Friday, December 21, 2012

A Final Goodbye...

This week we gave our final ESL classes.  Jake taught his last Sunday school lesson on Sunday morning, and then on Wednesday we had our beginner and intermediate class.  

I tried to plan a fun, Christmas-inspired lesson for the beginners.  I had them learn John 3:16, and from there I talked about how we can have joy at Christmas time, because God loves us, and sent His Son to die for our sins.  We listened to Chris Tomlin's "Joy to the World" and they had to fill in the blanks.  We had a little party in between the two classes, and I was brought to tears by a cake that a student brought.  It said, "Congratulations", and was in the shape of Brazil.  Although that class was the hardest one for me to teach, it was more difficult to say goodbye than I thought. The students kept saying that they wished we could have more classes together in the new year. 

I was encouraged by a conversation with one student, Lillian.  Before she attended our classes, she thought she didn't even like English.  Now, due to an appreciation that grew out of taking classes with us, she's going to study at an English school next year.

Towards the end of our time, we were having less and less students come out, due to various commitments and end of the year graduations and parties. At times it was discouraging to see only 7 students in the class, compared to the 30 we started out with.  However, comments like Lillian's make every difficult and challenging moment worth it.  You start to realize that the ones who lasted to the end are the ones who needed it, and benefited the most. 

Yesterday I had a chance to evaluate the parts that worked well and not so well. I found it helpful to think about what we can do differently or change for next time.

Thank you for all your prayers regarding our classes.  Although our main focus was to teach English, God taught us so much in other areas and experiences we had while here as well!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Church in Brasil

Ola friends. I wrote a short reflection on trends in the church here in Brasil in contrast with the church in Canada. You can check it out on my personal blog site Rivers in Reverse. Enjoy!

Jake Rivers

Monday, October 22, 2012

September Update!

We've finally sent out the summary of everything that's happened last month in our Brazilian Bistro email update. If you did not receive our email update and would like to in the future, just let us know! Thanks for reading!


Monday, October 8, 2012

We are here! We are here! We are here!

This past week, we've been adjusting and settling in to life in Brazil.  I think Jake has tried almost every food on my must-experience-in-Brasil list, which has included:

-pastel (in picture)
-hamburgers at Girafas
-pao de queijo
-typical Brazilian food
-Brazilian chocolates/doces

Left to try include:
-BBQ cheese
-acai na tijela

We actually ate something that even I had never tried before, which was pamonha, a paste made with corn and milk that you can eat either sweet or salty.  We both really enjoyed it!

Aside from trying new foods,resting up and getting to know the Bacheller's, we've been planning and preparing for our ESL classes that are starting this week.  We have one beginner class starting tomorrow (Tuesday), three classes on Wednesday, and three on Thursday.  The classes on Wednesdays and Thursdays will be held at churches, and starting at 7pm, they will be an hour for each level: beginner, advanced, and intermediate. 

Thanks for your continued prayers for us.  We have never taught together before, and have already encountered some interesting differences in planning approaches. 

Our goal is to write weekly blogs to keep you posted, and then a monthly newsletter to sum up the happenings of the month.

Blessings and much love,
Ashleigh and Jake

[Follow Ashleigh's (almost!) daily blog: Jardim de Graca or Jake's (almost!) monthly blog: Rivers in Reverse]

Monday, September 24, 2012

Part 1: Port Huron to Chicago

We just finished an intense game of Battleship that we found in the lounge area here at the TEAM campus, and so I thought I'd take the opportunity to tell you what has been happening up to this point.

Yesterday after church, we could be found frantically finishing up our packing and trying to tidy up the house a little bit.  You know how it can imagine coming home after three long months away and not wanting to find nasty surprises.  Good thing I checked out my baking cupboard, where I had to throw out a bag of flour that was crawling with some nasty little bugs.


We made our way down south-with a stop in London on the way-and stayed over with friends of ours in Sarnia.  They live right near the border, so the plan was to drive across to Port Huron early in the morning so we could catch our train.  There were a few things that weighed on our minds: Would they pull us in to customs, or would we go through without a hitch? and Would our luggage be too big and heavy for the train?

Well, God worked everything out (why do we ever doubt?!)  We talked with the customs guard and were through the border in less than three minutes.  Once we got to the train station, we realized that their luggage stipulations were rather lax, just as long as we could fit it all on the top racks.

