August 31, 2006
Dream Come True
Ever since God gave me the opportunity to work with puppets back in the late '80s, I have dreamed of doing a puppet-based TV program.
Today I did the first recording for the new TV program our churches will be broadcasting here in the valley. It was quite amature, and almost totally improvised, but it was a start. Next week we will be having a meeting with the puppetry production team to set up something more permanent.
In the next couple of days, I should have some clips of our first presentation to show you.
This is Not GoodWith a madman to the north (Hugo Chavez) and a madman to the south (Evo Morales), articles like this one from VCrisis do not make me sleep well at night:
If buying warplanes were like trading in a car, the Lula administration would be a loyal customer of the low mileage used car section. While South American neighbors acquire latest generation aircraft Brazil renews its air force with French Mirage aircraft from the 80's.
August 30, 2006
They're At It AgainOrganized gang violence flared up again in São Paulo. Reuters has the report:
Members of a powerful criminal gang shot at police and vandalized bank branches before dawn on Wednesday in Sao Paulo, putting authorities in Brazil's biggest city on alert for the fourth time in as many months.
Book of the Week: Their Finest Hour
"For Romans in Rome's quarrel
Spared neither land nor gold,
Nor son nor wife, nor limb nor life,
In the brave days of old."
Winston Churchill is at his finest when the subject is the heroic efforts of his beloved Britain during the darkest days of the Second World War. The poem above, which he quotes in the book, adequately summarizes the "temper of the hour".
If the subject is mobilizing people for a conflict (and, given current events, this definitely should be the subject), there is no better book to read than "Their Finest Hour". Second in Churchill's World War Two series, it brilliantly lays out England's struggle from the perspective of her leaders. The following paragraph should be a lesson to our generation:
"This was the moment when my colleagues felt it right to obtain from Parliament the extraordinary powers for which a bill had been prepared during the last few days. This measure would give the government practically unlimited power over the life, liberty, and probperty of all His Majety's subjects in Great Britain."
Could Americans (or Britons, for that matter) stomach such measures today? I have my doubts.
One last quote stands in sharp contrast to today's leadership in the present conflict:
"You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land, and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us: to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, What is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory--victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror; victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival."
Jornal Nacional in Juazeiro do Norte
During this election season, the Jornal Nacional--largest and most-watched TV news program here--set up a caravan of busses (two of them, actually) to travel throughout Brazil. They stop in a different city each night and do their broadcasts from there. Last night, they were here in Juazeiro do Norte.
I did not make it to the broadcast, but, given the number of those in attendance, I probably would have seen very little had I gone.
The broadcasters did spend the night here in Juazeiro, and on my way to work I passed the hotel where they were staying, and saw their buses out front. I just had to stop and take a picture.
If you are interested in seeing their broadcast (in Portuguese), click here.
August 29, 2006
House Update 3.0
All systems are still go. Except for the fact that Hurricane Ernesto is scheduled to pass through the area tomorrow...which is (was) closing day. So now closing day will be moved to Thursday or Friday. Hopefully.
Please keep praying.
Puppets and More Puppets
Last week marked the "resurrection" of our puppet ministry here in Brazil. On Friday I gave the first puppet lesson to a few seminary students who will be working with us in our annual outreach to the religious pilgrims here in Juazeiro do Norte in November.
After that puppet class, I boarded a bus to make the eight-hour trip to Fortaleza, where a church had invided me to do a puppetry seminar as part of their Sunday School teachers conference.
Usually when I do puppetry seminars, I like to take a team with me, to demonstrate the techniques that are being taught. As I did not have anybody available to do this, I showed video clips of various professional puppet performances. By far the favorite of the evening was the following:
Arriving home at six am on Monday, I had time for a quick shower before taking Mikey to school. While at school I saw the pastor who is in charge of the TV program we are setting up here in the valley. He rather casually mentioned that the first puppet filming would be Thursday.
Thursday! We have no puppet team, no scripts, no scenery. All we have is several puppets and an intense desire to have the kind of impact a TV audience would provide.
I swallowed hard, and told him we would make it happen. So now other things have been set aside and I am writing furiously and making desperate preparations in order to have something worthwhile to film this Thursday.
August 28, 2006
I feel her pain.
Calling Boca Raton?I just got home from a weekend in Fortaleza, doing a puppetry seminar. More on that later. In checking the news, I saw this headline:
Thousands of Brazilians are calling West Boca neighborhood home
August 25, 2006
House Update 2.2
On Monday, at 10 am, there will be a very important meeting in Florida with regard to the house. Closing date is still the 30th. Please be in prayer for the good outcome of this meeting.
