October 22, 2015

A Glad Heart

Since arriving here in São Luís and being involved in church planting, I have pretty much retired from the puppetry scene. However, the work we did with puppets in the Cariri continues to bear fruit. Today I got word from two young ladies who participated in the "Amiguinhos de Jesus" ministry who last week used their "mad skilz" in a VBS in their local church.

This inspired today's #throwbackthursday post, which I am reproducing here:

#tbt #throwbackthursday Back in the day, these two young ladies participated in our #puppet ministry at the #seminariobatistadocariri . Today, they sent word of their own puppet ministry in the state of Bahia. Very cool!

A photo posted by Andrew Comings (@andrewcomings) on

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Further Adventures of Missionary Max: No Sacrifice to Great

Chapter 13 of the second Missionary Max book. You can read the previous chapter here.

The first thing Max noticed was the dull ache in his head, accompanied by an incessant pounding. He was lying on his back, and whatever he was lying on was not comfortable. He tried to move, but couldn’t seem to get his arms or legs to cooperate.

Slowly he opened his eyes. The light assaulted him, and he closed them again, quickly. The pounding in his head was surprisingly rhythmic. Opening his eyes again--slowly this time--he found himself looking at the open sky. Turning his head slowly to the side and squinting, he saw that the pounding was far more than a sensation in his head: it emanated from dozens of drums being beaten by feather-plumed warriors.

As his eyes began to focus, he saw that he was in a sort of courtyard, bordered by a low stone wall. Turning his head the other direction he saw that he was at lying at the foot of a pyramid-shaped tower with a stone staircase running up the middle. The tower was built into the side of a cliff, which itself formed part of the volcanic wall that surrounded the center of the island. At the top of the tower a gaping hole led straight into the cliff. To Max it looked like someone had transplanted a temple from one of the Aztec ruins it into the rock face of the cliff, leaving only the front half visible. There were openings in the rock wall on either side of the temple and Max could only guess at the labyrinth of tunnels that ran back behind it. It wasn’t hard to imagine that one of them led back to the arrow-filled skeletons he had seen earlier.

Max’s still-groggy brain recognized the genius of the city’s location. The tower commanded a view of most of the volcanic basin, leaving an enemy no choice but to try to approach it from behind. Yet the rock face actually leaned forward and overshadowed the apex of the tower, making it impossible to reach from above. Max imagined that the whole city could take refuge in the tunnels, and, with innumerable openings around the island, surprise counter-attacks could be mounted from any point, at any time. The outcropping would also have the effect--unforeseen by the original builders--of shielding the structure from the view of airplanes and satellite cameras.

There was no doubt in Max’s mind that he had been brought to Ichi Kahn, the ancient sacred city of the Yamani and current home of the Shadow People.

Except the people around him were no shadows. With some effort, Max turned his head back towards the drummers. They stood in a semi-circle around him, festooned with bright feathers and beating out in unison their slow, throbbing, hypnotic rhythm. Behind them, Max could see that the courtyard was filled with people. Men, women and children--it seemed the whole city of Ichi Kahn had turned out for his this spectacle.

From what he could tell, Max was on a raised dais, lying on a pile of furs. His hands and feet were tightly bound. He was in the process of trying to figure out if there was any slack to the ropes when a shadow fell over him. He looked up and saw three figures--two of them very familiar. The dull roar of the crowd died down immediately upon their arrival.

“I hope you are enjoying your stay on Esmeralda Island.” The oily voice could belong to none other than Diego, the prison guard turned lackey of Emídio Santana. Cascavel, who had spent more than his share of time in prison, once told Max that guards and prisoners alike referred to Diego as o Diabo--the Devil. Certainly this name had not been given to him for his pleasant disposition.

Max had last seen Diego on the tarmac of the Santo Expedito International Airport. Diego had been preparing to shoot Max--and would probably have succeeded had not a distraught Cascavel hit him with a flying tackle.

