I spent from the 11th to the 20th of August with Iris Relief in Guatemala where I held a three-day CERT Train-the-Trainer course for six CERT volunteers from Belize and Guatemala. I then supervised these instructors as they held a Basic CERT course in Spanish for 48 volunteers from the Casa de Dios church. Once again, it was a great experience to see CERT training being received and applied by the enthusiastic volunteers, many of whom had responded to the recent volcanic eruption in that nation.
From the 28th of July to the 11th of August I visited Punta Gorda, Belize where I was able to teach a Basic CERT course and Tools for Leadership Success module, with the assistance of some of the graduates from the Iris Relief Leaders School. It was a great opportunity to train around 50 participants, including members of the National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO), the Belize Defence Force and representatives from Non-Governmental Organisations.
From the 9th of June through to the 28th of July I helped with the Iris Relief Leaders School in Dourado, Puerto Rico. During this time I taught the CERT Basic course, Leadership module and Train-the-Trainer course, along with some other teaching that I had prepared on subjects such as disaster spiritual care, international humanitarian relief, and most of my Wake Up The Warriors ministry training seminar.
On the 26th of February I left Brazil, almost exact 24 years after I first arrived in March of 1994.
Although I had visited New Zealand a number times since then, I am now officially no longer living in Brazil. However, the work with young people in the suburb of Cordoeira is continuing, and I do plan to visit in June on my way to Puerto Rico.
For the next few months I will be studying for a Master in Emergency Management through Massey University.
From the first of January until mid-February I spent time in the USA with Iris Relief, mostly in the city of Abilene, TX. During this time I had the opportunity to meet the team of the Iris Abiline base / Camp Barkeley, and to work on the structure and content for the upcoming Iris Relief Leaders School.
From the 9th of September until the 3rd of October I deployed with Iris Relief to their response to Hurricane Harvey. Based out of the city of Rockport - Texas, we received several teams of volunteers and missionaries, and assisted impacted residents, as well as working alongside FEMA at their Disaster Recover Centers.
Here are some photos from the deployment.
From the 22nd of August until the 2nd of September I had the opportunity to participate in a small disaster relief team through Iris Relief which deployed to the city of Freetown, Sierra Leone, in response to the floods and landslide which caused the deaths of some one thousand people and left thousands more homeless.
I had an unexpected visit to the US in mid October, from the 10th through to the 21st. Most of this time was spent with the Iris Global base at Abiline - Texas, where we were working on possibly developed a disaster response missions training and sending centre. I was also able to train one person as a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program Manager during this time.
I also had the opportunity to visit the Austin Disaster Relief Network in the centre of Austin - TX, which is an amazing networking of over 170 churches that work together in disaster preparedness and response. We also visited some ministries in Houston before I fly back to Brazil on the 20th, arriving in Rio on the 21st.
The trip was an unexpected but very worthwhile experience.
Over the last week we have been running Bible Studies and CERT Emergency Communications courses and also opening up the base for games. It was great to see our teens completing the courses, including the new members who have recently joined the team, and all who were awarded Achievement Badges today.
I'm now back in Friburgo after spending that weekend ministering with a church in Belo Horizonte. There were very powerful moves of the Spirit on the Saturday and Sunday nights. There have been very few times I have seen so many children and teens so powerfully touched by the Spirit, as well as the adults.
It was exactly one year ago today that a message began to circulate through email and Christian websites claiming that a team of American missionaries had resurrected 16 victims of the floods and landslides that had devastated the mountainous region of Rio de Janeiro state, resulting in at least a thousand deaths.
Due to factual inconsistencies in the story, compared to my understanding of events as I had experienced them in the aftermath of the disaster, it immediately raised my suspicions - suspicions which were further confirmed when the supposed newspaper front page that accompanied the story was quickly shown to be a fake. Sadly, my many attempts to make contact with the team and with those propagating the story, met with responses ranging from silence to some quite aggressive replies! Eventually, the newspaper front page was admitted to be fake, but the principal parties promoting the story, the Healing Herald site and Bethel church in Redding - CA, maintained that the story was true.
I spent this week, from Monday to Saturday, in Kansas City - MO where I participated in an intensive responder training course with Crisis Response International. Although it was very intense (16 hour days), and snowed on the first day, it was a great time with both pratical training and wonderful moments in the presence of the Holy Spirt. I really loved the focus on bringing the presence and power of Jesus into crisis situations while ministering in pratical ways.