Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Is It Even Worth It?

Is it even worth it? That’s a question we ask ourselves all the time. The amount of pressure that we live under on a daily basis, here in Brazil, is sometimes overwhelming. And even so much so that we've seriously considered coming home and calling it quits because of the constant stress.

I don’t tell you that so that you feel sorry for us, no. I tell you that because I think it’s important that you know that just because someone follows Jesus’ plan for their lives doesn't mean that it’s gonna be easy. Actually Jesus said the opposite would be true (Matthew 7:14), right?

But even though following Jesus is suppose to be hard that doesn't mean that we keep doing things just because they’re hard. So we’ve been really contemplating our future and praying that God would speak to us on what our next steps look like. Our main desire in life is to fulfil what He’s called us to do and to be obedient to Him.

So, having said that, we just finished hosting a mission team comprised of 21 people from Graystone Church, 2 of our supporters from Connecticut and 1 from Hope and Life (25 people total). 

The Team at dinner Friday night with NegaƵ at "the meat stick place"

We ministered in 3 different orphanages, at Patrick’s Place, at a drug rehab for men and also to the battered women at ECD. It was another great week of ministry. Here are some pics from the week: )

But even though ministry was great- it still didn't take away the fact that we’re tired, overwhelmed and that we were considering coming home. So, on the second-to-last-day of the trip MJ and I sat down with Jonathan and Jennifer Howes (the lead pastors of Graystone) to get some much needed advice. We needed someone else's perspective and we value their opinion. Jonathan and Jennifer asked us a series of questions and gave us some great advice. But the one thing that Jonathan said that rung the loudest to me was this; He said, “If you guys aren't in Brazil- Graystone won’t be coming to Brazil.” 

When he said that all the kids faces that we minister to flashed through my mind in a moments time. And that sealed the deal. We’re not leaving. We can’t. There’s no possible way we’re walking away and leaving all those kids behind. We have within us their only hope- The Gospel of Jesus Christ. Sure there’s other groups here in Brazil who come and visit them and do stuff with them. But how many of them are intentional about getting The Gospel to them? How many of the other groups make it their main focus to share the love of Jesus with them? So, no matter the amount of stress we’re under or how much we want to go home- we’re going to stay. It’s worth it!
One of the highlights of the week was when, on wednesday Night, 3 of the boys that we ministered to for years
(and who graduated back in 2015') returned to the orphanage to see us and the Team. So proud of these guys!

Jonathan and Jennifer gave us some "next steps” that'll enable us to be able to sustain ministry here in Brazil. And as things progress we’ll share everything with you in more detail and more specifically in the near future. But, for now, just pray that God would continue to speak to us as we’re trying to follow His plan for our family.

And if you're one of the people who support us here in Brazil, please know that without you none of the things that have taken place over the last 6 years would be possible without you. Thank You! And, if you’d like to start supporting us so that we can keep doing what we're doing, it’s easy- just click HERE to make a tax deductible donation. 

Love You Guys!

Jim and MJ

PS- Thank you to everyone who came and ministered alongside of us last week. You were a HUGE encouragement to Me, MJ and all the kids!

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Best Way to Fight It

I want to thank everyone who has written us and who have been praying for us since our last blog. The strength and encouragement that we’ve felt over the last few days, since we wrote it, has been amazing. Thank you for your love and support. We’re still taking things one day at a time and we know that The Lord is working on our behalf. So, we’re just going to continue doing what we’re doing and leaving the outcome to Him. It’s His story not ours.

I’ll never forget an illustration that Rick Warren gave over a decade ago. He said. “that life, rather than being a series of hills (highs) and valleys (lows), is more like a set of rails on a rail road track. Good and bad running side by side.” He said, “that we almost always have something good and something bad happening in our lives at the same time.”  No matter how good our life seems there’s always something bad that needs to be worked on. And no matter how bad things seem there’s always something good that we can give thanks for.” And, over the years, that’s exactly what I’ve seen in my life. Good and bad running side by side.

And that being the case there’s always 2 tendencies. 

Tendancy #1
When the good times seem to be outweighing the bad I tend to get cocky and comfortable. This isn’t wise because, no matter what, something bad is always on the horizon. That’s not a negative confession or being a prophet of doom- it’s just the way it is. Because even though we’re followers of Christ we still live in a broken and fractured world and bad things will happen. So, the best thing for me to do when things are going good is to not get too hyped and to remain humble so that when something bad does happen I’m better equipped (emotionally and mentally) to handle it.

