November 29, 2006

Capito Caramba

Jnior and the gang learn that being a Super Hero is not always what it seems.

The quality of our productions keeps improving with each taping. The next one will include an airplane that actually "flies". Stay tuned!

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Book of the Week: Famine in the Land

This week I took time out from Churchill to read Famine in the Land by Steven J. Lawson.

In general, I enjoyed this book. It was a refreshing call to biblical, expository preaching, a good reminder to those of us in ministry.

The book is divided into four parts, and each part is an exposition of a passage of Scripture. Here is where the difficulties come in. For someone who was urging careful exegesis and accurate proclamation, the author's own exegesis was sometimes (but not always) quite shallow.

The prime example of this is seen in the second part, where his text is Jonah 3:1-10. I found it amazing that Lawson would hold Jonah up as the kind of preacher we should aspire to be. The message of Jonah is how God works through human weakness, not an example for expositors.

After I got past the second chapter, however, I was rewarded by some good insights. All in all, I recommend this book as a good read. Just don't imitate Jonah.

For another good review of this book, click here.

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November 27, 2006

A HUGE Announcement!

Many people are already "in-the-know", but it has not yet been officially announced on this site. So here goes.

Itacyara is expecting our second child!

More information about due-dates, etc. in the coming days.

It and I are very excited. Mikey is non-committal.

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Kindergarten Graduation

It is graduation time here, and not just at the seminary. On Saturday Mikey officially graduated from kindergarten.

I was not a big fan of the concept, and overall the night was a bit of a dud. There were, however, some Kodac moments which I am required to share.

The event was held at a nice chacara here in town. As soon as we arrived, we got this nice picture. You may notice that there are not many people milling about. The (very formal and expensive) invitation stated that the event began at six. We arrived at six. It started at eight.

This is Mikey standing by the pool. Mikey would have enjoyed the evening more if he had been able to get IN the pool.

Mikey and a classmate.

All the parents walked down the aisle with their children.

Each kid got a diploma and a ring (a RING!!!). Here is Mikey, sporting his "bling".

Nothing to do with the graduation, but I thought that these little houses on the side of the palm trees looked cute.

The untouchables.

A nice shot of Mikey's hand with ring and diploma.

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Bring Them Home

No, I am not talking about soldiers in Iraq, although of course my desire is for their safe return.

Instead, I am referring to Joe Lepore and Jan Paladino, the pilots of the Legacy private jet that collided with a Gol airliner over the Amazon jungle, sending 154 people to their deaths.

When the accident first happened, there was an immediate knee-jerk outpouring of anti-Americanism. Even my friend who rides with me to work every day muttered under his breath that those Americans needed to be taught a lesson.

It is becoming quite evident, however, that the pilots bear little or no responsibility for the accident. Evidence from the plane has showed that the pilots were following instructions and behaving professionally throughout the flight. The air-traffic control here, however, has proven to be a mess. The controllers, the politicians, and the military are all trying to shift blame. They would very much like to see the two American pilots get pinned with the whole thing. The anti-American feelings here play into their hands.

Enter Joe Sharkey. Mr. Sharkey is a reporter who was on the Legacy when the accident happened. He has started a blog, and is focusing public attention what is going on, and on the two pilots being held in Rio without recourse.

Please keep these two men, their families, and the families of all the victims of the accident in your prayers.

Posted by Andrew at 2:25 PM
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November 20, 2006

Book of the Week: Closing the Ring

It has been a few weeks since we have posted a Book-of-the-Week feature. Today I finally found time to sit down and finish Closing the Ring.

This fifth book in Winston Churchill's World War Two series covers the period from June, 1943 to the eve of D-Day in June of 1944. High points in the book include the Italian campaign and the Tehran conference.

The former is of interest to me because that is where the Brazilian forces saw action--although the only mention of them in this book is in one of the appendices. The recounting of the Tehran conference is interesting because of the personal accounts Churchill gives of interaction between the himself, Roosevelt, and Stalin.

I found this book to be not quite as gripping as the others in the series, but it lays the necessary groundwork for what was undoubtedly the climax of the war--to be covered in the last volume.

More Book-of-the-Week reviews can be seen here.

