February 28, 2005

Off To California

Early tomorrow morning I will be off to California. If all goes according to plan, my next blog entries will be from Burbank. I intend to keep all my readers informed of interesting things learned at the Shepherds Conference.

Posted by Andrew at 5:43 PM
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Pics from the Ministry in Brazil

Here are some pictures sent to me recently by Jim Leonard. Remember that you can go any time to our Flickr photo page to see these and other pictures of the ministry there.

evangelismo01.jpg

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evangelismo03.jpg

Posted by Andrew at 4:33 PM
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News from the Leonards




It has been some time since we posted a letter from Jim and Julie Leonard. Here are excerpts from their most recent one:


It has been a while since we have written and there are many reasons for the delay. To sum them all up in one word, it would have to be "overwhelming". As we returned to Brazil, Jim hit the ground running and hasn't stopped yet. He has had responsibilities with our BMM of Brazil conference, preaching at a Carnival Retreat in São Paulo, new student orientation at the college, the beginning of Seminary classes, dealing with Seminary financial challenges, teaching Doctrine at the night classes, administrating Christian Service assignments, organizing an evangelistic outreach in our neighborhood, and working on some church construction projects. Let me touch on a few of these so that you can join us in prayer.

We have a great group of students this year, our largest enrollment ever. Things are running smoothly and we praise the Lord for the competent people He's sent to help us. Betnia is doing a great job as the college secretary. Please continue to pray for her two teenage sons as they make the many adjustments that have come with the death of their father and this move. Our men's dorm supervisor Andr, a married student, is keeping the guys in line. This has always been a difficult position to adequately fill. Some of our students' wives have work scholarships and are proving themselves extremely productive in their jobs, which makes Jim's more stress-free!

Until the end of April, Jim will be teaching Doctrine Survey on Thursday evenings. For these first weeks, it has taken up both Tuesday and Thursday nights. He is enjoying the teaching, but it is tiring. He taught this same course at the Seminary Extension in Petrolina a few years ago. As a side note, Petrolina is about 5 hours to the south of Crato. Our professors taught all-day Saturday classes over two years, during 2002-2003. A good group of students graduated in the one-year Bible course. This year seven former students from the Petrolina extension have come to continue their studies on campus. Praise the Lord!

Jim is overseeing the Christian Service Department again this year. He has 76 students working in 31 different churches and congregations. Most of them are in the Cariri Valley but one couple goes to Petrolina to help at the Deaf Church there. Jim has the responsibility to oversee these works and make sure the requirements are being fulfilled. We praise that Lord for the growth He has given to the work here through our students and the growth in their lives as well! This practical experience is a great opportunity for them to learn. We are looking forward to the arrival of Andrew and Itacyara Comings. Andrew will be assuming this position during their first term of missionary service. They are currently at about 60%. Please pray for God's provision, as it would be wonderful if they could take this ministry when we go on furlough in May. With God, ALL things are possible!

The evangelism in our neighborhood began yesterday. We changed the Kid's Club to the afternoon, from 2:00 -3:30. We were concerned that we would lose some because of the catechism at the Catholic church in the afternoons. But yesterday, when catechism was cancelled, we had parents bringing the children to our Bible Club instead. Please keep praying! Our family was very active last year, but with Jim's many activities and the kids having to study on Saturdays to get done before our furlough, our presence will be more limited. Doka and Karine, a capable senior couple, are leading a team of five students who will care for this ministry. The other three students, Tony, Junior, and Edileuza are all first year students. After club time, they lead Bible studies in various homes, come back to our home for supper and showers, then leave again to hold an evangelistic service in one of the homes. Over 20 homes have invited them to have Bible studies. The people seem to be open to these visits, yet quite resistant to change. The liberal Convention Baptist church tried to get a work started a few years ago but gave up. Many parents appreciate what we are doing. Please pray for this work. We believe that God can raise up a church here.

We have been fighting "home" intruders since December. These little gray mice have done some major damage to our little car that is usually parked by the back door and have also caused havoc in the pantry. This is mentioned because we have spent hours trying to get rid of the critters and constantly cleaning up the damage. Last night, Jim and Josiah saw two huge rats in the garage. Fun, fun. Our Akita puppy, Kika, went after them but didn't succeed. We're now trying poison and are praying that it doesn't kill the dogs if they get a hold of a contaminated rodent. Besides not caring to live with the pesky critters, we don't want to close up our home as we go on furlough with the mice inside.

To help us search for and fill out financial aid forms to help with Josiah's college bills we started the process of installing broadband internet access in our home. This has turned into another major headache that has consumed many hours. It is still not straightened out and we really need to begin the application processes. Josiah is planning on attending Faith Baptist Bible College this fall. We are preparing ourselves to leave Brazil with three teens and come back with only two.

So, as you can see, Jim is really running hard and fast. Julie, on the other hand, is functioning much like a sloth J. She can basically get through school with the kids, put one decent meal on the table, take a power nap, with no energy for much else. Her doctor and another AN patient have told her that this is normal. As we look back, we are certain that the spectacular recovery in Minnesota was God's way of simply preparing her to return to Brazil. With the primary goal of getting the kids through school and the family to the States for furlough in May, she has had to decline speaking opportunities and give over her Pastor's Wife class. She is planning a tea for all of the ladies connected with the Seminary for Monday, March 7th. Please pray for this! We are expecting about 65 women. Under normal circumstances, this would be a relatively easy task for her to organize. Now it seems enormous. "In our weakness, He is strong!" Praise the Lord for colleagues who are willing to pitch in and help. We want it to be an edifying time for all who attend.