Tendancy #2
The other tendency is to get discouraged and depressed when the bad seems to be outweighing the good. When that happens the first thing that I feel like doing is shutting down and becoming a recluse. I don’t want to do anything except think about how bad my life is and all of my problems. I know you never do that though, right?

But the best way that I’ve found to break out of whatever funk I’m in and rise above whatever bad is happening- is to reach out and help someone else. By taking the focus off of me and putting it on someone else is always the best way I’ve found to fight whatever negative is happening in my life. 

So, that’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re not just sitting around, licking our wounds and thinking about how bad things seem to be, no. We’re trying to focus more on all the opportunities that surround us and ‘reaching out beyond ourselves to someone else.’

Us yesterday with some of the kids at Lar Herminia

Yesterday we packed-up the family (along with some of our i3C Family) after church and headed over to Lar Herminia and hung out with the kids there for the afternoon. We cooked out hot dogs, played dodgeball and flag-tag and had an amazing day. 

Matthew and Juacir cooking on the grill for the kids

And guess what? Not one time did any of our problems or issues enter our minds. Hmmm. I guess it does work (taking the focus off ourselves and putting it on someone else). And today we still feel energised by it and we know that it’s gonna be OK. We’re not living in denial. We realise that we have legitimate issues that need resolving. We realise that there are some bad things happening. But rather than placing our focus on those we’re focusing on all the good that’s happening here.

American Dodgeball is always a hit- with the kids. Get it? A hit? bwahahaha: )

One of the biggest blessings at the orphanages is to be able to minister and
be a part of the kids lives year after year. Here's me with one of my buddies, Alex: )

Thank you to everyone who's praying for us. Please don’t stop- we need it. And thank you to all of our supporters who allow us to be here in Brazil doing what we’re doing. We literally couldn't do it without you.

Love Ya!

Jim and MJ 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Breaking the Silence

Not the clearest photo but this is how bright the moon was the other night driving through town.
The clouds were resting over the tops of the mountains. Beautiful.
If it weren't for the big ugly tower in the foreground it would have been a great picture: )

It’s been a while since we’ve posted a blog, I know. To be quite honest with you I haven't  known what to say. You see, the last several months have been some of the most difficult months that we’ve faced since coming to Brazil. I know that that may be hard to believe, looking back on all the drama that we’ve faced since coming to the mission field back in 2011,’ but it’s true. 

But this time the issue hasn't been all the snakes, spiders, pit bull/mountain lion/porcupine attacks, water/power outages, mudslides, flooding, murders or break-in’s- although most of those things are still a part of where we live. No, the thing that’s been our greatest enemy here recently has been discouragement. 

And to say that we’ve been battling depression would be an understatement as well. I know that doesn't sound ‘super spiritual or missionary-like’ and usually people don’t like to admit that it’s something that they struggle with. But I really felt like I needed to produce some type of blog to update our supporters and friends back home in the States of where we really are right now. 

So, rather than trying to muster up some type of blog that just showed what ministry was happening (which all the usual ministry stuff is still going on) I believe that being open with you about how we’re doing mentally and emotionally would be better. Because we need help. We need breakthrough.

We really thought that moving closer to town was going to be the key to helping us in sustaining ministry here in Brazil and that it was going to be the thing that helped us not feel so tired and burnt out all the time- but we were wrong. It’s still extremely difficult.

And if all the ‘natural and spiritual' things we’ve been battling, while trying to minister here weren't enough, we’re still having major issues with our adopted kids.  Back on March 5, we celebrated 9 years of having adopted a sibling group of 5 children from Brazil. We’ve been through so many ups and downs over the last 9 years that it would be too lengthy of a blog to even begin to try and explain just a fraction of what we’ve been through. 

Here's some pictures of the kids back in 2008,' when they became ours, side by side with how they look today.

We’ve definitely experienced a cornucopia of emotions that’s for sure. Joy and drama, heartache and happiness, pleasure and pain. But, to be honest with you, the majority of what we’ve experienced has been negative. That’s right- negative.

