Wednesday, February 24, 2010
We have TWO answers to prayer to report! THANK you all for praying!
FIRST - Fabio is doing very well today. He is still a little tired/ weak, but it seems he is out of the woods after having dengue fever. Praise the Lord!
SECOND - my document finally arrived today!!! It took six weeks from the time it was sent. So, tomorrow we have to go to the Federal Police Department to apply for my Brazilian ID card. PLEASE continue to pray that everything goes smoothly for the rest of the process, and especially that they will excuse the fine we are being charged, because it was completely out of our hands. It was the Brazilian Consulate in Chicago that "forgot" to send the necessary document in order to put my application in, and then the postal system that sent the document for too many trips before bringing it to our address....
Also, several asked if the weather has cooled off any? No, unfortunately not. The time changed on Sunday, signaling the coming of fall here, but the weather did not follow suit. It is at about 110 degrees heat index right now, OUTSIDE, but it is much hotter in the apartment, not sure how much hotter, but I am sitting here doing virtually nothing and dripping in sweat. Nice, right? We shower many times a day, but even that brings little relief, because the water tank for the apartment is on the roof where it bakes in the sun all day and provides us with a nice, hot shower when we most want COLD water!!! It is supposed to rain tonight, which is the only time we get a little relief. :)
Thank you all for your faithful prayers and encouragement!!!
The Tsukayama Family
Monday, February 22, 2010
You have refined us as silver is refined.
You brought us into the net;
You laid affliction on our backs.
You have caused men to ride over our heads;
We went through fire and through water;
But You brought us out to rich fulfillment.
Here in the land of Brazil, in the "home" of the Tsukayamas, the intense Bootcamp of the Holy Spirit continues! We have much to be thankful for. First of all, THANK you for praying for us and for sending notes of encouragement. We really, really appreciate it so much!
The constuction I described a few post back is mostly done, so the apartment once again has a useable living area, for which I am very thankful. As are the children! Funny, the apartment seemed quite cramped when we got here, but after having been trapped only in our bedroom for two weeks, it not seems quite spacious! God really has a sense of humor!!
Once we all got over the virus, we enjoyed several days of perfect health, and then I got a relatively mild case of mastitis, which only lasted two days. Then, we enjoyed another few days of perfect health, and this time we were hit with the most serious one yet: Fabio came down with "dengue" last Wednesday. Dengue is a mosquito-caused disease that is currently an epidemic in this area, and for which there is neither prevention nor cure. The symptoms are fever; head, eye and body aches, and later on, a rash all over the body. In some cases, hemorrhage may occur, and the joints also may be attacked. Thankfully, Fabio seems to be over the worst of it, but is still not totally out of the woods yet. We have to keep checking his temp and blood pressure over the next couple of days... So, please pray for a full and quick recovery for him.
We finally got some word about the where-abouts of my document. It has been shipped back and forth from São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro five times!!! It never has reached Santos, and we have no idea why. It has been six weeks now since it was sent, and nearly two months now that we are being fine for each day that goes by without registering for my ID card (which we need that document to do). So... that has been extremely frustrating. Waiting for the document's arrival is the reason we have stayed in Santos all this time - trying to avoid further fines. If we had known it would take so long, we could have gone and come back -- several times! So, the Brazilian post office is looking into things for us now and is supposed to have an answer for us this week. Please pray about that too!
We spoke to our friends in Santa Catarina, where we plan to travel first, and they are looking forward to receiving us and it seems there is much work to do there, so we are anxious to find out what is going on with that document so we can be on our way.
Here in Santos, however, the Lord has also opened doors for us. I have developed two very special mentorship relationships with two girls here that are going through some tough times, but have soft hearts to learn from the Word through it all. Likewise, Fabio has had special mentorship opportunities with two of his cousins, and that has really been a blessing.
I have also made friends with a girl named Margareth, who is a Jehovah's Witness, and is moving away from Santos tomorrow. She really wants us to come visit after they move, and we have had some interesting conversations about the Lord. Who knows what His plans are?
This past Saturday, we went to visit an orphanage. Fabio could not go since he was sick, but the children and I went, just to play with the children and talk with them. We had a wonderful time and hope to go back. They asked for me to not take close pictures of the children's faces, so these are the shots I got:
Dominique found some make-up to play with and paint the other little girls with:
Sunday, we went to the Japanese church again. We wanted to introduce Fabio's dad to the pastor and the people there. He had made a decision for the Lord in Japan, but has not been in church here since coming back to Brazil. We thought he may feel more at home there since it is small, etc. Fabio could not go, so I went with him, and the children. They had a potluck afterwards, since they had a special speaker come.
Just had to share this pic with y'all, just because it was so yummy! Makizushi:
ENCOURAGEMENT AND CHARACTER NEWS:
The BEST news of all is that God is good! He has not abandoned us for a minute and on the contrary, He continues to make His Word come alive to us and strengthen us from the inside out. He has many creative ways of encouraging us.