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Os Talentos

I have had this online for some time, and just forgotten to publish it here. This is the latest episode of A Cidade Feliz to be aired.

In this program, Jnior is trying to discover what he is good at. The only problem is, he tries to be good at whatever everybody else is good at.

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Graduation Banquet

On Friday evening I took my lovely wife to the senior banquet at the seminary. This is a highlight of the school year. The Juniors sponsor the event, and this year they went all out.

And I do mean all out!

The cooking for the event was done by this man, who is a chef for the Brazilian Air Force.

The graduates sat at the table of honor. During the evening each one recieved a special gift and an eulogy from a member of the junior class.

This is me, with the belle of the ball!

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My Kingdom for a Dell Inspiron 5150 15" LCD Inverter

Besides the clutch on our truck, another casualty of our trip to Exu was my laptop. I took it to the repair shop on Friday, and today the diagnosis came back: a blown LCD Inverter.

Of course those are not readily available here, so I had to order one from the us (U$34) and have it shipped here (U$25). Please pray that it will arrive in time for me to finish the year-end practical ministries work at the seminary before graduation (Dec. 1).

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Exu Photos

Last week I posted two entries (here and here) about our adventures returning from the city of Exu. It is high time I give a report of what we did while in Exu--before all the madness.

First, a picture taken on the way to Exu. In this shot we are descending the mountain that would prove the undoing of our clutch on the way back.

This is Daniel, one of our seminary students, explaining the Gospel by use of the "Three Doors".

The Three Doors usually draw a crowd.

Another thing drawing a crowd in the same general area was a guy selling snakebite antidote. He even brought his own snakes.

Nice and Fabiana--two of our Cidade Feliz puppeteers--brought their church puppet team for the event.

Feeding the team that accompanied us to Exu was no small task! (Note relative size of chair as compared to the dude sitting in it)

Exu was hometown to the late Luiz Gonzaga, one of Brazil's most famous singers. This is the museum dedicated to his honor. After we toured the museum, I dressed up in a traditional nordestino outfit and posed for the cameras. Alas, the batteries in my camera died at that moment. Never fear, however. A friend has promised to send me his copy, and I will post it as soon as I get it.

Wilson is a local businessman who, in his spare time, has planted the Exu church. He is a highly motivated individual who takes advantage of every opportunity to minister. This shot shows him at the microphone of a local radio station.

A few shots of the praise team practicing. The bass player was outstanding.

We had services on Saturday and Sunday evening. They were very well attended, with several people making decisions for Christ.

I need to mention one more item. This broke my heart. As one of our seminary girls was participating in the personal evangelism campaign, she talked to two young ladies--both carrying newborns. Upon further conversation, it was discovered that one of the girls was nine, and the other eleven. The babies in their arms were theirs.

Wilson told me that Exu has one of the highest child-prostitution rates in all Brazil. And this is a city of just 40,000 people.

Pray for Wilson and his family, as well as seminary students Edson, Marli, and Rosngela, who are working to spread the light of the Gospel in Exu.

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November 19, 2006

Brazilian Missionary Murdered in East Timor

Word is coming in over the internet newswires of a Brazilian missionary being murdered today in East Timor.

Townsville Bulletin: Brazilian missionary murdered as fighting flares [ 20nov06 ]

A BRAZILIAN missionary has been murdered in the East Timorese capital as new fighting flared late last night, only days after rival factions united in a peace march through the city.

Eyewitness Elizabete da Silva said she saw the man die as a mob attacked Dili Hospital and burned cars.

"He was our neighbour. I saw them stop his car, drag him out and cut his throat," she said.

A Brazilian source identified him as Edgar Gonalves Brito. He was a missionary with the Assemblies of God.

Please be in prayer for his family and co-workers. East Timor is a former Portuguese colony that achieved it's independence from Indonesia in 2002. Recently it has been plagued with violence.

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November 18, 2006

Missions Partnerships

The following comes from our mission website. Some neat stuff going on here.

mozambique partnership

Missions goes full circle when those reached, reach out and lead their own people to Christ. This cycle has gone on for many years around the world, but in Brazil, it's taken a further step. In 2000, Brazilian Baptist churches created their own missionary agency, Brazil Fundamental Baptist Mission. Their pioneer missionaries, Divino and Maria Amorim, have been in Mozambique since 2002, and their congregation now numbers 50.