Please be assured that we are not discouraged; just overwhelmed. We know that you are praying and that the Lord is answering. Lord willing, we will be in the States in less than three months. He has already provided a furlough vehicle and allowed us to schedule many meetings during the time we were in MN. Our biggest challenge is to relate to you exactly what the Lord is accomplishing here in the Cariri Valley. May all the Praise be to Him.

Posted by Andrew at 4:27 PM
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Welcome to the Team

It is with great pleasure that we welcome Capitol Baptist Church in Lothian, MD, to our team of financial supporters. This brings our support level up to 63.3%. Praise the Lord!

In other news, we just finished a great missionary conference at Heritage Baptist Church in Lakeland, Florida. At the conference, we were invited to be the missionary speaker for a week at Camp Gilead here in Central Florida.

Posted by Andrew at 12:52 PM
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Happy Birthday Dad

...a day late!

I was unable to get online yesterday, but I still wanted to give a shout out to my Dad in New York. He has been a tremendous example, encouragement, and help to me over the years.

Happy Birthday Dad.

Posted by Andrew at 12:43 PM
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February 25, 2005

New Photo Page

I have just set up an account at Flickr. You can go here to view pictures of Brazil, our ministry, and our family. More pictures will be forthcoming.

Posted by Andrew at 12:41 PM // Comments: 1 //
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February 24, 2005

Honor Where Honor is Due

I hope all of you enjoy the new visual on this blog. I wish I could say it was of my doing, but anybody who knows me would know better. The new design is the work of Kev (alternately known as k3, Uncle Kevin, and Kevaroo), who is a great supporter of this ministry, and a great personal friend. He graciously gave of his time and skills to make this website look a whole lot better.

Thank you Kevin.

Posted by Andrew at 9:13 PM // Comments: 3 //
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Setting the Record Straight

Ok, this has got to stop! We Americans seem to delight in displaying our ignorance about Brazil. The latest example comes from no less respected a source than Reuters. The headline said the following:

Brazil Environmentalist Shot in Rain Forest

The article itself contained the following information:

Dionisio Ribeiro Filho, 59, was shot in the head with a shotgun at the Tingua federal reserve, about 19 miles from Rio de Janeiro city, after he defended it for over 15 years from poachers and illegal palm tree cutters, police said on Wednesday.

I added the italics in the above quote. If you are only 19 miles from Rio, YOU ARE NOWHERE NEAR THE RAINFOREST!

Perhaps a little illustration is in order.

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Notice that, in this picture, the rainforest region is shaded a dark green. Also, notice the little red dot on the southeastern coastline. That is Rio. Is it anywhere near the rainforest? No, it is not. The distance between the two is over 2,000 miles!

Also of note in the article was the following statement:

"We suspect some of those people he opposed may have murdered him," local police superintendent Roberto Cardoso told Brazil's O'Globo national television network.

One thing I am sure of: it was not the people who were in favor of him!

Posted by Andrew at 12:49 PM // Comments: 2 //
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February 23, 2005

Welcoming a New Team Member

You may remember a post I did not too long ago, entitled A Trip Down Memory Lane, about a visit I had to the church where my Dad pastored when I was young.

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Today, it gives me great pleasure to announce that First Baptist Church of Limestone, PA, has joined our team of investors. This brings our monthly support level up to $2496.67, or 61.5%.

A big thank you to all the folks at Limestone!

Posted by Andrew at 12:56 PM
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Update On Brazilian Captured in Iraq

The lines have been pretty silent in the last couple of days as to the fate of Joo Jos de Vasconcellos Jr., the Brazilian taken captive in Iraq. This update appeared today, however, in (of all places) Al Jazeera.

Aljazeera.Net - Brazil feels the pain of Iraq kidnappings

Brazil feels the pain of Iraq kidnappings
By Gibby Zobel in Sao Paulo

Tuesday 22 February 2005, 18:52 Makka Time, 15:52 GMT

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A 'Free Joao' campaign shirt bearing Iraqi and Brazilian flags


Joao Jose de Vasconcellos Jr would have been celebrating his 50th birthday with his family in their apartment near the beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on 24 February.

Instead the whereabouts of the Brazilian engineer kidnapped in Iraq more than a month ago, remain shrouded in mystery.

There has been no contact with his family and no news from the Brazilian government. There have been no threats or demands, There has been no images, and no proof that he is alive.

In fact, after his diving card was shown in a video sent to Aljazeera by the Mujahidin Brigades and the Army of Ansar al-Sunna on 19 January, there has been no further information of any kind at all.

Vasconcellos had been in Iraq for 12 months and was one of six Brazilian construction workers with the company Norberto Odebrecht in Iraq. The firm announced they were pulling the remainder out the day after the abduction was announced.

The hostage case is marked by two unusual factors.

Outspoken critic

First, there is no political capital to be gained. Brazil has no troops in Iraq and refused a request to take part in the US-led "coalition of the willing". President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has been an outspoken critic of the war.

