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.
In Brazil, the first Sunday in October is election day. This year a new president will be elected. Different from the US, voting is required by law. Since usually more than two candidates are running and a majority vote is required to win, a second vote is needed to decide the winner. This year’s election is mainly between three candidates. One is a woman of the same party as the current president who favors abortion (still not legal in Brazil), marriage of homosexuals, and tends to support censuring of the media. She appears to be the favorite. Another woman who is running appears to be a believer with good values. The third was a part of the government who began the economic reform in the late 1990s. Our state’s governor is up for election as well.
Scandal and corruption are as common in politics as promises are during campaigning. Cynicism abounds in the people. We have heard of people talking of wearing black to the polls.
Good things come in threes, right? So what do a science class, John 3 and a book on spiritual disciplines all have in common? Metamorphosis. A few weeks ago Mickey found tadpoles in the water tank at our cabin. A toad had gotten into the source and laid eggs, which then made the 1 kilometer trip through the hose to our tank. Mickey and Caleb got rid of most of them, but kept three to bring home and put into our aquarium. Science is observation, so we are observing tadpoles become toads. Metamorphosis.
We have four kids ages 10 to 13 in our cell group, including Keely and Caleb. Instead of them just hanging out and sometimes getting into trouble, we decided to do a study with them using Precept Bible Ministries Discover 4 Yourself book on John. For the past few weeks we have been talking about John 3 and being born again. So then the song comes into my head, “Bullfrogs and butterflies, they’ve both been born again.” Tadpoles, John 3, Born again. Metamorphosis.
And I am also beginning to disciple one of the youth leaders at our church. She is 20 and the pastor’s daughter. Bible knowledge is not lacking. We decided to read together John Ortburg’s The Life You’ve Always Wanted. The first chapter is about transformation. Metamorphosis. Actually, he’s the one who gave me the word.
So if has come in three, what does it mean? Metamorphosis. Transformation. My life and that of those around me is in a state of change. Do I recognize this? Do I hope and long for that? As a church and movement, are we seeing people “being transformed by the renewing of their minds?” This is the end we work toward. We need God’s grace for it to really happen. It all comes down to the first four words of the famous verse in the Bible: “For God so loved…”.
Watch the Tadpole Morf
Hello, I got back yesterday from the retreat with the cell group leaders, assistants and supervisors from the church in Sapiranga. There were 32 present. We started the 10 lesson series on grace in the book of Galatians. It was a rich time. I believe that they are getting gospel. It was also great to spend time with Wilson and Viviane, our Brazilian partners from our first location, São Leopoldo. One gal said that the retreat was so significant because she was applying the life of grace to unresolved problems in her life and really understanding things she had never understood. I really experienced the grace of God to be able to flow through the different issues, sharing my life journey and seeing them learn though personal study, small group and large group sessions. What a great time and what a great tool that some leaders with World Team have given us.
We will continue with lesson 5 on August 15. These are some pictures that one of the participants took.