May 31, 2004
On the right side of this blog, I have added a section showing some of the weblogs I read on a regular basis. Many of them are friends of mine, and some of them have linked this blog. All of them have been edifying to me in one way or another.
I will give each one of them a short introduction here:
World Magazine Blog is a great source for current events presented with a Christian world view.
Izzit: A Blog is the weblog of my friend and missionary kindred spirit, Kevin Davis.
Mission Safari is the online journal of another missionary on deputation. It has been a tremendous source of inspiration to me.
Every Tomorrow gives updates from the life of Nikkianna, a Christian girl from New England. You can count on her for good observations and insights.
Faith Gambler is a guy who takes his Christian walk seriously, and uses the brain God gave him. You owe it to yourself to check out his blog.
The Thoughts of Joseph Comings is just that. Oh, and Joseph is my youngest bro.
LOTR Fanatic is a guy we know from ministry at camp. Guess what his favorite movie is.
The Chairman holds forth here, where Machiavellian principles are ruthlessly applied.
Irene Q is the reigning queen of all Christian bloggers. Once you visit her site, you will know why.
Pensamentos Perdidos is an excellent Brazilian blog. I go there for a different perspective, and am never disappointed.
I was going to add something here about not being responsible for the content of the individual weblogs, but I really don't think I need to do that.
What I Should Have Said
The other day I pulled into my parents' driveway, and was immediately accosted by a fresh-faced college student who wanted a moment of my time. As I listened, he proceeded to inform me of a national emergency that was going on right under our noses. It seems that factories are putting mercury directly into our drinking water, and the effect it is having on unborn children is just awful. Would I please sign up (at this point he handed his clipboard and pen to me) and contribute to end this terrible tragedy.
Now, I have to tell you, I am not in favor of dumping mercury directly into the water supply. Whoever is doing this (if they are doing it) cannot be the brightest person around. I was also impressed by the obvious fervor the young man displayed in pursuing his cause. He was obviously very passionate, and no doubt will have the drive to do many great things in his life.
I would have loved to stay and talk with him, but I was in a hurry, and so I gave him as gentle a brush-off as I could, and sent him on his way--clipboard unsigned.
Upon further reflection, I should have said the following: I admire your concern for the unborn. What would you say if I told you that there is an industry that makes it's money by sticking a vacuum hose with a blade attached into the uterus of a pregnant woman, and simultaneously sucking and dismembering the baby inside?
What would you say if I also told you that most of these babies die in such a horrible way either for economic or cosmetic reasons? Which would you say is more of a threat to the unborn: the alleged spilling of chemicals into the water supply, or the systematic genocide practiced by this particular industry?
Of course I am referring to the abortion industry. I wish I had another chance to ask that question. Perhaps I will.
May 29, 2004
The French Are At It Again
I included this story in a recent prayer letter, but I thought I should include it here as well.
It seems as if the descendants of one of the designers of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro are suing for authors rights to the statue. This would include royalties from any and all souvenir sales having to do with the statues...a formidable amount.
You can read the full story here.
All of this makes me wonder: didn't the French design the Statue of Liberty as well?
May 27, 2004
Missions Boot Camps in Brazil
Just received an article from Mission News Network which demonstrates the growing interest among Brazilian believers for world missions. I personally believe we need to see more ministries like the one mentioned in this article in our own Independent Baptist movement in Brazil.
May 26, 2004
Just wanted to let everybody know that I am married to absolutely the most beautiful woman in the world. In case there were any doubts.
May 24, 2004
The Effect of Sundays
Sundays wipe me out.
Last night we got home at around 8 pm (relatively early). This morning I took Itacyara to her first full day of work at McDonalds, and then went to a meeting at a local coffee house with a couple of friends. I returned home at about 11, and plopped down on a cushion in the den.
My brother Joe and a friend were noisily playing a video games right next to where I was lying. Mikey was running around constantly and making his share of noise. Yet, in spite of all this, I slept soundly for about two hours.
Sundays wipe me out.
I'm not sure if it is the emotional drain of preaching, teaching, and pouring my heart out about our burden for Brazil, or whether it is the physical exhaustion of early mornings and late nights. It is probably a combination of both.
Sundays wipe me out.
So, if you want to pray for me, pray especially hard on Monday.
The Brazilian System
This Brazilian cartoonist has his culture pegged:
May 23, 2004
A Mikey Moment
The other day I was taking Itacyara to work, and I made some "smart" comment that resulted in her giving me a playful slap on the shoulder.
From the back of the car came Mikey's voice: "Mommy, don't hit!"