Secondly, unlike the hardline approach of many other countries which refuse to negotiate with hostage-takers, Brazil's foreign minister, Celso Amorim, made it clear that "if it is necessary to negotiate, we negotiate".

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Samba children sporting T-shirts
calling for Joao to be set free

There have even been appeals from Brazil's most famous football player, Real Madrid's Ronaldo, but still nothing.

Among the many theories are that either the kidnappers made an error, or are out to make money and yet to make demands, or Joao Vasconcellos is already dead.

The ambush on the vehicle in which he was travelling in Baiji killed an Iraqi and a British man and was riddled with bullets.

Nevertheless, a month on from the drama, the forgotten hostage - there has been little media coverage since the first days - was remembered in a demonstration in Sao Paulo on 19 February.

People wore T-shirts calling for his freedom in Portuguese and Arabic with an image of the engineer with the Brazilian and Iraqi flags.

Ongoing wait

Jaques Punskowski, 42, had travelled from the other end of the city. He said, "I don't have any connection to the family or to the Arab community here. On the contrary I am Jewish. Today I am just one more contribution to support Joao who is a Brazilian like me."

Maria Amadeto had brought her children from the Portela Zona Sul samba school. "They already understand what is going on here," she said. Brazilian flags with Joao's face dotted Avenida Paulista, the city main thoroughfare.

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Jaques Punskowski: I am Jewish
but a fellow Brazilian like Joao
His wife of 26 years, Tereza Vasconcellos, remained in Rio de Janeiro, exhausted by the ongoing wait for news.

"The only concrete information were the documents shown on TV. Not one image of him. This is what is must anguishing, " she told the Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper.

"My energy has a limit during the day and by the afternoon I am finished. I wake up with hope, I work well in the morning, but when the afternoon arrives I know that it is already night in Iraq and the day has finished without news. I become bad-tempered and my memory doesn't work which I think are symptoms of stress."

Arabs' appeal

Tereza continued: "The heart speaks a lot. In the first few days I didn't feel him. It took a couple of weeks. I don't know what it is but it seems that now I am more hopeful. There is no proof that he is alive or dead. The two doors are open. I've been praying a lot, I have a lot of faith."

Today Brazil has around 15 million Arabs living in the country, the majority based in the largest city Sao Paulo.

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Sao Paulo's Arabs said anti-war
Brazilians did not deserve this

The Youth Islamic League of Brazil recorded an appeal. "Brazil is a friend [of Iraq), which was always against the invasion of Iraq and because of this doesn't deserve to have one of its sons taken hostage," sthe religious director Shaikh Usama al-Zahid said in a call backed by other Muslim leaders.

An open letter sent to Aljazeera.net from the Arab-Brazilian community in Foz do Iguacu also called for the immediate release of Vasconcellos.

"The Brazilian people, in an absolute majority, have always given solidarity to Arab causes inside and outside their territory, never believed in violence, like we haven't, in the struggle for the legitimate rights and interests of the people," said the letter, signed by Fuad Muhamad Fakih and 13 others.

The Brazilian foreign ministry says it is continuing to make every effort at contact.

Posted by Andrew at 11:15 AM
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February 22, 2005

Some More Comic Relief

Here is a video I came accross today. Enjoy.

Posted by Andrew at 10:50 AM
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February 21, 2005

Caption Challenge for 2/21/05

This one comes to us straight from Brazil:

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Posted by Andrew at 12:53 PM // Comments: 91 //
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George W. Bush--Missionary?

On Friday I had lunch with the pastor of one of the churches that invests in this ministry. His church is a Spanish language church, and he is from Mexico. The purpose of our meeting was so that I could ask him some questions about how he has developed a vibrant missionary program in his congregation. We were having a good discussion, and suddenly he made a statement that blew my mind.

"How is it," he asked, "that the policies of the United States are more biblical than those of the American church?"

Having spent considerable time in Brazil, I was quite un-prepared to hear a Latin pastor say anything nice about US policy, much less refer to it a "biblical". When I pressed him for an explanation of that statement, here is what he said:

"George W. Bush believes in democracy, and because of that belief, he uses every possible resource to spread democracy around the world. American churches say they believe in the gospel, yet so few of their resources are used to spread it around the world."

I thought much about this over the last couple of days, and came up with several areas where we, the American church, could learn from the administration of our own country.

1. Taking risks: One thing I admire about our president is his willingness to take political risks for the cause of democracy. The American church has forgotten what it is like to risk anything. Missions is no exception. Gone are the days of Adoniram Judson, who risked everything to bring the gospel to Burma. Sure, there are missionaries who still give their lives on the field, but the old pioneering spirit is gone from our churches.

2. Belief in the Cause: It is evident that our president believes in democracy, at his very core. As Christians, I fear that many times we really do not believe the gospel. We give it lip service, but when it comes to sharing it with those closest to us--much less those around the world--we make excuses. This is not the time for us to be silent! The days we live in require men and women of action--not excuses.

3. Commitment to Long Term Success: The war on terrorism will not be won overnight. Nor will the world be evangelized in a day. We as Christians--particularly American Christians--must get over our fetish of quick results and hunker down for a long, drawn-out battle. We must make decisions based on eternity, not just today.

Perhaps we should take a closer look at George W. Bush's play book. We might learn something.

