July 30, 2004
For the past few days, spam comments have been the bane of my existence at this blog. So, I am instituting comment approval, whereby no comments are posted to the site without my permission. The problem is not with people who read my site and make a comment, but with spammers who find my site and hit me with over 600 messages, each one providing a link to something nasty.
So today, I am laying down some smack. Hopefully in the next couple of weeks MT Blacklist will be in place, and I will be able to remove the approval system. But for now, this is the way I have to go.
Thank you for your comprehension.
July 29, 2004
Reach Out and Touch...
Today I called 21 pastors, and confirmed one meeting. For me, contacting pastors I do not know and asking them to invite us to speak in their churches is WAY out of my comfort zone. But I will do it, because the ministry is worth it. If our vision for Brazil is ever going to be a reality, this must be done.
The guestmap is going great guns, with 24 signatures from four different continents. If you have not signed it, feel free to do so at any time.
July 28, 2004
Some of you may remember me mentioning Shanna Riddle, the high-school senior who went to Brazil with us last Spring. Shanna has her own weblog, which I have linked permanently at the sidebar. We are excited about what God is doing in her life. Take a moment to go and post an encouraging note there.
Today I happened to stumble across a quality Brazilian blog. There was a great post there about getting so wrapped up in having the right doctrinal position that we forget about love. I commented on it. Imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered a few minutes later that the author of the blog had been to this blog, had read an article I wrote back in September of 2003, and had translated it into Portuguese and published it on his blog.
If you read Portuguese, be sure to check out À Procura. There are even a few entries in English.
The other day I read an article about how Google's invitation-only networking program--Orkut--has been widely used by Brazilians. I casually mentioned to a friend of mine how I would be interested in joining Orkut. As a result, I now have an Orkut account. I am doing this, not because I need to spend more time in front of the computer, but because I feel it will give me more contact with Brazilians. If you would like to join my list of friends, just send me an e-mail containing your e-mail address so I can send you an invitation.
July 27, 2004
This is a little late, but on Sunday the Brazilian soccer team captured it's seventh Copa America title against Argentina. It was a nail-biter of a game which came down to penalty kicks to break a tie. It was also an illustration of the depth of the Brazilian talent pool, because none of the big stars (Ronaldo, Rivaldo, etc.) were playing. You can read details about the game here.
July 26, 2004
More From the Leonards
We have often featured Jim and Julie Leonard in this space. They are serving at the Cariri Baptist Seminary, in Crato, Ceará (northeast Brazil). Below are portions of their most recent prayer letter, with pictures!
Dear Prayer Partners
Greetings! Among the final words spoken by our Lord Jesus during His earthly ministry we find Mark 16:15, “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” We all fall so far short of God’s ideal in preaching the gospel to every creature; but we should at least be working at sharing the gospel with those in our world.
This week has been Vacation Bible School at our church in Crato. Some 150 children from the neighborhood, over 90% of them unsaved, have been presented daily with the gospel message through song, Bible story, crafts, and the loving attention from the church folk. Joy Anna and Jennifer have worked with the church VBS team. Sunday night we will be having the closing program, and have asked the children to invite their families to come. Please pray that many of these families may be saved.
Children at VBS at the Igreja Batista da Graça in Crato
Every year in July our city hosts a week long State Agricultural Fair. Thousands of visitors come from all around Northeast Brazil to this event. This year a co-worker, John Peterson, arranged for a Gospel stand to be set up at the Fair, which has been going this week. Members from our churches in the Cariri region are manning this booth, sharing the Gospel and counseling those who show a desire to be born again. The final count is not in yet, but we already have a list with over 250 names of persons who have made decisions for Jesus Christ. We are following up on these with correspondence Bible lessons, and will try to put a local church in contact with each one of these precious persons. Please pray for these who have been presented with the gospel at the fair.
Gospel stand at the Crato State Fair
This week we have also had our annual three day conference for our State of Ceará Association of Baptist Churches. Most of the 60 organized churches in this state are being pastured by former students from the Cariri Baptist Seminary. This is a special time of fellowship, testimonies, and planning. Over the past year the churches in our state have recorded an overall increase in membership of 22%. We are, however, still concerned that our churches are only preaching the gospel in ¼ of the counties in this state. Many towns and villages still have nobody to preach the gospel. Please pray for our churches to effectively preach the gospel in the entire state of Ceará and beyond.
