December 31, 2006

Happy New Year

We are taking off for a couple days in Vacaria to celebrate New Years with some friends. No computers, telephones, or other electronic communication devices have been invited. Even if they were invited, they would be useless in Vacaria.

I am looking forward to spending several hours with my family, my Bible, and my books.

Happy New Year!

Posted by Andrew at 7:17 AM
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December 30, 2006

2006 in Review

As the primary purpose of this blog is to inform current and potential ministry partners of our activity on the field, I thought it would be appropriate to post a summary of what God has done here in the past year. This is a modified version of what went out in our last Comings and Goings newsletter.

Also, the newsletter did not have pictures.

Ministry Internships

In January I took on the responsibilities of the Ministry Internship program at the Cariri Baptist Seminary. Roughly sixty students participated, ministering in churches and congregations throughout the region during the 2006 school year.

Puppets on TV

In the middle of the year, an opportunity arose for our churches in the area to produce a TV program. We contributed by producing a puppet segment.

English School

I was able to teach conversation classes at a local English school. This gave me the opportunity to make many contacts with unsaved folks, as well as the chance to help a young man from our church with a scholarship so he could study English.

F.O.C.U.S Team

In June we hosted the Fellowship of Christians United in Service team from our sending church in Florida. They presented the Gospel in many different ways to several different groups here in Brazil, and learned a lot about missions as well.

University

Itacyara passed her entrance exam with flying colors and began her studies in language arts at the local university. She has had a ministry with the other Christians who study there, re-inforcing their faith in the face of the humanistic and secular philosophies proclaimed regularly by the professors.

Preaching

Since January I have had the opportunity to speak at ten different churches and one conference.

AMEN

We had the privilege this year of participating with the Association for Foreign and National Missions (AMEN), a student-let missions group at the seminary.

Seminary Website

I was part of the team that set up a website for the seminary.

Mission Website

I was asked to be on the team that will set up a website for the mission (as yet non-existent)

MAB

The Baptist Auxilary Mission (MAB), a Brazilian mission agency, asked me to serve on their board. Our first meeting was last Thursday.

Mike

Mikey made great progress in his Portuguese this year. He completed his first year of schooling at the Colgio Batista, where he integrated himself very well.

Pregnancy

As most of you probably already know, Itacyara is expecting our second child, due sometime in July. We had our first pre-natal appointment last week, and all appears to be normal.

Sale of the House

This was a major prayer request for us this year, and in October God saw fit to allow the sale of our home in Florida. Recently we received an offering which all but clears all remaining debt.

Maranho

At the beginning of the year, we felt Gods leading to help support financially the planting of a church in Itacyaras hometown of So Lus. We would very much like to be there helping in that region, but for now God has placed us here in the Cariri. However, we were able to participate in this small way.

Romaria

We were delighted to be able to participate in the evangelistic outreach during the annual romaria pilgrimage here in Juazeiro do Norte. We resurrected the seminary puppet team, which did a splendid job. Many heard the Gospel through this ministry.

Communication

This year we have sent out numerous Comings and Goings newsletters. We have updated this blog almost daily. Our photo page grown to 2,612 images. We have posted no less than 17 videos. We are doing our best to keep you informed.

Once again, all glory for anything accomplished goes to God. We count it a privilege to be His servants here in Northeastern Brazil.

Next week we will take a look at some of the exciting things ahead for 2007.

Posted by Andrew at 3:51 PM
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December 28, 2006

Christmas Continues

Today Mikey was surprised with a gift sent by Open Bible Baptist Church in Orange City, Florida--one of our partnering churches. Seeing the look on his face as he tore open the paper was a real blessing to us.

Posted by Andrew at 6:10 PM
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December 26, 2006

Comings Family Christmas

Merry Christmas to everybody from the Comings Family!

Posted by Andrew at 11:06 AM // Comments: 2 //
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December 25, 2006

A Christmas Wish from Brazil

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Posted by Andrew at 7:04 AM
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December 24, 2006

Book of the Week: The Lord Our Righteousness

So certainly a sweet state of peace in our consciences, the promotion of the free grace of God, a life of godliness in the saints, and the death of the man of sin, all hang upon this hinge: Christ the Lord, our righteousness.

The Lord Our Righteousness by Obadiah Grew had been sitting in my library since I attended the Shepherd's Conference in 2005. In fact, it was still in it's shrink wrap. I finally decided to pull it out and read it. I should have done so much sooner.

Only 102 pages, the book makes up for in quality what it lacks in quantity. Not a word is wasted as the 17th century author eloquently and persuasively holds for the doctrines of justification and free grace.

