Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Hydroelectric Dam

The largest source of electrical energy in Brazil is hydroelectric power. The massive Itaipu dam was for decades, the world’s largest dam, and continues to be second in the world in power generating capacity. The dam single-handedly provides 90% of the power for Paraguay and 19% of the power for Brazil, which is one of the world’s largest countries. We visited the dam a number of years ago and were amazed at how very big and powerful it was.

Water is needed to run a hydroelectric plant. The water is held behind a dam, forming an artificial lake, or reservoir. The force of the water being released from the reservoir through the dam spins the blades of giant turbines, which are connected to the generator that makes electricity as it spins. After passing through the turbine, the water flows back into the river on the other side of the dam. An artificial reservoir was created to make the Itaipu plant. It took a long time to build up enough water behind the dam in order to have enough force to generate electricity. The reservoir created flooded 1350 square kilometers and is 330 feet deep at the dam (the dam itself is 65 stories high).

As I reflected the other day on how I could see and experience more of the power of God working in and through me and our ministry, I heard God’s still small voice reminding me that a hydroelectric plant is much like how God wants to work through us. Water is representative of the Holy Spirit, and it is essential to have a massive, deep reservoir of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives before we can minister to others. However, the Spirit must be released to flow “downstream” to bless others as well. As the Spirit flows through our lives, we have power (Acts 1:8) to accomplish the purposes of God on the earth. Just as many millions of people have access to electrical power as a result of a single dam, millions can be touched with power through the life of a single person. However, that person needs to have a deep reservoir of the work of the Spirit in their own lives first, which takes time to develop. Without the deep work of the Spirit, there can be no power, and the Holy Spirit cannot flow through us to bless the lives of others.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The cavity

While we go to the dentist periodically here in Brazil, dental x-rays are not a standard procedure here, so it had been years since we had them done. Cam decided that we should have x-rays and I dutifully went to the x-ray clinic, had my teeth x-rayed and then took the results to the dentist the next day (if that sounds like a pain to you, you have never lived overseas-I was astounded that they could give me the results the same day!).
Upon examining the x-rays, the dentist saw two shadows near the base of my teeth. She explained that they were cavities buried under a couple of fillings that had been in my mouth for 20-25 years. One of the cavities was getting dangerously close to the root of the tooth, and could cause much bigger problems if it wasn’t taken care of. She told me she would have to remove the fillings, drill out the cavities, and then insert a new, more high-tech resin filling to fill up the hole. She wanted to do the two teeth on separate days because she thought that it would be easier for me that way.
While I knew it was necessary, I was somewhat apprehensive. I wanted to make sure she got all of the cavity the first time, because I didn’t want to have to go through this again (there’s just nothing like the smell of your own tooth burning as they drill away…). After it seemed like she drilled and filled forever, the first tooth was finally done. The second wasn’t so easy. As of this writing, it’s been two months, and the filling still doesn’t feel right in my mouth. I’m going to have to go back again to get her to file it down some more.
As I reflected on my experience, I felt the still small voice of God saying that my experience was picture of a spiritual reality. Many of us have a perfectly good looking exterior that has been in place for many years, or in my case, even decades. Everything looks fine, strong and healthy on the outside, but underneath, unbeknownst even to the person, there is rot and decay eating away. That decay is reaching deep down toward the roots of our lives and will bring pain and destruction if it is not addressed.
We need to submit ourselves to a Holy Spirit “x-ray” so that we can find the dark shadows of decay in our lives. Once they have been diagnosed, despite the potential discomfort and pain, we need to allow God to remove whatever is necessary so that he can get down in our lives and remove all of the corruption of sin and decay. Then we need to allow Him to purify our lives and fill up the empty space with His Holy Spirit – which might take some time and adjustment on our part!

Friday, April 17, 2009

The River

There is a river in RS that flows through a campground and nature reserve. The river is fairly shallow and calm with small rapids at first, and then descends in a series of progressively larger waterfalls, some of which are small enough that one can jump off of them.
Recently, we were at a birthday party at the campground and I was standing in the water with several of the younger children. They were playing in the water, which was about ankle deep and I was chatting with one of the other parents and feeling proud of myself that I was doing my part in getting a bit wet and playing with the kids. The kids got off into some slightly deeper water, and as I was reaching to help one of them, I pulled up the leg of my swimsuit so it wouldn’t get wet. She asked me, “what are you doing?” and I said that I didn’t want to get wet, to which she replied something to the effect of “but you’re in a river!”

