Thursday, January 26, 2012

Communified for Three Months

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for the prayers!

Let me first apologize for not having updated my blog in three months. Please do understand that where I am at internet is scarce. In our community there is no internet, or computer for that matter! Then when we go into town once a month sometimes the internet works and sometimes not - sometimes they open the internet cafe and sometimes not.

So, let me give a brief summary of the past three months. Jailson and I finally arrived to our community on November 1st. The people in the community are fantastic, and from the first the day they have taken us in and brought us with them and taught us their lifestyle and culture. These first three months have been extremely busy. We eat a lot of fish, with the occasional monkey or alligator. We drink a lot of juices - my favorites being of pineapple and sugarcane! And we work. We cut and carry wood, uproot and peel manioc, make farinha, go fishing, clear people's farms with machetes, make pajuaru, and cut the weeds in our the community, once again, with our machetes. There is always work to be done, and we always try to have the same mindset as Paul when he said, "We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you." We have learned a ton and really enjoyed where we are at.

So how about the spiritual? As we work we try to teach the Bible. For example, while fishing we try to tell a Bible story about fish such as when Jesus called the fishermen to be fishers of men. Or while working in the field we tell about the sower who threw seed on the side of the trail, on the rocks, in the thorns, or on the good soil. Once we have developed relationships with the men we ask to study the Bible with them. We have done Bible studies with a few of the men; however, there is one that is always wanting to study more and really has a hunger and thirst to learn about the Bible. We also work with the kids once a week teaching them songs, telling Bible stories, and reciting Bible verses. Praise God that doors are opening and people are hearing His Word.

Our only problem is that there already is a church in the community - it is called the Catholic, Apostolic, Evangelic church of the Cross. In a nutshell they believe that worshipping the cross of Christ will save them rather than worshipping the Christ of the cross. They actually believe that the cross in front of their community will turn into a stairwell to the heavens when Jesus comes back and only those who have these crosses will be saved. They turn to spiritualistic healers when sick instead of God. They also have tons of rules prohibiting many things in the community, showing they do not understand the freedom we have in Christ.

So we have been teaching God's Word - never shying away from telling the truth. Sometimes our words are well received. Sometimes they are not so well received. However, we keep on speaking and trying to continue in order to teach what the Bible says.

So pray for us. Pray first off that God would open the eyes of these lost people.
Pray each and every day that we would follow God being obedient and dependent on Him.
Pray for good health so as not to interfere with our mission.
Pray for the president of our community. He is the leader and a very respected man. He currently has a problem with his leg. Pray that God would work wonders in the life of this man both physically and spiritually knowing that if he converts the whole community would be more open to hearing about Christ.
Pray for travel safety.
Pray that God would already start raising, from the community, men to continue the work when we leave in six months.
Pray that God would be glorified in everything.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

It's Community Time!

Well, my first three months in the interior have already come and passed, and my partner and I are now getting everything ready for our next three months. In a nutshell, the past three months went like this: In July we were in a community finally doing what I was sent to Brazil to do – evangelize and disciple an unreached people group! We were doing Bible studies in houses and in tree shade. It was going perfectly. Then August came. On August 1st we were told to leave the community and not return. Needless to say, we felt confused and lost leaving the community that day. So for the majority of August my partner and I were praying for direction and looking for opportunities. We returned to the community once or twice a week – to talk with the president there. Sometimes he was nice and talked with us, other times he was a lot more stern with us. However, at the end of the month, he still would not allow us to do our work there. So, September was the month of traveling. We visited 8 different communities in three different trips. We were looking for a community that would allow us to live with them and fulfill the great commission. Praise God, we found one!