Our train left just a little bit after 6am, and some of the stops we made between there and Chicago included: Flint, Lansing, Battlecreek, Kalamazoo, Dowagiac, Niles, and New Buffalo (which was our favourite stop to drive through due to some expensive-looking, colourful, cottage-like homes).  The trip there was a bit uneventful until we were about an hour out of Chicago.  We were keeping an eye on the time, since we had to catch the Metra (similar to GO-bus) once there, and then meet with a lady from TEAM after that.  I started to get nervous again, wondering how we were going to contact her if we didn't make it.  Finally, I just gave it up to God, and tried to remind myself that we could just catch the one leaving an hour later.

As the train was pulling into Union Station, the conductor informed us that it was hour earlier than we thought! (Since we traveled west, we gained an hour)  Relieved to hear about the 'extra' time, we made our way over to the Metra station, and had enough time to catch our breath and smile at people who were giving us strange looks because of our luggage.

Jean from TEAM was waiting for us at the stop, and she drove us to the TEAM campus.  We're staying in a dormitory style building with full kitchen facilities, as well as a lounge with a piano, games/books, and some breakfast foodstuffs which the kind people of TEAM have provided.

Not only did we have a chance to meet some of the office staff we've been in contact with, but we have also been relaxing and resting up before our training begins tomorrow.  

During all of our travels and experiences today, I was reminded of how God has been working and running all things so smoothly.  That's not to say that Jake and I didn't have our ups and downs today through the minor stresses that accompany travel, but we're learning and growing.  

We're so grateful to God for providing ALL of the support we needed to fundraise.  And not only just that.  But even MORE!

We cannot express enough thankfulness to all of you for your prayers and your financial support.  We feel blessed to have been truly sent, and we're encouraged by our fellow believers in Christ.

We'll be keeping you all up to date as best as we can. 

Ashleigh and Jake

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

In Touch With Reality

We did the math and figured out that we spent about 20 hours in the car travelling to various places last week.  That is a lot of mileage.  Our poor car is feeling the effects!   It is very good to be back home.

Thanks for your prayers regarding the retreat last weekend.  We stayed at Galilean Bible Camp in Blind River, and Jake spoke four messages to our friend's youth group.  It was a riot, since neither of us have spent so much time with highschoolers in a long time.  I thought Jake's talks were great-they definitely challenged me!

We're leaving for Chicago in only 6 short days.  In the back of my mind there is a panic room happening, but I've mostly been focusing on what we have to do to make this trip happen.  

There is the packing of luggage, cleaning out our fridge, tidying our house, saying our farewells...

You get the idea.  

I just want to say that God has been completely wowing us time and again.  Here we are, at the cusp of this adventure, and we only need $1300 in order to meet our goal! Isn't that just amazing?!

Here are some FAQ regarding our support:

1. Can I still give support once you're on the field?

Yes, since we still need the remaining amount, we are able to receive that even after we've left Canada.

2. What is the best option for donating?

The best (and fastest) way to support this trip at this point is to call TEAM of Canada and donate with credit card.  The number is 1-800-295-4160.

3. Will I receive a receipt for income tax purposes?

Yes, as long as you have given TEAM of Canada your address either by cheque or over the phone you will receive a receipt for income tax purposes. 

We have also been asked many questions regarding our itinerary.  Here are some dates to make things clearer: (I have also added a quick reference page on the blog itself for easy access)

Sep. 24: Take the train from Port Huron, MI at 6AM and arrive in Chicago at 12PM
Sep. 25-28: Attend training/orientation with TEAM Serve in Wheaton, IL
Sep. 29: Fly out from Chicago at 1:30AM
Sep. 30: Arrive in Anapolis at 5PM

Dec. 27: Leave Anapolis
Dec. 28: Arrive in Chicago at 5:30AM
Dec. 29: Take the train back to Port Huron at 5PM

We're getting very excited, and we can't thank all of you enough for making this possibility a reality.  Praise God for His goodness. 

Ashleigh and Jake

Friday, September 14, 2012

Updates and Travel

Jake and I have been on the road and visiting some family for the past few days, so thanks for your patience regarding our lack of updates and such.  It's harder than you think to visit with absolutely everyone!

As it is, I'm writing this in the car on my smartphone while we head up to Sudbury for a youth retreat.

On Wednesday, we finally had all of paperwork in order so that we could finish our Brazilian visa applications in Toronto. As the officer was writing the pickup ticket for our passports, we noticed that he was writing the date of September 26, which is two days after we leave for Chicago!! With a pounding heart, I asked if he could change the date, quickly explaining our situation. Without even batting an eye, he looked at the calendar and said, "How does the 21st sound? "  We were so relieved, and in awe of our great God!

