Jeyson, Stephanie, Elijah, & Audrey

Jeyson, Stephanie, Elijah, & Audrey

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Keeping in Touch

When I first started this blog almost a decade ago, there wasn't really any good way to include pictures in our update emails, and I wanted people to SEE, not just READ about what God is doing in our ministry.  Since then, technologies have improved and we can now include pictures, videos, and much more right in our e-newsletters.  So, the original need for our blog has passed, not to mention our ministry has become much more sensitive.  

We now serve in northern Brazil flying to people groups that have strict government restrictions.  To not hinder that work, I am not able to post about much of what we do on an open site like our blog, so our newsletter has been a much better space for stories and prayer requests about our ministry.    

So with that said, I will continue to keep this blog open as a fun family record of our early lives in ministry, but if you want up-to-date news please contact us at and we will be happy to put you on our monthly email list!  You can also "like" our page on facebook "Brauns in Brazil".  There we post pictures of our lives, and some less sensitive news about our ministry.   

Thank you for your walking with us as we serve!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

An Unusual Highlight

Going to a pumpkin patch and the beach were a blast in NJ and were definitely highlights.  But while in NJ we also had another wonderful experience that was quite different from traditional fun, but was also definitely a highlight: meeting with a Christian counselor who gets together with missionary couples and pastors.  
I know it's a little unusual to talk about counseling, but since my sister and Jeyson's mom are both Christian counselors, our family/extended family has learned so much about how wonderful, healthy and great counseling can be even for people who are doing well, like we feel we are.  We did this about 5 years ago with the same counselor and found it so valuable to debrief about the joys and struggles in life, especially life in ministry, where there are a lot more pressures and stresses.  So we decided to give it a go again this time.

The counselor who we met with sees people in ministry for free and he himself was a missionary kid to Japan, so he GETS some of the stresses we face day-to-day.  He works at Cairn college, so it was an hour hike each time over to PA, but totally worth it for the three times we could go.  We had lots of great conversations on the way there and back (especially with no kids in tow!) and it was so nice to sit down with someone not connected at all with anyone or anything in your lives or ministry or family and just talk, look at things from different angles, etc.  And of course to have time focused just on us and our needs, unlike the natural give and take of conversations with peers or in ministry.

We came away from the sessions with some really fresh perspectives on our challenges of living overseas, some practical ways to invest in our marriage, and just a lightness of heart of processing through our past years with someone skilled in helping us do so.  The hours spent talking with the counselor were some of the most valuable of our furlough, really getting us ready for our next term.  

As I said, unfortunately it's kind of unusual to admit that you have been to counseling, almost taboo in a way.  But after seeing how great it can be to go, even when you're doing well, made me want to write this to encourage anyone out there, especially in ministry to consider the opportunity if it ever arises!  It truly was a blessing to us!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

New Jersey News

Well the biggest, jam packed, nonstop crazy part of our furlough is now behind us, and what a fun whirlwind it was!!  The whole month of September we stayed in New Jersey, near where I grew up, and enjoyed tons of time visiting with many of the churches and families who are part of our support team.
We got together with many families individually and we also had 2 wonderful dessert nights where people got together as a group.  It was a blast reconnecting with friends, many of whom we haven't seen in years, filling them in on our lives in Brazil, and answering questions that ranged from our biggest challenges to which way the toilet flushes south of the equator :)  Lots of great laughs, meaningful prayer time, and of course, wonderful food!
 Two extra special visits for me were:
1. Visiting my grandma.  We haven't seen her since Elijah just turned 1 year old.  So he didn't remember her and of course my grandma had never met Audrey.  It was wonderful to spent time together (re)introducing everyone. 
2.  Getting to spend the whole day visiting with my childhood best friend.  We met when were about 3 years old, so we're going on almost 30 years of genuine friendship, despite the many miles.

 Our weeks in New Jersey were packed with commitments, and it was all made one thousand times scratch was all made possible thanks to my sister, Christa, and her husband, Andy, who hosted us so graciously in their house and babysat our kids countless times.  (oh yeah, and not to mention they cooked for us, cleaned up the house we messed extra with kids, were patience when kids were being crazy before they even drank their morning coffee, and much much more!!!)  We would have been a lost cause without their sacrificial help and really ministry to us.
But out time in NJ wasn't all just work.  There was lots of play too.  We got to celebrate the birthdays of all of the ladies in the house.  Christa's, mine, and Audrey's.  And to make sure things were extra fun, we did NOT even consider the idea of a group celebration.  We celebrated correctly...3 for each birthday girl on her own day.

