March 4, 2015

New Blueprints for the Ebenézer Congregation

For those who are just joining us, a quick recap of events:

*Over two years ago, the Ebenézer congregation acquired a 10x10 meter lot on which to build a sanctuary.

*Though smaller than we had hoped, we were told that the surrounding properties were not for sale, so...

*We got to work clearing the land and hiring and architect to come up with a design.

*When we took said design to city hall for approval, we discovered that it was not workable due to empty space the city requires each building to have. This would have left us with a space too small for a church building.

*As we cast about for solutions, one of the properties adjacent to ours--previously "not for sale at any price"--suddenly came up for sale, for a very reasonable price.

*God allowed us to purchase the additional property, doubling the size of our holdings to 20x20 meters.

This brings us up to now. Last week we hired a tractor to come in and clear out the land once again.

And last week we met with the architect, who showed us the new design, which now includes an "education wing" and a parsonage.

Front of the complex. Sanctuary is on the left, educational wing and parsonage on the right.

"Bem vindos à Igreja Batista Regular Ebenézer!"

Sanctuary, with the podium on the right, and stairway leading up to the balcony on the right.

Balcony.

Bird's-eye view of the balcony.

Bird's eye view of the sanctuary.


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February 25, 2015

Musical Interlude: Luiz de Carvalho and his daughter Priscila sing "Is Your All on the Altar"

Posting has been light of late, due to a deluge of activities, as well as some issues we have been asked to deal with here. More on those in upcoming posts.

For now, enjoy this beautiful hymn, sung in Portuguese by well-known Brazilian gospel singer Luiz Carvalho, accompanied by his daughter (?) Priscila.

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February 3, 2015

Further Adventures of Missionary Max: When in Doubt, Listen to the Guys with the Uzis

Chapter 7 of the second Missionary Max book. You can read the previous chapter here, and buy the first book here.

Despite his irritation at not being allowed to go to Emerald Island with the others, Raymond Sand was taking his “home guard” assignment seriously. After dropping Max, Ilana, and Mary Sue off at the beach, his first stop had been the home of Cascavel--the street thug-turned-believer in Christ who had become a sort of right-hand man to Ray. Even if Ray did not share Cascavel’s newfound faith, they both shared an intense loyalty to Missionary Max.

The older man had filled his wiry little friend in on the details of what was happening. Cascavel had been at the church service when the Yamani warriors showed up, so he was not too surprised. Like Ray, however, he was a little put-out that he had not been invited to go along. Ray managed to assuage his feelings by telling him that Missionary Max would greatly appreciate his work “behind the scenes.”

Together, the two had decided that a wise course of action would be to call on their friend James Rockwell, manager of the Cabritan branch of the Sherman Pharmaceutical Group, Incorporated. Because the CEO of SPGI was Max’s mother, James was especially concerned with his well-being. In addition, he moved in high circles on Cabrito, and might have some sort of idea as to what was behind the recent unrest among the Yamani. At the very least he would be able to snoop around and get back to them.

As they pulled up to the SPGI building they noticed a large podium set up, and a crowd beginning to form. Soldiers were posted at either end of the platform. Then Ray saw the sign.

“This can’t be good,” he growled. He parked the Volkswagen and he and Cascavel casually walked toward the edge of the crowd.

Soon they saw President Ferraz approach the podium. Behind him Ray could see Emídio Santana sitting with a group of dignitaries. Ferraz began to read from a prepared speech.

“Fellow citizens of Cabrito. It is with great pride that I present to you the People’s Pharmaceutical Company--owned and operated by the people of Cabrito!”

He paused, and after a moment’s hesitation the crowd obliged with a smattering of applause.

“We were saddened to learn of the many abuses of SPGI--crimes against the citizens of this fair island. For this reason, we ordered our brave army to invade these premises--which they did, at great risk to themselves.”

“Yeah, I bet that little bald guy in the office put up a big fight,” Ray muttered.

“And now this factory, with all its installations, belongs to the people of Cabrito. I would like to personally thank our very own Emídio Santana, who has generously, and at his own expense, made it possible for operations to continue as usual.”

