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Hi, welcome to our blog! We are newlyweds living in Memphis, TN. We love life, adventure and of course each other. We're starting a blog to keep track of any and 'all things Jacques' so we can look back and cherish memories from our first year of marriage. We'll be sharing memories, I'm sure a lot of our dog Bella, favorite recipes, books, trips, spiritual thoughts, home projects, and anything we're enjoying in life at the moment! We hope you enjoy as well. Much love, Michael and Rachel Jacques

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Update on Our Journey to Brazil

Journey to Brazil
As you may know, Michael and I went on a mission trip with our church (Christ United Methodist) in July of this year. This all started back in Februrary when we were asked if we were interested in going. We were very hesitant because we had only 2 months to raise $6,000 as the money had to be paid up front. After much conversation and prayer God answered us boldly one morning. During my quiet time on this paticular morning I was reading in Exodus (not a book of the bible that I frequently read but for a very specific reason the Lord had me reading it). I was in Exodus Chapter 3 - the story of Moses and the burning bush when the Lord appears to Moses and tells him to go and set his people free in Egypt. Moses questions who is he to go and what will he say to the people about who has sent him. God answers:

"God said to Moses, "I AM who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you." Exodus 3:14.

In that moment we felt as if we knew exactly how Moses felt. We were questioning who we were to go and thinking of every reason why we shouldn't go. BUT, it was God who was sending us and empowering us through Him. It wasn't up to us... we trusted that He would provide the way. That day we decided that we would go to Brazil and were excited to see what God had in store. God was so faithful in providing for us to be able to go and that's where a lot of you come in. Your prayers, donations and support for us was incredible to see and we are so blessed by you. We still can't believe that we ended up raising well over our goal (over $7,000) and were even able to donate the rest to the mission. When God's people come together it is amazing what He will do.
"Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love." Ephesians 4:15-16

You can read more details about our journey to get to Brazil at our fundraising website - www.youcaring.com/jacquesjourney.

Brazil Becoming a Reality
I don't think either of us could have prepared our hearts enough for Brazil and more specifically Lar Batista. We knew that we were going to stay at an orphanage (Lar) and that our task of the trip would be to form relationships and to host a basketball camp at one of the local schools where we could teach the kids the game of basketball and about Christ. What we didn't know is how they would impact our lives and our world forever. I don't know if Brazil/the trip was a reality to us until we were actually en route.

Here's a picture of our team right before we got on the plane in Memphis (a journey that lasted over 24 hours with plane rides to Atlanta, to Sao Paulo, to Iguacu Falls and then a 3 hour bus ride to Assis Chateaubriand, Brazil). Needless to say we got to know each other very well! I love these people. :)

When we finally got into Iguacu Falls the fun began. We were fortunate enough to get to go to Igaucu Falls which is one of the seven Wonders of the World and when you see the pictures below you will believe it! It's impossible to see something as amazing as this and not believe there is a divine Lord who created it all. I love this bible verse (Psalm 93:4) that I found while walking through to get to the falls. How mighty is our God!

After the falls we got to eat at an amazing Brazillian steakhouse (think Texas de Brazil x 10) before taking the long bus ride to Lar Batista (the orphanage where we stayed).

When we first arrived at LAR it was dark out and all of the kids where asleep but I remember feeling a sense of excitement about the place and about what the next morning would bring. We were fortunate to have Grace as our guide, translator and good friend throughout the trip. Grace not only works for Lar Foundation and finds partners in the U.S. to help support Lar but she also grew up at Lar because her father (Pai) started the orphanage nearly 40 years ago. Their family story is one of love and faith in Jesus and after miracle after miracle... I will get to more about their family and Pai later on. I remember Grace telling us about the challenges that LAR was facing... something that seemed more real once we were standing on the balcony of what used to be the all-girls residence that probably could sleep about 40 girls and was now was home to only a handful of girls (I think 3-4 total). Here is that place where we stood on the balcony & where we stayed.

Grace spoke of about the past of Lar where 70 kids at a time occupied the orphanage and now there are about 15 (26 total with kids, teens and adults that live and work there). Because of changes with with the government and foster care they now require children to move orphanages every two years which they think will help them become more adoptable. As you can imagine, it's displaced many children from LAR which the kids consider their home and their family. Lar isn't just an ordinary orphanage. It's one that you are truly considered family from the moment you arrive. And that's exactly what happened to us. From the moment we arrived we were welcomed with open arms and of course, with coffee and delicious food. :) It's such a special place. Here are some pictures of Lar:

I love this last picture because it gives you a glimpse of what our mornings were like in the kitchen. We had delicious coffee, breads, and pastries. They were so gracious to us during our time there. And we definitely did not go hungry!!!

What makes Lar so special though isn't the place itself but the people. Pai, who started the orphanage years ago told story after story of God's provision from the start of his vision for Lar to getting money to build a chapel from a lady in a Green Beatle car that he would never see again to even stories of how God healed him when he was going blind during a trip to Israel. The Green Beatle is still something that they hold dear today as a symbol of God's power. It's also a reminder to pray for God to continue the work He has started at Lar. In fact, when we were there Lar celebrated their 38th anniversary and to top it off served a cake with a green beatle on it. The look on Pai's face was precious. He was so pleased!