We both turned around to find Mikey glaring sternly at his mother from his car seat.
"Understand, Mommy?" he continued. "Don't hit Daddy!"
At least we know he has been listening!
May 21, 2004
Updates from Brazil
Here are some of the recent news items from Brazil, along with links where more detailed information can be found:
The Real has fallen dramatically against the dollar in the last couple of weeks.
France, which beat Brazil in the 1998 World Cup final, was only able to beat them to a draw today.
Rio de Janeiro was passed over as a possible host for the 2012 Olympic games, due to the current violence that engulfs the city.
Brazil has approved the sending of 1200 troops to Haiti to lead a UN force which will try to restore order to that country.
President Lula is dealing with the fallout from his expulsion of a New York Times reporter from Brazil.
May 20, 2004
New Pics Posted
A New Phase
Tomorrow, my lovely wife, Itacyara, will begin working at McDonalds. She will be working mornings, and I will be working (at the same McDonalds) in the evenings. This will allow one of us to be with Mikey at all times.
I am not too enthused about this idea, but it appears to be dictated by our financial situation at present. On the bright side, Itá has been feeling cooped up at home, so this will give her a chance to spread her wings a little.
Tomorrow is orientation, which, if it has not changed significantly, will consist mainly of watching videos. Her regular shifts will begin next week.
In other related news, I have taken the step-o-meter challenge offered at whatintarnation. For those who may be un-aware, a step-o-meter is a type of pedometer being offered in the new "adult" happy meal--or "Go Active" meal. This is aimed at providing the customer with a healthier McDonalds experience.
So, tomorrow I will record the number of steps I take during the work day. Should be revealing.
May 19, 2004
This is just a shameless plug for the online Bible program I use: e-sword. I have found it to be quite versatile, user-friendly, and comprehensive. It is also FREE!
Check it out.
Thank You Cross Seekers
Last week the Cross Seekers, college and career ministry of Fellowship Baptist
Church, held a garage sale to raise money for our recent purchase of a new laptop. Our heartfelt thanks go to all who participated. Pictures of the event can be seen here.
May 18, 2004
Quick Word from the Field
Just got word from São Luís that one of the congregations there is on the verge of organizing into a local church. This will make two of our independent, fundamental Baptist churches in the state of Maranhão. Of course, with over five million people, there is still room for more!
When Itá and I were in São Luís in April, I had the opportunity to preach at that congregation. It was wonderful to see the enthusiasm and optimism of youth, as they excitedly told about the projects in which they were engaged.
We are so looking forward to getting back there and getting to work!
The Holy War
Have just started re-reading The Holy War by John Bunyan. I had forgotten how rich in imagery it was, as well as perceptive as to the inner workings of the human heart.
May 14, 2004
My Son Asks the Tough Questions
We have been working with our two-year-old, Michael, on basic knowledge of God.
Today he came up to his mother and asked: "Mommy, who made the Moon?"
"Who made the Moon, Mikey?" she asked (this is a whole conversational method my son has invented, whereby he asks us the question he wants us to ask him).
"God made the moon." was his reply. "Who made the Sun?"
"Who made the Sun, Mikey?"
"God made the Sun. Who made airplanes?"
We should have known this question would come up. Mikey has been absolutely obsessed with airplanes since our March trip to Brazil. We should have been prepared for the inevitable.
Now we have to try to decide: do we raise him believing in the Wright Brothers, or Santos Dumont? Or, do we teach him both and let him decide when he gets older? How do we know he will make the Wright (oops, I mean "right") decision?
I can't seem to find any parenting guides that deal specifically with the "who invented the airplane?" question, so I guess we are just going to have to wing it.
May 12, 2004
The Travelogue Is Up
Finally, the travelogue of our trip to Brazil is up and running. There will probably be more pictures to come later. Enjoy.
In the ongoing saga of the New York Times article which accused the Brazilian president of being an alcoholic, the Brazilian government has revoked the visa of the author, effectively kicking him out of the country.
I am truly divided as to my opinion on this event.
On the one hand, it is truly a slap in the face to the freedom of press, and an American has been kicked out of Brazil. I am offended by that.
On the other hand, he was a Times reporter! Part of me is saying to President Lula, "You go boy!"
Of course, I regularly peruse Brazilian news sites, and see all manner of strange accusations against Bush...
May 11, 2004
An American Teen in Brazil
When we went to Brazil in March, we took with us my brother Daniel and his wife Emily, and also a teen from our church--Shanna Riddle. They helped us for put on a week-long program for the Missionary Kids during a Baptist Mid-Missions conference there.