This brings us to this month, October. At the beginning of the month we returned to Manaus to talk things over with our leadership. After much prayer we decided that this community that accepted us is a door that God hás opened – it is our community. So, my partner and I packed our bags and are now back in the interior waiting to go live in our community. We’ve got a few people to see and few things to buy, but we’re hoping to be in our community come next Monday or Tuesday. My partner and I are anxious to finally be living in a community, fulfilling our calling and doing what we are here to do – to tell people of the love and grace of our Creator God, of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and of the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit. We will be living with them, fishing with them, hunting with them, making farinha with them, climbing açaí trees with them to make a delightful juice. We will be working with the children to teach them the truth of the Bible. We will also being doing Bible Studies in homes with the men and women. Pray that we can show the people of this community the love of Christ – that what we preach and what we do would agree. Pray that God would work wonders in this community and that young missionaries and church-leaders would rise from this currently church-less community. Pray that each and every day my partner and I would work hard for the sake of the Gospel. Pray for salvation and transformed lives.

The other day we got ahold of the president of this community on the phone. My partner simply said his name and the president told us that they are waiting for us and already have a house for us to live in! Praise God! We are very excited about the adventure that we about to be beginning. Pray that we can adjust to life in a community. Pray that we can love these people – that we can seriously love them and be burdened for their eternal, spiritual state. Thank you all for the prayers. Here in a month or so I should be back in the city (our plan is to return once a month to buy some rice & beans and send an update to our leadership) and I will try to get on the internet to give an update.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Pray for me, Please?

Why, hello there! It appears as though internet does work here in the Amazon! Me and my partner, Jailson, arrived here in Santo Antônio do Içá at about midnight Saturday night/Sunday morning. Santo Antônio is a city of about 30,000 people. We're living here in the city until we get permission to move into one of the nearby communities. We've had a busy 5 days since we got here. Sunday we ran around town and preached at different churches. Monday we went fishing - we scored about 20 fish and 2 pretty bad thunderstorms in a little unstable wooden canoe. The highlight was catching Piranhas in the nets and then trying to pull them loose while, clearly, being careful that they don't leave their mark on your hand! Tuesday we went and visited our (potential) community. Pray that God opens doors there! It was so wonderful to sit down in the houses of some of the people there and make some chit-chat. Of course, while there my mind was running wild as I looked at each person thinking - "Could he be a church leader here in a year?" or "Could she be a missionary here in a year?" Pray for big things! Wednesday we helped one of the pastors here in town run some errands and what not. Then today, we made it back out to the community and had a wonderful time talking with two brothers who each were probably about 35 years old. We told them we would return there on Sunday and asked permission to do a little Bible Study with them. They accepted! So, this Sunday could be the start, or on a prayer of faith perhaps I should say will be the start, of God doing big things here!

So, having mentioned prayer, let me give some prayer requests! While reading through some of Paul's letters here recently I decided to note each time he said that he was praying something for someone or was asking for prayer for something. I decided that if Paul was praying something over the churches that he was planting, it wouldn't be a bad idea to pray them myself or if he was needing prayer in some area I'll be needing it too. Then I decided I'd pass them along so ya'll, also, could be praying for the same things. So, in order of Bible reference, here they are:

2 Corinthians 1:11 - You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

Ephesians 1:15-21 - For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

Ephesians 6:17-20 - ...and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Philipians 1:9-11 - And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Philipians 4:5-7 - Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 1:9-12 - And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.

Colossians 4:2-4 - Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.

1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 - We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Thessalonians 5:25 - Brothers, pray for us.

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 - To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians 3:1-2 - Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith.

1 Timothy 2:1-2 - First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

Philemon 1:4-6 - I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.

I know I already threw a lot out at ya'll, but one more text - and I apologize, it's a big one! In this text Paul does not explicitly say pray for me in this or that, but it is his departing words as he left the church leaders of Ephesus. Obviously not everything that he says would pertain to me. However, pray that I conduct my life in such a way as to be able to have the same mindset and say some of the same words that he says:

Acts 20:18-35 - You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

There's No Place Like Home...

And I'm back from training, and leaving tomorrow at 2 for the interior. Though most likely the boat will be leaving much later than 2 - probably more like 2:30 or 4:10. But anywho, let me quickly explain how training went these last 2 months.