For "some strange reason", when we were packing, I threw in a little paperback of which I knew nothing. I ran across it the other day and started reading it: The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson. I had never heard of David Wilkerson, but how timely! After my last post of wondering how to reach people in the favelas, I read of David Wilkerson, whom God called to the "favelas" of New York City, and the victory God gave him there working with the gangs. It gave me so much faith to do whatever it is that God is calling us to here, even if that means moving our family to the favela!
The minute I finished the book, I went to check my email, and there was an email from Bill Prince, sending us a link to a message by -- of all people, David Wilkerson! I read it several times, as did Fabio, and cried. I highly recommend it to you: The Making of a Man of God.
And another creative way God has encouraged us is with a song - an oldie but goodie: So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt. It is a humorous/sarcastic song with a powerful message, but until now I mostly just saw the humor. Now I got the message! Especially this first stanza:
So you wanna go back to Egypt where it's warm and secure
So you're sorry you bought the one-way ticket when you thought you were sure
You wanted to live in the land of promise, but now it's getting so HOT
Are you sorry you're out here in the desert instead of in your own backyard?
Nope, we don't want to go back to Egypt. On the contrary, in spite of the difficulties, we are more sure with each day that passes that we made the right decision to come here and we are even thankful that the Lord is dealing with us in this way. Fabio pointed out last week that if we had had unlimited funds to go our right away and purchase a car, an air conditioner, a washing machine, our own place to live and other creature comforts, we would have missed out on a lot of what God wanted to teach us. We would have cushioned our cross...
And Fabio emailed me more encouragement last week too. I will share this from his email:
Being stagnant is not when we are not performing as much as we thought we should.
Being stagnant is when there is no work of God being performed within us.
PRAYER REQUEST SUMMARY:
*Full restoration of health for Fabio and continued health for the rest of us
*Super-extra abundant grace as we continue living in someone else's house (this has been a big part of our bootcamp experience!!!)
*Expedient delivery of my document, like NOW!
*Clear direction for the next step of our journey
No one has bathtubs here, only shower stalls, so this is our make-shift bathtub inside the shower stall:
Fabio and the kids the day before he came down with dengue:
Two little sweet peas in a pod:
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Two days ago, on Monday, we were finally all well enough to leave the house! We had been invited to the Japanese pastor's house, and we were finally able to take them up on the invitation. We had a nice visit and it was a very welcome change of pace and scenery.
There really isnt anything special about this next picture, since the kids aren't even looking, lol, except that I am in it, which is rare indeed. :-)
I just LOVE this picture of Johann, because it is SO hard to get a good picture of him these days! He is so on-the-go, and does not stop for a second, much less look at the camera, and even less to smile too! So, this is a rare treasure of a picture. He is nearly 17 months now! And, he rarely wears clothes. It is too hot to put him through the torture, and it cuts down on laundry that way too. ;-)
This is Fabio's father, about a month ago, when we took a walk with the family:
We've gotten to enjoy lots of family togetherness, even at nighttime and naptime:
And, on January 19th, Fabio celebrated his 31st birthday - the first birthday he had celebrated in Brazil since he turned 17.
Also about a month ago:
The last day we were in São Paulo, my sister-in-law Carol's family took us to the zoo! Especially after a full week of not stepping foot outside the door, it was also a very welcome change of scenery. :-) It is a nice zoo and we enjoyed our time there. I also enjoy new locations to photograph my beautiful treasures (children).
I think this pic was a fave of the day because it was not posed. How wonderful to catch a moment of spontaneous brotherly love. :)
It has been neat to see these two interact as Johann gets older. They really play well together most of the time. Two peas in a pod! And, if any of you remember these shirts, I took advantage of the cooler weather in São Paulo to take a snappie of these two in them. Here is a pic of Joshua and Dominique in them, and then of Dominique and Israel in them.
And I ask again.... I wonder where these shirts will be in two more years??
Friday, February 05, 2010
"...we also glory in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character, and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." -Romans 5:3-5
Well, these have been a trying last couple of weeks; we are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair. (2 Cor 4:8)
First, a couple weeks ago, we had a, um, necessity for a little space, so we went to Fabio's brother's house in Sao Paulo for the week. In many ways, it was a nice respite, but at the same time we faced new struggles. The nice part was that they live in a house rather than an apartment, so the children had more freedom in the house without worrying about bothering the neighbors. It was kinda funny, actually, that as soon as we arrived, Israel asked my sister-in-law's mother if he could jump? Like he had been fasting from being able to jump all this time! hehe. Here are the kids, with cousin Leonardo, at the house in Sao Paulo:
They also have a washing machine, which was really a wonderful break. :-) The other thing that was huge for me is the difference in climate. In spite of the short distance between Santos and Sao Paulo (about an hour if there is no traffic), the difference in climate is HUGE because of the altitude. It was more like Chicago summer - plenty warm, but rather comfortable most of the time, and it cooled off at night enough that I could stand to use a thin blanket. I hate sleeping uncovered, but it is so hot in Santos that I can't even stand to have a sheet on!