 There was also a ton of time for play...

And enjoying local events.
One of my all time favorite days in New Jersey was getting to spend my birthday at literally my favorite place in the world...the ocean!  It was a blast introducing our kids to the beach too, and Elijah absolutely loved everything, especially the waves.  
I can't even tell you how much I miss the ocean while I'm in Brazil.  Sure, we have the Amazon River, which is awesome in it's own way.  But growing up with the ocean a part of every summer, even after 7 years in Brazil, I still miss it a ton.  I guess you can take the girl out of New Jersey but you can't take New Jersey out of the girl!  So the day was an absolute perfect refreshment to be added to our furlough.

Another really fun part of our time in NJ was getting to experience the changing of seasons.  The seasons we experience in Boa Vista are Hot and Hotter, so we never have that change to fall.  We never have that moment when it's time to pull out jackets and pants, everything is orange and golden, and pumpkin spice is in the air.  How I have missed it!!  In fact, enjoying fall was one of the reasons we chose to do our furlough during this half of the year.  So, as you can see it's obviously something we miss big time! 

 It was also really fun to do many of the quintessential fall rituals.  Going to a pumpkin patch, checking out tractors, crunching on leaves. Elijah loved it all, though he still is super confused about the idea of seasons.   In fact, he's even confused about the idea of pants!  As it was starting to get cold, we told him we needed to get him some pants.  In typical preschool know-it-all fashion, he informed me that he did NOT want us to buy him pants.  All he needed us to get him were some long shorts (pointing down to his ankles) to keep his legs warm.  lol!

Another really fun fall day was enjoying a bonfire at my sister's in-laws house.  S'mores and all.  It doesn't get any better than that!  We never even have bonfires in Boa Vista...way too hot to be something fun you'd do.  And of course marshmallows as we know them in the US don't exist.  So fun, fun to do it again!

Here's Elijah the first evening it was cold out.  We had visited some friends and were sitting outside.  As the sun went down a cold chill hit the air.  We didn't think to bring a jacket and they didn't have one for Elijah so they wrapped this blanket around him.  I'm not sure what he thought was funnier...the pink and purple bears or the fact that he was truly experiencing a chill for the first time!

To top off all the fun, on the very last weekend we were in New Jersey, Christa and Andy let us host a breakfast get-together at their house.  It was the perfect way to see many people we still hadn't been able to visit with (or visit with enough).  We truly felt so blessed and encouraged to be surrounded by such a wonderful body of believers who support us and help us to press on as we serve.  

As I write this, we're already in Ohio.  A few days here then we're off to the Chicago area for a few weeks.  Lots more adventures to be had!!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Scrapbook Backpack

As I mentioned in our newsletter, Elijah has been wearing this Curious George backpack everywhere since we arrived in the US.  It actually has settled down a bit recently since we have been spending the month at my sister's house, but at the beginning of our travels it was literally nonstop.  He even wanted to wear it when he was in his carseat in the car.  When we spent the weekend at the Christian conference center, Keswick, he wore it every single moment...while making crafts in the children's program, while eating in the dining room, while presenting on stage even!  Even now, though he takes it off at home, he still brings it with him into every home we visit or at the very least has it in the car!
So, what's up with the backpack?  As I shared in the newsletter, it clearly has a lot to do with bringing him stability in these months of nonstop change.  When we were home in Brazil, we told him he could pack it with a few of his favorite things and so it makes sense that he would carry those items around to make him feel secure in the midst of every changing circumstances and places we have faced.  But the backpack story has gotten even more fun recently.  

As I was going through some things we've accumulated, I took a minute to open up his backpack to organize it.  Something I haven't done since we first packed it leaving Brazil.  What I found inside took me completely by surprise, yet at the same time it make perfect sense.  

Inside the backpack was not just the items packed from Brazil, but little souvenirs that Elijah has added each stop we have made along the way.

- A shell from the Jamestown River where we spent the day with his cousin
- A sticker book from a garage sale we went to
- A craft from a children's program
- A colored pencil from our flight on Southwest
- A lego from his cousin's house
- A bracelet from camp
- A monster truck from a happy meal we got in McDonald's the day we broke down and spent 4 hours in the play zone

And much more.  Each item had a story and was a little reminder of the stops we have made along the way from a kid's perspective.  Now suddenly it also made sense why the other day when we were eating pita chips with my sister, he asked me if we could wrap up the leftover chips in the bottom of the basket in a napkin to take to his backpack I'm now assuming!  