It was not quite as rugged as I though it would be. We purchased a lot of food and had a lot of churches donate boxes full of rice and beans, so food-wise we were secure. We did some fishing, but rarely were we dependent on our catch for that day or that weeks food. Having said that I did learn to fish using two types of nets - one the kind you throw and one the kinds you set in the river and wait for fish to entangle themselves. We had a period of about 2 weeks where they locked the bathroom doors - meaning that all showers were in the mighty Amazon and all potty breaks were in the jungle! I won't go into much detail on that one. We also cooked and cleaned with the river water - making coffee out of it leaves a pretty bad taste in the mouth. For just drinking water purposes, we did have a filter. I learned that gas and fire don't mix very well - nearly losing two of my toes. We did a lot of canoeing, gardening, volleyball and football. About half of the time we cooked over an open fire, which only serves to complicate washing the dishes!

But Spiritually I learned a lot more. We had to memorize 20 Bible narratives. From as long as the creation account of Genesis 1:1 - 2:3 to as short as the blind beggar being healed in Luke 18:35-43, we hid 20 of them in our hearts. Then we took these narratives on the weekends to a nearby community called Nossa Senhora do Livramento. There we did a lot of door to door evangelizing using these stories. We would walk up to people and simply ask, "Can I tell you a story?" Then we would tell about Jesus and talk about it afterward. It was very encouraging to see God at work there. I would say that in the 5 weekends we went there, the 6 of us were able to see around 15 people come to know the Lord for the very first time. Our first Sunday there, I would say there were about 10 people in the church. On our last weekend there were about 25. Praise God! We had services in people's front yards, around their pick nick tables and up on top of hills overlooking the river. One weekend we did a kid's club - and against my will I was the leader of the kid's club! When it started at 3:00 we had 2 kids. When it ended at 5:00, 40 kids walked away having heard the Good News!

This training definitely was a blessing and I now feel a lot more prepared to go into a community and start from the ground up. I learned a lot about what it means to really depend on God and hear His voice. Nothing I can say will cause a person to turn from sin to Him, but my obedience and the power of His Holy Spirit can change a heart of stone to one of flesh. Pray!

So what is the big take away? What is the big idea that I learned these last two months? Home and Hope. It's funny. When I was in the community, I couldn't wait to return to our training camp. When at the training camp I couldn't wait to return to Manaus. While in Manaus, I think of and can't wait to return to Texas. I even had a dream a few nights ago that Manaus got a Whataburger! I've had some hard days and I've really had to ask myself a lot these last two months: Where is my home? And where does my hope lie? And it is this hope that gets me through the hard days. My home is not in Manaus. My home is not in Clute, Texas. My hope is not in returning. My hope is not in eating a Honey Barbecue Chicken Strip Sandwich. My hope is not even in talking with my friends and family. My hope is firmly rooted in hearing my God say, "Well done my good and faithful servant." My hope is constantly set on the eternal joy and rest I have awaiting me in the afterlife. My home is in heaven - the better country that the men of faith looked forward to. This is the sure and steadfast anchor of my soul as the writer of Hebrews puts it in chapter 6. I've cried. I've longed to have heart to heart conversations in English with my friends who know me better than I know myself. I've longed to hug my family. I've had days where I just felt spiritually dry. On these days I ran to God - my refuge - and found strong encouragement. I have learned so much these last 8 months (almost 9 now) here in Brazil. I've learned to depend on God. I've learned to find joy in His presence and not in the things of this world. I've learned to cherish His Word as the fountain of all treasures. And I've learned that the eternal far outweighs the temporary, fleeting things. And I know that the next year that I have in front of me will only be harder. But as hard as it becomes and I know that reward in it will be grander.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

It's Training Time!

Due to internet complications here in Manaus and the fact that this past week has been incredibly crazier and busier than I originally thought it would be, I've got about 5 minutes to explain the next two months of my life.... So here we go!