To illustrate his points, the author draws heavily on biblical examples. Some of these analogies are quite interesting. For example, on page 25 he uses Jacob and Isaac to illustrate grace and works, thusly:

The meat that Jacob provided for his father Isaac was good, and pleased him will; yet he did not get the blessing because of this, but by being found in his elder brother's garment.

Definitely not airtight typology, but an interesting analogy, nonetheless.

Another, this one from the next page:

The Philistines would not have found out Samson's riddle if they had not plowed with his heifer.

Never before have I seen this passage used to illustrate the necessity of the Holy Spirit in bringing one to salvation.

I find it amazing that this author's willingness to commit his thoughts to writing almost 400 years ago is bearing fruit today. This book should be required reading for all studying soteriology.

Posted by Andrew at 3:01 PM
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And So This is Christmas...

For the last several weeks here in Brazil Christmas fever has been burning intensely. Brazilians are beginning to rival Americans in turning the celebration of the birth of Christ into a materialistic frenzy. Yesterday and today the parking-lot of the nearby shopping mall has been packed, while Christmas programs on Brazilian TV talk about everything but the advent.

Today I actually heard a Portuguese version of "White Christmas", the one song capable of making me feel homesick during this time. Thank you, Irving Berlin and Bing Crosby. By far the most popular song played down here this year has been a translation of John Lennon's "Happy Christmas (War is Over)". Of course, no mention of Christ in either of those songs.

As I perused some of my regular reads this morning, I was touched by Phil Johnson's wish for a white Christmas for all over at Pyromaniacs, accompanied by a link to a snow-filled flikr slideshow. It took the edge of the 86 degree weather I am sitting in at the moment.

He also wished "retailers who avoid the word 'Christmas' in order to be 'politically correct': A Christmas in Iran. I find his wish to be quite appropriate, and the site he links to, jaw dropping.

Which brings me to a topic that has been on my mind this Christmas season. We stand aghast at the way the world celebrates Christmas, but are we much better? Yesterday I was invited to speak at the Christmas banquet of one of our sister churches here in the area. I chose as my text Philippians 2, which talks about the incarnation, and puts it into the context of service and obedience. I noted that modern Christianity's celebration of Christmas is quite devoid of a focus on either.

According to the text, Christ made Himself in the form of a servant and was obedient even unto death.

Service to man, and obedience to God. This is the essence of missions. The way I see it, Christmas should be a time when we renew our own personal missionary zeal, and that of the church, based on the example provided for us by Christ in the incarnation.

Let us not throw out the Christmas tree, Jingle Bells, or mistletoe. Let us, however, focus on those things which are truly important, and for which this seasons provides us with a profound reminder.

Posted by Andrew at 2:20 PM
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The "White Shirt" Incident

Last Monday night I was suffering from a headache and insomnia, and so, while everybody else was sleeping, I was in the living room intermittently reading and watching TV. Presently I heard a banging sound coming from outside, indicating that our gate had not been properly shut. A light breeze was causing one metal door to hit the other. Dressed in shorts and socks, I padded outside and secured the gate.

In a little apartment behind our house, but within site of the gate, live two young ladies--sisters--from another town who are here studying in the university. While they stay in the apartment, they help Itacyara with the housework. The window was dark, and all appeared normal.

Back inside, I was just about to turn off the light and make another attempt at sleep, when the phone rang. Wondering who would be calling me at this hour, I picked up the receiver. It was a collect call. Here in Brazil, they do not identify who is calling you before they begin charging, so I hung up before the musical introduction stopped playing. Almost immediately the phone rang again. Again it was collect. Again I hung up. The third time it rang it was not collect. The voice on the other end was of a man from our church.

"Pastor André" he said. "The girls just called me. They say there is a prowler on your property. Be careful!"

I thanked him and hung up. Heart beating wildly, I quickly turned on all the outside lights. Then I slowly opened the door and walked out.

Nobody was there. I searched all the places where someone could hide, and found nothing. The gate was as closed, just as I had left it minutes earlier.

I called out to the girls to see if they were ok. Slowly they emerged from their apartment, obviously shaken. Both were physically trembling, one was in tears.

"It was terrible, Pastor André!" they exclaimed. "We looked out our window, and there was a man at the gate, wearing a white shirt."

"It might have been me." I said. "I was just out a few minutes ago shutting the gate."

At this point my wife, who had come out to see what the fuss was about, piped up helpfully.

"And you probably didn't think anybody could be THAT white, which is why you assumed he was wearing a white t-shirt."