Posted by Andrew at 11:59 AM // Comments: 2 //
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A Life Worthy of Prayer Letters

One of my favorite missionary bloggers is Joe Missionary. He recently did a guest post over at one of my other favorite blogs, Faith Gambler. His post is entitled Living A Life Worthy of Prayer Letters. It is well worth the read.

Posted by Andrew at 11:50 AM
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A National Logo

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The image above is the new official logo of Brazil. It was comissioned by the Brazilian government to help market the goods and services Brazil exports to the world--as well as tourism within the country. According to the Folha Online, about $4 million was spent in creation of the logo.

Thanks to Let's Blogar for bringing this to my attention.

To bad the Brazilian government did not contact my brother, who made the new logo for my main website (which can be seen here). they could have saved themselves a pile of money.

UPDATE

Here is an article from Brazzil magazine giving the details for the new logo:

A Logo and a Plan to Make Brazil a Top Tourist Destination

Written by Cludia Abreu
Monday, 21 February 2005

Brazilian tourism and the main Brazilian export products may now speak the same language, at least when the subject is the logo. With that intention, last week the "Made in Brazil" brand, designed by Kiko Farkas, from Mquina Estdio, was released in So Paulo, the most industrialized city in Brazil.

The symbol is part of the Tourism Ministry's Aquarela (Watercolour) plan, which aims at placing Brazil among the 20 greatest tourist destinations up to 2007.

The first international test for the logo will be in March, in Berlin, Germany, during the ITB (Tourism Fair). The logo will be printed on the stand of the Brazilian Tourism Institute (Embratur).

The event will take place between March 11 and 15. It is the first of the 60 that the country will actively participate in during the year of 2005, according to Tourism minister Walfrido Mares Guia.

For the Aquarela plan and for the actions for promotion on the foreign market, the ministry will invest around US$ 50 million up to the end of the year.

Development

Creation of the brand is an attempt to give a permanent visual identity to Brazil, like that of other countries, among them Australia, South Africa and Turkey.

For development of the symbol, the Tourism Ministry organized studies with over 6,000 people in 19 countries. Those heard included travel agents, people who have travelled to the country at least once, and potential tourists, who do not know Brazil.

"Those chosen answered questions about the colors that are characteristic of Brazil, the food, the reason for their trip and, last of all, a word to describe the country," stated Edson Campos, the Embratur Marketing director.

With regard to the colors, one of the most important items for the creation of the logo, most people answered that Brazil was colored, and that is why the colors white, blue, green, yellow, orange and red appear on the logo. So as to summarize Brazil, those interviewed answered that the word is happiness.

With the study in hands, 37 design offices were selected to create the symbol. Apart from the figures, they received a watercolor by landscape artist Burle Marx, made at the end of the 1930's.

The designers re-read the work and joined it to the Tourism Ministry's study. Kiko Farkas presented the victorious project. "The logo joins colors and illustrates what tourists think of Brazil. It is happy, luminous and modern," stated Farkas.

Use

Use of the Brazil brand by the private sector is still being studied. A group of representatives of the Brazilian Export Promotion Agency (Apex), the Federation of Industries of the State of So Paulo (Fiesp), the Tourism Ministry and the Social Communications Secretariat (Secom) should meet in the first half of 2005 to establish the rules for use.

It is probable that companies will have to pay for use of the logo on their packages. The companies will also be certified. "The product will have to be good quality so as to use the symbol," stated Guia. Institutional use, on stands at international fairs, for example, should involve no cost.

Among the products to test the brand are furniture, jewelry, shoes, ceramics and even coffee, which already has a symbol that is consolidated on the foreign market.

The famous "Cafs do Brasil" (Brazilian Coffees) symbol, followed by a drawing of three green leaves and some coffee beans, should also be restructured. "The Brazilian brand is flexible, and may be incorporated to the one already existing," stated Edson Campos

Gifts

According to Guia, gifts with the Brazilian brand will be distributed at airports in the country. Women will receive cangas (kinds of sarongs) and men, baseball caps. The intention is to distribute six million items this year.

In 2003, over four million foreign tourists visited the country, according to figures in the Embratur 2004 Statistics. Argentina, the USA, Germany and Uruguay were the leaders, in that order, in the ranking of the countries that sent most tourists to Brazil.

Translated by Mark Ament
ANBA Brazil-Arab News Agency

Posted by Andrew at 10:24 AM
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February 18, 2005

Fallout from Slain American Nun

A few days ago I reported about the American nun who was killed in the Amazon region of Brazil. The fallout has been tremendous, as the story below shows.

HoustonChronicle.com - Brazil creates two rain forest reserves over nun's killing

Feb. 18, 2005, 12:06AM

By MICHAEL ASTOR
Associated Press

ANAPU, BRAZIL - Brazil's president signed decrees Thursday creating two massive new forest reserves, succumbing to intense pressure to protect a lawless Amazon region from violent loggers and ranchers after the killing last weekend of an American nun who fought to protect the jungle.

The measures signed by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will form a reserve of 8.15 million acres and a national park spanning 1.1 million acres in the state of Para, where 73-year-old Dorothy Stang was shot to death Saturday in a dispute with a powerful rancher.

"We can't give in to people committing acts of violence," said Environment Minister Marina Silva, who announced the decrees. "The government is putting the brakes on in front of the predators."