More less-than-spontaneous applause, and Santana stood to acknowledge the crowd. President Ferraz stepped to one side, and Santana approached the podium.

There was a tugging at Ray’s sleeve. It was Cascavel. “Senhor Raimundo, I think maybe we should leave before we get seen by somebody who recognizes us, no?” He jerked his head to where Emídio Santana was beginning his remarks.

Ray agreed, and they made their way to the parked taxi and headed back towards Ray’s place.

As Ray drove, he tried to piece together what was happening. Why this sudden hostile takeover of SPGI? How did they expect to get away with it without incurring the wrath of the formidable Regina Sherman? Ray’s one encounter with Max’s mother on the runway had left him with the distinct impression that she was no woman to be trifled with.

Even more importantly, did this have anything to do with the recent happenings on Emerald Island? The events were too close together to be dismissed out of hand as mere coincidence.

They would still need to talk to James, Ray decided, but for now thing to do was to radio Max and fill him in on these surprising developments. Perhaps Ilana would have some idea as to what was going on--although Ray was sure that if his daughter knew anything about it, she would have told him long ago.

Ray rounded the bend in the dirt road that led to his farm, and put on the brakes so hard Cascavel found himself scrunched up against the windshield. Grumbling something about crazy American drivers he regained his seat, and then looked over at Ray.

“Cascavel,” Ray said quietly. “Don’t make any sudden moves.”

Cascavel followed the older man’s gaze and froze. There, standing in the road in front of them, were two very large men. There was no way to continue without going over or through them--and the Uzi’s they were both carrying made that an unattractive option.

“Raimundo, I...”

“Shut up!” Ray hissed.

“But Raimundo, you don’t...”

Ray turned quickly to Cascavel. “If you don’t shut your can I will kill you before those two get the chance,” he hissed.

Cascavel shut his can.

The two men approached the little Volkswagen. “Can I help you gentlemen?” Ray asked, rolling down his window as they approached and trying to sound casual. The two men said nothing. Instead they went to opposite sides of the car and opened the back doors.

“Well,” said Ray affably. “This is technically a taxi, but I’m afraid my meter isn’t running right now...” He glanced in the rear-view mirror and saw the Uzis rested casually on the two men’s laps. They were standard edition, and Ray knew that the magazines would be loaded with 9mm cartridges. “Then again, we can always make a special run. Where to, gentlemen?”

“Drive east,” was the reply.

“Right, east,” echoed the other.

“Listen to me Raimundo!” Cascavel pleaded in a low whisper. “I know these guys. They threatened to kill me once.

“What? When?”

“On the day I was waiting outside your house to...er...kill you.”

“So...if they were threatening you back when you were a bad guy, that must mean...”

“It means we’re the good guys,” completed one of the large men in the back.

“Right, the good guys.” came the ubiquitous echo.

Ray was having a hard time placing the accent. It wasn’t Cabritan--but it also wasn’t straight European Portuguese either. Cape Verde and the Azores were also out, so that left...

“Now drive.” It was the first one again, interrupting Ray’s process of elimination. “Someone has some very important things to tell you.”

“Right, very important things.” repeated his partner.

Ray drove. As they bounced over dirt roads away from Santo Expedito and up the ridge that hemmed in Cabrito’s capital city, his mind worked overtime to get ahead of the situation.

Then it dawned on him. He had heard the same speech mannerisms in a thousand televised soccer games, novellas, and just about every popular song that invaded the airwaves. That accent is Brazilian. Now...where would two Brazilian toughs with Uzis be taking us?

* * *
His examination of the cave had revealed to Max that it continued a long way into the darkness. A light breeze coming from its dark recesses lead him to believe that there was some kind of opening at the other end, although he could discern no light in that direction.