When we first adopted I think we romanticised what we were doing by thinking that as soon as we adopted our kids, that all of their past hurts, scars and insecurities would somehow be erased by us showing them unconditional love and by giving them the stability of a family. Man, how wrong we were.

First, they totally destroyed our home and almost all of our earthly possessions within the first year. They broke all of the toys that were bought for them and they totally trashed all their clothes, shoes, their bedroom furniture and anything they could get their hands on- it was crazy. And still, after 9 years, it’s still the same. 

After all these years they still display everything from ’food issues’ to behaviour that’s sometimes even criminal in nature. I don’t want to 'throw them under the bus’ so I’m not gonna say exactly everything that they do but trust me- it’s not good. And as a parent it makes you feel helpless.

If you remember back in July of 2012 Marlon, our oldest adopted son who's 20 now, left home and has been gone ever since. He didn't like rules or being told what to do so he decided to leave. We still have contact with him every now and then (actually I just  payed for him to take some type of course for a job this week) but our relationship is nothing like we thought it would be when we adopted him. 

And just 2 weeks ago Ana (our 17 year old adopted daughter) decided to follow in Marlon’s footsteps by leaving home because she didn’t like rules either. Even after seeing the struggles Marlon has had (finacially, with the police, etc.) she still wanted to go… it’s crazy.

And, her leaving, happened just 3 days after we found out that Robert (our youngest adopted child- he’s 11) vandalised the church with 2 other boys after service one Sunday. I found this out as I had to sit with the head IT guy at the church and watch the security tape footage that recorded it all! 

On Tuesday we were called to the school to meet with the principal and some other staff members (for the 2nd time in a month) only to be told how Robert is the most difficult  student that they have enrolled in their school during the afternoon session.That’s right, out of several hundreds of students from Middle School- High School he’s the worst in the afternoon! He’s been bullying kids, cussing at the teachers and has been to the principal’s office almost every day because of misbehaviour. And he’s only 11 years old! It’s overwhelming: (

So why am I telling you all of this? First of all, because we desperately need your prayers. We need God to speak to us and show us what He wants us to do because we’re at the end of our rope. Now, I can hear someone say, “well if you're at the end of your rope- just tie a knot and hang on brother.” Well that’s a catchy saying but after 9 years of hanging on to the knot, "we’re done.” We’ve done the best that we can and it’s only by the grace of God that we’ve made it this far. But enough is enough.  Now, that may shock or even offend some people. But I assure you that my intention for writing this isn't for either of those reasons. 

Because that brings me to the second reason that I felt I needed to write this blog… I know that there are so many other people out there, that are in the same situation as us. And you need to know that you're not alone and what you're experiencing isn't an isolated experience at all- but rather one that’s more commonplace than you'd think. 

Out of all the people that we know that have adopted/fostered children- I’d say that easily 90% of them have had some major issues with their kids. Actually, I’d say that the percentage was probably higher but I don’t want to exaggerate this so I’ll just stick with 90%. Bottom line- it’s difficult and it’s challenging. And the problem with that is that we’re made to feel like we can’t openly discuss the fact that we sometimes feel like we’re drowning and that we feel hopeless in our situations.

As an adoptive or foster parent the first thing that comes to your mind (when you face these issues) is that you're a failure. I mean, why would they be struggling with these issues 9 years after you made them your own unless there was some type of deficiency in your parenting, right? Wrong.

The problems our kids have were created in them way before we were even in the picture. And all we can do is love, support and try and get them the help that they need. We need to guide them the best that we can and, most importantly, point them toward the cross of Christ. But we can’t make them change or do whatever it is we want them to do- ultimately the decision is theirs.

That’s why we need to better educate ourselves and we need to surround ourselves with people who will help support us as we try and navigate through this crazy thing called adoption. 

My philosophy about ministry, and especially ministry to orphans, has not only evolved over the last 9 years but it's totally changed. What I use to think isn’t the same as in the beginning- that’s for sure. That’s why there needs to be more dialogue and education about what we’re doing.

There are probably going to be some major changes at the Dunn house because of what is happening right now. So, please pray for us. Seriously. Pray. 