August 21, 2006
Book of the Week: The City of God
When I was in Bible college, I aquired many books that I swore I would read when I had the time. I don't know that I have any more time now than I did when I was in college, but I have determined to read as many of my books as possible.
As incentive for me to do that, and also as a source of edification for those who read this blog, I am instituting a "Book of the Week" section. I will read (or try to read) one book a week, and give you a review of it on this site, along with and Amazon link where you can purchase it, should you be interested.
I remember my theology professor, Mr. Stutzman, telling us that we should "treat our minds" by reading St. Augustine's "The City of God". Six years after I graduated, I took him up on it. It has been slow going, and I am still digesting the last few chapters. It has, however, been a treat for my mind. Thanks, Mr. Stutzman.
"The City of God" was written to counter the pagan argument that Christianity was responsible for the destruction of Rome. It contrasts the earthly city (Rome, as representative of this world's system) with the city of God. As a defense of Christianity to a world of pagans, it is quickly regaining relevance in today's society. I heartily recommend it to the serious reader, with two cautions:
1. It is not fluff. Even the abridged version I have been reading has been quite the mental excercise.
2. Augustine lived in the days when the Roman Catholic church was in it's embryonic form, and some of their nascent heresies seep into his writings.
However, for a soaring defense of the Christian faith, you cannot do better than "The City of God".
Mind Over Matter
This evening Mikey was watching Penguin March (a gift from Gramma and Grampa). Suddenly he got up and went into his room, emerging shortly thereafter in a snowsuit. In Brazil. In 80+ degree weather.
I guess it helped him feel a part of the story. Perhaps all the snow made him cold.
I got to wondering...why did we bring the snowsuit in the first place?
The Ladies of Peace Baptist
This is Itacyara with some of her friends from Peace Baptist Church. Notice the similar hair style. Yet another "impact" Ita is having in our church!
We just had a delightful visit with a young lady named Ellie who is here from the US as a short-termer. She has been here in Brazil almost two months, working with the deaf. She has been staying with a Brazilian couple, and has adapted incredibly well. Both Itacyara and I came away with the impression that she needs to be here permanently.
Another point in her favor, she blogs!!!! Check out her site, and give her a shout out.
This morning I went to our area pastors' meeting. One of our pastors shared an exciting opportunity that has literally fallen into our laps. A local TV station has offered us an hour of programming on Saturday morning (8 am to 9 am). There was quite a bit of excitement as the pastors discussed the various possibilities. One thing was agreed on--this is an opportunity that is too good to miss.
Please pray for wisdom as we move ahead with this project.
August 19, 2006
Bumba Meu Boi
Since my first visit to Maranhao, I had heard alot about the Bumba Meu Boi celebrations in that region. On this last visit, I had the opportunity to see a couple of them up close, and to learn alot more about them.
I learned, for example, that there are several sotaques (accents, or versions) of the dance. Some show a more African influence (Boi de Matraca), some are more native Brazilian in character (Boi de Índio), while some have decidedly European traits (Boi de Orquestra).
All of them, however, represent in some form or another the story of a slave (Sr. Chico) and his pregnant wife (Catarina)--who suddenly has a craving for the tongue of a bull. Sr. Chico, in order to please his wife, tries to get the tongue from the prize bull of his master. The master finds out about it, and tells Chico that if he does not bring the bull back alive, he will kill him. Chico then seeks the help of an indian chief to heal the bull.
This story is acted out in various ways over several weeks. The lyrics of the songs that accompany the actions can include anything from culture to current events to politics.
There are two strong undercurrents which are evident in all the celebrations: Roman Catholicism and Spiritism. Here in Brazil, these two currents are often found together in syncretistic harmony.
In the above video, we see excerpts from two performances of Boi de Matraca (one is a neighborhood celebration, and the other is a more professional performance), and one of Boi de Índio. In between, there are a couple excerps showing highlighting individual performers and their costumes.
I am told the Boi de Orquestra is the best, but I did not get a chance to see it.
If you have trouble seeing this video, you can try the youtube version.
The Kimmels in Romania
When we were on deputation, Mikey and I had the privilege of staying with David and Ruth Kimmel--and their daughters Celeste and Amber--near Cincinnati, Ohio. While we were with them, the Kimmels shared their growing burden for missions.
It has been exciting to see what God has been doing in their lives since then. They recently visited the country of Romania, and came back especially burdened for the needs of that country.
These are just a couple of the pictures they took on their trip. The rest can be seen here.
Please keep the Kimmels in your prayers. My impression of them is that they are going to make an outstanding missionary family.