Welcome, Joe Missionary
I am adding Joe Missionary to the list of weblogs I heartily recommend. Let's all give him a big, Comings Communiqué welcome!
July 24, 2004
A Little Dreaming
We just got back from a week-long ministry at camp BaYouCa, immediately preceded by a week-long ministry at camp Lamoka. All this association with camps has had the inevitable effect of making me dream about possible camp ministry in Maranhão, Brazil. Bear with me as I put some of my camp dreams in writing.
My dream is for a camp somewhere in the rural area of central Maranhão, accessible, but with room to grow and expand. It would be divided into various sections, which would be connected by a system of trails, roads, and (this is really outside the box!) a small railroad or monorail.
Here is a rundown of the sections:
This would consist of a large auditorium, as well as lodging facilities capable of housing participants of a conference. I want it to be big enough to host the national association of Regular Baptist churches in Brazil, as well as local association meetings and pastor's conferences. This would make the facility of great benefit, not only for the churches in Maranhão, but also to the rest of Brazil.
A place where pastors, missionaries, and Christian workers, and their families can come to get away from the pressures of ministry. Places like this exist in the US, but I know of none that exist in Brazil (although it is possible, Brazil is a big place!).
This would be the where normal, week-long camp programs for children would be held. It would consist of cabins, a chapel, a cantina, a dining area, a pool, and other localized activities (like carpetball, to which I was introduced this week). This section of the camp would be run by a program director who would oversee a staff of counselors and support staff, similar to camps here in the US. Each day, different groups of kids could take advantage of the various facets of the Activity Center (see below).
This would be a large geographical area dedicated to various activities which could be used by various facets of the camp ministry. Below are some examples of activities I envision for this section:
obstacle courses (various difficulties)
nature building (to educate campers and visitors about surrounding flora and fauna)
An amusement park-esq section where kids can come and be kids. It would serve as an outlet for the energy of the campers (and also the children of Christian workers staying in the retreat center).
This would be a section dedicated to the training of missionaries. Brazilians (and others) could come there for training in such areas as cross cultural relations, survival, teamwork, and language. One of the major things I would like to do with the camp as a whole is encourage people from the US and elsewhere to come and participate in the camp ministry--and be challenged for foreign missions. Perhaps we could work with Bible colleges here to offer credits for the time (although one thing I do NOT want to do is start a Bible college).
Skills such as puppetry, chalk art, drama, and singing could be developed here as well.
City of Refuge
This is a little hazy in my thinking, but I would like to see a self-sufficient community where the disenfranchised of Brazilian society could come, live, and learn an occupation. It would actually be a small village where they could learn community skills, and get good, solid Bible teaching, with the goal of making them productive, Christian members of society.
This would be a place for young men to come and learn survival skills, search and rescue techniques, as well as physical and mental disciplines. Kind of a non-military basic training. This idea is also not firmly formed in my head, but I have in mind training Brazilian men to be men. The ATI ALERT program is what made me think of this...but I do not want to associate it with them or copy them.
So there you have it. That is my dream, in a nutshell. Do you think it is too big? Are you interested? Do you have any ideas? Do you want to help make it a reality? I would love to hear your thoughts.
Some Good News
Just picked up a message on my phone letting me know that another church has voted to support our ministry. I know no details yet, but will be sure to post them as soon as I do know.
Thanks to many of you who have been praying.
My Awesome Sending Church
I believe that my sending church is the best a missionary could ask for. Not only to the people give to missions and pray for missions, they also participate in missions. The following is a letter I recieved (complete with pictures) from one of our church members after a recent missions trip to Guatemala:
It took a while to get this email together with the right size photos and other surprises, but hopefully it is worth it. From June 19 through the 26th, my 18 year old son Andrew and I went to Guatemala on a missions trip with Wycliffe Associates. We flew into Guatemala City and then were driven to a town called Solola' in the mountains. Pretty much right off the bat we knew we were in a very different culture. On the way, we stopped at this place and we saw the various modes of transportation: trucks (mostly), cars, bus, and walking. Here, a guy with his cows walking next to the highway.