What a fun scrapbook of furlough adventures he's been carrying around!  No wonder he doesn't want to put it down!!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

A Break Down

After our wonderful time in Virginia, we hopped in our borrowed minivan and headed on our road trip to New Jersey where we were going to be the speakers over the Labor Day weekend.  About 2 hours into the trip, Jeyson suddenly noticed that something was wrong with the car and pulled over immediately into the nearest parking lot...which just happened to be into a 7-11.  

In my mechanical ignorance, I hoped for the best as Jeyson got out and opened the hood.  My hope began fading as I could see some smoke coming out from the opened hood. I got out of the car to get an update from Jeyson and my hope became a distant memory when I came around to the front the car and saw Jeyson holding a loose long belt, which he knew was just a symptom of the problem!  Without tools, parts, and a lift he kew there was nothing he could do about it.  And in this small town with pressure to make it to Keswick on time to speak, how would this all resolve?!?  Things were looking ROUGH!  But even in this rough moment God took care of every detail and make his provision so clear to us.

1. Not only did we have our break down in "civilization", unlike the many desolate areas we drove through, but we also had a Advanced Auto Parts within walking distance of where we randomly had immediately pulled over.

2. While Jeyson walked to Advanced Auto Parts to try to find out where the nearest mechanic stop was, the worker in 7-11, where we had pulled over, gave me and the kids free slushies since it was so hot out as we waited. A nice, totally unnecessary reminder of God's care in the small things. 
3. At the auto parts store, Jeyson was given the numbers for a towing company and a shop two miles away and quickly arranged for the car to be towed to the shop and worked on today.  We later found out that the shop is usually swamped with work, so it was incredible that they would even take us that day.

4. Within walking distance from the 7-11 was a McDonalds with a huge play place.  Later I found out from my friend who knows well the area where we broke down, that play places are very rare in the area so she was amazed that we broke down by one.  The kids and I walked to the McDonalds and settled in while Jeyson went with the tow truck to the shop.
5. About an hour later, Jeyson called me at McDonalds saying that the mechanic found the problem...the water pump...and the part was easy to access and they would work on it right away!  This was a huge answer to prayer as I was imaging us having to stay in a hotel, cancel plans at Keswick, and who knows what else for even a few days until the car was fixed! What a relief!

6. At McDonalds the kids were amazingly patient and had constant kids to play with...for almost 4 hours!

7.  The mechanic generously lent Jeyson a car so he could spend part of the afternoon with us as we waited at McDonald's (by that time I was about 2 1/2 hours into my wait, smelling like french fries and greatly in need of relief and adult conversation!)

8. Only 4 hours later, the car was ready and we were on our way!  

So of course no one wants to break down, but as we drove off, truly we weren't lamenting the break down.  We were talking over and over about how God worked out all of the little details of the break down to happen so smoothly.  Things could have been SO, SO much worse!  We couldn't believe that rather than having to cancel our weekend plans as speakers at Keswick, and who knows what else, we were on our way just 4 hours later!  Not to mention Elijah fulfilled his "lifetime" dream of seeing a tow truck in action...he has always just loved tow trucks and was pumped about it!

On the way up to Keswick we stopped at my old college roommate's house.  I could fill a whole blog post about that visit, but I'll leave it at this...we were stopping there just for a quick one hour hello on the way, but in the end we left our one hour visit with hearts full of encouragement, being prayed over, completely renewed and refreshed in our thinking, challenged with new ideas to mull over...what an awesome visit!  I wish every hour could be so awesomely meaningful!  Phew!  What a full, full day!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Family Fun in Williamsburg

We had a wonderful time in Virginia enjoying the historical sights of Williamsburg and spending time with my sister, brother-in-law and their daughter, Charlotte.  