August 18, 2006
I Love My Job
My life as director of ministry internships here at the Cariri Baptist Seminary is never dull. This morning I arrived with various projects on my to-do list. These were quickly set aside, however, as I was called upon to deal with two student-related issues. People before projects.
Being able to work one-on-one with these kids makes my day. They are a joy to be around, and give hope for the future of the ministry here in Brazil.
One neat thing about today: as these students shared their burdens with me, I could see where God prepared me to deal with them, based on things He allowed me to go through in the past.
One day we are going to move on to other areas of ministry, and those will present their own challenges and adventure. But I already know that I am going to miss this.
August 16, 2006
Leftist Roots of Brazilian Gang Violence.A few voices here in Brazil are starting to notice ties between the criminals who have terrorized Sao Paulo and the leftist who currently run the country. In a recent column, Brazilian Janer Cristaldo made the following observation:
In kidnapping people to force the airing of a message, the PCC is just reading from the Left's primer. Leftist leaders, today comfortably ensconced in power, call themselves saviors of the nation and enjoy millionaire retirement pensions as a reward for their criminal pasts. Perhaps nobody else remembers, but Fernando Gabeira, who today stands out as a stainless hero amidst Congress's sea of mud, was one of the forerunners of this efficient strategy, when in 1969 he kidnapped American Ambassador Charles Burke Elbrick.
Brazilian Politics 101The following, from Guardian Unlimited, is one of the best summaries of Brazilian politics that I have ever seen:
Brazilian politics has traditionally been heavily clientelistic and corrupt. There are a plethora of small rightwing parties, bound together for purely opportunistic reasons, whose representatives frequently defect to other parties for personal gain. The mensalao scandal was a direct result of the strategy of making alliances with these parties, and a part of the reason why PSDB have not been able to fully capitalise on it is that they have faced accusations of similar behaviour in the past. Brazilians' weary cynicism about their politicians is summed up by the phrase "roubo mas faz" - "he steals, but he gets things done".
On August 16th, 2003, I posted the first entry to this blog--with the inauspicious title "Me Likum Wagon Trains." Back then I had little idea as to what a blog was, or it's potential for communicating with very large audiences. It has proven to be an essential tool missionary communication.
A big thank-you to all who have followed the Comings Communiqué over the years, giving your feedback and encouragement. And special thanks goes to Kevin, whithout whom I would never have started blogging, and who is responsible for its present design.
Here's to many more years of blogging bliss!
August 15, 2006
Long Runs on the Beach
My bro Daniel wrote, directed, and starred in this little gem, so I thought I would share it with you:
August 14, 2006
Itacyara, Keynote Speaker
On Saturday Itacyara spoke to the regional ladies society. By all accounts, she did an outstanding job.
August 12, 2006
The Monk and the ExecutiveI have noticed that every time I walk into a bookstore down here, a book entitled "O Monge e o Executivo" (The Monk and the Executive) is featured prominently. I had no idea, however, that it had such an interesting background. Check out this story from the Washington Post:
SAO PAULO, Brazil, Aug. 11 -- James C. Hunter got a long-distance telephone call last year telling him that his book "The Monk and the Executive" was dominating the bestseller lists in Brazil. He was perplexed.
"I think you've got the wrong guy," Hunter remembers telling the man on the other end of the line, who had identified himself as his Brazilian publisher. "I never wrote a book by that title."
But in 1998 Hunter had published a novel in the United States called "The Servant." Without his knowledge, a publishing company had translated the book into Portuguese, renamed it and witnessed a phenomenon unfold. The parable has held the No. 1 slot on Brazil's overall bestseller lists for about 70 weeks, and Hunter has become something of a celebrity in a country that he rarely had given a thought to before. Another book of his -- a motivational manual for business leaders -- earlier this year bumped "The Da Vinci Code" out of the No. 2 spot on the lists.
"I never dreamed a book I wrote almost 10 years ago would be such a success down there," said Hunter, 51, who has visited Brazil five times in the past year. "I knew very little about Brazil before -- it just wasn't in my realm of thinking at all. Now, it's very prominent."
Hiking in the Mountains
Yesterday was a school holiday here in Brazil (Student's Day...I don't ever remember celebrating that when I was in school in the States!), so we took advantage of it and went hiking along the ridge that surrounds the Cariri valley. The view is breathtaking--God's creation spread out in all it's glory for all to see.
More pictures of it can be seen here.