We arrived in the town of Solola, but we stayed at a hotel just outside of town, or more accurately, above the town. It was a beautiful place known as the "Eagle's Nest", and is run by a Christian couple. From the outside it looked like this:
We slept the nights in a room that we shared with two other men who were helping on the project. On Sunday morning, we had a stunning view from our rooms: Solola is next to Lake Atitlan, which is over 1000 feet deep, and which is surrounded by several volcanos. It has got to be one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Wow! After breakfast, we went to an evangelical church in Solola' and the service was in Spanish. The worship service was contemporary, and included some songs that members of the church wrote in praise to God (alabanzas por Dios). It was beautiful, but it was also difficult since we had to concentrate so hard to understand the message, and it was just our first full day there. I was asked to sing and play guitar for a song that I wrote (in English) as part of the church service. The people appreciated it even though very few understood the words. Here I am with the Pastor of the church - note that he is much shorter than me. Most of the people were 4.5 to 5.5 feet tall. Well, we were warmly received and it is remarkable how fellowship in Jesus Christ can transcend culture and even language. It was like we were family (and so we are).
After church we went to a neighboring town down the hill called Panhachel, situated right at the shore of the lake. We had an excellent meal there and did some shopping. Here is a shot of the market place. Note that it was common to see women balancing packages on their heads.
The Guatemalans love color. You can see that in the clothing for sale above, and certainly the clothes that they wear. We rode a public bus to the town and back, and the lady that sat in front of me had this incredible embroidery on her dress. It was commonplace for the women, and the men also dressed very colorfully.
I was also greatly impressed by their hard work and cleanliness, in spite of the obvious poverty. The men were well groomed and there were numerous barber shops in town (my Dad, a barber, would have been proud of them). Most of the work is agricultural. They grew crops anywhere and everywhere - even on incredibly steep slopes. They use terracing to grow the crops, and the fields were immaculate. Very impressive. I saw many working from sunup to sundown, and the men went to work with a hoe in one hand, and a machete in the other. Here is a typical terraced slope:
One of the amazing things was their capacity to cram into very small spaces... and not seem to mind it. The busses were stuffed until nobody else could fit into them, and I mean even the center aisle was full. Check out these trucks just loaded with people. This scene is absolutely commonplace in Solola'.
Our project was to help with finish carpentry in the new portion of the facility operated by Vina (pronounced vin-yah, meaning 'vine'). Vina is an audio/video studio, and they are tripling the size of their facilities in response to the need for their services and, I believe, the Lord's blessing on the ministry. Some of their projects include dramatized audio cassettes and CD's of the New Testament in Indian languages of Mayan descent; recording of Christian music that reflects their unique culture and is in these Mayan languages, and other special projects with churches and other ministries. Here is a shot of the hallway in the new building, before Andrew and I installed the baseboards. Each of these rooms is an office, studio, storage room, or workshop area for this ministry.
We got a lot of work done with our team, and some of the rooms were ready to be moved into after our week down there. We mostly used a chop saw to cut the baseboards, and we had to use a concrete drill to predrill the holes before nailing the baseboard to the walls, most of which were concrete block. It was tough work for several reasons (wet, bent wood being the main one), but God was good and our co-workers encouraged us. The team was led by the Halversons who are seasoned construction managers for Wycliffe.
It was not all work. Since this was a studio, I was invited by Jose' Abel de la Cruz to a recording session in the studio!! It was extremely exciting and I am also happy to report that while on the trip, I wrote a worship chorus in Spanish. Here I am in the studio on Thursday night after dinner. The next shot is Jose and his cousin, Nolo, working on mastering the song (I am looking on in amazement - these guys were REALLY good musicians and technicians).
Thanks to my webmaster, Phillip Madrid, we have a link to the song on my webpage. Note in the song that Jose' added percussion, panflute, lead guitar (Nolo playing), and other instruments. I am singing the lead and a harmony part that I made up that night! Just click the link below to listen to the song. I had a great time on the trip with my Brothers and Sisters in Christ, including my son Andrew. Before you listen, one last photo: here is a photo of our work team, taken just before we left the town. Thank you for your prayers during our trip.