Thanks for praying for seems that the time is passing by so quickly. With everyday that passes we become more and more excited about this journey! Please keep praying with us regarding our support. We're still about $3100 short. Enjoy the pics below of various family and friends...not extensive by any means. Have a wonderful weekend! Love, Ashleigh and Jake

Monday, September 10, 2012

Two Weeks Today

We're finding out that, even though we've both traveled, planned trips, raised support for previous missions trips, we STILL have so much to learn.  

It's been a frustrating past couple of days, to be honest.  We have been receiving mixed messages regarding the visas and flights, which makes it all the more nerve-wracking when we remember that we have exactly two weeks to finish the details for this.  

I'm writing this earnestly pleading that you will pray with us.  We have a ton of little stuff left, but the flights and visas are HUGE things.  It's amazing that one rut in the road seems to erase the memories of God's goodness, and His past miracles.  We don't want to forget all that He's done for us so far.  

Here are some reminders of His grace:

1. On Friday, September 7, we made it to the half-way mark!  We only need $5,000 more!
2. Our return train tickets from Port Huron, MI to Chicago IL only cost $112.
3. We have been able to keep in touch with the team down in Brazil
4. We have wonderful friends, family, and mentors who care about us and pray for us
5. We have a home church that is supportive and loving
6. We've learned a lot about the mission application process
7. It's made our relationship stronger, as well as strengthened our relationship with those who've agreed to pray for us and support us
8. It's kept us humble

Thank you for your continued support for us. 

Please pray that God will place on people's hearts a desire to give financially, so that we can reach our goal of $8000 by Friday, September 14, and keep us in your prayers regarding the flights and visas.

Jake is speaking at a youth retreat this week-end, and he would appreciate your prayers as he prepares his messages amidst the stress of travel prep.


Ashleigh and Jake

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Stay Tuned....

Flight details and total support numbers for this week coming your way in the very near future!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

2 1/2 Weeks!!

In 19 days, Jake and I will be on a train bound for Chicago, where we'll begin four days of orientation.  

I gave you a teaser on Facebook, but we're both really excited about this, so I'll give the full story.  We're still at less than half of our support needed, but we're not worried, because we've had quite a few people tell us they would like to support us financially, AND our God is great, is He not?!

Many of you know that we were given a deadline from TEAM, and we had to have the total amount of support in by a certain date, or we would have to postpone the trip until January.  

If we can make it up to the half-way point (which is $5000) by this Friday, Jake and I are able to put the shortfall amount in what TEAM calls an 'escrow' account, to ensure that we're able to go this fall, rather than postponing until a later date.

That means we only need $1400 by Friday and we're able to go to Brazil this fall!!

We are still able to receive support after Friday, so don't worry if you've felt God leading you to give.  TEAM will reimburse whatever amount Jake and I personally will have had to place in our escrow account once we receive adequate funds after September 7.

However, we are praying that we won't be put into that situation, but that God will provide all of the funds we need by the end of this week.  This has been a time of learning, stretching, and trusting. 

I know that there are many who don't believe it's right for missionaries to raise support, and there are some people who merely support themselves and go, which is fine.

But this venture is not just about us.  It's about glorifying our Lord, spreading the Gospel, and how God wants to get His church involved in the lives of people who desire to serve Him in this kingdom work.  

So thank you for getting behind us, coming alongside us, and praying for and supporting us.  Jake and I have been so encouraged and overwhelmed by friends and family who call us on the phone, invite us over for dinner or coffee, just so that they can pray, asking God to do His good and perfect will.

The exciting part about prayer is that when we pray, God hears us.  Sometimes His answers aren't always what we want them to be, but sometimes they're even better than we could have dreamed.

Jake and I got the go-ahead from TEAM to book our tickets, so I was looking into travel from Canada to our orientation destination, Wheaton, IL (near Chicago).  Instead of taking a plane, which was going to cost anywhere from $400-900 for a return ticket, I found out that there is a train (the Amtrak) which goes from Port Huron (across the border from Sarnia, only a 2 hour drive from us here in Cambridge) to Chicago.  It's almost a 7 hour trip, but, get this:

A return ticket only costs $58 each!!

We were super encouraged by this.  Not only do we get to travel on a train (which I have never done before), but we get to travel for cheap!