I leave first thing tomorrow morning for my Amazon Race Training. It is two months of training all in Portuguese. The majority of days, I think, will be spent in 'classes' of about 7 or 8 people. We will be talking about Theology, Missiology, Anthropolgy, Storying, Culture, Mechanics (in case a boat were to break down in the middle of the river!), and a hint of jungle survival. Where we are going for training, there is a water well and electricity, but from what I understand, we will not be using either one of those very much in order to prepare for more 'rustic' conditions. So we will be carrying out a water filter and will use river to water to drink, wash clothes, wash dishes and bathe. I'm incredibly excited to see what the next two months have in store. All the other missionaries for the project have arrived. Besides myself, there are 3 guys and 2 gals. This means that I have met my future partner for the next year, though I'm not sure which of the 3 guys it will be!

A few specifics that I do know- Yesterday we spoke at a local pastor's meeting. After we were introduced the pastors all came on stage and circled around us and prayed for us all as we embark on our next life adventure. After this, someone who was at the meeting, payed for all of us Amazon Racers to go a Pastor's Conference that will be at the very end of May. Some church is flying in two speakers from the US (they both currently work at Southern Theological Seminary in Kentucky). This means that right at the midway point of my training, which as I said is all in Portuguese, I'll get to here some Americans preaching the Bible to me (which will then be translated into Portuguese by a local pastor who speaks English). This, I'm sure, will be incredibly refreshing and good practice for the ol' Portuguese as well!
Also, we're getting to day a 4 night, 3 day jungle survival training. It'll be through the local military. We'll sleep in the middle of the jungle and eat whatever we can get our hands on while learning some of the basic techniques that they use in the jungle. SWEET!
Most weekends we'll be doing little 'trips' to some of the ribeirinho communities surrounding the training site. During these trips we will be doing evangelism and discipling as we practice what we learned the previous week - a lot of storying! Pray that we would rely on God and that people's lives would be changed as their hearts are opened to the gospel.

That's about all the time I've got. Thanks for the prayers. I'm internetless till July!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Past Month and a Half

Alright, so I've been super slow in updating since I got back from my trip to the interior - in fact I've been to Peru and now back for a week since getting back from the interior. I've sat down to update this at least 4 times now, and the fact is, I just don't know where to start after over a month in the interior. So let me start with just an overview list:
  • I traveled about 1300 miles by boat on the Amazon.
  • I saw some of the prettiest sunsets I've ever seen - I tried uploading some pictures here on the blog but it was taking forever.
  • I saw plenty of Toucans, Macaws, Monkeys, Snakes, and Freshwater Dolphins.
  • I ate alligator, chicken feet, piranha, açaí, fruits that I have no idea what the names are, fresh Brazil Nuts and lots and lots of fish and rice!
  • I made this food called farinha - it's a big deal down here!
  • I played soccer, a lot.
  • I preached 7 times - in Portuguese - for as long as 40 minutes one time!
  • I took apart the engine of a Rabeta - it's the preferred way to get around the river, an engine that you connect to your canoe.
  • I also got to pilot a rabeta for a good two-three hours on our way back from a community one day.
  • I heard a lot of Eminem and Rihanna, Hey Soul Sister by Train, and some classic Linkin Park (my favorite).
  • I was a translator for a group of Americans for about 4 days.
  • Then I went to Peru for a training where I ate all the American food that I've been missing these last few months - Donuts from Duncan Donuts, Chips, Salsa and Fajitas from Chile's, Chicken from KFC, and Pizza from Papa John's.
So what exactly did we do?
We first went to a town called Alverães. Our stop there was only supposed to last about 2-3 days in order to talk with some missionaries there - unfortunately boat schedules aren't always the most reliable and we were stuck there an extra week before heading out to Santo Antônio do Içá. We stayed there for two weeks. We visited a few river communities while there, and met some current American missionaries that are also living out there. Then we headed out to Tefé, which is right next door to our original destination of Alverães. We were here during Carnaval, which is more or less like Brazil's version of Mardi Gras. We met an American team there and did a whole lot of evangelism. As I said earlier, I was a translator for the group! Then we came back to Manaus. I was here for about 4 days and then I went off to Peru for 5 days of training and, as I said, eating!

"Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!" Psalm 67:3-5
Pray these verses over the people in Santo Antônio do Içá.

That's the quick of my last month and a half. I could go into more specifics, but I know that people a lot of times don't like long blogs, and a lot of the stuff we did was very Brazilian, I wouldn't know how to succinctly explain it all.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

And I'm Off!

First off let me confess of a habit that I've developed since coming down here. It involves eating pizza. A few years back a wise man (Aaron Sanders - you can pay me later) talked me into putting a little Bull's-Eye BBQ sauce on my pizza. I thought it was strange, but I tried it, and I liked it. When I got down here I noticed that Brazilians like to put not barbecue sauce but ketchup and mayonnaise on their pizzas. My first response was, "Nope, No Way, Never!" But then I stayed here for another 3 months. And to be honest I like it! Ketchup and mayonnaise actually taste good on pizza.

Now that I've got that off my shoulders, let me tell you my plans for the next month or so. As I said in an earlier blog, I'm no longer doing my training here from February to April as originally planned - instead I will be doing one research trip (or if I have time two) up the Rio Solimões. So what will we be researching on these research trips? Well I'm glad you asked. Plain and simple, we're looking for river communities (think ~200 people living a very basic lifestyle) to send future missionaries. Our purpose in these trips is to find river communities where the Gospel has still not been brought. Some communities already have churches that are thriving, while some are not even open to Christians living with them. We will be stopping at three different river municipals (think ~10,000 people living in a more 'civilized' town on the river) in order to find out about the conditions of the river communities surrounding them. Hopefully, and God willing, we will be able to meet some people from these communities while we are staying in the municipals in order to find out more information about the spiritual state of their community. If things go real well, we'll accompany them out to their community to see for ourselves the possibility of sending American and/or Brazilian missionaries out there to evangelize and church plant. Does that make sense?

What makes this trip really special for me is that one of the three municipals where I am going is most likely where I will be living, full-time, come June. So when we stop at this municipal, we're not just looking for hypothetical purposes, but I'll actually be looking for myself a home! While in the municipal we'll ask about some surrounding Ribeirinho communities to see if there is any one community in particular that appears to have a real need for a missionary and that will be willing to accept some missionaries in the future. As you could imagine, I am very excited to be living out on the river - and even more excited about knowing a lot more details about what exactly my job will look like having gone to where I will be spending a year doing missions work.

So, when does this start? Well, tomorrow! I'm leaving tomorrow, and will most likely be returning somewhere around March 15th or so. So this trip will give me a little over a month of solid Brazilian culture and language (no Americans on this trip, so I'll be speaking only Portuguese!).

So, please pray!
Pray first off that God would lead us to people to talk to and communities where they still know nothing of His sacrifice of His Son on the cross. Paul says in Colossians 4:3, "Pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ." Pray for this foremost - that God would open up doors for His people that He created to know Him and worship Him.
Pray for my language. I praise God that language is going well. I've gotten many complements that I'm sounding "more Brazilian. This could mean that I actually sound Brazilian, or it could just mean that I sounded terrible when I first got here! At any rate, pray that God continues to give me His grace in communicating with people around me. I've been told to be prepared to preach while I am in the interior - in Portuguese! Pray that language would not get in the way of God's Word being taught, and of God being worshiped.
Pray for peace of mind! I'm being thrown into a lifestyle completely contrary to the 'normal' American lifestyle. Pray that I would adjust and enjoy doing life differently.
Pray for safety for myself and the Brazilian who I will be with. At one of the municipals we will actually be teaming up with some Americans from Florida, so pray also that they have safe travel.
In the end, just pray that God would be glorified and that we would be His faithful servants.
I most likely will not have internet until I return in March, so thanks for the prayers, I'll definitely be needing them.