Experience is the Best TeacherBut sometimes the students are really dense. On Mother's Day, thousands of prisoners who were released temporarily--ostensibly to visit their mothers--participated in the biggest crime wave São Paulo has ever seen. Sunday (tomorrow) is Father's Day. What have we learned from this experience? The following article answers that question:
The Penitentiary Court of Brazil's Sao Paulo state announced on Friday a temporary release of over 13,000 inmates on Fathers Day amid a growing tense atmosphere in Sao Paulo.
August 11, 2006
Speaking of Terror
We recently received the following communiqué from the US consulate here in Brazil:
This coming weekend, August 12-14, prisoners are expected to be released from jail in observation of Brazilian Father's Day. A similar furlough occurred over Mother's Day weekend in May resulted in widespread violence throughout the State of São Paulo, disrupting public transportation and physically damaging many banks and businesses. There is no indication at this time that violence of this magnitude will occur again this weekend or, if it does, that it will spread beyond Sao Paulo. The potential for violence does exist, however. We advise American citizens to check news reports and take normal precautions to protect themselves against crime.
Your prayers are appreciated, especially for our co-workers in the São Paulo area.
Terror's Side Effects
I would appreciate your prayers for a friend of mine named Dave, who works for the TSA. Due to recent events, he is working major overtime, and his job just got alot harder.
August 10, 2006
A Blast from the Past
The Baptist Mid-Missions work here in Northeastern Brazil was founded by Edward "Guy" McLain back in the 1930's. Life here was much different back then than it is now. Recently, Guy McLain's son Philip posted some comments on some of the vintage pictures I have on the photos page--giving us a first-hand glimps as to what life was like for those pioneer missionaries and their families. I am posting the photos with his comments here.
I remember when a monsignor was murdered in about 1948 by a man because he refused to marry a black man to a white woman not far from here....there was a huge funeral and bon fire in front of this church. We lived just down the steet from the church and I could see the crowd and the flames....I remember hearing people chanting "kill the protestants". I had nightmares about that for years afterward. God is gracious in His protection.
George Knutson, unknown man, Guy McLain
1941 or '42
1941 picture...Guy and Inez McLain
The girls that lived with us in our home downtown...Inez McLain is standing on the left.
This is Guy McLain baptising...Inez is at the organ and Jonathan's head is visible behind the Brazilian boy. Probably taken in the early 60's when they traveled north from Sao Paulo for meetings in Juazeiro.
Getting to Juazeiro in the early years was a trip.....2 days by train.
I believe this is Inez McLain and a Sunday School Class
Edward Guy McLain in our first home in downtown Juazeiro....I used to sit where dad is standing and talk to people as the walked by...the girls used to call me angino (little angel) because of my blond hair and blue eyes....boy were they ever wrong!!
Guy McLain is the man in the dark tie. The little boy standing if front of Guy is probably me (Philip). If you enlarge the picture you can see Charles Hocking peeking around the corner of the doorway. This was taken in Crato.
This looks like one of the BMM conferences....these are all missionaries in the room. This is a classroom at the old MK Academy.
These are the kids that lived on the property....an early picture...about 1950....Louise Kinsall (Brooks) on the left...note the high wall....other more recent pictures show the wall as being chest high.
This is early picture of the house my dad (Guy McLain) built on the same property as the church. It served as our home, and each wing housed grade school and high school students....the boys in one wing and the girls in the other. We moved in in 1950 and lived here for one year before going to Fortaleza in 1951 because of dad's health.
I think this is the back yard for the first church in Juazeiro...as you know, most houses had yards in the back...but, this also might be Crato, where the Hockings lived and had a church.
First Seminary Building....
The airplane belonged to Harold Reiner...a Piper Tri-pacer. Not sure where....but not Juazeiro....the airport there was paved.
This class must have graduated about 1959 or so...in the front row is Jim Willson, Florence Willson, Nezita (she lived with us in Sao Jose dos Campos in 1954 & 1955, don't know the middle girl, Peggy Babcock, Bernice Lynn, and Mary Mills. The reason I think this must be 1959 or so is because Bernice Lynn is in the picture. She died in a plane crash that killed Peter Reiner and put Harold in the hopital for a long time...Not sure when that was, but I know it was shortly after I was in Brasil in the summer of 1960.
Harold, Ruth, Tim and I forget the baby's name.
This is the first church building - started by Guy McLain and Jim Willson. It was just a block or two (as I remember it) from the main praca. The crosses were painted on the door and the walls by locals as a curse against the "protestantes". We also found macumba chickens and such at the doorstep many times.
I believe this is a picture of the girls that lived with Guy and Inez McLain while attending high school in 1946-1947. The missionary women are (from left to right in the second row) Louise Kinsall (before she married Pete Brooks), Florence Willson, Inez McLain. I don't know the names of the Brazilians.