In 2006, the missions cycle continued. Joel and Joan Troester, veteran BMM Brazil missionaries, signed on to help Divino and Maria and their new Brazilian coworkers, Odenilson and Maria Luiza, in a partnership ministry between BFBM and Baptist Mid-Missions.

Merging Brazilian and American cultures gives the best of both worlds for church planting in Mozambique. The Brazilians and Mozambicans share the same Portuguese language, and the Brazilians are looked up to as a big brother by the Mozambicans. Baptist Mid-Missions has more than 85 years of church planting experience to contribute, as well as the financial resources of North American churches.

Although this kind of partnership is relatively new for BMM, it follows the biblical “two by two” pattern of Christ sending out his disciples and of Paul and Silas. Teaming with their Brazilian coworkers, the Troesters will plant churches through evangelism and discipleship. Their target is to start several strong churches and then start a Bible school where the nationals can be trained to teach their own.

Joel says, "The Brazilians are the product of missionaries coming to them. They have been on the receiving end. Americans can learn from them concerning the things that were done well and the things that could be done better." Baptist Mid-Missions as well as BFBM hope to add more missionaries to the team in the years ahead.

Posted by Andrew at 10:39 AM
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Venezuela Alert

Last night I received a second-hand report that missionaries in Venezuela are being put on alert for possible evacuation. Please be in prayer for God's protection and blessing on those serving in our neighbor to the north.

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More Romaria Pictures.

Due to computer and schedule issues, I have been lax in posting pictures from recent activities. The other day Jim Leonard gave me some pictures he took during our evangelistic campaign among the romeiros (pilgrims) who come here each year to worship Padre Ccero. He got some great shots, and gave me permission to include them here. He also took some good pictures of the Padre Ccero museum and statue, which I will post later in order to explain more about this religious phenomenon.

During the Romaria, Juazeiro do Norte--normally somewhat crowded--becomes jam-packed with people. Some 200,000 people live here. This year the city hosted 400,000 romeiros.

Juazeiro is a city built on the industry of idolatry. Many "idol shops" just like this one can be found all over town.

Padre Ccero in assorted shapes and sizes.

One neat thing about this time is that the Northeastern Brazilian culture is on full display. Here sugar cane is being processed to make "suco de cana", a scrumptioius (non-alcoholic) beverage.

Farmers from the region bring their wares to be sold. Pineapples, anyone?

One if the ministries we cary out is to offer free water to the tired and thirsty romeiros. Here we see them lined up to receive it. While drinking the physical water, we also share the message of the Living Water available through Christ.

Our students cary out various ministries in the main square of the city. These include puppets (shown in an earlier post) gospel magic, and a tool called the "three doors". Here, seminary student Francisco shares the gospel with a romeiro.

These pilgrims are praying at one of the many religiously significant spots around town.

At the end of the week, the pilgrims gather at the chapel where the padre is buried to say "goodbye". This shot shows them waving their hats--a ritual they carry out every year.

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November 15, 2006

Dubious Honor

An alert reader pointed out that if you do a Google search for Padre Cicero--the charlatan priest whose "miracles" catapulted him to god status in this region--the Comings Communiqu is the first site listed.

I'm not sure what to think about that.

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November 13, 2006

High Adventure in Brazil--Part Two

This is the continuation of the previous post. Scroll down to read this real-life missionary adventure from the very beginning.

As I sat rested comfortably in the front seat of Jim Leonard's SUV, I breathed a sigh of relief. The adventure was over.

Boy was I wrong.

Back at the car, Daniel had taken his job of protecting the women and Mikey very seriously. Fortunately, they received no threats. When Jim and I arrived, we had some decisions to make. His car had room for seven with no luggage. We had six people, and lots of luggage.

Then there was the question of what to do with the truck. On his way to pick us up, Jim had phoned a towing company that advertises "25 hour service". Nobody answered. Between us, we had no ropes or chains suitable for towing.