The decrees were announced after more than 60 groups signed a letter to the president demanding strong moves to curb "violence and impunity associated with the illegal occupation of lands and deforestation" in the Amazon — and especially in Para, nearly twice the size of Texas.

Unless the killing stops, Silva "will risk making history as the champion of rural violence, illegal occupation of public lands and illegal logging," said the letter, signed by the World Wide Fund for Nature, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and other groups.

Logging companies and wealthy landowners have steadily pushed deeper into the world's largest rain forest, which sprawls over 1.6 million square miles and covers more than half the country, vying for its abundant natural resources. Development, logging and farming have destroyed as much as 20 percent of the rain forest.

In this eastern Amazon town, helicopters flew in 110 soldiers from the 51st Jungle Infantry Division to join a police manhunt for four men accused of killing Stang. They set up camp near the graveyard where Stang was buried this week.

Stang, a naturalized Brazilian originally from Dayton, Ohio, was attacked Saturday in a settlement 30 miles from Anapu. A witness said she began to read from a Bible before being shot by two gunmen.

Posted by Andrew at 2:18 PM
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February 17, 2005

A Brazilian State of Mind

One of my favorite Brazilian blogs, Let's Blogar, had a great quote today, which illustrates how many Brazilians are feeling about now:

Comeou aquele intervalo insuportvel entre o Carnaval e o Ano Novo.

Translation:

We have now begun that unbearable intreval between Carnival and the New Year.

Posted by Andrew at 12:57 PM
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Open for Business

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The other day, a friend showed me an online store he set up for a ministry with which he has worked. For the fun of it, I decided to set up my own online store. My brother came up with some snazzy graphics, and there are currently three items for sale. All profits will go directly to offset ministry expenses.

Posted by Andrew at 11:35 AM // Comments: 2 //
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February 16, 2005

A Little Comic Relief

A friend just sent me this. It has nothing to do with Missions, or Brazil, or any of the normal subject matter. It is just plain funny. Check it out!

Posted by Andrew at 5:06 PM
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Anatomy of a Scam

Today I was sitting at my "desk" at here at church, when the phone rang. Pastor was on the other line, so I picked it up and answered "Fellowship Baptist Church, Andrew speaking."

On the other end, a man told me that he was stranded, and his wife had just given birth to twins. She was in the hospital, and he was at a point on the other end of town, and could I please send someone over there with money for a taxi. He also said that he had been coming to our church for a couple of weeks, and was thinking about joining.

Well, there is nobody here that has money, or time to run to the other end of town. I politely told him this, and then recommended that he call some churches on that end of town. He called back again a few minutes later, saying that none of the churches there could help him. I told him, as gently as possible, that there was still nobody here who could help him. At this point he hung up on me.

As I went about my work, I was bothered by guilt. Is this how Christ would have handled the situation? How could I have handled it better?

After a few minutes, the phone rang again. It was the receptionist at one of the largest churches here in Lakeland, informing me that someone was on their way to give this guy money, just as I had requested. Of course, I had requested no such thing. The guy had called the other church, and told them he was Andrew from Fellowship Baptist, and would they please go help this guy that was stranded at the gas station. When the receptionist realized what was going on, she called her friend who was on his way to give this guy some money.

After I hung up the phone, I called a couple of churches on that end of town, just to let them know about the scam, and that this person had nothing to do with Fellowship Baptist Church.

I still wonder what Jesus would have done in this situation. Of course He would have known who the guy was from the beginning. People call the church all the time trying to run scams like this (although this is the first time I have seen anybody try to play one church against another). How do we go about seeing who really needs help?

Posted by Andrew at 4:20 PM // Comments: 2 //
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February 15, 2005

California Update

A while ago, I posted a blurb about an upcoming trip to California, without giving any details. Sorry about that. Here are the details.

Posted by Andrew at 5:57 PM
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Caption Category

If you missed a previous caption challenge, I have given them a category all their own.

Posted by Andrew at 4:33 PM
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Yet Another Blog Milestone

This month we have hit the 3000 unique visitor mark, and are continuing to climb. Thanks to all you who have dropped by for a visit!

Posted by Andrew at 4:14 PM
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February 14, 2005

Caption Challenge for 2/15/05

Here it is, folks. Let the captions fly!

estacionado.jpg

Posted by Andrew at 11:08 PM // Comments: 18 //
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Happy Valentines Day, Baby

Warning to regular readers of this blog: Serious Mush Ahead

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Dear It,

I know I am not the best at expressing my feelings. However, I need to post this to let you (and everybody else that reads this) know how much I love you. You have brought meaning into my life. You are the mother of our wonderful son, and the one that keeps me going every day. You are the most beautiful woman in the world, and I am so lucky to have you as my wife.

Happy Valentines Day.

Love,

Andrew

End Mush Zone

Post Script: Photograph courtesy of Michael

Posted by Andrew at 9:13 AM
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February 13, 2005

A Little Wierdness From Brazil

I can think of a couple of Hollywood-type performers who could benefit from this...

Theatre artist lets audience give him electric shock!

[World News]: London, Feb 12 : It's not that performers always give shock to the audience by their stunning performance, sometimes audience
also get the chance to literally shock the performer.

In a unique one-man play in Brazil the performer gets an electric shock every time someone in the audience makes a noise, which could be anything like laughter, booing, applause or even coughing.

