Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Termites, termites, termites....

Ever since we moved in to our apartment a year or so ago, we have noticed a little bit of sawdust from time to time in the closets. We never really thought much about it, but finally it occurred to us that we might have termites. After making sure that we would have enough money in our property maintenance budget, we called an exterminator.

The exterminator was scheduled to come on Wednesday afternoon. On Tuesday night, the termites launched a preemptive strike. I awoke on Wednesday morning to find Parker's room full of termites, termite wings and termite dust. They had swarmed during the night, trying to get out the screen in the window to find a new place to colonize (it was sort of like they were listening - kind of creepy, really). We started pulling everything out of the closets, only to find dust, chewed cardboard boxes, and termite leavings everywhere.

The termite guys came and pumped 20 liters of poison into our closets by drilling small holes in the wood and injecting in the poison. At one point, they squirted the poison in one hole, and a stream of dead termites came squirting out of another hole - yeah, pretty gross, I know. Anyway, fortunately, no long term damage seems to have been done, and we are currently on a crusade to inform everyone we meet to call an exterminator ASAP if they even suspect termites.

All of this started me thinking about those pet bad habits and sins that so many of us have. We have a few telltale signs on the surface, but nobody confronts us about it, and meanwhile, they are chewing the life out of us on the inside, and will eventually swarm out to try to take over other areas of our life. Just like the termites in our closets need to be mercilesly stomped out at the first sign of them, in the same way, we need to ruthlessly hunt down those little, easily excusible sins in our lives and allow God to wipe them out before they can cause permanant damage. I've seen too many pastors, leaders and missionaries fall into sin by allowing something to chew the spiritual life out of them and make them an empty shell just waiting to be easily toppled by some major, public sin.

Pray that I and all of our other missionaries will address any and all termites in our lives before they cause problems. There are temptations on the field that many in the USA will never experience, and we must remain completely pure if we are to maintain our testimonies and see God work through us. Here's to keeping short accounts with God!

The Best Laid Plans...

During our time in Florianopolis, we had a chance to go on a "pirate schooner" and tour the bay. While this was great fun for the boys, we also had a chance to tour an island fort that was part of the defenses set up by the Portuguese in the 1700's to defend against invasion by the Spanish. In the course of the tour, I saw several parallels with our current mission challenge.

The Portuguese commander had a brilliant plan. He built forts on each side of the bay, as well as on an island in the middle, thereby forming a defensive triangle. The idea was that if any Spanish ships tried to enter the bay to attack the city, they would be caught in a withering crossfire. The forts were constructed and super-long range cannons were ordered from Portugal. The cannons came, but went to Rio de Janiero, where they were kept, and old, leftover cannons were sent to Florianopolis instead. These cannons had a range of a mere 300 meters, not nearly enough to cover the bay, which is 4000 meters across.

One day, 115 Spanish warships carrying approximately 8,000 soldiers entered the harbor. The alarm was sounded and the 100 Portuguese soldiers in the three forts promptly abandoned their posts and fled. The island was captured without a shot and held until a treaty was signed a year later. The Portuguese had a strategy in place, but had not received the resources they needed to win the fight. They were outgunned and out manned.

All too often, us missionary types have brilliant strategic plans in place, but when the battle is engaged, we find that we are outgunned and out manned. Why? Because of a lack of prayer and prayer support. We can plan, budget, and strategize all year long, but if we don't spend time on our knees beseeching God for our people, our spiritual weapons won't be strong enough to do much damage. All too often, we are guilty of regularly failing to inform our prayer supporters of how they can pray, and therefore, we find that we are out manned and overwhelmed in the battle.

All of this is to say that God used an old fort to reminded me of the importance of my prayer time and your prayer ministry on our behalf and on behalf of our people. We need your prayers - it is how God has chosen to fight the battle for the souls of the people of metropolitan Porto Alegre, and it is an imminently winnable battle if we all do our part.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Our Missionary Thanksgiving

So what do you do when you want to celebrate Thanksgiving but you live 7,000 miles away from your family? Ah, obviously you celebrate with your missionary colleagues where you live - except in this case, they are all in the United States with their familes. So, we picked up and went to the 18th annual missionary Thanksgiving gathering in Florianopolis.