We decided that Jim would take the girls and Mikey back to the seminary, and Daniel and I would wait with the car. Jim would then return with rope and we would tow the truck somewhere secure. We were not quite sure where that would be.

For the second time that night, we watched a car pull away from us. This time, however, there was the promise that they would be back. Daniel and I settled back for the wait.

In order to save on the battery, I turned all the lights off. Once again the night enveloped us. We gazed at the stars, and marveled as the crescent moon rose red in front of us. We talked of ministry, plans, and various inconveniences experiences encountered while traveling.

It didn't seem like too long before Jim pulled up again. In reality, it was about an hour and a half. He had stopped by a police post in town, and they had loaned him some sturdy (very sturdy, it was to prove) ropes.

There in the darkness, we concocted our plan. Jim would tow us to a nearby IBAMA (the Brazilian version of the Environmental Protection Agency) outpost, where we would park the truck for the night, and return for it in the morning. The outpost was about twenty kilometers away. The most important advantage that it held was that it was before the steep incline that leads down the other side of the plateau and into town. I shuddered at the thought of having to try to navigate that treacherous stretch of road in neutral.

Jim got into his truck, and Daniel and I got back into ours. We watched nervously as Jim slowly pulled out and the ropes went taut. Then we began to move slowly. The ropes had held! Hallelujah!

Our praise service was cut short as I realized that I only had about eight feet of "buffer space" between my front bumper and the rear of Jim's SUV. Once again the adrenaline began to flow. I gripped the wheel so hard I probably left prints. As my engine was turned off, the steering wheel and brakes worked very hard.

Daniel and I began counting the kilometers. After and agonizing half-hour, the IBAMA outpost appeared. We pulled over, and Jim got out of his vehicle and walked up the gate. As Daniel and I got out of the truck, Jim was walking back to us, shaking his head.

"Closed," he said. "It was open when I came by just now."

"Where is the next safe place we can leave the truck?" I asked, fearing the answer.

"At the police outpost halfway down the mountain," was the reply.

It was a bad option, but it was our only option. We drove on for another couple of kilometers, until we came to the beginning of the long descent. Then we stopped and undid the ropes. Jim would ride ahead of us, and we would coast in neutral to the police station.

Daniel, my faithful co-pilot, volunteered to ride with me. Jim took off, we gave the car a little push, and down we went.

Under normal circumstances, the trip down the mountain at night is one of my favorites. The forest gives way and the traveler is treated to a breathtaking panorama of lights as three cities spread out beneath him.

These were not normal circumstances. Once again my fingers dug into the steering wheel. My lights were very dim, and it was hard to see the road in front of me. Daniel kept up a running commentary:

"Pastor, you are getting too far over to this side. You are almost over the edge. Now you are too far the other side. Watch out, there is a curve up ahead."

Believe it or not, I appreciated his input at this juncture. I have never been so focused on driving. It was an unnerving feeling as the car picked up momentum. Every time I put on the brakes, I silently breathed a prayer of thanks when they held. In this manner we negotiated the perilous curves and incline of the Serra do Araripe.

Up until now, I have viewed the police outposts with some irritation, knowing that they can mean inconvenient stops, document checking, fines, and even the occasional bribe attempt. However, this particular post, on this particular night, was one of the most welcome sights I have ever laid eyes upon.

The rest of the night went pretty quickly. I arrived home at 3:30 am. Daniel lives off campus, so he bunked out here for the night, then took off in the morning. As for me, at first I was too tense to even think about sleeping. Soon the exhaustion caught up with me, however, and I slept like a baby.

Today I am sore. My hand aches where the bee stung me. I have spent the whole day on car-related issues. But I am ALIVE! I am in my home with my loving wife and adorable son. There is really nothing more I could want.

I did have one final adrenaline attack today. After we had retrieved the truck and deposited it at the repair shop and the mechanic had diagnosed a burned out clutch, he handed me the estimate--R$700 (about U$325). All in all, it could be worse.

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High Adventure in Brazil--Part One

Anybody who is tempted to think that missionary work is boring needs to read this article.

My trips with our students to visit their practical ministries have typically been anything but boring. I have crossed precarious bridges, had encounters with exotic wildlife, and met a host of interesting people. None of this, however, came close to the sheer adrenaline level I experienced last night.