As Max lay there, he noticed that Diego looked a little worse for wear. His once pristine army uniform now had a rather bedraggled aspect. His face, which usually sported a thin, well-trimmed mustache, now featured a scraggly five o’clock shadow. And those small, cruel black eyes had taken on a wild--some would say crazy--look.

To Diego’s right stood another familiar figure--this one as rotund as Diego was thin. It was Owanalehe, the corpulent witch doctor who, at Diego’s urging, had instigated the entire Yamani gathering to try to make Max and Ilana their midnight snack. When he saw Max looking at him now, Owanalehe gave a broad smile revealing several spaces where teeth should have been. Obviously he was relishing Max’s current predicament.

To Diego’s left stood someone Max had never seen before. Had it not been for her feathery native gown--which she wore with regal aplomb--the young woman before him would have been totally out of place in that setting. Her skin was fair, her eyes bright green. Her face had a generous smattering of freckles and her hair was a flaming red that made Max’s own carrot-top seem dull brown by comparison. And despite whatever pretenses the other two might have, she was obviously the one in charge.

She stood there, ramrod straight, eyeing Max with an aloof sort of curiosity. Diego was speaking again:

“You are in Ichi Kahn, my friend. It’s an amazing place, really. The People of the Shadows came here to escape the wars of the Yamani, and set up housekeeping where their ancestors had left off millennia ago. It’s fascinating, and I would give you a guided tour, but I’m afraid there won’t be time for that. You see, in just a few hours, you, Missionary Max, are going to participate in a different kind of religious service. Don’t worry, no need to prepare a homily. You see, you’re not going to be behind the altar. You’re going to be on it.” Clearly pleased with his little speech, he swept his hand dramatically towards the apex of the pyramid, where a stone altar was visible.

Max knew that showing fear here would be just what Diego wanted. So instead he gave him a warm smile, ignoring the pain of the ropes cutting into his wrists and ankles. “Diego, or should I say Diabo, always a pleasure! I haven’t seen you since...let’s see...I think it was back there on the runway, wasn’t it?”

Diego smiled thinly at this reference to their last meeting. Then he turned and said something to the woman beside him. Max didn’t understand it, but whatever he said, it had its desired effect. Her expression changed to one of righteous indignation. With quick, determined steps she strode over to him, balled her hand into a fist, brought her arm back, and punched him right between the eyes.

Just before the darkness overtook him once again, he noticed a heart-shaped gold pendant swinging from her neck, with the word “Amanda” engraved across the front.

* * *

Regina Sherman had found the Greensborough Construction Company with no problem, though, arriving as she did as dusk was setting in, the gates were closed and padlocked.

Not to be deterred, she remembered that Max had “gotten religion” while living in the small upstate town. With that in mind, she began to cruise the snowy streets, looking for churches. Her GPS showed an avenue marked “Church Street”. She figured that would be a good place to start, and as she turned the corner, she saw she was right. Five grand old stone churches lined one side of the road.

Her first stop had been at the large Catholic church--by far the grandest and the oldest in the line. The priest there professed no knowledge of a Maxwell Sherman, but asked if she would like to take confession while she was there. She mumbled something about having thoughts of murder, and went back out to her car.

The Methodist and Episcopalian churches were empty. She opened the door of the Unitarian church only to see a group of middle-aged women sitting around a candle and intoning some monosyllabic chant. She couldn’t begin to imagine her Max involved in anything even remotely resembling that, so she turned around and quietly closed the door behind her.

The Baptist minister regretfully informed her that he too had no knowledge of Max, but then, just as Regina was about to return to her car, he stopped her.

“There’s a Community Church on the outskirts of town. It’s an old white clapboard building. The pastor is a friend of mine, and he really seems to click with the younger guys. Perhaps you should try there.”

