Sunday, February 25, 2007


Last week, I got a call asking us to help with a major research project the mission is doing in Porto Alegre (PoA). We will be doing a scientific survey in 30 different areas that the Brazilian government uses in their census in order to more accurately determine the number of evangelicals in the city. While this sounds great, (especially because we will have Brazilians doing the surveys), we soon learned that it's more complicated than it appears. Each one of those areas has to be found and personally checked for potential problems, such as apartment buildings our surveyors won't be able to enter, etc.

For the last week, Cam and I have been pouring over maps and driving around trying to find an incredible variety of places. While it's been long and tiring, I can also say that we know the city an awful lot better after spending 4-7 hours a day poking into isolated corners that we never knew existed and that most people who live here have never seen. There are absolutely stunning views of the city and the lake from the slums hanging on the sides and the tops of the mountains, there are wonderful, friendly people, there are examples of tremendous wealth snugged up against incredible, abject poverty, there are wide open rural areas inhabited only by cows that stretch for many tens of kilometers, as well as hundreds of tiny urban shacks crammed together into spaces that seem impossibly small. There are wide avenues with bus lanes, and tiny winding roads so steep that they suck the air out of your lungs as you struggle for a foothold.

We have seen an area being invaded and a new slum being built with garbage bags (see above), an entire neighborhood of 605 residents that was totally demolished by the city in a mere week (see below), as well as multi-million dollar condos, equestrian facilities and yacht clubs.

So...what have we learned besides the fact that the city is, well, both bigger and smaller than we imagined all at the same time? First of all, that people are a lot nicer than they are supposed to be. Gauchos are supposed to be closed, cold and unfriendly to outsiders. Compound this with the facts that we are foreigners wandering around in their often crime ridden, violent neighborhoods in what many of them would consider to be a nice car, we didn't exactly expect a warm reception. We were wrong. We were offered more help than we possibly could have asked for - people offered to walk us to the place we wanted to go, men went into stores for us asking for directions, kids came chasing us down to clarify directions their parents had given - it was truly refreshing.

Secondly, I learned how tough my wife can be. She can go from cooking a gourmet meal to maneuvering a minivan through tiny urban slums where the road suddenly ends in a sheer cliffs without batting an eye. When I left her and the baby in the car in bad neighborhoods to go scout out areas on foot, she didn't even think to object - she's a true missionary!

Thirdly, I learned that PoA can not only be the place where I live, but it can be MY city. And this is my prayer, that God gives us a vision for how we can reach the untold multitudes in PoA with the gospel. That God will allow us to posses PoA as our inheritance, and that we will truly feel a sense of spiritual ownership as we move about, work and minister.

My heart grieved for the host of communities with absolutely no Christian witness, but with centers of witchcraft established on every corner. And how my heart lept to see an evangelical church as we explored. Won't you pray with me that in a very short time, we will have the privilege of seeing a host of new Baptist and evangelical churches beating back the darkness and winning the victory in PoA? Make it so, Lord, make it so.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

A New Role for the New Year

For the last year and a half, we have been serving under Mark Ellis, our Strategy Coordinator (SC) for Metropolitan Porto Alegre (POA). We have just learned that Mark and his family will be moving to Campinas, SP to devote full-time responsibility to Project SEDI, which is a project to record seminary classes on DVD to make them available to potential leaders who cannot attend a convencional seminary. We will miss Mark and Diane and wish them God's richest blessings in this new venture.

I was asked yesterday to assume the SC duties in Mark's place. I've already been asked by several people: What is an SC anyway?

As Strategy Coordinator for Team Gaucho, I’ll be responsible for developing and implementing the overall strategy for reaching metropolitan Porto Alegre. This means researching needs and finding ways to meet them, networking with our Baptist Partners, other missions agencies, and other denominations, supervising, training, and orienting new personnel and existing IMB folks, doing a bunch of administrative stuff like dealing with mission property in POA, recruiting new personnel, and being chief cheerleader and advocate for the Gaucho People in POA. Long story short, I’m the new IMB team leader and bottle washer for metro POA. At this point, it means that I’ve got a bunch of administrative stuff looming that I didn’t used to have to worry about just two days ago - but that's ok :)

I'm excited about the prospects ahead for Team Gaucho and the chance to serve as a bridge between believers in the USA (and elsewhere) and the needs in Porto Alegre. I'm excited about the chance to recruit and help develop new personnel to fulfill their God-given ministries in POA. I'm excited about serving as a liason with national believers and helping equip them to multiply their churches and expand the Kingdom of God. I'm also humbled by the responsibility and the gigantic task before us: 3.5 million people, dozens of counties, many people groups and a host of population segments remain unreached in POA. Won't you commit to pray for us and for the Gauchos? Please pray for wisdom for us in this new role, and ask God to raise up workers for the harvest.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Unexpected encouragement and discouragement

Last Wednesday, we took our 7-year old son Blake to his first sleepover camp. He spent five days at Palavra da Vida (Word of Life) camp in a beautiful rural area about an hour from where we live. A missionary kid from another organization whom Blake had met briefly, but didn't know well was also there. As I was talking with Shane (the MK's father), he mentioned to me that the three kids who had come with his children were the fruit of André's ministry. André was one of my church planting students at the Baptist seminary a year ago when we first came to Porto Alegre (POA). Under Shane's supervision, he has been planting a house church in Gravataí (about 45 minutes from POA) using many of the principles of ministry that I taught him. It was such an encouragement and blessing to meet three people in a totally unexpected place, that in some very small way, we helped to bring to faith.

On Saturday night, we went to a fifteenth birthday party for Simão and Marta's daughter in São Leopoldo. It was the first time that we had been there since November, when we handed the work off to the hands of the nationals with whom we had been working. Apparently, the work has largely stopped since we handed it off. Alexandre, the promising young pastor in whom we have invested much, declared that he didn't want the responsibility, none of the other leaders have stepped up, and the pastor of the mother church who so desperately wanted to assert his authority appears to have done nothing since then. We will be meeting with Alexandre and his wife Tatiane on Friday to see if we can encourage them to step up and assume the leadership that they were saying last year that God was leading them to. Please pray that God will not allow the progress that was made to be wasted, that the new believers who were won would be discipled, that more people would be won, and that a strong church would be established despite this setback. was a week of church planting encouragement and discouragement. Here's to praying that we'll have a lot more encouragement than discouragement from now on!