July 21, 2004
Below is a portion of a letter from Lamoka Baptist Camp, reporting on our Junior High camp last week:
Dear Praying Friends: We appreciate you so much. Thank you for your continued prayer and financial support! Thanks to the many who have sent words of encouragement via the e-mail and website. www.lamoka.com Junior High I Week was another great week. Joseph Comings ran the program and Andrew Comings was the speaker. Andrew gave some excellent challenges concerning our quest to be Christ-like. Needless to say there were some great--life changing decisions made by campers and staff. In spite of some very nasty weather on Wednesday the campers had positive attitudes and were successful at having great fun. As a staff we had some specific things that we prayed about and we saw God answer our prayers in very significant ways. It was awesome to see the power of prayer at work. 1.) We prayed that the weather would hold good for Thursday and Friday and it did. 2.) We only had 38 camper's registered for the week--we prayed for 60, and ended up with 65! 3.) We prayed specifically for the salvation of 4 campers. On Friday night 3 of them were saved!!
July 19, 2004
Continuation of Camp Post
Ok, I am a little more awake now. Camp was awesome. Besides the blessings mentioned below, here are some other highlights:
w00t! This seemed to be the key word for the week. Camp, staffers, administration...all have joined in the w00t craze. I cannot provide a clear definition, it seems to vary with the context. I guess I would have to say that it is more and expression of delight/approval--kind of like a hip version of "amen".
Bach On: Standing around and chatting with staff, someone said "Rock on". Someone else commented as how that phrase might be inappropriate at a Christian camp. So then someone (I would not want to mention my brother Joe by name) allowed as how "Bach on!" might be more appropriate. An expression was born. Click here to see me, Tom, and Joe in our Bach on! shirts.
Camp was very fun. It was a lot of hard work, but quite enjoyable at the same time. Starting tomorrow, we will be at another camp, with over twice as many kids. I just finished printing out the booklets they will use in chapel. Now I am going to work on my message outline and power point for tomorrow.
July 18, 2004
Back From Camp...Getting Ready for Camp
We arrived on Saturday from a week at Lamoka Baptist Camp. It was a truly awesome week. I was able to speak twice a day to about 60 kids. Below are some highlights:
Answers to Prayer: Toward the end of last week, there were only about 30 kids registered for camp. My brother Joe came to me and told me that he was praying for 60 campers. By Monday, we had exactly 60 kids on campus.
On Wednesday, the forecast called for heavy rain for the remainder of the week. On that day it rained and thundered, and upset our entire schedule. The entire camp prayed that the sun would shine for the rest of the week, and it did! It rained all around us, but we were able to continue our program without having to flex for rain.
Decisions for Christ: The other highlight of the week was that three junior-high campers came to know Christ as their Savior! Many other kids made decisions effecting their spiritual lives as well.
I am going to continue this post later on...right now I am going to go to bed as I am suffering the effects of sleep deprivation.
July 13, 2004
Greetings from Camp Lamoka
I had a quick moment of internet access, and so I just thought I would send you a blurb saying that things are going great here at camp!
July 12, 2004
Gone for a Week
In all probability, you will not see any new entries for at least a week on this blog. We will be ministering at Lamoka Baptist Camp--and camp, by definition, is low on the technology threshold. It is going to be kind of nice, actually.
Please be praying that God will do a work in the lives of the 60 or so junior-highers who will be there this week.
July 11, 2004
In the "corny headlines about Brazil" category comes this gem talking about the Brazilian coffee industry:
Brazil: Bean There, Done That
Seriously, who thinks this stuff up?
Click here if you are even remotely interested in seeing the article.
July 10, 2004
My Lovely Wife
I came home exhausted from work this evening, and discovered that my wife had updated her Xanga site. The post was a true day-brightener, and, while I don't feel like I deserved it, it really encouraged me. I had been having a fairly discouraging, un-productive day. God used my wife's love to life my spirits.
For the record (in case you didn't know), I am married to the most beautiful woman on the face of the planet.
July 9, 2004
I Have Gmail!
I recently was given a Gmail account (thanks to Rich at deadyetliving for the invite!), and am currently "learning the ropes" of the new system. I am sure that this will eventually replace some of my current e-mail accounts, but for now all of them are still active.
My Gmail account is firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love it if you would send me a letter so I can test how this thing works!
July 8, 2004
Feeling the Crunch
Two weeks of camp are looming in front of me, and I am feverishly preparing for them! I will be speaking to a group of junior-highers next week at Lamoka Baptist Camp, where the theme is "The Quest". The following week I will be at a junior week at camp BaYouCa, where the theme is "Standing Your Ground" (Eph. 6:11-24).
Please pray that God will give me the insights needed to finish preparing thoughtful, relevant Bible studies for these kids.