This is a funeral....the object in the hammock is a body...one of the Christians from the church in Juazeiro....someone waiting for us in Glory? I hope so.
Harold Reiner's Tri pacer 1960...on a trip I (Philip McLain) took with him the summer I was there to visit my parents.
This is Pedro Metozo and his wife....one of the first converts under Guy McLain's ministry.
The three boys in the front from left to right: David Willson (son of Jim and Florence), Philip McLain (son of Guy and Inez McLain), Jack Hocking (son of Charlie and Martha Hocking) about 1947-48.
The woman on the right in the orange dress is Martha Hocking and the woman in front of her in the flowered dress holding the hymn book is Louise Kinsall Brooks. This is in the church that was downtown, before the campus was built that now houses the First Baptist Church
Guy, Jonathan, Philip, Inez McLain in a hotel...about 1948
Tom Willson Baptizing
The man is Jim Willson...One of the originals in Juaziero. Note his left arm...Jim had polio as a child and was weak on the left side.
This car is a Chevy Carry-all, forerunner to the Chevy Suburban. Owned by Guy McLain - taken between 1946- 1949
Harold and Ruth Reiner. The boy is Tim Reiner - Missionary to Brasil. Don't remember the girls' names, and not sure who the other woman is....taken in the mid 50's.
August 9, 2006
House Update 2.1
I am holding in my hands a signed contract for the house. Still a ways away from a final sale, but this is progress.
August 8, 2006
House Update 2.0
Just got off the phone. A very acceptable offer has been made, a closing date has been set (August 30th), and we are just waiting for loans to be approved. Please continue to pray.
We would appreciate your prayers, as our real estate agent is meeting with a potential buyer tonight.
August 7, 2006
Violence Begins Again in São PauloHere we go again. The following article in Portuguese tells of several gang attacks on public buildings in São Paulo this morning. There have been no reported deaths or injuries, but 25 busses were assaulted and several buildings have been damaged.
SÃO PAULO - A onda de ataques a órgãos do Estado e alvos civis - como transportes, agências bancárias e caixas eletrónicos e postos de gasolina - recomeçou no Estado de São Paulo na madrugada desta segunda-feira. Até agora, foram cinco ataques em Jundiá cidade a 50 quilómetros da capital, Mauã, na região do ABC, e 15 em São Paulo, capital. Quatro atacantes foram presos pela polícia.Também dez ónibus foram incendiados na região do ABC.
August 6, 2006
Brazilian Reaction to the Israeli ConflictIt would seem that by Israel simply defending her right to exist, she has given excuse to anti-semetic scum around the world, including here in Brazil.
A synagogue in southeastern Brazil sustained minor damage after attackers threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at the building early Saturday, authorities said. Three or four unidentified people attacked the synagogue in Campinas, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of Sao Paulo, and painted "Lebanon, the true Holocaust" on the sidewalk, the press office of the Sao Paulo State Public Safety Department said.
August 5, 2006
As part of our plan for further education, Itacyara recently took her vestibular (university entrance exam) in language arts. One of her objectives is to become an official translator--something that would be of great use to our missionaries here.
Today the results came out. She finished in sixth place (out of 211), and has guaranteed herself a spot in the Cariri Regional University (URCA). Her official "report card" for the exam can be seen below.
Classes should begin for her in the middle of next year, depending on whether or not the teachers are still on strike.
Needless to say, she has one very proud husband!
August 2, 2006
Penguins Being Flown Home
Penguins stranded on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro will hitch a ride back home to Antarctica with Brazil's air force and navy, Reuters news agency reports. It says more than 100 penguins will make the special trip later this month.They will be flown to Brazil's southernmost region and then taken by ship to their Antarctic habitat, a military spokesman told the agency.The penguins wash up on Brazilian beaches each winter after floating on Antarctic ice floes which melt.Many of the birds, which are flightless, are usually taken to local zoos, Reuters says.The penguins will initially be transported on a plane carrying equipment for an Antarctic naval base, before continuing their journey on a naval ship.
I just talked to our realtor in Florida, and she says there is someone interested in our house. She will be talking to them soon.
She also said she has sold all of her other listings in our park. I'm not quite sure how to interpret that...
August 1, 2006
Scenes from Vacation
Here are some snapshots of the last two weeks as we have travelled Northeast Brazil with my parents.
On the road...again.
Mom was impressed with the improvised bus stops.
Shrimp for sale at the São Luís market.
My parents meet my in-laws.
A diorama of São Luís.
Mom and I on Alcântara.
An impromptu concert.
Bumba Meu Boi (I have some great video of this coming later).