God has blessed Lar unbelievably but not because they are lucky. No, it's because He knows he has diligent servants that want to be in His will more than anything in life. So, He empowers them to do great things. Because of their faith, they are rewarded and get to see God do incredible things that truly are miracles. Not only that but they ask and believe He will provide. Their unwavering faith reminds me of how much I put God on a shelf in my little bubble here in the U.S. Pai and Lar helped me understand how BIG God is and how big the world is that he created. He helped me understand that all you need in life is faith in God and that he will provide all your needs. This verse has taken on a whole new meaning to me and I remember Lar every time I read it:

"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him." Heberews 11:6

We learned many things from the people at LAR but the two things that stand out in my heart the most are lessons about joy and faith. I've already spoke to faith but the moment when I realized how powerful faith in Jesus is is when we visited their farm. It's one of my favorite stories and one of the "take your breathe away" God-filled moments of my life. We got to visit the their farm where they raise tilipia, wheat, and many other things. The farm goes on as far as the eye can see. It is absolutely beautiful and gives you a peace inside just being there. While standing on the farm we got to hear Pai tell the story of how the farm came to be. Below is a picture of Pai on the farm telling us this story.

A time came when they needed to raise money to live and continue the mission of Lar so Pai decided to invest in a farm where they hoped to farm fish. However, once they bought the land they realized it was dry. Pai prayed for God to provide for them and he asked the workers to begin trying to dig a pond to raise fish as he had envisioned. They thought he was crazy but started to dig anyway. Pai pushed them to go further and further on this one spot that God told him to dig from. Again, the workers did so but were very hesitant because they knew the land was dry. As you can imagine, the cost of machinery and all of the labor was adding up but God told Pai to not give up but to keep digging. So, the workers did so hesitantly.

The next morning Pai returned to the farmland and there was a tiny spring of water that was showing where the workers were digging the day before. There happened to be a boulder that was blocking a spring of water. There are now 3 large ponds filled with tilapia that they can both farm and enjoy for food. Pai clearly knew God was speaking to him and his obedience to God to keep digging led to one of their biggest blessings. Can you imagine? Below are more pictures of the farm today. The third one is little spot that they dug from initially where the boulder was. I stood here, closed my eyes and just felt the power and presence of the Lord. It was unbelieveable.

I can't help but think... isn't that the way our lives are today? I feel like sometimes my faith is smothered by a boulder and it's myself. My own doubts and myself putting God in a box and not remembering his mighty power and soverignty over all of creation. He is the CREATOR of the universe, the KING of KINGS, LORD of LORDS. If we could only wrap our heads around that how much more freely could we live our lives? But I think that takes commitment to Christ. A real relationship in which you get to know him through His word and through conversation in prayer just as you would in another relationship. The kind of relationship that Pai has with the Lord and that I crave for myself. Visiting the farm was one of the highlights of my trip. It centered me, grounded me, and brought me to my knees.

One of my other favorite parts of the trip was worshiping with the people at the church that Pai preaches at and hosting the basketball camp at the local school. Below is a picture of us after church service that first Sunday. I don't know if we had any clue what we were in for at this point in the trip!:)

Below are some pictures of us hosting the basketball camp at the local school. I think you'll see right away how great the school and the kids were. It's an open-air campus and the kids go to school in morning and afternoon shifts (too bad we weren't kids going to elementary school there right?). It was a beautiful campus and the kids were so warm and loving. They thought we were in the NBA... Michael might have showed off his previous basketball skills... you'll see below his infamous dunk. We don't know if it will ever happen again! :)

We were able to see over 700 kids from the school. I hope that we not only taught them the basics of basketball but also what it means to be a Christian. My favorite part of the camp was the huddle time in which one of the team members would speak in the middle and we would hand out bracelets with 1 John 2:6 that says, "Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did." Leaving them with how to accept Jesus did and to live their lives how he would. Think of a modern day WWJD (what would Jesus do) bracelet. They loved them!

I could go on and on about Pai's stories, stories of the kids at Lar and at the school and the way God worked during our time there. In fact, Grace is writing a book because the story of Lar is almost too much to grasp in one blog post or one setting. It's a beautiful story that God has woven together over 40 years. He is so faithful.

So what did we leave Brazil with? The love for coffee, of course, me understanding who Neymar is & why I should love him too, a love snack time at 3pm, but more importantly a greater love for people. In Brazil, it's all about relationships. Where I think we are missing the boat is that we are so busy in our everyday lives that we don't have time for each other. Not in Brazil, it's relationship first and task second. The kids called us tia & tio meaning aunt and uncle. I love that! We are also leaving Brazil with a deeper understanding of what faith and joy really means. As I expressed earlier, the people in the small city of Assis Chateaubriand may not have much according to wordly standards but they have a kingdom that far outweighes the riches of this world. A kingdom that they put all of their trust in. They live out their faith every single day and embody what it means to be a follower of Christ. We are forever grateful for our experience and time there. Below are of a few more pictures of our last night there.

For those of you that supported us with your donations, prayers and the sweet letters that we got while on the trip we want to thank you! Thank you for your faithfulness and obedience to what God called you to do. We are forever grateful to you and hope you realize what an impact you also had for the children at Lar and in Assis Chateaubriand. A big OBRIGADA (thank you) to you!

In Christ,
Mike & Rachel

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