Some background is in order. This weekend we had an evangelistic campaign in the city of Exu, about an hour from the seminary. There will be pictures and detailed reports later. Suffice it to say, people were saved, and God was glorified.

Fresh from this exciting event, I piled into the truck with four young people (three seminary students and a girl from one of our local churches) and Mikey. Mikey was sound asleep and, fortunately, missed the whole thing.

Between Exu and Crato (where the seminary is located) there is a gigantic plateau, called the Serra do Araripe. To get home, it was necessary for us to climb the ridge, cross the plateau, and go down the other side. The roads on either side are steep and winding. The road on top is straight as an arrow, and desolate.

As we began our ascent, I noticed that the truck was not showing it's usual "oomph". I attributed this to the fact that we were loaded to the gills with people and supplies. We eventually made it to the top and stopped at a gas station--the last outpost of civilization before the other side of the plateau. There we encountered the other members of our team in another pickup. The driver of that truck asked me if everything was OK, and I--not even thinking about the slight trouble I had experienced--assured him that we were fine. Then we took off, the other vehicle in the front.

As the gas station faded into the background, I noticed that we were having trouble keeping up with the truck in front of us. I had the gas pedal to the floor, and still our companions were disappearing into the night. Soon they were gone. At just that point, the truck completely lost power. The engine was running, and would accelerate when I touched the gas, but somehow this was not being translated to the wheels, no matter what gear I tried.

Coasting to a stop and getting out of the car, we evaluated our situation. Simply put, we were stuck. Our options were limited to two--wait for someone to come back looking for us, or go get help. The first option was not attractive at all, considering the fact that we were alone in one of the more dangerous patches of road in the area, and had no idea when people would figure out we were missing. The second option, while equally unattractive, did seem to be the lesser of the two evils. After all, looking back, I could still make out the green glow from the sign of the gas station we had just passed.

With this in mind, I gave instructions to Daniel--the only male student with us--to stay with the girls and Mikey while I walked back to get help. I placed an iron pipe in his hand--which I carry in the car at all times and affectionately refer to as my "security system"--and solemnly charged him with the protection of the women and child. Then I struck out in direction of the light.

There being no streetlights and absolutely no houses anywhere nearby, the only illumination I had was provided by the stars. And what illumination! The night air caused them to appear much closer and bigger than normal, and I reveled in their beauty.

As I continued to walk I would look at the stars, and then at the greenish light in front of me. Wouldn't it be funny, I thought, if that light in front of me were just another star. That train of thought brought me up short. The same principle that made the stars appear closer than normal was also making the sign appear nearer than it actually was. Much nearer.

Suddenly, the prospect of a long walk in the dark caused fear to well up within me. The stories of assaults in that area returned to my mind in all their gory detail. I remembered at that point that every snake I have ever seen in the wild here in Brazil has been dead on the side of the road--and made the assumption that at one point they had been alive on the side of the road.

My ears became alert to even the slightest noise. Just about then I saw the distant growing lights of a car. The possibility that they would stop and help was slim to none. Nobody stops on that road, and for good reason. As the headlights grew in front of me, I moved over to the side of the road to get out of their way. Just as the car passed, I stepped off the curb and onto some dried grass, which crackled under my feet. A dog barked somewhere nearby, and I ran like I had never run in my life.

As I strained my legs to get from them every possible ounce of speed, I listened intently for the sound of canine panting behind me. The only panting I heard came from me. Relieved, I slowed down to a walk.

Looking up, I saw the green glow of the sign in front of me. Looking back, I could no longer see the blinkers of the car. How far had I walked? How far did I still have to go? I had no idea. I continued to put one foot in front of the other, always looking toward the sign, which never seemed to grow bigger. The starry skies stretched in an endless circle around me. I began to lose all sense of distance and perspective.

Suddenly a light appeared, no more than fifty feet in front of me, and stayed there. I slowed my pace and listened for some sound. There was none. The light bobbed a little, and I got the distinct impression that it was a flashlight. I could not make out anything behind it. Glancing behind me, I saw another light--this one a little further off, but still too close for comfort. Still no sound.

