Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Roller Coaster to Brazil.....

The slow climbs and gut-bottoming-out drops of our Brazil experience!
     This whole roller coaster ride began with the splendid idea to take four of our children, my wife and myself to Brazil to preach the gospel.  Just like when you are standing in line for a roller coaster it looks REALLY good, from there, far away from the twists and turns, ups and downs, far away from the "true ride".
     We started raising money for Passports. Many of you jumped on the ride with us and donated money. When we had enough for the passports we applied and received them quickly.  This part of our journey much resembled the initial take off of a roller coaster, it still seemed like a really good idea and the anticipation is HUGE!
     Next we needed money for the Visas, approx. $860. The Lord gave Heather the idea to ask all of our friends of Facebook to give $10. (We would have had more then enough for the whole trip!) She did this and money started coming in, slow but steady. Like the ascend to the top of the first SERIOUS drop on the coaster.  She filled out the paper work for the Visa application and mailed it in as soon as the money came in. This took a little longer and was a much harder climb. We felt like we were heading down a serious "dip" on our ride. After paying the Visa fees, we were back at square one as far as the money goes, nothing for air fare. But, the money did keep trickling in. So, up the next hill we went.
     Two days after the applications had been mailed, Heather realized she missed sending part of the paperwork to complete the kids applications. She mailed in what was missing and emailed the Consolate to let them know a package was on the way. She called two days later to check on the status and make sure they had received the rest of the paperwork, they had not. That afternoon the original applications were delivered to our door. With a sheet of paper politely informing us that we didn't complete the paperwork.  This felt like a quick dip on the coaster, the kind that sneak up on you and you have no idea it's coming! 
     Heather made a phone call to the local Post Office and with their help found out that they had received the package, had signed for it, the time, date and who signed. When Heather called back with this information, she was asked not to call the Consulate again, that they would call us when they found it. So we waited. We waited almost a week. It felt uneasy, like when you are sitting on a ride, just waiting for the drop or whoosh of air signaling that you are heading for SOMETHING and you have NO idea what!
     Again, we had reached our goal in the financial area we had air fare. We were at the top of the ascend looking at all the beauty. We still didn't have Visas!  Heather and I decided I should drive to Chicago and fight for our family to get to Brazil.  Heather drove about 30 minutes to get another copy of Miriam's Birth certificate ($15) while I rented a little car ($175). At 5 PM,  I headed to Iowa, JUG of coffee in hand,  to pick up duplicates of the other three birth certificates ($45) and drove onto Chicago. I got there about 5 AM, SEARCHED for an open bathroom, finally finding an open grocery store at 8AM which also had COFFEE! I brushed my teeth in the parking lot, changed my shirt and  headed to the Consolate at 9.  I was FIRST IN LINE!  Good thing, by the time the doors opened, I had 30 to 40 people behind me! By now we were pretty sick of this ride! We all wanted off!
     I was in and out by 10:15! We were approved for 10 year Visas! What a high! We were lacking one small piece of paperwork that they said we could bring back when we picked them up in 4 DAYS! AAAWWWW!   Once again one of those drops that sneak up on you! Our whole family was exhausted. So tired of feeling: "We are going!!!!" "No we're not."  "We are going!!!!" "No we aren't." I asked my Aunt and Uncle if they would pick it up for us, they live in Chicago, and over night it to us. They graciously said "Yes". We had the paperwork by Friday.
     When I got home from Chicago, we were short the air fare again. We thought we might as well look at the flights, we still had hope. The same day we got our Visas in the mail, we got another $1,000 donated! HUGE HIGH! The ride was looking up! When we set down that night, Friday, to try and book the flight, there were no seats together.........none of us could have even set in the same row. HUGE let down. This ride was seriously starting to stink! We tried to think of ways to ask people to move, maybe just go to the air port and believe God would make a the end we just couldn't chance NOT having seats with our kids. 
     We slid into the end of the coaster with me on my  way to Brazil on Sunday and Heather at home with the kid, still feeling a little dazed and confused.
It was a wild ride, worth every minute, long and stressful to say the least. But, look at God's faithfulness in it all. We raised approx. $7,000 in less then 2 months! That is amazing! We now have 10 year Visas! Our faith has grown too.
     The trip was great even though only 11 days long. I met lots of interesting people. A highlight was visiting the youth prison. We got to present the gospel to approx. 100 kids, all there for murder or drugs. I met a 15 year old by that asked Bram, our TX leader in Brazil, and myself to pray for him. He said "I just can't stop killing". He had killed 15 people in his 15 years of life. WOW!  He didn't seem any different, but he said thank you for the prayer. I hope his life has taken a turn for the better. He just looked so sad.
Where did the money go? We sent out a message on Facebook and called several people asking what they wanted us to do with their donations. The general response was to do with it whatever the Lord told us to do. So, we paid rent (it was 6 months behind), paid several other utility bills, and bought snow boots and coats for the kids! It was such a learning experience for us, not sure we want that much excitement again trying to get into a country, but still worth it.
     Thank you all for helping send the gospel to Brazil, even if it was only me who went. People got touched, saved and delivered because of your gift!

Bubba, Heather, Anna, Nathan, Luke, Esther and Miriam 

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