Sunday, February 25, 2007

Exploring



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.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am new to this blog, comment stuff, however, I want to just tell you how much your newsletters bless me. I feel that I am almost there sometime with your joys and struggles. You, Cam, and the boys are on my prayer list everyday and I sometimes share your blogs with my prayer partners at church. I love you guys so much. Bonnie

Anonymous said...

Adventures in God, I would call it!!! How sweaty and exciting!!! Loved your observation about possession YOUR city...I did that in my tiny neighborhood several years ago and told the devil it's my territory and I'm closing down that sportsbar next to my Food Lion grocery store and I'm closing down that delicatessan (which sold more alcohol than sandwiches, particularly after 5pm). And I prayed against them until they went out of business!!! Now I'm working on that abominibal payday advance check cashing thing across the street. God can do awesome things, can't he?

And I'm just an ordinary little grandmother usually in my kitchen praying for stuff the Lord shows me to pray for!!! But I'm a warrior in the Kingdom of God.

Loved your blog,
'til July,
love and blessings.

Anonymous said...

Jeff-

Just writing to let you know that your blog has rekindled my desire to pray for PA and the lost there... we're gone over 10 years now but continue to lift all of you to His throne...

Stan (from Novo Hamburgo)in Bogota

Anonymous said...

Jeff & Cam,

God is going to give you favor. I will pray with you for this. Christ is our all. Love, Paul Smith from Texas