"Who's there?" I called out with a shaky voice. There was no answer.

My heart began to race wildly, and I waged a desperate war against panic. My palms were sweaty and my tongue was dry. Faintly in the distance, I heard the sound of an engine. If I can wait until the oncoming vehicle passes, I will be able to see what is behind the lights, I thought, and if they are bandidos, I can make a run for it.

I stopped and waited. Slowly the sound of the motor grew louder. Suddenly, the light in front of me grew and divided into two. I jumped to the side of the road just as the large dump truck--who's lights I had seen long before I had heard the motor--passed by. I stood there for several seconds breathing hard and wiping gobs of sweat from my forehead. I could now see that the lights behind me were also from an oncoming truck.

I began to fervently pray that that truck--or any truck, for that matter--would stop and offer me a lift. Disappointment flooded me as the eighteen wheeler roared past...and then hope sprang anew as it stopped and began to back up. I ran up to the cab. The driver rolled down the window and looked at me.

"Are you the owner of the Hilux I saw back there?" he asked. I assured him that I was. "Hop in," he said. "I'll take you to the gas station." The only sweeter sound I have ever heard was when I asked Itacyara to marry me, and she said yes.

I climbed into the cab of the truck, silently blessing all truck drivers everywhere. It was amazing how quickly the soft-green glow of the sign in front of me grew as we approached the gas station. The truck driver stopped and I thanked him profusely before getting out.

Of course the gas station had no phone, but there was a weigh station across the street operated by the state police. I walked over there, and went up to the window. As I put my hand on the counter to explain my situation to the officer, I was stung by a bee. So great was the amount of adrenalin pumping through my system that I barely felt it.

The officer invited me to come into the station, where he and his co-workers were watching TV and checking the scores of their favorite teams on the internet. After spending what had seemed like an eternity in the middle of nowhere (actually about an hour and a half) I felt like crying at the sight of computers and telephones.

Especially telephones. I called Itacyara to let her know I was ok, and then called one of our missionaries in Crato to see about getting help for the car. He assured me that he would arrange everything, and we hung up.

I chatted with the guards for awhile, and then walked back over to the gas station to talk wait for the missionary who was coming to pick us up. I prayed that he would come quickly, and prayed for the safety of the people back at the car.

After buying a Coke and talking to the gas station attendant for awhile, I sat down on the curb and waited for help to arrive. After what seemed like another eternity, I saw the familiar headlights of my colleague's SUV.

As we started back toward my car, I asked him to set his trip odometer so I could see how far I had come. "Oh, I already clocked it," was his reply. "You came 7.4 kilometers."

7.4 kilometers. That is about 4.6 miles. I estimate that I walked about three miles of that before the trucker picked me up. When I was in the US, I used to run around a lake that was three miles in circumference. It was a well lit trail, with lots of joggers. I used to feel a great sense of accomplishment when I was done. After last night, jogging around Lake Hollingsworth is nothing.

Believe it or not, this was only the beginning of last night's adventures. Remember that there were five people and a metric ton of luggage back at the truck.

I must get on with various tasks of the day, so I will write part two later.

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November 10, 2006

Special Veterans' Day Tributes

On Veterans' Day, we honor those who have sacrificed to give us the freedom we enjoy. I have never been shy about expressing my gratitude and admiration for those who served in the armed forces.

Today, I would like to honor a group of men who's efforts preserved for us the right to minister here in Brazil by helping to save the world from the Nazi threat. They are the men of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force (FEB).

Legend has it that Adolf Hitler once commented that "before Brazil enters the war on the Allied side, snakes will smoke pipes." When Brazil did indeed go to war agaist Axis powers, that statement was mocked--in typical Brazilian fashion--by the patch shown below, worn by all Brazilian soldiers fighting in Europe.

The Brazilian army, air force, and navy served with distinction in Italy. Not much is said about them here in Brazil today. Many Brazilians don't even know that there was such a thing as the FEB. In my travels, I have never seen one statue to the soldiers who fought in the Great War--although I am sure they exist somewhere.

All believers here owe them a debt of gratitude, for standing up to the Nazi regime. I fear that, if Christ tarries, the day will come once again when the free world will have no choice but to wage war against the forces of evil. Despite the position of the present government, I have no doubt that when that day arrives, Brazilians will once again stand up and be counted.