I recently asked Shanna to write for us a summary of her time in Brazil, giving her impressions and thoughts about her trip. I want to share with you what she wrote:
May 10, 2004
Meanwhile in Brazil...
Brazil's alcoholism problem is making international news. In a piece entitled Brazilian Leader's Tippling Becomes National Concern, New York Times writer Larry Rohter attempts to pin the current difficulties of Brazilian president Lula on his prolific drinking.
In recent months, Mr. da Silva's left-leaning government has been assailed by one crisis after another, ranging from a corruption scandal to the failure of crucial social programs. The president has often stayed out of the public eye and left his advisers to do most of the heavy lifting. That has spurred speculation that his apparent disengagement and passivity may somehow be related to his appetite for alcohol.
The Brazilian Government has been quick to reply. I have reprinted their official statement in full:
The Brazilian government was overcome by a sense of profound indignation as a result of the calumnious article on President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in The New York Times. The reporter of this prestigious newspaper simply invented a "national concern" regarding presidential habits that turned out to be a pile of offensive and prejudiced affirmations against the leader of Brazil. Most of the information is based on obscure sources, which are simply unreliable.
The final result is an example of the worst possible kind of yellow journalism. We were surprised to see this type of thing in The New York Times; it has no factual basis and infringes upon the most elementary norms of journalistic ethics.
The Brazilian ambassador in Washington has received instructions to contact the newspaper and transmit the Brazilian government's indignation and surprise at allowing such gratuitous insults to be directed at the President of Brazil.
President Lula exercises the duties of his office with total responsibility and dedication. His work day is more than 12 hours long, which is easy to prove just by talking to anyone who works with him, including journalists who work at the Palácio do Planalto.
The president personally oversees the government's principal programs and, of course, makes all the most important executive branch decisions. The whole country is a witness to the high level of responsibility and seriousness that the Lula administration has dedicated to dealing with the difficult problems that face the country since taking office a year and four months ago.
The President's social habits are moderate and no different from those of the average Brazilian. The only explanation for the article's attempt to create doubts regarding President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's profound commitment to the country's institutions and his credibility is prejudice and lack of ethics.
The Brazilian government is studying legal recourse to defend the honor of the president of Brazil and the country's image abroad.
Brasília, May 9, 2004
As no great fan of the American press, I can certainly identify with the indignation felt by the Brazilian government. I also know, however, that alcoholism epidemic in Brazil. If the president does have a problem in this area, perhaps the best thing for him to do would be to admit it, and then say "we as a nation are going to beat this thing together."
Of special interest to those of you praying for our ministry, I just received word that we have another $100 per month of support. This takes us (by my un-official calculations) to 38.4%!
Yo Yo Goes Brazilian
My mother recently gave me a CD by Yo Yo Ma called Obrigado, Brazil. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in Brazilian music. In the CD, Mr. Ma (now that just looks funny) invites a group of Brazilian musicians to help him interpret some of that country's best music. They do an admirable job. Particularly well-done is their interpretation of Brasileirinho by Waldir Azevedo.
May 5, 2004
Oh Yeah, Almost Forgot...
Happy Cinco de Mayo. Whew! Almost missed it.
Breaking News from Brazil
Apparently, the violence in Rio has reached the point where the Brazilian army will have to intervene.
This article comes from Reuters:
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the Brazilian president, will send troops to patrol the streets of Rio de Janeiro after pleas by Rio politicians for help to fight slum drug lords armed with assault rifles and grenades, an official said today.
Around 5 600 troops are ready to go to Rio, although there is not yet a final decision on how many will be used in the operation to help out-gunned police in Brazil's second-largest city, a spokesperson at the defense ministry said.
Rosinha Matheus, the governor, last month asked Brazil's government for 4 000 troops to help police in Rio's hillside Rocinha slum. Clashes between drug gangs, whose arsenals include rocket launchers, mines and grenades, killed at least 12 people in April.
The deployment of the troops would be the first time soldiers have been sent to Brazil's tourist mecca to help in the day-to-day fight against crime rather than to ensure safety during specific events. Troops were sent for the city's 2003 Carnival and for the 2002 presidential election.
The Need is Great
Just got Mark and Linda Willson's prayer letter. I was surprised to find out that we were mentioned:
Finally, we would like to ask prayer for ANDREW AND ITACYARA COMINGS. They are raising support to work in Brazil. Their first term will spent at the Cariri BBC, working with the students’ weekend ministries in Practical Christian Work department. They currently have 36% of their projected support. Please pray that the Lord will take them to the field by the end of this year, if it is His will. The need is very great.