Later, I went down to spend time with our nine year old son who was jumping off the waterfalls. At the time, he was jumping off a five meter high waterfall with his friends. I watched him jump several times, and then I thought, “well, if a nine year old can do it, so can I!” I stripped off my shirt, told the boys I was going to jump, and started to work my way over to the edge of the rock. All of a sudden, the waterfall looked very high. I started to think, “you know, I really like this rock – it’s a perfectly good rock. Why would I want to jump off such a good rock? This waterfall is really high!” The water below seemed to swim around a bit. But then, two kids jumped right next to me, so what could I do?

I planned my strategy – I would jump off, keep my legs straight, and go in like an arrow. So, I screwed up my courage and jumped, scrunching myself up, closing my eyes, and unceremoniously landing rear-end first. Somewhat chagrined, but proud that I had jumped, I tried again – it looked just as high the second time, and as I gingerly moved toward the edge, I slipped, and had the choice of painfully falling down on the edge or pushing myself out and landing even more painfully than the first time. So, it wasn’t pretty, but I did it.

A week or so later, I was reflecting on the John 3:34, where John the Baptist ways that “God gives the Spirit without limit.” As I mulled on this, all of a sudden God brought my experience at the river to mind. As we know, water is representative of the Holy Spirit. He told me “you have been content to stand in the ankle deep water and feel proud of yourself that you’re getting wet. However, you really don’t want to get wet or uncomfortable, even though you are in the river! What I want is for you is to plunge all the way in, even though you know it’s going to be cold and scary!” God gives the Spirit without limit, but we have to choose whether or not we’re going to play in the shallows and look good, or whether we’re going to take the risk to jump off our nice comfortable rock into the scary unknown of all that God’s Spirit wants to do in and through us. I’m jumping. How about you?

Thursday, April 02, 2009

April Prayer Needs

As hard as it is for us to believe, when July arrives, we will have been back in Brazil for four years! As such, we’re getting ready for six months or so of “Stateside Assignment,” in Delaware and South Carolina. During this time, we’ll visit with family, eat lots of American food (I can almost smell the barbeque now…), and stay busy with promoting missions at conferences and working to finish up Jeff’s Doctor of Ministry Degree at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis.
The last few months have been full of challenges for our family. Just in the last three weeks, we have had appliances break, parts stolen off our car (again), my wallet stolen, knee problems, tooth problems, back problems, hip problems, flu, and severe headaches. In addition, we have had the added challenge of having a slew of American volunteer teams cancel planned ministry trips to work with our team and seeing a number of our dear Brazilian friends and partners in ministry go through extremely severe emotional, spiritual, financial, and family problems. We know that to some extent, life on the mission field (and life in general) is this way, and that the forces of darkness would love nothing more than to distract and discourage us through all that has happened. However, there is little doubt in our minds that what is happening is a concentrated spiritual attack, and all of this has served to remind us how very important your prayers on our behalf really are!
On the other hand, we have also had the privilege of seeing God work in some incredible ways recently. Several new churches have been established in the Metropolitan Area recently, and we have seen significant growth in some other works. Two of the young men Jeff has been working with for years now were ordained last week and continue in church planting work. The leader’s guides for a leadership training program Jeff has been developing are finally finished and are already being used by Brazilian leaders in North Brazil. We can definitely see and feel the Spirit of God moving in our midst.
Our family has recently gone through a big change, as after a number of years at an international school here in town, we decided to pull Blake out and start teaching him at home. He is adjusting well, learning more than ever, and keeping busy with class, basketball, swimming, and piano. Parker continues in his preschool and enjoys learning to read at home and going to swimming lessons at the same time as Blake. They are both growing rapidly, and looking forward to being almost as tall as their Grandmothers when they get back to the States!
If you and your fellow prayer warriors could lift up the following prayer requests, we would greatly appreciate it:
1. Pray for God to give us good health and protection over our family and the resources He has entrusted to our care.
2. Pray for wisdom and endurance for Jeff as he evaluates the lay leadership development guides he has been developing for use here in Brazil and writes up the project for his doctoral degree. Pray that all will go well, and that he will be able to graduate in December.
3. Pray for our family as we wrap up our commitments here in Brazil and prepare to transition to some much needed time in the United States!