A Southern Brazilian cidada skin
Growing up we called them Kadydids. I used to love to put the skins on my shirt to gross out my sisters. This picture is one that I recently found in Brazil. Basically, it is the same insect with the same incessant summertime noise in the woods. But this Brazilian version has colors that Alabama ones don’t have; it’s different. Sometimes when we meet new people (in either country) they ask us which is better – living in the US or Brazil. It is an awkward question for us because we have learned to deeply appreciate both places and especially our friends and family in both places. So, that is the thing: not judging one as better or worse, but seeing the nuances and beauty in both places and learning to value those. Getting to know the colors and uniqueness of Brazil is a great gift AND knowing the colors and uniqueness of life in the US is to be treasured equally.
After a time of spiritual opposition which would bring most to a point of deep discouragement, Vanderlei responded. Difficulties can be tools that bring us to a point of greater dependence in our Lord and I have had the privilege to journey with Vanderlei during this time. We met weekly trusting God for his dreams. Vanderlei wanted to see the church in Farroupilha have a new beginning. He wanted to start a new cell group with new Christians and see them equipped to reach out to others. Especially on his heart is to reach Italian descendents like himself and his wife. He is reaching out to a bank manager and a couple in a nearby city.
We prayed especially for another couple who showed an openness at the recent loss of a loved one. But after Vanderlei and Susi reached out to them several times, they seemed to shut the door. So we kept meeting to pray, weeks turned to months and one day Vanderlei had a different smile on his face when I met him at his door. “I have some good news!” he said. “João called me and said, ‘It is time to quit beating around the bush and start that Bible study you talked about.’ ” So he and his wife did it! I can’t wait to find out how it turned out. At the very least there is another couple who have heard the gospel. We will keep praying for Vanderlei’s dream of a new cell group.
Suzi, Vanderlei, and their daughter Priscila’s birthday party
The Caxias do Sul church hosts a year long training program for young folks interested in dedicating themselves to study of God’s word and serving. Each year they go on a faith trip where they have to live simply as teams on about $1.50 dollars a day per person for food, unless they are invited by a stranger for a meal! This year they researched 8 cities which are believed to be possible locations for future church plants. They live with a host family (when there is one) and get to know the needs of the city and openness to the good news. Here are some shots of the team that I was with and our two cities, Veranópolis and Nova Prata.
The first weekend in November, I, with other leaders of Aliança Bíblica churches in Rio Grande do Sul, flew to the state of São Paulo to visit the Aliança church in Santos. “Santos” means saints. This city is about a one hour drive from the largest city in Brazil, São Paulo (population of 11.2 million). Santos (420,000 inhabitants) is on the coast and is lovely. The Aliança Bíblica church in Santos has about 120 members. It is the first time that I and many others had visited our sister church. The members were very hospitable, giving us a dinner Saturday night and having us participate in their celebration Sunday. Roger Wagner and I went dressed in traditional gaúcho clothes and told them about the culture and spiritual needs of our state.
During the days, the leaders talked about issues, did some planning for next year, and spent time encouraging and praying for one another. We also took time for some sightseeing. Our host was able to tell us much of the history of the city. He also pointed out something very interesting to my engineering side. Some of the older buildings are suffering because their foundations were not laid deep enough, so now they are sinking or leaning! One building started with seven steps up to get to the entrance. Now, there are 12 going down!
In the last few weeks I have had the opportunity to speak at the churches in Novo Hamburgo, Caxias do Sul and the capital city of Porto Alegre, where these pictures where taken yesterday. One great thing about these churches with cell groups is that they work on applying what was taught on Sunday at their meeting during the week. We are learning to abide in the True Vine.
After two weeks straight of cold weather (lows in the 30s) our supply of fire
wood had run low. So we made a trip to our cabin; the snake was there to greet us! Caleb and I went after a very large tree that fell two years ago. It was a beautiful day and thrilling to be able to work hard with my son. To get to the tree is a 70 degree incline that we cut with bush hooks. Wild stuff.
We just spent a week with our World Team missionary colleagues who work in North and South America and the Caribbean Islands. We took a week to study and talk about the truths in John 13 –17. What a great week. We are so thankful that we belong to a group that makes it the main thing to be in God’s Word together and apply it to our lives.
More than ever we are impressed by the intimacy and love that Jesus had for His disciples, and us. One of the questions we thought about when studying John 15 was, “Who am I?” Jesus tells us that we are “branches.” I thought that was cool, because I can just be a branch. Wow. Simple, clear and profound. May we always be strongly connected to our vine, Jesus, with His life flowing through us. He is our only way, truth and life.