Michel Melamed, who is performing his play 'Regurgitofagia' in Sao Paulo, wears a specially designed suit connected to wires and devices which measure audience reaction. The strength of the shock depends on the noise level but it can go up to 90 volts.

"All theatre is an experiment. The true theatre has to be innovative and has to raise questions," Ananova quoted Melamed as saying.

Posted by Andrew at 2:57 PM // Comments: 5 //
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February 12, 2005

American Nun Shot in Brazil

Read the following article, and then pray for your missionaries in Brazil

Newsday.com - AP World News

American Nun Shot to Death in Brazil


By TALES AZZONI
Associated Press Writer

February 12, 2005, 9:47 PM EST

SAO PAULO, Brazil -- An American nun who spent decades fighting efforts by loggers and large landowners to expropriate lands and clear large areas of the Amazon rainforest was shot to death Saturday in northern Brazil, authorities said.

Dorothy Stang, 74, was shot in the face three times near the town of Anapu, about 1,300 miles north of Sao Paulo in the Amazon region, federal police officer Fernando Raiol said. The early morning attack came less than a week after Stang met Human Rights Secretary Nilmario Miranda to report that four local farmers had received death threats from loggers and landowners.

Last year, loggers accused Stang of inciting violence in the region and supplying weapons and ammunition to local people, a claim her family denies.

"This is extremely serious," Miranda told reporters. "We cannot allow this murder to go unpunished."

The Brazilian government compared the murder with the 1988 killing of Chico Mendes, the renowned rubber tapper who drew international attention to Amazon rainforest destruction.

"It's the type of crime that shows a profound disrespect for a democratic society, like the crime against Chico Mendes," Justice Minister Marcio Thomaz Bastos told the Estado news agency.

The Catholic Church's Land Pastoral in Brazil, an organization that helps landless farmers, condemned the incident as an "assassination."

Stang, a native of Dayton, Ohio, had lived in Brazil since the early 1960s and worked in the region for more than 20 years. She was headed to a meeting with local peasants when her group was attacked, police said. No one else was hurt.

Two suspects have been taken into custody, police said.

Stang's niece Angela Mason, who lives in Dayton, Ohio, said her aunt had told her family there was a price on her head.

"She was basically protected by her status as being an old lady and being a nun. She also recently became a Brazilian citizen, and she thought that would help but it obviously didn't," Mason said.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva ordered a thorough investigation into Stang's murder.

About 15 federal officers were immediately dispatched to the crime scene, police said. Miranda and Environment Minister Marina Silva also were sent to Anapu to oversee the investigation.

Stang was a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, an international Catholic religious order of about 2,000 women in five continents.

Last June, Stang was honored by the state of Para for her work in the Amazon region. In December, she received an award from the Brazilian Bar Association for her work helping the local rural workers.

"She was awesome. A little old bundle of joy," Mason said. "She was the happiest person. She needed nothing. She just loved the people down there."

Posted by Andrew at 10:27 PM
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Evangelism 101

This week we have been enjoying a missionary conference at Broadview Baptist Church in North Lauderdale, Florida. As part of the conference, we got together with members of the church this morning and went to a nearby flea market, where we spent about three hours passing out tracts and witnessing to people.

This is what missions is all about, and I am surprised that more churches do not include something like this in their missionary conferences. This is only the second conference in our two-and-a-half year deputation ministry that has included some form of evangelism in the program.

Before we went to the flea market, we watched a video at the church by Larry Moyer, of EvanTell ministries. They have some of the best evangelism training that I have seen to date, and put together some of the best, most attractive tracts I have ever encountered.

One of the strengths of the video we watched was the practial way in which they dealt with one of the greatest obstacles to witnessing--how to turn an ordinary conversation onto spiritual things. I and those with me at the flea market were able to put what we learned into practice, and the results were some interested listeners.

To my knowlege nobody accepted Christ there this morning, but the seed was definitely planted in several people's minds.

Update 1: For those of us who minister to Portuguese speaking people, EvanTell has excellent tracts available in that language.

Update 2: I have started a thread over at the forum for people to share information about personal evangelism tools they find helpful.

Posted by Andrew at 9:05 PM
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February 10, 2005

I'm Going to California!!!

...in March. Details to follow.

Posted by Andrew at 12:40 PM // Comments: 3 //
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February 9, 2005

Manatee Madness

Here are some pictures I promised to post of the manatees we saw in the wild during our missionary conference in Beverly Hills, FL.

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Posted by Andrew at 8:16 PM
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Sparse Blogging Ahead

Some great things are going on in our ministry this week, and I have absolutely no time to blog about them! Tomorrow we are headed to the Fort Lauderdale area for a missionary conference (our second of three this month). There is also news concerning new support, but I must wait to report that.

Keep us in your prayers as we are going to be quite busy for the next couple few days.

Posted by Andrew at 12:17 PM
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A Glimpse of the Future

I have just seen the promotional dvd for a camp called Doe River Gorge. For the past couple of years I have been dreaming of starting a camp in Brazil. Watching the dvd, it was as if someone was filming my dream. They even have a train!

The only real difference I see between this camp and my dream camp is that it is in the US, and ours will be in Brazil. I was just encouraged to see that it can be done!

Posted by Andrew at 10:05 AM
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February 7, 2005

Mikey's "Big Brothers"

We spent most of this last week at a missionary conference in Beverly Hills, FL. We had a wonderful host family, with two boys close to Mikey's age. Mikey thoroughly enjoyed having "big brothers" for the week, as evidenced by the pictures below.