Florianopolis is a beach resort about 310 miles North of where we live. Years ago, the missionaries in Southern Brazil began to meet on Thanksgiving for their annual strategy and planning meeting. Over the years, it evolved from business into fellowship (Although we frequently end up drifting back to discussions of strategy and mission business). Last year's gathering was much bigger, but this year we had 7 IMB units representing 4 different states in Brazil, plus our Canadian missionary friends from Porto Alegre, whom we had the pleasure of traveling with.

We even managed to have an authentic Thanksgiving meal with turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce that I brought in from the USA a couple of weeks ago. Its nice to be able to eat Thanksgiving dinner and then walk down to the beach and play in the water! Was it worth the 9 hour drive home through construction, rain and traffic? You bet. Just don't tell anyone that your missionaries were playing on the beach while some of you were shoveling snow :)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Cutting the Apron Springs

I just spent two weekends out of Brazil working on my degree in the USA. That was two weekends away from our church plants in São Leopoldo. For 10 months now, I've been out there multiple times per week praying, evangelizing, doing Bible studies, and trying to impart vision to our church planting team.

Now, my great desire is to see the Brazilians I have been working with completely take charge of the work. So, it may very well have been God's timing that had me miss a couple of weeks. But...it has been hard to not be there - to not know what was going on.

So, I felt a little bit torn about going back out there tonight - would it be better for me not to go? Do they need me? So, I called one of the members of my team. And he basically said "we've got it under control." So, for the first time since January, I didn't go out there when I could have gone. Now, of course, he was just talking about his group, not the other but still - in a way it was nice, in a way it was a bittersweet - they don't need me any more - but it was a lot more nice!

So, tomorrow, I'll check in with one of the other groups - we'll see if they are doing as well. I'll continue to meet with the core group for a while to talk strategy, and we need to get our new converts baptized. Also, we need to have the big meeting with the mother church pastor to hash out some relational and directional things, but all in all, things seem to be moving in the right direction. Sigh...It's good to cut the apron strings - and highly necessary for the future health and welfare of the group, but I think I'm starting to understand a bit more of the Apostle Paul's perspective when he spoke of his constant burden for the churches!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

God works in mysterious ways

One of the best parts about being able to come back to the U.S. for a time for my studies is the chance to spend a little time with my family on either end of my class. On Sunday, we went to the nursing home where my Grandmother lives and took her to the worship service in the cafeteria.

The services are done by four different churches on a rotating basis. On Sunday, the group consisted of a group of African ladies - truly African, from Nigeria. They held an upbeat, joyful service and taught a short, inspiring lesson Bible lesson.

I had a chance to speak with them afterwards and told them how wonderful it was to know that while God sent me from the United States to Brazil, God sent them from Nigeria to the United States, and they came and ministered to my Grandmother when I could not be there.

I thank God for the body of Christ and its wonderful diversity. I also thank Him for His incredible creativity - I never would have thought to do things the way He does them, which is exactly how He can bless so many people in so many wonderful ways.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I'm off!

I'm off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of Oz. . . . Actually, no, I'm leaving the land where I have been trying to reach out to real wizards (who are not cute and funny like in Oz, but rather are deadly serious in their evil - rather more like the wicked witch of the West, but without green skin) and heading off to the United States.

Ah, the United States. . . . land of sharp cheedar cheese, peanut butter, barbeque, tortillia chips and cheese salsa. I'll be spending almost two weeks there taking a doctoral class in interpersonal relationships and spiritual formation (I know, some of you are probably thinking that those are two subjects I really need to work on - just trying to beat you to the punch).

Anyway, pray for me as I travel tomorrow and in my seminar all next week. Pray that I'll learn a lot and sharpen my ministry skills and that I'll be able to squeeze in some good time with my family on either end of my class. Also pray for Cam and the boys, who will be staying behind in Brazil. Ask for God's protection over them, and that He would be very real to them during this time. Even though she's not going, Cam has already put in her order for sharp cheedar, and expects me to fill up every spare inch of luggage coming back with goodies. Come to think of it, you might need to pray for our waistlines as well!