Some friends of our took us on an overnight trip to the beach a few weeks ago to help us find some relief.
It sure was nice stepping away from the stress. Thanks Patrick and Iara: )

We Love You Guys!
Jim and MJ

Thursday, February 23, 2017

I Didn’t Have the Heart to Tell Them

Have you ever NOT told somebody something for their own good or because giving the information to them would in no way be beneficial to their wellbeing? Well, that just happened this past week. I had information, that if shared, wouldn't have done anyone any good so I withheld it. The information involved a big spider. But let me give you a little bit of context before I tell you what I didn’t have the heart to tell: )

We just finished-up serving another mission team yesterday. These missionaries were different than any others that we’ve been able to serve alongside of here in Brazil too. This group of 22 people was from Liverpool, England. 

Actually, they were from a church called St. Peter’s Church in Woolton, Liverpool England which is the church where Paul McCartney met John Lennon for the first time in 1957. Pretty cool, huh? But that wasn't what made them different, no. What made this team different is that of the 22 people who came- only 6 of them were under 60 years old (and of those only 3 were teenagers). That’s right, this was primarily a group of senior citizens! Actually one of them, John, was 83 years old!

Here's Me and John with Ketlyn, a girl from the project, who painted his name for him.

They came half way around the world, to a foreign country, to minister the love of Christ to children who without Jesus have absolutely no hope. It was impressive. When most believers reach their age they don’t think that they have anything to offer to children. They think that kids couldn't possibly be ministered to by someone as old as them. But, as the past 9 days has shown, their presence here in Brazil has left an imprint on these kids' lives that will never be forgotten.

One of the team members, Ian, gave photography classes to some of the older girls

Whether it was through Bible stories, worship, dancing, art projects, games, photography classes, or just hanging out with them- these kids were ministered to in a mighty way. And all through people who typically don’t come on mission trips because of age.

One of the team, Kip, sketched out a drawing in the foyer of ECD
then the kids got to paint in the colours 

One evening we were able to take all the caretakers of the battered women homes to dinner
and thank them for all of their hard work towards the women and children in both homes

One of the projects that the kids did was painting glass sculptures that they got to keep

Here's the finished project of the mural in the lobby of ECD

As the group left (on the last day of the trip) the tears were flowing on both sides (adults and kids alike) because of the relationships that were formed. But more than just relationships being formed- the Gospel was progressed in the lives of the kids. Things that ECD (aka Patrick’s Place) has been instilling and teaching the kids on a daily basis was reinforced in all the kids’ lives through this trip- and that’s what this is all about. 

So, if you're reading this blog and you’re in the latter years of your life- don’t ever let the enemy convince you that you don’t have anything to offer because of your age. You have more in you than you know. Whether it’s going on a mission trip, serving in the children’s ministry or in the youth group of your local church- you’ve got something in you that God can use. So, let him use you!

Well, back to the withheld information…

On day 2 of the trip I woke up, got ready and went out to the van to go pick-up the team. It was still dark outside and a light fog hovered over my yard. It was kinda eerie. As I opened the van door- their it was. A big spider in the doorjamb of the driver’s side door. I went to try and smash it but rather than jumping off onto the ground it scurried inside the van. Oh crap! 

I put the flashlight mode on on my cell phone to try and see where it was. As I shined  the light of my cell phone on the ceiling of the van, there it was just looking at me with it’s freaky little eyes. I moved slowly toward it and tried to smash it again but it kept moving out of the way. And then it happened, BAM!… it jumped into the back of the van. Oh, no. I couldn't see where it was! What now? I was going to pick-up a van load of missionaries who were not only senior citizens but who were mostly prim and proper English women: (  Surely, they were NOT gonna be happy about this. 

So, I did what any intelligent person would do in my situation. I opened all the doors and went back inside the house for a few minutes in hopes that the spider would leave when he saw that I was gone. Yes, this was only one step above denial but it’s all I had at the time. 

Then, after a few minutes I went back out to the van, closed the doors and went and picked everyone up. No problem. Did the spider leave? Did/is he still in the van? I don’t know. But I do know one thing- I didn’t have the heart to say anything to these sweet people and unless they read this blog, which is doubtful, what they don’t know won’t hurt them, right? lol! 

But one thing I DID have the heart to tell them was, “Thank You. Thank you for taking the time, spending the money and coming to minister to some amazing children in the slums of Curitiba, Brazil.” 

Love You Guys!