Below are a few videos found on Youtube about the FEB. The first one--a vintage US newsreel--is in English. The other two are from a documentary that aired here a few weeks ago. If you do not happen to understand Portuguese, there are still some nice pictures.

Newsreel: Brazil at War

Documentary, Part 1

Documentary, Part 2

Lest I totally neglect the veterans of my native land, below is a picture, via Hot Air that shows a side of US soldiers not seen often in the media.

God bless all of our troops who are fighting against all odds to bring peace and prosperity to a land which has never known it.

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Thoughts on the Elections

Being a missionary in a foreign country means watching US politics from afar, which provides an interesting perspective. I was very interested--and not a little saddened--by the results of the midterm elections. I understand that sweeps such as this are not uncommon historically. Nevertheless I am concerned that this represents a further shift away from a biblical worldview in my home country.

My internet was out all day Wednesday, so I only found out about the full scope of events later on through the Brazilian news reports on TV. That morning, however, as I had my devotions in a little cafe near the university where Itacyara studies, I came across the following passage from Jeremiah 25:

Thus the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: "Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. They shall drink and stagger and be crazed because of the sword that I am sending among them." (ESV)

As I observe the US from afar, it seems to be a culture that is "staggering and crazed". There are obvious steps which should be taken, but nobody wants to take them. They are lurching towards oblivion...and are oblivious.

In discussing the election results with one of our older Brazilian pastors, he asked me why, in his many years of association with missionaries, he had never met one who was a Democrat. I tried to explain the socio-economic reasons for this phenomenon, and he seemed satisfied with my explanation. Later on, in relating the conversation to one of our missionaries, he gave the following answer: "It's because we're Christians."

As I reflected on that answer, I realized that it was not entirely wrong. Christians--at least ones who think biblically--rightly view abortion as the modern holocaust. We view homosexuality as a perversion--and special rights for homosexuals as absurd. Whether or not we are dispensationalist, we understand the special place Israel has in God's plan. We believe in the sound financial principles set forth in Scripture. We realize that civilization will ultimately collapse without a strong foundation--and we know that the strongest possible foundation is the Word of God, as proclaimed in churches throughout the land. In the Scriptures we read of the depravity of man, and the role of government in counteracting said depravity. We see the church and the family as the fundamental agencies for effecting positive social change.

For these reasons, most thinking believers are conservatives. And most conservatives align themselves with the Republican pary--the party of Lincoln.

This is not to say that the Republican party is essentially Christian. Or that to be a good Christian, one must be a Republican. I am just making an analysis of why the cars of the much-maligned "religious right" are much more apt to sport a bumper-sticker featuring an elephant than one featuring a donkey.

One of the dangers of this alignment--I feel--is that many Christians spend way too much time being Republicans, and far too little time being Christians. As I mentioned in my comments on the Ted Haggard scandal (which, quite interestingly, has disappeared from the headlines since the election), we as believers need to focus much more on developing holiness in our own lives, and in preaching the Word in every possible way and in every possible venue. This is what Christ called being "salt" and "light", and must be our first and foremost priority.

This will effect the way we--and ultimately, others--vote.

Posted by Andrew at 6:46 AM // Comments: 0 // TrackBack: 0 //
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November 5, 2006


What is THE challenge facing the Church in the 21st century? I am asking because I have been assigned that subject for a conference I will be speaking at in February.

So what is it? Holiness? Missions? Hair length? (Ok...I was just kidding on that last one.)

Please leave any thoughts you might have in the comments section. I would really like to know your opinion.

Posted by Andrew at 9:11 PM // Comments: 9 //
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November 4, 2006

The Haggard Scandal

I have been following from afar the emerging scandal involving Ted Haggard. I had originally not intended to blog it at all, but Steve over at Triablogue had comments that I figured all Christians need to read.

Triablogue: We have no pope!

Honestly, folks, how many Evangelicals pay the slightest attention to the NAE? Do you go to the NAE website for moral and theological guidance?

Did you ever vote for Haggard? I know I didn't.