July 6, 2004
This last weekend was a great blessing for us. We were able to stay with some old friends Friday through Monday, and on Sunday we had the opportunity to minister in two churches.
At one of the churches, we were excited to find a Brazilian in the congregation. Her name is Mariana, and she and Itacyara hit it right off.
On Monday, Mariana, Jesse Conklin, Itacyara, Michael, and myself went over to Niagara falls. We took in Goat Island, Maid of the Mist, and Tunnle of the Winds. It was the first time Itá had seen the falls, and the first time Mariana had been there in the winter.
Be sure and check out our deputation photos page for pictures of the trip.
July 5, 2004
This week has been great! More details to follow...
July 3, 2004
Yesterday we were informed of another family that has taken us on for support, bringing us up to 41.6% of our needed amount. This was completely unexpected, and we are rejoicing!
Before I went to Brazil as a short-termer in 1994, I met a Brazilian family in the Corning area, and they graciously agreed to give me some informal Portuguese lessons. Their generosity helped me immensely when it came to learning the language of Brazil.
This past week I was in the Corning area, and I discovered that they had returned to the area. When I attempted to make contact, I discovered that their oldest daughter, Paula, is in the hospital facing some very serious surgery, and is not doing well.
Please pray for the Gomes family in this difficult time. They are believers. They invested in my life and ministry, and I thank God for them.
July 1, 2004
My Take On Previous Story
I thought I should provide some clarification on the story I linked below. First, for those who did not read it, here it is in its entirety:
Rep. Susana Mendoza (D-Chicago) said she was speaking about American politics at the State University of Rio de Janeiro Wednesday when a group from the audience began a demonstration that turned threatening. Mendoza said demonstrators rushed the dais and hurled eggs at her and another American panelist, then kept the two of them and their Brazilian host trapped in the auditorium while they continued an angry protest outside.
Ninety minutes later, Mendoza and the other two escaped from the auditorium, she said. The next day she read in the newspapers that some of the students had threatened to decapitate them, Mendoza said. "We never lost our cool," Mendoza said. "All we could think about was analyzing all of our options and making a decision. Oddly enough, I wasn't scared at all."
Mendoza and Erik Paulsen, the Republican House majority leader in Minnesota, were in Brazil as part of a political exchange sponsored by the State Department. They conducted several debates highlighting Democratic and Republican points of view on U.S. political issues.
The incident took place during an evening appearance in Rio as they were addressing about 40 students, according to Mendoza and Paulsen. After another event ended nearby, more students filed in waving a "Yankee Go Home" banner and an American flag emblazoned with a skull and crossbones.
"A few were wearing shirts that said `Palestine Liberation' in Portuguese," Paulsen said. "Somebody gave me a letter that said `anthrax' on it with my name on it . . . Then they opened the letter and threw it all over me. I guess it was flour in there."
The protesters threw eggs and flour on the panelists before security guards arrived and forced them outside. There, the crowd swelled to about 100 and people began banging on the glass doors of the auditorium.
Via cell phone, Mendoza learned that the local police weren't allowed to send armed officers onto a university campus, she said. After consulting with the State Department, she and Paulsen decided to make a break for it through the crowd, accompanied by nine unarmed campus security guards and several faculty members.
After a dash to their van, they huddled on the floor as the crowd surrounded the vehicle and broke one of its windows before the driver sped off.
In an e-mail sent to the two American lawmakers Monday, an officer of the U.S. Consulate General in São Paulo apologized.
"As was plainly evident at that event, there is a certain segment of society in Brazil, as is probably true globally, that is quite vocal about its anti-American attitudes," wrote Marshall R. Louis Jr., the consulate's cultural affairs officer.
Copyright (c) 2004, Chicago Tribune
1. These actions do not reflect the attitude of most Brazilians. While many Brazilians are upset with George W. Bush's foreign policies, only a small minority would go to such lengths as these protesters.
2. The actions of the protesters are not surprising, given the anti-American nature of the Brazilian press. We saw this when we were there in March. The amount of fact-bending that went into reports about the Iraq war and U.S. policies was enormous. The extent of their mis-information is evidenced by the fact that one of their targets was a Democratic legislator--who most likely shares their views on many things.
3. The anti-American feelings can make life difficult for missionaries who are investing their life in Brazil. If you know any, please pray for them.
As the president of our mission board said: "Our job is to say 'thus saith the Lord' and not 'this is how we do it in America'."