 One of our side hopes during this furlough is to get to expose Elijah to some of the cultural experiences that are different in the US.  Everything from libraries to outdoor classical concerts...if it's free (or very cheap!) we're enjoying it!  One of the most fun free US experiences so far was the archeological dig for kids that we did in Williamsburg while we were visiting my sister.  The dig was of an old colonial store and the kids Elijah's age and up actually got trowels and helped dig up dirt and material and sifted through for historical artifacts!
Audrey's age just got to play in sandboxes :)

The digging underway

This activity was exactly Elijah's idea of fun!  He dug nonstop for almost the entire time we were allowed. 
Meanwhile, the girl cousins enjoyed the easier sand sifting!
 Afterwards, we got to sit down with an actual archeologist and ask her questions about what we dug!  A pipe, oyster shells, and more.  It was such a blast to enjoy these community events that we don't have access to overseas. 

 The highlight of my week was getting to spend time with my sister, Danielle, who is expecting baby Violet any day.  I even got to give her and her husband a mini birth preparation class, the first time I have done that for family.  I just wish it would have worked out to meet baby Violet.  That is one of the harder parts of missions, knowing it could be several years until we meet this little one :(

Williamsburg is just a beautiful city to walk around in.  We even got to enjoy a much needed date night to a movie in the park one evening.   
 And a day at Jamestown River was also a hit.

 Ah...what can I say, such an awesome few days with family doing normal, everyday life.

 Charlotte wanted to dress up like Audrey one day. I'm not sure how the little zebra felt about it in this first picture!

 Lots of fun every day and lots of stories together each night.  Elijah got really into Clifford books, or "Clipper" as Elijah kept calling him.

Adam, Danielle, and Charlotte - Thanks for all of the fun memories!  We will miss you guys!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Unexpected Furlough Provision

Our big two month nomadic furlough trip to the eastern US is underway!
To kick off the trip, Jeyson flew to Chicago, where we he picked up a minivan that was generously lent to us.  He then road-tripped down to Virginia.  
Meanwhile, the kids and I flew straight to Virginia and we met up at my sister's house.

Months ago as we planned this route, we knew it was best plan in order to avoid the 14+hour trip to Chicago to Virginia with the kids.  But at the same time, I knew it meant flying along with the kids...something I dreaded from the moment we bought the tickets, since it would mean a flight alone with the kids.  Well actually, two flights alone and a several hour layover in Atlanta.  It might not seem like an intimidating trip to you, but for some reason it did to me.  

Maybe it was the idea of  slugging 4 heavy bags on my own,  or maybe because it would mean juggling two kiddos at 30,000 feet or maybe it was that I knew I wouldn't even be able to make a bathroom stop without bringing them both in the stall with me.  More likely however, it was just knowing this was the first step to TWO MONTHS of nonstop traveling and lack of routine.  For whatever reason, somehow I was convinced this trip alone was going to be one of the hardest parts of furlough...and truly it had potential to be!  
But by the time we landed in Richmond, I was amazed that God provided everything we needed and more, from beginning to end of the journey.  

At 5 am in the Phoenix airport, I decided I couldn't make it through this day without a cup of coffee.  In fact, I hadn't even yet enjoyed the unmistakeable taste of a Starbucks coffee since arriving in the US a month before.  So, I decided to wait in the LONG line for a cup o' joe with both kids before we had to board.  The kids waited patiently with me in the line for about 15 minutes and then, every parents' dread happened.  Yep, when we had about only three customers ahead of us in line, Elijah announced he had to go potty.  Total bummer!  I knew I had no choice but to give up my spot in line, but then God gave me a real treat.  

The lady behind me, who worked with Southwest, overheard the situation and insisted that I tell her my order so she could order it for me while I took the kids to the bathroom.  By the time we got back, she had not only gotten me my drink, upgraded me to the largest size, but also insisted I not pay her back!  What a totally, unnecessary, unexpected blessing and reminder that God is taking care of us on this nomadic journey!  

Then, to top it off, on our first flight, right behind us was a family of parents and two grown daughters who were headed also to Richmond (on both of our same flights) to see their other daughter and family off as missionaries to Asia!  They took me and the kids under their wing during the whole journey.    Helping watch one or both of the kids whenever we needed a bathroom trip, entertaining the children, sharing in tons of encouraging conversation, and even treating us to lunch at Chick-Fil-A on the layover! 
Another totally amazing and unexpected reminder of God's care and provision!

We arrived in Richmond a little tired and smelly from a long day of travel, but filled with encouragement from the people we met and the clear care from God in the most unexpected ways on this trip.  My heart was truly full and encouraged!

The next days we enjoyed time with my sister and her family, and then after saying goodbye,
followed was another wonderful reminder of God's follow in the next post!