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Posted by Andrew at 7:33 PM // Comments: 1 //
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The Results Are In

...over at the Evangelical Underground. This blog did not win in the missions category, but a very good one did. I was just happy to be a finalist in this group of excellend weblogs.

Also, a good friend of mine won in the Humor category. Way to go HT!

I am, however, going to find a prominent place to post the EBA Finalist graphic.

Posted by Andrew at 6:33 PM
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Caption Challenge

This week's caption challenge goes out to my son Michael, who is obsessed with penguins. Now it is up to you to send in captions like there is no tomorrow!

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Posted by Andrew at 4:58 PM // Comments: 19 //
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Evangelical Blog Awards Update

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Just a note to let you all know that you can vote for you favorite Evangelical Blog at the Evangelical Underground. This link will take you to the page where you will find the voting information.

As I mentioned before, this blog has made it into the final round of voting. Be sure to check out some of the other blogs there before you vote. They are well worth reading.

Posted by Andrew at 3:20 PM
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Divine Protection on I 75

We want to praise God for His protection of our family as we travelled back from Beverly Hills, FL today. As we were approaching Tampa, I was in the passing lane, going by an eighteen-wheeler. Without warning, the truck I was passing suddenly decided to change lanes. As he moved into our lane, I had nowhere to go except the median. There was a car behind me, so I could not break too hard.

By God's grace I was able to keep control of the car. The back of the trailer narrowly missed us, and the car behind us saw what was happening and was able to slow down.

As we continued to drive, we saw that truck to the same thing to two other vehicles.

If any of you out there were praying for us at about 11:30, know that God heard your prayers!

Posted by Andrew at 2:54 PM // Comments: 3 //
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Welcoming Another New Team Member

It is our great joy to welcome as a member of the Team of Investors for this ministry the First Baptist Church of New Berlin, NY. We have gotten to know Pastor Carpenter and his church family well over the last couple of years.

Their commitment puts us at 60.73% of our needed support. Praise God!

Posted by Andrew at 8:38 AM // Comments: 1 //
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February 6, 2005

Church Sign

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At first glance, it would appear that we are getting some free publicity for our website. In truth, I did this over at the Church Sign Generator. (Hat tip to World Mag Blog for the link)

I played around with it for a bit with the following results:

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...mostly because we can't stand them around here.

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Yes, I know it is a shameless plug. Forgive me. And finally, for a little wishful thinking...

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Posted by Andrew at 4:04 PM // Comments: 1 //
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Finalist

I want to thank those who nominated this blog for Best Evanglical Missionary Blog. I apparently have made it to the final round. Please take a moment to go to the Evangelical Underground Blog--which is sponsoring the event--and visit some of the other finalists in the various categories.

Posted by Andrew at 3:44 PM
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February 5, 2005

Missions Forum Elects New "Presidente"

I just wanted to let everybody know that the flurry of activity over at the forum is the result of the efforts of a young man who is very interested in missions. His name is David (although he goes by nickname "picklehater"), and I have made him a moderator of most of the sections of the forum, and have granted him the title "Presidente".

In related news, I changed my title at the forum from "Site Admin" to "Dictator for Life". Kevin remains "Forum Kingpin".

Is this a great forum or what!

Posted by Andrew at 5:21 PM // Comments: 1 //
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Carnaval 2005

The main speaker at the missionary conference today made an important observation in the course of the message. I cannot remember the exact quote, but it was to the effect that missionaries should seek to adapt to the host culture, except when a certain aspect of said culture is diametrically opposed to scripture.

One such aspect of Brazilian culture is Carnaval. I have written about this event before, but that time of year is rolling around again, so I thought I would post on the subject.

As usual, the Brazilian government feels that the best solution to the rampant spread of disease during Carnaval is to distribute free condoms. They ignore the fact that people under the influence of alcohol seldom think to use them, and if they do, are more apt to use them incorrectly. They also ignore the myriad of sexually transmitted diseases that can be transferred even with a condom.

The following article exposes the ugly underbelly of organized crime which pervades the Carnaval celebrations.

ABC News: Brazil Shows Off Carnival's Illegal Roots

Brazil's Carnival's Illegal Roots Are on Display During This Year's Festivities
By MICHAEL ASTOR Associated Press Writer
The Associated PressThe Associated Press

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil Feb 4, 2005 With all the bared flesh and Las Vegas-style flash, Brazilian carnival seems like the kind of fun that just might be illegal and in some ways it is.

The annual pre-Lenten bash that got under way Friday owes much of its splendor to illegal gambling.

It's long been an open secret that Rio's annual samba parade the centerpiece of carnival celebrations is largely funded by the kingpins of an illegal numbers game known here as the "jogo do bicho," Portuguese for animal game.

This year, the link between the jogo do bicho and carnival is more open than ever.

One top samba group, Salgueiro, will pay homage to two prominent bicheiros, as the numbers bosses are known. A float with a huge TV screen will display images of Miro and Maninho, the father and son bicheiros who funded the group until their deaths last year.

"Miro always supported us and now we are repaying his confidence in us," said Celino Dias, president of Salgueiro's composers group.