He's completely irrelevant to my life, and I daresay he's completely irrelevant to yours as well.

Haggard is not my pastor. Or elected representative.

As a graduate of ORU, Haggard is hardly the first guy I'd turn to for theological advice.

As a Christian, I only have one representative, and that's the Lord Jesus Christ.

The downfall of Haggard is only significant if we allow the enemies of the gospel and the chattering classes to assign it a wholly artificial significance and foist that upon the rest of us. If we permit them to redefine us.

The media is addicted to the cult of celebrity and the cult of personality. And they are welcome to their infatuations and soap opera scandals.

But don't try to impose your silly values on me.

Haggard is simply someone who's well-known for being well-known. Haggard's inner demons are no more important than J-Lo's love-life.

Save it for the National Inquirer, alongside the three-headed baby, alien abductee, weeping Madonna, and Elvis-sighting du jour.

Amen and amen. The whole article is worth a read.

Phil Johnson at Pyromaniacs also had some good obeservations:

Pyromaniacs: Thoughts on today's scandal

It's time for evangelicals to rethink their priorities, reexamine the evil fruits of pragmatic and market-driven "spirituality," and retool their own movement. Better yet, Christians with a concern for the glory of God and the authority of Scripture should renounce the latitudinarian-style movement contemporary "evangelicalism" has morphed into. It is a hopelessly mixed and muddled multitude. The fashionable brand of NAE/Christianity Today-style "evangelicalism" actually abandoned historic evangelical principles long ago, and hasn't taken a firm stand for biblical and evangelical doctrine for some time. The current scandal is only a symptom of that much deeper problem.

In conclusion, brethren, let us be holy, and preach the Word.

Posted by Andrew at 3:45 PM // Comments: 2 //
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November 3, 2006

A Cidade Feliz--Live

This week our seminary students carried out their yearly ministry to the romeiros--religious pilgrims who come each year to worship the statue of a priest who died in the 1930's. The ministry included gospel painting, gospel magic, and--re-appearing after a couple years' absence--puppets! Below are some pictures of the event:

Tadeu, Ageu, and Mikey in the back of the pickup, on the way to the center of town.

Typical romeiros from the interior of northeastern Brazil. About 500,000 of them made the trip last week. Many of them end up staying. Not a few come with sicknesses that they want Padre Cicero to heal, and end up dying here.

Setting the stage. Literally.

The puppets in action. We called this "A Cidade Feliz--Ao Vivo" (The Happy City--Live) and used the characters and plots from our TV show.

As you can see from the crowd, it was a huge success.

Chico demonstrates one of his many talents.

Gospel painting.

Gospel magic.

Our puppets handed out tracts--written by some of our students--to the kids. We found that when the people handed them out, not everybody received them. When the puppets offered them, however, everybody wanted them. In this picture shows Irlana, one of our students, explaining the tracts to a couple of the students.

Posted by Andrew at 9:34 AM
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November 2, 2006

American Pilots Exhonerated?

It would appear so. For weeks the press here in Brazil has been jumping all over the two American pilots who were piloting the private jet that collided with a Gol airline, killing over 154 passenger. The pilots, who successfully landed their plane after the incident, had their passports seized and have been held in Rio since the incident for questioning.

The anti-American elements in the press have jumped all over this event, with articles with such headlines as "Brazil's Worst Air Accident Ever Reveals How Arrogant the US Can Be". Now, it would appear, the whole story is coming out:

Air controllers at fault in Brazil collision? - Americas -

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - The flight recorder transcript from the executive jet involved in Brazil's worst air disaster shows its American pilots were told by air traffic control to fly at the same altitude as a Boeing 737 before the planes collided over the Amazon rainforest, a newspaper reported Thursday.

Pilot Joseph Lepore was told by the tower in Sao Jose dos Campos to maintain an altitude of 37,000 feet as he flew the jet beyond Brasilia on a northwest path to Manaus, the Folha de S. Paulo quoted the transcript as saying.

I am pleased that the truth has come out, not just for the sake of the two pilots and their families, but also because the last thing we need down here at this moment is something more to foment anti-American feeling--especially when it comes to effectiveness in ministry.

Posted by Andrew at 9:19 PM
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