our afternoon activity. A few of us raked a complex path/racetrack through the leaves.

After some footraces in which various siblings competed, we positioned ourselves to begin a relay race. The three youngest siblings would begin by running half of the track and handing their baton to their assigned sibling, who would then finish the race. I was paired with my youngest (and smallest) brother so I shed my socks and shoes in favor of bare feet. I needed all the speed I could get. When the baton reached me, I took off running. Unfortunately, I failed to remember all the acorns that covered my path ahead. As I was running, I stepped on one of those tiny, sharp acorns. I felt the cut but continued running anyway.

When I reached the finish line (second place), I discovered that the acorn had caused a rather deep cut. I couldn’t clean it completely and had to wait until my EMT brother got home. He was able to fully clean and bandage the wound and it is now healing.

As I was thinking over this event, I was struck with a few truths.

#1: As Christians, our lives are like a race (Hebrews 12:1). We began the day we were saved and we are running toward to the Ultimate Goal–Jesus Christ. Each moment, each day is step closer to our Goal. Godly parents and mentors have passed the baton to us and we are to be running toward Jesus.

#2: Sin can be like acorns. Though I knew the oak tree stood there, I failed to adequately prepare myself to run. As fallen human beings, we sin every day. We see sin and its’ effects all around us but how often do we forget how powerful it is? We sin but fail to confess. We can continue limping on in our race but the power is gone.

#3: Confession of sin is like cleaning a wound. Getting my foot completely cleansed of all dirt was painful but necessary. Had I skipped cleaning the wound, it would eventually have become infected and caused much bigger problems. When we fail to confess our sin, it weighs on our hearts and minds. It festers and slows us down in our race. We can only obtain full cleansing and freedom when we confess our sin.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9

If God is Good | Book Review

Thought-provoking and inspiring, Randy Alcorn’s book, If God is Good, addresses the problem of suffering and evil. Mr. Alcorn presents logical arguments for the coexistence of an omnipotent God and evil. He draws from numerous true life stories and Scripture quotations to show that the God of the universe has a perfect plan and that He can use suffering and evil for good. In the chapter, Why Doesn’t God Explain His Reasons?, Alcorn states,

The God of providence weaves millions of details into our lives and into all the lives around us. Maybe he doesn’t have one big reason for bringing a certain person or success or failure or disease or accident into our lives; in fact, he may have hundreds of little reasons. In order to understand God’s explanations, we would have to be God.

The 512-page book is divided into sections such as, Understanding the Problem of Evil and Suffering, Problems for Non-Theists, Divine Sovereignty and Meaningful Human Choice, Evil and Suffering Used for God’s Glory, and other topics. The book, though theological in nature, is written to be understood by the everyday Christian. I highly recommend that every Christian read this book. It’s not a quick read but it is an encouraging read. If God is Good will cause you to view suffering through new eyes.

Disclaimer: Blogging for Books sent this book to me in exchange for my honest and thoughtful review.

 

Northwoods Vacation | Personal

I got back from a delightful, restful, and fun family vacation last Wednesday. A sweet older lady at our church owns a cottage up in Conover, WI and has graciously allowed our family to vacation there for the past three years. It’s definitely been one of our top vacation spots. We had no internet and little cell service and I thoroughly enjoyed being disconnected for several days.

The cottage is on a lake and we took full advantage of a number of water sports. Tubing, skiing, kneeboarding, swimming, boating, etc. were all enjoyed by various members of our crew. [smile]  I got my WI boating license before we left and loved getting to drive the boat a few times. Hopefully, you won’t mind the picture overload!

IMG_0827 First campfire of the week! The evenings really cooled off and the fire felt great.

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Cuddling around the fire with Nathan.

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Joseph in a contemplative mood.

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Mom and Dad canoeing.

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Eagles were nesting near the cottage. We saw one catch a fish.

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Chloe and Andrew enjoying some time together.

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Fixing meals is fun in the cottage’s tiny kitchen. [grin] We could crowd quite a few people in there.

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Two of my pretty sisters–Anna and Chloe.

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The cottage is so pretty at night.

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Some of the guys enjoyed fishing. Left to right: Andrew, Jonathan, Zach (friend of our family), Benjamin

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One of my highlights from the trip was ministering through music at Twin Lakes Bible Church. Jonathan, Benjamin, and Zach sang a men’s trio while Andrew and I accompanied them on piano and violin. Video coming.

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Cooking breakfast over an open fire. It was the first time I had cooked a meal over the fire. I enjoyed doing but am certainly grateful for modern conveniences.

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 Chloe getting ready to go tubing!

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Tuesday found us visiting Bond Falls in the U.P. of Michigan.

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My sweet parents

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We saw a family of ducks.

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_MG_2818Zach snapped a picture of our family. Left to right: Andrew, Abbie, Jonathan, Benjamin, Anna, Bethany, Chloe, Joseph, Mom, Nathan, Dad
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Nathan at the falls.

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Our wonderful hostess, Mrs. Corbin, showed us some old slides of the cottage.

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Cooking supper over the fire. Hotdogs, baked beans, and….

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Fresh fish! Courtesy of the fellas.

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We ate outside for almost every meal. Don’t you love the random chairs?

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Joseph and Nathan

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Another of my highlights was boating up to Phelps. Here, Andrew, Anna, Bethany, and Chloe pose for a quick picture.

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We stopped in at Sweets, Treats & More for some delicious ice cream.

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All the girls enjoying their ice cream.

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We enjoyed some [ahem] singing on the way back. Daniel (Mrs. Corbin’s grandson and our faithful boater), Jonathan, Benjamin, Zach, and I sang various songs as we boated along. (Note: Benjamin’s face is not shown here but those two extra hands in the picture are his!) [smile]

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The final day, Mrs. Corbin generously treated the entire group to an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet. Left to right: Mrs. Corbin, Dad, and Mom.

We really had a wonderful time enjoying each others’ company and soaking in the beauty of the Northwoods. Several times throughout the week, I was reminded of the awesome power of God. As you sit and ponder the creation around you, you can’t help but marvel at how mighty our God is!

Florida Trip | Personal

As I mentioned in my last post, I recently had the privilege of traveling to Florida for two weeks. I traveled with the Minutemen Ministries team helping with the War of Special Forces. The War is a three-night, teen competition run by Dr. Jim Van Gelderen. God has used it mightily over the years and hundreds of teens have been saved.

Here, the team captains, Andrew, Alex, and John sing “Sound the Battle Cry”.

Dr. Jim preaching.

Several of the competitions use a 4-foot ball. This game is “Big Ball Basketball”.

“Big Ball Volleyball”–it takes three people to serve the ball over the “net”.

I had a blast with Janna! 🙂

Final score for the first week–my brother’s team was Recon. Yay!

Ariel travels with the Van Gelderens as their school teacher. She is an awesome roommate and we made lots of memories!

The indoor competitions were sometimes almost as intense as the outdoor competitions.

Skit time!

My brother gave his testimony several times.

Andrew and I on one of our “rest” days.

Janna, Ariel, Abbie, and Annaleese

I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to travel. We saw God work in some incredible ways. I was personally able to lead 4 young ladies to Christ and counseled several others through some sin issues. As Christians, it’s exciting to know that we can have victory in Jesus Christ.

Christmas and the Messiah: Day Twenty-Three

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“When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.” Matthew 2:9-12