The swastika-adorned, arrow-ridden skeletons interested him, and the giant coffin--if indeed that was what it was--had his curiosity up. If there had been more time he would have loved to explore further. For now, however, he needed to get back to the group. He had toyed briefly with the idea of bringing them back to the cave. At the very least it would provide them with shelter and a base of operations. Yet the gruesome fate of the German troops made him abandon that idea altogether. They would use the stairs to get to the top of the cliff, then scramble up the few remaining feet and strike off through the jungle. He knew he would feel more comfortable under the canopy of green than under who-knew-how-many feet of rock, and he was pretty sure Ilana and the Yamani warriors would feel the same way.

What will Mary Sue think of the plan? Max wondered as he carefully descended the stone steps to his canoe. And as he pushed off and began rowing with strong, even strokes, headed for the small alcove where he had left his friends, he came to the conclusion that it didn’t really matter.

After about an hour of steady rowing, he pulled his canoe up to the tiny beach where he had left his friends.

It was empty.

Max jumped out of the canoe and sprinted ashore. Arriving at where they had originally come aground, he stopped short and gasped in horror. The bodies of the three Yamani who had accompanied them were sprawled on the sand. The waves lapped around their legs, tugging gently but insistently at their feathered anklets. All three of them had been shot. Blood soaked into the beach, and small wisps of red snaked into the water.

The sight of the lifeless forms brought waves of unwelcome memories crashing down over Max. Ever since his father had died back when he was in college he had felt like death was stalking him. This had only increased during his Ranger days, where too many if his buddies--better men than he--had met untimely ends in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other, less publicized actions. In those dark days he had often wished that Death would stop it’s incessant teasing and find him as well.

Thankfully, Jesus found him first. And yet, although Christianity allowed Max to put Death into perspective, it didn’t make it any more pleasant.

With great effort Max turned away from the bodies of his Yamani companions and began looking around for clues. Getting desperate here would not help anybody. Looking at the tracks in the sand, he could easily identify Mary Sue’s tennis shoes, and the bare feet of Ilana. Intermingled with them were the prints of several boots--about eight pair, Max calculated. Something shiny caught his eye, and he bent down to pick up a spent shell casing. Max identified it as 7.62x51mm ammo, which meant that whoever these guys were, they were most likely carrying HK G36 assault rifles. Max had cross-trained with these particular weapons back in Serbia and knew power they packed.

Pocketing the shell casing, he examined the remaining tracks. He could see where the eight booted men had descended from the above, rapidly rappelling down the cliffs, taking the small party unawares. After eliminating the Yamani warriors, they had returned up the cliff, this time with the Ilana and Mary Sue. With great relief he found no evidence that either of the young women had shared the warriors’ fate.

Scanning the rock wall, Max saw something flicking in the wind about ten feet above him. He jumped up and grabbed onto a small crack in the face of the rock, pulling himself up by his hands and arms. Once he found a small toehold, he reached up with his free hand and plucked the tiny object from the rock. Max smiled grimly. It was a small shard of onça skin, and it had to have been left there on purpose.

Leave it to Ilana to keep her head in this situation.

Without a second’s hesitation Max began to climb, hand over hand, up the face of the cliff.

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January 21, 2015

Church Growth

Church growth is not just numbers. In fact, I would be so bold as to say it is not mostly numbers. Rather, it is the growth seen in the lives of those whom God has entrusted to the local church.

With this in mind, last Sunday we saw a step in church growth as Jadson gave his first devotional.

We have been watching this young man grow by leaps and bounds since his conversion two years ago. He recently took another big step by assuming the responsibility of deacon...

...effectively doubling the number of deacons in our congregation!

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Christmas Program, 2014

Another "catch-up" post before I send out a prayer letter. The following are pictures of our Christmas program, which, as always, has a missionary theme.


The children prepare for their special number.


The instrumentalists practice Christmas carols.


Jadson (our newest deacon) sets up the lighting.


Michael warms up the bass.


Pastor André welcomes the visitors.


Michael and Francivaldo shredding some Christmas tunes.


Crizelite shares her burden for the people of Bolivia.


Pastor Andrew and the deacons present Crizelite with an offering that the church has been collecting all year.


The Christmas banquet awaits!


Food and fellowship, two of the most important Baptist distinctives.

The pictures were taken using Instagram. Check out our account here.

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