Some things to keep in prayer:

  • pray that we can find a decently priced flight from Chicago to Brasilia
  • pray that, once we apply for our Brazilian visas, they will be processed quickly
  • pray that Jake and I will feel God's peace rather than succumbing to the irritability and stress that often comes with planning a trip like this
  • pray that God will be glorified and that our hearts will be blessed as we prepare to serve cross-culturally
  • pray that God will provide, not only the minimum amount, but the rest of our support by Friday, September 
We love you all and feel your prayers.  Thank you!

Ashleigh and Jake

Monday, August 13, 2012

July Happenings...

Greetings friends!

We are now at the 7-week mark before we leave for Brasil.  There is still much to be done in preparation, but we are thankful that God is providing!
In the month of July, I was able to head out to British Columbia for a dear friend's wedding.  Spending 5 days in a valley surrounded by mountains was very good for my soul.  Since Ruth-Ann had been living out there for more than a year, we had much to catch up on.  I am always amazed at the fact that good friends can merely pick up where they left off, which is exactly what we did.  I was honoured to stand up for her at their wedding, and what a lovely day it was, filled with much laughter, tears of joy, and delicious food.  I was sad to leave that tranquil place, unsure of when I'll see my friend next, but I am truly happy and wish this newly married couple all the best!

While I was away, Jake had his 27th birthday.  Old is a word that might come to mind, but this guy just keeps getting younger and younger, keeping me laughing every day!  We have wonderful family and friends who were able to celebrate such a special occasion with him.

My 6-wk teaching stint started on July 9th, and English Training Camp(ETC) is quite the success this year.  I have an awesome co-teacher and wonderful Korean students who I get to spend my days with.  If you'd like to know a little bit more about this, feel free to check out my personal blog.  Since we're writing this 'July' update so late, I only have one more week until my students return back to Toronto.   Yes, it's sad, but we have had very good memories that will last forever.

Jake and I have been keeping busy.  Apart from teaching at ETC and Jake's packaging job, we have been visiting friends and having a lot of quality time on the week-ends.  This has been a huge blessing to us, and we've felt God use this time to unify our marriage.  We spent Canada Day with some close friends, grateful that they let us escape our stuffy apartment to steep in a swimming pool.

Another thing to celebrate last month was that both of our parents had their anniversaries.  Since the beginning of our relationship, we have marveled at the similarities in birthdays and anniversaries for our parents.  So, congratulations, to our wonderful mothers and fathers! May God bless you all with many more years to come!

Next comes a little more of the technical details regarding our trip.  I'll let the headings speak for themselves:

Support Update
We have received about 30% of our support, which is a huge blessing.  We are so grateful to those who are giving financially and prayerfully, since this is definitely not something we can do on our own.  TEAM has given us September 15 as our cut-off date, meaning that if we don't receive all of our funding by then, we will have to postpone the trip.  If you've been thinking about blessing us in this way, please keep this date in mind. There is a tab on the blog itself (up at the top) entitled 'Giving', where you can find instructions on giving either by mail, by phone, or online.  Please contact us if you have any questions about that.

Our Ministry
In missions, things are a little more flexible than they might be otherwise, so some of the following are subject to change.  Our ministry supervisor informed us that we will be raising missions awareness in Brazilian churches.  There is a huge need for Brazilians to be educated missionally, so part of our task will be to lead conversational English classes in churches with a missions emphasis.  This is really great news, since my main focus at Bible college was missions.  We have many resources within our own home library to prepare.  Another great thing is that we know the names of some of the people we'll be working with, and have started to get in contact with them.  One couple in particular is around our age, and they have three little boys.  We are excited that people in our age group are so passionate about God's kingdom, and we're looking forward to getting to know them and catching sight of their vision for the Brazilian church.

Please be in prayer with us for the remaining support.  It is hard to be patient and let God be God.  He has certainly been teaching me to trust him for all of our needs!  This week  I will be purchasing extra medical insurance for myself, and hopefully we can finally book our flights.  Please pray that all of this will go smoothly as well.  Another thing that we need prayer for is focus and extra faith.  Teaching has been a great opportunity, but also a great distraction.  After this week, however, I will be out of a job.  If anyone has any ideas for what I can do for about a month, please let me know!

With that being said, thanks for coming on this journey with us.  We'll be in touch!

Ashleigh and Jake
A Glimpse of Beautiful BC Mountains

Ruth-Ann and I

Mike and Ruth-Ann-Gorgeous couple!

Baking Day is a favourite of my students!

Ice Skating is just one of the wonderful activities my students and I have done together

Jake and I got to go to African Lion Safari together last was raining, but we were happy :)

Saturday, June 30, 2012

June Update

 Hi Everyone!