However, they live in a dangerous area, just a block from the mouth of a dangerous slum - a "favela". So, we could not step foot out the door, or barely even look out the window. When we did leave the house, my brother-in-law would park the car about a foot away from the door, check to make sure the coast was clear, and then quickly usher the women and children into the car without stopping for a second to stand and look around.
From the car, I could see the favelas as we drove by. Here is a picture I took from the car - a drive-by shooting (lol). How sad! How could these oh-so-needy people be reached? How could we venture into their territory without being harmed? It made my heart feel so heavy! We could not be effective in ministering to the most-needy people while being too afraid to venture out of our door. And yet, we also could not throw caution to the wind and put our family in danger. Most importantly, what is it that the LORD has for us to do here?? What is His plan? I spent a lot of time in prayer, cautiously peering out the window from where we slept. This was my view:
While Fabio was away, he emailed this to me:
I am still glad we are going through all this.
I look back and I see us living the American dream lifestyle. I am glad that God shook off the shakeable and is bringing forth the unshakable and establishing us in that way. Character. Godly character before any circumstances. It's been tough for you. It's been tough for me. It's been tough for the kids. Each one in a different manner. But I see that together we are all being refined - as a family (my joy). Not one alone. And we grow together to live what it really means "as for me AND my family, we will serve the Lord".
I'm still wondering why the second month is coming by and we are still "stagnant". Really "stagnant"? I realize not. He is building our roots deep down in the ground in different areas of our lives. Soon, we will bud. We will grow. We will flourish.
He could have done things a lot differently but he is in the business of softening and hardening people so that he may display his power in us so that his name might be proclaimed in all the earth. A power we did not know we had. The power of godliness and unconditional 1 cor 13 love is irresistible. This power will be brought forth and we as we count our own lives as dead so that the life of Christ may spring out.
Now we are learning how to pray for our dear cousins with the same broken heart and understanding. It is painful but we do not live for ourselves nor for comfort, but we live as Hosea - willing to die to our own desires and even reputation in order to become a new generation of mighty prophets in the land that will shake the empire of darkness in this place.
His words greatly encouraged me and still do.
The following week, coming back to Santos, was even more trying. First, the weather went from miserably hot to murderously hot. I know all of you in the Northern Hemisphere think I should not be complaining about the heat, but trust me, it is a little too much of a good thing here in Santos at around 100 degrees F and probably about 300% humidity! So, anyway, it was the hottest week since we got here. And, like the laundry dilemna in my last post, there is no escaping from the heat here like in the States - an air conditioned building is a rarity indeed.
Then, Fabio's parents decided to do a remodeling project: to replace the flooring in the living room/dining room area and hallway. Other than this main area, the apartment only has a tiny kitchen and three moderate-sized bedrooms, two of which were now piled high with the furniture out of the living room! So, while the apartment had felt quite snug before, we were not confined to our bedroom all.the.time....
Now, if the bedroom confinement coupled with the heat was not enough to do us in, we had to get some kind of wicked virus that went through the family one by one.... So my original strategy to find somewhere, anywhere, to go during the day to get out of the house during the construction failed miserable because of the sickness. Once again, there was no escape. We were stuck in that little room, suffocating and puking. lol.
As unappetizing as that description sounds, the Lord's comfort was sweet. I think that He does not often choose to work on our character flaws when we are in our comfort zone. And, He brought to mind so many Scriptures that just came alive when applied to our present situation. The one I started out this post with, from Romans 5, especially came to mind often and forcefully: tribulation produces perseverance, tribulation produces perseverance, perseverance, perseverance.... PERSEVERANCE! There were times I thought, "If I can survive this week, I can survive anything!" And then that verse would come to mind again: perseverance. And I would pray that verse for our family, that our current "tribuation" would product the perseverance that the Lord could foresee we would apparently need at some point in the future.
So, at this point, our lifestyle is not what we had pictured, exactly. My document that I need to take care of before being able to travel within Brazil has not arrived. It has been four weeks and counting, and we are paying a fine for every day we are in Brazil without it arriving! And not having it means we cannot leave Santos. We are stuck here! And apparently for a very good reason. We have come to believe that this time has been for us a kind of missionary bootcamp that we would not have planned for ourselves. God has it all planned out. He knows about my document, the timing of the constuction and the weather forecast and the state of our health. He knows it all and we are in the palm of His hand. We are trusting that He will work all things out for our good, and we are confident that we are here in Brazil on His orders.
Please continue to pray for us! We so appreciate knowing we are being upheld in prayer, and we have felt it so many times. Don't stop now!
I will try to post more pictures sometime soon - it is just taking too long for right now. :)
(The quote at the top by Elisabeth Elliot may not be word-for-word, because I read it years ago, and could not find it online now. But that is the general gist of it.)