Regina thanked him, got directions, went back to the Bentley. As she pulled onto the road the snow ban to fall more thickly, and in large, wet flakes. Ignoring the weather conditions, she gunned the motor and pulled out onto the road.

As she approached the perimeter of the little town, the houses and business establishments began to thin out--being replaced by little dairy farms, their pastures and cornfields covered with an ever increasing layer of white.

Looking at her GPS, Regina saw she was almost at the place where the Baptist minister had told her to make a left turn. When she looked back in front of her she had to stomp on the brake hard in order not to hit the cow standing directly in her path.

The tires of the British luxury vehicle spun as if desperately searching for a foothold on the icy pavement. The car twirled around two or three times before plowing into a snow bank.

Heart pounding, fingers white against the steering while, Regina sat there, stunned. The motor had stalled, so she turned the key in the ignition and was relieved when it roared to life. But getting out of the snow bank was not going to be so easy. She put the car in reverse and gunned it, but the more the wheels spun, the deeper she sunk into the fluffy white snow. After about five minutes of trying, she gave up.

For the first time since she could remember, Regina Sherman was completely helpless. Her cell phone sat on the seat beside her, but who could she call? All the people who were usually at her beck and call--falling over themselves to do her bidding--now worked for someone else, someone who would have no inclination whatsoever to help her. In fact, she imagined that George Santana would get a perverse satisfaction were he to learn of her predicament.

And she knew nobody in this town. All her planning, all her strategizing, all her cool calculations...all for naught. Regina placed her head in her hands and, for the first time in years--indeed, for the first time since the death of her husband--she cried.

She cried, and then she prayed. She had no idea who she was talking to, or how to go about it. She simply cried out in agony and despair.

“God, whoever you are, wherever you are...help me!”

There were other words that got lost in the sobs, but they all held the same sense of utter helplessness.

A sharp rap on her window interrupted her prayers. She looked up to see a youngish man peering in at her. He wore a green winter cap, and a friendly smile. She lowered the window.

“Looks like you could use some help, ma’am.”

“Yes...please...” was all she could manage. He couldn’t help but notice the streaks on her face left by the tears.

“Well, you just wait right there, and I’ll have you pulled out in a jiffy.” He motioned behind him to his Ford pickup truck. “Then you can come over to the house and my wife, Anne, will fix you up a nice cup of hot chocolate.”

“Thanks,” she replied simply. Then, “My name is Regina.”

The man smiled even more broadly and stuck a gloved hand through the window. “Howdy! Folks around here call me Pastor Dave.”

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Musical Interlude: Day by Day

I posted this everywhere when it dropped, but just realized that I never posted it here on the blog.

For my parents' anniversary this year, my brothers and I put together this arrangement of their favorite hymn, Day by Day. Enjoy.

And, of course, the blooper reel:

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October 11, 2015

Children's Day, 2015

Here are some random pictures of yesterday's Children's Day event at Ebenezer:

Children's day, 2015

Children's day, 2015

Children's day, 2015

Children's day, 2015

Children's day, 2015

Children's day, 2015

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October 9, 2015

IBRE Conference, 2015

With the lofty theme "Post Tenebras Lux" (After darkness, light), the Ebenezer church realized its third annual conference. Pastor Richard C. PIatt II, of our sending church in Lakeland, Florida, brought messages that focused on the five "solas" of the reformation and applied them to our everyday lives.


Pastor Piatt speaking, and "yours truly" translating.

In order to fit in all the messages, we began the conference on Friday night--something new for our churches here in Maranhão. On Saturday night, we broke a record for attendance, conference or otherwise, as around 200 people crowded into our little space.


The crowd in the main area.



Another blessing on Saturday was a pastors' breakfast, where Dr. Piatt was able to hear from our local pastors about their challenges in ministry, and share some of his own experiences with them.


Pastors' breakfast

On Sunday we began the day with a baptism and then had two sessions to finish up the "five solas" theme. At the end of the evening we took a group photo.


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