I get it. I'm white. No need to rub it in.


Posted by Andrew at 1:40 PM // Comments: 4 // TrackBack: 0 //
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December 20, 2006

History of Religion

Via Hot Air, this map should be useful to anybody involved in missions.

I agree with one of the comments over at the Hot Air post. The one major flaw of this map is that it does not recognize Marxism as a religion.

Posted by Andrew at 8:40 PM // Comments: 4 //
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December 18, 2006

Book of the Week: Triumph and Tragedy

The theme given by Churchill for this final work in his Second World War series is as follows:

"How the great democracies triumphed, and so were able to resume the follies which had so nearly cost them their life."

A more fitting summary for the time period could not be found. Indeed, over the tumultuous victory of the Allied armies over the Axis tyranny hangs the dark cloud of a generation of conflict with Soviet Russia, and the even darker cloud--foreseen even in those days by Churchill's keen obervations--of middle east conflict.

This work, together with the first in the series, needs to be read by all who value civilization as we know it, and the liberties which have been purchased at so great a price.

Posted by Andrew at 8:34 PM
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December 16, 2006

Cidade Feliz: An Airplane Called "Forgiveness"

While we are posting videos, here is the latest from our Cidade Feliz puppet series. In this story, Junior makes an airplane. Max breaks it, and Junior learns how to forgive.

Posted by Andrew at 5:25 PM
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Romance 101

This little gem comes by way of Brazilian TV and Coca Cola (although I suspect it is dubbed)

Romance and Coca Cola. It doesn't get any better than that.

Posted by Andrew at 1:42 PM
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The Traffic is Terrifying

I have mentioned before the traffic situation here in Brazil. Today the Prensa Latina came out with some statistics.

One in 10 Brazilians Have Car Accidents - Prensa Latina

One in 10 Brazilians Have Car Accidents

Sao Paulo, Dec 15 (Prensa Latina) Brazils National Transit Department and the Applied Economic Research Institute reported Friday that there are over 184,000 auto accidents on federal highways (population 186 million) annually, leaving 10,000 people dead a year.

In 2004, there were 190,731 such accidents with 10,186 dead and 87,728 injured.

Annual loses from federal highway auto accidents reach 3.4 billion dollars which, added to state and local highways and road accidents may reach over 10.1 billion dollars.

Transit official Edson Gaspar commented that deaths from car accidents do not upset the population as do air crashes, pointing out that the auto accidents on freeways, highways and roads are equivalent to one Boeing crash every other day.

Posted by Andrew at 5:59 AM
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December 15, 2006

Puppetry School

This entry is dedicated to my friend Kev, who absolutely adores puppets.

One of the more exciting events on our calendar for 2007 is the School of Puppetry that we will be holding in March. Our students--seminary kids and people from area churches--will learn puppetry techniques and philosophy, as well as get hands-on experience in making puppets. Each one of them will make and take home with them a puppet similar to the one pictured here.

The puppet above was made using the Glorified Sock Puppet pattern purchased from Project Puppet. The pattern is very easy to follow and is well worth the purchase price. Be sure to check out their other patterns as well.

The School of Puppetry is a project of the team that works with me in the Cidade Feliz TV productions.


Posted by Andrew at 3:53 PM
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Picos Survey

Other duties have kept me from blogging recently. Duties such as preparing three sermons for this weekend, updating our family finances, writing a puppet script for filming on Friday, and editing a puppet program to be aired on TV tomorrow.

Finally, however, I am able to sit down and give a little update about our survey trip to the city of Picos last weekend.

Marcelo (a seminary student who has a great burden for the city of Picos) and I left our house early Saturday morning. The wooden parrot stayed home.

On the road again! To get to Picos from Juazeiro, one drives through some pretty remote territory.

This is the bus station in Picos. I have "fond" memories of spending the night in this building back in 1994.

The interior of the Picos bus station.

Picos is situated amids varioius small, irregular mountains the crop up around and throughout the city. The name "Picos" means "peaks". Here Marcelo stands on a ledge that overlooks the downtown area of Picos.

This is a picture taken from more-or-less the same spot in the daytime. In the distance the main Catholic church can be seen.

On Sunday we visited two Baptist chruches in Picos. Both are part of the Brazilian Baptist Convention. They are called (respectively) the First Baptist Church and the Second Baptist Church. The Brazilian Baptist Convention is not very creative when it comes to naming churches.

After the evening service, the young people from the Second Baptist Church invited us out for Pizza. There they peppered us with questions about the seminary. Marcelo and I were very impressed with this group.