It's hard to believe we're already half-way through 2012. It seems like the year is going by so fast! Jake and I have been having a busy month, mostly with work, but here are some highlights:

We got to spend Father's Day week-end in Orillia with my family, and went to my aunt and uncle's place for an extended family get-together. We also had dinner with Jake's family the next day, so it was a truly celebratory week-end.

My brother came for a week-end at the end of May, and it was nice to spend some time with him; we were happy to show him some of our favourite spots in Cambridge.

  Jake's company has planned a couple of fun activities for the summer, and last week-end was Canoeing on the Grand. It was only an 1 ½ trip, and included a BBQ at the end. We enjoyed the beautiful weather, the serene and picturesque view from the river, and spending time with some friends.
 In our spare time we've been visiting with friends, going for walks by the river, and eating delicious foods. We've discovered Monday nights at the Symposium Cafe, where they have a burger special: they're only $3.75 each! It makes for a cheap but delicious date night.
I was able to get up to Orillia again this week to celebrate the graduations of both my youngest brother and youngest sister.  It was wonderful to catch up with family and friends alike.

I finished my job at Golden Triangle Taxi last Saturday, and my last shift consisted of four hours of the bar rush. It was uneventful, but I am looking forward to my upcoming teaching position in a couple of weeks. Jake's Timothy group, which is mentorship training for young men, met for the last time on Sunday. He has enjoyed being a part of that, and will now have to wait until September to meet with them again.

We have many things to be thankful to the Lord for:
-Some funds for our missions trip to Brasil have started to come in!
-We know more information regarding the trip. We will be teaching ESL to the Brazilians at the training centre, as well as interacting with them in informal situations.
-Since finishing my job at Golden Triangle, Jake and I now have the same schedule (Read: I'm not working in the afternoons anymore when Jake is at home) We have more time to pray for our trip, and focus on details and planning.
-God has been growing us and teaching us continually, especially in patience and waiting upon Him

We also ask for continued prayer for:
-my upcoming teaching job: I will be teaching ESL to Korean students from July 9-Aug. 17. Aside from lesson planning, please be in prayer with me for any students involved who do not know Christ.
-provision of more funds
-continually improving communication between ourselves and our ministry contacts
-prep for our trip (VISAS, flight, etc)
-trip to BC: I will be going from July 2-8 for a very dear friend's wedding. Please pray for travel safety as well as blessing upon my friend and her fiance.
-unity between Jake and I
-upcoming youth retreat in September: Jake will be the main speaker for a friend's youth group retreat. Please pray as he prepares for this.

Ashleigh and Jake

May Update

Dear Family and Friends,
As many people have been spending time in the tropical south, we have been preparing for a trip of our own. On October 1st 2012 we will be boarding a plane for a 3 month term of service in the vibrant country of Brazil.

Over the years, God has been growing in both of us a passion for global missions. We are very excited to follow the next chapter in God's leading by stepping out in faith and getting our first taste of overseas ministry together as a couple.

We have been accepted by TEAM (The Evangelical Alliance Mission), a Bible-based missions organization committed to planting and equipping churches around the world. For our trip they have connected us with a seminary in Anapolis, Goias, which specializes in training Brazilian nationals who are committed to serving God in missions. Although many details are still subject to change, we have been asked by our representatives to be prepared to serve by teaching English, mentoring, and discipleship, as well as other practical and administrative responsibilities as needed. In addition, we will be taking some very intentional time to learn from more experienced missionaries, as well as the national mission students and church leaders, about how we may best prepare for long-term ministry. We're aware that there will be challenges and adjustments along the way, but our desire is to be obedient to Christ and do the work He's calling us to do in faith and expectation that His kingdom will be advanced through us.

As friends and family, we need a couple of things from you.

First, we need prayer, and lots of it. Right from the start we have been facing challenges, even with the application process itself, but we know that God has had a purpose and a plan behind everything and that in spite of what we may perceive as delays and setbacks, his timing is always best. Prayer is the only thing that will allow us to serve faithfully and effectively for the advance of his kingdom and the spread of the gospel. For this reason, your prayer is essential for us, not only leading up to the trip, but especially during our three months away. Please consider how you can come alongside us in this way.

Second, we will also need financial support. The total cost of the trip is $9200, which includes everything from flights to our room and board. We need to have this amount by September 15, 2012 in order to leave by October 1st. As believers, we are confident that God provides for our every need, and we pray that the right people will be encouraged to partner with us as we seek to be follow God's leading.

We are looking forward to what God holds in store, and please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.
Jake and Ashleigh