The link between the animal game and carnival is also driven home nightly on a popular TV soap opera, "Senhora do Destino," "Woman of Destiny" which features Brazilian movie star Jose Wilker in the role of the fictionalized bicheiro Giovanni Improtta.

In the show, Improtta is the big boss of the samba group a fact that shocks hardly anyone here.

"Everyone knows that the bicheiros always financed carnival. It was their way of giving themselves a legitimacy in society," says Roberto da Matta, a sociologist and author of books on both carnival and the animal game. "The jogo do bicho is the carnivalization of capitalism."

Several times a day, the lottery picks a series of numbers, which in the past corresponded to animals. Players can bet any amount and prompt cash payment for winners is a question of honor for the bicheiros.

The enormous popularity of the game in Rio's poor neighborhoods makes bicheiros seem like community benefactors.

Still, the bicheiros have a darker side. Over the past decade, more than 100 killings can be traced to the animal game.

Maninho, one of the bicheiros to be honored by Salgueiro, was killed last year in an execution-style slaying outside a health club. His father died of an illness later that year.

But officials insist the bicheiros' influence is a thing of the past.

"The financing arrangement for samba groups today gives them absolute financial independence. The presence of so-called 'patrons' of one group or another no longer has anything to do with the financial functioning of the groups," said Rio Mayor Cesar Maia.

That might come as a surprise to the government of Denmark, which was embarrassed to learn of the close ties between the numbers game and the Imperatriz Leopoldinense samba group, which Denmark gave $189,000 to help finance this year's parade theme celebrating the bicentennial of native son Hans Christian Andersen.

When a Danish newspaper revealed in October that bicheiro boss Luiz Pacheco Drummond, Imperatriz's honorary president, had served a six-year prison sentence and had links to organized crime, Denmark withdrew its official support.

While it was too late for Denmark to get the money back or change the parade's theme, Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary, along with the country's minister of culture canceled their plans to attend celebrations in Rio.

Few here are likely to notice their absence.

When the mayor handed the key to the city to the Rei Momo, or carnival king, on Friday, samba drums pounded and the party officially opened for an entire nation of 182 million.

Carnival is celebrated in different ways across Brazil. In the northeastern city of Salvador, revelers crowd the streets to dance behind giant sound trucks with bands on top playing axe music, a samba style with a heavy Caribbean influence.

In Recife and Olinda further north, revelers dance to super-fast frevo rhythms and the heavily African maracatu.

Even Brazil's largest city and financial capital, Sao Paulo, has its own samba parade which looks like a carbon copy of Rio's celebration, though it merits considerably less attention.

The main spectacle takes place in Rio's Sambadrome stadium, where the city's 14 top groups will mount million-dollar parades on Sunday and Monday nights. Each group features thousands of dancers, hundreds of drummers and a slew of elaborately decorated floats.

The spectacle is televised live across the nation, with fans cheering their favorite group with the same enthusiasm they normally reserve for soccer teams.

The groups parade for 80 minutes, trying to outdo the competition and be declared the year's champion--a distinction that brings little more than bragging rights.

On the Net:
www.rio.rj.gov.br

Please remember to pray for your missionaries and brothers and sisters in Christ during the next month in Brazil.

And also, let us remember that here in America there is no shortage of anti-biblical culture to be avoided.

Posted by Andrew at 12:58 AM // Comments: 1 //
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February 4, 2005

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Last Sunday I had the privilege of presenting our ministry at First Baptsit Church in Limestone, PA. My father pastored this church from 1977 to 1982. I was four when we moved there, and nine when we left.

Just before I departed for Florida on the Monday following my presentation, I decided to take a walk around some of my old haunts. I was surprised at how little things have changed.

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This is the church my Dad pastored. A simple but beautiful building. It was founded in the 1840s, and has been physically moved twice.

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This is the parsonage where we lived. I am told that changes have been made to the inside, but for a moment, looking at the outside, I thought that I could walk in and see my Mom working in the kitchen and my Dad in his office.

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This was the gateway to adventure for me as a kid. The roots of these two trees (which seemed much bigger to me back then) formed a little stairway that I climbed up every day to enter the forest.

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This rock, mostly covered by snow in this picture, was the site of many childhood adventures. Epic battles were fought, villains were defeated, and fair maidens were rescued--all before dinner.

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This is (was) the store where I bought my first firearm. It was a little plastic cap gun...and it was my proudest possession. I saved and saved and saved until I had the money, and then rode my bike all the way to Frogtown (that is actually the name of the town) to buy it.

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Right next to the store is the Frogtown Post Office. You can see from this picture that Frogtown is a bustling urban center.

Thanks for bearing with me on this little trip down memory lane. This post had really nothing to do with missions or Brazil, but I thought people might be interested in seeing where I spent my formative years. In case I should become famous or something.

UPDATE:

This next picture is for Kevin, who requested a picture of the famous "Baptist Ditch". Here it is.

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Posted by Andrew at 9:48 AM // Comments: 4 //
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February 1, 2005

Support Update

Due to one of our partnering churches raising out support, we now find ourselves at 59.8% of our needed financial support. Praise God!

Posted by Andrew at 9:19 AM // Comments: 2 //
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Caption Challenge

Here is this week's Caption Challenge, this time dedicated to my Dad. Caption away...

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Posted by Andrew at 8:30 AM // Comments: 10 //
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