In the above picture, the man standing with his wife next to the guy in the white shirt (next to me) was our host for the week. He is a member of the Brazilian army, and lives on the base there in Picos. He and his wife are from one of our Regular Baptist Churches here in Juazeiro. They are our contacts for future church planting ministry in Picos.

My pastor would have been in paradise during this trip. Our host's back yard was inhabited by these sagui monkeys.

The monkeys were very friendly. The hand in this picture is mine.

Picos is an interesting city. Traffic is tumultuous. The city seems to function on the principle of making due with what you can get. This little homemade handcart fascinated me. I took pictures of it, marvelling at the creativity of it's builder.

Then I turned the corner and saw this entire fleet of hand carts. All made out of scrap material. All with the same basic design.

By the way, if the above pictures look a little pink to you, it is not your computer screen. For some reason our digital camera started taking pink pictures on this trip. There are several pictures I could not post because they were too...well...pink.

Conclusions

1. There is a tremendous need in Picos. It is a city of 75,000 people, and many neighborhoods with absolutely no gospel witness whatsoever. The state of Piaui has one of the lowest percentages of evangelicals (which is a wide group) in all of Brazil. The pastor of the First Baptist Church there gave me a map that showed all the municipalities where there is no Baptist ministry. There are alot.

2. The time does not appear ripe to begin a work with seminary students in Picos. Our survey yielded no possibilities of a place where we could begin a work. Given the distance (about four hours), we would definitely need somebody there 24/7 to maintain the ministry, with the seminary students arriving on weekends to help.

Prayer Requests

1. Pray that God would provide someone to go to Picos on a full time basis.

2. Pray that God would provide the finances to maintain a work there.

3. Pray that God would strengthen the ministries of the churches already in Picos--especially doctrinally.

My burden for that part of Brazil has only increased as a result of this trip. As I mentioned before, I am doubtful that we will be able to put seminary students there this year. But something must be done.

Posted by Andrew at 3:07 PM // Comments: 2 //
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December 14, 2006

Back

Just so everybody knows, I am back from the trip to Picos. We had a great time, learned alot, and are very excited about the possibility of beginning a ministry there. More details--and pictures--are on the way.

The last two days have been spent resolving home and ministry issues left untended during the weekend. Today, besides a couple errands that need to be run, I will be writing a puppet script and editing puppet videos.

Posted by Andrew at 5:51 AM
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December 8, 2006

Please Pray

Tomorrow (actually today) I will be traveling to the city of Picos to see about sending seminary students there next year to start a congregation.

Pray that:

1. God would protect us on the trip.

2. God would give us wisdom as we analyze the prospects for a church plant.

3. God would open the right doors.

4. The Kingdom of God would be advanced as a result of our efforts.

Posted by Andrew at 10:51 PM
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December 7, 2006

Remember Pearl Harbor

Today is Pearl Harbor Day. There are of course no commemorations here in Brazil, but people in the US should never forget what happened on that day.

Michelle Malkin has a nice tribute at her blog.

Posted by Andrew at 9:47 AM
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December 6, 2006

Brazilian Memorizes Quran

Christians are not the only ones active in Brazil.

Iranian Quran News Agency

Brazilian Teenager Memorizes Entire Holy Quran

--A Brazilian teenager has managed to become the first young Latin American who has the entire holy Quran by heart.

According to The Panorama Newspaper, it took Ahmad Nasser some four years to memorize the entire holy book. He cited God’s blessing and his instructor’s efforts the reason behind his accomplishment.

“I tried to memorize the verses observing the parameters of Tajweed which is a difficult undertaking in a non-Islamic country,” Nasser, who is originally from Lebanon, said.

13-year- old Ahmad Nasser has partaken in Quran memorization competitions in various countries including Saudi Arabia, Libya, and United Arab Emirates.

Posted by Andrew at 9:11 PM
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December 1, 2006

Andrew Gonzaga?

Back a couple weeks ago we participated in an evangelistic outreach in the city of Exu. Some readers may remember that it was the trip home from this event that proved to be quite exciting.

The outreach itself was a great. We were able to witness to many people in many different ways. We also got to see some of the points of interest around town.

Exu is the home-town of the late Luz Gonzaga, famous Brazilian singer and accordian player. A museum sits on the site of his former home, and we were able to tour it. On the way out, I noticed a traditional Brazilian outfit hanging by the desk. I asked if it was one of the Gonzago's old suits. I was informed that it was an imitation of the costumes he used to wear, and that it was available for people who wanted to try it on.

I needed no further encouragement!

Posted by Andrew at 1:17 PM // Comments: 3 //
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