We were just at the seminary a few weeks ago, and can attest that they are woefully understaffed. Sometimes it is frustrating to me that I am here and they are there. Please pray that God would send us there...and soon!
Christianity vs. Other Religions
Last night I read the following in the book An Intrusive Gospel? by C. Norman Kraus:
There may be human and religious values in cultures outside the historical biblical tradition that excel those of our own Western expressions. For example, we appreciate the Inuit spiritual sensitivity to nature, the Coptic respect for dignity and form in worship, the Islamic reverence for divine covenant law, the Buddhist regard for the wholeness of the cosmic order of which the individual is simply a part, and the traditional African respect for family continuity through the generations.
Now, the point he is trying to make is that our Western culture does not have a corner on the Gospel. In fact, at one point he cites the following incident:
As recent as the 1980s a missionary scholar in Japan insisted that Christianity's initial movement westward instead of eastward was a special leading of the Spirit that worked to preserved eh purity of the biblical message. He virtually equated conservative Protestantism of the nineteenth century with the biblical norm.
While I can see the validity of making sure we remove our Western prejudices from the preaching of the Gospel, do we need to go so far as to "appreciate" things we find in false religions?
This sounds like a discussion for the forum.
May 4, 2004
An Intrusive Gospel?
I am currently reading the book An Intrusive Gospel? by C. Norman Kraus. It is about "Christian missions in the post-modern world".
I am finding it to be very engaging reading. In the first chapter (which I am still reading) the author makes the following observation:
The great missionary movement of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries...was the historical counterpart of Western modernization, and the gospel we have preached from our position of power has contained more promise of upward mobility through technology and democracy than we may have intended.
This brings up some interesting questions. To what extent does the Gospel transform culture? How can missionaries avoid preaching "upward mobility"?
(I think I will start a discussion about this at the forum)
May 3, 2004
A Cultural Note
Jonathan Hutchins is a friend of mine who is currently serving in Porto Alegre, Brazil. He and his wife arrived there not too long ago, and are going through language training. He has given me permission to post some observations he made in a recent prayer letter.
Thirty two degrees beneath the equator in April means the commencement of fall and winter here in Brazil. Is it cold? Yes, it is actually quit chilly at night. Not only have we prayed for rain and seen it come, but the Lord sent one of Brazil’s first Hurricanes which touched down a few hours north of us. Some perished and homes were destroyed because there was no way to warn the people of its arrival.
There are many Brazilian proverbs, but one states, “Água mole em pedra dura, tanto bate até que fura.” Which being interpreted, “Soft water dripping constantly on hard rock will pierce a large hole.” We are understanding this maxim in our language study. Language is a habit not a science. Our professors say, “Stop asking why and just mimic, it will make sense later!” So, we do lots of mimicking every day in hopes of creating good language habits. Mr. Ho, one of our language teachers has been to church on several occasions, we have given him the gospel. Please continue to pray for his eyes to be opened to truth.
In Brazil when a guest is ready to leave your home he will never open the door himself. He will stand at the door and patiently wait until you let him out. Most meals begin around 8:00 p.m. so having guests over always means a late evening.
I promised some more details about our trip, so here they are.
On Thursday, I took my car in because it had developed a whine in the engine. The mechanic informed me at that point that the whine in the engine was the least of my troubles. My breaks were metal-on-metal. Shot. Useless. I do not know how I had been stopping the car up to that point (other than the grace of God!), but they definitely needed to be fixed.
The mechanic is a Christian, and when he found out that we were going north for deputation purposes the next day, he arranged things so my car would be ready by 8:30 on Friday morning.
The next day I returned for the car. The bill was close to $300.00, but I did not have to pay a cent!!! God provided in an unexpected way (I am not sure yet how) to pay for all the repairs!
We ended up leaving Lakeland at about noon. This was much later than I wanted to leave. Normally have done the trip in three days instead of two. However, we had an engagement on Sunday morning. God was very gracious to us, allowing us to make good time, keeping us safe, and keeping the car intact. We arrived in NY at about 8 pm Saturday night.
After excellent services in Camden, NY on Sunday, we arrived at my folks' house Sunday afternoon.
Praise God for His faithfulness and protection.
May 1, 2004
Back in NY
Just a note to let everybody know that we are back in New York. We arrived without incident earlier this evening. I will post more details of the trip eventually (God worked in some wonderful ways!), but now I am going to bed.